267. Editorial Note

On April 24, 1972, at 8:30 p.m., after returning from Moscow, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger went to Camp David to report on his trip to President Nixon. Assistant to the President Haldeman and President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Haig also attended the meeting, which lasted 55 minutes. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Although no record has been found of the meeting, Haldeman wrote an account in his diary of the discussion relating to the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT):

“P[resident] backed down on the K[issinger] briefing to Congressmen, agreed that Henry could do one to steer the direction on how the talks were arranged and how they went, so that no substance or content is disclosed. And also he backed down on the SALT thing and agreed that we would make the announcement. He’s ordering Smith back right away to set up for that. The meeting went pretty well, although it was pretty tense at the beginning. The P was all primed to really whack Henry, but backed off when he actually got there. Henry obviously very tense. Haig had called me earlier to say that Henry had sent some extremely bad cables because he felt we had not backed him, and he was very distressed that he had been sabotaged and undercut, and he greeted me very frostily, but the P broke that pretty quickly as the meeting started. We all came out in good spirits.” (Haldeman, The Haldeman Diaries, pages 446–447)

On April 24 Kissinger also sent the President a memorandum, which bears Nixon’s handwritten comment, “K—superb job! RN, 4–29–72.” The memorandum, which provided a summary of Kissinger’s 13 hours of conversation with Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev and Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, includes the following account of SALT:

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“—Brezhnev also gave us a SALT proposal that is considerably more favorable than we expected. Moscow agrees to include SLBMs at a time when it looked almost certain that we would have to drop this aspect in order to get an agreement by the summit. And the Soviet margin in submarines (21) is partly accounted for by their adding UK and French boats to our total and compensated for by their commitment to phase out their older land-based missiles, as well as the basing advantages we have. Their ABM proposal is a variant of our compromise solution and leaves us with more ICBMs protected than they. They bought our position that the offensive freeze last five years instead of three. They agreed to freeze soft ICBMs. In short, if the summit meeting takes place, you will be able to sign the most important arms control agreement ever concluded.

“—Whether we would have gotten this SALT agreement without my trip is certainly a debatable question. They might have moved in Helsinki anyway, but the signs before my trip went in the opposite direction. What is not debatable is the fact that this agreement was produced by your intervention and use of the private channel, and that the specific commitments were delivered by the Soviets only in conjunction with my visit. Thus you deserve personal credit for this breakthrough.” The full text of the memorandum is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 169.