112. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to USA
  • Georgi M. Kornienko, Head of USA Division, Foreign Ministry
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Foreign Ministry, Interpreter
  • Andrei Vavilov, Foreign Ministry
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Richard P. Campbell, NSC Staff


  • Middle East; Indochina

Middle East

Gromyko: You should smoke those cigarettes, called Nefertiti.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, because you want to talk on the Middle East.

Gromyko: From the time of the Pharaohs. Take a deep breath.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought we would talk about Vietnam first. One of my advisors said we should treat the Middle East with the same seriousness with which you treated Vietnam.

Gromyko: But the war is over in Vietnam. In the Middle East it may start. We should stop a war first.

Dr. Kissinger: The Foreign Minister knows we can’t settle the Middle East.

Gromyko: In point of fact, we approached the American side on several occasions, saying there should be discussion on the Middle East at the Summit as it was at the last Summit. We have a definite view, namely that of L. I. Brezhnev, that you are underestimating the danger of the situation.

Dr. Kissinger: We are not underestimating the danger; we don’t know how to handle it.

Gromyko: Surely we can’t seriously accept the statement that you really don’t know what to do regarding a settlement. It is impossible seeing the United States and the Soviet Union as impotent regarding finding a way to resolve the Middle East issue. I recall what President [Page 434] Nixon said when I was in Washington,2 and in the United Nations regarding a solution of the Middle East. You yourself touched on this. Now some taboo is imposed on the Middle East problem. We can’t accept the proposition that the U.S. is impotent, any less that the two are. We see this as the unwillingness of the U.S. for reasons of its own, to try to find a real solution. Naturally, we too have our concepts on this score.

Dr. Kissinger: It is not unwillingness to find a solution. The question is to what extent we are asked to bring pressure on basis of the maximum program of one side. I see no difference between your proposal and the Egyptian position. These principles [Soviet paper of May 7, Tab A]3 look like what the Egyptians would produce if we asked them for principles. What is there that they would find difficult?

Gromyko: Surely you will see that the Arabs, and the Egyptians notably, are advancing several other proposals that don’t appear in these principles.

Dr. Kissinger: Like what?

Gromyko: Like the questions of the Palestinians, of Jerusalem. So our principles don’t embrace all their proposals, which go much further. What we did was accept the barest minimum.

Kissinger: The question of Jerusalem is taken care of by total withdrawal from all territories.

Gromyko: Essentially.

Kissinger: Totally. This is more than King Hussein is asking. He would settle for less than this.

Gromyko: Yes, but is King Hussein supposed to be a criterion for us? He is free to fall on his knees and give up his territory. He can speak on behalf of Jordan but he is not competent to speak on our behalf.

Kissinger: But Jerusalem was his city. He is competent to speak on that.

Gromyko: Apart from that, the question also has a fundamental character of principle. Furthermore, you are familiar with the history of the Jerusalem problem.

Kissinger: Probably, unfortunately, not as much as you. This is one difficulty I am facing. But we can play around with these principles. What is the peculiar nature of what you and we could do? If we are [Page 435] going to support the maximum Egyptian position, we can do it alone. The question is to put pressure on Israel. The advantage of doing it jointly with the Soviet Union is because the Soviet Union is an important power in the Mideast. Secondly, if we did it jointly, you could urge Egypt and we could urge Israel toward some middle position.

But your principles of yesterday are a step backward from what we had last year. Last year they had the advantage of vagueness. The advantage of vagueness is that each side can interpret them as they want while the process is started, and with the principles pointing in the general direction. That would be useful.

But if the principles are one-sided, they are of no use, and not consistent with the current situation. The current situation is that there is a need for something to move the sides off a deadlock. We agree that Israel bears a heavy responsibility.

As I said to your Ambassador, detailed discussion of the Mideast was not on the agenda. Therefore, I am not prepared—I am prepared, but I did not have a chance to talk to the President.

