222. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Kissinger: [Rogers] asked you about going to the Middle East?

Nixon: That’s right. He says he has an invitation.2 I said, “Well [unclear]—

Kissinger: Well. It’s a mistake. But—

Nixon: But why is it a mistake?

Kissinger: Well, because he’s going—I think we can handle it, Mr. President.

Nixon: No, my point is, my point is, he’s going to Europe. And so he’s invited to the Mid-East.

Kissinger: Well, you see—

Nixon: I’m not urging him to go.

Kissinger: No, I know you’re not. But, they’re just never telling us the truth. We’ve been getting for two months [1 second not declassified] that they’ve been arranging this trip. We’ve been asking the State Department whether they were. They never—I’ve talked to Dobrynin. [4 seconds not declassified] They denied it. His going there is going to accelerate the diplomatic process. Sisco is such a liar that they’re going to promise everything to everybody. And there is going to be a deadlock.

Nixon: When he said to me though, Henry was sent to this—I just talked to him very briefly before he went to some meeting last night. He said he had invitations to go to three countries: to Israel, to Jordan, to Egypt—to the UAR. And he said, “I don’t want to be excited now.” And he said, “I want to turn it off. If you want me to turn it off,” I said, “Fine. Fine. Turn it off.”

[Page 811]

Kissinger: Well, the truth is that he’s presenting—

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: I know. But I want to tell you what the truth is—because I can show it to you [2 seconds not declassified].

Nixon: No, no. I believe.

Kissinger: He has generated those invitations.

Nixon: Sisco has or he has?

Kissinger: Sisco. No, Sisco. Sisco generated all these invitations.

Nixon: What do they think he’s going to accomplish over there?

Kissinger: Well, what he thinks he’ll accomplish is—

Nixon: A settlement?

Kissinger: —is a Suez settlement, which he won’t get.3

Nixon: Maybe we can get it before he goes there.

Kissinger: Well, not before he goes. I think the way you can get it is after he gets a deadlock, you can step in.

Nixon: Well, [unclear]. Get the goddamn thing settled. I mean, is there a way?

Kissinger: No. I think, you see—

Nixon: See, I was prepared, based on your conversation—Haig told me to say if there’s a [unclear] let him go ahead and present the thing. And once there’s deadlock, we break it.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: All right. Once there’s gridlock, we break it. I’m willing to do it at any time.

Kissinger: Well they have presented—

Nixon: You’ve got a way to get the deal, I assume?

Kissinger: Well, no. No, no, you can’t get the deal.

Nixon: You mean we got to wait till the Israelis make—the Israelis made an offer?

Kissinger: The Israelis have made an offer.

Nixon: [unclear]

[Page 812]

Kissinger: You see, the only reason the Israelis made an offer was because I told them they had to; they wouldn’t have made it otherwise.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Now, that offer is unacceptable—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —to the Egyptians. Now—

Nixon: But it’s a good offer they told me?

Kissinger: It’s a pretty good offer. So there is going to be a deadlock, I think. And then—I mean the record is clear, except for again one of these damn records, which we can’t surface yet. That it’s entirely—

Nixon: Our initiative?

Kissinger: Our initiative. Because, in fact, State told them they didn’t want it because the whole thing [unclear].

Nixon: I know that, Bill told me that he didn’t—that he says, “Let’s not talk about Suez until later.” I said, “The Suez is all we can get.”

Kissinger: Suez is what you can get now. And then—

Nixon: My goal is to get—

Kissinger: I think—well I think even, if you ever authorized talks with Dobrynin on a realistic basis that the Israelis will rather finally destroy than accept the Rogers Plan.

Nixon: My point is, why would he want to go to Israel? I don’t think he’s going to get a good reception there.

Kissinger: No, he’ll get a good reception, but he’ll get no concession.

Nixon: Why would he get a good reception?

Kissinger: Because—

Haldeman: It’s the United States.

Kissinger: It’s the United States.

Nixon: And they want to play to him?

Kissinger: But they will, in my judgment—he also wants to go to the Soviet Union and that must be turned down.

Nixon: He didn’t mention that. Oh, he can’t go to the Soviet Union.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: He cannot go there. No, sir.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Did he say that? Who did he raise it with?

