25. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Robert Pierpoint, CBS-TV
  • Bernard Kalb, CBS-TV
  • Thomas Brokaw, NBC-TV
  • R.W. Apple, Jr., New York Times
  • Dean Fisher, Time
  • Robert Toth, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Kissinger: This is on background. I’ll give a news conference Thursday2 afternoon.

[Page 129]

Pierpoint: What is your judgment of the effect of the [Israeli]3 election outcome?

Kissinger: It strengthens the hand of the religious party, which cares much about the West Bank and Jerusalem. So those issues, which are difficult anyway, will become intractable.

Toth: The first stage of the negotiations will be unaffected?

Kissinger: Yes. Dayan is coming to the U.S. We will announce it Friday.

Pierpoint: Why?

Kissinger: We agreed in Jerusalem that they would send as high-level an official as possible to Washington for discussions on disengagement.

Apple: It implies he’s still in the Cabinet?

Kissinger: It gives that impression. He is more useful now to her;4 he is no longer a rival Prime Minister.

Toth: What is your prognosis on the disengagement talks5 now?

Kissinger: The Israeli Government has to make a decision—if they want to make the decision. My prognosis of the disengagement talks is they will not be significantly affected, I think.

Toth: What about oil? I don’t want to speculate.

Kissinger: There is obviously some relationship. There is a good chance of progress, I mean mostly agreed, or agreed.

Pierpoint: When would they begin disengagement?

Kissinger: I can’t tell how long that would take technically. It’s a separation of forces, not a return to the 1967 lines.

Toth: It sets the stage for settlement.

Kissinger: This is deep background: It will start a process, but they don’t necessarily commit themselves to ultimate frontiers. It also avoids a discussion of final borders and the more intractable issues. Conceptually it is doable. The Israelis started it at Kilometer 101. It creates a framework in which resumption of hostilities is at least technically more difficult.

Pierpoint: Will the oil embargo be lifted?

[Page 130]

Kissinger: There are two problems. There would have been a shortage anyway. Then there came the cut in production. Lifting the embargo by itself doesn’t help us if the production level isn’t raised. So the production level increase helped us. We hope it will be lifted—but I will not speculate on it.

Brokaw: The timing of the talks is affected by the need to put together a new government?

Kissinger: I think they can do disengagement without a government, but no further than that.

Pierpoint: She says she might call a new election.

Kissinger: Really? But there is not a clear-cut mandate against negotiations.

Kalb: Disengagement would be visible?

Kissinger: It is conceivable that the Egyptians would remain on the East Bank but the Israelis would cross to the East Bank. It would be visible separation.

Pierpoint: What is the Egyptian Government attitude?

Kissinger: Egypt is flexible, as shown by its giving up on the October 22 lines.

Fisher: What is the Soviet attitude?

Kissinger: Since the alert, and up to now, it has been constructive. They haven’t done anything—but there has been no obstruction. I don’t think the Soviets knew the Syrians wouldn’t go to the Conference until I was there.

Pierpoint: They can’t control their clients!

Kissinger: They are not their clients.

About oil. We don’t want to establish the relationship directly, because we don’t want to be a principal party to the negotiations. On the other hand, our situation has been eased since we started our activity.

Toth: Is it the Egyptian strategy to keep Israel mobilized?

Kissinger: Whether it is their strategy, I don’t know. But the war was a dramatic blow to Israel. While they won a victory, it was not as politically useful—it was not a crushing supremacy—and it didn’t solve their military problem. It brought about a worldwide coalition against them, and it set in train military events by which they can be bled. These are the analytical facts. It has nothing to do with our pressures or recommendations.

Apple: It was a tactical victory, but a strategic defeat.

Kissinger: There is a cliché that we do better with our enemies. With Europe we could do the declarations overnight if we wanted. NATO did okay. What bothers us on the EC one is that they want an indivisible defense but won’t use the word “partnership”. Is this be[Page 131]cause they are democracies or because of some more fundamental difficulty? There is some organic problem.

