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51. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Informing the Soviets of our Talks with the Chinese

I notice that Gerard Smith and Ambassador Thompson proposed that Dobrynin be informed of the resumption of US-Chinese talks before it becomes public knowledge.2

In the last Administration it was standard practice for the State Department to provide Dobrynin with detailed records of the Warsaw talks. This was done at the Thompson and Bohlen level. The idea was to calm possible Soviet suspicions. It was also assumed that the Russians probably had some knowledge of the content of the talks from [Page 146]Polish monitoring operations and that, therefore, there was no harm in providing them with the full record.

I believe that as a matter of style, and consistent with our general approach to the Soviets and the Chinese Communists, this practice of the last Administration should not be resumed in this one. I assume that you will want to call this to the attention of the Secretary of State.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information.
  2. Rogers, in which he reported on his meeting with Kissinger and the President: “I told the President I thought we should be careful not to feed Soviet suspicions about the possibility of our ganging up with Communist China against them. In reply to his question, I said I was not referring to his public statements on this matter as the Soviets would understand that we would pursue our national interests. Rather I was thinking of any hints or actions that indicated something was going on under the table.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12)
  3. Haig wrote “Absolutely” and his initials after this paragraph, along with the following comment: “Hal [Sonnenfeldt]—Rogers called HAK, agreed completely with your psn [position] and he’s even volunteered this psn—HAK ran by Pres—and confirmed in writing. Copy attached.” Attached was a December 12 memorandum from Kissinger, informing Rogers “that under no circumstances should we inform Dobrynin of the talks or their content. If Dobrynin questions, we should respond with nonchalance that they concern matters of mutual interest but not go beyond that. The President is concerned that lower-level offices not go beyond this in informal conversations.” (Ibid., POL CHICOMUS) On December 13 the President told Kissinger that the Warsaw talks, as well as any talks with the Soviet Union, “ought to be handled on a confidential basis.” Kissinger later observed: “I don’t care about these talks [Warsaw talks]; we don’t have anything to talk about anyway.” The President replied: “we all know that, but the Russians aren’t going to believe we didn’t have [say?] anything, and the Chinese will believe we are playing them off against the Russians.” (Notes of a telephone conversation, December 13, 12:59 p.m.; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 361, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)