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

WTE 018. 1. Thank you for your 46.2 There is no point reviewing my reaction to the support I have been receiving on the most difficult assignment of my incumbency. There are a few points you should make to the President simply so that the nation’s business can be conducted with the minimum of mutual trust required in a Presidential entourage.

2. It is my firm conviction that without my trip to Moscow the summit would have collapsed and the delicate balance of our Vietnam policy would have disintegrated beyond repair. I believe the acceptance of the May 2 date so fast is the result of Soviet pressure. I also call the attention of the President to the noon note regarding Katushev’s trip to Hanoi.3 Kutsnetsov told Sonnenfeldt that Katushev is one of Brezhnev’s most trusted associates.

3. As for SALT, the tactical situation was as follows. There was no way the SLBM issue could be held for the summit. First, we have linked our ABM proposal to progress on SLBM. Thus the deadlock would have been total. Second, had Brezhnev held the proposal till the summit which was impossible it could not have been acted upon there because we would have had to get technical analysis and the credit for the culmination would have gone to Smith and Rogers. Third, the Soviets would surely have surfaced the proposal in Helsinki in which case the President would have received no credit at all for work done entirely in his special channel.

4. To protect the President I therefore took the following steps:

I insisted that all further discussion at Helsinki be stopped. I did this so insistently that Gromyko interrupted the meeting to call Semonov.
I arranged at no little difficulty for a Presidential announcement of the breakthrough basing it on a direct exchange between him [Page 635] and Brezhnev. My own role in this, including the Moscow trip, can be easily eliminated. I have not exactly taken credit for May 20, Berlin and the whole plethora of secondary agreements in which I have had a major role.
I arranged for some SALT issue to be left unresolved till the summit so that the President and Brezhnev can settle it there and still sign the agreement. I am not sure this will hold because the Soviets had a hell of a time understanding what I was after.
In this manner the President can get double credit, for the breakthrough next week and for a solemn signing ceremony for a historic agreement at the summit.

5. The SALT game plan now is as follows:

We should call Smith back for consultation.
We should then show him the SLBM and ABM offers, this will keep him from claiming credit for himself.
We should move the proposals through the Verification Panel this week.
Smith should then be sent off with the Presidential statement outlined above.

6. In addition, I have brought back a statement of principles to be signed at the summit. No one knows about this, it does not sound like much now; I predict it will be hailed as as a major event at the end of May.

7. It is important to keep in mind that in order to obtain Soviet restraint in Vietnam we had to dangle the prospects of a successful summit. If sufficiently cornered, the Soviets could have turned violently against us.

8. Please show this message to the President after reviewing its content with him.

  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. No time of transmission is on the message; it was received at 4:09 p.m.
  2. Document 162.
  3. Transmitted in Sitto 47 from Haig to Kissinger, April 24. (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]; Noon Note)