204. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt)1

K: On that paper I have which we are probably going to be bouncing around until Robinson is back in this country—what is the recommendation?2

S: On the oil or the grain thing?

K: The grain thing—my view is he should sign it.

S: The main consideration is whether that is alright in the Congress. We should make phone calls before he does it.

K: You know that better than the President, who wants to sign it?

S: I can only give you the issues—if you want to sign it, sign it.

K: I don’t think the Congressional argument is the important one.

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S: Both Case and Long3 say they want to be consulted before it is signed. On balance, however, I think it is better to sign it.

K: The oil is of a complexity that I can’t comprehend.

S: There is a letter of intent which would be signed by Robinson and Patolichev. In that letter it contains a letter on pricing.

K: What about the side letter?

S: That states the follow on negotiations in which the letter of intent would concur. The one letter says we assume the Soviets would continue the negotiations with a price break. One goes through the various gimmicks, the other one comes out and tells the difference between the world price and the price we are asking.

K: That is 15% again?

S: Roughly.

K: What would we give to Dobrynin?

S: Any one of those three and they would have to say that is the basis on which the negotiations would continue. The soft letter would give us some additional statements from the Soviets that they would be helpful in the follow-on negotiations. We won’t get what we want anyway now.

K: Not now. I thought I would call Dobrynin and tell them what we have in mind.

S: You said you wanted to have something from the Soviets that you could cite when people raise the question about that clause.

K: I am worried about instructing Robinson. Can we instruct him to get some sort of assurance with respect to the four points and giving us a price break?

S: Are we going to tell Dobrynin first?

K: I wouldn’t think we should do that.

S: Either you give it to him ahead of time or tell him in Moscow.

K: I would like it somewhere between option three and two. What the best approach would be is to let the Russians know what we want and let Robinson try to work it out.

S: It comes down to the same thing because you have to tell Dobrynin ahead of time.

K: I plan to tell Dobrynin, in fact I will try to reach him now.

S: He had the four areas where we wanted some breaks before. They are not likely to produce anything in writing from the Soviets, hence the third letter you have there.

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K: I hate to give them something else that they will reject and then cave again.

S: There is likely in the first to . . .

K: I want to leave it up to Robinson what to do.

S: Then we will have to instruct Robinson.

K: Could you do that.

S: Yes.4

K: O.K.

  1. Source: Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations. No classification marking.
  2. On October 13, Sonnenfeldt and Hinton sent Kissinger a detailed “urgent” memorandum on “next steps” in the grain–oil negotiations, including various scenarios and options. (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 5, Grain Negotiations) Kissinger, however, called Sonnenfeldt at 6:50 p.m. to ask: “K: Where is that memo that was supposed to be here at 2:30? S: It is there. K: It is somewhere within five blocks of my office? S: I have talked to your staff assistant who had a question on some of the sentences, so I know it is in your office. K: On my desk? S: I am sure it must be on your desk, Henry. K: O.K.” (Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations)
  3. Senators Clifford P. Case (Republican, New Jersey) and Russell Long (Democrat, Louisiana).
  4. See footnote 3, Document 207.