41. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Henry A. Kissinger

I opened the conversation by telling Dobrynin that I was reluctant to raise the subject of Cuba again but their actions had given me no other choice. I wanted him to know that the President took a very dim view of the fact that the submarine tender had returned to Cienfuegos, the port from which it had originated.2 This made it extremely difficult for us to claim the Cuban issue was resolved. And it seemed to me inconsistent with the whole thrust of our recent conversation.3

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Dobrynin asked whether this was my personal idea or whether the President was really upset. I said I wouldn’t be talking to him unless the President were personally concerned with the matter. Dobrynin then said he would have to report it to Moscow but asked if I really thought a submarine tender was really that significant. I said that if I did not I would not be speaking to him. He said he would report to Moscow and let me know.

Dobrynin then handed me the attached note about the sequence of events starting with his notification to me of the release of the two generals. He said it was time that something good came out of this channel and not only bad things. He said we have proved that we can block things in this channel but we have not yet proved that we can do something. I said this was a matter of reciprocity and that there had been very little put into it from their side.

On this note the meeting adjourned.


Note From the Soviet Leadership to President Nixon

Original of Note Verbale handed to Mr. Kissinger by Ambassador Dobrynin, 14 Nov 1970

For the President

In Moscow attention was drawn to the fact that despite our notification made through the confidential channel way back on November 5,4 about the release soon—as an act of our good will—of the American military officers who had violated in an aircraft the USSR state border, statements and propaganda steps continued to be made in the US clearly with the knowledge of the White House, which in fact were aimed at aggravating American-Soviet relations in connection with that incident, including instructions to US Ambassadors in other countries to avoid presence at the receptions in Soviet Embassies November 6–7 on the occasion of the National holiday of the USSR.5 Moreover, some of US Ambassadors directly referred to the instructions of the White House received by them on this score.

Naturally, the question arises as to how we can rely on the confidential channel which, it would seem, should be most efficient and effective for transmitting important information if the other side does not ensure its functioning so that it would increase understanding and lead [Page 147] to a betterment of our relations rather than serve some other aims as it happened in that particular case. References to a “discrepancy” that occurred, as well as to the argument that allegedly “it was impossible to stop in time the bureaucratic machine already in motion,” do not seem convincing to us and do not change the crux of the matter.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 3. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to an attached copy, Kissinger and Lord drafted the memorandum of conversation on November 20. Kissinger then forwarded this memorandum and another summarizing its “highlights” to Nixon on November 23. (Ibid.) According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting began at 10:30 and lasted until 11:10 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. Nixon and Kissinger discussed the naval situation near Cuba by telephone the previous evening: “K: The press is starting to play around again with the Cienfuegos thing and the fact that the [Soviet vessels] are still there. I am going to meet with Dobrynin in the Map Room again tomorrow. N: I wonder why they did that. K: Just trying to prove [omission in transcript] going out, there’s no sense in it anyway. They are a petty bunch. N: They are pretty small.” “When you see Dobrynin,” Nixon instructed Kissinger, “take a hard line because we can’t fool around with him now. We [They?] are going to know this affects our relations right down to the core.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File)
  3. See Document 38.
  4. See Document 36.
  5. See Document 37.