142. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

AH: I have a message from Henry before he started today’s meetings. We shook him up I am afraid.—(reads from Henry’s wire)2

RN: Don’t worry about Henry—Send over his original message so Rose can type it and I can read it.3

AH: (continues reading from wire) “the situation is as follows” … a, b, c.

RN: The point is that Henry has to keep today in front of the Soviets that we do not have to have the summit. We can continue our bombing—And another side to this—the Soviets can change their minds if they see the domestic side here is in an uproar. We can’t assume they may be playing a double game—Vietnam and the summit. Henry has to be aware that this blabber doesn’t mean anything.

AH: I sent him a message that this was one concern which he should be alerted to.4 But we don’t have to face that until after May 2 meeting, Mr. President.

RN: The problem that I have with it—May 2 meeting at this point is whether we can agree or what is the condition for agreeing to Plenary meeting?

AH: The condition is that they will be there on May 2.

RN: And we agree to stop bombing?

AH: No.

RN: Even if we don’t, once we go to the meeting, the pressure will be great.

AH: We can work that—

RN: You remember the pain of the bombing pauses—every bombing pause is helping the enemy—Don’t want a bomb halt under conditions of agreeing to meeting. We must continue to hit them up to the 20th parallel.

[Page 553]

AH: They will strike tomorrow—52’s still have some good targets 50 miles south. Laird has just put the word out.

RN: for the 20th?

AH: Yes. We are getting some good BDA. I fighter bombers have raked that over.

RN: You mean BDA is the enemy—

AH: We hit a power plant.

RN: There is so much flying on this—he must realize that we can’t play a game out here. I care about a lot of people who are really concerned now—not so much the colleges.

AH: I have a message from Sonnenfeldt5—rather doubled talked so Henry wouldn’t see it—you know what a hawk he is. Very confident Henry is playing it tough.

RN: Henry must have finished the meeting by now.

AH: I think I will go back to him on this Monday meeting.

RN: Frankly, I think we should compress meeting on Vietnam—all day is good. I am confident that Brezhnev is trying to get Henry to slide meeting over to the summit. The summit thing worries me.

AH: Henry knows our concerns. (reads from Henry’s memo) he has got some good advice—that they are soft in one line so firm on the other.

RN: The decision with regard to staying until Sunday only based on progress he has made today. Otherwise come back and start talking to Dobrynin again. How was the strike yesterday?

AH: Well handled.

RN: Didn’t cause much reaction here.

AH: People don’t much care.

RN: It wasn’t Hanoi or Haiphong, people don’t care. The press is really something—Baltimore News headlines say “U.S. loses eight planes in Viet—” then subhead reads, “Over the Month of April”. Can you imagine?

AH: They are all bleeding over the Vice President’s speech.6

[Page 554]

RN: I am sorry to disturb him, but Henry is mesmerized by summitry. I don’t want to lose the summit, but I have gone one step further—we can lose the summit and not the country—we must save the country not pay for the summit by jeopardizing the outcome of Vietnam—I want to come out of Vietnam with our heads high.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 999, Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons [–] 1972 [2 of 2]. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon placed the call from Camp David to Haig in Washington. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Document 140.
  3. The retyped version of the message for the President has not been found.
  4. Reference is evidently to Document 136.
  5. In an undated message delivered to Haig on the morning of April 22, Sonnenfeldt reported: “Appreciate your worrying about my health. But so far really nothing to worry about. If things go on like this I am confident health will be better when we return than when we left. I think even Fritz [Kraemer] would agree.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 21, HAK’s Secret Moscow Trip Apr 72, TOHAK/HAKTO File)
  6. In a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington on April 21, Agnew charged that the Democratic Party, including such Presidential hopefuls as Senators Humphrey, Kennedy, McGovern, and Muskie, had staked its future on the failure of Nixon’s policy in Vietnam. Agnew also argued that The New York Times, “an ardent advocate of getting into Vietnam,” was doing “penance regularly by scourging the President who is getting us out.” (The New York Times, April 22, 1972, p. 15)