93. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger


After some desultory talk about my new office, I opened the conversation by telling Dobrynin that I had followed the reporting from Vienna with great interest. As a specialist in the Congress of Vienna,2 I could only congratulate Semyonov on having learned some of the tactics. I referred specifically to the note he handed over to Smith at a concert which seemed almost to suggest a form of alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union against countries that had engaged in provocative acts.3 Dobrynin said he did not know how the note was handed over, but of course, he was familiar with the formulation.

I said that I looked at the accidental war problem on two levels: (1) the technical means of notification which we were studying and which I did not think would present any undue problem; and (2) the political implications of some of the cooperative arrangements that they were suggesting which represented a significant change in the international environment as it had developed since the war. I wanted to talk to him about that second aspect a little later, but I wanted first to turn to the overall issue of SALT. Dobrynin interjected to point out that the formulation handed by Semyonov to Smith had been prepared by the Delegation in Vienna. He could tell me frankly that he, Dobrynin, had had his doubts about it because he was afraid that too great significance was going to be read into it. If we wanted an agreement without that particular clause, this would not become a sticking point. Dobrynin indicated that the major political fact for the Soviet Union was an agreement on provocative attack, not individual clauses, and there would not be any undue haggling. I told Dobrynin that we should defer discussion of this until I gave him our general view.

[Page 308]

I said that the President had decided after careful study that it was not possible to separate the components of a SALT agreement—that it was necessary to have a limitation on offensive weapons together with a limitation on ABM’s. We were prepared in principle to discuss accidental war limitations. I added that recent missile starts of SS–9 and SS–11 groups underlined for us the danger of an ABM limitation which would leave our Minutemen exposed to a Soviet first strike. Dobrynin said that I knew they didn’t intend to make a first strike. I replied that I knew no such thing, looking at their weapons deployment; in any event, it didn’t make any difference what I knew but what reasonable people could deduce from the weapons situation.

Dobrynin said that he didn’t think it would be possible to come to an agreement under these conditions. I replied that perhaps the delegations could be instructed to emphasize the ABM part to get that out of the way. Dobrynin asked, “Well, why not then agree on the partial accord after all?” I said this was not possible for the reasons I had given to him. I added, however, that I would be prepared to continue discussions with him during the summer and that I was certain we could narrow the differences to a manageable form. Dobrynin said that he would be prepared to do this but he thought that SALT was in essentially good shape and that we could come to an agreement, if not this year, then in the early months of next year. He emphasized again that they would be prepared to drop any offending clauses in the accidental war part of the agreement, that these were not matters of principle with them. I said that this was not the issue—the issue to us was not to break out the defensive from the offensive parts of the agreement.

Dobrynin then raised the question of how long the recess should be, saying that the Soviet Government would prefer November 1st. I said we would prefer something like September 15th. When Dobrynin asked where that would leave us, I replied that it seemed self-evident to me that it takes two to start a negotiation. He said he wanted us to understand that the November 1st deadline was unconnected with any deliberate attempt to slow down the talks, but had rather to do with the internal operating methods of the Soviet government. Many of their key people would be on vacation in August, and they would not be able to do a systematic review until September.

Dobrynin also asked me what would be new in our package. I said it was hard to go into precise detail, but there would be a limit on offensive units and a sub-limit on heavy missiles. He asked me how we would handle the problem of compensation, i.e. the issue of the relationship between IRBM’s on their side and forward deployed tactical aircraft on our side. I said it seemed to me the best way to handle it was through exclusion—that they would not be counted on either side. Dobrynin indicated that this would not present an insuperable difficulty. He again called my attention to the part of the Soviet Aide Mémoire [Page 309] which said that an ABM agreement could, in their view, be agreed on “without difficulty.”4 He said this was a very significant statement. I replied that I understood, and that we should, however, now proceed to work as expeditiously as possible on a comprehensive statement.

The conversation then turned to general subjects. I said that I wanted him to know that the President had read the article that Semyonov had handed to Smith at a concert with the greatest care. He had come to the conclusion that the most significant aspect of it would be the political one; however, such a politically important matter should not be handled within the context of SALT, but should be handled at a higher level. I therefore wanted to return to my conversation of April 12th5 in which I had suggested a specific procedure for coming to an understanding of fundamental issues so that major progress could be made. Dobrynin evaded the issue and said that he had thought that Cambodia had ended this concern and, in any event, he was prepared to discuss the Middle East with me.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 1 [Part 1]. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office at the White House. The full text of the memorandum of conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 179.
  2. In 1957 Kissinger published A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Problems of Peace, 1812–1822, which analyzed the post-Napoleanic European settlement established by the Congress of Vienna.
  3. See Document 91.
  4. See Document 89.
  5. No record of a conversation with Dobrynin on April 12 has been found. Apparently Kissinger meant his April 9 meeting with Dobrynin; see Document 66.