187. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is a discussion between the President and Kissinger regarding what they perceived as Secretary of State Rogers’ efforts to get credit for SALT, especially his effort to assert that there was a freeze on nuclear submarines. Both participants assessed that Rogers was trying possibly to derail the negotiations. Regarding the talks with the [Page 696]North Vietnamese, Kissinger recommended to the President a walkout in protest. He contended that the North Vietnamese had given him a weak proposal in Paris the day before in order to prolong the negotiating process. Kissinger noted that he had told them to stop playing games and asserted the U.S. Government’s right to defend its position. Kissinger concluded that continuing with the plenary meetings would be interpreted as “a very weak move.”]

Nixon: Let me analyze this thing on the summit, and so forth, and particularly in view of the Porter thing. You’re absolutely right that anything less than walking out is a weak move. What I would like to see is and we can say, which does not indicate the total breakdown and thereby lack of hope on the negotiating front. Now, you and I know there’s no hope at all for tomorrow.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: On the other hand, we have a hell of a lot of people being used on this particular point. You’ve made this point often.

[Omitted here is further discussion where Nixon noted that such a walkout would be met with great enthusiasm by the hawks, but would turn loose critics in the Senate and other matters.]

Nixon: Now, what we have to realize is that in terms of the domestic front, that this kind of a move, and I want to put it in the context of the bombing and the summit thing, this kind of a move can have a good short-range effect—the walkout. In the long-range, we have to consider it in the context with what our plans are and what effect it’ll have. Now let’s look at the summit. As I see the summit, and of course I’m the strongest proponent of not making the summit hostage to Vietnam or Vietnam to the summit, anyway, the cancellation of the summit, and incidentally, there can’t be any halfway. We can say that we are going to postpone or that we aren’t going to go at this time or that we’ll be glad to go at a later time when the offensive is stopped, or this, that, or the other thing, and so forth—I’m just trying to think of all of the language that we could work up. First, analyzing it from the foreign standpoint, it will have a beneficial impact, as you pointed out last night on Thieu. It will have a—certainly some shock effect on Hanoi. It will have some effect on the Russians, and more on that in a moment.

The question arises, what effect does it have here? The initial effect would be, in my opinion, extremely favorable. The greatest President puts everything on the line, stands up to the Russians, and so forth. However, in getting the domestic thing out of the way first, because it does have some bearing, we have to realize, that once we have canceled the summit, that then we will unleash without any question, not simply to cause, but we will unleash again particularly our attacks on Senators and Congressmen who are presently off-balance; one, [Page 697]because the summit is coming, and two, because they think that something is going on, which you and I know is poppycock. And you are correct, certainly, in your suggestion to the Soviets, [that] if we cancel the summit, then we get turned around. Their reaction could be one of two things. It could present a problem. Their reaction, however, might be to say, “Well, the conference got thrown down, something was lost, in spite of the fact that the President said we’ll negotiate on bilateral issues and so forth.” That could come at a later time. They could unleash their rather massive propaganda efforts abroad and here in this country. And so, what would happen is that over a period of time, the time that this action were taken, that the immediate—I’m speaking now of the effect at home—the immediate effect at home would very substantially erode. It would be favorable, very favorable, at the beginning, and then it would erode, and it would erode for a variety of reasons. It would erode because of course the attack on our enemies which we must expect, which would be unleashed [unclear] would be off balance. It would erode because the hopes for, you know, peace and so forth, would be knocked down. And it would erode also because there would be—we would have to participate in massive attack [unclear] on the ground on the idea that the so-called Nixon foreign policy had collapsed and collapsed because of our insistence on seeing the Vietnam war through to an honorable conclusion. That would be the argument that they would make. And, we on our side, that of course it would be argued tremendously that what they were doing, as I found out last night, that we have to put them right into the arms of the Soviets, the Soviets responsible for this war, who continues to supply them arms and supplies at the present time.

Now, let’s come to the other point. At the heart of the matter is what effect the cancellation of the summit would have on the outcome of the war itself. If the cancellation of the summit very substantially improves a chance for a favorable outcome in Vietnam, that is a decisive factor. If, on the other hand, the cancellation of the summit has only a marginal effect in that respect, and would of course [mean] the bombing has a marginal effect, then we have to look at it another way, and that way would be along this line. If we are looking at a situation here where over a period of three years we have built in a masterful way a new foreign policy. The China game, the Soviet game, its a very big game. You and I both know that it’s a very difficult operation. The Soviets have been liars and bastards and thugs, and so forth and so on. We also know that at the present time we’ve got some American public opinion developing along that line.

