8. Editorial Note
After the National Security Council meeting on October 14, 1970, Secretary of State William Rogers approached H.R. Haldeman, the White House Chief of Staff, to complain about the secret meetings between Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. As Haldeman noted in his diary, Rogers was upset that “K[issinger] was meeting with Dobrynin about Cuba without telling him. He [Rogers] talked to Dobrynin and looked foolish because he didn’t know. Asked me to tell P[resident], because Rogers felt K was doing this under P’s orders and wants to know why.” (Diary entry, October 14; Haldeman, Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition) The Chief of Staff immediately raised the issue with the President. According to Haldeman’s handwritten notes, Nixon issued the following instructions:
“K shld talk to R—before he talks to Gromyko so he’ll know about summit. Doesn’t have to give all details but there has been some ref—& [Page 31] it is left to be disc[ussed] when G[romyko] mts P & that’s how K shld handle w R. K tell R this is how to handle—don’t worry about R setting it up w G—do say nothing shld be done—just refer it to mtg w P. K must inform R before he sees G—can’t assume it won’t come up—& R shld not be caught unawares.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, H. R. Haldeman, Box 42, H Notes, Oct. 1, 1970–Nov. 9, 1970, Part I)
According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Rogers from 11:32 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on October 15. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the meeting has been found.
Rogers was not the only Department of State official to raise the issue of contacts with Dobrynin. On October 2, Ambassador to the Soviet Union Jacob Beam in Moscow wrote a letter to Under Secretary of State John Irwin in which he expressed concern about his access to the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
“I note that Dobrynin has proposed periodic luncheons with you, which is all to the good. I wish I could obtain the same commitment in Moscow, but the situation is somewhat more difficult. I have been here almost eighteen months but have not had the privilege of entertaining the Foreign Minister, despite two invitations. It is true that your counterpart, First Deputy Foreign Minister Kuznetsov has been absent in China for a long time, but he has also been a hard man to see socially, although he will receive me in the Foreign Office officially on stated business.
“As regards Dobrynin, he failed to make the customary call on me during the long period he was in and around Moscow. I have always observed this courtesy when I have been in Washington.”
Beam suggested that Irwin could improve matters by providing guidance on issues of “major importance” arising from his informal contacts with Dobrynin. “Reference need not be made to your talks with Dobrynin,” Beam explained, “but the points you may wish to put across with him in Washington could be usefully reiterated here by way of emphasis, because it is by no means certain that Dobrynin fully reports our side of the discussion.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL US–USSR)
In a memorandum to Irwin on October 13, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Martin Hillenbrand included a draft reply to Beam’s letter. Hillenbrand also provided the following background information:
“Ambassador Beam’s difficulty in gaining informal access to Soviet leaders is a long-standing problem which has disturbed his predecessors as well. Raised to political power within the covert channels [Page 32] of the Communist Party, Soviet leaders have traditionally been reluctant to associate with foreigners. Communication with present Politburo leaders has been especially difficult because their accession to power coincided with our increased involvement in Vietnam. In the interest of promoting better relations with other communist countries, they have been wary lest close association with U.S. representatives add fuel to Chinese charges of Soviet-American collusion.” (Ibid.)
In his reply to Beam on October 15, Irwin promised to “take an early opportunity to raise with Dobrynin the difficulties you have had in making contacts in Moscow and express to him concern over the double standard that seems to prevail.” The Under Secretary also approved the Ambassador’s suggestion for guidance in the future. “To minimize the possibility that Dobrynin might not report back to Moscow fully and accurately what he has been told here,” Irwin assured Beam, “we shall keep you informed and, when appropriate, suggest that you make parallel representations directly to the Soviets. I also agree that it would be wise to have you follow up in Moscow on any matters of substance which arise in our luncheon meetings.” (Ibid.)