45. Editorial Note

As the first round of the strategic arms limitation talks drew to a close in Helsinki, Finland, leaders of the United States and Soviet Union discussed possible venues for the second round of negotiations. On December 19, 1969, at 7:15 p.m., President Nixon and President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger discussed the issue:

K: The SALT talks. N: They are going to change it? K: This is the problem. You remember our problems with Dobrynin. Bill [Rogers] was reluctant to raise the issue. You had given [Gerard]Smith the instructions and now the Russians had backed off. I thought just as a matter of discipline I ought to call Dobrynin and remind him of this conversation before. N: Tell him we gave in on Helsinki and why not Vienna. We don’t have to be anxious but the point is that it ought to be either Geneva or Vienna.” (Transcript of Telephone Conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 361, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)

When Kissinger met with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin on the evening of December 22, they had the following discussion concerning SALT:

Dobrynin then made another effusive statement of the need for Soviet/American cooperation and of the good faith of his government and earnestness in trying to seek it. He said a good example was the rapidity with which they had agreed to the President’s preference on the site for the SALT talks. He said, ‘You know Smith had tried for two [Page 171] weeks but when the President requested Geneva, we gave him Vienna even though he had not asked for it. This is what could happen in other areas if we understand each other.’”

On December 24 Kissinger sent the memorandum of conversation to Nixon under cover of a memorandum that described the discussion with Dobrynin. Kissinger remarked that “the Russians seem eager to talk on a number of substantive issues. They are probably trying to head us towards a summit meeting. This could be a reflection of a desire for real détente, or it could mean they are getting ready to hit China in the Spring. The latter interpretation—that they are repeating their Czechoslovakia drill—is reinforced by their choosing April 16 as a date for resumption of the SALT talks.” Kissinger’s memorandum and the attached memorandum of conversation are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 110.

On December 29 Kissinger and Dobrynin met for continuing discussions about SALT and other issues. In a memorandum of conversation prepared by Kissinger, he stated:

“We then discussed what subjects might be included and the order in which to take them up. Dobrynin suggested European security and the Middle East. I said that there might be some merit in discussing SALT—not from the point of view of technical solutions but simply to see what sort of an arrangement was generally conceivable, whether, for example, it should be limited or comprehensive. Dobrynin thought about this for a minute and then said that perhaps we should put SALT very high on our agenda. Moscow would undoubtedly be making decisions on how to proceed with SALT during February and March and it might be helpful if we could get our general thinking in harmony. The details could then be worked out by the negotiators.” The full text of the memorandum of conversation is ibid., Document 112.