Gromyko: I certainly don’t know any exchange regarding the agenda for this meeting that didn’t include a reference to discussion of the Middle East. We said we should discuss all the subjects that might be brought up at the Summit. There was no communication on our side in which this wasn’t raised. How can it be unexpected?

Kissinger: I think you know from the reports of your Ambassador what was expected on this trip. The Middle East was not emphasized until a letter was delivered the night before I left.4 It was delivered at 7:00; I left at midnight.

Gromyko: Surely we are not asking you to discuss the details of the problem. These one and one-half pages are not details; they are only broad categories, large-scale principles of the problem. We can discuss this endlessly. Let me ask you, what is your present position on the question of territories and the withdrawal of Israeli forces?

Kissinger: To be frank, Mr. Foreign Minister, it is an almost impossible process if I talk to you and I talk to Egypt, and you talk to Egypt. It becomes a three-cornered discussion with everybody talking to everybody. It will never work. I thought the General Working Principles of last year [Tab B]5 were a basis that two sides might at some point give to the parties. They were agreed, except for a reserved point.

Gromyko: There were two reserved points.

[Page 436]

Kissinger: We said, “The U.S. position is that completion of the agreements should at some stage involve negotiations among the signatories.” Do we have the same text?

Gromyko: On withdrawal.

Kissinger: On withdrawal we had the same text but different interpretations. It was not resolved.

Gromyko: You had a reservation on withdrawal point, the second point.

Kissinger: What was the reservation? It wasn’t a formal reservation.

Gromyko: I think we had a different understanding of second point. We meant “all territories,” and you knew that.

Kissinger: Oh, yes.

Kornienko: You promised an answer in a week and we never heard from you.

Kissinger: Maybe when you and Rodman conformed the text you made a side deal. Let’s look at the situation. We and Ismail discussed the idea of trying to reconcile sovereignty and security.6 Ismail promised us a paper, which he never gave us.

Who is supposed to move the Israelis? Not you, us. We are prepared to make an effort, but we are looking for some formula that won’t produce a confrontation immediately, that includes some of the Egyptian positions, but not all, that includes some of the Israeli positions but not all. This is what we are trying to do with Israel. I thought the advantage of the General Working Principles was that they were so vague that we could use them to break the deadlock and start a negotiation. The General Secretary said to me yesterday that the Soviet Union, once it recognized that a genuine process in Vietnam was possible, was prepared to exercise its influence.7 We recognize that, and appreciate that. [In the Middle East] there is no process now. One side is cynical; the other side is hysterical. You know from your own contacts that the Israelis won’t even state what their positions are.

Gromyko: Let me ask you a direct question.

Do you agree that Israeli forces must withdraw from all occupied territory? If so, it won’t be difficult to settle the other questions, such as security zones.

Kissinger: Frankly, I think even then there would be major difficulties. But I have explained I don’t think Israel intends to withdraw [Page 437] from all the occupied territory—the Golan Heights, Sharm el-Sheikh. I think the problems in Jordan are manageable. We were sorely tempted to bring great pressure for a settlement in Jordan. But we thought we should start with a country that we both had an interest in. My honest judgment is that it is not for the U.S. to force that in the first stage of negotiations.

Gromyko: If the United States thinks that the Soviet Union will be a partner to agreements promoting the Israeli occupation of Arab lands—if that is your position, it is a profound mistake. It shows we are talking two different languages; and we might as well draw an X through this paper. It shows we are diametrically opposed. You would want to give Israel a prize in the form of occupied Arab territory; but we are in favor of their vacating them. We are for the security of all, including Israel. Israeli leaders keep talking of the need for security; virtually at every corner they shout about it. We are prepared for an agreement guaranteeing the security of every nation in the area. But that is not their real concern; what they really want is to appropriate the Arab territories.

