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

[Omitted here is a brief exchange on Secretary of State Rogers and Kissinger’s upcoming trip to China.]

Kissinger: You said yesterday I should check with you about that Gromyko conversation.2

Nixon: Yeah. He said that—three things that they’ve agreed to—except I don’t think we’re going to give on. He said, “First,” he said, “we will agree to stop sending arms into the area [Middle East]. Second, we will agree to remove all military units from the UAR—all military units.” He said, “Now, these”—I want to be precise. He said, “We will keep advisers, like you have in Iran, but no military units. We will remove them all. And third, we will agree to participate in any kind of a guarantee of Israel’s integrity, sovereignty, et cetera, et cetera. Any—with you or anybody else, we will agree to participate.” And then he said, “We will do all this at the time of an interim settlement, provided there is an understanding it should go on to a more permanent one”—or I could get something like that.

Kissinger: That’s a tremendous step.

Nixon: Well, it is a—and so I said—through the whole thing, when he said—the last point, I think, is a significant [one]. I, through the whole thing, I said, “Well, Dr. Kissinger’s assistant will, first,” I said, “will bring you a message that I consider of enormous importance on the Vietnam thing.” And I said, “I have discussed it with you. Second, let him discuss this. And third,” I said, “as I told you, on any, on European security, and all these other matters,” I said, “let’s keep to—let’s talk about it in this channel.” And I said, “So that we can work things out privately.” It was about what—that’s what he was talking about. Now, it seems to me that on the Vietnam thing, he has to [unclear]. Actually, the idea of getting the damn thing out of the way before the summit is important. But also, the idea that [unclear] make a [Page 1061] settlement—I mean, that we’re—I don’t know how far you’re going to go in talking about the Thieu thing.3 Not far, I trust.

Kissinger: No. No. I won’t even—

Nixon: I haven’t [said] I think that you ought to disclose that to him in any way.

Kissinger: What I thought, with your permission, I would tell him, Mr. President, is that we are going through those eight points.4

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: We are prepared to make a compromise in the political field and in the withdrawal field, but I won’t tell him what it is, that we may propose it—we will propose it to Hanoi within the near future, and we want Hanoi to think about it. That’s going to be our last offer.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: And we want them to use their influence—

Nixon: Well, I wrote down something last night5 that I just—in view of all the malarkey he was giving me about the desire of Brezhnev to—and it may be that Brezhnev would like, does realize that a Soviet-American pact of friendship is very much in their interest—and also that we may need it too. You know, not a “pact,” but, you know, the idea we are friends and so forth.

Kissinger: Hm-hmm.

Nixon: It occurred to me that the way you could put this is that Brezhnev wants friendship. That, “Look, Mr. Foreign Minister, I myself can’t even predict what this President, Mr. Nixon, President Nixon will do. He surprises me. But he is a man, more than anybody that has been in this office in this century, who will make a daring, big play.”

Kissinger: That they’ve learned now.

Nixon: “A daring, big play. He made it. Now, you people wondered about China.” They wondered about the economy; they wondered about this. “He is prepared to make a very big play with you, because he considers your situation infinitely more important than anything else. You know why?” I thought—my little analogy is, when I talk about it, I said, “Now, we always say in these meetings that we want peace, and that it’s important.” I said, “We want peace with Bolivia, but whether we have peace with Bolivia doesn’t make any difference, because the world—”

[Page 1062]

Kissinger: I think, Mr. President, your meeting yesterday ranked right up there with the Ceausescu meeting.6

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And, in a way, it was more difficult, because you couldn’t be quite that tough—

Nixon: Tough.

Kissinger: [unclear] But you were so firm, and when he started with this malarkey, and you said, “All right, but that we say this—we say this, but what else can we say here? But let’s”—in effect, you said, “Let’s get concrete.”

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I think when the history of this is written, it will turn out that you turned around SALT yesterday, as much as you turned around Berlin. You remember—you notice how he said to you what you said last year about Berlin has come true?

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And I think these are going to be—

Nixon: At least we got through this—we got through on SALT the very simple point that we couldn’t freeze in a superiority for them on offensive weapons, and an inferiority for us on defensive weapons—

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: —and that we had to look at the whole bag.

Kissinger: Well, and he kept—and Dobrynin, while we were waiting for you—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —kept coming back to that two or three times.

Nixon: All right, now, that, in my opinion, and also that I am the only one who can deliver on a big play—I’m the only one that can deliver because I can hold the Right. If Vietnam is the only thing that stands in the way, it will open all doors. Now, just—and that it’s time to get it over with. Now, I think we go on just throwing the carrot out there. Put the stick out there. Say, “Now, his patience is running out in Vietnam and he may be very embarrassed in the polls.” And I’d throw in a hell of threat. Because my view on Vietnam, the more I’ve thought about it, is that toward the end of the year—and I’m going to poll it in advance to see what it is—that I will say, “All right, we’ll make an announcement of some sort.” And then we—I’m assuming these bastards [Page 1063] turn us down—and then we say that I am going to resume the bombing—

Kissinger: That’s what I think.

Nixon: —of military targets in North Vietnam unless and until we get the prisoners back.

Kissinger: That is what I would say. Absolutely.

Nixon: Just lay it right to them—

Kissinger: I would say that we—

Nixon: “I will resume the bombing until—when we get the prisoners back.” Just put it on that basis.

