76. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Henry A. Kissinger

I had a luncheon meeting with Dobrynin during a hiatus in which he was still waiting for instructions on a number of issues.

I opened the conversation by discussing the possibility of a visit to Poland by the President. I told Dobrynin that I had mentioned the fact that the visit to Iran would be the last stop. However, we had now received a formal invitation to Poland; previously it had been only a feeler, but now it would be very difficult in an election year to turn it down. We would not go to Poland in order to embarrass the Soviet Union. When we went to Romania, we knew that it might create some difficulties but we were willing to pay the price, though it was not our intention even there deliberately to produce difficulties. In the case of Poland, our motives are quite different.

Dobrynin replied that he was very moved by the fact that I bothered to check with him. He recognized that we did not have to check our movements in eastern Europe with him, but it was an example of our goodwill. He was certain that Moscow would not object, but it [Page 243] would make a very good impression in Moscow if we could hold up our decision until we got a formal answer.

We then turned to a number of the technical arrangements for the summit. There was a long discussion about the floor plan in the Kremlin and the possibility of housing the necessary number of members of the party in the Kremlin. Dobrynin said he hoped we would accept the offer of the Kremlin under all circumstances, because it was really an unusual honor and one which was above all designed to symbolize to the Soviet people that we were serious about establishing mutual ties. He said that the overflow could easily be housed in the Rossiya Hotel right across Red Square. I told him that I was sure we would be able to work out something that was mutually satisfactory. I suggested that Dobrynin send us a floor plan of what was available; then we could make much more reasonable decisions. I also told Dobrynin that we would accept 8 days and that Baku was a suitable third city [as they had suggested in their note of March 23, attached at Tab B].2

We then turned to a quick review of a number of issues. Dobrynin said he thought that the SLBM question was now being actively considered in the Soviet Union, though they still thought that even a limit on ICBMs would be major progress. I said that I hoped that the Soviet leaders would notify us in Washington before making any proposals in Helsinki. Dobrynin also said that they would make some proposals to us on the Middle East. He wondered how we should handle mutual force reductions in Europe. He said that he had thought we would make some specific proposals. He still thought it might be helpful if we suggested something before the summit, so that perhaps there could be a preliminary discussion of it at the summit.

I mentioned to Dobrynin that during the President’s visit I would probably not go along to Leningrad but rather would work on the communiqué in Moscow. He said that would be a good idea. He could then have me to his house, and also Gromyko would no doubt want me at the Foreign Office Guest House for some time so that we could work on the communiqué there.

We briefly discussed the visit of the Soviet Minister of Trade. Dobrynin said that there had not yet been an official decision but he had had a private letter which made it appear very likely.

Dobrynin said that there was obviously a big push going on to put the State Department back on the map. He said that he was amazed. He had only talked to the Secretary of State about SALT for one minute when the Secretary had said submarines should be included one way or the other in the SALT agreement. When Dobrynin had asked which [Page 244] way, the Secretary said, well, he didn’t know any of the details.3 The State Department then announced that a major discussion had taken place. I pointed out that it wasn’t the Secretary’s job to know all the details.

We had a general discussion then of Dobrynin’s own views and background. He told me that his mother had been extremely religious, but his father was a factory worker and quite agnostic. He hoped that perhaps on one of my visits, either now or if I came back in September, I would meet his parents. I said I hoped so.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 10. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held at the Soviet Embassy. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Kissinger forwarded it and summarized its contents in an April 5 memorandum to the President. A notation on the April 5 memorandum indicates the President saw it. (Ibid.)
  2. Brackets in the source text. Tab B was not attached, but see Document 69.
  3. Dobrynin met Rogers at the Department of State on March 22 for a review of outstanding bilateral issues; see Document 67. During a conversation with Nixon at 10:17 a.m. on March 31, Kissinger mentioned Dobrynin’s comment on Rogers. Kissinger: “Dobrynin said to me yesterday, he said he went to see Rogers and they talked for thirty seconds about SALT and State put out a long blip of how Rogers had put it into him on SALT.” Nixon: “Put it in to him? You mean—?” Kissinger: “You know Rogers. Rogers had said to him, ‘We want SLBMs in SALT one way or the other.’ So Dobrynin asked him, “Well, what do you mean?’ Rogers said, ‘Well, I don’t know all the details. I’m just telling you.’ And—.” Nixon: “That’s the trouble. Dobrynin does know the details.” Kissinger: “And Dobrynin does know the details. And I had told him our position. But at any rate they’re playing it in such a way that it’s all going to surface—.” Nixon: “Yeah.” Kissinger: “—at the summit.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation between Nixon and Ziegler, March 31, 1972, 10:17–11:14 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 699–1)
  4. Kissinger called Dobrynin at 2:45 p.m. on March 31 to continue their discussion of issues related to the summit. After an exchange on housing arrangements in Moscow, Kissinger mentioned a report that the Soviet side was confused “about whether anything should be settled before or whether the submarines should be left for the President and Mr. Brezhnev.” “Now I don’t care,” he continued. “We won’t give any formal answers there but our idea is to get more of the big issues settled and just leave some technical issues for Moscow. If we can get some things settled in principle we can work out the final details in Moscow. But you let me know your position before the people in Helsinki get it.” Dobrynin agreed to call Kissinger as soon as he had anything to report on the matter. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)