202. Editorial Note

On May 7, 1972, Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger spent much of the day at Camp David helping President Nixon prepare for his televised address on Vietnam the following evening. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule) In his diary entry for this date, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman recalled:

“I went to Camp David from Williamsburg by chopper this morning. Met with the P and Henry at 4:00 over at Birch. Henry was analyzing things; says he thinks the Soviets will definitely cancel the Summit [omission in the source text]. There’s no question but that they will launch a venomous attack on Nixon on the basis that he sabotaged the last chance for peace in the world. The P agreed that this was the line he would undoubtedly take. We had considerable discussion about follow-up and planning on the speech. The P wanted me to spend a lot of time on the use of K[issinger] and his time.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)

A sentence in Haldeman’s handwritten notes for this date on which his diary was based reads: “K thinks Sov[iets] will cancel summit &/or take adverse action—Cuba, MidEast.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Members and [Page 764]Office Files, Haldeman Files, Box 45, Haldeman Notes, April–June 1972 [Part I])

In an extract from his diary for May 7 included in his memoirs, Nixon recorded:

“I discussed with Kissinger the necessity to prepare a contingency plan for summit cancellation. As of this morning, he had raised his 20 percent possibility of a noncancellation to 25 percent, although he still cannot see how the Russians can react otherwise. I constantly bring him back to the point that Connally had made when we reached the decision: we can lose the summit and a number of other battles but we cannot lose in Vietnam. Not only the election, but even more important, the country, requires that the United States not lose in Vietnam. Everything is to be concentrated toward the goal now of seeing that we do not lose now that we have crossed the Rubicon.

“The drafts we went through on the speech will tell the story of how it developed. Perhaps the most important section was that on the Soviet Union, and Henry was very impressed with what I finally came up with on my own. It had to be done with great subtlety and I think we have stated the case as well as we possibly can to give them a way out if they want to find one.” ( RN: Memoirs, page 603)

At 6:05 p.m. that day, Kissinger’s deputy, Alexander Haig, called Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin to discuss summit-related issues. According to a transcript of the conversation, Dobrynin posed the following request: “This is not urgent. About question that I need an answer on the strategic talk. He [Kissinger] mentioned several points in addition to what he will give me on paper. In light of the conversation he had in Moscow it could really help.” Haig agreed to contact Kissinger and have him call Dobrynin early the next day. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 372, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) No record of a call from Kissinger to Dobrynin the next morning has been found.

Haig called the President at 6:10 p.m. to report on his conversation with Dobrynin. The transcript of the conversation reads:

“GH: I talked to Dobrynin. What he had was a response to the SALT piece and it was just a technical thing. He was very forthcoming.

“RN: There may be a chance—Henry is very bearish—the Russians may go to the summit with the blockade.

“GH: They may do it.

“RN: Is Lord starting on the speech? You might tell him to say, ‘Look, the President decided on the blockade because he didn’t want to risk hitting Soviet ships.’ The speech should be conciliatory. We don’t want to hit Soviet ships or any others that may be there.” (Ibid.)