342. Conversation Among President Nixon, Secretary of State Rogers, and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion of schedules, Chinese representation at the United Nations, and Kissinger’s upcoming trip to China.]

Nixon: You’re going to see Dobrynin?

Rogers: Yeah.

Kissinger: Gromyko went home.2

Rogers: Gromyko. I have a lunch today at the Embassy.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Just keep the Middle East dangled.

Rogers: Really?

Nixon: They need us—what I meant is: I have a feeling, in my talk with him, that they’re at least—the two reasons that they’re, two things that they want from us, not only—one is the China thing worries them; and the second is the Middle East. They really are worried about the damn place. I’ve got—but I’ve had—in the private conversation,3 he talked about the Middle East a great deal. You know, that Brezhnev, particularly, was interested and that sort of thing. And I think it’s very important that you—

Rogers: When you say “dangled,” what do you mean exactly? In other words—

Nixon: Well, what I meant is that—well, I don’t want them to think that we can help solve this problem but that it’s terribly difficult, as we emphasized yesterday, working with our Israeli friends; it’s terribly difficult, and that it’s going to take an awful lot on their part to do it. What do you think, Henry? I don’t know. You—you’re—

Kissinger: I think the way it is now—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —they really—I think the way Bill has it now, as between the Israelis and the Egyptians, without tricking them into it—

[Page 1067]

Rogers: I think it’s perfect now. That’s why I already told them that—

Nixon: Well, but after that meeting—but I think we—

Rogers: I don’t have a plan to—

Nixon: By “dangle,” I mean leave it right there. I don’t want to—

Rogers: Well, the point I—

Nixon: I don’t want you to go any further. Don’t be too—what I’m getting at is this: I want them to want something from us on the Middle East. They must want our cooperation, and we must not be in the position of wanting theirs so much.

Rogers: I don’t think they want ours, and I don’t think we want theirs, especially.

Nixon: Well, we sure don’t want to guarantee or something.

Rogers: I mean, from the—you see, the way we’ve been playing, Mr. President—I’ve been playing is—they don’t want anything from us; they like it the way it is. So I kept them out. I haven’t asked them for a goddamn thing. We haven’t yielded one of the things that concerns them.

Kissinger: I’ve been impressed with the—

Nixon: One has to say—

Rogers: Now, what I’ve tried to do is, this time, is to give him a little more information, without really telling him anything or without asking anything. I’ve been telling him, “We’re working this for this cause; we think it’s a good one; we’re the only ones that are doing it; both Egypt and Israel have asked us to do it; and we’re going to keep pushing at it; and we don’t want you to work with us; we don’t ask you to do anything.”

Nixon: Hmm.

Rogers: But we want to keep advised—

Nixon: Good. Good. Because—that’s good. That’s good. Because I have—

Rogers: This is the position I take—

Nixon: Listen, I’d say to him—I’m not so sure, Bill, that you are, just based on what he said then, I’m not so sure but what they may get a hell of a lot more worried about the Middle East and their clients.

Rogers: Sure, their—

Nixon: And for that reason, they may not like things the way they are. They may not. That’s my point. So I’d keep them worried.

Rogers: Yeah.

Nixon: Keep them worried. That’s what I mean.

Rogers: Yeah. On this European [Security] Conference, if it’s all right with you, I would like to suggest to him that any discussions on [Page 1068] it should be with me. That we don’t want any other—that it’s such—it’s got to be such a private matter, and we can’t let our allies know that we’re seriously considering a conference—

Nixon: Absolutely.

Rogers: —until a satisfactory solution to the problem [unclear]—

Nixon: No ambassadorial—

Rogers: And if there’s any contact on it, let Dobrynin talk to me or have him send a message, because I think we should seriously delay any discussion—

Nixon: Yeah.

Rogers: —of substance for a while.

Nixon: Good. Good.

Kissinger: I agree.

Rogers: Then when he has something—

Nixon: I would say that we would do not—well, you noticed how I was trying to dance off of it, because I’d read your briefing paper. I think you should tell him that I said when I used the word “preliminary” and “private,” I meant exactly that.

Rogers: Hmm.

Nixon: And that means preliminary and private—that we do not set up a working group.

Rogers: Working group.

Nixon: On the first part, we don’t have it done in a, you know, in any formalized way, and that you’ll just chat about the thing.

Rogers: Well, what I was going to tell him—

Nixon: Yeah?

Rogers: —is that you and I had first talked, and that you said—

Nixon: Right.

Rogers: —”preliminary” and “private,” and that you wanted him to understand that it would be with me. If Dobrynin wanted to talk about it, fine, come with me.

Nixon: Fine.

Rogers: Because, otherwise, he’s going to pass the word to everybody that we’ve agreed to private talks.

Nixon: Exactly.

Rogers: And I don’t want that.

Nixon: Exactly. Exactly. And also, tell him how the meeting would—but you would say—be with you on a completely private basis.

Rogers: Oh, oh sure. Well, they would understand that.

Nixon: No crapping around.

[Page 1069]

Rogers: They’ve been pretty good about that.

Nixon: Well, that’s what I mean—if you tell him that. Good. Good.

Rogers: They’re pretty good when they deal with you privately. But they’re not very good when they deal with everybody else in a big—

Nixon: Yeah, well, as you noticed, Gromyko was trying to push us toward, yesterday, into the position of saying—

Rogers: I know—

Nixon: “Can I say we’ll do it before a conference?”

Rogers: Oh, sure. Sure.

Nixon: But I didn’t say that. And I think that’s pretty clear.

Rogers: Yeah, it was.

Nixon: Oh.

Rogers: No doubt about that.

Nixon: Yeah.

Rogers: Okay.

Nixon: All right. Bye.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 581–6. 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 Rogers and Kissinger in the Oval Office from 12:20 to 12:36 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Gromyko hosted a luncheon for Rogers at the Soviet Embassy on September 30. See Document 345.
  3. See Document 338.
  4. After Rogers left, Nixon and Kissinger met until 12:45, discussing several foreign policy matters, including Kissinger’s upcoming trip to China.