251. Editorial Note

In his memoirs President Nixon wrote: “On Saturday, May 20, [1972] Air Force One left Washington for Salzburg, Austria, en route to Moscow. After we were airborne, Kissinger came into my cabin and exuberantly said, ‘This has to be one of the greatest diplomatic coups of all times! Three weeks ago everyone predicted it would be called off, and today we’re on our way!’” (RN: Memoirs, page 609) Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger recalled in his memoirs, “When against all expectation we took off for Moscow in Air Force One on Saturday morning, May 20, the mood was one of optimism, even elation, untinged by excessive humility. Despite the assaults by both Hanoi and our critics we had stood our ground; we were going to Moscow with dignity. We had behind us a rare public consensus produced by the stunning events of the preceding month. Conservatives reveled in the mining of North Vietnam; they interpreted the summit as a Soviet retreat. Liberals were relieved that the summit was taking place at all.” (White House Years, page 1202)

In his May 20 diary entry, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman described his discussion of various issues with the President during the trip to Salzburg. Nixon referred to Kissinger’s advice that he make a TV report to the country immediately after his return because they would need to do “some hard selling” on the results of the summit, and said he wanted speechwriter John Andrews to start work on it immediately, with a 2,000-word maximum, and have it in his hands when they left the Soviet Union. The President also said he needed “just one moving anecdote” to use in his TV address to the Russian people. The two men discussed the depth of the problem they were going to have with the hawks after SALT. Nixon said he wanted to be sure that Buchanan helped them with the hawks. They also discussed how to handle Secretary of State Rogers. Nixon told Haldeman to handle the Secretary in Salzburg. He himself would see Rogers on the plane to Moscow and tell him about the announcements and how they were being spaced throughout the week (which Nixon, Kissinger, and Haldeman worked out on the plane to Salzburg). (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)

According to the President’s Daily Diary, the Presidential party arrived in Salzburg on May 20 at 10:43 p.m. (Austrian time) and in Moscow at 3:57 p.m. (Soviet time) on May 22. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)