309. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Rogers and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

R: On the Rush thing, we have done what you wanted …

K: I just talked to the President to give you his views.2

R: Let me say this, we have got the telegram3—it’s on the way. I am worried the President is going to get a black eye.

K: I haven’t studied the details of the deal. His feeling is he doesn’t want an international crisis over it before he knows the problem and the specific objections that we have. He thought what went out yesterday was handleable. He wanted to see the detailed objections before we decide on three weeks or on one week. Frankly, he would like an agreement, and fairly soon, for domestic reasons.

R: Well, if he and you are giving Rush the idea that it didn’t matter …

K: No one gave him that idea.

R: When we called him he said ‘have you checked with San Clemente’ which gave me that impression. It doesn’t make any difference to me if the President wants it, but I think he will be accused of selling out Berlin. Rush has openly violated the President’s instructions.

K: He got not detailed instructions from me on any of the points you have in your telegram. The President did mention to him that he was eager to get an agreement and stated that fairly strongly. But it doesn’t make any sense for him to say he wanted him to violate his instructions.

R: No, and there’s no reason for Rush to do it now—he has another meeting on Monday.4

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K: On the tactics of the day-to-day sessions, I am usually behind Hillenbrand.

R: Let me say this. I don’t think it is totally unmanagable, but I think it is important for Rush to say this is ad referendum. He is acting as if this is his own baby. And I think the President will get clobbered.

K: It should come back ad referendum. And second, we should identify the problems and solve them after that. He shouldn’t lock it in on Monday. What we don’t want is a commitment to delay and to let our allies know that we have problems.

R: How much delay should we have?

K: About two weeks.

R: I think it will be tough for the President to focus on this. Everyone is euphoric about getting an agreement, but it’s not just the agreement but what the agreement contains. You are going to have people like McCloy and Clay and that gang very upset.

K: Why? The objections in the telegram don’t seem to me ones McCloy would raise hell about.

R: Yes he will. First, the things in the NSDM5 you said don’t do and he did them all.

K: Like what?

R: The language. The NSDM said don’t use these words. Use the word “Berlin” when [omission in the source text]. Then there are two or three other places not violating the spirit, but the language of the NSDM. He could have said something like “It looks good, but we’ll wait for Monday.”

K: That part of it I don’t understand. Why he did something on one day rather than another I don’t understand, and the President has nothing to do with that part of it. I don’t know why he did it.

R: I don’t either. Agreements can be good or bad. But I have a feeling this will be construed as the United States being out-traded.

K: What do the Germans think?

R: I don’t know. At any rate, I don’t like to have him openly violate the specific language, and to do it at a time when he didn’t have to. Then he says he wants to help the German government because they have got an election coming up.6 He ought to be thinking about the President and the election he’s got coming up.

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K: No, he’s the one we have to think about. After I saw your cable7 Wednesday, Sonnenfeldt called me on the plane8 and asked me whether I had any objections to your cable saying that he [Rush] should come back. I said no. Then I saw his cable to you9 saying that Abrasimov had made all the major concessions.

R: Sure, if that had been the case we’d have had no problem.

K: I haven’t studied the text yet. What I don’t want is headlines saying the thing is on the verge of blowing up.

R: No, that won’t happen. Our problem is in the anxiety to get an agreement we don’t end up with a bad one. It seems to me that we need not only a good agreement but the support of those people like McCloy and Clay.

K: Could we get Rush back without making too many waves and just see where we are.

R: That’s what we want to do.

K: That’s what he should do ad referendum. Are you sending a new telegram out here?10

R: Yes.

K: I will look at that and if there any any problems I will call you directly.

R: I am taking the weekend off, but you can talk with Ted Eliot. I don’t want him to think this is his agreement—it’s the President’s.

K: Absolutely, Rush is not the figure we are interested in. If we have any problems I’ll check with Ted Eliot.

R: I think he should know that when we say ad referendum we mean that.

K: Exactly.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 369, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking. Rogers was in Washington; Kissinger was in San Clemente. According to his Appointment Book, Rogers called Kissinger at 1:27 p.m. (EDT) after attending a briefing on Berlin; he then called Eliot before leaving town for a long weekend in West Virginia. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers) No substantive record of the briefing or the discussion with Eliot has been found.
  2. According to Haldeman’s handwritten notes of the meeting, Kissinger entered Nixon’s office at 9:45 a.m. and reported: “we’re having massive prob[lem] on Berlin. Th[in]ks Rogers trying to engineer deadlock & break it for personal publicity. Rogers plans to tell Ambs of Fr and Br we have serious obj[ection]—ask for 3 w[ee]k delay.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, H. R. Haldeman)
  3. Document 306.
  4. August 23.
  5. Document 285.
  6. Reference is to the next Bundestag election, scheduled for September 1973. For Rush’s comments on the subject, see Document 303.
  7. Document 297.
  8. See Document 298.
  9. Document 301.
  10. Reference is evidently to Document 306.