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

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Moscow summit.]

P: What I was thinking about with regard to the options—maybe we have to put it to the Russians that we feel under the circumstances we have to cancel the summit.

K: No, I think it is too drastic at this early stage.

P: I want you to know we are prepared… Do you have a minute now?

K: Yes.

P: The things that we have to consider now are the cost of letting this go down the drain and then doing the other things. On the other hand, we have to figure we may not be around after the election. On the other hand being around after the election may not matter if everything is down the drain.

K: If we play it out toughly we can get some compensation. Then you can go to Moscow and keep your head up. After all the anguish we have gone to setting it up, nobody wants to jeopardize it.

P: I could send a letter to Brezhnev—I’ll write it. Say I was pleased with Secretary Stans’ conversations; with the conversations you had on the Middle East; SALT, etc., and it is hard for me to believe all of this can be jeopardized by this area of the world.

K: The major problem now is that the Russians retain their respect for us. If they are going to play into an absolute showdown then the summit was not worth it.

P: The thing here is what we want as a way out—what do we say to them? What is the method of settlement? We can’t say go back to status quo ante. We can say get out of Pakistan, etc.

K: We have to prevent Indian from attacking West Pakistan. That’s the major thing. We have to maintain the position of withdrawal from all Pakistan but we have to prevent West Pakistan from being smashed. But it is a little premature to make the move to the Russians. They still owe us an answer to your previous letter.2 Therefore we have to hold [Page 67]it up a little bit. I believe, Mr. President, we can come out of this if they maintain their respect for us. Even if we lose we still will come out alright.

P: You mean moving the [military?] and letting a few planes go in—maybe.

K: Right now we are in the position where we are telling allies not to assist another ally that is in mortal danger. We are in a situation where Soviet stooge uses Soviet weapons to attack a country that we are legally obligated to defend and we do nothing.

P: The Chinese thing I still think is a card in the [hole?]. If they just move a little.

K: I think if we move absolutely nothing we will trigger the Soviets into really tough actions and if we can scare somebody off—it may open the Middle East solution again.

P: Don’t underestimate that if Congress gets off this week and we smack North Vietnam that it will be a message to these people.

K: If we send a message to China we should leave an interval so that they won’t think we used it as a pretext to getting to Vietnam.

P: That’s right. I think message to the Soviets is more important now.

K: That’s right.

P: Although they must be agonizing now.

K: But they are so weak. They had a semi-revolt in the military. A million Russians on the northern frontier…

P: A movement of some Chinese to the border would scare those Indians to death.

K: (Something re talking to the Chinese—I missed it) I would plan to do that on Friday when I see Golda Meir.

P: If we could enlist them it would be something. I think the delivery of a few planes to them would certainly help. What time do you want to be ready to talk tomorrow?

K: I have a WSAG meeting in the morning. I am seeing Connally at 11:00. I could do it anytime after 11:00.

P: Let’s get together around 12:00.

K: Fine, Mr. President.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 370, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. Document 19.