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

WTE 016. 1. Had four-hour plus rather stormy session with Brezhnev, Gromyko and Dobrynin, three of them attended by Brezhnev.

2. Brezhnev began with a long emotional statement about Vietnam stressing again that Moscow was not behind the offensive, that Hanoi had been hoarding Soviet weapons for two years. He said that it was the enemies of the summit especially the Chinese, but also Hanoi who were challenging America, that he was proceeding with the summit despite a formal request by Hanoi to cancel it.2 He had not yet had a reply from Hanoi regarding the private session which Moscow had urged. If I agreed he would transmit our concrete proposal to Hanoi. I asked him to do so.

After Brezhnev left, Gromyko said that he had been authorized to tell me, first, that Moscow had not realized until ten days ago how very serious we were about ending Vietnam. We therefore had to give them some time to use their influence.3 Second, they were transmitting our substantive proposal to Hanoi with the attitude of bringing about a rapid solution of the war or at least a significant improvement in the situation.

Comment: It was significant that there was no reference to the end of bombing. Under present circumstances transmitting our proposals [Page 630] even if they do not endorse them must be considered by Hanoi as an unfriendly act.4 After all we are asking for the withdrawal of all units introduced into SVN since March 29 or six divisions, respect of the DMZ, an end to rocket attack on cities, release of all U.S. prisoners held for four years or more just to end the bombing.

Whatever the outcome of their démarche to Hanoi my visit left no doubt about our determination. I told them that May 2 was the last possible date for a private meeting; that the private meeting had to bring rapid and concrete results; that if it failed the President would escalate and turn right at whatever risk;5 that this would make it impossible even for his opponents to pursue a major détente policy. If I have erred it is on the side of excessive toughness.

3. The announcement of my visit produced a real fracas. First Brezhnev withdrew his agreement to an announcement. When I put my foot down they engaged in the ploy of producing their version only after Brezhnev had left and then Gromyko claimed he had no flexibility. Their version left open the implication that I had sought the meeting and put it all in the context of the summit. I blew my top, Gromyko called Brezhnev and we finally agreed on following language: Between April 20 and April 24, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, was in Moscow to confer with the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU Brezhnev and Foreign Minister Gromyko. The discussions dealt with important international problems as well as with bilateral matters preparatory to the talks between President Nixon and Soviet leaders in May.

The implications are all there and it was in any event the best obtainable.

4. With respect to SALT, Gromyko confirmed that Smith could not have been given the SLBM proposal because Semenov did not yet have it. I think Semenov pulled the same stunt as before May 20 of claiming more than he knew.6 In any event it was agreed that the President can say next week that he had been in touch with Brezhnev regarding SALT, that based on his approach the Soviet leaders gave me a counterproposal while I was in Moscow substantially accepting our offer, [Page 631] that this broke the deadlock and that the President was instructing Smith to work out the details before the summit.7

5. Other matters covered today were the Middle East with respect to which Brezhnev was very tough. I shall reserve this for my return.

6. To sum up these seem to me the pluses of the trip:

Moscow’s readiness to receive me three days after we bombed Hanoi and Haiphong and while we were bombing and shelling NVN.
An announcement that when properly briefed makes plain Vietnam was discussed.8 The distinction between important international problems and bilateral matters related to the summit is a euphemism for Vietnam.
Soviet willingness to transmit our procedural proposals to Hanoi and to urge private talks even while we continue bombing.
Soviet willingness to transmit a very tough substantive proposal to Hanoi.
Soviet recognition that we are deadly serious about Vietnam and that everything else is dependent on it.
A SALT offer which culminates the private channel and accepts most of our proposals.
Agreement on a declaration of principles to be published at the summit which includes most of our proposals and indeed involves a specific renunciation of the Brezhnev doctrine.9
Agreement to begin exploring MBFR.
Agreement not to go beyond the FRG in pushing GDR admission to UN.
Enough holding actions on bilateral matters to give us a control over the implementation of the above.

For all this we give up the bombing of Haiphong for one week.

  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 12:57 p.m. and forwarded to Camp David for Rose Mary Woods, who retyped it for the President. Nixon’s notations on the retyped version are cited in footnotes below. (Ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 74, President’s Speech File, April 1972, Kissinger’s Trip to Moscow)
  2. The President underlined “despite a formal request by Hanoi to cancel it.”
  3. The President underlined this sentence.
  4. The President underlined this entire sentence except the initial clause.
  5. Nixon underlined “President would escalate and turn right at whatever risk.”
  6. During a meeting with Smith in Vienna on May 3, 1971, Semenov floated a proposal that had been secretly developed in the KissingerDobrynin channel. As Kissinger later explained: “Whatever the reason, Semenov’s move, as well as raising doubts about Soviet good faith, in effect circumvented the Presidential Channel.” (White House Years, pp. 817–818)
  7. Nixon underlined “he had been in touch with Brezhnev regarding SALT, that based on his approach the Soviet leaders gave me a counterproposal” and “the President was instructing Smith to work out the details before the summit.” He also circled the word “me,” i.e. Kissinger, in the first phrase and wrote an exclamation point in the margin.
  8. The President underlined this sentence, circled the words “properly briefed,” and wrote an exclamation point in the margin.
  9. In a speech at the Fifth Congress of the Polish Communist Party in Warsaw on November 12, 1968, Brezhnev justified Soviet military intervention in Czechoslovakia the previous August as a necessary step to prevent capitalist interference in the Socialist camp.