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

Kissinger: This Sisco’s going to go crazy in these other negotiations coming up with schemes. We’ve got to slow him down.

Nixon: Well, how do we? Should we let him into the deal? Never.

Kissinger: He’s too dangerous. He’s too unreliable. Let me think about that, how I can slow him down. We may just have to tell Rogers you don’t want that much activity. I can get the Egyptians to slow down a little bit through Dobrynin.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: He’s one of the trickiest ones we’ve got.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: Well, I thought, Mr. President—I was really—I was in awe, because you really—that was—there were so many traps into which you could have fallen—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —and every one of which would—could have raised enormous political problems for you if—you have no idea with what suspicion, and determination to have a showdown, they [the Israelis] came to this country. And they are, actually, now, from our domestic point of view, in a rather good position to put the heat on us, at least.

Nixon: Yeah, sure they are.

Kissinger: And I think they were floating on air, and we didn’t really give them anything other than what we—

[Page 956]

Nixon: Well, actually, Henry, what we could get from the Russians, for them, is a hell of a lot.

Kissinger: Yeah. They won’t think—

Nixon: If it’s in their long-term interests.

Kissinger: They won’t think it’s enough. And I have no illusions that I can negotiate an agreement they’ll like.

Nixon: Yeah, I know, but we’re—

Kissinger: And if we’ve got to squeeze them, ’73 is a hell of a lot better than ’72—

Nixon: That’s right, that’s right, that’s right. And the Russians understand that.

Kissinger: Oh, yes. I’ve got that worked out with the Russians.

Nixon: But, then we can do it. Then, in the meantime, you see, the Russians have got to keep the damned Egyptians from screwing around.

Kissinger: What I’ve got to do is to get the Russians to make some modifications in the Rogers proposal, so that we can tell the Israelis we’ve met our part of the bargain. And that might be possible. It won’t be as much as the Israelis think they can get, but—

Nixon: What do you mean? The Russians? They would make it privately to us?

Kissinger: Yeah.


Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Well, there would be improvements. So, I think no one here should object to our getting a better deal than the—

Nixon: You really thought that she was going to be tougher? [unclear]—

Kissinger: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. That’s why I went to see her yesterday; to condition her a little bit. But, I wasn’t making much headway. I mean, she was much harder with me than she was with you. But, I didn’t handle her so skillfully. And, of course, I couldn’t [unclear]—

Nixon: You couldn’t commit so much, I know.

Kissinger: I couldn’t commit it—

Nixon: But I think I disarmed her from the beginning by saying, “Now, look here: one track.”

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: “Let’s do that and forget it.” Now, let’s talk about the other [unclear] thing.

[Page 957]

Kissinger: Well, when I said—what was so effective was when I said there is this relationship between [unclear] this I do for the balance. [laughter] Let’s just get that out of the way. I mean—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —you were sort of—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —overruling what I had said.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: It was a terribly effective way, because it showed that you had gone beyond the government.

Nixon: Um-hmm. Yeah. Which, still, is true.

Kissinger: Which is true.

Nixon: But, we know, we know that this is the reason why, frankly, the—the—the—Bill’s and Sisco’s scheme will not frighten them. They know that apart from the American political situation, that American security requires that we not allow the Russians to change the balance of power in the Mideast. That’s always been the heart of the problem.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: See, that’s what I know. So, they know damn well, that isn’t credible. But, if a Democrat were sitting here, they know it would not be credible, because the Democrats are going to depend on the Jewish vote.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: I, as one who doesn’t depend on the Jewish vote, they know it’s not credible, because they know that I won’t let the balance of power be changed. And I think being quite honest with them about that helps a great deal.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Isn’t that an incentive—?

Kissinger: If we can bring this off now, we have, one, solved the security problem. Two, we will have to use these negotiations, which drive the Jewish community crazy, and yet, at the same time, have some real negotiations go on—

Nixon: Hmm?

Kissinger: —which, by early ’73, will lead to a result.

Nixon: But you must keep that in the separate channel. I don’t want any of that—

Kissinger: Oh, no.

Nixon: What is significant—I want you to tell Dobrynin, “Quit talking to Rogers about that goddamn thing.” Has he been talking to Rogers

[Page 958]

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: —about the Mideast?

Kissinger: Well, yes, he talked about—

Nixon: I, I just have to be rough on that. I said, “Now, if it’s raised, you just ask what it’s all about.” But, I said [unclear]

Kissinger: No, we’ve got to discipline Dobrynin on that.

Nixon: Yeah, Dobrynin. Dobrynin has just got know that for this thing to work, we’ve got to have that, that two-channel situation.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Because, you know, Dobrynin likes to talk to everybody and report back to his government. Now, now—because, you see, if Bill gets involved in this part—

Kissinger: No, no, if—

Nixon: —he’ll get involved on the Hill.

Kissinger: No, Bill will do what he did with the others. You see, first of all, Mr. President, my strategy will be to waste as much time as possible, because—so that if there is an interim settlement, you’ll make it at the summit.

Nixon: Sure. I should do both.

Kissinger: And, imagine that out of the summit, there comes SALT, an interim arrangement in the Middle East, trade, and, maybe, one or two other things. And on this basis, I can now talk cold turkey to Dobrynin. I’ll tell him, “If Vietnam blows up in this interval, the Middle East negotiation is dead.”

Nixon: Sure. Your feeling is that they want a Middle East settlement, for: one, they don’t want a confrontation with us; two, they want—they don’t want the burden of the Egyptians; three, they don’t want trouble with us, particularly while they have to deal with the Chinese—

Kissinger: Fourth—

Nixon: And they think that China—they don’t want the Chinese messing in the Mideast, is that it?

Kissinger: They think that if [unclear]

Nixon: That’s just because [unclear]

Kissinger: That’s right. If there is no settlement, say, within two years, the Chinese will take over their position in the Middle East.

Nixon: You think so?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: I see. Because, they—

Kissinger: They’ll radicalize the whole area.

Nixon: They’ll radicalize it. So, that’s why they want [unclear]

[Page 959]

Kissinger: And that—what’s even worse, the Russians—the Chinese may drive them into confrontation with which they have [unclear] for issues the Chinese face. The Chinese, on the other hand, are terrified that there’ll be a Middle East deal, because on the way to the airport, that Marshal who was taking Lin Biao’s place said to me, “We know the Russians want to make a deal with you in the Middle East, so that they can throw everything against us.” So, this is the predicament of the China—of the Russians. And we may just pick it off. Now, it will require some painful things early in ’73, but I—

Nixon: [unclear] Lin Biao’s—

[unclear exchange]

Kissinger: Mr. President—

Nixon: [unclear] but they’ve got to in their own interest. In the end, they’re going to lose. See? [unclear] I’d pit the whole world against them.

Kissinger: Mr. President, I have always said, at the right moment, we’ve got to put it to Israel.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: As it happens, now could be the right moment.

Nixon: [unclear] at the same time.

Kissinger: At this moment it would lead to a war.

Nixon: Hell, yes.

Kissinger: Next year, or well into ’73.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 628–18. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. Brackets indicate unclear portions in the original recording or those omitted by the editors except “[laughter]”, added for clarity.