History : The Nixon Tapes (1971-72)

The Nixon Tapes (1971-72)

Table of Contents

Title Page
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters
Abbreviations and Terms
The Start of Taping to the China Announcement
The Collapse of the Gold Standard to the India-Pakistan War
Summit Planning and Escalation in Vietnam
The Road to Reelection and the End of the War
Timeline of Key Events
Index of Subjects
Index of Names
About the Editor


Four decades later, we have all but forgotten that in late 1972 President Richard M. Nixon was at a political high point. That year, he made historic peace overtures with America’s Cold War enemies, first with China, then with the Soviet Union. The Vietnam War, which had long divided the American public, seemed to be drawing to a close. Nixon walloped Democratic rival George McGovern in his November reelection bid, 520 electoral votes to 17, capturing 61 percent of the popular vote. In recent memory, such levels of approval had been achieved only by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Even though questions about Watergate hung in the air, the scandal never emerged as a major issue during the 1972 campaign. As Nixon hoped, the break-in remained a story of interest mainly inside the Washington Beltway—it would explode only in 1973.
On December 14, relaxing in the Oval Office, Nixon discussed his legacy, as it promised to develop at that point. He tried out ideas with White House Chief of Staff H. R. “Bob” Haldeman:

HALDEMAN: There are a lot of good stories from the first term.
NIXON: A book should be written, called 1972.
NIXON: That would be a helluva good book. . . . You get in China, you get in Russia, you get in May 8 [his dramatic decision to bomb and mine Hanoi and Haiphong just before his summit in Moscow], and you get in the election. And it’s a helluva damn year. That’s what I would write as a book. 1972, period.

