350. Editorial Note

On April 3, 1972, Assistant to the President Kissinger met Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin in the Map Room at the White House from 5:37 to 6:15 p.m. to discuss several issues, including the impact of the recent North Vietnamese offensive on ratification in Bonn of the Moscow and Warsaw treaties. (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No substantive record has been found. Both participants later described the conversation in their memoirs. According to his account, Kissinger accused the Soviets of “complicity in Hanoi’s attack,” arguing that Moscow had supplied the military equipment necessary for the operation. [Page 991] He then emphasized the linkage between North Vietnam and West Germany:

“If the offensive continued, we would be forced into measures certain to present Moscow with difficult choices before the summit. In the meantime we would have to call off some steps of special concern to Moscow. For example, Moscow had asked us to send a message to West German leaders to urge the ratification of the Eastern treaties, scheduled for a vote in about a month’s time. We had been reluctant to intervene to such an extent in Germany’s internal politics. We used the North Vietnamese offensive as a pretext to avoid what we were reluctant to do in any event. Under current conditions, I told Dobrynin, we could not be active in Bonn. Moscow could not ask for our assistance in Europe while undermining our position in Southeast Asia. The Kremlin was put on notice that North Vietnamese actions might jeopardize some fundamental Soviet goals.” (Kissinger, White House Years, page 1114; see also Dobrynin, In Confidence, page 243)

President Nixon called Kissinger at 6:19 p.m. to review the meeting with Dobrynin. Kissinger reported that he had raised “the Berlin thing” in order to emphasize Nixon’s determination on Vietnam.

“K: I said, ‘Look, here we are. We get the ratification thing coming up in Germany, the President has been asked to write to Brandt, but he can’t under these circumstances and he wants you to know if we should lose in Vietnam that is the last concession we will make this year.’ He said, ‘You aren’t going to lose. In our assessment you can’t lose.’

“P: I think he’s right.

“K: I think we are going to see this through.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File; and National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)

The two men again discussed the connection between developments in Vietnam and Germany when Kissinger telephoned Nixon at 7:10 p.m. During the conversation, the President reiterated his resolve to avoid defeat on the battlefield.

“P: I will do everything necessary including taking out Haiphong.

“K: The more we shock them the better.

“P: Is there anything we could do in the Haiphong area?

“K: I think it is still too early. I think the Russians will do something. They are not going to risk everything.

“P: They will [not] risk Summit, Berlin, German treaty—correct.

“K: That’s right. I told Dobrynin. We can’t consider sending a message to Brandt under these conditions.

“P: I won’t.

“K: I don’t think you should send it anyway—so any excuse.” (Ibid.)

[Page 992]

During a meeting in the Oval Office the following afternoon, Nixon and Kissinger discussed the linkage in Soviet policy between the summit and ratification.

Kissinger: “They’re not doing the summit to do you a favor.”

Nixon: “Oh, no.”

Kissinger: “In fact, when they thought the summit was doing you a favor, they played a damn tough game.”

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “They gave you an answer only—They started coming the other way only when they started needing you. They need you now on the Berlin ratification. If they have a big crisis—”

Nixon: “Does that make any, any imprint—”

Kissinger: “Oh, yeah.”

Nixon: “—on Dobrynin’s mind?”

Kissinger: “Well, and he knows it’s a fact. ‘If you start raising hell with us, that strengthens the enemies of ratification in Germany.’ That’s a fact.”

Nixon: “I see.”

Kissinger: “And—”

Nixon: “You told him that.”

Kissinger: “Oh, yeah.”

Nixon: “Good.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation Between Nixon and Kissinger, April 4, 1972, 1:17–1:32 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation 701–17) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.