233. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Henry A. Kissinger

The luncheon meeting took place at my initiative because I had told Dobrynin prior to our departure for China that I would brief him as soon as we came back.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]


We then turned to SALT. Dobrynin said that our new submarine program had shaken a lot of people in the Soviet Union, including himself. He did not mind telling me that he had always been in favor of including the submarines, but now it had to look in Moscow as if we were trying to stop the Soviet program while we were tooling up for ours. Was there some compromise possible, or should we put SALT on the back burner? Couldn’t we leave the submarines for Brezhnev and the President to settle in Moscow? I said that that would make it impossible, because SALT involved so many technical issues that I saw no way these two could settle the issue there. He wondered if we could work out all other issues before. I said that at this moment it was next to impossible for me to predict what position we would take, but it would be very hard for us to change our position. It was one of the few issues in which my recommendation would not be decisive, since the military felt very strongly that submarines had to be included.

Dobrynin said that we had to come to some general understanding, and he outlined three possibilities. One, that we would make an agreement including submarines. Two, that we would make an agreement excluding submarines. Three, that we would make an agreement which excluded submarines but which put submarines as the top item on the agenda of the next agreement or perhaps even made them the subject of a separate agreement, like the one on ABM, in the new phase. [Page 688] I told him I would report this to the President and give him a reaction at the next meeting.

Dobrynin then stressed the need for making more rapid progress and affirmed the extreme interest of the Soviet Union in having a constructive summit. I showed him some of the harsh criticism of the President in the Soviet press. He said, well, newspaper commentators in the Soviet Union do not have the same status as a Presidential report.2

We set another meeting for the following Thursday,3 and parted.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 9 [Pt. 1]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Map Room at the White House. The memorandum of conversation was sent to Nixon under a March 8 covering memorandum that summarized the conversation. A notation on the covering memorandum indicates the President saw it. The memorandum of conversation is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 54.
  2. Reference is to President Nixon’s third annual report to Congress on foreign affairs, entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy for the 1970s: The Emerging Structure of Peace,” issued on February 9. For text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pages 194–346. Soviet reaction to the report was harsh. For information, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 47.
  3. March 9. See Document 237.