164. Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Moscow1

Sitto 48. Thanks for your 0162 which has been reviewed in detail with the President.3 He is absolutely delighted with the manner in which you have conducted the most difficult of all missions. He further asked that I convey to you by Flash message his complete approval of the conduct of the talks which are totally responsive to his own thinking and which, more importantly, have accomplished far more than our best hopes would have visualized; the President was equally complimentary of the work which must have been done by Sonnenfeldt, Negroponte, Lord, Rodman, and two young ladies whose fingers must have kept a steady pattern on the keyboard for the past four days and nights.

To the foregoing, having been a transmission belt for most of what has transpired, I can only add that this mission in terms of sheer strain and difficulty far exceeds the accomplishments of the earlier trips to Peking. You can all view your voyage with the greatest of pride. No one else could have come near doing it. There are several problem areas which you will wish to consider on your flight home. The first is the matter of the announcement on the SALT breakthrough. I am confident that this is the single hang-up that the President has with your message. He believes in terms of substance that he would not wish to publicly announce a breakthrough while the heavy fighting is going on in Vietnam. Secondly, he is very concerned that the inference will be drawn that we have been talking SALT without having resolved the matter of Moscow’s support for Hanoi. Thirdly, and perhaps the most binding concern is the President’s fear that the announcement will trigger a bureaucratic brawl with Rogers and Smith which would force Smith or Rogers to leak the fact that Rogers notified the President of the breakthrough as a result of Smith’s efforts in Helsinki. My own view is that you must not lose sight of the fact that the President feels he must have total credit for the SALT breakthrough and share it [Page 633]with absolutely no one. I pointed out to the President that should it be necessary to escalate air operations next week, it would be very helpful to indicate that even in the face of that, the Soviets had agreed to a major concession on SALT. His answer was that SALT really doesn’t mean that much to the average American although it is a critical item of long-term national interest. I think you are going to run into a stiff problem on this matter and should consider carefully en route to Washington how to handle it.

Another problem is the purely bureaucratic task of when and how we should tell Rogers of the Tuesday noon announcement. I have been carefully posturing him over the past three days with the view toward making him fully cognizant of the need to have a public announcement which will justify our decision to return to the plenaries on Thursday.

I believe we are postured as well as we can be on this with Rogers and would suggest that we tell him Tuesday morning about the noon announcement and make it clear that we have no control over it because certainly the Soviets would leak it in any event, and posture it in the direction of a meeting designed to discuss the summit.

I believe everything is ship-shape here in terms of implementing the scenario which you have so carefully worked out. Thieu, Bunker and the North Vietnamese are all aboard and, as I mentioned before, the North Vietnamese have agreed to meet with you on May 2. We should be prepared for a leak from them about the plenary, but this, too, will be completely manageable.

Again, accept our greatest admiration for what can only be termed your miraculous accomplishment.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 21, HAK’s Secret Moscow Trip Apr 72, TOHAK/HAKTO File [2 of 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only; Flash.
  2. Document 163.
  3. Haig called the President at 1:09 p.m. and they spoke for 23 minutes. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary. No substantive record of the conversation has been found.