102. Editorial Note

On April 15, 1972, North Vietnam cancelled the private meeting with Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger scheduled for Paris on April 24; later on the same day, the United States began a 2-day strike against military targets near Hanoi and Haiphong. Although coincidental, these two decisions on Vietnam directly affected relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. As he returned to Washington from Ottawa aboard the Spirit of ′76 that morning, President Nixon seriously considered canceling Kissinger’s trip to Moscow in response to North Vietnam’s refusal to meet in Paris immediately thereafter. White House Chief of Staff Haldeman recorded a discussion of the subject with Kissinger in his diary: “Henry told me on the plane that there’d been a problem in that the North Vietnamese now want to put off the April 24 talk and the question is whether he can go to Moscow or not. His inclination is to go anyway, and then just come back. He doesn’t feel he can go to Moscow in May when the Paris talk will be, because it’s too close to the P’s trip. He spent quite a little time on the plane with the P on that subject.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia [Page 323] Edition) Nixon also wrote a diary entry on the airborne debate of what, in his words, Kissinger deemed “a crisis of the first magnitude.”

“I laid down the law hard to him that under these circumstances he could not go to Moscow. I told him that what the Russians wanted to do was to get him to Moscow to discuss the summit. What we wanted to do was to get him to Moscow to discuss Vietnam. I can see that this shook him because he desperately wants to get to Moscow one way or the other. He took it in good grace. Then I told him that we had to consider our option with regard to imposing a blockade.” ( RN: Memoirs, pages 590–591)

During an hour-long meeting in the Old Executive Office Building at 1 p.m., Nixon and Kissinger conducted a series of calculations between their military options in Vietnam and their diplomacy with the Soviet Union.

Nixon: “Now, let’s talk about the blockade a moment because that fits into what you say here.”

Kissinger: “Right.”

Nixon: “It might provide another way to go [unclear]. Let me tell you about the blockade. In my view, if we’re going to do it, we got to do it very soon or we will not have the support for it.”

Kissinger: “I agree.”

Nixon: “And that support runs out as time goes on. In fact, we probably should have done it this week, you know. I’m just saying, I’m just saying, I’m speaking in terms of having public support in the United States.”

Kissinger: “Right.”

Nixon: “The support can run out. If the blockade comes at a time that disaster is impending in the South, and people know it, or when riots are going on here, then it looks like an act of desperation. But if we can move before either of those things happen, then we might have a great deal of public support for it—for a while. You see that’s my reasoning for doing it sooner rather than later.”

Kissinger: “Right. I agree.”

Nixon: “The second point is that that could be an argument for your going to the Soviet even though there’s no meeting on the 24th. The idea being that you go [unclear] with the condition that the primary subject for discussion is Vietnam. Unless there’s something positive, tangible to offer that the President is going to take action. And at that time, you would tell them—”

Kissinger: “I wouldn’t tell them what action is planned [unclear]—”

Nixon: “[There will] be strong action. It will not be directed against you [Soviets].”

Kissinger: “The way to do that if I play out that scenario.”

[Page 324]

Nixon: “All right, let’s play that out.”

Kissinger: “As I thought of it—it was one of the things I had in mind.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “What I would say then is, ‘Vietnam is, must be the first agenda item. There must be concrete progress on this.’”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “If there is no concrete progress on it, I would refuse to go on to summit agenda items.”

Nixon: “Right. Right.”

Kissinger: “If there is concrete progress on it, I would be entitled—empowered to discuss summit agenda items.”

Nixon: “Yeah. Right.”

Kissinger: “But the progress cannot be an agreement to talk.”

Nixon: “Yeah.” [unclear]

Kissinger: “And it must be a precise description of how the war will come to an end.”

Nixon: “How the war will come to an end. Yeah. Yeah. Not just an agreement that they will deliver the South Viet—, the North Vietnamese to a meeting. That isn’t going to work.”

Kissinger: “Right that’s not going to work.”

Nixon: “Second point.”

Kissinger: “It will slightly affect the message we send to them [the Soviets] this afternoon, Mr. President.”