By and large, that is the subject of this book: the public policy that drove the most significant year of the thirty-seventh president’s first term. The events of that “hell of a damn year” are presented just as they were recorded on Nixon’s taping system, uncensored and unfiltered.
Richard Nixon’s legacy is inseparable from his tapes, but White House taping started much earlier. In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt ordered that the thick wooden Oval Office floor be drilled to install wiring that would be used to record his press conferences. Harry Truman inherited FDR’s system, adding a microphone to a lampshade on his desk. Dwight Eisenhower installed a new system that included a bugged telephone in the Oval Office. John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson used recorders provided by the U.S. Army Signal Corps that were capable of capturing hundreds of hours.
Despite the fact that other presidents also recorded, today it is Nixon who is known for bugging the White House. As far as we know, no president since Nixon has taped the way he did. He recorded more than all the rest combined, approximately 3,700 hours. At first, he had no plans to tape anything. Shortly after he was inaugurated on January 20, 1969, he ordered the dismantling of Lyndon Johnson’s recording system. A bit of a klutz, he did not want the headache of dealing with electronics. Johnson’s system required someone to monitor it and to turn it on and off each day.
Two years later, he changed his mind. Halfway into his first term, Nixon mused that none of his predecessors had employed sound-activated devices to capture everything. He wanted to be the first. Nixon presumed that his White House tapes would be an invaluable source for his memoirs. He believed, however, that in order to create an accurate record of his presidency, he should record everything, without discretion. What Kennedy did—taping moments of crisis like his ExComm meetings during the Cuban Missile Crisis—struck him as window-dressing history. “I thought that recording only selected conversations would completely undercut the purpose of having the taping system,” Nixon said. “If our tapes were going to be an objective record of my presidency, they could not have such an obviously self-serving bias. I did not want to have to calculate whom or what or when I would tape.”
Tapes of his meetings, he believed, would help set his administration’s record straight and allow him to maintain the upper hand on history. “The whole purpose, basically,” Nixon told Haldeman during the first recorded conversation, “is that there may be a day when . . . we want to put out something that’s positive, maybe we need something just to be sure that we can correct the record.”
On Nixon’s instructions, the Technical Services Division of the U.S. Secret Service planted mini microphones throughout the Oval Office in February 1971. Five were concealed in the president’s desk, and two others were installed around the fireplace. Telephone lines in the Oval Office and the Lincoln Sitting Room were also recorded. Two more microphones were placed in the Cabinet Room. A central mixer, housed in a decrepit locker room in the White House basement, was the switchboard that coordinated the recording machines, Sony TC-800B open-reel models. Very few people knew about the taping system besides Nixon, Haldeman, Alexander Butterfield (who was responsible for its operation), and members of the Secret Service.
Soon after the system’s initiation, Nixon liked it enough that he expanded its reach. The fact that everything he said was being saved appealed to his narcissistic sense of grandeur. He believed himself a world leader of great geopolitical insight and military strategy, like Churchill. Indeed, as this book’s sampling suggests, he was obsessed with foreign policy with suprisingly little interest in domestic issues. Fewer than 10 percent of the available tapes touch on domestic policy, and sadly, most of those conversations were in the Cabinet Room, where crosstalk and poor microphone placement rendered them among the most difficult to transcribe.
In April 1971, Nixon had four hidden microphones installed in his hideaway in the Executive Office Building, a private office in Room 180 where he could work away from the ceremony of the Oval Office. A year later, Aspen Lodge at Camp David was similarly outfitted, both the interior of the cabin and the telephone that Nixon used frequently when there.
The taping system gave Nixon an accurate record of his meetings and phone calls without the need for someone to sit in and take notes, which had been the practice before taping. It was simple. Nixon wore a pagerlike device provided by the Secret Service, and when it was within range of one of the taping locations, recording started automatically. There was no on or off switch. On some days we have recordings of almost his entire day as he moved between locations for different meetings or events. While not all are decipherable due to intermittently poor audio quality, the Nixon tapes represent a trove for historians unlike any record left by other presidents during the nation’s history. To fully transcribe Nixon’s tapes would take perhaps 150,000 pages, a task that may never be completed.
The vast majority of people recorded on the Nixon taping system did not know they were being recorded. The existence of the taping system was disclosed on July 16, 1973, by Alexander Butterfield during testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, as part of the Watergate investigation. “Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?” Republican counsel Fred Thompson asked. It was an unexpected question. Under oath, Butterfield had no choice but to answer honestly. “I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir,” he answered. The testimony changed the course of the Nixon presidency and American history. As Senator Howard Baker said, the purpose of the Senate investigation into the June 17, 1972, Watergate break-in and subsequent White House cover-up was to find out “what the president knew and when he knew it.” The tapes provided a way to answer those questions accurately, but they needed to be intact. On the reel for June 20, 1972, the recording was erased at a crucial point, an action for which Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, largely took responsibility.
