206. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

K: Mr. President.

P: Henry, another point that I just wanted to mention briefly. Do you know where we say “throughout the war in Vietnam, the United States has exercised a degree of restraint unprecedented in the annals of war?”2

K: Yeah.

P: Cause it was right for us to exercise that restraint. I just wonder if we believe that. You know what I mean, I wonder in view of some of the things perhaps I have said in the past about gradual escalation.

[Page 778]

K: Yeah, let me find that. I remember very well.

P: Keeping escalation. I think what I’ll do is just strike “it was right for us to exercise that restraint which …” and just say, “a degree of restraint unprecedented in the annals of war.”

K: That was—

P: That was our responsibility as a great nation.

K: Right. I think that’s better.

P: Then we don’t stick it to the people that say, “You dumb—”. You see what I mean?

K: Exactly.

P: Don’t you think that’s—

K: I think that’s a great improvement.

P: It’s a small one at least.

K: No, no; but it’s important.

P: Small one, yeah. One other thing I was going to ask you about—POWs. I’ve got a copy like you’ve got—just a second. Oh, on page 8. Have you got page 8 of Draft #7?

K: Yeah.

P: Do you think I should take out the sentence “The actions I’ve ordered tonight would be justified if their purpose is to win the freedom of these men.”? What I’m concerned about there is that they might come up with an offer.

K: Yeah, I’d take that sentence out.

P: Yeah. But I think it’s strong enough just to say “over [4]3 years in violation and so on.” I don’t think we need that, don’t you agree?

K: I’d take it out; I think that’s sensitive.

P: Otherwise, good. We’d let other people say that, okay?

K: Right, Mr. President.

P: How are you coming on the other technical things?

K: they’re all done.

P: Fine. Everybody on board?

K: Everyone is on salvo.

P: (laughter) Good, good.

K: I can’t say they are all throwing their hat in the air but they are all disciplined. [Watson?] all with us.

P: Does he—Is he really with us?

K: Oh, yes, completely; totally.

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P: Yeah. Do you think you can do anything about the Germans?

K: Well, I’m getting Rush to call Bahr 4 as soon as your speech is finished and say they cannot use the argument that you need this for your trip to Moscow.

P: Who—the Germans?

K: Brandt is using the argument that the reason they must ratify it is because you need it for your trip to Moscow.

P: Um-humm. What is your view as to what that does then?

K: That may delay it.

P: Um-humm. Well, that’ll put a little pressure on the Russians wouldn’t it?

K: That’s right.

P: Um-humm. Good, good. Okay. Well, I’ll go ahead and get this done, thank you.

K: Right, Mr. President.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 372, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. Drafts of the President’s speech on Vietnam are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 2; ibid., Box 127, Vietnam Country File, President’s May 8, 1972 Speech; and ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 75, President’s Speech File, Monday, May 8, 1972 Vietnam Speech [1 of 2].
  3. All brackets in the source text.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XL, Germany, 1969–1972, Document 366.