Nixon: “That’s what I’m thinking. The second point is—”

Kissinger: “It also has the advantage vis-à-vis our domestic opinion. That we have gone absolutely the extra mile.”

Nixon: “Sure. Yeah. Well, that brings me to the second point: the reason for your going. Put on that basis, then you go. [unclear] have to figure that you’ve got to look at the hard place, which would be that if we don’t get anything on Vietnam, except, you know, discussion or something of that sort and the South Vietnamese fold whether we really can still go to the summit. We’re going to have to make, we’re going to have to make an evaluation. It may be, it may be, that we may still go. In other words, let me put it this way. As I look at going to the summit, Henry, we cannot go—there are two extremes—we cannot go if the South Vietnamese are on the rocks.”

Kissinger: “Impossible.”

Nixon: “We could go, we could go, and I’ll make this concession, if the situation is still in flux, with the understanding that we will discuss it at the summit and something is going to come out of it at the summit. But there’s our problem there. Now, the point that I make is that your going—They want the summit. They want it badly. And [Page 325] you’re going to of course hold over their heads the—I don’t know if the blockade is going to worry them, but the German thing is. And it’s been a [unclear] thing but I’ll sink that without any question. We’ll just tell Barzel and the Russians now we’re against it. Do you agree?”

Kissinger: “Right.”

Nixon: “Now—”

Kissinger: “But that means we have to get across it soon.”

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: [unclear] “I told them May 4th.”

Nixon: “[That’s] another reason for going. [unclear] So as distinguished from this morning [unclear] I’m inclined to think that probably [our] message to them should be that, in view of this, the President has now changed [his] opinion. The directions are corrected as follows. That—”

Kissinger: “I should say this.” [unclear]

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: [unclear] “they have turned us down now for the 24th.”

Nixon: “Right.”

Kissinger: “The—”

Nixon: “Would you tell them about this rigamarole with Porter?”

Kissinger: “Well, then there’s the point that, look, they’ve turned us down for April 24th, which means they absolutely cannot deliver them—which raises then serious questions about the utility of my trip to Moscow. I should be very tough. Secondly, the President had turned down originally a meeting in Moscow simply to prepare the summit for reasons that he has explained to Dobrynin. [The reason that I’m] now going to Moscow is [unclear] to discuss Vietnam and in connection with that [I] also would be authorized to discuss the summit. Now we have offered the South Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese a meeting again [unclear] for the 24th, with a promise of coming on the 27th.”

Nixon: “And an announcement.”

Kissinger: “And we are prepared to make that announcement before the 24th. Secondly, we have to have a clear understanding before I come to Moscow that some concrete progress will be made towards a rapid end of the Vietnam War. And before the President can give his final approval to my trip, he would like to hear the Soviet response to this [message].”

Nixon: “Right. [And we need a] response immediately [because you’ve got to make your plans.]”

Kissinger: “That’s right.”

After discussing the details on the ground, the two men considered the global implications of their military options in Vietnam.

[Page 326]

Kissinger: “And another problem, Mr. President. The Russians have two reasons why they don’t want this. One is it would drive, it would force them into a confrontation with us.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “Second is, it would force Hanoi towards Peking. Because the only way that Hanoi could possibly be supplied is for Peking to supply the—”

Nixon: “Yeah. Yeah. And of course, well then that brings me to the point, the effect. The effect would be for Peking to have to get more deeply involved in the war, or get the hell out of the blockade.”

Kissinger: “Right.”

Nixon: “The effect also is it will brake our China initiative. The effect—Huh?”

Kissinger: “[It will] be tough on our China initiative.”

Nixon: “Yeah. What would it do to the Russian initiative? If the Russians call off the summit, we blockade, [unclear] here you would, you would have—what we’re doing is we’re making ourselves hostage, putting it quite brutally, to the Soviet on Vietnam. On the other hand, the alternative is that the Soviet initiative and the China initiative [unclear] all that hangs on, isn’t going to be worth a hell of a lot if Vietnam goes down the tubes. So—”

Kissinger: “If it doesn’t go—”

Nixon: “We have no other choice.”

