91. Memorandum of Conversation1

  • PARTICIPANTS
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger

I began the conversation by saying that the President had wanted to make sure that Dobrynin understood the speech2 properly: (1) the President wanted to point out the seriousness of the threat in case of escalation; (2) that Dobrynin should not be confused by the various arguments he had heard with respect to linkage—we considered linkage a fact and not a policy, and foreign policy was made in the White House and nowhere else; and (3) the President wanted to reiterate that we were in favor of major improvements in Soviet-U.S. relations but not until considerable progress had been made on the Vietnam issue.

Dobrynin said with respect to the first question that they had made their point of view clear and that any escalation by us would have dangerous consequences. I told him that we had taken it into account and that anything we did would not be directed against the Soviet Union; they were the best judge of their own interests and would have to decide what to do when the time came.

With respect to the second point, he said he had no illusions about the linkage problem, and he saw not much point in repeating our well-known position.

[Omitted here is discussion of conflicting reports about linkage.] With respect to the third point, Dobrynin said that his government was now beginning to understand the seriousness with which we took the position we had indicated, and had given up the illusion that they had held earlier in the year that major progress was possible even while the Vietnam war was going on. He added a little plaintively that he could not understand our attitude because the Soviet Union was not making trouble for us in Vietnam; they were not trying to embarrass [Page 296]us; but they could not get us out of a war into which we had gotten ourselves. I said I thought our position was clear, and there was no sense reiterating it.

[Omitted here is discussion of negotiations to end the war in Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 710, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office. The entire memorandum is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 99.
  2. On November 3, Nixon gave a nationally televised address in which he announced his plan for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces from Vietnam. During his address, Nixon threatened to respond with “strong and effective” action in the event of an escalation in the intensity of fighting by the North Vietnamese. The full text of the speech is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 901–909.