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

[Omitted here is discussion of a Swedish newspaper report that North Vietnam would release 183 American prisoners of war, and of [Page 919] domestic politics following the announcement of Nixon’s upcoming trip to China.]

[P:] You know, I’m very curious though what our Russian friends will be up to. You say Dobrynin says they were having a meeting this week, huh?

K: That’s right. Actually from our point of view it’s a little early for them to be coming through.

P: Well, I don’t think they will. They might, they might.

K: I think they will, Mr. President. They are really sucking around. Now, I have that letter for your signature tomorrow to Brezhnev.2

P: Good.

K: And he is really panting for it. We’re not saying anything in it that we haven’t said before.

P: Good.

K: But what he can do is wave it to his colleagues as a direct line to you.

P: Good. I tell you I think this line that we’re now adopting and we’re talking to anybody, you know. Except that son-of-a-bitch, Castro, that’s one I draw the line on. Understand now, don’t let State—sort of apply the line well, if we have broken with China, why not with Castro. That’s a very different situation.

K: Right, absolutely.

P: All right. But except for that, we talk to anybody.

K: But I think the way to play it strategically, Mr. President, is if we are going to Moscow after Peking, it puts the heat on Peking for them to behave themselves because they don’t know what we are going to do in Moscow.

P: That’s right.

K: If we have been in Moscow, Peking gets its last shot at us.

P: Yep.

K: And on the other hand, we have enough business with Moscow that they won’t do a hell of a lot to us.

P: I see no reason, incidentally, why the Moscow visit could not come very soon after the other.

K: No.

[Page 920]

P: What I mean is if your Peking thing can’t get on—I mean I don’t know that it will be but if it isn’t. But the Moscow one, I would prefer basically, as we’ve talked before, just if it ever—the best time for Moscow is about the 15th of May.

K: I think that’s absolutely right, Mr. President.

P: It’s about the right time and so forth and so on. The best time for Peking is actually I think the middle of February if we could make it.

K: That’s right. I think we can make that.

P: The Lincoln Day period and all the rest is a good time for us to go.

K: I think we can make that. Connally thinks, Mr. President, that we should put it not before March 1st. Anytime from March 1st on but he puts it purely politically.

P: It’s closer to the election.

K: No, he figures if you have a good domestic program, that’s going to carry you through February.

P: He’s correct, yeah.

K: And with the trip to Peking coming up, they are going to be like lambs anyway. And right after they reconvene so why shoot that wad too early in February?

P: Uh-humm. Well, that would be all right. March isn’t bad.

K: No, March—well, from climate which is not bad, we could do it. And, of course, they will all be running around New Hampshire.

P: Yeah, that’d be nice. They might be there for the time of the primary if we can work it. I am not among those—I mean, I’m like you, that they think that they’re just in a fit of pique say, “Well, no, we are going to knock this thing out.”

K: No, too big a thing for them.

P: Well, they’ve come this far, and now … also, we can play some games. After all, if they want to play it, then we’ll just toughen up, too.

K: But playing with Moscow is in itself a warning to them.

[Omitted here is discussion of the President’s upcoming meeting with Emperor Hirohito and of the administration’s policies on China and Vietnam, including handling of several press representatives.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File. No classification marking. According to a typed note, the tape of the conversation was “brought in” for transcription on August 5. Although the transcript is otherwise undated, the conversation clearly took place after Nixon’s trip to New York on August 4. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon returned to Washington at 12:15 a.m. on August 5 and called Kissinger at 12:26; the two men talked until 12:52. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 309.