116. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion of matters unrelated to national security.]

K: Okay, we have ABM coming up again. We’ll have the same old battle lines drawn again. It’s in the budget going in for $_____2 for one complete Safeguard 1 and going into Safeguard 2. If we are going to pull off what we are talking about, we need to have it moving so the Russians can see it. If that stops, the Russians can’t see it. Over the weekend 10 scientists were invited to Defense. Most of them are opposed. There’s a memo3 on your desk about this, but you haven’t seen it yet. We ought to get a game plan set on ABM for this year.

P: Yes. It can be won. I don’t want to call Senators this time. We’ll give it right to Harlow.

K: Packard should put 6 or 7 choices in front of the scientists—confuse them completely. Put what you choose in the middle. We will work out a game plan.

P: Yes. Congress came through this year in the second vote, and will again. I just don’t want Smith and Thompson4 to put out this nonsense.

K: Well, Mr. President, we’re better off planning for 600 and getting 200.

P: Right. Let’s be sure ACDA knows that and doesn’t give up the game beforehand. I want to be able to bargain for something.

K: You might want to tell Smith nothing comprehensive; we will work out something more limited. I’ll tell him that ABM is negotiable.

P: We are ready to negotiate, but we mustn’t give it away in advance.5

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking. The President was vacationing in San Clemente from December 30 to January 8; Kissinger was in Washington.
  2. Omission in the original.
  3. Not found.
  4. Llewellyn E. Thompson, member of the United States SALT Delegation.
  5. On January 13, Nixon and Kissinger again discussed Safeguard during a telephone conversation. According to the transcript, the President, who had recently met with Laird on the matter, told Kissinger that Laird wanted to cut Safeguard. Laird told Nixon, however, that “he can’t do too much because it involves our bargaining position.” The President “said the whole question is whether it could be done in a way that is really credible due to the fact that we really don’t know what to do. P said but under no circumstances can we take away our bargaining card.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)