317. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Anatoliy Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
    • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The meeting took place so that I could give Dobrynin the answer to the Soviet invitation to a summit in Moscow.2

Dobrynin opened the conversation by speaking about the new economic policies announced by the President on Sunday evening.3 He said it was the second jolt we had given to Japan. I said “Well, maybe this gives you an opportunity.” He said “No, this gives China an opportunity.” The real danger to the world was a combination of China and Japan, and he wondered whether we took that sufficiently into account. I said that the total effect of our policies might be healthy. Dobrynin was noncommittal.


We then turned to the business at hand. I gave him the date of May 22 for the summit and September 16 or 15 for the announcement.4 [Page 951] Dobrynin said that the announcement sounded good to him and that the date would have to be confirmed in Moscow; however, he saw no difficulty. He asked why we picked that particular date. I replied that the primary reason was that the President would be in San Clemente and would not be back in Washington until September 7 and that therefore it was important for him to have a week of preparing allies and telling the bureaucracy. Dobrynin said if we told the bureaucracy it would leak. I said that nothing that we have handled in the White House has ever leaked and this would not either. Dobrynin said that he would have an answer for us very soon.


Dobrynin then pulled out a slip of paper and discussed the Berlin issue. He said he had received instructions to get in touch with me immediately on the basis of a cable he had received that Falin had sent to Moscow. Apparently Rush had said that he was bound by Presidential instructions5 to deviate from the agreements already reached. Dobrynin said that it was making a very bad impression, if an agreement reached by the highest authorities was overthrown again later by the bureaucracy. I explained to Dobrynin that our problem was as follows: Neither our bureaucracy nor our allies knew of the agreement. Therefore we had to go through a procedure of negotiations. Sometimes the formulations might have to be altered. I wanted him to know, however, that if there were a deadlock we would break it in favor of the agreed position, unless overwhelming difficulties arose. I read to him the telegram from Rush speaking of Abrasimov’s rough tactics towards the British Ambassador which certainly didn’t help matters.6 Dobrynin said that speaking confidentially the Soviet Ambassadors in Eastern Europe were not used to diplomacy. They were usually drawn from party organizations and when they met opposition they didn’t realize that they were not dealing with party subordinates. This was the trouble with Abrasimov. Falin would certainly have acted differently.

[Page 952]


Dobrynin then asked whether there were any difficulties in our relations with the Chinese. “Why, for example, were we delaying so long in announcing the date of our visit? I said that there were no difficulties and that the visit would be announced in due time, but that we wanted everybody to settle down for a bit first. Dobrynin reverted to his usual line that he hoped we were not engaged in an anti-Soviet maneuver. I said that events would demonstrate that this was groundless. He referred to the Alsop column that we had exchanged ideas on military dispositions.7 I said, “Anatoliy, do you think I would be this amateurish, and do you think that the military dispositions along the Sino-Soviet border could be of any precise concern to us?” He said he certainly hoped that this were true.


We then turned the conversation to India. Dobrynin said he wanted us to be sure to understand that the Soviets were doing their best to restrain India. They wanted peace in the subcontinent. It was an ironic development where they were lined up with what looked like we had always thought was the pillar of democracy while we were lined up with the Chinese. I said as far as the subcontinent were concerned, we were not lined up with anybody. We above all wanted to prevent the outbreak of a war, and we hoped that they did not inadvertently give the Indians enough backing so that they felt it was safe to engage in war. Dobrynin said that their interest was stability, and in fact they had invited the Pakistani Foreign Secretary to come to Moscow in order to show that they were pursuing a balanced policy.8 I said that they should not encourage Indian pressures for an immediate political solution since that would only make the problem impossible. I stated it would be best if we worked on the refugee and relief problems first and on political accommodation later. Dobrynin said that he was certain that the Soviet Union basically agreed.

