330. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
    • Henry A. Kissinger

The meeting took place at Ambassador Dobrynin’s request. He had just returned from the Soviet Union, having arrived with Gromyko the night before, and was obviously under instructions to be extremely affable. [Page 993] He opened the meeting by handing me the signed original Russian text of Brezhnev’s letter to the President.2

U.S.-Soviet Relations, & Gromyko Visit

Ambassador Dobrynin said that Brezhnev was very pleased to open this correspondence and hoped to stay in personal touch with the President. He said that he had been instructed to express the gratitude of the Soviet Leadership for the U.S. role in achieving a Berlin settlement, and also Brezhnev’s personal gratitude to me for my participation. On all previous visits to the Soviet Union, Dobrynin continued, he had had to explain whether it was possible to deal with this Administration at all. Now the Leadership was unanimously convinced that this was an Administration with which one could make a deal and which it was worth making a deal with. It was the most favorable mood he had found in the Soviet Union. He said, “we consider that the train is now on the track and the question is whether we can give it the right amount of speed.”

We then discussed arrangements for the meeting between the President and Foreign Minister Gromyko. Ambassador Dobrynin said that Gromyko would like to conduct it again in two parts, with a formal part and then a private discussion with the President, such as last year. He wanted at least one-half hour for the private part.

I asked what he wanted to discuss privately. He said that Gromyko had a personal message from Brezhnev for the President indicating his pleasure at being able to welcome him in Moscow, and also making one or two other points, to which Dobrynin claimed not to be privy.

Middle East

Secondly, Dobrynin said, the Soviet Leaders wanted to propose to the President to move the Middle East into the same sort of framework as Berlin had been. They had concluded that the present negotiations could not lead anywhere and they would, therefore welcome a different approach.

I commented that the Middle East was much more complex than Berlin because the factors were much less in our control and because the discretion of the people could not be guaranteed. Did Dobrynin expect an immediate answer? He said it would certainly make a good impression if the President would indicate at least that he did not reject the [Page 994] idea. I told him that at best this would be a slow process and would require some exploratory talks to see whether it was worthwhile.

Dobrynin said it is something that might well go on until the Summit. The Soviets were not in a hurry but they wanted to see some progress.

Message on Indochina

Dobrynin then said he had another message. He wanted us to understand that Podgorny had not invited himself to Hanoi but had been asked to go there urgently by the Government of North Vietnam. Secondly, the Soviet Union would be prepared to be helpful if we had any ideas on how to narrow the differences, particularly if we had any message that Podgorny should take to Hanoi. Gromyko had said that Podgorny would be getting to Hanoi in early October. I told Dobrynin I would think about this and let him know.3


Dobrynin then invited me to have tea with Gromyko on the occasion of Gromyko’s visit on September 30th.

I returned the discussion to the Middle East and told Dobrynin that it was important, as long as the possibility of direct talks with me were open, that not too much of a sideshow went on in New York because we would then excite everybody too much and create too many different channels.

I also told Dobrynin it would help if Podgorny would not make violently anti-American statements while he was in Hanoi. Dobrynin said he would pass that message on.

Dobrynin also commented that he did not expect too much to come out of the meetings between Gromyko and Rogers on the Middle East, since the Soviets had pretty much given up on that channel.

There was some desultory talk on how to arrange the meeting, who would take the initiative between the President and Gromyko in moving from the President’s office to another office, and so forth. We agreed [Page 995] to meet again on the morning of September 29th at 9:00 a.m., in the Map Room, in order to go over final arrangements for the meeting.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 7 [part 1]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted until 6:35. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) Lord and Rodman submitted this memorandum and another summarizing its “highlights” for the President to Kissinger on September 23. Kissinger forwarded both to Nixon on the same day. A note on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Document 324. In a “talker” memorandum on September 20, Lord and Rodman reminded Kissinger that “the President asked you to ‘brace Dobrynin’ about Brezhnev’s failure to mention [in his letter] the offensive side of the May 20 SALT understanding.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 66, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Dobrynin Backup (Talkers) [2 of 3])
  3. In his covering memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger reported that he told Dobrynin that “in any event it would help if Podgorny refrains from making violently anti-American statements while there.” Kissinger also expanded on the Soviet offer to deliver a message: “The question of Soviet involvement in Vietnam diplomacy has of course come up before in my talks with Dobrynin. (He offered on March 25, for example, to carry a message to North Vietnamese leaders attending the Party Congress in Moscow; on July 29, I suggested to him that now was a useful moment for Soviet intervention.) But this new Soviet offer I believe is particularly forthcoming and concrete: it is an offer to try to bridge the differences, not just to carry messages. It comes against the background of your China announcement and the whole new tone of U.S.-Soviet relations. And it is especially timely from our point of view.”
  4. Kissinger called Nixon at 6:46 p.m., presumably to report on his meeting with Dobrynin. Rather than discuss matters over the telephone, the two men then met in the Residence at the White House from 6:50 to 7:14 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) No record of either conversation has been found.