103. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Soviet Minister Counselor Vorontsov
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
I read the attached oral note to Vorontsov who took it down very carefully. I then added comments to the effect that we had exercised great restraint during March in order not to jeopardize the Soviet Summit. Our military leaders had watched this build-up and three times had recommended attacks on the North to prevent it. Each time it had been rejected by the President. Now we were in the position where we had jeopardized the whole security of South Vietnam and we were not prepared to take any further steps.
Vorontsov said that the reason the negotiations were so difficult now was our having gone public on the other channel. I told Vorontsov that this was an absurdity; he knew very well that the North Vietnamese had proposed the March 15 date because they had expected to launch their offensive before it, and they had pushed back the date consistently in order to gear it to the preparation of their offensive. If he wanted to talk to me in this channel there was no sense repeating all the things that were already said in propaganda.
Vorontsov said he knew the attack on Haiphong would raise the most serious problems in Moscow. I said we were aware of that. Vorontsov asked whether I was still coming under these conditions. I said “Let’s hope that it is still possible, but the situation has greatly worsened.”
The conversation then ended.[Page 338]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 10. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. Before meeting Vorontsov, Kissinger conferred with Sonnenfeldt for 40 minutes. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule) Although no other record of their conversation has been found, the two men presumably drafted the oral note, which contains several of Kissinger’s stylistic handwritten revisions.↩
- Dobrynin and Kissinger reiterated this point in their meetings on April 9 and 12; see Documents 88 and 94.↩
- A copy of the North Vietnamese message, forwarded to Haig by Guay on April 15, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1041, Files for the President, Vietnam, US–NVN Exchanges, January–October 5, 1972.↩
- In a backchannel message to Guay on April 16, Haig forwarded this proposal to the North Vietnamese. (Ibid.)↩