336. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion of the administration’s economic and foreign policies, as well as consideration of domestic politics.]

Kissinger: Well, first, for the procedures [for the meeting with Gromyko]. They’ll come in here, pictures and so forth. You have about 45 minutes—

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: —to an hour with him in here.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: Then you ask us all to leave, and you’ll talk to him privately.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Here, what he expects is that you’ll say, “Mr.—” something like, “Mr. Foreign Minister, it’s been a year since we’ve met. Do you want to give us your impression of—where do Soviet-American relations stand now?”

Nixon: That’s at the beginning of the formal—

Kissinger: At the beginning of the formal meeting. Then he’ll give you a little speech, which will be very conciliatory, and then he’ll turn to European matters. On that, incidentally—well, let me first go a little through it, on European matters.

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: He’ll probably wind that up by saying, “Now, where do you stand on [the] European Security Conference? How do we move it forward?” I think you ought to preserve as much of that for the private channel as possible, so that we can play it into the summit, and say that, “Well, the conditions are getting ripe—that with the Berlin, once the Berlin agreement is ratified, and the German treaties are ratified,” then you think we can go ahead with some preparatory work on [the] European Security Conference, and that—

Nixon: Except he wants the Berlin. Hmm?

Kissinger: And that then there should be some informal discussions in the meantime of what the agenda might be, and so forth.

[Page 1022]

Nixon: Beginning now?

Kissinger: Beginning once the treaties are—

Nixon: Oh, the informal discussions would begin when?

Kissinger: I’d say after the German treaties are ratified.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: But we could have some informal—you’d always be interested to hear from them what agenda—

Nixon: On an informal basis and on a bilateral basis.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: Okay.

Kissinger: Then, on the Middle East, he’ll give you—he’ll do that—

Nixon: At which part—will he raise that in the public meeting?

Kissinger: The European—Middle East?

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: He’ll do it in two parts. He’ll raise it at the public meeting—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —in the familiar way, and I’ve written down what our official position is.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: And if you just stick with what’s in the basic memo—2

Nixon: Don’t worry. I’ll follow your instructions right to letter.

Kissinger: On that. Early in the discussion, Mr. President, you should raise SALT.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: And on SALT, the issue, briefly, is this. We had told them that—in the private discussions—we had told them: three of our ABM sites for their Moscow system, plus an offensive freeze. They now say it’s got to be one-for-one on the defensive side too. But that means their Moscow system covers 40 percent of the population, while one ABM site for us covers only two percent of the population, up in North Dakota. Now, you shouldn’t go into all this detail, but—

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: —what you might say, though, is, “We have to move it forward at the next session.” Our proposal, in effect, is that both sides stay where they are in both categories. We have two ABM sites defensively, but they have more missiles offensively. And therefore the freeze is equiv—that if we freeze now, and on both of them, that is fair. They [Page 1023] can’t ask us to cut down on our ABM sites but keep an edge in offensive missiles.

Nixon: So, in effect, we just reiterate we want a freeze?

Kissinger: We reiterate that the—that when they speak of equivalence, they can’t say there’s going to be the same number of things on the defensive side, but they can stay ahead in the offensive side. So, what you could say: the essence of our proposal is that both sides stay where they are in both categories, defensive and offensive.

Nixon: Hm-hmm. What if he says, “What about MIRV?”

Kissinger: He won’t say that.

Nixon: That changes—

Kissinger: I’ll guarantee you he won’t change—

Nixon: That changes the number too. Well, go ahead.

Kissinger: That’s right. I mean, that’s our hole card.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: But we need that with two—

Nixon: You know, you stop to think here. Suppose we’d given in to Percy and, frankly, broken the rest and say, “Why don’t we have a ban on MIRV?” You know, we will have—we would have—if a Kennedy, or a Muskie, or a Humphrey had been sitting in this chair, the United States today would have Gromyko looking right down our throat.

Kissinger: This, Mr. President—

Nixon: It’s close as it is.

Kissinger: This is where these—when these conservatives say, “Well, what difference did it make who was here?” Good God, we would have no ABM, we would have no MIRV.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: In net, we would have no B–1; we would have no ULMS.

Nixon: Henry, the conservatives, I frankly think they’re—then let them squeal. I’m almost inclined to think that a little of their squealiness has got to be, is just par for the course. And if they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it.

Kissinger: Yeah. I think so.

Nixon: This time, we’ll stick it out anyway.

