129. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister
  • Anatoliy Dobrynin, USSR Ambassador to the United States
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Miss Julienne Pineau, Notetaker

Gromyko: We have a folk tale which is called “The Invisible Hat” and it is probably not an exclusively Russian tale anyway. But anyone who puts on this hat become invisible, and so I guess in your situation you should don a hat like that so no one will see you here except those who are supposed to.

Kissinger: You have done it very efficiently. You know who will be very angry with me? The Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Dobrynin: Why?

Kissinger: He absolutely insists I should make a secret visit to Jamaica.

Dobrynin: Secret?

Kissinger: Yes.

Dobrynin: And make it open after?

Kissinger: Yes.

Dobrynin: Nice place I am told.

Gromyko: So, how are you?

Kissinger: Fine. Had a good trip, slept on the plane, and have been treated very well here. But I am afraid I am going to gain too much weight here.

Dobrynin: We could put you on a diet tomorrow.

Gromyko: We are very pleased to see you here and we are ready to exchange views. And we are ready, as I say, to exchange views with you on the questions that are of interest to you and to ourselves. The questions have more or less clearly been delineated. I wish to say right away … to mention the level of the talks you will have in this country. You will be talking on matters of interest with Leonid Brezhnev and I will be there with him too. If you have any observations to make [Page 458] or wishes to express at this time, I am glad to hear anything you have to say.

Kissinger: First of all I am here because the President believes that our two countries have a historic opportunity at this moment to put our relationship on an entirely new basis. Through a combination of circumstances we can advance on a broad front, an opportunity which has not existed until this period.

Gromyko: All right, please go on.

Kissinger: But also I am here to see whether there is a possibility of removing the one obstacle we can now see that could produce consequences that I don’t believe either of our countries want, and, which so far as we can tell are not in the interest of our two countries—namely Southeast Asia. I am authorized by the President to deal with you on a broad range of issues concerning the summit and also what will happen in the next month elsewhere. These are my main tasks in coming here.

Gromyko: During the conversations the position of the Soviet leadership on the cardinal problems which will be the subject of discussions will be set out to you in a clearcut way in a spirit of frankness. We understand and appreciate your emphasis on the significance of the relationship between our two countries and on the problems that will be the subject of discussions. This we fully appreciate, and for our part we attach great importance to you as an eminent representative of the President of the United States. This alone says a great deal of the importance of the forthcoming meetings and discussions with you. As regards the forthcoming meetings between the leaders of the Soviet State and President Nixon, you will certainly be aware from the communications made to the President through channels you are familiar with that we attach very great importance to the meetings and talks with the President. And this is what guided our leaders in taking the decision at the very outset regarding the forthcoming meetings with the President, and I wish also to emphasize it is from these considerations also that preparations are going forward on the part of General Secretary of the CPSU Leonid I. Brezhnev.

Kissinger: We believe also that the preparations have gone forward in a positive and businesslike fashion. And we will do all in our power to see that these meetings won’t just be an episode but will start a whole sequence of events.

Gromyko: We are certainly quite sure that you are indeed making intensive preparations for the meetings and naturally I wish to say we too are preparing for them. As regards the preparations for that meeting, these meetings you will have here will have particular significance. We believe our two sides have decided to carry out their preparations deeply aware of the importance of the forthcoming meetings and the great responsibility that devolves on both sides in these meetings.

[Page 459]

Kissinger: Perhaps what we should do first is develop a work plan: How long do you envision these meetings to last, what will be discussed, and how do you foresee the outcome for the coming meetings?

Gromyko: How long can you stay here?

Kissinger: I cannot stay longer than Monday.2 I must be back Monday night. I prefer to leave Sunday night but I can stay to Monday if it is worthwhile.

Gromyko: Tomorrow Leonid Brezhnev is meeting you at 12:00. The meeting will continue through the afternoon. If necessary you have also the day after, first half of day, and if necessary the second half of day in the afternoon.

Kissinger: We are talking now about what, Brezhnev?

Gromyko: Yes, and then if necessary the day after.

Kissinger: You mean Sunday?

Gromyko: Yes. Or it is prohibited to work on Sunday?

Kissinger: Not for me.

Gromyko: What is the custom in Washington? What is the custom in the White House?

Kissinger: In the White House the custom is not to work on Sunday; in my office the custom is to work.

Gromyko: So it is not surprising.

Dobrynin: No, is necessary.

Kissinger: We should work on preparations that are necessary in Washington, but we don’t have to do it tonight. Decide how long you think the meetings will last. But perhaps I can do this with Mr. Brezhnev.

Dobrynin: After the first meeting.

Kissinger: Right. I must be back in Washington and be seen in Washington sometime Monday evening, but I can stay here as late as 5:00 on Monday for that.

Gromyko: You have the advantage as far as time is concerned. You follow the sun.

Kissinger: So, we will decide tomorrow the length of the stay. As for substance, how do you propose we proceed?

Gromyko: I was told by the Ambassador in the beginning you probably are going to make some kind of observations, if my information is correct.

Kissinger: He gives me so much caviar and vodka I always tell him everything.

[Page 460]

Gromyko: Probably this is mutual.

Kissinger: No, we have a very frank relationship on both sides.

Gromyko: This is good.

Kissinger: And only one suggestion I have made to the Ambassador. I might just as well bring all my assistants to the meeting, or does he not like so many?

Dobrynin: How many do you have?

Kissinger: Four.

Dobrynin: Think that is too many.

