228. Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is the opening of the conversation during which Nixon and Kissinger discussed how shocked they both were at the assassination attempt on Presidential candidate George Wallace. Nixon asked Kissinger how this had affected the Russians.]

Kissinger: Well, you know. Anything that indicates domestic unrest in this country weakens us.

[Page 849]

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I think that one is, the Russian thing, is in good shape now. I had another meeting this evening—

Nixon: How’d it go?

Kissinger: —with Dobrynin. Well, he was very appreciative of the, that spy case as it looks.

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: The President—

Nixon: Personally did it.

Kissinger: —personally did it. There was violent opposition. But he said—well, he said he’ll now release this fellow in Berlin and I said, “You do what you want. The President isn’t trading human beings.”—

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: —“He did this on his own.”

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: He appreciated that? Good.

Kissinger: Oh yes.

Nixon: And everything’s on, on the summit, right?

Kissinger: Oh, everything is on. On SALT, they’ve already agreed to—these are all highly technical things.

Nixon: Well, you take care of that. I’m not worried about that. Just don’t submit it to Rogers.

Kissinger: In a cooperative spirit.

Nixon: Yeah. Don’t submit it to Rogers, if you don’t mind.

Kissinger: No. Oh God. I mean Smith—well I’ll tell you about it some other time.

Nixon: Smith is horrible, I know.

Kissinger: But after all his great talk, he’s now in the process of giving the store away.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: But that’s in good shape. We’ve handled that incident at sea negotiations which was—

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: —which Rogers came to you about.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: We came up with a good compromise because the Navy was really adamant about not accepting the Rogers position and I didn’t think that you wanted to order something on the military so that the hawks can’t yell at you.

Nixon: All right.

[Page 850]

Kissinger: At any rate, we got a good solution to that—

Nixon: Now, with regard to Vietnam, you’re sure that Abrams is continuing to pound the hell out of them. Now I don’t want any letup. I want 1,100 to 1,200 sorties a day, all right?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: Are they doing that?

Kissinger: That’s really—I must say I’ve read the evening report.

Nixon: What is it?

Kissinger: Well they’ve now opened the road between [Fire Base] Birmingham and [Fire Base] Bastogne. It isn’t just that they took Bastogne, which they took by helicopter assault. So they’ve now opened the road. And that thing was closed for about—immediately after the assault started for 3 weeks.

Nixon: That’s a good ending.

Kissinger: And you know, you saw the headline in the Star tonight?

Nixon: What did it say? No, I haven’t because I’ve been over here working on this damn thing.

Kissinger: “Saigon forces take base near Hue.”

Nixon: Huh.

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: This shakes up our, your liberal friends.

Kissinger: I gave him the note on Vietnam. I mean on the—

Nixon: Oh, How’d he take that?

Kissinger: Well, he said they’d transmit it immediately. He said he just wanted to check, if there’s any chance that we’d go to a plenary session this Thursday [May 18]. I said none.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: He said is there any chance that we’d agree to a plenary session without a prior private one. I said no.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: He said they’d transmit it. Well, of course, now if they turn it down we’re in good shape.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: We’re not dying after dark over there.

Nixon: Now you told him that he was, he’s to come up to Camp David.

Kissinger: Yeah. He would like to sleep there. So we’re coming up Wednesday [May 17] night.

Nixon: Great.

Kissinger: I’m, we’re going on, on that dinner. I’m—Stuart Alsop has a birthday party.

[Page 851]

Nixon: I know. I’m for that.

Kissinger: And it’s likely to be his last because his leukemia has come back.

Nixon: Right. Right.

Kissinger: And then I’ll come up with him around midnight.

Nixon: Right. Good.

Kissinger: And spend the morning with him.

Nixon: And then I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll put breakfast on for three of us. How’s that?

Kissinger: Oh, that’d be great.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: That’d be very nice.

Nixon: About 8:30, 9 o’clock. So—

Kissinger: That’d be very good.

Nixon: Fine. You tell him.

Kissinger: I’ll tell him that. He’d be very pleased.

Nixon: You give him a ring and say he’s going to have—the President has invited him to breakfast at 8:30 tomorrow—

Kissinger: On Thursday morning.

Nixon: Thursday morning. Right.

Kissinger: Right. But he’s there, planning away, what little things you want. And he said it’d be nice if we could give a rifle each to Podgorny and Kosygin, they’re great hunters.

Nixon: Give what?

Kissinger: A rifle. He wants for Podgorny and Kosygin.

Nixon: A rival?

Kissinger: A rifle.

Nixon: Good God, yes. Tell—Call them and get—

Kissinger: I’ve already told them.

Nixon: —get good rifles. We’ll give ‘em to them.

Kissinger: And [laughs]

Nixon: Tell ‘em not to shoot any Americans—

Kissinger: I felt bashful, you know, when they asked me what would you like. I said anything that’s appropriate. But some old art, but I didn’t specify it, but no—

Nixon: Don’t get me a rifle, though.

Kissinger: No, no, they won’t get you a rifle.

Nixon: [laughter]

Kissinger: No, no, they won’t give you—

Nixon: [laughs] I know that. Sure.

[Page 852]

Kissinger: But—And then he started reflecting about Stalin and how they couldn’t start again. I really think if this thing stays on course now, it’s, it is 99 percent certain we’ll have pulled off an unbelievable coup.

Nixon: You know actually, if the Senate tomorrow votes this silly damn thing, I don’t care. Do you?

Kissinger: No. No. It’s irrelevant.

Nixon: Give ‘em nothing.

Kissinger: I’m meeting with the Senators in the morning but I really think we shouldn’t give them—

Nixon: A cold tough line. “Look, for God’s sake, don’t torpedo the President before he goes to Moscow.” That’s the line. OK?

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nixon: All right, Henry.

Kissinger: Goodbye, Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, White House, Conversation No. 24–126. No classification marking. According to his Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger from 9:29 to 9:35 p.m. The editors transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, President Nixon placed the call. (Ibid., White House Central Files)