However, if we put it in perspective, I think we have to realize that if we’re looking at the effect, the effect on the Democratic Convention coming up July, and we’re looking at the election coming up in November, at the effect on the election, I think that cold-bloodedly [Page 698]we have to say this. First, the heart of the matter is Vietnam and how it comes out. If Vietnam comes out badly, the election is very seriously jeopardized anyway. However, if Vietnam comes out badly, then we also cancel the summit. In other words, if we cancel the summit and if it still comes out badly, the election would certainly be down the tube, something which Haig and yourself would say would be a very tragic thing. Because it would mean we would not live to fight another day. God knows it, we need to, there’s so much that needs to be done. You hear this military briefing and you realize that our military has let us down—and that’s just one. But you need a new foreign policy, and you need a new military policy, and so forth, and it’s not going to be done by any successor, but so much for that.

If, on the other hand, canceling the summit is the only and critical factor, which may save the situation in Vietnam [unclear], because if the situation in Vietnam is saved, then canceling the summit will look good. I mean, [unclear] even though we will after our first [unclear] and then our erosion will come back up again. Now, there’s one other equation to throw into this. If canceling of the summit, now if we see that the South Vietnamese situation is—if our cold-blooded analysis is, and we cannot make that now, I realize that you use the term “50–50”, that’s my guess. I mean it’s half and half, maybe a little better than that, that they’ll survive, because I think they’re suffering a hell of a lot more than we have any reason to believe, but we shall see. If the South Vietnamese survive, then—I mean do not survive—then having the summit, even under very difficult circumstances, but having it where we say Vietnam will be at the top of the agenda, will have a bad effect.

Kissinger: That is not a possibility to put Vietnam on the top of the agenda. I mean, there’ll be many issues we’ll have to juggle.

Nixon: All right. But having a summit without Vietnam at least as a marginal, is a marginal plus, instead of being a very substantial thing in the long run. That’s what we’ll have to face—I’m speaking now of the domestic side. So that brings me back to the other option. The other option is to react as we had originally planned, with our 2-day strike, and see whether the Russians go forward, whether they stress—they may move to cancel, which they might. The 2-day strike thing certainly would have at first great support in this country. Again, it would give some encouragement to the South Vietnamese, give some pause to the Russians, and some pause to Hanoi. The argument you made last night is a very strong one, to the effect that, well, it would look like an act of desperation, to the effect that Hue is being threatened, and so forth and so on. Well, maybe so, maybe the first strike will look that way too. But we all know at the present time the public temper will support that kind of a strike we want to look at. So we have to weigh that. So it really comes down to this. Whether we really honestly feel that canceling the summit could have—could be—a decisive factor or even [Page 699]a substantial factor in resolving the situation in Vietnam. On that point, I have grave doubts. And if that is true, then the case for it isn’t as strong as we thought it was last night. As far as the strike in the North is concerned, I have serious doubts whether that will have great effect on the situation in Vietnam. It will have some. But we all know that we know it’s a choice between one of two things: either we hit the North for 2 days or we cancel the summit. We have no other options. [unclear exchange]

Kissinger: And hitting the [unclear] of the North for 2 days may cancel the summit.

Nixon: Oh, I understand that.

Kissinger: And they may cancel it.

Nixon: I know, I know.

Kissinger: And then all of the crap that you mentioned, maybe even more—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: Coming against you. I mean every argument that you made on canceling the summit wouldn’t fly then even more because it would tie Vietnam even more intricately to it, and you wouldn’t be able to get your story out.

Nixon: It’s a risk, it’s a risk.

Kissinger: That’s right. And I think there’d be a slightly better than 50–50 chance that they would cancel the summit, which is why I moved to the point that we should postpone it now. Nobody can present any of these positions to you with the argument that they will save the situation in South Vietnam, because I can’t say that they will. Nothing may. Canceling the summit may not, certainly may not. But in this situation, I’m thinking of the Presidency, thinking of your position in history, and of the position of the country in the long-term. If you go to Moscow without having done anything, it will be a total disaster. We can make it look good, we can put on an act, but all the things that will be needed to be put on, that the Russians will then despise us. We will have lost all credibility.