As a matter of fact, Nixon was advised by many to burn the tapes while he had the chance. Some—most notably Henry Kissinger, William Rogers, Melvin Laird, and even Billy Graham—felt betrayed by their existence. For Nixon, the secrecy of the system and the value of the record outweighed the privacy concerns of those recorded. Others, including Ray Price, Charles Colson, and John Ehrlichman, believed the president was entitled to a record of his private meetings. George H. W. Bush, Pat Buchanan, Alexander Haig, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Volcker, and George Shultz went on to have their own political careers. Yet the long shadow of the Nixon tapes, capturing comments they all made privately—and the president’s own observations about them—never allowed them to have public careers fully independent of Nixon. The tapes may have been intended to secure Nixon’s legacy, but their existence influenced the reputations of many others as well.
The Nixon Tapes is a direct beneficiary of Nixon’s refusal to destroy the 3,700 hours of recordings. Nixon made that decision out of consideration for his legacy. Once the hullabaloo of Watergate died down, he thought his diplomacy with China, a milestone in the history of American foreign policy, would resuscitate his standing in history. He had long admired Winston Churchill’s The Second World War, published in eight volumes between 1948 and 1953. He recognized the importance of leaving a verifiable record.
It is a loss to history that Nixon did not start taping earlier. We have no private recordings of Nixon calling the Apollo 11 astronauts during their lunar landing on July 20, 1969, nothing touching on the antiwar protests that caused the White House to be ringed with buses on November 15, 1969, in case protesters breached the fences, no taped telephone call to request his limo when Nixon spontaneously visited protestors at the Lincoln Memorial during the predawn hours of May 9, 1960, no recording of Nixon’s famous Oval Office meeting with Elvis Presley on December 21, 1970.
After the disclosure of the existence of Nixon’s tapes in 1973, they became the talk of the nation. At first, the president flatly refused to hand them over on the grounds of executive privilege and national security. Nixon always assumed that the tapes belonged to him. He most likely never intended to open them up to public scrutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court believed otherwise, ruling, 8–0, on July 24, 1974 that Nixon turn over subpoenaed tapes. Beyond the question of the tapes, or Nixon, the decision was a significant check on presidential power. No one would be above the law, not even the chief executive. The decision was a fatal blow to the Nixon presidency and led to Nixon’s resignation only fifteen days later, on August 9. The tapes had damaged Nixon badly. They were a key source of evidence used against him in the Watergate affair, the “smoking gun” that shot lethal holes in his reputation. Under a cloud of shame, he fled the White House for Casa Pacifica, his home in San Clemente, California. There, he continued to fight for ownership of his tapes. Nixon died on April 22, 1994, never having recovered his tapes or his reputation, despite the admonition in President Bill Clinton’s eulogy: “may the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.” In fact, Nixon’s death removed the final major obstacle to the public release of his tapes.
In doing the tapes, journalists and historians share a debt to the University of Wisconsin historian Stanley Kutler. In 1992, Professor Kutler and the advocacy group Public Citizen sued to compel the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to expedite its review and release of the Nixon tapes. They argued that NARA had been too slow in adhering to its own release timetable. The lawsuit was settled in 1996, and approximately two hundred hours of tapes documenting abuses of governmental power were made public. Following that hotly contested decision, additional tape releases began in 1997 with the first batch of the Cabinet Room tapes. As coeditors of The Nixon Tapes, we are the direct beneficiaries of Kutler’s advocacy.
Since the key Watergate tapes have been published, we have decided to focus this volume on 1971 and 1972, when non-Watergate topics dominated the conversations. This is not to deny the critical importance of the scandal that destroyed Nixon’s presidency—rather, it is our desire to reveal everything that was recorded during his administration. The first two years of taping were heavy on foreign policy and electoral politics, primarily because that is what Nixon dwelled on the most. When it came to domestic policy, Nixon believed it could be delegated largely to John Ehrlichman, who ran the Domestic Council. Foreign policy, on the other hand, was what Nixon wanted to be remembered for. Nixon believed his tapes would prove that he was the key architect of the historic détente with the Soviet Union and the opening of diplomatic relations with China—not National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger or Secretary of State William Rogers (as they and the press often insisted). The Nixon tapes offer scholars an unparalleled opportunity to listen to Nixon’s encounters with the principal world leaders and political confidants during his presidency. It is impossible to write seriously about the Cold War and the 1970s without consulting the tapes.
Nixon explicitly told both Haldeman and Butterfield that the tapes were not to be transcribed without his express orders, minimizing the chance that people could suspect that they were being taped. At least initially, the political uses of the tapes and a desire to control the depictions of meetings were also on the president’s mind. Nixon wrote in his 1978 memoirs that he quickly “accepted [taping] as part of the surroundings.” Our transcripts confirm that Nixon was not consciously aware of the taping system most of the time, at least not after the first few weeks. By 1973 Nixon couldn’t even remember that Alexander Butterfield had supervised the installation of the system (or so he said), and he and Haldeman were sometimes unsure about exactly which locations were being taped.
The demise of the taping system in July 1973 was quick. Within hours of Butterfield’s testimony, and with Nixon hospitalized with viral pneumonia, Chief of Staff Alexander Haig ordered the deactivation and removal of the taping system.
Other than Nixon, Kissinger had perhaps the greatest stake in the tapes after they became public. He questioned their benefit in Years of Upheaval (1982):

