345. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
P: What’s new this morning?
K: There isn’t much new on the wires. I had a very long talk last night.
K: In the Soviet Embassy.2
P: You can talk now?
K: Yes. They put me in a reception room—
P: Secure place?
K: If it wasn’t, our own people will get it. John Mitchell’s people. Not anyone else.
P: I understand. How good?
K: Went well. Even as he put me on how well he thought it went and a positive [omission in transcript—impression?]
P: Same impression I did that he has turned 180 degrees in his attitude.
K: I said the President has following impression on the M.E. and gave him the 3 points. It’s a major concession. You remember when you were on TV in ‘69 and ‘70 and everyone accusing you of screwing up the thing and here they are offering what you asked for. He said they are willing to do it in the interim period.
P: We have a bad communication. Call me back on another line.
K: Is this better?
K: So he went through these proposals which are really the biggest steps forward in the M.E. that have been made in your administration. I said you agreed in principle that I would have a few exploratory talks with Gromyko. We were not sure it was clear enough yet. I wanted to dangle it.
P: That’s what I meant with Rogers.
K: He doesn’t want them in at all. That’s all right because then there’s no two negotiations. So then we discussed what an interim statement [Page 1080] [settlement] would look like. So I said we should stop anguishing whether 15 or 40 kms. The key point was to get something done. He then said there had to be an ultimate solution. I said an interim could be done before the election but not an ultimate. I wanted to give them a stake in the election. He said that’s right. I said we should gear the interim towards a summit. Then we (go) from there. It gives us a long time period and if they made this agreement with you secretly and further, after the election they will have strong reason for keeping quiet next year.
P: And put on screws next year.
K: If we are going to do it we should do it early in the term. Assuming a settlement is consistent with our principles. Then about VN thing he again said they are prepared to do what they can. Thinking out loud he had an idea. Had no authorization but wants to know what I think. It’s not conceivable of his presenting ideas he couldn’t present. It’s fairly close and a little better then what we worked up.
P: The idea of Thieu resigning?
K: He had that and no requirement that Communists participate. He wanted it before the peace was made. I said we couldn’t do that. I said the peace had to be made with Thieu.
P: And then resign. What the hell?
K: Then I told him what you said that this was the absolutely last chance. He said could be sure they would talk seriously in Hanoi. I said I don’t know why you want to keep the war going. It just hurts building up countries that you need against your real enemy which isn’t us. He laughed.
P: They may be dangling that.
K: I said if it’s not settled by the end of the year you had no interest in negotiations. The other has a May deadline.
P: You think they will talk with them?
K: I think it may work.
P: Our Senate did a little better than before but Mansfield still passed.3
K: It doesn’t make a difference any more.
P: People are tired of it. But aren’t those Senators irresponsible?
K: I prepared him for what is coming in China. I don’t want him to think they are tricked but we would give them 24 hours warning.[Page 1081]
P: The way you go over there.
K: I said it depends on S.E.A. If we are in an Asian conflict we are more concerned with China. I said it’s a global interest like theirs in the M.E. He took off his coat and Dobrynin took me aside and said he never saw him take off his coat with non-Russians. That’s nonsense but it’s interesting.
P: Did you make a big play point?
K: I said no one can settle the M.E. except the President. No one can keep the right moralists under control except you. They said they agreed after the Berlin thing. They weren’t sure before that but now they are sure. A year of negotiation before that and not even a preamble. They will lean over for selfish reasons next year.
P: They have in the back of their mind that I could turn fast and take the country with me.
K: Your discussion the day before wasn’t exactly gentle one.4 When you commented about need for peace you said everyone says that but how do we do it. Everyone has a special responsibility. I mentioned it again. He said when you mentioned that about a special responsibility he agreed and said tell the President he will have an extremely warm reception in Moscow.
P: In the private talk5 he began very—he is an icy customer. Dobrynin slobbers but on this I had to practically push him. He said Brezhnev is in charge.
K: He said Brezhnev is very interested in meeting you. He said your President is a man of few words but two sentences on China were very important. They will not press us and we will not press them. I said if you press us we will press back but our policy is a real understanding. I think we will have a SALT agreement and M.E. agreement and we can use the M.E. and I cannot imagine they will let Hanoi screw up on an offensive.
[Omitted here is discussion of the military situation in Vietnam and textile negotiations with Japan.]
K: We have had an interesting report from China in which a low-level official made derogatory comments on your coming to China and was reprimanded. New instructions have gone out. That’s from intelligence reports.
P: Do you think Bob should handle it?[Page 1082]
K: Bill may try to call you but I think Bob should handle it.6
P: You can’t reach them?
K: We might but there will still be problems. If we make an announcement on Tuesday7 and postpone visit—the big thing will be the announcement. Bush thought later that perhaps it wasn’t all negative.
P: Especially with the Russian thing. I see only problems just as severe to have the visit after the vote. You cannot go to Peking after they throw Taiwan out.
K: It will work out. I will tell Alex after we have told Bill and say the Department should work with us. We are taking your man.8 Give us your support.
P: It’s a tough one. His emotions are mixed.
K: He has a point.
P: Basically the point is that the UN vote is tough before that.
K: As he told you, we are two behind and I think we are more behind then that.
P: Whole point is China thing is there. We played this thing and we have to play it through.
[Omitted here is a brief statement on textile negotiations with Japan.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 11, Chronological File. No classification marking. Nixon was in Key Biscayne; Kissinger was in Washington. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)↩
- See Document 344.↩
- On September 30, the Senate passed the Mansfield Amendment on Vietnam, calling for a withdrawal of troops within six months in exchange for the release of prisoners of war.↩
- See Document 337.↩
- See Document 338.↩
- In his diary entry for October 1, Haldeman reported on the “problem of notifying Rogers.” According to Haldeman: “He [Nixon] feels there’s just too much at stake both ways and too little time to change the thing now, that we have to announce Henry’s trip before the Russian visit announcement, and we can’t change the Chinese thing after the Gromyko meeting. This Henry feels strongly on, too. Henry’s pushing for me to call Rogers right away, because he says he has to get his consultations started. The P said to tell Henry not to do any consultation and notice to others until Monday night or Tuesday morning, that it should be very low key in any event, that I should not let Rogers know until Sunday. So that’s the way we’re leaving it.” (Haldeman, Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition) When Haldeman called to discuss the issue on October 3, Rogers replied that he was “now less concerned because the vote is going to be later than we expected, so Henry won’t be in China during the vote.” (Ibid.) Reference is to the vote in the United Nations on the Chinese representation issue.↩
- October 5.↩
- Alfred LeS. Jenkins, Director of the Office of Asian Communist Affairs, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.↩