179. Editorial Note
According to his Record of Schedule, from 12:15 p.m. to 12:40 p.m. on May 1, 1972, the Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger met with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin in the White House Map Room. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976) No substantive record of the meeting has been found. Kissinger passed to Dobrynin the following note at the meeting:
“While we cannot agree with certain considerations expressed in the paper given Henry Kissinger in Moscow, we can agree in principle to the general approach suggested in that paper. It is the understanding of the U.S. government that under the proposed SLBM freeze, additional SLBM launchers, beyond those existing on the freeze date, could be built in replacement for certain existing strategic launchers. Such a freeze would last five years if an agreement on more comprehensive limitations on strategic offensive arms was not reached in the meantime. We are prepared at Helsinki to negotiate equitable provisions to cover this kind of arrangement with the aim of concluding an offensive interim agreement, together with ABM Treaty, for signature during the forthcoming meeting in Moscow.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip File, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 2)
At 12:50 p.m. the same day, Haig called Dobrynin to inform him of revisions to the note:
“H: Henry just rushed out to lunch. He asked me to call you and ask you to delete the first phrase before sending the note to Moscow—that phrase which starts ‘While we can.’
“D: The whole phrase? Just wait a minute. Let me get it. Do you mean take out the whole first sentence?
“H: No. The note would begin ‘We can agree.’
“D: So it is half the first phrase? Then we will translate this one and we will be in touch with you in 30 or 35 minutes.
“H: Fine, sir. Henry said with regard to the statement we have deleted that it should be transmitted as an oral phrase at the time it is delivered.[Page 664]
“D: I understand—yes.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 372, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) During a conversation with President Nixon in the Old Executive Office Building at 2:40 p.m., Kissinger reported on his meeting with Dobrynin, noting that he had told Dobrynin, “After tomorrow, all bets are off.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, May 1, 1972, 2:40–2:55 p.m., Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 335–3)
At 7:35 p.m. Kissinger informed Secretary of State Rogers of the oral message passed to Dobrynin. The transcript of the telephone conversation reads:
“R: I want to ask you whether you notified the Russians about the SALT thing. The impression Gerry [Smith] got from what you said—changes the position.
“K: I gave them the piece of paper Gerry gave me.
“R: In other words, he gave you a piece of paper to give to the Russians?
“R: He didn’t understand that.
“K: That’s what all the discussions were about.
“R: The same piece of paper?
“K: The same piece of paper. Only the part which referred to me being given a paper in Moscow—this was made oral instead of in writing. The first part which the President reacted to so sharply. Everything was the same except the first part which was a commentary.
“R: Can I get a copy of it?
“K: Certainly, but Gerry has it.
“R: When did you give it to him? Because you heard what he said, that it was just handed to him before the meeting.
“K: What was handed to him was the correct version. It was exactly the same as the piece of paper Gerry gave me only the reference to Henry Kissinger was made a comment by the President. This part was given to them as an oral comment but the whole document was given to them.
“R: Really, we’ve got to be a little careful on cooperation. Gerry has just about had it. It is just too ticklish a situation not to cooperate a little bit better.
“K: Alex Johnson was present at all the meetings where this was discussed.
“R: Did you deliver it to Dobrynin?
“K: I just sent it over to Dobrynin. That was the purpose of that paper. Smith was the one that wanted it so there would be something in writing that was handled in the Verification Group. That has been around since Friday [April 28].[Page 665]
“R: I wonder if I could straighten it out. If you could send me what you sent to Dobrynin—but if it has gone I couldn’t change that.
“K: Your suggestions can still be carried out because it goes to detail. The only minor point being that the first part was a commentary.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 372, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
In a May 2 memorandum to Rogers, to which he attached the text of the note, Kissinger wrote:
“Attached per our phone conversation is a copy of the text given to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin yesterday.
“Subsequently, the President directed that the phrase, ‘While we cannot agree with certain considerations expressed in the paper given Henry Kissinger in Moscow,’ should be deleted from the formal text. Ambassador Dobrynin was told that the text less this phrase should be forwarded to Moscow and the foregoing phrase should be portrayed as an oral comment by the President at the time the formal note was delivered.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip File, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 2)