Kissinger: It is incorrect to say we want to help Israel appropriate these territories, because we are in favor of substantial withdrawal. We believe there has to be a negotiation at some point between the parties. As we said, it may be possible to find some compromise between Egypt’s insistence on withdrawal from all the territories and Israel’s insistence on occupying some territory. After all, what is the present situation? If the stalemate continues, there will be a war; Egypt will lose. There will be pressure for the great powers to do something. Again it will be the maximum Egyptian program. That’s why we are looking for a way out of this difficulty.

Gromyko: You know we may achieve even further success in other fields, but events in the Middle East may throw us back and even break our already achieved plans. I’m sure the United States and President Nixon are fully aware of this fact.

Kissinger: May I ask what the General Secretary and the Foreign Minister expect of me here that would meet these needs?

Gromyko: We feel it is necessary to try to search for a solution to the Mideast problem directed toward a settlement. There the skeleton for such a solution is the question of withdrawal of Israeli forces. But if you take the position of support for Israeli intentions to appropriate Arab lands, that is difficult. Even if it is only 30%, 50% of Arab lands, it’s no difference. Because it is a matter of principle. What sense is there in discussing questions such as security zones, U.N. personnel, if the basic premise of your position is that Israel does not want to vacate part of the territories? If you raise the issue in this way—that you agree Israel should withdraw completely but at the same time we should discuss [Page 438] these other issues such as security zones, UN personnel, and free passage—that would be in a sense logical and we would be prepared to discuss them in complex. What is more, we ourselves suggested discussing other matters provided the basic thesis regarding withdrawal is recognized. But the way you raise it rules out the possibility of this being discussed. If of two participants one wants to negotiate and the other does not on the basis of withdrawal, it is impossible to count on any possibility of forward movement.

Kissinger: First of all, as I have explained on several occasions today, I am somewhat uneasy at the method with which I am being confronted with the Middle East problem. When I talked to Mr. Ismail, I talked to your Ambassador.

Gromyko: We got a report.

Kissinger: We discussed what we should talk to the Soviets about. He said we will use the Soviet Union to bring pressure on you, but nevertheless we want detailed discussions with you. I told your Ambassador this. There are many things the Egyptians say but don’t do.

They also said they would have a paper. We agreed we would discuss details with them, and general principles with you. We’ve discussed security zones. My impression is Israel won’t leave. It is my impression; not U.S. policy. We are prepared to discuss zones in the context of the principle of total withdrawal, provided there is some negotiation between the parties on rectification if they can agree. So we don’t exclude total withdrawal. But we are also prepared to discuss security zones concretely. If Ismail ever produces the paper he promised, I will have a better understanding of the two sides and we can discuss this.

Gromyko: You don’t exclude the possibility of Israeli withdrawal. Am I right in assuming you would be prepared on the basis of this premise—total withdrawal—to look for a solution to certain concrete problems relating to the security of Israel and other states so as to reach a solution of the whole complex?

Kissinger: That would certainly greatly facilitate the process, if we could have some understanding of security arrangements, based on the premise of complete withdrawal.

Gromyko: Discuss all the combinations and problems?

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: Then perhaps you could set out some of your considerations on the questions relating to security for Israel. But of course bearing in mind that Israel is not the Great God Sabaoth, so we should discuss not only security for Israel but for other countries as well. If you are prepared to do that, we could discuss it through the confidential channel and try to find some common ground. In the process of ex [Page 439] changing views we would of course have to consult with the countries in the area.

Kissinger: I would rather wait until a later date on the concept of security zones. Because this is exactly what I asked Ismail for, and he promised me a paper on it and I don’t know if he will produce it at the next meeting.

Gromyko: Since all this entire subject is of greatest importance, as the potential opportunities in it are great as well as the potential dangers, let me ask you one direct question: With the reservations you set out regarding certain security questions relating to Israel, do you accept the principle of Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories provided—as I repeat—if there are security provisions guaranteeing total security for all countries in the Middle East?

Kissinger: Yes, under those circumstances.

Gromyko: Because we both voted for the creation of Israel, and I led the delegation to the UN General Assembly. The very instant we confirm a satisfactory solution, and it takes shape, we would be prepared to resume diplomatic relations and exchange representatives with Israel, and would be prepared to place our signatures in the most solemn possible way to a guarantee of it.

