57. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Ambassador Dobrynin

The meeting took place so that I could give Dobrynin the answers to his questions of the previous day.2

I told Dobrynin which departments to approach for what problems, explaining that on the President’s instructions I had split up the topics among the various departments in order to prevent a State [Page 198] Department monopoly of negotiations with the Soviet Union. I asked him to take up science with Dr. David,3 but only at the end of the week. I suggested that he give the answer on lend-lease and also shipping negotiations at the State Department; that the answers on agriculture should be given to Beam in Moscow; that he should go to Commerce on the trade matter; and that he should conduct the health discussions with Dr. Egeberg in HEW,4 who in turn would be instructed to bring matters to the point of an agreement in time for the Summit.

I then mentioned to Dobrynin that I might go on vacation on March 20th. He said, “On March 20th or April 15?” I said on March 20th. He said, “I thought the meeting had been changed to April 15.” I asked which meeting. He said the meeting with the North Vietnamese. I told him that I had not informed him of it because this was a matter on which the North Vietnamese should inform their own allies. However, if this constant postponement of meetings continued, we would break off the channel. Dobrynin said we took the North Vietnamese too seriously, but he hoped things would work out.

I showed Dobrynin a memo written to me by Scali (Tab D)5 which raised the same point as he had the day before about the allegation that I had given information to the Chinese. Dobrynin said that his information was that it had occurred last October—not on my first trip in July, as the Scali note maintained. I said either information was incorrect.

Dobrynin handed me a Soviet draft (Tab E)6 of the announcement setting the date of the President’s visit to Moscow. The Soviet Union suggested the announcement for March 17th. I suggested that March 16th might be more convenient for the President. Dobrynin said he was certain this would be no problem but he asked me to call him.7

I then gave Dobrynin the figures for the ceiling on submarines if various options were exercised, and indicated that it might go as high as the middle 50’s as against our 41. Dobrynin said he could not understand our eagerness to get an agreement which was so unequal. How would we justify a Soviet preponderance in this to our public? I [Page 199] said we would have to explain it on the ground that the Soviets could keep a smaller number deployed at any given number of submarines. Dobrynin said, “There must be some angle. What is it?” I said there was no angle, but there was serious concern about submarines. Dobrynin said he would examine the question and let me know.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 9 [Pt. 1]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Map Room of the White House. Attached to a March 20 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, transmitting the texts of both the March 9 and March 10 memoranda of conversation. A notation on the covering memorandum indicates the President saw it. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule for March 10, he met with Dobrynin from 2:50 to 3:30 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976) An attached note reads: “The Soviet leaders have no objections to make public in the nearest future, for example, on March 17, simultaneously in Moscow and Washington the previously agreed date, May 22, of President Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union. We have in mind to publish a brief announcement on this matter of the following comments: ‘About United States President R. Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union. As it was announced in October, 1971 agreement was reached between the leaders of the Soviet Union and the President of the United States R. Nixon to hold a meeting in Moscow in the latter part of May, 1972, at which all major issues would be considered with a view toward further improving the bilateral relations between our countries and enhancing the prospects of world peace. Now the sides have agreed that President Nixon will come to Moscow on an unofficial visit on May 22, 1972.’” A notation on the attached note reads: “Handed to K by D, 3:00 p.m., 3/10/72.”
  2. In a conversation with the President on March 10, Kissinger noted that he would establish the primary agency leads through which the various agreements to be negotiated in Moscow would occur. “I’m going to split the thing up into so many different agencies that no one can claim that they did it all,” Kissinger proclaimed. Kissinger noted that the Soviets had encountered similar issues relating to bureaucratic coordination. Kissinger continued: “Funny enough, they have the same problem we have. I told him about private meetings between you and Brezhnev, and he said, it’s guaranteed, it will happen, and there’ll be many of them, but if they make it a formal thing now there’ll be a terrible row between Brezhnev, Kosygin, and Podgorny. So they’d consider it a favor if we didn’t make it a formal thing now and just had it as a private understanding. I said sure.” Nixon asked, “Is he going to bring him into Rogers?” Kissinger replied, “He said Rogers is going to be so busy. He said, you know Gromyko, he can keep Rogers so busy. And he says he’ll run in whichever leader isn’t with you. So either Kosygin or Podgorny see him.” Nixon then asked, “But he knows the game, doesn’t he?” Kissinger replied that he did. Nixon agreed and noted that Dobrynin would “be suave enough to handle the Rogers problem too.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, March 10, 1972, 12:50–1:10 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 682–8)
  3. Dr. Edward E. David, Science Adviser to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology.
  4. Dr. Roger Egeberg, Special Consultant to the President.
  5. Tab D not found.
  6. Attached but not printed.
  7. Kissinger discussed the date for the announcement in separate telephone conversations with Dobrynin on March 8, 8:50 p.m., and with Nixon, March 10, 5:30 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)