65. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Soviet Ambassador (Dobrynin)1

K: I just talked to the President2 and he asked that you as a favor please tear up that thing.

D: Drop it?

K: Yes. The commitment to you stands and will be implemented in the nearest future—probably next week. This is based on a bureaucratic confusion and probably over-eagerness by people who figure if you can get something for something why give it away for nothing. We have a commitment which we made voluntarily and it will be implemented in the nearest future. I have to make a few phone calls first which I prefer to have wait till the British Prime Minister3 has left because I am so busy with him here. If we are going to quarrel, let’s quarrel about more important things.

D: What did he say about the first statement?

K: We are releasing Ivanov without conditions except for the arrangement you and I have made which was already agreed upon.

[Page 204]

D: Another thing I would like to ask in connection with this. Ivanov case is in the clear and I am thankful. On the second situation, I asked was it really on behalf of the White House or the State Department? I would like to know whether it was done with the knowledge of the White House—the demand from us to return the Soviet citizen to the United States. It was an unbelievable demand. It was an official demand from the US Government to my government. He is a Soviet citizen but the US Government demanded the return of a Soviet citizen. The reaction in Moscow would be very strong.

K: Obviously there is no connection.

D: It is clear now. But was it cleared by the White House?

K: This is strictly between us—I would be in great trouble if this … I was totally unaware of this and so was the President and I don’t know how much of a record you want to make of this.

D: It’s already in Moscow—it was sent yesterday.

K: If you have such a thing as an informal communication, I recommend that this be handled in a low-key manner.

D: But it was on behalf of the US Government to the Soviet government.

K: I don’t know how much we want to prolong a naturally fruitless exchange.

D: This is what I am wondering. It is a fruitless base. It’s completely hopeless and fruitless.

K: Whatever one may think of what happened and the judgment involved, it is now simply an internal American matter.

D: But now it comes to us.

K: What can be done? We don’t want to prolong an exchange on this.

D: It will be dropped if you authorize me to say this was done without authorization.

K: Then what would happen?

D: I could say drop this issue.

K: I would like to check that with the President. Personally we have no interest in elevating this into a formal exchange between two governments.

D: But you already have.

K: The White House has no interest in doing that. Now we have to reduce it to an appropriate level.

D: It would be very worthwhile if you could tell me to drop this as something from government to government.

K: And then we never get a reply?

[Page 205]

D: That is exactly the case.

K: Ask them not to send a reply till I talk to you again. I will check with the President and we will get in touch tomorrow.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 8, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Nixon from 5:46 to 6 p.m. on December 17. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 436, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  3. Prime Minister Edward Heath began an official two-day visit to Washington on December 17.
  4. No record has been found that Kissinger talked with Dobrynin on December 18.