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

K. Anatoly.

D. Henry, I have a request.

K. Which is what?

[Page 618]

D. Could you give me part of your presentation today on Foreign Affairs.2 The Chairman, Fulbright, was talking about your brilliant representation and about the détente.

K. I made a very impassioned defense of détente.

D. He said you particularly mentioned about detente.

K. It was a closed session, but I will get you the extract.

D. No, no, I am joking. He mentioned he was very much impressed on your presentation on the détente issue.

K. I made very strong defense of détente.

D. He mentioned it. He is a fellow who is a rare one to say somebody brilliantly represented so I was impressed on the détente question.

K. Very good.

D. What about the . . . are you . . .

K. Before I get to the main subject let me say another thing. I saw in a Los Angeles paper today an article from Moscow.3

D. It was by an American?

K. Yes, it was an American and was very close to what you said yesterday.4 It said the Soviet leadership was very angry with me.

D. Who was the author?

K. Seeger, and it said from now on Brezhnev would insist on protocol when he sees me.

D. I think it is invention.

K. My suggestion is if this is inspired it is not all that helpful.

D. Henry, I can tell you this is not the way we are doing that kind of inspiration . . . You could easily check an American correspondent. It is very easy to be checked. He will immediately tell you and your embassy who mentioned it from our side. I doubt very much that they would tell an American correspondent about their grievances. He would make his own deductions. First there was an agreement and afterwards a confrontation. It doesn’t take a very wise man to figure that out.

K. It had a lot of detail. You know, it sounded—I normally don’t pay any attention but it sounded very plausible.

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D. I don’t believe . . . if they wanted some fellow not from America . . . Maybe some of the fellow said something, even I doubt this one quite frankly.

K. Well it sounded very plausible. It repeated many things that you said.

D. From . . . it is not only my point of view. I told you they feel the same, that is very clear Henry. I am telling you . . .

K. Look, I am not asking to be loved. I am saying we are in a very difficult situation. The two people who helped put the détente together is the President and me and there is no sense in attacking the two of us while we are trying to do this. Whatever mistakes were made last week were not unilateral. Mistakes were made on both sides. Although I can tell you, having to deal with Egyptians is enough to test anyone’s nerves.

D. I’m not arguing about that. I think it is not worthwhile to argue. If you look in perspective at the big things we have done and have to do in the future, all of these things were very small but got out of proportion in sense of word which Brezhnev had given to them.

K. We now have the art of statesmanship. Now is for us to keep this thing together and to go back to the big things we did together rather than let it be split [spoilt?] completely. We did important things for three years and shouldn’t let three days get in the way. On behalf of the President pass on his message to your leadership that he feels, that he attaches the greatest importance to continuation of what has been known as the détente policy and the greatest importance to the confidence established between him and the General Secretary.

D. Yes, he said that he is going to write a letter.

K. He asked me to reiterate.

D. Will he write a letter?

K. Yes, he will write a letter but we haven’t had a chance. It may be Friday. We have been preparing for the Egyptian and Israeli visits.5 It will be a very positive letter.

D. I understand, you need some time . . . I understand.

K. On your specific proposal, we are prepared to designate somebody to meet with somebody you designate to discuss how to implement Article 3 of Security Council Resolution 338.

D. Where?

K. They can meet in Geneva, or here, whatever you decide.

D. You are here.

[Page 620]

K. Let them meet wherever. Should he go to Moscow? Eventually they can take a trip to the Middle East.

D. Why don’t they begin with the Middle East?

K. We have another idea that hasn’t been fully decided yet. We may upgrade the head of the Interest Section in Cairo and send a more senior person there with the agreement of Egypt and he could get together with whoever you have.

D. Just trying to develop ideas you mentioned . . .

K. We don’t exclude a trip to the Middle East.

D. Just to give them something. I know for instance, Gromyko will hardly like the idea. When he is in charge, you are in charge. . . . people in Cairo, just to put Atherton.6 I don’t know, maybe I am wrong. That is my impression. Do something we ask you . . .

K. Then let me raise this tomorrow with the Israelis.

D. I think it would be better. I mentioned to Gromyko and Brezhnev your discussions with . . . but thinking aloud, they are waiting for their reaction.

K. Let me raise it with the Israelis tomorrow.

D. Yesterday it was one thing, today another.

K. Let me see what the Israelis reaction will be.

D. They didn’t react negatively, but they are waiting further because you said you haven’t discussed anything . . .

K. I will give you a definitive answer tomorrow.

D. I will send to Brezhnev the message from the President, but on this particular issue I won’t say anything until I hear from you.

K. We have given strict instructions to this department to keep their mouths shut. Now it turns out you have over a hundred ships in the Mediterranean. If that keeps up we will be driven into—

D. How many have you?

K. Less than 50. Look, you used to have the same number of ships as we had and then it increased.

D. Is this a number game or a word game?

K. In the past your number was about a third of what you have now.

D. Are they military or commercial?

K. No, military. We don’t object to commercial. These are submarines and others. You have double the submarines you normally have and nearly three times as many surface ships.

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D. I will . . . just thinking aloud.

K. That is right. It would certainly be noticed if there was some reduction and would be reciprocated. You can tell them that.

D. I will tell them. What really they want up to now we didn’t . . . What about the second proposal?

K. What second proposal?

D. Using UN helicopters.

K. Let me discuss that with the Israelis. I understand.

D. All right. UN business not ours . . . I have a small matter that became apparent. We discussed with you about 36, or 32.7 Malik went there and the Swedish officials say they have 37. Could we finish this. Malik asked me today if we could settle on the 36 and forget about it.

K. Yes, we will settle on 36.

D. Could you get Scali these instructions.

K. Yes, I shall, You can tell Gromyko but don’t tell Malik until I have told Scali which will be another hour.

D. I will wait two hours more. Our information is nothing, nothing really new . . . mentioned staying until Golda Meir is out.

K. There aren’t going to be any spectacular results. I will see him again tomorrow.

D. How are things with Golda Meir? I hope you will tell . . .

K. We will tell you about it tomorrow, or Friday. She will be here today.

D. All right, Henry, the President said he is going to tell us.

K. We will tell you tomorrow.

D. OK. Nothing else I guess, Henry.

K. That is all.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 28, Chronological File. Unclassified.
  2. Kissinger met that day with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in executive session. The text of his presentation was not found.
  3. A reference to “Russian-U.S. Détente: Realism Moves In as Euphoria Fades” by Murray Seeger in the Los Angeles Times, p. A1. Seeger cited Soviet sources who maintained that, because of the Arab-Israeli crisis, Kissinger “has lost his high status in Soviet eyes and will have trouble regaining the standing that enabled him to negotiate directly with Communist Party chief Leonid I. Brezhnev instead of lesser lights.”
  4. See Document 150.
  5. Meir met with Nixon in Washington on November 1. Kissinger traveled to Egypt November 6–7.
  6. Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.
  7. Presumably a reference to UN observers. See Document 148.