165. Editorial Note

On January 23, 1971, Assistant to the President Kissinger met Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin at the White House from 10:05 to 11:30 a.m. for a discussion of several issues, including the Berlin negotiations. (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) According to the memorandum of conversation, the meeting, which took place at Dobrynin’s “urgent request,” could not be arranged when Dobrynin first called on January 21, due to difficulties with Kissinger’s schedule. Kissinger noted that the meeting was “perhaps the most significant that I have had with Dobrynin since our conversations began.” The memorandum records the conversation on Berlin as follows:

“He [Dobrynin] said first on the issue of Berlin the Soviet leaders wanted to reaffirm their readiness, already expressed in the January 6, 1971 communication which was delivered in San Clemente, to have Dobrynin and me conduct our conversations in this channel. This feeling had been reinforced by a conversation that Bahr had had with Falin (Soviet Ambassador-designate to Bonn) in which Bahr had said he was an old friend of mine, and secondly both Brandt and Bahr believed that I was the only person who understood German conditions well enough to break through the logjams created by our bureaucracy.

Dobrynin thought that we should not hold up a Berlin agreement until the Summit, but rather if possible to achieve one before then. He wanted me to know that the Soviet Union would approach Berlin negotiations with the attitude of achieving an objective improvement of the situation and not of worsening position. It expected, however, that we would pay some attention to their specific concern. Dobrynin said [Page 493] that he had been instructed to tell me that my concern that there had to be some appeal to the Soviet Union or some acknowledgment of Soviet responsibility and Four-Power responsibility for access to Berlin was being most carefully studied in Moscow. An attempt would be made to find some consultative four-power body that could play a useful role. Dobrynin said he was prepared to have an expert come from Moscow to help with these talks without, however, necessarily telling the expert what he was here for. I told Dobrynin that I would have to proceed by first talking to Bahr and then talking to Rush and that I would be in touch with him in two or three weeks after these consultations were completed.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Kissinger stressed the importance of “total discretion” in using the confidential channel to conduct sensitive negotiations. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [Part 2])

Kissinger forwarded the memorandum of conversation to the President on January 27. (Ibid.) The full text is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII. For Kissinger’s account of the meeting, see White House Years, pages 804–805; for Dobrynin’s brief version, see In Confidence, page 211.