Nixon: Not doing anything. Will—[unclear]

Kissinger: No, I know. I just keep going up the ladder.

Nixon: Yeah. Fine. So that’s out of the question?

Kissinger: That I don’t see how we can do. And the cramming of all that machinery, after reading them your dispatches. But even without it—secondly, for the United States, I mean, what the Russians have done systematically since last October is put it to us. And they’ve said you can have your summit, and at the same time we’re going to screw you. Now we go in on great principles of coexistence. And I think the feeling of uneasiness among—I’m not even worried now about Vietnam, [Page 700]the fact that Russian arms have run us out of Vietnam and the President goes to Moscow and signs principles of coexistence, gives them credit, and agrees with them to screw one of his allies in the Middle East. Now, you know that I’m in favor, hell, we’ve got the principles all negotiated, and the trade is all done, and the Middle East one we can do, and in fact we’re prepared to do that too. But suppose you do all these three things after India–Pakistan and Southeast Asia, and the fact that the bastards have not done one goddamn thing for us ever.

Nixon: They have not.

Kissinger: And I must say objectively that this is a sign of great weakness, which will encourage them. Your great strength in foreign policy is your toughness. And your great standing abroad is due to the fact that you’ve gone your way. Now you could say you could go to the summit, go through with it, don’t sign these principles, don’t give them credit, and don’t make a deal on the Middle East. Well, then, we’ll have a pretty lousy summit. Now to get out of the summit what you want, you have to come back and be able to talk about peace. And about having made tremendous strides towards peace, in other words, you give the Soviets a certificate of good conduct. Now, if we can limit South Vietnam while doing all of this that would be great. That’d be the best of all the worlds.

Nixon: But that you can’t unfortunately know in time.

Kissinger: Well if you are in Russia miles away and everything is integrated, there’s just no way of making it look good.

Nixon: Correct. Our problem, of course. I just wanted to be sure you considered all those.

Kissinger: I, Mr. President, I—God, we suffered and anguished to get to this point. So they may give us an answer that enables us to do it.

Nixon: Are you going to get an answer?

Kissinger: Oh, yeah, there’ll be an answer. But they may give us a very threatening answer because in a way they’re cornered too. This letter is couched in terms that suggests we’re going to attack North Vietnam but there’s no threat to the Soviet summit involved here. But they may figure that since that what we may do they may pre-empt us and cancel it.

Nixon: Okay. If we cancel the summit, then follow with massive attacks on the North occur.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Am I right?

Kissinger: That would be my view. And we’d have to go right to the country and we’d have to put it to the presses.

[Omitted here is discussion of press reaction and Kissinger’s media contacts and briefings.]

[Page 701]

Kissinger: As between whether we postpone the summit or do the 2-day strike, we don’t have to decide that.

Nixon: Well, can we, I mean, have we got 24 hours for them to come back?

Kissinger: Oh, yes. We have more than that.

Nixon: Oh, that much? Oh, yes, yes. They won’t pull the 2-day strike off until Saturday.2

Kissinger: I don’t think—I have never had the same sense of urgency about the 2-day strike that others have had because Hanoi and Haiphong aren’t going to go away. You—

Nixon: Then, in other words, we shouldn’t do it over the weekend anyway.

Kissinger: Well, I think we should do it fairly soon if we’re going to do it. There’s something to be said for not doing it on Saturday, so that it doesn’t catch the weekly news magazines. But we can do it Sunday, Sunday and Monday.

Nixon: Why don’t you analyze for me what you think of it so that I get—just take a minute as to what you think, we’ve gone through the summit thing, what the 2-day strike thing does. First, I don’t need to go in—I know, for instance the Soviets canceling the summit. Fine. Let’s get that out of the way. What does it do in terms of the war? It has some benefits.

Kissinger: Well, the 2-day strike has a number of military benefits. They’re not in themselves decisive but when a country, especially as thin as they are now, anything can impede—they have, for example, changed their whole pattern of unloading gasoline in Haiphong as a result of the other strikes. Secondly, it helps Hanoi that you may just go crazy and press too hard. Thirdly, it really puts it to the Russians in the sense that you are saying all right, you cancel the summit if you want to and leave the choice up to them. Now there’s a certain—so, in other words, you shouldn’t leave the decision of canceling the summit to them, which isn’t easy for them. We had an intercept of a Brezhnev conversation with Gus Hall in which he praises to Hall that he admires you very much and in fact gives a pretty objective account of—but, I repeat how eager they are for the summit; that they are under a lot of pressure from other Communist parties to cancel it. Now they’d love to—the closer to your arrival in Moscow that you do the 2-day strike the tougher it is for them. And, you see, the thing that worries me so much about the visit is for you to give them credit while their trucks and guns—

Nixon: Never.

