25. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • His Excellency Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the United States

The lunch was shifted to the Soviet Embassy from the Map Room at the last moment because the President’s departure for Camp David had brought the press to the South Lawn.

Dobrynin began the lunch by reflecting about the Presidential campaign. He was not clear in his own mind whether McGovern represented a new phenomenon or simply a reflection of a political accident. He asked how McGovern would react in a crisis. I replied that it was hard to predict but the possibility of a violent, outraged reaction to provocation could not be excluded. Dobrynin replied that in that case it was important to keep tension high but just below the level of explosion.

Economic Relations

Turning to economic issues Dobrynin asked how I assessed Peterson’s trip. I replied that the topics were complex and technical. It [Page 67] was therefore inevitable that discussions would be prolonged. I said that I expected to settle the Lend-Lease issue when I visited Moscow in September at a figure between our last two proposals (4½% to 2%). I would also be prepared to suggest major progress on LNG following Brezhnev’s injunction that there should be deeds not words. I pointed out that we were planning to establish a Presidential Commission on gas in the latter part of September to give a focus to our policy. The Soviet leaders could help by making sure we were informed about their dealings with private U.S. companies or there was likely to be total chaos. Dobrynin indicated that he considered this approach extremely positive.

I said that we would have Lynn stand by to join me in Moscow and I therefore suggested putting the economic issue first on the agenda. Dobrynin indicated a readiness to go along with this.

Nuclear Understanding

The conversation next turned to the nuclear agreement. Dobrynin said that Brezhnev was very eager for it to come off. I told him sketchily of my conversation with the British.2 They had been appalled at the whole idea. I was now asking them to redraft an acceptable first clause without having shown them the Soviet text. Dobrynin replied that he had expected this reaction but Britain should be reassured by Article III. I pointed out that this should be introduced only after the principle of an agreement was established. Dobrynin indicated continued great concern. I said that I would try to have a draft by August 18.

Middle East

Dobrynin next produced a letter from Brezhnev (attached)3 urging a resumption of bilateral Middle East negotiations. He hoped I would have a concrete scheme in September. I indicated that it would be difficult to come up with a comprehensive scheme given all the other pressures on me. Dobrynin suggested that some concrete proposal regarding what we meant by security zones would advance matters. He eschewed the pretense that the Soviet withdrawal represented an ad[Page 68]vance payment on the offer of last October.4 He said it was important not to permit small countries to dominate great powers. Sadat had miscalculated. He had thought the request to leave would produce negotiations. Instead the Soviet Union had pulled everybody out. When the Egyptian military realized the implications for maintainence and overall combat effectiveness it might turn out that the chapter was not yet closed.


Dobrynin pointed out that my suggestion to avoid a UN debate on Korea in return for the disbandment of UNCURK during the year had been transmitted to Pyongyang. No reply had as yet been received.


Dobrynin then turned to Vietnam. His impression was that the North Vietnamese were still counting on our Presidential elections—not in the sense of counting on a McGovern victory but because they thought we would make concessions under the pressures of a campaign. I asked him what he thought. He said Hanoi had proved its lack of concern by launching an offensive so close to the summit.5 Dobrynin thought that if the President was still far ahead in late September a break might come. Dobrynin did not think much of Hanoi’s last proposal6 which he described as an offer to Thieu to negotiate his own demise.

Other Bilateral Matters

Dobrynin asked about when he would receive the bail for Markelov and Ivanov7 and I reassured him that it would be soon.

Dobrynin then asked informally whether I could use my influence with Time-Life to prevent the showing of the film on Khrushchev’s life. He said it would be most appreciated in Moscow. I told him I would talk to Donovan.8

We agreed to meet again on August 18 at the White House.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 13. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at the Soviet Embassy. At the meeting, Kissinger handed Dobrynin a draft announcement of Kissinger’s upcoming trip to Moscow from September 10 to 13. (Ibid.)
  2. Kissinger wrote in his memoirs: “At the end of July 1972, I had used the regular visit to Washington by Sir Burke Trend, the British Cabinet Secretary to show him the Soviet draft of July 21 [see Document 17]. I asked for British advice, and indicated that we would proceed only in tandem with London. On August 10 the Foreign Office sent its Soviet expert, Sir Thomas Brimelow, and a small group of advisers to Washington to review the project in detail.” Kissinger continued, “In his [Brimelow’s] view, the Soviets wanted to reduce the margin of their own uncertainty while seeking to magnify allied inhibitions against the use of nuclear weapons. Our course must thwart those designs. Brimelow, as did we, judged existing Soviet drafts unacceptable. I outlined a possible strategy of seeking to transform the Soviet approach into a statement of principles of political restraint proscribing the threat of force, nuclear or conventional.” (Years of Upheaval, p. 278)
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 5.
  5. A reference to the Easter Offensive, March 30–October 22.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VIII, Vietnam, January 1972–October 1972, Document 228.
  7. See footnote 6, Document 23.
  8. In a telephone conversation on August 28 at 3:42 p.m., Kissinger told Dobrynin that he had spoken with Hedley Donovan, Editor-in-Chief of Time, Inc. Kissinger reported that Donovan had said “they have not yet sold that film” and that “at least they won’t do it this year.” Kissinger continued: “I would assume that we will have announced the Brezhnev visit some time early next year, and then we can delay it again until after that.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 14, Chronological File)