204. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith)1

S: I read on the ticker that you and the President are going to negotiate SALT in Moscow.

K: Oh Jesus Christ, relax. For Christ’s sake! Read what the President said.

S: I am relaxed. I’m disgusted, but relaxed.

K: They asked if SALT was going to be finished. He said he didn’t know but if it wasn’t it might be discussed. But read what he said. He [Page 623] said we are pushing ahead and we now expect that the SALT agreement we are working on will be finished. But if it’s not, then maybe it will be discussed. If it’s finished then the direction of the next steps may be discussed.

S: Henry, do you remember our discussion in December 1970 about whether we were planning for a Summit? Semenov had been saying there would be one and so I asked you about it. You assured me that if there was one I would be advised. So we still took the position that in December of 1970 there was no discussion of a Summit.

K: In December of 1970 as it happens there wasn’t.

S: Okay then, before December.

K: There was an earlier one which aborted, and that was it.

S: I look like a fool with Semenov for not knowing about that. I will look like one this time.

K: In what way are you affected this time?

S: What am I to say if I am asked if I knew about this by newsmen? Say no, I knew nothing about it? I went to the edge of the truth in my talk about the May 20 business.2 But I don’t want to do anything at this point more than register my state of mind.

K: First, with regard to what will be discussed at Moscow, there has been no exchange on that at all, and no change whatever. If you can get it settled before May, so much the better.

S: Do you think the prospects are brighter now than they were yesterday for that?

K: The President said … he put great stress on this year or early next year at his press conference. He reminded them of that phrase.

S: I am puzzled as to our tempo here. If we are expecting something I don’t know how we’ll discuss it in May.

K: Where did you get the idea that we are discussing SALT in May? They asked if SALT would be a subject and the President replied that we have an understanding with the Soviets which was announced. He went further by saying that we would try to reach an agreement this year. If not this year certainly try for early next year. And if something remains to be discussed we’ll talk about it in May. I don’t see why you think it wouldn’t be mentioned.

S: No, but it would have been at least courteous to have the head of the agency directly responsible at least aware that the meeting had been discussed. When you have to read it on the ticker it makes you wonder.

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K: He didn’t volunteer it. Sisco will be calling me next because he said something about the Middle East too.

S: But he is not the head of an agency. I have had this analogy made to me before. I don’t get happy when I hear about an Assistant Secretary being upset. If you had an agency in charge of the Middle East I wouldn’t blame him for being concerned. But if Marty Hillenbrand didn’t know about Berlin, that would be different.

K: The President didn’t say it would be on the agenda. He said it could be. I don’t think that is so startling. I take your criticism as you being the head of the agency.

S: I go into the Secretary of State staff meeting and hear that there will be an announcement and don’t know anything it’s about. Then I am asked to talk about SALT. And a few hours later this comes out and I look like a fool. I don’t know how you expect people to go playing along like this.

K: I don’t see how this affects you.

S: That’s the problem; no one sees how it affects anybody else. It makes me look like a fool with Semenov going around saying that I don’t know about the discussions for a summit.

K: At that time there had been a discussion which had aborted. There was one on October of 1970 which aborted, by early November 1970.

S: You told me that if anything like that came up I would certainly be advised. That’s what gives me concern. But if SALT is not on the agenda …

K: I am not saying that. I am saying it will be discussed in the light of existing circumstances in May of ‘72. Maybe we can sign it there, but we hope the discussions will be finished.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 368, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 160.