[Page 702]

Kissinger: But if you don’t give them credit—

Nixon: [unclear] the summit.

Kissinger: they’re going to go—

Nixon: And also let’s face it, even signing the SALT agreement is goddamn tough in the light of this—or any agreement with them of—I don’t understand it. I’m the one who had grave doubts about the summit—

Kissinger: And to sign the common principles—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: God. You know it’s a tragedy. We had a tremendous breakthrough all along this front. We worked 3 years to get it. And next to you, I’m the one most reluctant to give it up. And to give us a month of relative peace and quiet. But—

Nixon: Which it would—

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: —add to the summit.

Kissinger: No question. Would do what—

Nixon: While we’re there, and for a week afterwards or 2 weeks afterwards. And also it would calm me. I have to realize the end of the summit comes at a time when the fighting in South Vietnam, one way or another, it’s going to be escalating. I mean weather or a lot of other factors. Well, can we take our 24 hours now?

Kissinger: That we can, but we don’t have to make a decision.

[Omitted here is discussion relating to Vietnam and measures to counteract enemy offensive, as well as wording for a speech on Vietnam, summit cancellation and strikes in North Vietnam.]

Kissinger: See, these principles, and trade, and Middle East, from a strong President will be—China was great, because no one questioned that you were tough and strong.

Nixon: Correct.

Kissinger: But you weren’t getting run out of Vietnam at that time. And not by Chinese equipment.

Nixon: Yeah. The other thing I was going to say. Look, Henry, that argument has sold me a thousand percent. I’m just trying to think of—I’m trying to think of this. I’m trying to think also that really the argument that is made that [unclear] the canceling of the summit in and of itself would be a good thing clearly apart from its effect on Vietnam. So, basically, what we have to realize is if we get run out of Vietnam, we’re down the tubes. Let’s face it. You understand?

Kissinger: With or without the summit?

Nixon: A chance to save it if we have the summit. A little marginal, but it’s so marginal it doesn’t make any difference to me. But my [Page 703]point is, though, that the—with the summit, by canceling the summit, you could [unclear] effect on keeping the morale in Vietnam, which I gather you don’t think it really has. Don’t know it. But I think the main point—what you’re really getting to—is that the summit in-and-of itself now isn’t a good idea in view of the situation in Vietnam.

Kissinger: That’s right. I think it’s very dangerous.

Nixon: That’s the point. That’s the thing that’s worried me. Like I’ve said, the tipping of glasses and that sort of thing, at this point, with Russian tanks in there.

Kissinger: It’s not a strong sign, tipping of glasses, and I look at this hall, and all this while Russian tanks are running around in Vietnam. I would say that—

Nixon: Well, let’s take a minute before you [unclear]. So the scenario goes like this. We cancel the summit. And then, Henry, we do these bombings on Hanoi and Haiphong.

Kissinger: Oh, yeah. That we do anyway.

Nixon: Right. And then Thieu still loses, and what happens? Well, it’s just one of those things, isn’t it?

Kissinger: we’ll then we take it the other way. Supposing you bomb Hanoi and Haiphong and they cancel the summit.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: Then at least you’ve maintained your position and you just keep going anti-Communist and accuse your opponents of first having screwed up the peace talks.

Nixon: Yeah, I set that in motion with the [leadership] today. I said that the responsibility—

Kissinger: And they made it inevitable that the thing collapsed and now they want to sell out to the Russians. I mean, you’ll probably lose—you may well lose the election then.

Nixon: But I might not.

Kissinger: But you might not.

Nixon: Well, I just think we have to see what we’re up to. So you get back to Vietnam, again, don’t you, and their—could I ask one other thing? The situation in the South—generally speaking, there is not a very substantial opposition to Thieu and [unclear]. Moorer says, said something about Big Minh.3

Kissinger: Oh, yeah, Big Minh is trying to organize and get himself into a reserve position. And they’ll all begin to do it if the situation gets worse.