Fisher: What organic problems?

Kissinger: On deep background—they are weak governments, with a left to placate. They like to dissociate themselves from us; on the other hand they like our military protection. In the long run this is untenable. You get these Common Market meetings under the French leadership with no opposition.

We could finish respectable declarations. Where the declaration got off the rails was when the Common Market started dealing with itself exclusively. We wanted some symbolic creative act. The Shanghai Communiqué6 looks great but it doesn’t say much. Read my April speech;7 we offered a common détente policy. But they’re torn—they want European unity.

On the energy proposal,8 I think something will happen on it. Read the Marshall Plan speech—it is not a great speech, but it was made a great event by enthusiasm and participation. We spent more time with the Europeans this year than any other. It is time-consuming. But on the declarations, we want to see whether we can get something more substantial.

Pierpoint: It seems that a meaningful declaration is further away than ever.

Kissinger: A meaningful declaration is here; but a meaningful policy is hard. I think the difficulty is theirs. We have offered them cooperation. What pressures are we putting on them? None.

Pierpoint: We are trying to include Japan.

Kissinger: No, Japan is a fact. It is inconceivable to have a structure created that doesn’t include Japan. It doesn’t have to be the same declaration. But the Europeans want bilateral declarations. But it is very dangerous to set up competition between Europe and the U.S. for Japan—and the Japanese don’t want it.

Apple: Are you saying that the Europeans need a little more time to sort out what they want to do and be?

Kissinger: It may turn out.

Kalb: Do we want a common policy?

Kissinger: A common discussion. Let’s discuss détente, military questions. The issues JFK raised in 1962 are still not solved. The NATO [Page 132] troop deployment guards the most beautiful scenery; 90 days’ supply is imaginary. We didn’t invent this.

On economics, it is imperative to work out a strategy to replace a strategy originated when the preoccupation was the gap. Take the energy crisis—it creates a totally new situation. Do we deal competitively or cooperatively? It is a common problem. All we mean is to discuss the range of individual action. We might disagree, but we haven’t even got to the discussions.

Toth: What about the President’s trip?

Kissinger: We could have a trip within any four-week period. But we didn’t want a trip until we got something. My estimate is it could be at the latest by mid-April.

Apple: He would go then?

Kissinger: I could get them in shape by February if the President wanted. There is no date set.

Toth: Then you would go on to Japan?

Kissinger: It is conceivable but it has not been formally considered.

Pierpoint: What about Congress?

Kissinger: The former doves may shift to the right on troop cuts. Mansfield will stick to his position. But my instinct is it will be easier to beat than ever. The moderate Democrats (Humphrey, Kennedy, etc.) will move closer to the Jackson position.

I had a study of the editorials on East-West trade for four and one-half years. We were always attacked for going too slow on East-West trade and for attaching political conditions!

Toth: Will there be progress on MBFR and SALT in time for the Summit?

Kissinger: It makes no difference to Mansfield. In my press conference last week9—I found that I can’t be as analytical as Secretary of State. My remarks were misinterpreted. I think there can be progress on SALT for the Summit. MBFR can’t be at the Summit because it is a NATO-Warsaw Pact exercise. In negotiations, the opening positions are absurd because they take account of one’s own side’s necessities. But gradually you discover the other’s real positions. Then you need a breakthrough like May 1971 in SALT. We are at this stage in SALT II. We need a conceptual breakthrough to decide what is going to happen. Then the technical details come up—but they can be done fast. For example, in January 1972 there was a discussion of silo dimensions; the substantive issues were settled in six weeks. Within two months, we can get a conceptual breakthrough. If we do this, then we can get sub[Page 133]stantial progress by the Summit—an agreement or part of an agreement.

Pierpoint: When will it be?

Kissinger: It is not set.

Toth: Can the President travel abroad when there is the prospect of impeachment?

Kissinger: While he is President he should act as President.

Toth: But after the House votes?

Pierpoint: We could have a vote by April 1.