Kissinger: I have just had experience with a peace agreement that was very solemnly signed. Of course you would be reliable. On the theory of 100% security for all states—though of course it is difficult to determine that—we could go along with the principle of withdrawal of Israel to its borders.

Let me ask: It is easier for both of us to bring pressure or use our influence if there is an ongoing process of negotiations than in the abstract. Can you visualize a process of negotiation that we could influence? It is hard to make peace between two countries that won’t talk to each other.

Gromyko: I am not too sure of the answer L. I. Brezhnev would have given. I want to put forward my own view. I don’t know if Ambassador Dobrynin will agree. He does—usually he doesn’t. You know the attitude of the Arabs toward direct negotiations. We feel if a definitive solution were discernible and everything was placed on a firm foundation, some formula could be found along the lines of, for example, the Rhodes formula;8 it could not be ruled out entirely. Something of this nature. Rather flexible, of this nature.

[Page 440]

Kissinger: When you are vague, it is always deliberate.

Gromyko: We can’t vouch for the Arabs, and this is of the nature of an assessment.

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: But we are not only onlookers, and we are able to put forward our own judgment on this score. And we believe this could be of possible significance. A few years ago it was discussed, but there was no firm foundation for it. The whole thing rested on quicksand. If this rested on firm soil we wouldn’t rule out a concrete solution in this respect, though it is hard to tell what concrete form it would take.

Kissinger: I thought at one time, and I mentioned to your Ambassador, that if something like these principles—with something like their vagueness—could be given to both sides and accepted by both . . . And at the same time there were negotiations simultaneously on an interim settlement and general settlement on the basis of these principles . . .

Gromyko: Interim and general.

Kissinger: Interim and general. Thus, the vagueness of number 2,9 of which Kornienko complained, has its advantages. Israel would not be required to face this issue right away. If it succeeds, it would produce Israeli withdrawal from the Canal—the first concrete withdrawal in six years. Then it would produce concrete positions—not reconcilable positions, but positions. Then once things start moving, you and we could exert our influence concretely.

I was asked theoretically in the Vietnam negotiations, are you willing to pressure Thieu? I would evade the question, because “pressure for what?” But you know we did.

In order to do this, it would be important for the Arabs not to require every last detail in the first set of principles, and to keep in mind there are many opportunities. And they are better off with a process underway than with the present position—and as every year goes by Israel becomes more intractable.

Gromyko: What paper do you have before you?10

Kissinger: Last year’s.

Gromyko: We didn’t agree on the understanding on total withdrawal.

Kissinger: Of course.

[Page 441]

Gromyko: Shouldn’t we have a joint understanding along the lines you said? Provided everything else is agreed?

Kissinger: Before we accept an understanding on number 2? Yes. 100% security—that’s an unfair formulation. I don’t think you have 100% security.11

Gromyko: Let us talk in mutually agreeable terms on security.

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, if we speak as realists to each other, the art now consists of getting some formulation which Israel will accept—though they will know what direction we will push them. And the Egyptians have to show some moderation. If Jerusalem were designing Cairo’s policy, they would do what they are doing now. That is a personal comment.

Gromyko: Suppose we left the language as it is [in last year’s principles] and added the language “mutually acceptable arrangements for security have to be worked out.” Not 100% security.

Kissinger: I won’t hold you to that, 100%. But that is conceivable. When we do this, particularly if it isn’t started with some moderation, there will be tremendous domestic pressures. I know the General Secretary gets restless when I mention domestic pressures but it is a fact of our lives.

Gromyko: It bothers me too.

Kissinger: But your temperament is less volatile.

Gromyko: But I have some antitoxin.

Kissinger: I have to talk to the President, and the Egyptians. But my view is that the principles last year had great advantage of being vague and could establish a link that gives you and us the opportunity to bring pressure during negotiations, especially if we have a prior understanding of direction.

