295. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

P: Hello, Henry?

K: Mr. President, I just this second got in.

P: Where are you? In your office?

K: No, I’m at home.

P: Yeah, are you tired?

K: Well, it’s about 5 hours later.

P: Yeah, yeah. You must have had quite a drill. You went to both places, huh?

K: I went to both places, yes.2

[Omitted here is detailed discussion of Kissinger’s visit to Paris, during which Nixon commented on Huang Chen: “just like Dobrynin—he’s got no authority. Not one damn bit. None of these guys have, and so that’s all there is to it.”]

[P:] Well, it’s certainly not dull. You know one thing that you can be thinking about, Henry,—and you get a little sleep—I was reading over the weekend the memorandum you sent me but you do not put the name on3—wasn’t that by the same fellow that wrote one about two …

K: That’s right.

P: Kaplan—what’s his name?

K: Kraemer.

[Page 873]

P: Kraemer, I thought so. I could tell from his style.

K: He tends to go a little bit in the apocalyptic direction.

P: But he really paints a rather gloomy picture, doesn’t he?

K: Well, he goes a little bit too far, but there’s something in what he says if we don’t play it very carefully.

P: Well, his point is … of course, like he says Berlin … he thinks Berlin is a surrender.

K: Well, he doesn’t know what’s going on.

P: Germany is being [omission in transcript].

K: Well, that’s true, but not because of what we do.

P: That’s right. That’s good. And then he goes on and says, here we are all over Asia pulling out and getting out and so forth. But it does show you, doesn’t it, Henry, the real dangers we’re playing with here. Of course, the other side of this coin which we have to consider [omission in transcript] is that if we hadn’t done something and we’d been tossed out, everything would have come apart at the seams, and all we’re doing is to frankly buy some time and to turn around if we can still turn around. Is that about it?

K: Well, I think the big move eased all the problems he describes. I mean, every one of the problems he describes was happening anyway.4

P: Yeah, that’s right, too. And it does ease them.

K: But we shouldn’t overlook … I mean, those other problems are very real.

P: We have to bear in mind is that as we handle that … you know as you read all the editorials and other things from, as I said, particularly from those who are for it for the wrong reason—like Mansfield who thinks this means we are getting out in the world and that we are going to get along with everybody and so forth and so on—but you realize that the enormous importance of our playing it our way. [Page 874] But I think that it’s … if you consider your conversation with Chou En-lai,5 you made that crystally clear that there was no question of our [not?] continuing to play an Asian role.

K: No doubt about it.

P: And that’s the point. And I think they understand that. As a matter of fact, I rather think they’d like for us to continue to play ‘em.

K: They didn’t say so, but they certainly didn’t fight it when I said it.

P: Well, the reason that I think so—even though they wouldn’t say so—is that they aren’t in any position in time to handle some of the people and some of their … like the Japanese and the rest. I mean we’re pretty useful to them.

K: Oh, and we of all the great powers are the ones that threatened their territory least.

P: Yes, we’ve threatened them the least and also, if we are withdrawn to the coasts of California, we are a hell of a long way off from their big neighbor to the west.

K: Yes, that’s right. They are realists; they know that that can’t happen.

P: That’s right. But I had quite a chance over the weekend to read this stuff, and it’s really an amazing thing that the … the way this thing has shocked … particularly our usual critics. They just have a hell of a time knowing how to handle it, don’t they?

K: Absolutely; they haven’t dared to pick on it yet.

P: Some of the problems are beginning to surface. I mean, the Indonesians, I noticed, are expressing concern. I read that report in the news yesterday expressing some concern about being consulted.

K: I haven’t seen the Indonesians expressing concern.

P: Well, expressing concern about Chinese subversion.

K: Oh, oh.

P: It was in that report that you gave me,6 you know.

K: Oh, yes, yes.

P: I think it was in one that I saw. And the Thais and so forth. But that’s natural.

K: Well, and we have to play it hard. We can’t roll over for the Chinese now.

P: No sir. They are not going to roll over for us.

K: They certainly aren’t.

[Page 875]

P: And that’s one of the reasons … I had a very interesting talk … a couple of things will interest you. Colson got a report from the hard hats—Brennan and his group in New York7—his amazement that they were at their convention were very strongly for what we were doing.

K: Isn’t that amazing.

P: And [Frank] Fitzsimmons, the head of the Teamsters, called him—he’s sort of an illiterate fellow—and he told Colson … he says, “you know what the President said about going to Pekun,” and he said that’s good. You see, these hardhats and these sort of earthy fellows, they see what the real game is. They can see the Russian thing. Any sensible person does. And I also talked to Rockefeller today8—he was up there and I said, and you were so right—he’s just ecstatic.

K: Oh, he’s beside himself.

P: He says that he thinks that the Democratic candidates must be slipping their [omission in transcript] now. He says he’s just never seen something … The mood really in the country has significantly changed.

K: And that’s what we all said …

P: … the right-wing. There is a substantial right-wing thing but not nearly as much as you would normally expect.

K: No.

P: But on the other hand, what has happened is that the left—the liberals, the peacenik types—they are just up a wall. They don’t know what the hell to do with this.

K: Exactly. And that in itself is a major diplomatic feat.

P: Well, what it does, Henry, it buys us time gracefully and to bring Vietnam to some kind of an honorable conclusion. And I don’t think we would have ever made it otherwise.

K: We’d never have made it. Congress would have killed us.

P: And it also may buy us some time on a few other things.

K: Exactly.

P: It’ll be interesting to see what our Russian friends do now.

K: I think they are going to be … Certainly at SALT, they have been easier than any previous meeting.

P: It will also be interesting to see what they want to do about a visit.

[Page 876]

K: I think that’s going to come certainly.

P: Well, have a good night’s sleep.

K: Right. Thank you, Mr. President. Bye.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon called Kissinger at 12:01 a.m.; the two men talked until 12:36. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Kissinger left Washington on July 24 for two meetings in Paris on July 26: one with Le Duc Tho at the North Vietnamese Residence and one with Huang Chen at the Chinese Embassy. A memorandum of conversation and a summary memorandum for the meeting with Tho are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VII, Vietnam, July 1970–January 1972, Documents 236 and 237. During the second meeting, Huang confirmed that Kissinger would return to Beijing in late October to prepare for the President’s trip and Kissinger confirmed that Walters would serve as a secret point of contact in Paris. Kissinger also assured Huang that the United States would “continue to inform the Chinese of any conversations in which the PRC is mentioned that the U.S. might have with any other socialist country.” A memorandum of the conversation with Huang is printed ibid., volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 151.
  3. Document 294.
  4. During a telephone conversation at 9:20 a.m. on August 3, Kissinger briefed Kraemer on the President’s reaction: “HK: I wanted you to know that your memo has been read with approbation but no prospect of action. FK: How can anyone, under the circumstances, accept what I wrote even theoretically? HK: It was totally accepted. FK: Don’t you think that’s tragic? HK: I didn’t put your name on it and he said that’s the same man as the author of the memo I read last year. FK: My God. HK: My analysis isn’t any different than yours, there is just more knowledge of the necessities. But that isn’t anything to discuss over the telephone. I could, conceivably, come by tonight.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 11, Chronological File) According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger left his office at 8:20 p.m. to meet Kraemer for dinner. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the conversation has been found.
  5. See Document 283.
  6. Not further identified.
  7. Peter Brennan, head of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
  8. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon called Nelson Rockefeller at 8:29 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) No record of the conversation has been found.