68. Memorandum From President Nixon to his Chief of Staff (Haldeman)1

I want you to have a frank talk with Haig with regard to the Polish invitation. Assuming for the moment that the invitation is a trap to get us involved in the German treaty ratification process, I think we should examine it to see if we can avoid the trap and still get the benefit. There is very little question in my mind that a visit to Poland, from the standpoint of its effect in the United States, would be an enormous plus. It would have more effect than all of our other visits put together from a strict political standpoint. This is something that neither Haig nor Henry understand and that they cannot be expected to consider. Take a hard look at it in any event and see what we can work out.

On the other hand, I do not want to discuss this matter with Henry. You discuss it with him and then give me a recommendation.2

On the same subject, I believe that a brief stop in Istanbul might be a good idea also as we return from Russia. This would mean going to Iran first without making that stop more than a day and then a stop at Istanbul which need not be overnight. Going to Istanbul would not require a state visit kind of reception and would avoid the problem with other NATO countries. Also, an argument can be made on the point that Turkey is the only NATO country with a border on the Soviet Union, and that we have just received a visit from the Turkish Prime Minister and are returning it in an informal way. The Prime Minister came back to the subject several times saying that it would give enormous psychological lift to the Turks if we would just put down for a few hours at Istanbul on our way back to the States.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 3, Memoranda from the President, Memos–March 1972. No classification marking. This memorandum was transcribed from a dictation by Nixon. Haldeman and Nixon discussed this issue in a conversation on the morning of March 21. “Maybe the Soviets are playing a game,” Nixon conjectured. “Add Poland on given that it’s a good thing to do on the domestic level.” But he did question Haig’s assertion that there was a strong foreign policy reason for taking the side trip. (Ibid., White House Tapes, May 21, 1972, 10:19–10:34 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 690–7)
  2. In his diary entry for March 22, Haldeman wrote: “P spent the day at the EOB, preparing for his press conference. He had me over at 11:00, reviewing mostly trip plans and general foreign policy questions vis–à–vis our political needs. He wants to be sure that I go to work on Haig and Henry, through him, to make the point that some of the decisions have got to be made on the basis of the effect they’ll have on the election. For example, P feels strongly we should go to Poland after the Russian trip, while Henry is equally strongly opposed to that, so we’ve got to convince Henry that his position isn’t right, which may be hard to do. The P’s view is that the political benefit here, of a stop there, greatly overrides the risk.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)