Gromyko: I have two observations: First, we have to reach an official joint understanding that we understand point 2 in such a way. Second, as you said, let’s work out an interim and joint settlement. If the interim is part of the joint and can’t be considered separate, how can we work out the joint settlement?

Kissinger: Not you and we, but them.

Gromyko: The interim as separate, or as part of the whole?

Kissinger: As a first step toward the whole. What I understood Ismail to say is this: He wants some “heads of agreement,” which I take to be principles. After these are established, he is prepared to have simultaneous discussions of both the interim and general. This is what he said to me.

[Page 442]

Gromyko: I don’t know his thoughts. The interim presumably is part of the general. From the point of view of time, it may be part or first.

Kissinger: Buy why should you care what comes first if parties are satisfied with this?

Gromyko: The parties differ on this, because the Arabs—as far as we know—don’t accept that the interim should be separate.

Kissinger: But the negotiations would be simultaneous.

Gromyko: The negotiations, but what about the outcome, the results? Suppose everything in the interim is worked out, and the general; the interim could be the first step of it.

Kissinger: That’s one way.

Gromyko: What we can’t accept is that the interim is worked out and the rest is left hanging.

Kissinger: But isn’t it true you can accept everything the Arabs can accept?

Gromyko: We didn’t talk to them exactly as we are talking to you. But from what we know of their position—it is not an easy task—

Kissinger: [laughs] I agree.

Gromyko: We think this isn’t ruled out. If you talk to the President, and if you will go along with this goal, it will be extremely helpful.

Kissinger: We have never had the idea of going alone, and we have always meticulously informed your Ambassador.

Gromyko: You made a very good statement. Now it should be backed by actions. [laughter] I remember President Nixon in the UN;12 I not only applauded physically at the end but also mentally several times during it.

Kissinger: Unfortunately, he followed Haile Selassie, so most of the delegates were asleep.

Let me discuss it with the President. This is a possible approach. I can’t go further today.

Let me say: If we get the Arab-Israeli issue hot in the U.S. at the same time as MFN is up, major problems will result. Dobrynin knows this. That’s one of the issues. Because to get Israel to negotiate on the basis of any paper will take extreme pressure.

Gromyko: How long will it take? Your Secretary of State said 15 years. It is a joke.

[Page 443]

Kissinger: The Secretary of State thinks the time between the interim and overall will take 15 years, and that Sadat is agreed to that. That’s not my impression.

But if we can find convincing security arrangements, then the whole thing can be placed in a different context.

Gromyko: I see you take a more favorable view of last year’s paper. If that is so, we could accept number 2 as formulated by you, and then when we get to formalization of this document we can get an understanding of what we understand by it. Then we can get rid of the thorny problem of negotiations between the parties. And you promised to give us clarification of number 8 which you haven’t done.13

Kissinger: I want to study it more. But it is clear that last year’s was closer to what could possibly be submitted to the parties than this year’s.

Ten days from now I will have a nervous breakdown, meeting Ismail and Le Duc Tho on the same day. I’m not sure I’ll survive.

Gromyko: Let me just say that this paper we’ve just given you is our draft, not something we have coordinated with the Arabs.

Kissinger: I will not discuss it [with Ismail]. I will not discuss either draft. I will not discuss any joint Soviet-American discussions. I would appreciate it if you didn’t discuss our discussions here.

Gromyko: We will not. It is entirely between us.

Kissinger: You can be assured that I will not discuss even the existence of our discussions, let alone the content.

Gromyko: The only thing we will tell the Arabs, provided some prospect appears to some understanding, is that it was agreed that the President and General Secretary would have discussions on the Middle East because of the interest of the two powers in the situation. That you won’t object to.

Kissinger: No. That’s inevitable.

Since I won’t discuss these principles or this discussion, it would be difficult for me if he heard it from you.

Dobrynin: You heard him say we won’t.

Kissinger: No, you have confirmed it.