[Page 704]

Nixon: What does that do to us? Well—

Kissinger: Well, I consider—I tell you, if they had made any sort of proposition yesterday, I don’t—I consider Thieu expendable.

Nixon: I agree.

Kissinger: That isn’t the problem.

Nixon: No, what they’re asking for is to—is to not just replace him. They want to impose conditions that would lead to a Communist government.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: I don’t know.

Kissinger: That’s the game plan they’re playing.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: They want to—

Nixon: Can I ask this question on the timing of the cancellation of the summit. Is it worth considering risk taking and all that—to have him do this then have the bombing go forward—no, no, not have the bombing to go forward; I mean, I think it’s contingent to fight the battle in the South, and we’re very best to—and to have the summit cancellation at the end of next week rather than at the beginning. Just think of that.

Kissinger: What’s the advantage of that?

Nixon: The advantage of it is it gives us more time to assess whether Vietnam might survive. Maybe we won’t know any more then than now. You see my point? I am greatly affected by—if we have some feelers.

Kissinger: The other problem though is supposing Hue has fallen by the end of next week, then it will look like especially a reaction to a defeat.

Nixon: I think it’s going to look that way anyway. I mean, they have played the [unclear] so heavily, Henry, that I mean we didn’t have any illusions about the perpetual reaction to a defeat. So, the fall of Hue I don’t think is going to make much difference. Would you not agree?

Kissinger: I think, you know, it doesn’t have to be Monday. It can be Tuesday. I think that if we’re going to cancel that we better do it early rather than late. And we won’t know a hell of a lot.

Nixon: Well, that’s the answer then. We won’t know a hell of a lot.

Kissinger: We know we’ll lose Kontum. See, supposing it gets all unstuck, I don’t see how you can go to Russia then, in my view. But I—

Nixon: I couldn’t agree more.

Kissinger: But, you know, the other argument you could use it to divert attention from the defeat.

[Page 705]

Nixon: You go to Russia then, what the hell can you agree on? That’s the point. You can’t agree to give credits; you can’t agree to—

Kissinger: See, the whole idea, see, of agreeing, of having you sign health agreements, science agreements—what do the Russians want at the summit? They want to show that you and Brezhnev are ordering the world. Now, when you do it as equals, it’s risky enough because it’s going to hurt us enormously in Europe, it’s going to hurt us with the Chinese. But the risk is worth taking under the assumption that you can recover from it in the next election—after the next election.

Nixon: By turning hard.

Kissinger: By turning hard. And that’s how I’d justify it. But basically Shakespeare isn’t wrong in his assessment of what this détente is doing to our allies. Now, there’s strong sentiment that somebody to whom you can say look how you stood in all these crises. But its somebody who’s been humiliated or at least can be challenged in South Asia by the Russians, and then the most vital area where we have 50,000—I mean vital from the point of view of national sensitivities, not about strategic interest—and he still does it.

Nixon: That’s right. That’s it.

Kissinger: That’s something I think, Mr. President, that’s going to be hard to recover from.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: And who is then going to be left to respect you? I mean, I shouldn’t talk this way, but I mean, the hawks?

Nixon: Not likely.

Kissinger: The doves?

Nixon: Nah.

Kissinger: A strong President—the reason—

Nixon: The real heart of the question, and it’s good to talk it out this way, the real heart of the question is what I’m getting at really isn’t about Vietnam, because if it were, we’d have to realize—

Kissinger: It’s about what you said at the end. It’s about the Presidency.

Nixon: That’s right. The real point here is that the canceling of the summit or the bombing—neither may prove to have too much of an effect on the outcome of Vietnam. So scrub both of those things. The real reason we have to cancel the summit, if we do cancel the summit, is that we cannot go to the summit while Russian tanks and guns are kicking the shit out of us in Vietnam.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: We cannot make an agreement with people that are doing that. We don’t meet with a bunch of outlaws. It’s like when Rockefeller [Page 706]going to the prison at Attica to meet with those goddamn people.4 Right?

Kissinger: That’s my sense, Mr. President, with great reluctance, and knowing how we may get a turn in the situation; we may get an answer from Brezhnev that we can live with. I doubt it.

Nixon: Well, our answer—our decision on the speech, and so forth, should be made, it seems to me.

Kissinger: You don’t have to make it before Friday or Saturday.

Nixon: The decision to go on—let’s get the speech ready.

Kissinger: I’ll get the speech done.