Kissinger: “If it doesn’t it would be the result of strength. You see what the Soviets want from us on the summit is in effect to screw us. Now, I know we’re doing it because of long term interests and all of that.”

Nixon: “I know.”

Kissinger: “But after what we’ve done to Taiwan, Israel, Vietnam [unclear] its just not—then this policy that Trudeau described of throwing our weight to one side or the other. It doesn’t work because we won’t have any weight to throw.”

Nixon: “If the Russians don’t come up with anything here, we have no choice but to blockade. I really have no doubt about it.”

Kissinger: “[unclear] recognition, Mr. President, that [unclear]”

Nixon: “Unless the battle in South Vietnam just goes a hell of lot better than we think it will.” [unclear]

Kissinger: “That’s right.”

Nixon: “It could.”

Kissinger: “It could.”

Nixon: “[unclear] could be wrong, do you see what I mean? The forces of opposition in this country and around the world will begin [Page 327] to build next week. If they build too great, the blockade then comes at the wrong time. The blockade could come right now. We could do it tomorrow. If we, you know, if we see, you know, action, we always say, stops the [unclear] debate—for a while. That’s why I’m just wondering whether or not maybe our option isn’t to blockade now.”

Kissinger: “Well, Mr. President, with that people are just not—First of all we have to play the Russian string out here a bit.”

Nixon: “Fine.”

Kissinger: “I’ll say this for the Russians. They are bloody-minded sons-of-bitches. But Hanoi hasn’t fought for 35 years in order to be pushed around by the Russians either. So we have the problem that we must let Soviet pressure on Hanoi begin to operate, and we must bring home to the Soviet Union that you are really deadly serious about this. [unclear] And then we’ve got to give them some time. But not a hell of a lot of time.”

Nixon: “Well, I’m just saying, the blockade option is going to run out, Henry.”

Kissinger: “Two weeks.”

Nixon: “I’m afraid—”

Kissinger: “We have to do it, if we do it, by the middle of—”

Nixon: “I’m afraid because I, I’m afraid basically our domestic support for a blockade, which is—I don’t give a shit about the foreign support—but our domestic support for a blockade might erode in 2 weeks.”

Kissinger: “Incidentally, I’m strongly in favor—I didn’t want to leave, leave the wrong impression—any group that calls for [unclear] I’d be strongly in favor of.”

Nixon: “Well, we’re going to try.” [unclear]

Kissinger: “You see if I go to Moscow, it’s a hell of a—That’s one of these confusing moves again.”

Nixon: “I know.”

Kissinger: “[unclear] the Communist groups would start screaming at us while I’m in Moscow.”

Nixon: “I know the [unclear] will know you’re in Moscow.”

Kissinger: “Well, if the Communists [unclear], the Germans won’t get their peace treaty.”

Nixon: “We may have to reveal the Moscow trip, though, if you go. [unclear] I’d just reveal it, and say, ‘Now, Dr. Kissinger went to Moscow at their suggestion and it didn’t do a damn thing. Under the circumstances, I’m calling off the Russian summit and I’m blockading.’ I wouldn’t let them call off the summit. That’s my point. Do you agree or not?”

[Page 328]

Kissinger: “I agree completely. I would list all the sins.”

Nixon: “Right. They’re furnishing arms, they’re doing this, they didn’t help. We’re not going to have it. A hell of a lot people would support calling off that summit. We’re ready to talk tough.”

Kissinger: “[unclear] give them all the initiative. I don’t think they’ll let it get to that point.”

Nixon: “Well, based on your conversations this past week—”

Kissinger: “And Dobrynin is not [unclear].”

Nixon: “Not on this.”

Kissinger: “Not on anything. I mean, he may say things that aren’t true but they never said [unclear]”

Nixon: “Did you lie, [unclear]?”

Kissinger: “No.”

Nixon: “I’m inclined to think, Henry, you ought to take the trip to Moscow. Couch the message in a way that you go.”

Kissinger: “OK.”

Nixon: “I’m changing my view on that.”

