84. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador of the USSR
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

I met with Dobrynin for breakfast in General Scowcroft’s office for a quick roundup on where we stood prior to my departure for Key Biscayne with the President.2


I opened the meeting by pointing out to Dobrynin the inadmissability of what was going on in Vietnam. I recalled a conversation in January3 in which I had indicated that we might have to take action to bring the war to a decisive conclusion. At that time Dobrynin had said that he could understand our taking action if there was an offensive, but that if the war just wound down he saw no reason why we should precipitate a showdown. I had been impressed with that argument, and as he knew we had shown enormous restraint.

I said now we were confronted with a situation in which there was an all–out attack on South Vietnam, putting in jeopardy the 69,000 Americans who were remaining. This was absolutely intolerable for us. Dobrynin said perhaps we took the situation too gravely, because after all the Soviets’ estimate was that the situation was far from being out of hand, and the South Vietnamese probably would have a chance to defend themselves. I said I hoped so for their [the Soviets’]4 sake.

Dobrynin asked whether I really thought that they had anything to do with planning it. I said there are only two possibilities, either they planned it or their negligence made it possible. In either event, it was an unpleasant eventuality.5

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We then turned to other matters. Dobrynin raised the issue of SALT. He said the matter had been carefully studied in Moscow and the conclusion had been reached that it would be very difficult to include submarines in the proposal. On the other hand, there was the conviction that if submarines were not included we would be able to come to a solution fairly rapidly. I told Dobrynin that the question of SLBMs was a very difficult one for us, and that I was not very optimistic that we could move on it. It was a point on which our military felt extremely strongly.

Dobrynin asked whether some progress could not be made by settling on land–based missiles plus the ABM agreement and agreeing to make SLBMs the first item on the agenda of the follow–on discussions. I told him that we would consider that and I would give him an answer at one of our next meetings. At the same time I said that our problem was extremely difficult. We were being asked to accept inferiority in land–based missiles as part of the freeze, and equality if not worse in the ABM agreement. That was an inequitable arrangement. Therefore if SLBMs were to be excluded one would have to find compensation elsewhere by having some slight ABM advantage on the side of the United States.

We agreed to consider that at a subsequent meeting.

Middle East

Dobrynin then turned to the Middle East. I said that there had to be some rectifications of the Israeli border in the direction of Sharm El–Sheikh and of the heights containing the airport near Eilat, but I could not go beyond that at the moment. Dobrynin said they were working on a reply and would let me have it.

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Dobrynin then asked me about Hussein’s visit.6 Had we discussed a peace settlement with him? I said not in very specific terms, but it seemed to me there was some possibility of making progress there. Indeed if we could achieve agreement with respect to the Egyptian points I would be prepared to discuss with Dobrynin whether a Jordanian settlement should come before or after, and I could see advantages in both. Doing it before might help establish some principle such as Demilitarized Zones, which would otherwise be difficult for the Egyptians. Dobrynin asked, why not simultaneously? I said that was in no sense excluded.

Bilateral Issues

We discussed bilateral matters and agreed that they were in good shape. The visit of the Economic Minister was tentatively scheduled for April 27 and would proceed on that basis.

The conversation then ended.

  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 in the Military Aide’s office at the White House.
  2. After a brief stop that morning for a Presidential address in Philadelphia, Kissinger accompanied Nixon at 12:58 p.m. for the flight to Key Biscayne. Kissinger returned to Washington the following afternoon; Nixon returned the evening of April 9. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. Reference is to the conversation between Kissinger and Dobrynin on January 21; see Document 39.
  4. Brackets in the source text.
  5. During a conversation in the Executive Office Building at 9:16 a.m. on April 5, Nixon and Kissinger discussed the issue of Soviet complicity. Kissinger doubted that Moscow had approved Hanoi’s offensive. “They [the North Vietnamese] are putting it to Moscow,” he explained, “the way China put it [to Moscow].” The two men then had the following exchange. HAK: “Because here, Moscow has to risk everything, all its relations. For what? I mean, what can Moscow possibly get out of it? If we get run out of South Vietnam and if—.” RN: “Well, this will tell us a lot about Moscow.” HAK: “That’s right.” RN: “Because if Moscow is willing to risk everything for a cheap little victory by liberating South Vietnam, then it means that ideology is going to override their pragmatic considerations.” HAK: “But look at it from Moscow’s point of view. Realistically, if we get run out of Vietnam and the summit goes on as it were, you will have to be tough as nails in Moscow. You couldn’t possibly make any major concessions in Moscow. Having just been defeated in Vietnam, you can’t come back from Moscow having made another deal.” RN: “We won’t go.” HAK: “Whatever they wanted to get out of the summit they cannot have if Hanoi wins.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, April 5, 1972, 9:16–9:55 a.m., Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 330–7)
  6. King Hussein met Nixon and Kissinger at the White House on March 28. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)