55. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

P: Hello, Henry.

K: Mr. President.

P: How was your game at Philadelphia?

[Omitted here is discussion of the Army–Navy football game, Vietnam, and American domestic politics.]

P: What significance do you attach to the German action on Autobahn?2

K: That was—did—you see the German Bundestag is still CDU controlled and they were going to have some committee meetings in Berlin and this is their way of showing …

[Page 171]

P: Oh, I see.

K: … the pressure. This is a retaliation for—but this proves what they can do anytime, with or without an agreement.

P: Typical of what they’re up to.

K: An agreement won’t stop this sort of bureaucratic harassment because they’re using the pretext of checking the papers very carefully, they are not stopping the traffic, just checking the papers.

P: Yeah, yeah.

K: I mean it shows really how—that these negotiations are missing the essential point that the Germans are pressing for.

[Omitted here is a brief exchange on Senator Hugh Scott.]

K: Brezhnev made a speech yesterday in which he attacked our bombing.3

P: The bombing?

K: And the raid.4

P: On what ground did he attack it?

K: On the ground that we are claiming rights in the sovereign space of another country and that the Soviet Union will give all fraternal assistance.

P: Well, that’s not unusual, is it? Haven’t they been saying that all along? They have to, don’t they?

K: They have to do something like that. What was most interesting in the speech, though, was he praised the Europeans to the sky and said that the détente in Europe was proceeding. So they are clearly trying to drive a wedge between us and the Europeans, and what I had mentioned to you earlier that we may be the ones that pay for the European détente policy, including the Ostpolitik.

P: Yeah. Because basically if they can get Europe without help from us, they don’t have to do anything for us. They can get it by themselves.

K: They can cover their rear in Europe. The nuclear stalemate guarantees that we can’t do anything to them in a nuclear field.

P: They can turn around and handle the Chinese …

K: That’s right. I think that’s their basic strategy now.

P: Yeah; they’ve got to be doing a lot of thinking about these things. You’ll find some more of … he’ll give you a little more guidance when you talk to Dobrynin on that. Listen to him; see what he has to say. They are now playing a waiting game; we’ll play a waiting game, too. That’s all there is to it.

[Page 172]

K: Well, there’s another week. That lunch isn’t until the 7th.5

P: Okay, Henry, fine.

K: Right, Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File. No classification marking. Nixon was at Camp David; Kissinger was in Washington. The date on the transcript, December 2, is in all likelihood the day the tape was “brought in” for transcription. References in the text, including the Army–Navy football game and a front-page article in the New York Times, clearly indicate that the conversation took place on Sunday, November 29. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon called Kissinger on November 29 at 12:17 p.m.; the two men talked until 12:29. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. On November 28, East Germany protested an upcoming display of West German presence in West Berlin—a meeting two days later of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group—by initiating a “slow down” on the overland access routes to the city. The Western Allies and Soviets exchanged protest notes during the crisis, which ended when East Germany suspended its harassment of traffic on December 2. For additional information, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 137.
  3. See Document 56.
  4. See Document 54.
  5. On December 7, Dobrynin called Kissinger at 12:32 p.m. and, citing “unforeseen circumstances,” asked to postpone their luncheon that afternoon. “This was a mutual talk,” Kissinger replied, “and there is no sense in having it unless we are both ready.” Dobrynin promised to call back in several days to arrange another time for the meeting. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File)