78. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Nixon: I was thinking more about your conversation with Dobrynin. Trying to look at it pragmatically, Henry, what the hell is in it for them pulling us off over in Vietnam?

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: I’m just being the devil’s advocate. I don’t know.

Kissinger: Well, I’m not sure they’re going to do it. But—

Nixon: No, no. I’m just—that’s what I mean. That’s why we don’t know whether it’s worth exploring unless you think it’s—

Kissinger: What’s in it for them is as long as Vietnam goes on we have an additional incentive to play with the Chinese. Secondly, we—

Nixon: Also it avoids most favored nation and other little things.

Kissinger: We are setting up a lot of things now in the economic [Page 248] field. They’re really moving massively with us, and I have every intention of let—And, well, at any rate it’s so set up that we can control the delivery. And—

Nixon: I see.

Kissinger: —and I don’t think we should deliver unless they do something.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: Then they’re really panting after the Middle East. Now—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: I—I haven’t—

Nixon: [unclear] with respect to the Middle East—

Kissinger: I haven’t bothered with all the details, but I’ve made some propositions to them on the Middle East, which they won’t accept, but they have promised me a reaction, which is the first time they have moved off the position of just blanket endorsement of the Egyptian position. In turn—What I have to do with the Israelis, it’s got to be very tricky. I told them they were such double–crossers that I was disengaging from the negotiations. That I did—

Nixon: And you told Mr. Dobrynin that?

Kissinger: I told Rabin that.2

Nixon: Ha.

Kissinger: And I told the Israelis this only in order to be able to stay in the negotiations, because if they think we’re talking, we’ve got to be a little—I want to see first a little bit more of what’s going on.

Nixon: I thought we might take a little walk …

[Omitted here is a brief exchange on the President’s schedule. Nixon and Kissinger then walked through the South Grounds of the White House from 5:11 to 5:18 before returning to the Oval Office. Following their walk they discussed Vietnam and arrangements for the President’s trip to the Soviet Union, Iran, and Poland.]

Kissinger: You’ll have a tremendous one in Tehran. You’ll have a big one in Warsaw. And my instinct tells me the Russians somewhere along the line are going to—

Nixon: Will let people out? If they do, they’ll react. The Russian people are an emotional, strong people.

Kissinger: One thing he told me was that, you know, we’re having a little problem of our space in the Kremlin. And he said, “For God’s sakes, don’t turn the Kremlin down. It’s the biggest honor that Brezhnev could pay you.”

[Page 249]

Nixon: I won’t turn it down. Space for what? For staff?

Kissinger: Yeah. And he said “Above all, the Russian people, that’s for the Russian people that means that there’s a solid basis for our relationship, and it’s a tremendous signal to our people.

Nixon: Mmm.

Kissinger: To have the President in the Kremlin.

Nixon: Hm-mmm.

Kissinger: And I think that’s right.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: But I think, if I may make a suggestion, I don’t—I think we should play it very cool about the summit. We should give the impression that not much is going to happen at the summit.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: [unclear] Right now no one really expects much out of the Moscow summit and that’s great. We’ve got the thing split up over the bureaucracy in such a way—

Nixon: That’s good. Well, I think we can play the line that there are a number [of] things we’re going to discuss, but some things that we’re pretty far apart on too.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: That we’re pretty far apart.

Kissinger: Yeah. They’re going beautifully now on SALT.

Nixon: Is it?

Kissinger: Yeah. That’s moving.

Nixon: Don’t get—but Smith’s not going to settle now?

Kissinger: Oh, no.

Nixon: Well, the Russians aren’t, right?

Kissinger: No. I told Dobrynin again today.

Nixon: You did?

Kissinger: On the Middle East, if we could get an interim settlement—

Nixon: That’s already—

Kissinger:—and defer the final settlement until, say, September. They are sort of counting on my going out, over there in September, because it’s—

Nixon: It’s done. We’ve got to do China too.

Kissinger: I’ve got to go there at the end of June.

Nixon: Incidentally, it’s good to go to China and good to go to Russia, because we’re going to have to use everybody in the campaign that can be used and you can come back from China and garble around a bit. Then, you see, you can do a television thing, and then after you [Page 250] go to Russia you can do the same thing. You see, I want to be—we’ve got to really throw the big guns in.

Kissinger: [unclear]

Nixon: We need foreign policy up front and center in that period too.

Kissinger: China, we now have scheduled for the end of June, just before the June Democratic Convention.

[Omitted here is brief discussion of plans to announce Rogers’ trip to Europe.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation Nos. 698–7 and 698–8. No classification marking. According to his Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office from 5:07 to 5:30 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 77.