104. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin

Dobrynin came over to discuss our oral note2 with me.

He asked, “What exactly is your proposition? Could you have a plenary session take place the same day as the private meeting?” I said that was impossible, first of all because the plenary session on the same day meant that Xuan Thuy would not be able to attend the private meeting. Secondly, I could not wait in Europe until Thursday3 and the plenary sessions had never been held on another day except Thursday unless there was a holiday.

Dobrynin asked whether we could not resume this Thursday. I said it was now technically out of the question because we had already turned it down and because indeed the other side had not asked for [Page 340] it. Dobrynin asked whether he could report then that simultaneous meetings were acceptable. I said that was the sense of our proposal. Dobrynin asked why we then did not accept the May 6 date. I said because it was too late; we wanted to see some progress before that. Dobrynin asked whether he should report then that May 1 was the outside deadline for a private meeting. I said yes.

Dobrynin said he could not tell from my note whether I was actually coming to Moscow. I said we wanted to make sure that there was some major progress toward a Vietnam settlement; this was the principal reason for my going. He said of course in Moscow they were rather looking at it the other way: The principal reason for my going was to prepare the Summit, and also to talk about Vietnam. I said there had to be some progress. He said they could not promise progress. I said, but Vietnam had to be the first item of the agenda, which would affect all others. Dobrynin said, well, we can agree on that; Vietnam will be the first item on the agenda. However, he said, what if General-Secretary Brezhnev wants to discuss another item first? He is after all the leader of the largest Communist Party. I said in that case I would be bound by instructions, without any disrespect to the General-Secretary.

Dobrynin was extremely friendly and suggested that, after all, great powers must be able to put local differences aside to settle fundamental issues. I said “Anatol, for us it isn’t just an international problem; it has now become a major domestic problem. We cannot permit our domestic structure to be constantly tormented by this country 10,000 miles away. The war must now be brought to a conclusion, and we will do it either together with the other great powers or alone.”

The meeting then ended.

  1. 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 at Kissinger’s residence. For their memoir accounts of the discussion, see Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1122; and Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 244.
  2. Printed as an attachment to Document 103.
  3. April 20.