247. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Kissinger: And Dobrynin said to me yesterday—he said he went to see Rogers,2 and they talked for 30 seconds about SALT, and State put out a long blip of how Rogers had put it in to him on SALT

Nixon: Put it in to him? You mean—

Kissinger: You know, with RogersRogers had said to him, “We want SLBMs in SALT, one way or the other.” So, Dobrynin asked him, “Well, what do you mean?” Rogers said, “Well, I don’t know any details. I’m just telling you.” And—

Nixon: That’s the trouble—

Kissinger: That—

Nixon: Dobrynin does know the details.

Kissinger: And Dobrynin does know the details, because I had told him our position. But, at any rate, they’re playing it in such a way that it’s all going to surface—

[Page 749]

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —at the summit.

Nixon: It’s just as well to let it appear that State is—and Defense—are hitting on SLBMs, and that the summit—that an arms control thing is hard. It is hard. And then, what we will do is to make an agreement on the other things, and then, simply say, “And now, we have instructed our negotiators to go to work on SLBMs.” That’s the way to handle that—

Kissinger: Mr. President, the less we—

Nixon: I am inclined to think that the SLBMs shouldn’t be included, but I think [unclear]—

Kissinger: Well, no, we’ll get them—no, we’ll get them included now.

Nixon: Do we want them included?

Kissinger: Frankly, I don’t think we do, but I—but we—I don’t see how we can go against the [Joint] Chiefs of Staff.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I think we’re going to get it, but I—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: I think it’s in our interest not to let the Democrats think a hell of a lot is going to come out of Moscow—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: Because then they’ll—

Nixon: Or make it seem as tough at the negotiating round.

Kissinger: Because then, they think—right now, no one has raised any expectations about Moscow, and the more low-key we can hold it, the better off we are.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: Because we’re going to have a lot of agreements.

Nixon: Yeah. Particularly keeping it scattered around the government.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 699–1. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger from 10:17 to 11:14 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. Dobrynin met Rogers at the Department of State on March 22 for a review of outstanding bilateral issues. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 67. Kissinger met with Dobrynin on March 30 to discuss the summit. During this conversation Dobrynin gave an account of his meeting with Rogers. According to Kissinger’s memorandum of conversation, there was one other brief exchange about SALT: “Dobrynin said he thought that the SLBM question was now being actively considered in the Soviet Union, though they still thought that even a limit on ICBMs would be major progress. I said that the Soviet leaders would notify us in Washington before making any proposals in Helsinki.” For the full text of the memorandum of conversation, see ibid., Document 76.