203. Editorial Note
On October 9, 1971, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger informed Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin about a change in the time of the summit announcement scheduled for the agreed date of October 12. According to a memorandum of conversation prepared by Kissinger: “Dobrynin said that this would cause no problem for him and that it was courteous of me to say so.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 7 [Part 1])
On October 12 beginning at 11:27 a.m. President Nixon held a news conference in the White House Briefing Room and read an announcement about his planned meeting with Soviet leaders scheduled for late May 1972. The announcement was aired simultaneously at noon in Washington and 7 p.m. in Moscow. The full text is printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, page 1030. In response to a press question concerning the possibility of a strategic arms limitation agreement and whether the President expected to sign it at the summit, Nixon stated that “if the goal can be achieved before May of 1972, we will achieve it, and that, incidentally, is also the view of the Soviet Union.” (Ibid., page 1031) The press conference concluded at 11:55 a.m.
From noon to 12:54 p.m. Nixon met with Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room to discuss the announcement. When comments turned to SALT, Senator John C. Stennis (D–Mississippi) applauded [Page 622] Nixon on his plans for a summit. According to a memorandum for the President’s file prepared by Kissinger, the following exchange took place:
“Senator Stennis said he was very impressed with the President’s plans. He assumed that SALT would not be stopped as a result of this announcement. The President said it would not. On the contrary, the announcement may give impetus to it. The President went on to say that with the way the Soviets were moving with their build-up, with SALT where it was and the summit coming up, he had to fight for a credible defense program in order to maintain our bargaining position. He realized that there were some who objected to the size of the defense budget but our purpose was not to have an arms race but to stop it. It was essential to stop the Soviets because they were moving ahead. Secretary Rogers noted that the President had said to the press that we would try to get a SALT agreement before the summit and, failing that, would talk about it at the summit. The President said that the SALT agreement at present under negotiation was only a freeze so there would be a lot more to talk about after an agreement.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 315, Subject Files, Congressional, Jul–Dec 1971, Vol. 3) For the full text of the memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 2.