Nixon: You get the speech ready, and I’ll work on it, and I can make a decision as to whether to give it or not Monday, and then give it Monday night or Tuesday night.

Kissinger: Yeah. There’s no—

Nixon: And have in mind the fact—and then we can have the strike, in the case I don’t make the speech, we can have the strike go Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: See my point?

Kissinger: There’s no incentive

Nixon: I think in any event that we should tell Abrams—see this fits into the other point, that you can have these assets.

Kissinger: Don’t worry about this Abrams baloney. I talked to Moorer. We can wait for that ‘til tomorrow morning. He has got his execute order.

Nixon: Okay. What I’m getting at is this. I don’t think we should do it over the weekend. Let’s make the final decision with regard to canceling the summit really Monday.5 I want the speech, however. I’m going to prepare the speech, because getting the speech and writing it will help me get my own thinking and the right kind of thing.6 So I want the speech, a copy of it by—well, can they—when can they have it, Henry?

Kissinger: Tomorrow noon.

[Page 707]

Nixon: But that’s too much for them.

Kissinger: Well, I think they can do it by tomorrow noon.

Nixon: Well, let’s say, let’s say, could we have a copy of the speech rather than tomorrow noon, could we have it tomorrow say, after dinner, 7 o’clock? That gives all day tomorrow. Fair enough?

Kissinger: Good.

Nixon: And you just put it there and we’ll [unclear]. I’ll say really one thing, [unclear] that the speech will be a real shocker, won’t it? It will be one of the real surprises. Incidentally, there will be absolutely no agreement.

Kissinger: It will make you look very strong.

Nixon: For a moment. For a while. Grandstanding with a temper.

Kissinger: But—

Nixon: But on the other hand, on the other hand, we will definitely say, and frankly, that’s the only choice that we have. See that’s the way you have to look at it. If we had a better choice we’d make it, wouldn’t we?

Kissinger: Well, you can do the 2-day strike. I think that if we wait for that too long—if we wait they’ll think we’re blinking. I mean, we can’t—

Nixon: A 2-day strike could still go. It could land by Tuesday. We wouldn’t be waiting too long, would it?

Kissinger: No, but, no, but that’s the problem. By Tuesday we’ve got to go one way or the other

Nixon: That’s what I meant. So that’s why we’ve got to decide. We’ve got to decide to go on this thing.

Kissinger: If you cancel the summit, you can do without the 2-day strike for awhile.

Nixon: Well, why hold back?

[Page 708]

Kissinger: Okay, I’ll get that done. But in my view, you can hold up the decision until we get the thing.

Nixon: All right.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 718–9. No classification marking. According to his Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office from 10:59 to 12:11 p.m. The editors transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. May 6
  3. Duong Van Minh, retired ARVN General and former South Vietnamese leader.
  4. A reference to Attica State Prison in New York State where a hostage stand-off and riot occurred in 1969.
  5. May 8.
  6. Later, the President and Haldeman discussed the possible cancellation of the Soviet trip. The President noted that he could not “go to Moscow when Russian tanks were in the streets of Hue.” He also added that the American people admired his courage on initiatives like the recent trip to China, and therefore he did not want to fail and appear to be helpless like his predecessor. “Keep in mind US is still a pretty damn strong country,” he proclaimed. But the President added that cancellation was “almost a sure way to lose the election.” However, he contended that even if canceling the summit had a marginal impact on the war in Vietnam, then it would have been worth it. Nixon had Haldeman call Kissinger during this meeting, and Haldeman reported on Kissinger’s comments. Kissinger noted his opposition against “cancellation outright” and instead argued for “postponement.” Kissinger added that the President could not go to Russia under these circumstances, and thus was in a position where options were lacking. Haldeman noted that Kissinger had not wanted to bomb the Hanoi–Haiphong area before the Paris meeting. Kissinger also believed that the President could bomb and still retain a “50% chance of having the Summit.” Haldeman described postponement as “rather intriguing.” Kissinger added, “I am convinced that the President will not cancel the Summit.” Haldeman told the President that he had to order the bombing, and that Kissinger said it would be over by June. However, the worst possible thing to happen would be if the Soviets canceled the summit first. If Nixon canceled it prior to that point, then it would put the blame on the Soviets for the Summit’s failure to convene. (Conversation between Haldeman and Nixon, May 3, 1972; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, May 3, 1972, 2:50–3:35 p.m., Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 335–17)