Kissinger: I think he raised it with Dobrynin.

Nixon: Well, don’t worry. Nobody is going to the Soviet Union.

[Page 813]

Kissinger: And I wouldn’t be surprised if Dobrynin brought an invitation back with him from Gromyko.

Nixon: No. No. I will not allow it.

Kissinger: But that, I think, you should get. If you don’t go, no one should go.

Nixon: No, sir. We’re not going to go.

Kissinger: But I think on the—but what I think you should insist on before he goes is that we have an NSC meeting in which he explains exactly what he intends to say to everybody. And what he expects to get out of it. He isn’t so dangerous because he doesn’t know exactly what he’s saying. But Sisco, I’ve concluded, is really a menace in that job. He’s so energetic and so ruthless. We couldn’t—[4 seconds not declassified] we wouldn’t know what’s going on.

Nixon: [6 seconds not declassified]

Kissinger: [15 seconds not declassified]

Nixon: How do you know about this Soviet Union thing? Cause, Bob, has he ever mentioned going to the Soviet Union to you?

Haldeman: Not since last summer.

Kissinger: I know it—

Haldeman: He came up with this [unclear]—

Kissinger: Well, he wrote a very curious letter to Gromyko,4 which he gave to Dobrynin, which was a pretty wide-open hint. He didn’t—and secondly Dobrynin has been making hints.

Nixon: He’s not going to the Soviet Union, I’m sure. Nobody’s going to go.

Kissinger: Dobrynin is coming back tomorrow.

Nixon: No one can go.

Haldeman: He’s definitely coming?

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Yeah. We found out at the FBI session.

Nixon: Nobody not only is going, Bob, if I don’t go, nobody else is going. We’re going to play it under my consent.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Tough son-of-a-bitch.

Kissinger: I don’t think we can settle the Suez issue before he goes there. But we can sure as hell can settle it. I told the Israelis that when you make a request to them, the horsing around has got to stop. They’ve got to accept whatever you—

[Page 814]

Nixon: And we won’t request anything they shouldn’t accept?

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: They know that.

Kissinger: And I think—whenever you’re ready to have the deal with the Soviets, if we have a summit, I think we have a good crack at getting the Israelis to be much more flexible with us.

Nixon: I know that. Well, let’s come to something else.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 483–4. No classification marking. Haldeman was also present during the conversation. The editors transcribed the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. Brackets indicate unclear portions of the original recording or those that remain classified, except “[Rogers]”, added for clarity.
  2. In a telephone conversation with Nixon on April 19, Rogers said: “I’ve been thinking for some time and have been asked by Israel, Egypt, and Jordan to visit their countries. I would like to, at least, have serious consideration given to it. I—So, what I’m calling about is to see if you have any initial reaction that’s—that would be opposed to it.” Near the end of the call, Nixon said: “If you think it’s a good idea, you go,” later adding “I think it’s a very good thing to, sort of, put the spotlight of attention out there, and if something can come out of it, it’d be great.” Rogers replied: “You know, something may come out of it.” Earlier in the conversation, he had pointed out that no Secretary of State had been to Egypt since Dulles went in 1953. (Ibid., White House Telephone, Conversation No. 2–4)
  3. In a conversation with Nixon in the Oval Office on April 22, Rogers said that, during his trip, he would try to “get the parties to move closer together on the Suez proposal.” He later added: “We don’t want to be in the position of superseding Jarring. I’ve got to be careful about that. I don’t want to be in the position of being a mediator on Suez. On the other hand, we’re the only ones that can do it. We’re the only ones who talk to both sides. So, what we’re—what I’m saying, in effect, is that we’re playing the role of constructive diplomacy.” After Nixon said, “Um-hmm,” Rogers continued: “We’re trying to encourage discussions; we aren’t going to mediate; we aren’t twisting anybody’s arms. We’re, hopefully, going to create a better feeling of understanding, discussing the parts to see if there are possibilities of accommodation, but not pushing it and not being the mediator. And I think that that role—I’m going to say it—entails some risk.” (Ibid., Oval Office, Conversation No. 486–7)
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIV, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971, Document 157.