66. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and Attorney General Mitchell 1

K: Hello, John. If you want to know the latest on the Ivanov case, the State Department has attached two conditions. Dobrynin just called absolutely blubbering.2 The four Americans held by the East Germans and the return of the Lithuanian we turned over to them.

M: You must be kidding, who is this?

K: It was an official demand from the U.S. government.

M: Incredible!

K: On legal grounds, we have nothing to stand on. An American who no matter how [omission in transcript].

M: Almost insulting to them on the national basis. Incredible, absolutely incredible.

K: I talked to the President and he has ordered now that the guy be released. I will get the word to the State Department on Monday3 and I am seeing Dobrynin on Tuesday. It will be done by then. We can do it or not do it but not doing this, we make it worse.

M: Will State tell them?

K: Let’s say State will tell you to move on it unless I do.

M: This is incredible. Good God, I can’t even fathom.

K: It is beyond belief.

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M: What did he say?

K: The President?

M: Yeah.

K: He just said that gives him no choice, he’s got to do it.

M: Well Henry, this is one for your memoirs.

K: I won’t be writing memoirs.4 The State Department, if they don’t get us into a nuclear war, it won’t be because they haven’t tried. After prodding us for a year and a half, then they do this. The guy would be better off to remain in the States.

M: I just find it hard to believe.

K: Give my best to Martha.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 8, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 65.
  3. December 21.
  4. Kissinger briefly mentioned the Ivanov case in White House Years (p. 795).
  5. Nixon called Kissinger at 7:25 p.m. on December 21 and reported: “I talked with Rogers on this Ivanov case and I have worked it out. He said Dobrynin asked to see him. I said tell him President made a commitment and we will carry it out but it’s technical and we will do it early in January. He said fine and that he could tell him. A decision was made without letting anything happen on the Congressional side. Otherwise, people jump on us. So when you see him tomorrow say that the Secy. has notified you that he will carry it out. Shortly, after Congress leaves. Secy. will carry it out with him.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 8, Chronological File) For the December 22 meeting, see Document 74.