I’ll get in touch with Anatol after I return from Paris, let’s say around the 26th, or 27th, to formulate concrete ideas. I will talk to the President right away about this procedure. First, I will get his reaction to proceed, then on the content.

[Page 444]

What is your idea? To publish principles at the Summit?

Gromyko: That of course will be subject to our agreement, but we don’t exclude the possibility of publishing. If they assume a positive nature, which is the only basis they can take, then it might be a good idea.

Kissinger: This is something we could discuss later.

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: Should we leave this?

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: I think we have made some progress in understanding how we might proceed.


Dr. Kissinger: Let me say a few words about Vietnam. We have given you a list of violations,14 which I know you will be reading immediately.

Gromyko: With inspiration.

Dr. Kissinger: We can even give you the exchanges between us and the North Vietnamese, so you can judge what has been taking place. [Sanitized texts of U.S.–DRV exchanges between March and April were later given to Dobrynin.]

Let me give our judgment of the problem. We are not asking you to judge such a complex situation. When we made the Agreement,15 certainly we knew history would not stop in Indochina. Certainly we knew that people who had been fighting for 25 years won’t give up their objectives. Certainly we understand revolutionaries would never settle for abstract peace, according to Marxism.

Gromyko: You’re too flexible on Marxism.

Dr. Kissinger: We are? They aren’t.

Gromyko: Real Marxism has only one version.

Dr. Kissinger: But I have been told it in three different capitals. [Laughter] You will be interested to know that in Hanoi they think they have the real version. [Laughter]

Gromyko: As I sometimes say before journalists, no comments.

Dr. Kissinger: Excessive humility is not a Vietnamese trait.

All this being so, we concluded a solemn agreement. We expected there would be some time of observance of the Agreement, then other events would follow. We have no interest in reentering. You will see from the messages, we have no reason to break the Agreement.

[Page 445]

There have been some South Vietnamese violations. Observance of agreements is not a Vietnamese trait. But the North Vietnamese violations have been fundamental. There are provisions against the introduction of troops and equipment except through checkpoints. They’ve introduced 400 tanks, 250 artillery pieces. We spent three weeks discussing the DMZ, they’re ignoring it. Article 20 requires withdrawal from Laos and Cambodia; they ignore it. Then they say it is civilian goods. It is supposed to come through checkpoints; it is an interesting theory that if it does not come through checkpoints it is civilian. And they have infiltrated 30,000 personnel.

To be frank, we thought, since we introduced a lot of equipment before the agreement, we thought for a while it was their compensation. But it is continuing. We will certainly do something. We told you this last year. If there is an offensive, we will certainly do something.

It is senseless. Therefore we think every signatory to this agreement [the Final Act] should use its influence. And also regarding military equipment, though we have your communication on this.

I won’t read you every violation.

Another point. Your allies from Poland and Hungary could be more helpful regarding violations, which they refuse to do. We should use our influence.

Another problem is the problem of Cambodia. We have no desire for a predominant position in Cambodia. The North Vietnamese have 30,000 troops there. Regarding Sihanouk, it is a peculiar situation to have a royal prince in a Communist capital. This situation was not foreseen in early Marxism. We would prefer a coalition basis that included all elements—we would prefer to do it without Sihanouk—but we are prepared to discuss it.

Gromyko: You didn’t say anything about violations by South Vietnam. Or they are saints?

Dr. Kissinger: I think the South has committed violations in a number of categories. One, in tactical sense, when it is very difficult to tell who started what minor military engagement. I am sure they are doing their share. Second, regarding political prisoners.

Gromyko: A large-scale violation.

Dr. Kissinger: You will see from these exchanges that some violations are technical and some are real. We brought about the release of 5,000—not to the other side, but to their towns and villages. We have obtained the permission of Saigon that the ICCS can visit each of the 5,000 to verify the release. The PRG refused. Second, the South Vietnamese claim 40,000 civilians have been abducted. The other side claims it has only 637 civilian prisoners. Now 40,000 may be too high; but 637 is certainly too low.