Kissinger: “If you are inclined [unclear] that I would go to Moscow, then I have to couch the message somewhat less aggressively, because then I don’t want to put ourselves in the position—I’d still have to say—”

Nixon: “Say that you’re coming to Moscow on the condition the President has the clear understanding—what I would say, a clear understanding that Vietnam will be the first thing, first item of the agenda and unless progress is made on that you’re not prepared to discuss the other items. I think you can say that.”

Kissinger: “That’s right. And I’d have to say that [unclear] understanding that this is one last effort.”

Nixon: “That’s right. You see what I mean? I’m sure that you could go to Moscow on that basis. Then they know they’ve got to fish or cut bait on Vietnam or you’re not going to discuss the summit. They aren’t going to—they’re going to want you to come.”

Kissinger: “Oh, yeah. That I can do. But the question is do I tell them you must come back with an answer by Monday that tells us how we’re going to make progress? Or is it enough to say [unclear].”

Nixon: “They won’t be ready.”

Kissinger: “That’s my concern.”

Nixon: “They won’t be ready—I wouldn’t tell them that. I mean, I—Look—”

Kissinger: “I would say do you agree with this understanding. This I can say.”

[Page 329]

Nixon: “Yeah. There must be an understanding, and that there’s not just to be a discussion, but they are to have a proposal at that time, which we can—a solid proposal—to discuss. That is our understanding; that’s the basis. That lacking such a proposal you will return to Washington immediately without any further discussion as far as summit matters are concerned. [unclear] Well, in other words, you are giving them the fact that they don’t have to tell you that something on Monday, they presented to you on Thursday. You’re there. And if you don’t get it, you get the hell out of there.”

Kissinger: “Let me write something out.”

Nixon: “Does that sound like a good deal to you?”

Kissinger: “Right. It sounds fine. And I should,—I think ought to write it out because this is an important message, Mr. President.”

Nixon: “Oh, I know.”

Kissinger: “[unclear]—I myself, my first instinct was that, playing it cold-bloodedly, what we get out of the trip is more than they get out of it.”

Nixon: “Right. I agree. That’s right.”

Kissinger: “I mean the worst is they’re suckering me along.”

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “And telling me nothing. But they have—”

Nixon: “We have then gone the extra mile.”

Kissinger: “Then we’ve gone to Moscow.”

Nixon: “we’ve gone the extra mile.”

Kissinger: “And then all the little shit heads here—”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “—who say, the man doesn’t want to negotiate.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “Hell, you have me in Moscow.”

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “Then you surface my talk with Gromyko last September. All the overtures we’ve made through Moscow, because then we don’t give a damn.”

Nixon: “Right.”

Kissinger: “And—”

Nixon: “Surface the Moscow overtures.”

Kissinger: “And—”

Nixon: “And then on the basis of that—”

Kissinger: “If we lose, we—”

Nixon: “On the basis of that—We then have the basis for a very strong case for the blockade.”

[Page 330]

Kissinger: “That’s right. And if we don’t want a blockade then just use the Moscow trip for—”

Nixon: “For the purpose of flushing the summit?”

Kissinger: “Well, for the purpose—”

Nixon: “Of what?”

Kissinger: “I mean, supposing you then, supposing—”

Nixon: “You see, here is the question. Is there any way that we can—We just got to look at all of our cards here. Let me say, you have to realize, we have to realize that there’s a lot more on the line here than simply a trip to Moscow, I mean, the war in Vietnam and so forth. Because then I’ve got to do some heavy, a lot of heavy thinking as to how we can do something about trying to get a candidate in this presidential race.” [unclear]

Kissinger: “[You mean] who can be a candidate?”

Nixon: “[unclear] You get somebody else.”

Kissinger: “Why?”

Nixon: “Because, you have to realize, you have to realize that the position that we have, if we fail, which we could well fail on all fronts, you know, the summit is canceled and the blockade does not succeed—you understand that we’re putting everything on the line. That’s my point.”

Kissinger: “But, there’s one other possibility, Mr. President. And this is another reason for going to Moscow. If I don’t go to Moscow, then your time is foreshortened. If I do go to Moscow, we have the excuse that I’m going to Moscow and that is why we’re not doing more right away.”