Kissinger: I’d say we’ve offered everything. Go through the whole record.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: We’ve been there. We have gone to the Russians. We’ve gone to the Chinese. We’ve gone every avenue. We’ve offered to replace Thieu. Everything has been offered. All has been rejected. And this is it.

Nixon: Yeah. Ehrlichman [unclear]. But anyway, we have a—

Kissinger: Incidentally, I think, Mr. President, if we could go back to the China thing for a minute.

Nixon: Yeah, we’ve got to go—

Kissinger: We wanted this stuff early in this Congressional session.

Nixon: Where’s Ehrlichman? He can come in now, if you can find his [unclear].

Kissinger: We wanted this early in the Congressional session. We’re having a terrific double play with two successive Tuesdays.7

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: And I think it’s going to pull the teeth of a lot of opponents. When we planned this in the middle of August, we just couldn’t know they—

Nixon: Look, we just got to—don’t worry about it, Henry. We’ve got to—I’ll sit there with Bill, and we’ll talk about it, and I’m going to talk about the Russian summit a little with him.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: Listen, this is a—the Russian summit is a hell of a thing for Rogers.

[Page 1064]

Kissinger: Well, we don’t want him, though, to start planning it. He screws up really every—

Nixon: He’s not going to plan it, but, I mean, it’s a hell of a thing for him to go!

Kissinger: Oh, yeah.

Nixon: Jesus Christ, I’m going to do it. You know that. By God, I’ll tell you one thing: I have decided, with all his faults, I’m not going to let him do anything. I’m going to do it. And do it—Christ, by that, I mean this office is going to plan on the summit matter.

Kissinger: And he really doesn’t understand.

Nixon: He—

Kissinger: In fact, I don’t want to go into detail, but he screwed up something on Germany with Gromyko on the Berlin thing, because he couldn’t understand it.

Nixon: When will you see Gromyko?

Kissinger: At 5:30.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I’ll call you—or you’ll be on the way? Will you—I’ll call over here.

Nixon: I’ll be over here at a reception. And then I’m seeing—I ought to have a talk with Haig. Is Haig here?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: To get his report. I’ll tell you what I might do: I might have—Shultz is going down to get me a report on the domestic thing, and maybe—and then come back the next morning. Maybe I could have Haig do the same thing, and we can go back—

Kissinger: Sure. Sure.

Nixon: —right away. Because I just want to just hear from him—

Kissinger: Absolutely, I think it’d be very useful.

Nixon: —hear what the hell the story is. But what do you think of my plan? That, by God, if they turn down everything, we resume the bombing of military [unclear] with the purpose of bringing them home. I’ll bet you the American people back it with 70 percent. What do you think?

Kissinger: I would do it. I think we cannot go out whimpering.

Nixon: Yes, sir. Incidentally, though, I think, speaking of whimpering, that goddamn Teddy [Kennedy] overstepped when he said he would crawl on his hands and knees—

Kissinger: Mr. President, if we think where we were when we came in here, and at the various stages, to get Gromyko here the way we were—he was yesterday.

[Page 1065]

Nixon: Jesus.

Kissinger: To get the Chinese. We’ve got everything working together. The only thing that’s missing—I think with this, we may do something on the Middle East.

Nixon: Well, I don’t understand the Middle East problem well enough to know whether we can, but, it seems to me, it’s a hell of a concession.

Kissinger: Oh, it’s a—

Nixon: Yeah. If we really focus—

Kissinger: —if he really means it.

Nixon: But the point is, the way it now ought to be done, frankly, you—and that, of course, means me—I ought to get in Rabin and say, “Now, look here, this is a hell of deal. And we think we can sell—this is what we’re prepared to put, to run down the Russians’ throat, if you’ll do something.” See my point?

Kissinger: Yeah, but we’d have to—

Nixon: Don’t tell him the Russians offered. Tell him we will get it for them. Come on in, John [Ehrlichman].

Kissinger: But we’d have to find out first what they want in return for the interim settlement.

Nixon: Oh, I know. What—but what by whom? [What] the Russians want?

Kissinger: I mean, how they define interim settlement, because—

Nixon: No, look. I mean, no, before we get—in order to get the Russians—let me put it this way: the Israelis are the tough ones. They’re going to be a hell of a lot tougher than the Russians. Now, in order to get the Israelis to come some way, we’ve got to say—we’ve got—we mustn’t let them think the Russians are prepared to offer this, until we get a hell of an offer from them.

Kissinger: No, but we have to find out from the Russians, and I can find out from Gromyko, what he has in mind, how far the Israelis have to go—

Nixon: Oh, yeah.

Kissinger: —on the interim settlement.

Nixon: Yeah, but don’t tell anybody. Never tell the Israelis what the Russians are prepared to do—

Kissinger: Oh, God.

Nixon: —because then they’ll say, “We’ll start from there.”

Kissinger: No, no.

Nixon: Okay, I’ll see you later.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 581–2. 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—after a meeting with Bush—from 9:38 to 9:54 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 339.
  3. See Document 327.
  4. See Document 327.
  5. Not found.
  6. Nixon made an official visit to Bucharest in early August 1969; Ceausescu visited Washington in October 1970. Memoranda of their conversations are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIX, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969–1972, Documents 183, 184, and 199.
  7. Reference is to the announcement on October 5 of Kissinger’s trip to China and on October 12 of Nixon’s trip to Moscow.