Kissinger: Now, on Vietnam—I wouldn’t let him—then, on the Middle East, he will go through their formal position, which is that the Israelis are unreasonable—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: —and that we have gone ahead on the interim settlement without consulting them. And I would just repeat the position that we want an interim settlement as a first step and we think that this thing can help quiet the situation in the Middle East—our formal [Page 1024] position on that. Then he will mention trade, and he will suggest that you might send either Stans or Peterson to the Soviet Union. Incidentally, I told Dobrynin this morning we have granted—we’ve approved $200 million more of the Kama River project; we’re now up to over $400 million on that.3

Nixon: Only now, let’s be sure it gets some credit in this country.

Kissinger: Yeah, I’ve called Scott on it because it’s in his area.4

Nixon: I know. Good. Well, that’s a good national story too.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Okay. Be sure it’s highly publicized.

Kissinger: Well, it will be formally announced on Friday.5

Nixon: All right. Would you give that to Scali? Yes, tell him, because he likes to run with those things. And let Stans—and let old Stans run it too.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: It’s a chance for Stans to do more East-West trade.

Kissinger: I’m beginning to think that we’d be better off having Stans go there rather than Peterson. Peterson would be—

Nixon: Do we want Peterson? I think Peterson would be too outgoing. And, well, he might—

Kissinger: And he’d freewheel too much. There’s no telling what—

Nixon: What I mean, when I say “outgoing,” I mean he would tend to want to really negotiate. Or another way is to have the two go together. That might be an idea.

Kissinger: Well, you don’t have to react at all. You just have to say it’s, you’re very sympathetic. You might mention you’ve already approved over $400 million for the Kama River project, and over—

Nixon: I can also say that, as we finish Vietnam, more will come.

Kissinger: Right. That would do it.

Nixon: And I think I’ll get right into it.

Kissinger: You know, altogether, we’ve approved over $600 million of—

[Page 1025]

Nixon: Trade and money, and the rest. I know.

Kissinger: Right—

Nixon: On the Middle East, if I can come back to it. What he wants—do you want me to say in the public session, you know, [that] we’re—?

Kissinger: I’d just be very vapid in the public session—

Nixon: All right. All right. Now—

Kissinger: Just say that you’re supporting—

Nixon: You’re going to take up the Middle East with him in your private session? Is that correct?

Kissinger: Right. Well now, that’s where—what I wanted to ask you. We’ll first go through the formal ones.

Nixon: All right. Go ahead.

Kissinger: Then on—then South Asia, I would urge them that—I would tell them, “Whatever one’s views on East Bengal, that a war in that area would have the gravest consequences of international involvement.” And that you—

Nixon: If he’s going to raise the subject—or am I?

Kissinger: Well, if he doesn’t—

Nixon: I don’t want to raise all these things. Do you think I should? Well—

Kissinger: No, no. He will raise—I’ll tell you what you can be sure he’ll raise: he’ll raise Europe, Middle East—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: —trade. You might consider raising SALT

Nixon: SALT.

Kissinger: —and South Asia. And maybe they’d only give you first—

Nixon: On SALT, I’d say that it’s important to have progress, and this defensive thing is—well, we can’t freeze offensive, an offensive superiority and a defensive inferiority. Is that what we’ve agreed?

Kissinger: Well, you see, we can’t insist on a de—that they can’t insist that on the defense things must be equal, but on the offense they can stay ahead.

Nixon: Right. All right. Good.

Kissinger: And that, therefore, you do not believe we can adjust, that we’ve gone from—we—that from 3-to-1 in our proposals, we’ve made a concession; we’ve gone down to 2–to-1. But you might as well say you cannot go any further on the defensive thing.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: And you just want them to understand that.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

[Page 1026]

Kissinger: Because then I think we can break it. But they have to hear it from you.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: Those are the major topics he’s going to raise with you at that session. Then he will, when you see him alone in this office—and I think your instinct is absolutely right. You shouldn’t have a system that you always take him into a different—

Nixon: No, no. That’s right. It looks no good.

Kissinger: But I have now told them that you’ll take us all to the Map Room, and I’ll have—

Nixon: And have the cars there.

Kissinger: I’ll have the cars there—

Nixon: We’ll all walk out together.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: And that’s not unusual. We’ll just walk out that way and say, “I’d like to take you to your car, and on the way, I’d like to show you—”

Kissinger: Map Room.

Nixon: “—this room.” And we’ll stop in there.