Nixon: “Doing more what? You mean bombing?”

Kissinger: “Like blockade. If we don’t start blockading by the end of the week—”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “—without my going to Moscow, the question is why the hell not?”

Nixon: “Yeah. In other words—”

Kissinger: “I’m now looking at all things—”

Nixon: “Yeah, from the standpoint of the Russians.”

Kissinger: “From the standpoint—”

Nixon: “It means we’re not ferocious. If you’re in Moscow, it buys time, I agree. Now understand that doesn’t help us on this domestic front. This domestic—”

Kissinger: “No, no, but I’m back then [unclear] we’ve talked about the possibility of canceling the trip and going to a blockade.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

[Page 331]

Kissinger: “Now, there are other variations on this. There is the variation that having been in Moscow, if the South Vietnamese fold, then we might still decide to bomb the shit out of them in the North and go to Moscow. Because if we can break—”

Nixon: “And not blockade.”

Kissinger: “And not blockade.”

Nixon: “My—On reconsideration I think the Moscow trip ought to be on. It helps the message in a way that, you agree to go and they’ll figure that they can sucker us in one way or another. But we’re going to be awfully hard to sucker.”

The President then began to access how developments in foreign policy might affect his re-election campaign.

Nixon: “If there is a way really, Henry, to not allow Vietnam to sink the Soviet summit—That’s what I’m thinking about. If we can, we ought not to do it, having in mind the fact that the Soviet—Let’s face it. And here we look at the other side of it. If we can find a graceful way to let Thieu down the tubes, then maybe we’ll just have to die and live to fight another way—if we fight like hell before it happens. My point is—You see my point? But, on the other hand, if there is no graceful way then the summit goes out the window. That’s the problem here we’re confronted with.”

Kissinger: “It’s our long-term position as a people. It’s—”

Nixon: “That’s why I—well, understand, I’m only putting it up as what to me is a totally rhetorical matter. In my view, there is no graceful way you can let him go. Remember, you always say, let him go or something. How the Christ can you do it?”

Kissinger: “Exactly. It never was good. It never was—”

Nixon: “It would never work. It was never right.”

Kissinger: “Well some of it was a fleeting chance.”

Nixon: “Yeah. But now, I think what we have to do is this. I think what I have to do is to say in effect that we’re going to, everything is on the line. Let them cancel the summit—We have to realize that if the Russians cancel the summit or, as a matter of fact, if we cancel the summit because of the blockade, we are virtually assuring the certainty of a Democrat win unless I can find a way to—and I have been thinking about this too—of trying to move one of the other Republicans and there’s only—Well when you come down to it, you’ve got Rockefeller, who probably couldn’t get the nomination. You’ve got Reagan, who could.”

Kissinger: “Yeah.”

Nixon: “He couldn’t do—Another possibility, which never would have occurred to you, would be Burger, who has been suggested. And the other one, and this is really the only long shot that just might pull [Page 332] the plug on the whole bunch, and help you get the whole South, is that I could have a talk with Connally before all this began. You know, and I’d say, ‘Now look here, you’ve got to change your party.’ And then I could bow out—”

Kissinger: “There’s no way—”

Nixon: “And endorse Connally. And then Connally—I mean with what I had to go through—Connally without the scars could go on and win it.”

Kissinger: “Mr. President—”

Nixon: “You see, there’s your problem. But the point is, we have to realize that, we have to realize that if we lose Vietnam and the summit, there’s no way that the election can be saved.”

Kissinger: Mr. President, they are—”

Nixon: That’s the problem.”

Kissinger: “Mr. President, there’s no way we can permit the Vietnamese to destroy two Presidents. That can’t be permitted. Secondly—”

Nixon: “I don’t know how you can avoid it. Maybe, you see, the blockade might work. That’s my point.”

Kissinger: “Secondly, there is no realistic alternative to you. Thirdly—”

Nixon: “Except Connally.”

Kissinger: “No. In foreign policy—”

Nixon: “Well I know.”

Kissinger: “That’s the main thing.”

Nixon: “Well, not really, Henry.”

