201. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and the Soviet Ambassador (Dobrynin)1

D: Hello, Henry how are you?

K: Okay.

D: Now, I think you won all the battles on the Hill, so you are free.

K: There was no question; did you doubt it?

D: No, I’m simply saying now, well you won. I quote and unquote. I did not tell if and when, no. Well, you did call me, Henry.

K: Yes, that’s right. Put me in my place. [laughter] Listen, you’re supposed to get along with me; I don’t have to get along with you.

D: I know, that’s why I’m trying to respectfully ask you, you called me.

K: I would much rather have an incompetent Soviet ambassador here. [laughter] That’s actually not true. If friendship’s possible between Communists and Capitalists we come pretty close to it.

D: Well, I think this is not the right description, I think it’s the social order between human beings. This is the most important.

[Page 815]

K: That’s right.

Anatoliy, first, I can’t do it on the 5th.2

D: You can’t. So what is your proposal?

K: I think I can do it probably—I would like to let you know at the end of the week—either the 12th or the 13th.

D: Of November.

K: Yeah. Or maybe the 14th. 12th, 13th or 14th. I will know by Monday3 at the latest.

D: OK. In the meanwhile I will check with Gromyko. OK?

K: Right. Another possibility is that I come to your Party Conference on the 8th, or whatever it is.

D: But this is in February.

K: Oh, no, I mean whatever celebration you have for the 8th. For the Revolution—I think that this would be good for my domestic position to come to this celebration of the . . .

D: I’m afraid you’d be elected to one of our offices. [laughter] What are they going to do then back home?

K: Ask Fulbright. I was fighting like a maniac for you at lunch today.

D: What was wrong today?

K: Oh, somebody argued that we should be much tougher with the Soviets. The trouble is, Anatoliy, they are all in favor of being tough with you on the theory that you won’t retaliate. [laughter]

D: This is something that is happening, really.

K: I have a higher estimate of your moral fiber.

D: Well, we are a quiet gentle people, you know. Only unless we became angry we could be dangerous. Otherwise, we really . . .

K: You could be dangerous, but I’ll wait til you do something before I react.

Anatol, there is one problem I wanted to discuss with you, which has to do with that oil deal. You remember I always said to you that we wanted a 20 percent discount although it didn’t have to be exactly in the agreement.

D: No, you mentioned you wanted to discuss with Brezhnev.

K: That’s right. And I mentioned it to you.

D: Well you mentioned that that was a question, but I didn’t say anything because . . .

[Page 816]

K: No, no, I’m not asking you to give me an answer. But we’ve now told Robinson to go down to 15 percent. The problem we have is we can’t justify buying oil from you in such laughable quantities. There is no benefit to us from it. I mean we can get this, at market prices we can get it from Iran. We have no shortage of oil.

D: No, I understand. May I have a few minutes on this particular subject because I just received telegram from Moscow. The substance of this very lengthy telegram is that everything was agreed, and that, looking through the telegram and telling you, but that summarizes it—everything was all right until yesterday the text of agreement on grain was already completely agreed upon.

K: Well, this shows that I wasn’t conducting the negotiations.

D: Yes, this is clear.

K: But never would I complete the text of something you are interested in until I have what I’m interested in.

D: And there was another agreement involved oil which said there should be letter of intent and we have agreed on number 6 which said the price of this would be . . .

K: “Mutually interesting.”

D: Yes, well, this was so.

K: Which I would be willing to go ahead with.

D: No, no, but today, the American delegation, October 8, in the morning, they referred to the high level they received from Washington—very different text which now a letter of intent which dealt really with, that it should be 15 percent less.

K: Now, let me explain.

D: And may I finish because this is really what they are telling.

K: No, because if you finish, I may have to take account of it.

