32. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Russian Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
  • Dr. Henry A Kissinger

The meeting was to review outstanding issues prior to Dobrynin’s departure for Moscow.


Dobrynin opened the meeting by reading me a long account of the report that Le Duc Tho had given summing up our three Paris meetings (July 19, August 1, and August 14).2 It was on the whole a fair and correct report. According to Le Duc Tho, I had agreed to the fact that there were two governments and two and a half political forces in South Vietnam. I had indicated that we would move to some middle ground between their position and ours, but I had been too vague in my formulations. The North Vietnamese concern was that I was trying to get them into a position where they agreed on certain principles and would have to negotiate the details with the South Vietnamese, a process which might take forever. The North Vietnamese were also very much afraid that we would go back into South Vietnam after the election. Finally, they insisted that what we really wanted was for them to operate within the existing constitution—maybe without Thieu but at least with a structure which could survive without Thieu. All of these were matters that they found very hard to accept.

On the other hand, Dobrynin continued, they had reported in Moscow that we had been more flexible, and that they were on the whole more optimistic than they had been before I had given them credit for having made a concession with respect to Thieu’s staying in [Page 86] office until after a settlement. And also by setting up the forums. Another difference between them and us was that we allegedly wanted to have all forums operate side by side, while they wanted to have everything settled with us before they opened the other forums.

I told Dobrynin that a number of things were based on a misunderstanding. We accepted the priority of the DRV–U.S. forum, but it seemed to me that they were working against their purposes if they waited until we could settle all their ten points.3 It would be close to the end of the election period, and in that case even if they opened the other forums it would be too late for us really significantly to affect them, so I felt they were being counterproductive. The difference between them and us was that we wanted to move each point as it was concluded into the other forums, while they wanted to have everything done. But since they had a veto over it, we would probably eventually yield on it.

Secondly, with respect to the political evolution, the real difference was that they wanted a guarantee of their takeover from us, while we wanted to start a political evolution—which as a historian I had to say they had a very good chance of winning but which they were not guaranteed to win, and in which they would have to engage in a contest. I knew this was a fine line and I knew that they might be reluctant to accept it, but nevertheless it was not a trivial approach. Thirdly, if we wanted to waste time we would follow their procedure, because as far as we were concerned domestically the only thing that mattered was a signing in principle.

Dobrynin asked whether we were willing to go into some detail. I said yes, but in the nature of things no matter how detailed our settlement with them was, there would have to be implementing negotiations. Dobrynin said that he thought they were extremely serious about wanting a settlement, but it took them a long time to make up their minds. However, they attempted to present their situation in Moscow as heading into very serious negotiations.

  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 breakfast meeting took place in the White House Map Room. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, he met with Dobrynin from 9 to 10:40 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1967–76) In a subsequent telephone conversation at 1:13 p.m., Kissinger and Dobrynin discussed CSCE, MBFR, and the issue of opening Consulates in Leningrad and San Francisco. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 14, Chronological File) For the portions of the conversation dealing with CSCE and MBFR, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 107.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VIII, Vietnam, January 1972–October 1972, Documents 207, 225, and 246.
  3. The DRV 10-point proposal was made at the August 1 meeting.