Kissinger: In all humility, Mr.—”

Nixon: You see it’s something that you could be around with any of these people.”

Kissinger: “I think—”

Nixon: “The only one you couldn’t handle would be Reagan. I think he’s too much of a lightweight.”

Kissinger: “Mr. President—”

Nixon: “You could handle Rockefeller. You could handle Burger.”

Kissinger: “Mr. President—”

Nixon: “You could —”

Kissinger: “It’s very hard policy if one has worked as closely with a President as I have with you, to work in a similar position with his successor. That I would never do under no circumstances. And after—”

Nixon: “Well, then you realize what we look at. We’re looking at Muskie, Humphrey, or Teddy. It’s as cold as that. As President. That [Page 333] you see is, that’s why so much rides on this damn thing. Now you come around to this proposition that—”

Kissinger: “Absolutely.”

Nixon: “—maybe the Soviets—Well look, my point is if we can we’ve got to handle this way to save the Soviet summit and mitigate Vietnam. What I’m getting at is that, I don’t mean to sink Thieu. But I, if you get—Do you see what I’m getting at?”

Kissinger: “You see I don’t think there’s a way any more of mitigating Vietnam, Mr. President, because we’ll either win or lose. I think your first analysis was right.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “If we lose, it doesn’t matter how softly we’ve played it.”

Nixon: “Yeah. If we lose then we’re out.”

Kissinger: “Well then You’d be under such violent domestic opposition.”

Nixon: “Right.”

Kissinger: “And You’d be under murderous pressure at the summit.”

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “If you win, now if—I think a blockade ought to be—”

Nixon: “You think the blockade is going to help?”

Kissinger: “No. I think, Mr. President, we, as far as anybody else is concerned, you must give the impression of being on the verge of going crazy.”

Nixon: “Oh, absolutely. I’ve got everybody so scared then. Go berserk. Worry them. Why not [unclear]?”

Kissinger: “With all respect, you must forget any doubts of anyone—Between you and me I think a blockade should be very, very carefully considered.”

Nixon: “I agree. And after you [unclear]—”

Kissinger: “But very prayerfully considered—I mean we shouldn’t do it lightly. But I would like in Russia to act as if you just did not give a damn.”

Nixon: “That’s true. That’s the way I feel.”

Kissinger: “I would like to leave the impression—”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “—that the hell with the summit; you’ll go to, you’re impressed by the Wallace vote.”

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “you’re going to go to the solid South. You’re going to go on an anti-Communist kick and by God you’ve had enough. That’s what I’ve been telling Dobrynin.”

[Page 334]

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “Now, I—In all of history, the Russians have always backed off when we’ve” [unclear]

Nixon: “Yeah, but I know. The Russians can back off but there’s nothing—the North Vietnamese might not.”

Kissinger: “Well, that is true. But if we can get the Russians to back off, then the question is can we buy the [unclear].”

Nixon: “Right.”

Kissinger: “Even for my own selfish reasons. I’m not eager—we’d both be [unclear] in an unbelievable way.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “And all the reputation that has been achieved for great foreign policy would be—”

Nixon: “Sure. Down the drain, we know that.”

Kissinger: “So I have not as much of a stake but also—”

Nixon: “I know.”

Kissinger:“—a stake in not having what I’ve worked on—[unclear]

Nixon: “To go to Russia. I know. I know that. I know that. But we’ve got to play the Russian card out. I think that’s why you have to go, Henry. So write your message that way.”

Kissinger: “Let me write the message and bring it back.”

Nixon: “[unclear] but I think that what I want—What I’m really trying to tell you is that I am prepared to go all the way. And that I am prepared to take all the consequences. But, and that means that you have the blockade as a card to play over there. You may not play it there. But I mean, you see if you know that’s going to come, you could be a hell of lot tougher than if you know it isn’t going to come.”

Kissinger: “Right.”

Nixon: “If they think we’ve turned the last screw, there ain’t much more to be done.”

Kissinger: “You see we may not want to do a blockade; we may just bomb Haiphong [unclear]. In that case—”

Nixon: “Why would we do that?”

