327. Conversation Among President Nixon, Senator John Stennis, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), the Assistant to the President (Haldeman), and the President’s Deputy Assistant for Legislative Affairs (Korologos)1

Nixon: We have to realize, Bob, that we cannot continue for four more years the Henry situation. You cannot have a situation where he, basically, is a de facto Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, particularly with his personality thing. You know what I mean? We could do it now, and that’s a vital thing. We couldn’t have China, we couldn’t have Russia, we couldn’t have SALT, without this.2

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

Nixon: Well, it’s very important to do what you’ve been talking about. The goal is to get that darn Defense Department to, you know, tighten its procedures and the rest. The main thing is that when you’re talking about the new weapon system—

Stennis: Yeah.

Nixon: —it has ULMS—

Stennis: Yeah.

Nixon: —B–1, and the rest. That’s essential, because if we don’t have something to give, there isn’t anything they can give us. That’s just the way it looks. So, I think you should know that all those tortured hours you spend in fighting for an adequate defense budget, fighting for an adequate foreign assistance program, fighting for ABM, of course, that if you hadn’t done it, we wouldn’t be here—or we wouldn’t be, I mean, in this position. So, that’s what’s coming.

Stennis: But if you—

Nixon: And, and our peace fellows—our peaceniks, you know, are—

Stennis: Yeah.

Nixon: —are saying that—I mean, I think it’s just really ironic that the people that say that they’re for peace, because they voted against [Page 952] ABM and vote—and want to vote to cut the Defense budget $10, 15, 20, 30 billion, that proves they’re for peace. That’s what leads to war. Don’t you agree?

Stennis: Oh [unclear]—

Nixon: We’d have never got an agreement without this. But—but, you really carried a terrible load there, and here.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

Stennis: But, now, I want to ask you a question: I’ve got the problem here—

Nixon: Yeah?

Stennis: —too, of getting together this military procurement bill, that is—

Nixon: Yes, sir—

Stennis: —one-tenth axing missiles and planes. That’s something we’ve come down on—

Nixon: Right. Right—

Stennis: You’re familiar with that. Now, I want to know if you—as I understand—

Nixon: Um-hmm?

Stennis: —you’ve put this B–1; you feel like that’s a must.

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: That’s doctrine.

Nixon: Right—

Stennis: What about this command post, here?

Nixon: It’s a bargaining chip.

Stennis: Yeah?

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: What about this command post, here? You know, the—

Kissinger: The ABM?

Nixon: The ABM?

Stennis: —the ABM [unclear]—

Nixon: A must.

Kissinger: A must.

Nixon: A must. I know that a lot of people have said, “He’s not going to build it.” Like Ellender, you know, raised that point the other day, but—

Stennis: Yeah, but that would be a good bargaining chip, here. I’m not against it. [unclear]—

Nixon: I understand.

Stennis: —but, if something like that would be a good bargaining chip, legislative-wise here—

[Page 953]

Nixon: Um-hmm. Um-hmm.

Stennis: But, if you say you’ve got to have it, why that’s all right. That’s just, [unclear]—

Nixon: Well, I think you’ve got this specific—this problem, John, if we get it. If—let me say, the Russians are going to build everything that they’re allowed to build.

Stennis: Um-hmm.

Nixon: And if we decide that, even with—after we make an agreement for two sites or two bases, that we’re going to build only one, and they build two, you see what it does to your balance?

Stennis: Yeah.

Nixon: It’s all very, very sensitive here. So, I think we’ve got to have it. Right, Henry?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: It would be misread in Moscow, very much, if the Senate said, “Oh no, we’re not going to even build one.”

Stennis: Um-hmm.

Nixon: And we’re only going to build the one that we’ve got, and we’re not going to—and dismantle one, and keep one, and not build the one around the other.

Korologos: That’s going to be a tough fight.

Stennis: Yes, it will—

Kissinger: But is it this week?