[Page 953]

Dobrynin then asked me whether it was correct what the Indians had told them, namely that we would look at a Chinese attack on India as a matter of extreme gravity and might even give them some support.9 He said that the Indians had been puzzled by my comment but had then put it all together after my trip to Peking. I said that I never commented about meetings in other countries, but that we certainly were not aligned with any country against India. Dobrynin commented that he admired the general conduct of our foreign policy even when it was objectively directed against the Soviet Union, but he felt that our arms policy towards Pakistan escaped his understanding. We were paying a disproportionate amount for what we were shipping. I said that we never yielded to public pressure and that he knew very well that the arms we were shipping were minimal and inconsequential with respect to the strategic balance.

Dobrynin volunteered that the Soviet treaty with India was not in response to recent events but had been in preparation for a year.


We then turned to SALT. Dobrynin said that whether I believed it or not the Soviet military were deeply concerned about a three site system, because they believed it provided the basis for an area defense and could be tied together. Even a two site system was in principle hard for them. He said he thought there might be a possible compromise if we accepted one site for us with a wider radius than the Moscow radius, and if this were done there might be a basis for a compromise. I avoided an answer and told him that we would study this proposition.

Dobrynin said that he was ordered to stay here until the summit issue was settled, but he was very eager to leave because he knew he had to be back on September 20.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 7 [part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The luncheon meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted from 1:10 to 3:04 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) Lord submitted a draft of this memorandum and another summarizing the “highlights” for the President to Kissinger on August 21. Kissinger forwarded both to Nixon on August 24. By then, Nixon and Kissinger were both in San Clemente for a two-week working vacation. According to an attached note from Butterfield that afternoon: “The President only glanced at the top page of this memo—then said he’d like it held—that he didn’t want to get into the matter now, but that he might call for the information later … ‘depending upon developments’.” Haig initialed the note and wrote in the margin: “WOW!”
  2. See Document 314.
  3. On August 13, the President retreated to Camp David for the weekend to discuss economic policy with a small group of advisers, including high-level officials at the Department of the Treasury and Office of Management and Budget, but excluding representatives from either the Department of State or the National Security Council staff. During a televised address on August 15, Nixon announced his New Economic Policy, which included wage and price controls, a 10 percent surcharge on imports, a 10 percent reduction in foreign assistance, and suspension of the dollar’s convertibility into gold. For the text of the speech, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pp. 886–890. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy; International Monetary Policy, 1969–1972, Document 168.
  4. Kissinger also gave Dobrynin the following attached text of a proposed summit announcement: “The leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union in their exchanges during the past year have agreed that a meeting between them would be desirable once sufficient progress had been made in negotiations at lower levels. In light of the recent advances in bilateral and multilateral negotiations involving the two countries, the government of the Soviet Union has invited President Nixon to visit Moscow in the latter part of May 1972. President Nixon has accepted with pleasure. At this meeting, the U.S. and Soviet leaders will review all major issues with a view towards further improving their bilateral relations and enhancing the prospects for world peace.”
  5. NSDM 125, August 11; printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 285.
  6. Dated August 15; see ibid., Document 291.
  7. In his syndicated column on July 23, Alsop deduced the topics of conversation between Kissinger and Zhou in Beijing, including the “Soviet military build-up that has so profoundly affected the Chinese.” “The difference in estimates was probably discussed,” Alsop concluded, “and one may be sure that overall Soviet intentions were also discussed with even greater absorption.” (Alsop, “Chou-Kissinger Topics,” Washington Post, July 23, p. A23) Six days earlier, while still in San Clemente, Kissinger had called Alsop to arrange a date for dinner; the two men agreed to meet in the evening on July 18. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File) No record of the conversation has been found.
  8. Sultan Muhammad Khan, Pakistani Foreign Secretary, visited Moscow in early September. For his memoir account of the visit—”the most difficult situation I had faced in the 31 years of my diplomatic career”—see Khan, Memories & Reflections of a Pakistani Diplomat, pp. 313–336.
  9. During a meeting in New Delhi on July 7, Kissinger assured Indian Defense Minister Jagjivan Ram that the “US would take a grave view of any Chinese move against India.” A memorandum of conversation is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 139.