Kissinger: “Block every port. We just start bombing every port. So that it’s unusable. And then—”

Nixon: “Why is it better to bomb them?”

Kissinger: “Because then the Russian ships will come in.”

Nixon: “Now, they just hide them outside?”

Kissinger: “And we’re not challenging the Russians directly.”

Nixon: “You mean, bomb on the shipfront and the harbor? Is that what you mean?”

[Page 335]

Kissinger: “No, just bomb the bridges. They had it pretty-well cut off.” [unclear]

Nixon: “All right.”

Kissinger: “Well, and it takes longer to do that.”

After a brief exchange on American support for the war in Vietnam, the two men discussed the text of a message, which Kissinger planned to give Ambassador Dobrynin later that afternoon, to elicit Soviet support for a settlement.

Kissinger: “So, all things considered, I would tend to go for the blockade. But my judgment is also that if we play the Russians calmly and flexibly, they’ll help us. It may not be enough, depending [on] what your bottom line is.”

Nixon: “I think you’ve got your message to—Do you want—?”

Kissinger: “Well—”

Nixon: “I have—”

Kissinger: “—you want to do something else?”

Nixon: “I do. I do but [unclear] do you want to bring it back? Is that all right? Going on, you say, 3:00 or what? When do you want to send it?”

Kissinger: “I’d like to send it as early as possible.”

Nixon: “But why don’t you [unclear].”

Kissinger: “With the eight hour time difference [unclear]”

Nixon: “We all understand that. We all understand that.” [unclear]

Kissinger: “I will say this. That when we accepted the trip to the Soviet Union—”

Nixon: “Yeah. Right.”

Kissinger: “—the principal purpose of it was to see whether the two great powers must now bring about a rapid end of the war in Vietnam. Also, whether on the basis of this, to speed up the preparation of the summit on the broadest possible basis. It now appears, despite some assurances by the Soviet Ambassador, that the—”

Nixon: “North Vietnamese are not going—”

Kissinger: “—North Vietnamese have refused to come on the 24th, and had asked us to come to a meeting on the 27th.”

Nixon: “Publicly.”

Kissinger: “Publicly. We have notified the North Vietnamese that we will come on the 27th [unclear]. The President wants to, is prepared to send Dr. Kissinger if, on the assumptions made here: he would likely hear an expression from the Soviet Government how it [unclear]. If the Soviet Government shares this view, then Dr. Kissinger is prepared to leave. And that would be [unclear].”

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Nixon: “No. You’ve got to say, you know, that the first item on the agenda will be—”

Kissinger: “Vietnam.”

Nixon:“—that and a concrete proposal must be prepared for discussion and unless one is that we will not go—you are not authorized to go to other items on the agenda.”

Kissinger: “Well—”

Nixon: “Or do you want not to be that hard?”

Kissinger: “I think—That I’d rather do there.”

Nixon: “Oh, fine.”

Kissinger: “You can instruct me to do that, and I’ll do it.”

Nixon: “Do it there, fine. Okay. All right. The only thing is I want to be sure they are prepared to make a concrete proposal. Why don’t you say that you are coming with the understanding that they will have a concrete proposal?”

Kissinger: “That there will be—”

Nixon: “And then don’t say that—[unclear]”

Kissinger: “That the first item on the agenda will be—”

Nixon: “Will be that. And that they will have a concrete proposal. You can say that.”

Kissinger: “So each step for a rapid settlement of the war.”

Nixon: “Rapid. Right. And then when you’re there, you knock it off. You say, All right? ‘Right, I’m not going to discuss anything further.’”

Kissinger: “If we don’t make any progress. I will then say, ‘Gentlemen—’”

Nixon: “Right. Right.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 329–42)

As soon as Kissinger left, Nixon called Haldeman to report on the conversation. According to Haldeman: the “P called me at 2:00 after I got home, said that they worked out Henry’s problems and that he would probably still go ahead with the Moscow trip.” Nixon also reported that despite advice from General Abrams, the Commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam—he was “going ahead with the strike tonight and that he’s seriously considering putting on a blockade later this week.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)