Korologos: No, it’s on procurement—

Stennis: No, no. That’s the procurement bill, military procurement bill. The tanks and missiles, all of that’s in here. Now, number 3—but, by the way—

Nixon: B–1s, ULMS—all are necessary. All are necessary—

Stennis: All right. I just want to say, now, that ULMS—you want that, the alternate, the advanced procurement—

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: —the—it’s a crash program, as I look over it.

Nixon: Yes.

Stennis: You don’t want any slow-downs at all.

Nixon: No.

Stennis: You want it to go all the way.

Nixon: No, no. We’ve got to do that in order to have a bargaining position, John, for the next round of SALT. See, the next round will be—because they’re going to be building. They’re going to be—they’re—they’ve got—

Stennis: Um-hmm.

[Page 954]

Nixon: They’ve obviously got good engineers and scientists, and all the rest—

Stennis: Oh, yes.

Nixon: —and this is about the one thing—place where we can stay ahead.

Kissinger: There is one other thing, Mr. Chairman. It’s highly probable that they’re going to be putting new missiles into their old holes. Not—not bigger in size, but greater in power, as you know. You’ve had that briefing, haven’t you?

Stennis: Yes. Yes, I have.

Kissinger: There’s a pop-out device they’ve now got.

Stennis: Well, here’s what you’re going to have out there, now, as I see it: We’re going to have one group argue that, that you don’t have to do these positive things we’ve just been talking about.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Stennis: We have this agreement, now. It’s going to be approved—the treaty. And, we don’t have to go all out. They want to play it down. Now, Senator Jackson—with all deference to him, and his train of thought—he’ll be telling people, “Well, we’ve given it away. We’re taking a second position,” and so forth.

Nixon: Hmm.

Stennis: Now, he’s going to get people awfully confused.

Nixon: Um-hmm. Um-hmm.

Stennis: You see, they’re a little, they’re a little skittish on this thing, now. And, I told him—I was actually standing in there, pounding for this very thing that you—

Nixon: Um-hmm?

Stennis: —that you mentioned, as I see it, that you’ve got to have this strength, there. That is to assure the people of America, [unclear] about the Soviets, yet.

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: I think if they can stir things up, working from the different end to make the people upset.

Nixon: Um-hmm

Stennis: Our people.

Nixon: Um-hmm!

Stennis: So, this is an answer to that. I was—I’ve been in favor of SALT before you came back with this agreement to slow down on this ULMS.

Nixon: Oh, yeah.

Stennis: —on a crash basis. In fact, Packard recommended that last October, and they’ve gotten—

[Page 955]

Nixon: Um-hmm, um-hmm.

Stennis: —they’ve gotten his statement on it, you see—

Nixon: Oh, I see.

Stennis: [unclear]—

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: But you came back, and we met at the White House, and—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Stennis: —pieced this thing right off with this positive step.

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: Now [unclear]. I mean, I was willing to—

Nixon: Well, you’re right, but, basically, if you want to slow it down, or anything, let’s negotiate a slowdown.

Stennis: Yeah, yeah—

Nixon: Let’s—don’t give it away. That’s my point.

Stennis: So, now, you’ve got to have something that assures the American people.

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: And I think one thing—and besides them, this old gear we have, and that’s the reason last week I made a show at the fleet, just saying one thing, I mean, look at what we already have. You know, emphasizing that.

Nixon: Yeah.

Stennis: But, there is going to be an odd situation until this debate—I’m talking about on the bill—

Nixon: An enigma [unclear]—

Stennis: [unclear]—

Nixon: Yeah, yeah. That’ll come in the next—

Stennis: Yes, yes.

Nixon: —three weeks, three weeks.

Korologos: Before the, before the—

Stennis: Yeah [unclear]—

Nixon: Before the [Republican National] Convention.

Stennis: We just got to go on and get that marked up, Mr. President. And that is another point.

Nixon: Um-hmm?

Stennis: We have a rule in our committee that these weapons and all, we don’t put them in without a budget recommendation.

Nixon: Um-hmm. Um-hmm—

Stennis: I want to be able to stand there on the floor and say that the President of the United States says he needs this weapon. I think that’ll make the difference.

[Page 956]

Nixon: You can say that?