[Page 446]

We are prepared to use as much influence as possible on the South Vietnamese to get them to stop their violations. We will never get perfect compliance by both North and South. But we can certainly get sufficient improvement to reduce the risk of new conflict, which is our major concern.

I am taking Graham Martin16 to my meeting with Le Duc Tho, so he can hear what the North Vietnamese complaints are. When he goes to Saigon he will know of any agreement we reach with the North Vietnamese.

Gromyko: We were certainly very unpleasantly surprised when soon after the signing of the Paris Agreement and Act there began large-scale violations of the Agreement. We have had a mass of information regarding violations by Saigon. We have been and are in favor of the strictest possible observance of both the Agreement and the Act. But we can use our political weight, and proceeding from our known policies on this, but the main thing depends on the parties concerned, that is the signatories of the Paris Agreement. We are of the view that in certain respects the U.S. is behaving badly.

Dr. Kissinger: Like where?

Gromyko: We don’t think you are unable to bring influence to bear on Saigon, notably on the subject of the release of political prisoners.

I would not like to go deep into this subject, but merely to say we have ample information on this subject, just to draw your attention.

Second, to draw your attention to the conducting of military operations by the U.S. in Cambodia, and it now appears in Laos. After the signing of the Act, which contained references to Laos and Cambodia and maintaining the peace in those countries, the U.S. is continuing military operations. This has created a rather negative impression in the Soviet Union and many are asking what is it all about. We would certainly welcome rectification of the situation in both Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia; we would certainly welcome an end to all violations of the Agreement. We trust you don’t suspect we are taking any other stand on this; we are in favor of strict observance of both agreements.

You will recall we have had occasion to get in touch in Washington on certain aspects of the matter. I won’t repeat this now.

Let me just end by saying that the Soviet Union will do all in its power and will use all its influence and weight in favor of observance of the Agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: That is important. Let me make two comments.

[Page 447]

Regarding Laos, we have done only two things, both when there was a specific attack by the Pathet Lao,17 and at the request of the Government that Hanoi recognizes.

Second, it is important to recognize that Hanoi has totally refused to comply with the provisions in Laos. There was an unconditional obligation for withdrawal. There was no condition of a political settlement. Then there was the agreement with Souvanna18 for withdrawal in 90 days; they haven’t done it. They are continuing violations.

Regarding Cambodia, we have a formal understanding with North Vietnam regarding seeking a ceasefire in Cambodia. We unilaterally stopped all military operations, and Lon Nol19 unilaterally halted offensive operations—though it is not easy to distinguish this from the usual behavior of the Cambodians.

We would be prepared for a solution analogous to Laos. We would discuss it, though it is not for us to negotiate it. We will stop military actions as soon as an agreement is reached. We have no purpose than to end the war. There has to be some minimum observation of an international agreement we have signed.

I will discuss this in Paris.

Gromyko: How do you envisage developments in Cambodia?

Dr. Kissinger: I visualize discussions between the insurgent side and Phnom Penh side to establish a ceasefire first, then some coalition structure in Phnom Penh in which all factions are included. We would prefer it without Sihanouk, but all sides would be represented. Sihanouk would be a disturbing element, for reasons which I don’t need to enumerate—it would introduce a great-power element. And in this context, the composition of the Phnom Penh side is also open to discussion. I am speaking frankly.

Gromyko: It appears to us that the position of Lon Nol is precarious. That is probably . . .

Dr. Kissinger: . . . true. But things in Cambodia never are quite as serious as they look.

Gromyko: Do you see any possibility for Sihanouk?

Dr. Kissinger: It is a possibility, but we would prefer to avoid it.

When I was in Peking I refused to meet with him.20 We have ignored various overtures from him.

Dobrynin: Now you are prepared to accept him?

[Page 448]

Dr. Kissinger: No, we are prepared to meet with people technically with him. We are not sure of their loyalty.

Gromyko: He is angry at you, and at us.

Dr. Kissinger: That is another reason not to encourage his return.

