139. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and the Assistant to the President (Haldeman)1

Kissinger: I think, incidentally, that the Russians are feeling that. I read now the [Gerard] Smith record of the Dobrynin conversation.2

[Page 425]

That son-of-a-bitch is just taking your letter,3 without telling Smith he’s got it, and feeling out whether Smith is willing to give more.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: Because Smith’s nearly dropped his teeth, because Dobrynin had—he had always said the Russians will never accept trading Washington—and the Washington system in for, for ABM. Here, Dobrynin offered it to him yesterday for nothing. And that actually helped us, because if they do come back now with the letter, it doesn’t look like an arbitrary decision of yours. We’ve positioned it at the NSC meeting4 with Laird

Haldeman: And it’s easy to cover now—

Kissinger: Dobrynin has come in, and you were—and it’s much better for us. Scoop Jackson called this afternoon, and he said if we screw him on this Washington defense after all the pleading he’s done for us on—

Nixon: We’re not going to do that.

Kissinger: —on Safeguard, he’ll never forgive us.

Nixon: Well, you told him we weren’t?

Kissinger: I told him we weren’t, and he should come in. I’m seeing him Saturday,5 And I’ll—

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: —I’ll tell him.

Nixon: Because after all, he is a decent man.

Kissinger: I think he’s a decent guy.

Nixon: Oh, sure. He’s—he’s got to fight his own battle, and—

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 466–12. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger and Haldeman from 4 to 4:45 p.m. (Ibid, White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. On March 10 Smith sent Kissinger and Rogers a memorandum about his conversation with Dobrynin of 11 a.m. that morning. According to Smith’s memorandum, Dobrynin pressed Smith for the possibility of an ABM only agreement, which could be negotiated in 1971, while a offensive/defensive agreement could not. Smith told Dobrynin that he must follow the President’s guidance, which stressed the relationship between offensive and defensive weapons control. (Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Director’s Files, Smith Files, Chronological File, Smith/Semenov Elements, May 1971)
  3. Printed as an attachment to Document 134.
  4. See Document 137.
  5. March 13. Kissinger met with Jackson from 3:10 to 3:56 p.m. No record of their conversation has been found. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)