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

Kissinger: I’m seeing Dobrynin today to exchange the letters.2 And—

Nixon: Fine.

Kissinger: Then, the fellow in Vienna [Semenov] is making some noises about not discussing things simultaneously. And I’m going to be very tough with Dobrynin and say, “You’d better not horse around or we’ll just publish the telephone conversations3 I took, which I have—I have every conversation word for word.”

[Omitted here is Nixon briefly speaking with aide Stephen Bull on an unrelated topic.]

Kissinger: Well, there it was agreed that it would be discussed simultaneously.

Nixon: Why? Are discussions going again?

Kissinger: No, but—all I want is that they don’t, at the concluding session tomorrow, make a reference. By July, we might settle. Gerry is worried that Semenov will say tomorrow that first we do this, and then we do that. And that wouldn’t be good. And I think I can get that settled.

Nixon: Well, for Christ’s sakes, that’s the whole purpose of the deal.

Kissinger: It’s in the letters. There’s really—

Nixon: So, we’ll put the letters out.

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: What did you have in mind? [unclear] Well, the thing to do is to simply—now, we want to have a public [unclear].

[Page 506]

Kissinger: They won’t have a problem—

Nixon: I noticed, incidentally, that they’ve gotten tougher on—I noticed the Soviet [unclear] when they talked about the Brezhnev Doctrine in Prague,4 and we—

Kissinger: The embarrassment in Prague.

Nixon: And—but, well, it’s the way we expected them to be, and their comments about the UAR, that we were responsible for—

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: —that. What I mean is, we are—we have a situation here where with them and with the Chinese, we are still dealing with governments that are basically hostile to us.

Kissinger: Oh, no question.

Nixon: So hostile to us that we, therefore, have got to do those things that are in our interests. And here it’s cold turkey: If the sons-of-bitches don’t play, fine.

Kissinger: And, actually, I think the Russians are really, basically, gangsters as types.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: The Chinese are a little more civilized.

Nixon: That’s about all. Those Chinese are out to whip me.

Kissinger: Oh, they’re both out to get us. The difference is that the Chinese will probably go for a big knockout, while the Russians will try to bleed us to death with the—

Nixon: Yeah, the Russians. But, we’re going to play it very—with Dobrynin, say, “Look, that the President has called it to your attention—this Semenov or whatever—He saw this news summary and he said, ‘Now, look: we’re not a bit, a goddamn bit, interested in this, this kind of a thing.’” If he—if they want to play that kind of game, it’s—then all bets are off. And I think you got to get to the summit thing faster. Remind me next week sometime, you—when you get back [unclear]—

Kissinger: I can do it next week.

Nixon: And, I’d put it right to ‘em, hard: “What the hell are you going to do?”

Kissinger: That’s right. I’ll tell him. But, the threat has to be there: If they can’t accept it now, we won’t go in September no matter what they do.

[Page 507]

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: That’s the threat we have to—otherwise, it’s bleeding us.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 504–2. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger and Haldeman from 9:33 to 10:01 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. See Document 160.
  3. See Document 155.
  4. On May 26, speaking before the 14th Congress of the Czechoslovak Party in Prague, Brezhnev re-endorsed the doctrine named after him. The Brezhnev Doctrine was a term applied in the West to the Soviet justification for its invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. In a speech on November 13, 1968, Brezhnev declared that a threat to socialist rule in any state of the East European bloc constituted a threat to all and therefore “must engage the attention of all the socialist states.”