What could anyone uninitiated make objectively of the collection of reflections and interjections, the strange indiscretions mixed with high-minded pronouncements, the observations hardly germane to the issue of the moment but reflecting the prejudices of Nixon’s youth, all choreographed by the only person in the room who knew that the tape system existed? . . . The significance of every exchange turns on its context and an appreciation of Nixon’s shifting moods and wayward tactics. Remove these and you have but random musings—fascinating, entertaining, perhaps, but irrelevant for the most part as the basis for the President’s actions.

Kissinger’s warnings to the contrary, if one cannot accept the observations, justifications, and decision-making by primary American policymakers in the moment, what historical source can be considered truly valid? All historical sources contain flaws and bias. It is difficult to believe Kissinger’s overwrought argument that Nixon choreographed all or even most of his conversations soley for the sake of posterity via the tapes. On the contrary, Nixon is sometimes recorded as forgetful about things that happened minutes before. This is not to say that Nixon did not on occasion manipulate conversations to get certain viewpoints on record. But while it is true that Nixon purposely laid down audio to promote his innocence in the Watergate debacle, that wasn’t his modus operandi when it came to foreign policy.
The richness of the Nixon tapes is undeniable. We listened to them in real time and painstakingly transcribed the audio—which ranges in quality from clean to fuzzy to downright unintelligible. Many aspects of Nixon’s personal idiosyncrasies and working style come into play when attempting to produce reasonably accurate transcripts of conversations. Problems such as the notorious ticking clock in the Executive Office Building, Nixon’s penchant for listening to classical music while he worked, movements in the office, ineffective microphone placement, and poor recording materials have meant that some conversations will never be intelligible—no matter how much time, energy, or technological wizardry is at one’s disposal. Stuttering, mumbling, verbal tics, low or quiet talking, accents, the occasional recording of foreign languages, and place names only increased the difficulty of producing faithful and accurate transcripts.
The National Archives and Records Administration has now released approximately three thousand hours of the tapes. The remaining seven hundred hours are still classified either because of national security concerns or to protect the privacy of individuals, including Nixon, his heirs, or people still alive who were secretly recorded. We have done our best in this volume to give a fair sampling of what was on Nixon’s mind during his first term. We heard a lot of embarrassing, goofy, and comical moments on the tapes but included only a smattering. More seriously, we could have made this a compendium of “gotchas,” as the tapes contain myriad bigoted slurs, put-downs, cursing, and off-color gossip, by Nixon and by others. We have included some of those moments (for example, Nixon’s trashing of Indira Gandhi, Ted Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Jews, military officers, and gays, among others). But our aim as presidential historians was to be fair-minded. We have not set up straw men just to knock them down. And we have not edited this volume in the hope of making Nixon look either “good” or “bad.” We have left that determination up to the reader. We instead consider this volume a collection of accurate transcriptions on which future scholars and fellow citizens can rely.
As editors our process was fairly simple. Once we decided which conversations to include—no easy task—we typically trimmed them somewhat. Nonetheless, if you have fifty conversations about the timing of the Soviet summit and have room for one or two, difficult decisions have to be made. There is no question in our minds, after listening to thousands of hours, that Nixon was a ruthless political operator, fully in control of his White House foreign policy agenda. It is unlikely that an effort such as elevating the global position of China would have blossomed so early without his hubristic persistence. But peeking behind the curtain of Nixon’s attempts to usher in the Grand Realignment is not always pretty. Throughout the tapes Nixon boasts that he is the defender of the U.S. Armed Forces in an age of antiwar doves. He truly feared that if he did not win reelection in 1972, a weak pacifist like Ted Kennedy or George McGovern would slash defense budgets to the detriment of American security. And yet Nixon, in private, regarded most of the military establishment with antipathy. That Nixon had little use for Democrats—except John Connally of Texas and a few others—is clear on these tapes. His disdain for the liberal press lashes out in anti-Semitic rants on occasion.
The publication of The Nixon Tapes coincides with the fortieth anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. We hope this volume, at the very least, answers once and for all questions about why Nixon started taping in the first place and why he did not burn the tapes when he had the chance, and that it will illustrate the types of issues Nixon grappled with during his first term. The handling of a crisis—like Eisenhower in the U-2 affair or Johnson in the Dominican Republic intervention—can be reported on by the press daily. A Grand Realignment of the magnitude Nixon was aiming for—nothing short of a Wilsonian overhaul of the Great Powers—takes time to develop, as well as fully comprehend. These tapes provide the grist.

