94. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

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

It was one of our regularly scheduled weekly luncheons.

Dobrynin began the conversation by talking about Vietnam. He said that as of the day before, the April 24 meeting was still on. He considered the April 24 meeting very crucial and he hoped nothing would happen to interfere with it. I said we had cancelled the plenary sessions that were supposed to precede this meeting, and that maybe now the other side would cancel the meeting itself.

Dobrynin said that he could assure me that his leadership was not interested in this conflict. I said “Let’s be realistic. You are responsible for this conflict, either because you planned it or because you tried to score off the Chinese and as a result have put yourself into the position where a miserable little country can jeopardize everything that has been striven for for years.” This was essentially a Soviet decision to make, I continued. The Soviet Union must have known when it signed two supplementary agreements during the year that it was giving the North Vietnamese the wherewithal to launch an offensive. What did the Soviet leaders expect? Did they expect the President to wait while [Page 299]the South Vietnamese army ran the risk of being defeated and 69,000 Americans were taken prisoner?

Dobrynin interjected by saying that the North Vietnamese had often offered to repatriate them immediately. I said “Anatol, this is not worthy of comment, and that situation will not arise. There must be a meeting this month. It must lead to concrete results, and if it does not there will be incalculable consequences. I might also point out that our whole attitude on a host of issues depends on it. How could the Soviet leaders ask us to proceed on the Middle East or to give support for the ratification of the [Moscow] Treaty while the war was taking this acute form? We were prepared to let it wind down. Why did the North Vietnamese not wait if they felt so confident? But now that the situation had arisen in which we were being challenged directly, we had no choice but to proceed.”

I was also bound to tell Dobrynin that I was not authorized to discuss any of the other subjects with him.

Dobrynin replied that it seemed to him that a visit by me to Moscow was more urgent than ever. He thought that we should reconsider the decision for me not to go. He felt that I should go and discuss Vietnam with their leaders and at the same time accelerate preparations for the Summit. I told Dobrynin I would put this proposition to the President.2

Later on that afternoon I called him to tell him the result. [Telecon attached.]3

  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. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. For Kissinger’s memoir account of the meeting—based largely on the memorandum of conversation—see White House Years, p. 1120.
  2. Dobrynin later argued that Kissinger suggested the trip on his own initiative. According to Dobrynin, “Kissinger informed me that, in view of the dangerous aggravation of the situation in Vietnam, the president believed Kissinger should pay a short visit to Moscow to meet Gromyko and Brezhnev.” (In Confidence, p. 244)
  3. Brackets in the source text. Document 97.