Stennis: Well, I think if you would just tell [unclear]—

Nixon: Do you want a letter?

Stennis: —things that are not covered by the budget proposal.

Nixon: All right.

Stennis: Laird is asking for a $100 million extra in R&D—extra. Now, I aim to just put that off. I think it’d be highly logical to put that off.

Kissinger: ‘Til next year?

Stennis: Yes. Now, he’s asking for adjustments on ABM and wanting to keep more—and in fact, he should be—but, in there, he’ll try to cut this ULMS down to a—not cut it out, but cut it down to an R&D position, you see? Now, I’ve just said—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Stennis: I favor going all the way. But, anyway, I’m talking about the situation we’re up against. So, if we could get this budget matter settled, get a recommendation in, then we can move that bill better. And, if you could leave out the $100 million extra for R&D—I talked to Laird about this yesterday. He gave [unclear]—

Kissinger: Let me talk to Laird.

Stennis: Basically, you know. That would help.

Nixon: It would, would it?

Stennis: That would help, yes. And, and if we don’t get the budget recommendations, it’s going to be hard on the floor.

Nixon: Right.

Stennis: He won’t even split it.

Nixon: Yeah. The argument—the way I—the way John has looked at it, and I will generalize, because you know the specifics and I don’t, but if you could simply say this: That the President has demonstrated that this country—by his Moscow trip—that this country is for limitation of arms. The President has talked to you, personally, and has told you that, that the only way we got the limitation with arms was to have a clear position, where we had something to negotiate it with. There is no question that the Soviet Union is going to continue its own arms programs. They may—they—there’s—the only thing that is limited is what is on that piece of paper. Nothing else is limited. Under these circumstances, you are convinced that the President wants to go forward, and that the Soviet leaders may want to go forward, with the second round of arms limitation agreement. But, until we get agreement, we must not discontinue any of our programs. We’ve got to go forward with our programs. Let’s settle them by agreement—agreement; settle them by mutuality, rather than unilaterally. That’s really [Page 957] what it comes down to. And, if I didn’t believe in it—believe me, I’d rather not ask for the money, because we’re all under tight budgets, you know.

Stennis: Well, I’ve told you what’s on my mind. I’m going to support the B–1 and the ULMS, now, for the full amount, if we can spare some of this R&D, ‘cause, you, see, we’ve picked up [unclear] having the hearings on all this R&D, and that helps us a lot on the floor. So, we’d have to go back and start hearings again. If that could come later?

Kissinger: Let me talk to Laird about that. That’s one that I think is easier to handle—

Stennis: But, I don’t mean that the idea is I came to you, asking you to—

Nixon: Don’t worry. No, no, no—

Stennis: —do that, you know—

Nixon: All right.

Stennis: —‘cause I just talked to him yesterday.

Nixon: No, we’ll protect you.

Stennis: Well, I have a [unclear]—

Nixon: No, no, no. What, I mean, we’re not going to—

Stennis: [unclear]—

Nixon: —we’ll talk to him on our own. Just say that we’ve had some questions raised on this, and we want to know what the box score is.

Kissinger: Well, but if he could—if there is anything at all we could knock off, just to show that we’re willing to. Because, our problem, really—when we were—when the President was negotiating with the Soviets, it’s miraculous what we got this time, when we had next to no chips. They’re building submarines; they’re building missiles.

Stennis: Yeah, yeah.

Kissinger: We don’t have a program in either. And, we need the ULMS to have any—

Stennis: Yeah.

Kissinger: —something to bargain with in the second round. Without Safeguard, we would have been dead.

Stennis: Dead?

Kissinger: We would have had no negotiation at all.

Stennis: We wouldn’t have gotten very far [unclear]—

Nixon: They—we had to be doing something that they wanted to stop—

Stennis: Yeah.

Nixon: —in order for us to get them to stop something.

[Page 958]

Stennis: Yeah.

Nixon: Now, that’s why we need ULMS and B–1. Then, we got to stop—they want to stop. And then, we’ll want to stop something they’re going to build. They’re building these big missiles, and all these other things.