Kissinger: I think it has historic significance for them. Now, there, he has—oh, no, I meant, forgot one other thing. He will mention to you Vietnam. He will say that Podgorny is going to Hanoi; that they will have very serious discussions about Southeast Asia: “Do you have any additional ideas that you want to say?”

Nixon: No.

Kissinger: You want to say, “No.” Now, I would—there I’d be very tough. I would say, “We’ve been very disappointed. The Soviet Union hasn’t done a great deal. All we ever hear from Hanoi is the concessions we want to make—have to make. We’ve made one concession after another, and it is time for Hanoi, now, to talk to us seriously.” That’s all I’d say at the formal meeting, because it helps to give, to have them be able to carry this, as having heard from you. Now, then we go to the private meeting. The private meeting, they’ll discuss two subjects: one is he will bring you a warm message from Brezhnev. He [Dobrynin] hasn’t told me what it is.

Nixon: Does he know that I will suggest a private meeting?

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: And—

Kissinger: He’s asked for it. But he’s all programmed—

Nixon: And he doesn’t want me to say that we’ve asked—just to say that I would suggest that I’d like to have some words alone.

Kissinger: Right.

[Page 1027]

Nixon: Can you tell Rogers that he’s asked for it?

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: You tell Rogers in advance that—

Kissinger: I tell Rogers. As soon as I leave here, I’ll call him and say Dobrynin has just called me and says that—6

Nixon: Just say on this that Gromyko has a private message—

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: —he wants to give the President. See, I want a lay of the thing to be on the summit thing—

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: —that Dobrynin has just called; and that the President has—what we’d like to do is, he’d like to, he’ll have us go to the Cabinet Room while he receives them, and then we will walk out and as—and he’s going to escort him to the car. And then, afterwards, that the President—that the President will—no, no, don’t tell him that we—

Kissinger: Don’t, because we don’t know what it is.

Nixon: Just say to him—and he’ll be—I’ll tell him that afterwards. I’ll—

Kissinger: Well, you don’t—I won’t say anything. You can tell us after we’ve said goodbye to Gromyko

Nixon: I’ll tell Gromyko to step in—

Kissinger: You can just say, “Why don’t you step into my office?”

Nixon: “Come on in.” Yeah. “Come in and come back into the Map Room.” Good.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Okay.

Kissinger: Well, then you can fold it and put it into your pocket. Then it’s natural that you kept it folded—7

Nixon: All right. Good. All right. Now, in the private meeting, he will give me a message.

Kissinger: In the private meeting, he’ll give you a private message. Well, it won’t be in writing. It will just be a personal message on bilateral—

Nixon: All right.

[Page 1028]

Kissinger: Then he will raise the Middle East. And he will say something to the effect that, last year, I had mentioned—he won’t mention my name—to them that, if any real progress is to be made in the Middle East, the Soviet Union and the United States have to agree on their basic presence there. You remember? Your press conference—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —and my backgrounder.8 And they’re ready to talk in that framework to us now, until there’s a comprehensive Middle East deal.

Nixon: If there’s any progress in the Middle East, they have to agree to our presence there?

Kissinger: No, no. They are willing, in effect, to limit their presence.

Nixon: Oh. Yeah. All right.

Kissinger: And they’re willing to have some general exchanges.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: And I think he’s going to say that this should be in the same sort of channel that handled Berlin. My recommendation is, Mr. President, that you say, “This is a very complex subject,” that you recommend that Dobrynin and I have some preliminary conversations to find out just how it could be done, after which you’ll make a decision. This doesn’t commit you to anything—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: —but keeps the carrot dangling.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: You might also, at the private meeting, reaffirm again this channel. It’s just good for them to hear.

Nixon: Oh, don’t worry.

Kissinger: Now, then finally, you should say—if you agree—that you understand that I will be talking to him the next day, and I will talk to him more fully about Vietnam—

Nixon: Right. Right.

Kissinger: —and that you want to say that what you say has had the most—what I’ll say has had the most urgent consideration here—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: —and that you’re fully—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —behind it and—

Nixon: Behind it and all the rest.

Kissinger: Something like that.

[Page 1029]

Nixon: And I’ll say, “He’ll be—when you talk to him, you’re talking to me.”

Kissinger: Yeah. And on Vietnam—and he—

Nixon: And how do we get the summit in the deal?

Kissinger: He won’t make—they know that—

Nixon: I see.

