192. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger1

P: Hello.

K: Mr. President.

P: What’s new on the diplomatic and military front this morning.2

K: On the military front it looks still like a stalemate. On the diplomatic front—all the intelligence analysts who don’t know what is going on are now analyzing that something is going on simply because of the Russian visit, the low-key comments from Arab countries, and so forth. I don’t think anything will go off until Kosygin has left Cairo.3

P: Yeah, yeah.

K: And that’s the big . . .

P: The question is whether—what he is there for—whether to gin it up or cool it down.

K: It’s inconceivable—well, either way, Mr. President, we are not slowing anything down just because he is there. We are pouring in [Page 557]arms at a rate about 30% greater than they do. Our total tonnage today should start exceeding theirs. We are not—as I said—we are not slowing anything down but it’s inconceivable to me that he is going to gin it up.

P: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

K: And there is still . . .

P: You haven’t received any message from him?

K: We won’t until he gets back, I am sure. But their press is still mute and I think they are trying to work something out. Now whether that is possible with the Egyptians, I don’t know. All the information we have is that the Egyptians have been taking a tougher line than they have.

P: This Israeli raid was not that big, huh?

K: Apparently not.

P: I gathered that.

K: There is a tank battle going on now in the Sinai and we don’t have any report of its outcome yet. Now, with these four Foreign Ministers,4 Mr. President, I . . .

P: I have read the talking points.5

K: You have?

P: Yeah.

K: The major point, remember, is that meeting was set before we did anything. They are not coming here to protest.

P: Yes.

K: And I would not float any particular idea on them because they are not the ones that are going to be able negotiate it and the particular ideas are already before the Egyptians and Russians.

P: Yeah. Well, when they come down to say Israel must withdraw to the ’67 border, what do you say.

K: You say that should be negotiated after a ceasefire.

P: Well, to be negotiated—does it mean—do we agree to that goal?

K: Well, I think it is unattainable, Mr. President, and in my conversations I have always fudged it and said that is an issue that should be addressed within the context of the Security Council Resolution 242 and the major point to make to these people is to separate the ceasefire from the post-ceasefire and the argument that I found very effective [Page 558]is—they want America to engage itself in the diplomacy afterwards—that you promised to do. But that means also now that the war has to be brought to an end under conditions which enable us to be in touch with all of the parties. And secondly that if we now try to settle it as the result of the war it will be an endless negotiation with the war going on.

P: That’s right. Well if we aren’t there to work on the settlement, it leaves them with no other option—just beat the hell out of the Israelis.

K: To have an endless war to push them back.

P: We are the only ones who can influence the Israelis.

K: And that is a point to make. Another point to make is that the military situation has already changed as a result of the war.

P: Oh, it’s changed. How do you mean?

K: Well, they will say how do we know that after a ceasefire there won’t be a stalemate. And one point to make to them is that the situation has changed strategically. That no country now can claim supremacy in the area anymore and therefore they have to rely on . . .

P: In other words, basically, that Israel can no longer claim supremacy.

K: Right. I wouldn’t phrase it that way because . . .

P: I understand. All right, I’ve got the word.

K: I talked to the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia yesterday extending your invitation to the King6 and he was very pleased. In fact, you can hold him back for a few minutes when the others leave.

P: Yeah.

K: And do two things—thank him for the very moderate and constructive role he has played all week and secondly saying you hope to see the King as soon as a ceasefire is achieved as can be mutually arranged. I would tie it to the ceasefire, Mr. President, because otherwise they’ll have another reason for delay.

P: Yeah.

K: And we don’t want him—it’s not in his interest to be in the forefront of the diplomacy because he will be stuck with all the problems.

P: After the ceasefire . . .

K: After a ceasefire—they may want to get him over here before.

P: We don’t want that.

K: No. That would not be advantageous.

[Page 559]

P: We don’t want anybody.

K: I think by tomorrow this thing is going to break one way or the other. It may break unfavorably but then Kosygin goes back to Moscow . . . Have you seen The New York Times blasting the Nobel Prize?7

P: Why have the blasted it?

K: Because they can’t bear the thought the war in Vietnam has ended.

P: That’s amusing.

K: They should call it the war prize. All the liberals all screaming their heads off.

P: Really?

K: George Ball.

P: Why is he screaming?

K: He just made a snide comment.

P: What—that the war is not over—or what?

K: That the Nobel Prize Committee has a sense of humor.

P: Uh-huh.

K: They can’t bear the thought—you know, Mr. President, when they said the détente didn’t work. They never say the détente enabled us to settle the Vietnam war because that is the thing they cannot bear—with honor.

P: Yeah, that’s right. When we stick to the honor—that’s the last straw.

K: Yeah.

P: All right.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23. No classification marking. Nixon was at Camp David; Kissinger was in Washington.
  2. The President and Secretary discussed the diplomatic and military situation at the end of the day on October 16. (Ibid.) Printed in Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 271–273.
  3. Kosygin arrived in Cairo the afternoon of October 16.
  4. On October 17, at 11:10 am, the President met for an hour with the Foreign Ministers of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Algeria. See Document 195.
  5. Kissinger’s talking paper for the meeting is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 664, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East War, Memos and Miscellaneous, October 6–17, 1973.
  6. Kissinger and Saudi Foreign Minister Saqqaf spoke on the telephone at 4:35 p.m. on October 16. Kissinger stated: “I am calling on behalf of thePresident to tell you that after the end of hostilities the President would be very pleased if His Majesty would accept an invitation to visit the United States.” (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23)
  7. On October 17, The New York Times editorialized that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam for concluding a pact ending the Vietnam war was “at the very least, premature. The truce agreements they achieved in months of tortuous negotiations and mutual recrimination was promptly met by intensive new combat in Laos and Cambodia; North Vietnam embarked on a military build-up which continues to the present day. United States combat forces have at long last been pulled out of South Vietnam, but this de-escalation of a long war has not yet brought Southeast Asia to a state that can conceivably be called peace . . . The will of Alfred Nobel established the procedures for honoring those who have ‘done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’ The appropriateness of this year’s awards under this mandate is, unfortunately, far from demonstrable.” (The New York Times, October 17, 1973, p. 46)