Stennis: Well, now, you think that this will pave the way, not perfectly, but this will open the door to a second summit?

Nixon: Well, let me say this—

Stennis: How do you—?

Nixon: You have—you have this: You can say that I—that I am firmly committed to the goal of a second negotiation, with the Soviet with regard to arms limitation, and that—and that it, and that—but that it is indispensable—not only to pave the way—it is indispensable—if such negotiation is to take place, and to be concluded in a way that will not be detrimental to the security of the United States, it’s indispensable that the United States go forward with some of its own programs, because the Soviet Union is going forward with its programs.

Stennis: Yes.

Nixon: The Soviet Union is going forward with all advanced programs that are not covered by these limitations. The only thing that is frozen, totally, are defensive weapons. But, in the offensive deal, the only thing that are frozen are those that are mentioned. In other fields, the Soviet—Soviets—they can build more bombers if they want, and they can build advanced submarines if they want, after five years. This is only for five years anyway, John.

Stennis: Right.

Nixon: So, under the circumstances, what we need here—first, there should be a second round of negotiations. There will be—probably. But, if—well, the United States must not go into those negotiations with the Soviet doing many things that we want to stop, and the United States doing nothing that they want to stop.

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: That’s the deal.

Kissinger: The fact that—if the Senate ratifies these treaties this summer, we expect to have a second round start by October.

Stennis: [unclear]—

Nixon: You can say that.

Stennis: Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Nixon: You’re—

Kissinger: But, these will be long negotiations.

Stennis: That’s right.

Kissinger: We would have—we are planning—

[Page 959]

Stennis: That’d be very—

Nixon: In fact, you can even—you can say that the—one of the reasons we want speedy ratification is so that we can clear the way for the second round of negotiation. But, listen: don’t let them put it in escrow. You remember that deal on ABM? They wanted to put it in escrow?

Stennis: Yes. That, I know.

Nixon: That’d kill us.

Stennis: ‘Cause, I think, it would tie your hands, too.

Nixon: That’s right.

Stennis: Well, I’ve already told you how I feel about it. It’s a matter, now, of—well, in my view, it’s a matter of time to get the thing together and get it moving, and I’ve said we would have some hearings on both the agreement and the—

Korologos: The treaty.

Stennis: … treaty, and I think, maybe, that—well, it won’t satisfy Senator Jackson, but I think he’ll [unclear]have a feeling—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Stennis: —that he’ll—hell, you know: He’ll ask—

Nixon: Right.

Stennis: —all the questions he wants.

Nixon: Well, he’s a very good man.

Stennis: Yes, he is.

Nixon: Very dedicated. He just has a strong hang-up on this, and I understand that. In fact, I’d rather have a hang-up this way, than the other way.

Stennis: Oh, yeah.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

Stennis: You’ve helped me here. Now, I’m not going to go back up there and go to—saying a lot of the things we’ve said here. But, before we get that bill reported and take it up, I do want to go over it, bringing up some points. I think—you know, the other side is going to go to attack me in—

Nixon: Um-hmm?

Stennis: —B–1 and ULMS and all, and I think I ought to be bringing up some of your points.

Korologos: Let’s—we shouldn’t give away all of R&D on this one, though. Should we? If we end up with no R&D for the next 5 years—

Stennis: No, no—

Kissinger: But that isn’t the point [unclear]—

Stennis: I’m talking about that, that $100—$100 million in addition—

[Page 960]

Korologos: That they’re asked for?

Stennis: —that he [Laird] requested the other day.

Kissinger: Well, did you already give what? $3 billion for—

Stennis: Oh, no, we haven’t earmarked that. I guess research and development with $8 billion is already approved in effect [unclear]—

Kissinger: No, I mean about $100 million on top of that—

Stennis: Yeah, that’s—yeah, that’s on top of it. That’s [unclear]—

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 732–6. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Stennis, Kissinger, Haldeman, and Korologos from 9:52 to 11:09 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. According to the Daily Diary, Haldeman left at 10:26 a.m. when Kissinger entered. Stennis and Korologos entered at 10:28 a.m.