Kissinger: Take the NATO declaration. If I am any judge, no one would say the President had no legitimacy to commit the U.S. to close Atlantic ties. If it were a divisive issue, that would be different.

Pierpoint: What about SALT?

Kissinger: There is this strange realignment going on. You tell me what we gave up in SALT–I that we didn’t already give up.

Brokaw: What impact would impeachment proceedings have on this diplomacy?

Kissinger: None. Maybe down the road. But none now.

Kalb: You expect a trip by April?

Kissinger: The chances are three out of five that he might. There is no planning. But the chances are a little better than fifty-fifty.

Fisher: What about the trip to the Soviet Union?

Kissinger: He will go to the Soviet Union. Japan might be—but we had not thought of it. To Europe—the chances are better than 50–50 he will go by the end of April.

Pierpoint: Is there any chance Chou might come here? Or is Taiwan blocking it?

Kissinger: No. He has a very complex domestic situation. No one knows who is the target of the 1974 anti-Confucian campaign.

The Taiwan question is no obstacle to the USPRC relations at this moment.

Kalb: What about Vietnam?

Kissinger: There is slightly less than a fifty-fifty chance they will start an attack. I used to think the chances were more than fifty-fifty.

Toth: How about Thieu’s blast at the elections?

Kissinger: I think both sides have given up on the political agreement.

Toth: This would imply a political struggle.

Kissinger: Or partition, de facto.

If there were an offensive in April or May, I wouldn’t be astonished.

[Page 134]

Fisher: Has your relationship changed with the President since you became Secretary of State?

Kissinger: The modus operandi is almost exactly the same, but it is more visible.

Pierpoint: Some in the White House said you didn’t communicate as often as before, on this trip.

Kissinger: Who told you that? Only Haig and Scowcroft know. I sent a full report every day. I see him automatically every day for a half hour, usually more. Before the trip we consult; we know where I’m going. On the way I don’t need detailed instructions. I talk to Haig and get the Presidential mood of things—what he’s worried about—and operational things with Scowcroft. These stories are totally wrong.

Toth: You have less input now in the DOD budget because you are traveling.

Kissinger: Over the years, the military systematically attempted to undercut any outside inputs. This year I have had more conceptual input by meeting with Schlesinger for breakfast, and Moorer and Colby. These are less formal meetings, but the formal meetings degenerated into idiot briefings. There is more input now, but we haven’t solved how we can get a real strategic doctrine for the United States. Looking at the costs, the pressures in the military for weapons of increased technological flexibility. This is the big problem.

Toth: The President had two meetings with the JCS, and Schlesinger, without you.

Kissinger: Scowcroft was there.

Toth: But that is different.

Kissinger: I talked with the President Monday.10

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 426, Subject File, Media, Briefings, Background, Jan. 1972–Mar 1974. No classification marking. Drafted by Rodman. The conversation took place in the dining room at the San Clemente Inn. Kissinger was in San Clemente to discuss with Nixon the upcoming State of the Union address, the Geneva Conference, and developments in the Middle East.
  2. During his January 3 news conference, Kissinger responded to questions concerning the Arab oil embargo, his discussions with Le Duc Tho, the energy crisis, impeachment, European relations, and Soviet détente. For the transcript of Kissinger’s news conference, see Department of State Bulletin, January 28, 1974, pp. 77–86.
  3. Brackets are in the original.
  4. Golda Meir.
  5. During his statement before the opening session of the Middle East Peace Conference, held in Geneva December 21–22, 1973, Kissinger noted that although progress had been made in effecting a cease-fire in the Middle East, an early agreement on the separation of military forces was necessary to consolidate the cease-fire. (Department of State Bulletin, January 14, 1974, pp. 21–24) Nixon later announced Egyptian-Israeli agreement on disengagement of forces on January 17. (Public Papers: Nixon, 1974, pp. 11–12)
  6. See footnote 5, Document 3.
  7. Document 8.
  8. See Document 24.
  9. December 27, 1973. See Department of State Bulletin, January 21, 1974, pp. 45–56.
  10. December 31, 1973.