Kissinger: Okay, I will bring two and a girl; I will work out the rotation. I will bring tomorrow Sonnenfeldt and Lord.

Gromyko: And all questions of interest for you and for us can be discussed. I have my own problems we think should be discussed with the President.

Kissinger: I can just judge my knowledge of the President … Mr. Foreign Minister, you are wanted.

Gromyko: [Goes to door, talks with someone there, returns]:3 Maybe we should banish all telephones both in Washington and Moscow as the basic violators of human peace and quiet.

Kissinger: I agree. I am in an ideal situation here.

Gromyko: You have the advantage.

Kissinger: Yes.

Dobrynin: But you have a plane, so you are still in communication.

Kissinger: But not by telephone. I think, Mr. Foreign Minister, from my experience with the President, the more we can discuss some of the subjects we know he and Mr. Brezhnev will discuss, the further he will be able to go, because then he can prepare himself properly. So I am ready to discuss to any subject that will come up.

Gromyko: It is very good.

Kissinger: You realize you have driven my friend Smith crazy.

Gromyko: Why?

Kissinger: By calling Semenov back.

Gromyko: But it is helpful. He will stay in Helsinki.

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: Nice place.

Kissinger: But he doesn’t know I am coming here. He has two theories.

Gromyko: What are they?

[Page 461]

Kissinger: One is that you are angry with us and have called your negotiator back. The other is that you are prepared to yield to all our points. [laughter]

Gromyko: Just regular consultation.

Kissinger: That’s what we have said. It was a natural thing for him to come back.

Gromyko: It takes only one hour.

Kissinger: It was the most natural thing.

Gromyko: Absolutely. So all problems involved we will discuss preliminarily and they will be subjects for discussion here. They are known to you and to us.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Gromyko: In what order? … I think when we here have considerations probably you will speak at the beginning. Anyway both sides are free to make suggestions on how to proceed.

Kissinger: We will proceed in the manner most likely to achieve the results we want. We agree on the objective.

Gromyko: And mutually acceptable.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Gromyko: The main thing is the substance of the matter.

Kissinger: Exactly. So we meet then at noon tomorrow?

Gromyko: Absolutely right, at noon. The place of the meeting is this general region, not far from this house by car, very close, maybe just one minute. Very close. In this general area. This is your first visit to Moscow?

Kissinger: I have been in Moscow once with a scientific group.4

Gromyko: When was that?

Kissinger: In 1967 and 1968, just at New Year’s Day.

Gromyko: How long did you stay?

Kissinger: Five days in Moscow and one in Leningrad and they were solving all the disarmament problems at the time.

Gromyko: That time you were thinking, thinking, thinking. This time you are thinking, thinking, thinking and working, working, working.

Kissinger: Some people think I don’t think and just work. Among the issues, are there any to which you attach particular importance?

Gromyko: It is a question of the questions, how to build and develop our relations between two powers. This is a question of questions. [Page 462] As to particular problems we attach great importance to the problem of security in Europe and with respect to the development of events in the European continent. We attach importance you know—we say this to the President and to you—strategic arms limitation and ABM. We attach importance to the Middle East on which we talked when we met in Washington with you. We attach importance to economic problems. Some regions of the world cannot be avoided. You are familiar with the questions in the channel. Secretary General is ready to outline certain considerations.

Kissinger: So am I.

Gromyko: Certain considerations on Asian problems will be discussed. Not an exhaustive list.

Kissinger: Each side is free to raise any topic it wishes.

Gromyko: Of course.

Kissinger: And on all the topics you have mentioned I will be prepared to outline our position. We have two tasks here—one is to agree where we can on a course to solve the problems, or to make preparations, and the second is how to manage what we agree upon vis-à-vis other countries and vis-à-vis our own bureaucracy. That is my problem. I just want your understanding. When I say this will be done, I will tell you how long it will take and how we will do it, so you understand the circumstances.

Gromyko: Are you going to reach the point at which it is possible to finish the discussions of the Middle East at the next meeting with the President, or ready not to discuss in detail but in a preliminary way without completing the discussion of the problem on the forthcoming meeting?

Kissinger: I am prepared to discuss the documents with which to conclude the meeting.

Gromyko: It would be probably good.

Kissinger: In fact I think if I may suggest it the more of this sort of thing we can get done on this trip the better it will be when the President is here. If we can get a good part of it done we can concentrate on the key issues when he is here.

Gromyko: Good.

Kissinger: And on the topics you have mentioned we should agree how to complete them at the time of the meetings of our leaders, or how they can bring them as close as possible to completion.

Gromyko: It should be possible.

Dobrynin: It is more than possible.

Gromyko: I would not say more than possible. But I would like to broaden the possibility.

[Page 463]

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, your Ambassador should be instructed to let me win an argument every three months so my self-confidence isn’t destroyed.

Gromyko: You are not unfamiliar to us. I am glad we have met before. This man [indicating Dobrynin] is familiar to you.

Kissinger: Oh yes.

Gromyko: And we are your friends, your partners.

Kissinger: I am here with the attitude that we will make major progress.

Gromyko: Good.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 72, Country Files, Europe, USSR, HAK Moscow Trip—April 1972, Memcons. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s room at the Guest House on Vorobyevskii Road.
  2. April 24.
  3. All brackets in the source text.
  4. Kissinger had been a member of the so-called Pugwash Group, a group of Soviet, European, and American scientists, who frequently met to discuss issues of mutual concern, including arms control; the group first met at Pugwash, Nova Scotia.