221. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The meeting was at Dobrynin’s request. Dobrynin brought a proposed text (attached) of a U.S.-Soviet treaty renouncing nuclear weapons,2 which seemed to take into account some of the points I had made to him at previous meetings. He said that this would be considered an enormously important step by his government and we should take it extremely seriously.

I told Dobrynin we would study it carefully, though it was a matter of the gravest consequence which could not be easily taken. I said this was a matter, for example, that we had to discuss with our allies. Dobrynin said that we could just have Rogers discuss it at the NATO meeting3 after we had agreed to it. I said that I doubted that this would do, but that we would study it carefully and would let him have a tentative reply.

Dobrynin said that if I thought about it carefully, I could see that their submitting such a text to us was really an answer to the questions I had put the day before about whether the Summit would continue. I said I understood this.

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There was some desultory talk about the Summit, and the meeting broke up.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 2. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Kissinger and Dobrynin met in the White House Map Room. The closing time of the meeting is from Kissinger’s Record of Schedule. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976)
  2. Attached but not printed. A notation on the attachment reads: “Handed K by D, 4:00 p.m., May 12, 1972.” Also attached was the Soviet note described in footnote 4.
  3. Reference is to the planned NATO ministerial meeting at Bonn May 30–31; Rogers headed the U.S. delegation. The text of the communiqué released at the end of this meeting, which makes no mention of this Soviet proposal, is printed in full in Department of State Bulletin, July 3, 1972, pp. 21–22.
  4. A copy of the Soviet note on May 12 is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, vol. II. In his memoirs, Kissinger wrote: “Unbelievably by the standards of our fevered domestic debate, Vietnam disappeared entirely as a point of contention in our dialogue with the Soviet Union. On May 12 Dobrynin handed me a note—in the private Channel—that grudgingly accepted the President’s expression of regret at the harm to Soviet ships and seamen and his assurance that care would be taken to avoid such incidents in the future. Nothing was said about the blockade of North Vietnam.” (White House Years, p. 1196) In his diary entry for May 12 Haldeman wrote: “There was a lot of concern during the day about speculation on the Soviet Summit and the P and Henry both pushed very hard to have everybody kept quiet on any kind of speculation. Henry met with Dobrynin in the afternoon, and the discussion was so strongly substantive that both Henry and the P[resident] both believe now that there’s no chance of the Summit being canceled. They even got to the question of the exchange of gifts. The Soviets want to give the P a hydrofoil to play with in Key Biscayne and in return want a hot sports car from us.” (The Haldeman Diaries, p. 459) In handwritten notes taken that day at a briefing by Haig, Haldeman also recorded: “We’re fracturing the Hanoi–Moscow linkage & have China pushed away.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Memoranda and Office Files, Haldeman Files, Box 45, Haldeman Notes, April–June 1972, Part II)