331. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and the White House Chief of Staff (Haldeman)1

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam and economic issues, including textile talks with the Japanese.]

Nixon: Well, let me say, your conversation with your friend [Dobrynin] was very interesting, though.2

Kissinger: I thought it was.

Nixon: It’s very important.

Kissinger: And when they start feeding out this stuff through a lot of other channels—

Nixon: I have a—and I particularly liked the idea that you have in mind. And the way I’m going to do it this time, I’m not going to continue in another room. I’m just going to ask Rogers and everybody else to leave—say, “I’d like to speak with the Foreign Minister for a moment alone.”

Kissinger: Sure.

Nixon: You just leave and I’ll talk to him here.

Kissinger: We go to the Cabinet Room.

Nixon: You get the hell out. That’s right.

Kissinger: Absolutely.

[Page 996]

Nixon: No reason for me to take him out. And I’ll say, “Now, I want to tell you about this.” And then he, at that time, should give me the summit invitation. Right?

Kissinger: He doesn’t have to do it. We just say he did it.

Nixon: Well, I’ll just say that, when I speak to him, I’ll say, “I appreciate the summit invitation,” and so forth, and then we—but that is the basis for telling Rogers.

Kissinger: And that gives you an explanation of what you spent a half an hour with him on.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: We’ll just tell Rogers that you agreed on the spot to the announcement. That keeps me out of it.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: His feelings won’t be hurt. And it focuses it all on you.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: And then, as they leave, then they’re attacking you. Nixon: Well, the minute that it’s done, I’ll just call him [Rogers] in and say, “Well, he [Gromyko] made the summit thing and I just agreed that we’d have the announcement on the 12th.”

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: And I’ve agreed it’ll be in May.

Kissinger: Right. I think that way, you’ll get—

Nixon: Right. Very polished.

Haldeman: I mean, you then tell Bill not to tell anybody at State?

Nixon: Hell, yes. You’re goddamn right. I’ll say, “We’re going to have the same rule on this we had on China.” We’ll inform them right before because the Russians are just as sensitive as the Chinese about a leak.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Don’t you agree?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: Everybody will be informed. Incidentally, anyway there isn’t the same problem of informing. People expect us to meet with the Russians.

Kissinger: Well, we’ll have to let NATO know about it.

Nixon: I understand, but it isn’t the—

Kissinger: Well, it’s not the bombshell—

Nixon: What?

Kissinger: It’s going to—the funny thing is—

Nixon: It isn’t?

[Page 997]

Kissinger: It doesn’t got to fit a goddamn, Bob. No one is speculating on it.

Haldeman: Not any more. They used to. They used to talk about a Russian summit, didn’t they?

Nixon: Well, they think the Chinese thing knocks it out of the box and so forth.

Haldeman: The one thing they’re speculating on now is that what’s-his-name is coming to the U.N. and will come down and see you or something.

Nixon: Yeah, Kosygin.

Kissinger: Gromyko.

Haldeman: Kosygin.

Nixon: Kosygin.

Kissinger: Is he coming to the U.N.?

Haldeman: He’s going to Canada and then, or something—

Nixon: Right.

Haldeman: And then they’re saying he may go to the U.N., and then he’ll come down and see the President on the SALT thing.

Nixon: That must not fly. [unclear] Damn it, I won’t see him here. I’m not going to.

Kissinger: Oh, no, no, no.

Haldeman: The speculation, they’re just going wild. They’ve also got you going to China this weekend too. They say the Alaska trip is just a cover and that you’re really going to China.

Nixon: Yeah. [laughs]

Kissinger: Dobrynin asked me that too. I said, “Listen, Anatol. Do you really believe—can you seriously believe that the President—”

Nixon: [laughs]

Kissinger: “—would go from a visit with Hirohito to Peking?”

Nixon: [laughs]

Kissinger: You should have [seen] my face.

Haldeman: But that’s the value of your surprise stuff. They now—

Nixon: They’re scared to death.

Haldeman: —scared to death.

Nixon: I know.

Haldeman: They fear probably you’re [laughs]—you’re capable of anything.

Kissinger: When we announce it—and that’s why I think it’d be best if you didn’t go to this accidental war signing.

Nixon: I don’t want to go.

Kissinger: It makes it too big.

[Page 998]

Nixon: Good. Who decided that? Well, I didn’t want to go. It builds it up too much.

Kissinger: Yeah. It builds it up too much and also makes people think something else may be going on.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: And since it’s close enough, the 12th is—

Nixon: Well, Gromyko’s going to be in here. That’s enough. We’ll give them that.

Haldeman: That’s enough Russian stuff.

Nixon: And then for me to go on—it’s slobbering over the Russians too much.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: And—

Haldeman: Then two weeks later you’re announcing the trip.

Nixon: Yeah.

[Omitted here is discussion of textile negotiations with the Japanese and the President’s schedule.]

Nixon: You know, incidentally, one thing that may have helped us a little—I was mentioning it to Bob before—one thing that may help us at the present time with both the Chinese and the Russians is that, as Colson was pointing out here, we have a situation where both Gallup and Harris have reported within the last two weeks that the President has moved ahead of all three Democratic candidates.

Kissinger: Yeah. Oh, enormously.

Nixon: Yeah, now that—we haven’t moved yet enormously.

Kissinger: No, no. It helps enormously.

Haldeman: It helps enormously.

Nixon: Exactly.

Haldeman: That’s what Henry was talking about. On the floor of the Senate—

Kissinger: That’s what I was talking about, Mr. President.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Haldeman: That figure he had was not that.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t think there was some new Gallup poll.

Kissinger: No, no. No, I was talking about the fact that in the trial heats you were ahead of them all by—

Haldeman: You won the draft, 55 to 30.3

[Page 999]

Nixon: That’s great.

Kissinger: Last week, at this time, everyone felt that we couldn’t—

Haldeman: The fall-off in votes was due to the fact that many Senators thought the debate would go on, so they walked off the floor and missed the final vote.

Nixon: [laughs]

Haldeman: So when they held it for a while to give them [some time] but only 85 voted out of 91.

Kissinger: Well, but when the Russians say, Mr. President, that—you know, I’ve [unclear] 70 percent of the [unclear]. But when Dobrynin says that a lot of his people used to think that you couldn’t be dealt with, that they’d be better off with another President, and that this has changed completely, that’s a gratuitous comment he doesn’t have to make.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: And since they said essentially the same thing to Brandt,4 if that word gets around, that’s, as it must—

Nixon: That’d be fine.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Thanks, Henry.

Kissinger: Right, Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 449–12. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met Kissinger and Haldeman in the Oval Office on September 21 from 12:46 to 1:08 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 330.
  3. Reference is to the Senate vote on September 20 to extend the military draft.
  4. Brandt met Brezhnev September 16–18 at Oreanda in the Crimea. In a special channel message to Kissinger on September 20, Bahr reported: “In general, Brezhnev reviewed American policy from a new perspective, spoke with respect for the President and of his hope to make progress on the reduction of tensions. This sounded like everything is considerably more positive now than one year ago.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [1 of 3]) See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 330. The original German text is printed in Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1971, Vol. II, Document 318.