63. Editorial Note

On March 18, 1972, President Nixon met with his Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger to discuss issues relating to the upcoming summit in Moscow. Nixon noted the importance of the “press needing to see that there’s something to go to the summit for.” Kissinger noted that “having the summit put a deadline on these negotiations that could have dragged on for years” and thus in and of itself brought about a successful conclusion to the variety of agreements that would come out of the Moscow meetings.

Nixon stated his desire to keep Secretary of State William Rogers from “end–running” the administration during the summit. Kissinger noted that Rogers would handle “subsidiary” negotiations. Nixon also expressed that there was no reason for private talks between Rogers and Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev. Kissinger noted that the Soviet Government had agreed “informally” to avoid such interchanges. Nixon noted that he would send Rogers over to Europe for meetings on regional security prior to the Moscow summit “so nothing gets screwed up.” Kissinger recommended dispatching Rogers to Europe following his own secret trip to Moscow in late April. At that time Rogers could discuss with the Europeans the whole range of the summit. Nixon added that it was “a good move to get him in play but not in play too”; additionally, such a trip involved the Europeans in summit preparations. Nixon suggested that Kissinger call Rogers and discuss the issue as “it might make him feel better.” Kissinger believed that it was a good idea and certainly would help out his relations with Rogers. Nixon said to tell Rogers that they did not want to consult with him beforehand as his trip to Europe would be a very useful and effective exercise. The trip was set for the end of April.

A discussion of various issues that would be faced during the summit ensued. Nixon advised not getting the SALT issues too pinned down. On the Middle East, Kissinger recommended avoiding it in conversations with the Soviets and instead concentrating on it after reelection, when the administration could trade a restoration of the pre–1967 boundaries in exchange for a withdrawal of Soviet forces from the region. The President believed that getting the Soviets out would be “a damn good deal for just a few hunks of desert.” If all else failed, Nixon noted, then the issue could then “be turned back to Rogers.” On Vietnam, Kissinger argued for the launching of offensive military action now so that they could “get it over with” prior to a summit. Even if the North Vietnamese were not amenable in the near future to a peace agreement, “it would be much tougher for them after the election than before,” Nixon surmised. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, March 18, 1972, 11:07–11:52 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 688–4)