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

K: Mr. President.

P: Hi Henry.

K: I just spent about 45 minutes with Dobrynin.2 He’s just busily working away at the summit. He brought me a text of another agreement they want to sign on renouncing nuclear weapons. We can’t do it but I’m just diddling him along on it. He wanted to know if you would accept a hydrafoil. They want to give you a hydrafoil for Key Biscayne to ride around in. They’re pioneers in hydrafoil.

P: Sure. Did you ask him about the gifts for their …?

K: Yes, what he mentioned was that Mr. Brezhnev loved automobiles. Can we give them a …?

P: Hell, yes. Particularly if they’re going to give us a hydrafoil, we can give them an automobile.

K: Well, if I could tell him on Monday3 or Tuesday that we can give him an automobile …

P: What kind would he like? Give him one of the American automobiles.

K: It’s got to be an American one.

P: Yes, but if he’s going to give us a hydrafoil that’ll have to be the understanding that we can’t accept that unless we can give something that we make.

K: The French gave him a [omission in the source text] and he likes fast cars.

P: We could talk to some of our people here—Ford or—no let’s get one of the real sports car people. We’ll get GM, probably they’re the best. Actually that’s an expensive gift that we could have the company go along on it. The hydrafoil sounds great.

K: OK.

P: But as far as messages are concerned it didn’t have anything …

[Page 830]

K: No, it was just plans for the summit. Then he brought me little bits again about the mining. One, that they took note with pleasure that we were not going to have any more incidents. Secondly, they said that they want to make sure that their ships can go in and out of Vietnamese ports. I said if you mean by that that you can go in there without hitting a mine, that’s totally out of the question. The mining will continue. I think we’ve got to be tough.

P: Oh, God. We give in on that and the summit is not worth it.

K: Exactly. And he said no, we don’t mean that.

P: It’ll come at a later time. When we settle the damn war we’ll let them go any place they want.

K: Right. At any rate I think we can now count on the summit. He just pleaded with us not to keep putting out these speculative stories. George Sherman has another one in the Star.

P: Oh, he gets his stuff from the State Department.

K: Exactly. All of this stuff is State.

P: What does it say?

K: Well, that they blame …

P: Who the poop—that the Russians do?

K: Yes.

P: Now who the hell would put that out? That can’t be anybody from the White House can it?

K: No, and no one over here speaks to Sherman. Kalb no one over here speaks too.

P: Can’t Haldeman get after that?

K: Yes, I’ll talk to Haldeman.

P: Well, I don’t blame the Russians. Of course you can assure them that we aren’t talking to Sherman or Kalb or any of these people.

K: I told him that you might go to Key Biscayne for a few days next week to prepare for the summit and he said that’s a good idea. Then I said to him maybe he wants to come down for a day of talks with me and he said absolutely.

P: Good. Well, at this point, Henry, I think that it’s too late for them to …

K: Mr. President, it’s 99%.

P: Because you see they wouldn’t be sending a message. This message will be from whom?

K: From Brezhnev to you.

P: As of this date. Well, what the hell, then, if he’s talking that way …

K: they’re paying too high a price, Mr. President. Hanoi must be beside itself.

[Page 831]

P: The point is though I think Dobrynin is absolutely right. They do not want to have a positive act reassuring the summit. That would be too much, but on the other hand they can go along if it doesn’t require a decision. I can see that point.

K: Of course.

P: That’s the way our people ought to play it and quit their god-damn talking.

K: Exactly.

P: Why don’t you just tell Haldeman he’s going to have to call … Who can Haldeman call over there?

K: I think they are now going to shut up over the weekend and I’ll go after them again on Monday.

P: The idea is that tell Haldeman that he is to enforce it with the whole White House crowd. Don’t say boo about the summit.

K: That’s right. Just say we are proceeding, we don’t know what the Russians are doing.

P: Let Ziegler say that all summit questions are referred to Ziegler. Why don’t we do it that way.

K: Exactly.

P: And that way we know what he’ll say and nobody else—you know Scali, or Moorer or these other people that they just won’t know anything.

K: Right.

P: And I really think that’s the way—that all summit things should be referred to Ziegler and in fact that’s what I think State ought to say. They don’t have anything to do with it.

K: Well, I’ll send you now some briefing books, Mr. President.

P: I think under these circumstances …

K: I wouldn’t give it any more thought.

P: we’ve got to assume it. I must say though that when you stop to think where we were. I just was thinking that one week ago I was sitting here working on my speech.4 If we thought then that we could be sitting here this way at this point what would you have thought. There were two things—the summit, but second was the enormous public support. The public support is bigger than I thought, Henry. In one sense because it’s so emotional.

K: Right it’s more … specific action.

[Page 832]

P: That’s right. November 3rd5 they were just standing up against the demonstrators but now they say thank God we’re doing something.

K: Well, Le Duc Tho has also in his press conference said he’s willing to resume private talks.

P: He has.

K: Yes. We’ve got everybody totally confused.

P: That’s good, isn’t it?

K: Of course.

P: That’s really an answer to your message, isn’t it?

K: Yes, but we’ll get another answer too.

P: But what I meant is that he said he’s willing to resume private talks. Now if he says that at the time we’re mining …

K: That’s a sign of unbelievable weakness.

P: For Christ’s sake, normally he would say we will not talk. Remember they said before they would not talk until we quit bombing.

K: Exactly.

P: That was the way it was with [former President Lyndon] Johnson wasn’t it?

K: Exactly.

P: And now when we’re mining—and bombing. Dobrynin understands himself that we have nothing to do with these damn statements?

K: Oh, yes.

P: I don’t know how we can control it, Henry.

K: Well, I’ll talk to Haldeman.

P: It’s hard for him to do it, but Rogers said you know that he had everybody set up, but I think, I don’t think he controls them, do you?

K: No.

P: You know damn well we don’t talk at the White House to the Kalbs because we know that they’re out to job us.

K: No question.

P: Nobody’s talking to George Sherman, you know that. The leaks are all from the State Department.

K: Mr. President, Murray Marder—no one here talks to him. He had another dove story today.

P: Which way does he say—on or off?

[Page 833]

K: Well, he says on but in such a way—still high officials remain profoundly worried about having challenged the Russians. You know everything is wrong in there.

P: I think I’ll call Haldeman and get it started.

K: OK.

P: Well, it’s been a hard day, but from now on don’t worry about their messages. We’re just assuming that we’re going to go ahead.

K: There’s no question about it now.

P: Because Brezhnev wouldn’t have sent such a message—this was a message from Brezhnev to me.

K: Yes.

P: Well if he does this and then pulls off …

K: I don’t see how he can do it because …

P: Because it’s been sent as of yesterday, I presume.

K: As of this afternoon.

P: Oh, their time, yes. So what the hell and after we’d seen the—and they had received probably an account of my meeting with that little Trade Minister which might have made them drool a little too.

K: If it didn’t I don’t know what the English language can do.

P: OK.

K: Goodbye, Mr. President.6

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 372, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 221.
  3. May 15; for the meeting on this date between Kissinger and Dobrynin, see Document 226.
  4. See Document 208.
  5. Reference is to Nixon’s November 3, 1969, speech on Vietnam; see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 901–909.
  6. In a May 13 telephone conversation, Kissinger told Nixon that Dobrynin had called him and said he wanted the President to know that Moscow was sending him some substantive plans for the summit, but didn’t want him to tell this to the press. Kissinger added that he thought this was the Soviets’ way of letting them know that they were continuing the summit, but that they didn’t want a public statement. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 372, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)