38. Editorial Note

On November 9, 1970, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger met Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin at the White House from 11:50 a.m. to 12:12 p.m. to discuss the release of the American officers—Major General Edward Scherrer, Brigadier General Claude McQuarrie, and Major James Russell—from detention in Soviet Armenia. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76, Record of Schedule) Although no record of the meeting has been found, Kissinger discussed the situation by telephone with President Nixon in Key Biscayne, Florida at 3:40 p.m. “The Soviets are releasing the two generals about now,” Kissinger reported. “Dobrynin came in and gave me advance warning. As you know, he came in on Thurs. [November 5]” After an exchange on Vietnam, Germany, and Chile, Nixon added: “On the foreign policy world, we are doing well. Casualties down. Soviets playing games on Cuba thing and Jordan cannot be mentioned. We are doing well.” Kissinger replied: “All the newspaper comment on the foreign side is good.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File)

Dobrynin, meanwhile, also gave Secretary of State William Rogers the news on the American officers. (Telegram 184290 to Moscow, November 9; ibid., NSC Files, Box 714, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. X) Rogers then called Kissinger at 1:20 p.m. to compare notes:

“R: Did you get word from Dobrynin on the two Generals being released?

“K: Oh, great.

“R: They will be making a release at 3:00 this afternoon, but have asked us not to say anything beforehand. They will be released on the Turkish border. The Major and plane will be released tomorrow. We will hold this in confidence. I am not telling anybody until 3:00. If it leaked and something happened … It’s good news though.

“K: It’s excellent news. I will want to pick up some of the mood of the conversation.

“R: I want to check in the next couple of weeks on Ivanov case. That one doesn’t make any sense at all. We call him a spy and he has been at liberty in our country for six years.

“K: I think this would be an excuse on which we could make points at the appropriate moment.

“R: But we shouldn’t do it too soon, or it will look like an exchange.” (Ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File)

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Kissinger called Dobrynin at 6:52 p.m. to outline how the administration planned to proceed, not only on the American officers but also on the Soviet “spy,” Igor Ivanov:

“K: I have spoken to the President in Key Biscayne and he wanted me to express to you that he thought it was a most constructive step and appreciated the spirit in which it was taken. We are looking at the other matter that concerns you.

“D: Okay, thank you for calling. You will make a statement?

“K: We will make a statement tomorrow morning and so will the State Department.

“D: The other thing, we will discuss it when you come back?

“K: Which other thing?

“D: That other thing you mentioned in the first part.

“K: Oh, yes. There is a technical—I will let you know as soon as we come to a conclusion. It will not be before I come back. I wanted you to know that it is being looked at actively, at the highest level.

“D: Okay.” (Ibid., Box 27, Dobrynin File)

Kissinger called Dobrynin back at 6:57 p.m. to report that the news had already leaked to a member of Congress in spite of his efforts to maintain secrecy. The White House, therefore, planned to release its statement as soon as possible. (Ibid.) Later that evening, Ronald Ziegler, White House Press Secretary, announced in Key Biscayne that the decision to release the American officers was a “constructive step in United States-Soviet relations.” (Terrence Smith, “Freedom Was Promised,” Washington Post, November 10, 1970, page 1)