Kissinger: They know that—he doesn’t have to say it will be—they know that Rogers

Nixon: Now, on the summit: he isn’t going to mention the summit in the public meeting.

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: Now, he must not do that, because I don’t want Rogers to get involved in that.

Kissinger: No, no, no.

Nixon: Fine. Okay.

Kissinger: They are fully programmed, Mr. President. They know, however, that before—Gromyko is giving a lunch for Rogers tomorrow at one.

Nixon: And he knows that Rogers will know before the lunch?

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Fine. But it’s not to be talked about here.

Kissinger: No. Now, another thing he does not know about—that Rogers does not know about—is the exchange of letters between you and Brezhnev, to which they’re attaching enormous importance.

Nixon: What exchange is that?

Kissinger: You wrote a long letter.9

Nixon: Doesn’t Rogers know about that? He doesn’t know about that?

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: No. Well—

Kissinger: Because it mentions the summit, Mr. President.

Nixon: Oh, I see. Well, frankly, it was done while I was in San Clemente; I was still out there.

Kissinger: Yeah. Well, they won’t mention it.

Nixon: No.

Kissinger: You can be sure.

Nixon: Not yet. Well, Bill’s—Christ, he can’t object to this one. He might say, “Oh, what the hell?” And that’s why he’s willing to put up—well, that’s the date they suggested, and I said, “Fine.”

[Page 1030]

Kissinger: That’s the—and you just felt you wanted to get it done.

Nixon: And also—no, I’m going to say that once this sort of thing is agreed, it’s going to leak. And I then—well, even if he’s—I said, “Fine, we’ll do it. We’ll do it.”

Kissinger: But you better pledge him to absolute secrecy.

Nixon: Pledge Bill?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Oh, shit. Don’t worry. I’m going to say, “Now, this has got to be absolutely secret.”

Kissinger: This is the easiest way, Mr. President. That way, it makes a lot of sense. Gromyko brought you, technically, the invitation last year.

Nixon: That’s right. That’s right.

Kissinger: And he—now, he made it definite, and so—

Nixon: Right. And Bill can think that’s what the whole damn meeting was about.

Kissinger: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Nixon: Yeah. So that we don’t have—so I don’t have to go right in—and the other thing is that—

Kissinger: Bill has such a naive conception of foreign policy that he really will think this is how it happened.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, we’ll do it that way. And then—

Kissinger: And also it keeps them absolutely from leaking that they rammed it down your throat. And it keeps me out of it, so then—

Nixon: Well, Bill knows that I took him over and talked about the summit in the Red Room.

Kissinger: Well, actually, last year, Mr. President—

Nixon: It was here.

Kissinger: —he brought the summit up.

Nixon: I know. And Bill said, “Why don’t we announce it now?” And I told him—

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: I said, “Well, they came—he [Gromyko] came back with this summit thing.” And he [Rogers] said, “It’s time has come.” And I said, “This is a good thing.” I said, “Fine, we’ll go.”

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Yeah. Bill will probably wonder how we agreed on a date so quickly. But—

Kissinger: Well, you can—if he asks that, you can say that before he went back, Dobrynin said, “In principle, does the Chinese summit rule out—”

[Page 1031]

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: “—a Russian summit?” And I said—

Nixon: And then he said, “I’ll send you a message.”

Kissinger: And I said, “No—”

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: “—but it has to be after the Russian—the Chinese one.”

[Omitted here is discussion of the administration’s economic policy, the Secretary of State, and the announcement of Kissinger’s upcoming trip to Beijing.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 580–13. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met Kissinger in the Oval Office from noon to 1:08 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Document 334.
  3. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Dobrynin on September 29 from 9:04 to 10:05 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the conversation has been found. After a brief discussion with Nixon, Kissinger called Dobrynin at 10:37 and reported on “technical arrangements” for that afternoon: “After the meeting the President will ask us to leave and go to the Cabinet Room and he will speak with Gromyko for half an hour. When that is finished he will take all of us to the Map Room. Your cars come to the place where I said good-by this morning.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File)
  4. Reference is presumably to Senator Hugh Scott.
  5. October 1.
  6. According to his Appointment Book, Rogers did not receive a telephone call from Kissinger before the Gromyko meeting that afternoon. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers)
  7. Reference is to the text of the summit announcement. During another meeting at 10:12 a.m., Nixon and Kissinger discussed how to notify Rogers about the summit announcement. A tape recording of the conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 580–3.
  8. See Document 132.
  9. See Document 309.