148. Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

WTE 10. Just finished second meeting with Brezhnev lasting some 4 and ¾ hours followed by additional face-to-face meeting alone of 45 minutes. (See separate message.)2

Session, though again marked by moments of levity and personal warmth, was basically deadly serious and extremely substantive.3 First 2 and ½ hours dealt exclusively and intensively with Vietnam which also repeatedly came up in remainder of session.

I went through our procedural proposal and substantive position on de-esclation and desired outcome of negotiations, interspersing this with blunt warning that President determined to settle Vietnam regardless of risk.

Vietnam

I exposed at length our position on the Vietnam question, first outlining the procedural course we would be prepared to follow in respect to public and private meetings. Brezhnev characterized our suggested procedural approach as “constructive.”4

I emphasized that substance of private session would be what was important, and what we would demand of Hanoi is a return to the situation of March 29, e.g. the situation prior to the offensive. We would propose a declaration that both sides will make a serious effort this year to negotiate an end to the war and to this end both sides would reduce the level of violence. For its part the DRV would have to withdraw the divisions that entered SVN since March 29 and respect for [Page 566]the DMZ would have to be restored. We would then stop the bombing of the DRV, propose the immediate exchange of POWs held more than four years and insist on guarantees that the foregoing conditions be observed while negotiations toward a settlement were pursued. In short we would visualize two stages, an immediate reduction of the violence to last for a period, say a year, and a serious attempt to negotiate a settlement, thus ending the threat of war and the bombing of the DRV.5

Brezhnev’s response was that the important thing was to end the fighting; if we insisted on withdrawal of NVA divisions now in SVN, it would mean continued warfare. He suggested we consider instead a de facto cease-fire with units stopping at the lines where they are presently situated. Under these circumstances we would not even have to draw down the air and naval deployments we had made since March 29.

In making these points Brezhnev on more than one occasion stressed themes that he could not vouch for DRV; and that we reflect on his suggestion adding that the mere fact of these positive steps following my trip to Moscow would be of tremendous significance.6

I replied by stressing in strongest possible terms the President’s determination to bring about a Vietnam solution at no matter what risk7 we had no intention of injection any new element in VN situation three weeks ago; but the situation had been forced upon us. We now consider what has developed as going beyond the issue of VN itself but an intolerable attack on our Presidency. Before the offensive we would have readily accepted the solution Brezhnev had advanced; we in fact had proposed it ourselves as long as two years ago; but now we are faced with a violation of the 1968 understandings which must be restored and the status of the DMZ respected.8

Brezhnev repeated his view that we should simply demand a stop to the fighting; then put everything on the table for negotiations over a period of time.

After covering other issues we returned to VN at end of meeting. Brezhnev said he had briefed his Politiburo colleagues on our meeting of the previous day. They had been generally pleased with tenor of our [Page 567]discussions but all had voiced concern over Vietnam. He closed on this subject by proposing that we both reflect on our positions and discuss the matter again on Monday.

After meeting Brezhnev took me aside to protest again that their deliveries had not been excessive. He argued that the enemies of the summit in Hanoi and Peking were trying to wreck the summit and we had to thwart them.9 He said he would do anything to deescalate the fighting but he could not ask North Vietnam to withdraw its troops. He made it clear that we would have to cancel the summit; he would not.

He next sent Dobrynin to ask what they should do. Dobrynin stressed that if we confined bombing to present limits there was no chance of cancelling summit and they were extremely anxious to have it.10 Dobrynin told me that the Politburo would meet tomorrow and we would hear something on Monday.

Please tell the President that Sonnenfeldt feels no one has talked to Brezhnev as I have on Vietnam and President’s resolve. Dobrynin stressed that AP report11 about being downgraded from State visit is rubbish.12

SALT

During extensive SALT discussions Brezhnev indicated new Politiburo decision taken to include SLBMs in SALT and to accept a variant of our 2 for 2 ABM position as well as 5-year duration for offensive agreement. At my request they stopped Semenov from giving Smith new ABM position which he already had instructions to do in next few days.13 To fit in with our overall strategy I told Brezhnev we would react to any new proposals only after Presidential and Washington review. This gives President the proper credit. My impression is Soviets moving most of way to our SALT position, permitting rapid conclusion of agreement whenever we choose.

Length of Stay Here

Brezhnev has urged me to stay until Monday afternoon. I said I would have to check with the President who was restless for me to return. All arguments for staying here covered in my 00814 still apply. We have nothing to lose by staying and much to lose by leaving. They [Page 568]are keeping us from nothing and have been most conciliatory on all issues in their control and have promised to transmit our proposals to Hanoi. They are not using summit to keep us quiet; we are using the summit to impose restraints on them.15 In addition Brezhnev may wish to check with Hanoi on our procedural and substantive proposals—he promised to take up Vietnam again after “thinking things over.” I believe it essential to stay.

Comment

My approved instructions for this trip were to use stick of bombing and carrot of being forthcoming on summit-related matters in order to get mutual deescalation in Vietnam.

So far we have spent two-thirds of our time on Vietnam during which I have gone to the brink with repeated declarations that we will continue military operations. They in turn have approved our procedural compromise and floated ceasefire-in-place with follow-on negotiations. While latter is unacceptable because of North Vietnamese invasion across DMZ which must be rolled back, it is noteworthy that Brezhnev thrice repeated concept at a time when Communists have yet to seize a major town.

Thus we have given up absolutely no options on Vietnam and have made no concessions on any other issues. In turn we have obtained SALT proposals that exceed our best estimates; a statement of principles for US-Soviet relations that meets our concepts rather than loaded France-Russian political type. Brezhnev has also agreed to consider our concept of separate explorations on MBFR in parallel with explorations on a European security conference; and has been constantly effusive about prospects for summit.

Thus they, not we, have been forthcoming on summit-related issues while we have a stand-off on Vietnam with all our options open, Brezhnev has spent more time with me than with any other foreign visitor. To kick them in the teeth now would be an absurdity.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 21, HAK’s Secret Moscow Trip Apr 72, TOHAK/HAKTO File. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Received at 5:20 p.m. Haig forwarded the message to Camp David for Rose Mary Woods, who retyped it for the President. Nixon wrote “can reduce arms shipment”—an apparent reference to the Soviet role in Vietnam—at the top of the retyped version; additional notations by Nixon are noted below. (Ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 74, President’s Speech File, April 1972 Kissinger Trip to Moscow)
  2. Reference is presumably to telegram WTE 009 from Kissinger to Haig, April 22; see Document 145. For the two meetings on April 22, see Documents 139 and 141. The second was not a “face-to-face meeting alone,” since Gromyko and Dobrynin as well as the U.S. notetaker and the Soviet interpreter were also in attendance.
  3. The President underlined this sentence.
  4. The President underlined this sentence.
  5. The President underlined most of this paragraph and wrote a question mark in the margin by “immediate reduction of the violence to last for a period, say a year, and a serious attempt to negotiate a settlement.”
  6. The President underlined “the mere fact of these positive steps following my trip to Moscow would be of tremendous significance” and wrote “! ! K not B!” in the margin.
  7. The President underlined this sentence.
  8. The President underlined the last clause of this sentence.
  9. The President underlined this sentence and wrote an exclamation point in the margin.
  10. The President underlined this sentence.
  11. See Document 145.
  12. The President underlined this sentence.
  13. The President marked this sentence and wrote “already done!” in the margin.
  14. Document 140.
  15. The President underlined this sentence.