We feel some of his so-called ministers, if they returned, might have different loyalties when in their country.

Gromyko: When will President Thieu be out, by the way?

Dr. Kissinger: A minor question!

Gromyko: That was an American promise.

Dr. Kissinger: That was never part of the American proposal. Only as part of an election in which all parties participate. Not even Le Duc Tho has asked for this.

Gromyko: That doesn’t mean we can’t ask for it.

Dr. Kissinger: But our objective is to ease the situation.

Gromyko: Does his presence help?

Dr. Kissinger: Le Duan’s21 presence doesn’t help.

Gromyko: That is in a different part of Vietnam. When are the general elections there?

Dr. Kissinger: He has announced them for August 26.

Dobrynin: Unilaterally.

Gromyko: One-sided elections. He will reelect himself.

Dr. Kissinger: No, it is for the Assembly.

Gromyko: Well, what do you expect in the South of Vietnam in the future? Do you think in the last few days it is somewhat more quiet?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, according to my reports, somewhat quieter. But the rains have started.

Gromyko: So nature works in a positive direction.

Dr. Kissinger: But in the north of South Vietnam, it is becoming dry. I think if it is quiet there for a year or two, great power interests would be further dissociated.

Gromyko: When do you meet the North Vietnamese representatives?

Dr. Kissinger: May 17.22 It is the day we agreed upon.

Gromyko: You will go home first?

[Page 449]

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. He will almost certainly come through Moscow. You can tell him that if he makes a big effort, I will make a big effort.

Gromyko: Do you like him?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. He is pleasant, and intelligent, in the Vietnamese way.

I have to tell you about our negotiations on Laos and Cambodia. In Article 20, we said “the parties shall respect the Geneva Agreements.” He had trouble with that because in Vietnamese it meant only future, and implied they weren’t complying with it now. We agreed on “must.”

Gromyko: Shall we meet at 10:00 for dinner?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. Thank you.

[The meeting then ended.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Kissinger Conversations at Zavidovo, May 5–8, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Winter Garden at the Politburo Villa. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 56.
  3. Attached but not printed is the Soviet draft paper, “Principles of Middle East Settlement.” The principles called for “the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from all Arab territories occupied in 1967” and stated that “the international lines of demarcation, which existed between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries as of June 4, 1967 shall be recognized as the final boundaries between them.”
  4. Document 102.
  5. Attached but not printed is the paper, dated May 28, 1972. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 295.
  6. Kissinger summarized his February meetings with Ismail in his March 8 meeting with Dobrynin. See Document 81.
  7. See Document 109.
  8. The Rhodes formula refers to the negotiating mechanism used at the armistice talks in Rhodes, Greece, from January to March 1949, in which UN mediator Ralph Bunche met with each delegation on substantive items until discussions reached an advanced stage, at which point joint informal meetings were held.
  9. A reference to the second principle in the May 1972 U.S. paper, which called for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from all Arab territory acquired during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. See footnote 5 above.
  10. A reference to the May 1972 paper. See footnote 5 above.
  11. The word “you” was underscored by hand.
  12. A reference to Nixon’s address before the 24th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 18, 1969. The address focused on how world peace could be restored and maintained. For the text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 724–731.
  13. The eighth principle in the May 1972 paper held that a country would cease to be responsible for upholding its obligations if another country were deemed to be in violation of the agreement. See footnote 5 above.
  14. Attached to Document 111 at Tab A.
  15. The Paris Peace Accords; see Document 74.
  16. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam after July 1973.
  17. The Lao Communists.
  18. Prince Souvanna Phouma, Prime Minister of Laos.
  19. General Lon Nol, President of the Khmer Republic, or Cambodia.
  20. During Kissinger’s February 15–19 visit to China.
  21. Ho Chi Minh’s successor and founder of the Indochinese Communist Party who served as General Secretary of the Communist Party in Vietnam.
  22. For the memorandum of conversation between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, May 17, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume X, Vietnam, January 1973–July 1975, Document 49.