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

Kissinger: I think they’ve never had as tough an opponent in here, as you’ve turned out to be.

Nixon: Hm-hmm. In a minute here you’ve got to give Thurmond2 a call, right? And have, I mean, the Russian line that we’d agreed to quit—to give up ABM before we had an offensive limitation. But, it’s rather awkward language of the communiqué3 to have at all.

Kissinger: It says, “Together with.”

Nixon: “Together with.” Goodness, if—aren’t these people stupid up there, though? We say, “We shall concentrate this year on negotiating—”

Kissinger: But, of course—

Nixon: “—an ABM agreement.” And then, it goes on, in the next sentence—

Kissinger: “Together with, we will agree on.”

Nixon: “Together with this, we will agree with that.” You see? That’s all we have to do: say, “Look, you’re off-base, Senator.”

Kissinger: They are—but, what is happening is, Mr. President, I really think that the Communists are beginning to dominate some of our media. Six weeks ago, they were—

[Page 509]

Nixon: Oh, on that, I agree with you—

Kissinger: Because, now—

Nixon: I’ve been saying it for years.

Kissinger: I saw a New Republic article in which they castigated you for the SALT thing, because you maintained the relationship between offensive and defensive limitations. Here the Russians have already agreed to it, and they’re still hitting away at it, which is, of course, what the Russians really want. And that’s what, if they babble away enough, of course the Russians will pick it up at the next Helsinki thing. That’s why we should get this summit date fixed.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Because then they’ll be reluctant to be too—

Nixon: Well, Henry, no summit, however, under any circumstances, unless we do have a—an interim SALT agreement to put it to, to put it on the finish there. We have to do that, Henry. To go there without doing that, that’s not even worth our time.

Kissinger: They agree to it now, because we can’t be sure. But—

Nixon: Perhaps.

Kissinger: —we’ve got to gamble, I think. We can always sign the Accidental War agreement. We can announce some progress on SALT. If there is a deadlock in Vienna we can break it at Moscow—

Nixon: Why do you have the summit, then? Fisheries?

Kissinger: Frankly, for—partly for domestic reasons, and partly—I frankly feel, Mr. President, at this point, that to keep the Democrats out of office next year—

Nixon: Is the main thing.

Kissinger: —is a major national necessity.

Nixon: That’s right. It’d be terrible if they got in.

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: Terrible.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

Kissinger: And another argument for the summit is we have a better chance of getting the SALT with the summit that—

Nixon: I agree. I agree. They’ve got reasons as well as we have, to have something come out of the meeting. So, we can be sure on that. I’ll put this—the other side of the coin. That we’re not going to have a summit and come out without an ABM agreement.

Kissinger: Out of the question. That we can’t do.

Nixon: [unclear] Never, never, never.

Kissinger: That we cannot do.

[Page 510]

Nixon: I don’t think it’s all that difficult. They can get—we can have an ABM agreement, and a limitation on offensive weapons—

Kissinger: It’s on offensive weapons, so it shouldn’t be so hard—

Nixon: It’s all we’re asking.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 507–4. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger and Haldeman from 9:08 to 10:32 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. Senator Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina).
  3. See Document 160.