6. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
The meeting was extremely cordial. We had some introductory pleasantries during which Dobrynin asked how the Chinese addressed me. I said one thing that impressed me about them was that they always called me “Excellency.” That fitted in well with my vanity. Dobrynin said, well, if he had known that he would have briefed Brezhnev to call me “Excellency,” too. But now it was too late, because I was beyond the “Excellency” level with Brezhnev, who considered me as a co-worker.[Page 19]
My Trip to China
Dobrynin then asked me about the Chinese trip—what had been most significant. I followed the strategy of telling him things which, if they got leaked back to the Chinese, would appear like a provocation and therefore highly improbable. I said that the Chinese were, of course, extremely concerned about the Summit—especially they were concerned by the Declaration of Principles which had an aspect of condominium. They wondered whether this meant that the United States and the Soviet Union were prepared to cooperate in carving up China. (I drew this from a presentation Chou had made to me a year earlier.) Dobrynin said, “Can they really mean it?” I said I had no way of knowing, but this seems to be a fear. Dobrynin wanted to know what they thought about Japan, and specifically my trip to Japan.2 I said I couldn’t say that they were overjoyed by my trip, but they understood its basic necessity. I pointed out, however, that they were not eager to see the Japanese invest in Siberia. Dobrynin said that their Ambassador in China had the impression that the Chinese were reconciled to the Security Treaty. I said that it was hard to judge; they were still talking against it but perhaps not with the same intensity. Dobrynin asked whether the Chinese were raising European matters. I said only that I had the general impression that they favored European unity, but this obviously was not a major subject of consultation. Dobrynin asked me about the Chinese attitude towards the Middle East. I said they seemed to me to be supporting in effect the Fedayeen position. Dobrynin said yet it was odd that they refused to participate in the five-power talks in New York.
Dobrynin volunteered the fact that the Soviet press had handled my visit to China in a very restrained way and that it was understood in Moscow that my visit had really been at the Chinese initiative. It indicated the good basis which our relationship had reached.
Dobrynin next asked whether we had made any decisions with respect to Hanoi. I said we had received word from Hanoi that they would not accept the 28th because Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy would still be in Vietnam but that they were prepared to resume plenary sessions on the 13th and private talks on the 15th. We had accepted the plenary for the 13th but had moved the private talk to the 19th in order not to interfere with my trip to the West Coast. Dobrynin suggested that this would create great confusion in Hanoi since he doubted that they really understood the notion of a vacation; and they probably wondered whether there was some profound ulterior motive. Do[Page 20]brynin said that they have a very odd way of doing business and that they are watching them sometimes in Moscow with consternation and always with fascination because they seem to do everything according to a set pattern that is almost impossible to change.
I asked him why Podgorny’s trip was delayed so long. He said the North Vietnamese had been extremely difficult. They claimed that the Politburo members were out of town and that therefore they could not receive him for two weeks after the Summit. When Podgorny was in Hanoi, they took the position that they would have to hear from Peking about my trip first before they could take a final decision. They did promise, however, that they would study the proposition of Brezhnev very attentively. In about two weeks, the Soviets would inquire what had happened to it.
One obstacle, he continued, was that the North Vietnamese completely misread the American domestic situation. They were easily taken in by loud sympathizers of a point of view that had really very little objective support in the United States, and he could not be sure that they were not waiting for the election. Dobrynin asked whether I said anything in Peking that would undercut the Soviet position. I said, on the contrary, I took a slightly tougher line in Peking than in Moscow, stressing primarily the ceasefire elements and not going into any detail on the political solution. In other words, Hanoi would hear nothing from Peking that would give them comfort on the political solution and that, indeed, would go as far on the political side as we had gone vis-à-vis Moscow. Dobrynin seemed relieved by this.
I asked Dobrynin in passing how it was that Brezhnev had misunderstood me so much that he could think I had offered a two-month period of resignation for Thieu. Dobrynin laughed and said Brezhnev hadn’t misunderstood it. He had simply told the Politburo that he had obtained it from the President. At that point, Gromyko had nudged Dobrynin and said, “Do you believe that Kissinger said more than one month?” Brezhnev hearing them talk said, “Kissinger didn’t say it, but I got it out of the President.” Finally, Brezhnev agreed that all the agreement called for was that, if nothing else stood in the way but an extension of the resignation deadline, it could be considered.
We then turned to other matters. Dobrynin told me about the visit of the Deputy Minister of Trade3 to the United States. He said he was under instructions to settle the grain issue in the sense desired by the President, but he wanted the discussions to be kept quiet. He said, [Page 21] “This Minister has been kept in New York at my instructions and considered himself under house arrest,” jokingly.
We left it that Dobrynin would let me know the next day what the subjects were that were being discussed, and I would then tell him into what bureaucratic channel to put it. He did say, however, that the Soviet Union was prepared to make a rapid grain deal in order to be helpful to the President. I told him this was very much appreciated.
Dobrynin then produced a note [Tab A]4 on a technical issue of how to repay a part of the debt which was a portion, in turn, of the $500 million Lend-Lease ceiling that had been agreed upon. I told him I would have an answer to him in two days.
Finally, Dobrynin gave me a paper on the Soviet understandings with respect to the SALT agreements [Tab B].5 This was in answer to our note of a week earlier and substantially accepted our proposal.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 12. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Brackets are in the original. The meeting took place at the Soviet Embassy.↩
- Kissinger was in Japan from June 8 to June 12.↩
- M.R. Kuzmin.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- The attached note is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 332.↩