148. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin and Secretary of State Kissinger1

D. Thank you. Scowcroft sent me a copy of what you sent.2 I received what we sent to you just after your talk with me.3 By the way, in your letter which you sent to Brezhnev in answer you quoted sentences in his letter of . . . you remember.4

K. Yes.

D. Perhaps when I dictated to you it was my sound but a little bit different. I don’t think it makes that big of difference. It was not adhere. I said act here without delay.

K. That makes a big difference.

D. I don’t think so.

K. Adhere means we have to agree with what you said. While to act here leaves it open to joint action.

D. You will say that you acted pro ______. This adhere speaks about a Security Council resolution. So, in any case . . .

K. We had the impression that you were planning a military move. We did not invent this. Someday soon we have to discuss this. We had no reason to meet until 4:00 in the morning.

D. This is the point. On this, I think, one thing was really a big blunder on your side, maybe it was deliberate. For six hours you are just telling us every hour to wait, there will be a reply. I am sure if you had just mentioned to me that the President feels it was necessary to make an alert . . . blow up our relations.5 We don’t want to do it, please send an urgent message to the Chairman. We will be forced to do it if we must. I am sure it would have received a reply that nothing . . .

K. That was a blunder.

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D. Seven hours you were telling us and then we receive a letter that didn’t say a word about the alert.6 It was widely publicized.

K. Whether you ever believe it or not it is not important now. I am telling you it was not . . . we were convinced you were planning something unilateral. We were as outraged. We thought the tone in that letter . . .

D. You were pretty sure we would do it. If you were so sure, you could have waited one hour to get some additional information from Brezhnev. But you didn’t want to have it.

K. That isn’t true. I was very tough. Don’t pressure us. I sent you two or three messages to please don’t do anything unilateral.

D. Exactly.

K. You could have said what makes you think we will do anything unilateral. We have no intention of taking action.

D. What you said was to wait for a reply. I sent four telegrams to Moscow—this was a unique situation—to wait for a reply from the President. What did they receive? This is not . . . Someday in Moscow . . . much more easy to discuss.

K. We very truly thought you were threatening us out of the . . .

D. Exactly, you have it with us. Wait for the reply. By the way nothing was said. Then you are trying to make it look like it was a Cuban or Hanoi crisis.

K. Don’t remind me of that. It was not well done.

D. It was done badly. It was unbelievable. He won’t believe he compared it . . . More things are involved for both sides. There is no need to discuss this. What was done was done. We will now have to look forward. This message is oral to the President and to you in connection with Soviet/American observers. I was instructed to tell you in a written message . . . that the Secretary General would like to say that we . . . substance of yesterday’s message from . . . about Soviet/American observers.7

K. I know of one. You sent me on discussions.

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D. We also . . . from the promise that the Soviet and American observers . . . will ask as a contingent of the observer force of the UN. We want to stress that we consider it very important that the American observers will start the dispatch of their forces, having in mind that it should give the USSR and US the possibility of getting authentic information.

We expect that the US on its part will also take necessary steps before the UN . . . The American said that . . . to Egypt front about of . . . and the President Nixon in his letter8 . . . that a number of the American officers should be there to oversee the ceasefire. On the same day we informed the President of the dispatch of 70 Soviet observers to . . . and sent them immediately to the line.9 It would mean that this understanding reached with us would be broken. We would hope that . . .

K. Don’t you think the President answered it yesterday. We are prepared to send observers as soon as the Secretary General requests them and we have told him he should request them.

D. You should mention it to him again. He said that Scali . . .

K. I will get in touch with Scali immediately.

D. Waldheim is under the impression . . .

K. I thought they were talking about some number yesterday. Let me call Scali.

D. Send out U.S. observers and I will . . .

K. I will call you back within an hour. Why don’t we get together on Monday10 and review just what went wrong.

D. What time would you like?

K. How about lunch.

D. I will try. Fulbright would like to have me for lunch. Maybe I could switch it on Tuesday.

K. I also have a lunch. It was either a deliberate . . . of thinking by you and of thinking by us or it was a horrible misunderstanding. I can assure you from our side it was not deliberate . . .

D. I will ask Fulbright to postpone Monday.

K. Too much is at stake for us to be angry with each other. Let’s not have it fester. As a friend . . .

D. For two days I was mad. I know that anger in Moscow is still very high.

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K. As a friend, one thing about yesterday evening that can only be explained in terms of emotional stress over a domestic situation.11

D. I understand.

K. This was not well chosen and not deliberate. General Haig called you immediately.

D. I know.

K. We are in a difficult period between the two of us now. If you had no intention of acting unilaterally our letter was a mistake. I should have warned you but I was outraged.

D. . . . I simply asked you if you could tell me 15 hours. That is all right with me. You really think that I was pressing you to get an answer. I simply asked you the usual question—when I could expect an answer, sometime today, sometime tomorrow. You immediately qualified that as a pressure. That I usually do, did before, and will again.

K. OK. Lunch at Monday at 1:00.12

D. At State?

K. Yes, better food here.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 28, Chronological File. No classification marking. Blank underscores indicate omissions in the original.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 290.
  3. According to Kissinger’s memoirs, Dobrynin called him at 9:35 a.m. (Years of Upheaval, p. 583) No record of the conversation was found.
  4. Dobrynin is referring to Brezhnev’s October 26 message; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 288.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 146.
  6. Nixon’s October 25 message; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 274. Nixon informed Brezhnev that joint action was not appropriate at that time, and that Nixon had no information regarding the violation of the ceasefire. Nixon emphasized that Soviet suggestions of unilateral action caused great concern and would be a violation of both the Basic Principles and the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. However, he was willing to support a joint Truce Supervisory Organization report.
  7. The text of the message, read during the October 25 telephone conversation at 2:40 p.m. between Kissinger and Dobrynin, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 23, Chronological File. It is printed in Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 360–361.
  8. Probably a reference to Nixon’s October 25 letter.
  9. This was in the message Dobrynin read to Kissinger at 2:40 p.m. on October 25.
  10. October 29.
  11. Presumably a reference to the growing Watergate investigation.
  12. No record of this meeting was found, but Dobrynin gave Kissinger Brezhnev’s letter, Document 149.