D: [laughs] Oh, Henry, let’s be serious; this is really what they are telling. You don’t know anything about what is the text today, which is completely different from what has been discussed until now. So, and they said that unless it will be not accepted—this ultimatum—this particular 15 percent, then there will be no agreement on grain and no letter of intent and no oil. And this is what they ask specifically—they ask me to come to you and the President. This argument: first, they are saying that really it is putting us in a very undignified position. You know that we are always buying all the goods including on your market on the world market. We never ask to be less than. You put us in a very awkward political position. You put us on a basis with the Third World. It is very clear. You will have meeting soon in Paris or whatever it will be. Our oil export is very more. We do not really play an effective role in _________ of world oil. But you could never let us in the situation where we agreed politically on the 15 percent less. You understand. [Page 817] That will show all the other countries that we are playing to—against them.

K: Yes, but the amounts are so negligible.

D: But that is the point.

K: But we need it more for our domestic purposes.

D: But let me put it this way. The corn business and then continue the negotiation on this one. It wasn’t our idea about oil. It was your idea from the very beginning.

K: But you know the President is personally involved. It was his idea to start with.

D: Not when you put us on 15% less.

K: Let me make this suggestion to you. First, we don’t insist that the 15 percent is reflected in the letter. We can go back to the formula that was in the letter of intent. If we can have a side agreement—as we have had in the past—that the 15 percent is reflected somewhere either in the shipping rates or something. Do you see what I mean?

D: In any case it will be known immediately.

K: Well, I can’t promise you that it won’t be known, given the way our government operates.

D: I know, it will be really known.

K: But at least it wouldn’t be in the original letter. The second thing is I will instruct Robinson to stay there at least another 48 hours so that we don’t have—we removed the ultimatum quality . . . to give us a chance to consider it here.

D: May I put it this way: You will consider or what? I didn’t quite get that.

K: We will have another consideration of this. You better figure out something that we can present as being advantageous to us in that oil deal.

D: Figure out—what else? We—why prefer to _______ what was in the letter of intent.

K: But when we discuss the price you will tell us it isn’t possible.

D: We discuss on the level which is really a world market.

K: Yeah, but why should we buy 200,000 barrels a day from you at world prices.

D: But you may not buy at all. You have such a unique position. First you ask us to sell to you, we say all right, but then you say—you didn’t tell us the oil was—if you don’t like it, you don’t buy from us. But you ask us to sell—and at the same time ask us for a different price.

K: We can ask, you don’t have to agree to it.

D: This is the situation. That is why I really have now—

[Page 818]

K: To unlink the two I would have to have a talk with the President.

D: Henry, I have right here telegram asking on the highest level to approach you—and ask you

K: Let me do this: I will talk to the President tomorrow morning. I will keep Robinson there. You will tell them that we do ask for that discount, though it doesn’t have to be in the letter of intent. But at least tell them this.

D: I will, I will.

K: Then we will see if we have any other ideas tomorrow.

D: Okay. Really asking this kind of thing is putting us politically, in a . . .

K: All right, I have another suggestion. You can accept our last SALT proposal.

D: Oh, this we have another chance. [Laughs] . . . we can’t deal all the points to you, Henry.

K: Just count Backfire.

D: You already have too many points.

K: No, I figured that Brezhnev is looking for an excuse to count the Backfire.

D: In some areas you have already quite a plus—points we take rather quietly. You shouldn’t go too far.

K: Where do we have a plus—?

D: You have enough—don’t ask me to tell you.

K: Tell me—no—really? I’m always accused of losing every negotiation to you.

D: The next time I have a quiet day, I will go over it point-by-point, all right?

K: Okay.

D: To discuss it—but this is the argument—they don’t accept it simply—it is what we are trying to impress to you, but—simply we feel it is politically and economically you put us on a direct confrontation with the . . .countries, with the Third World and economically we have no grounds for any other negotiations . . . on any basis and do this for a very negligible amount of oil.

K: Okay, well let me discuss it.

D: Please look into this. I will say you are giving another two days. You will tell me tomorrow what you are doing, okay?

K: Exactly.

D: Because this really is high level to you and the President.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 31, Dobrynin/Kissinger Telcons (4). No classification marking. All brackets are in the original. The blank underscores indicate omissions in the original.
  2. Reference is to Kissinger’s proposed trip to Moscow.
  3. October 13.