133. Editorial Note

On February 11, 1971, the National Security Council met to discuss President Nixon’s second annual review of foreign policy. After Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Kissinger explained the organization of the report, Secretary of State Rogers remarked: “We had an opportunity to make comments on the SALT part. I support Mel [Laird] on this: I think we should drop the options. We can state our approach. Otherwise it’s a target for attack. I’m sure we can work it out with Henry [Kissinger].” Nixon replied that “on the SALT part: the pathetic idealism on arms control in this country means it would be best to speak on it often. We know that cosmetics have a lot to do with how people see this, regardless of the substance. It’s important to people.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–110, NSC Minutes Originals 1971 thru 6–20–74) The minutes of the meeting are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972, Document 174.

On February 18 Nixon and Kissinger discussed the arms control section of the annual report and how it was leaked to columnist Joseph Kraft. According to a recording of their conversation, which took place in the Oval Office sometime between 9:56 and 10:09 a.m., they had the following exchange:

Kissinger: “Well, what these guys want, they are afraid we—that this section is holding them to your position and they want a free hand to negotiate an ABM-only agreement.”

Nixon: “Who? Who’s ‘they?’”

Kissinger: “The ACDA people. And today they have—they leaked a column to Kraft, which I’m afraid is going to blow up my negotiation with Dobrynin because they put in there that—they put the whole debate on the arms control section, which I thought was entirely editorial. I didn’t take it seriously, in there. And they said, it’s, the reason is that I want to hold them to an option which they want to change. And, in effect, they said Rogers, which isn’t true, and Smith, but we’ve got to think it through. I don’t think Rogers has studied the problem with our position, but Rogers and Smith want to give them—have an ABM-only agreement. Now here, the Russians have already accepted your proposal. And now, they get this column. I would bet they are going to back off now, to see whether they can’t get more.”

Nixon: “[unclear] the Russians very sanguine about what else but the [unclear].”

Kissinger: “But it’s one of the most irresponsible things that I’ve seen—”

Nixon: “[unclear] been through it with the Senate.”

[Page 404]

Kissinger: “And now, I couldn’t really give a damn about that section, but they’ve now turned it into a damned extra distraction. On the negotiating position, which I didn’t even realize it, Kraft has more detail in his column in 3 paragraphs than we have in 10 pages. But I’m going to still try to because I, I don’t want a huge fight on the report. But this—”

Nixon: “It’s an act of spite.”

Kissinger: “I thought, frankly, Mr. President, it was an issue of pure vanity. That they wanted to get credit, and they didn’t want you to get credit.”

Nixon: “Yeah. But you think [unclear].”

Kissinger: “That’s right. [unclear] What is so revolting to me is that last August, when we could have had an ABM-only agreement, and when it could have helped you at the elections, they fought it, saying it was an election stunt.”

Nixon: “Hmm. Yeah. That I did what?”

Kissinger: “Last August, we could have had an ABM-only agreement. The Russians offered it, and I checked with Smith. He said ‘No, it would be an election stunt.’”

Nixon: “Huh. Whose side is he on?”

Kissinger: “That’s what I’m beginning to wonder. I’ve got the correspondence—”

Nixon: “I’d just get Smith out of there if we can. I think we should send him to Vienna in the next few days. But, on this I want him out. And, uh, he—”

Kissinger: “No, what he wants is a completely free hand, so that he gets the credit for whatever is achieved. We’ve got the Soviet agreement to your secret memo, and—”

[Interruption by staff]

Nixon: “All right.”

Kissinger: “But I’ll just get out.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 451–4) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.

On the morning of February 25 Nixon delivered a brief radio address on the “New Role of the United States in World Affairs,” which coincided with his submission to Congress of the administration’s second annual report on the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. The text of the address is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pages 212–218; the text of the report is ibid., pages 219–345.