36. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Russian Ambassador
    • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Dobrynin had requested the appointment while I was in California. In order not to show too much eagerness, I suggested that we meet on November 6. He indicated however that he had already sat on his instructions for several days and would appreciate seeing me the first day back. We therefore arranged to meet in the Military Aide’s office, our usual meeting room the Map Room being preempted by a party given by Mrs. Nixon.

The conversation opened with a general exchange about the significance of the election.2 Dobrynin said that he had noticed our claim of an ideological shift in the Senate and that, while he did not want to [Page 137] contest our assessment, he wanted to try out his own on me. His assessment was that while there had been a slight shift to the right in the Senate, the Democrats would be so encouraged by the results in the House and in the Governors’ races that they would make up in the violence of their attacks for the relative loss in the Senate. He therefore thought that the net result was a stand-off. He also believed that it would not affect US-Soviet relationships and that we should continue along the road that we had charted.

I said I was not a domestic expert and I didn’t want to debate his interpretation, though I was sure that the Senate would be easier to work with. I did agree, however, that it would not affect US-Soviet relations.

Dobrynin then began to make a brief statement to the following effect.

The incursion into the Soviet air space by the two U.S. generals and the Turkish colonel was not simply an accident. Maps shown in the airplane covering part of the Soviet territory indicated that premeditation was involved. In addition, the flights along the Soviet border were intrinsically dangerous for all these reasons. These generals had made themselves subject to Soviet criminal law. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union had taken a political decision to release these officers at an early opportunity. Dobrynin said I should pay particular attention to the word “political.” Dobrynin then handed me a note—a little piece of paper—which read as follows: “We count on the U.S. Government to display due appreciation of this act of good will on the part of the Soviet Government and on its part the use of the means at its disposal in order that other corresponding questions may be resolved to mutual satisfaction.” (Note attached)3 Dobrynin said that this referred to the Ivanov case.

I told Dobrynin that he had often accused us of not understanding the Soviet decision-making system properly. In this case, however, I was certain ahead of time what the meeting would be about. I had been prepared to tell him that we would not trade a Soviet spy for two generals who had mistakenly strayed into Soviet territory, and therefore the two cases could not be brought into relation with each other. At the same time, as I had already told him weeks ago, we were looking at the Ivanov case and I would be given some information about it in several weeks or maybe longer. I told him that our principal concern was the constitutional question which we were bringing to trial through Ivanov.

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Dobrynin then asked when I was prepared to begin the conversations envisaged for the preparation of the Summit. I said that I was going to Key Biscayne with the President4 and that I would not be ready for another three to four weeks. Dobrynin said this was fine, and the meeting ended.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 3. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Military Aide’s office in the East Wing of the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted until 3:35 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) Lord forwarded the memorandum to Kissinger on November 7 with the following note: “I am sure you have told the President about his position on our officers held by the Soviets, and therefore see no reason to forward this Memcon to him.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 3) Kissinger, however, forwarded it and a summary of its “highlights” to Nixon on November 16. (Ibid.)
  2. The results of the mid-term Congressional elections on November 3 were mixed. The Democratic Party maintained control of both houses, losing 4 seats in the Senate but gaining 12 in the House of Representatives. President Nixon, however, claimed that the outcome would give him a “working majority” in the next Congress. Vice President Agnew added that the elections for the Senate had resulted in a “very definite ideological change irregardless of party.” (Don Oberdorfer and Carroll Kilpatrick, “O’Brien Hails ‘72 Outlook; But President Sees ‘Working’ Hill Majority,” Washington Post, November 5, 1970, pp. A1, A15)
  3. Not printed.
  4. Nixon left for Key Biscayne and the Bahamas on November 6; he returned to Washington on November 10. No evidence has been found that Kissinger accompanied him at any time during the trip. (President’s Daily Diary; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files; and Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)