Cast of Characters

Abrams, Creighton Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Abrasimov, Pyotr Soviet Ambassador to East Germany Agnew, Spiro Vice President of the United States Aiken, George U.S. Senator (R-VT)
Allison, Royal Member, U.S. delegation to the SALT talks Alsop, Joseph Syndicated columnist, Washington Post
Alsop, Stewart Columnist, Newsweek
Andrews, John White House speechwriter
Antonov, Sergei Official, Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB) Atherton, Alfred “Roy” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Bahr, Egon State Secretary, West German Chancellor’s Office Baker, Howard U.S. Senator (R-TN)
Barzel, Rainer Chairman, Christian Democratic Union Party (West Germany) Beam, Jacob U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Bentsen, Lloyd U.S. Senator (D-TX)
Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali President of Pakistan
Biden, Joseph U.S. Senator-elect (D-DE)
Binh, Madame See Nguyen Thi Binh
Brandt, Willy Chancellor, West Germany
Brezhnev, Leonid General Secretary, Soviet Union Bruce, David K. E. Chief, U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks Buckley, William F. Editor in Chief, National Review
Bundy, McGeorge President, Ford Foundation; former National Security Advisor Bunker, Ellsworth U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Burns, Arthur Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Bush, George H. W. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Butterfield, Alexander Deputy Assistant to the President Calley, William Former U.S. Army officer found guilty of the My Lai massacre Carver, George Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs to the CIA Director Ceausescu, Nicolae General Secretary, Romania
Chancellor, John Anchor, NBC Nightly News
Chapin, Dwight Deputy Assistant to the President Chapman, Leonard Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
Chiang Kai-shek President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Chiles, Lawton U.S. Senator (D-FL)
Church, Frank U.S. Senator (D-ID)
Clark, Ramsey Former Attorney General
Clifford, Clark Former Secretary of Defense
Colson, Charles Special Counsel to the President Connally, John Secretary of the Treasury
Cooper, John Sherman U.S. Senator (R-KY)
Cronkite, Walter Anchor, CBS Evening News
David, Edward, Jr. Science Advisor to the President Davison, Michael Commander in Chief, U.S. Army, Europe Dean, John Counsel to the President
De Gaulle, Charles Former President of France
DeLoach, Cartha “Deke” Former Assistant Director of the FBI DePuy, William Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Dewey, Thomas Former Governor of New York (R)
Diem, Ngo Dinh Former President of South Vietnam (assassinated in 1963) Dobrynin, Anatoly Soviet Ambassador to the United States Dole, Robert U.S. Senator (R-KS); Chairman, Republican National Committee Dulles, John Foster Former Secretary of State
Duong Van Minh, aka “Big Minh” Former ARVN general and South Vietnamese leader Ehrlichman, John Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs Eisenhower, Dwight 34th President of the United States (1953–61) Ellender, Allen U.S. Senator (D-LA)
Ellsberg, Daniel Former RAND analyst, coauthor of the Pentagon Papers Farland, Joseph U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan
Farley, Philip Deputy Director of ACDA
Finch, Robert Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Fisher, Max Philanthropist and advocate of Jewish causes Ford, Gerald Minority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives (R-MI) Frankel, Max Chief Washington correspondent, New York Times
Fulbright, William U.S. Senator (D-AR); Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee Furtseva, Yekaterina Soviet Minister of Culture Gardner, John W. Former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Giap, Vo Nguyen North Vietnamese Commander in Chief Goldwater, Barry U.S. Senator (R-AZ); 1964 presidential candidate Goodpaster, Andrew NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe Graham, Billy Chairman, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Grechko, Andrei Soviet Defense Minister
Green, Marshall Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Gromyko, Andrei Soviet Foreign Minister
Haig, Alexander Deputy National Security Advisor Haldeman, H. R. “Bob” White House Chief of Staff Halperin, Morton Former National Security Council staff member Harriman, W. Averell Former head of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks Hatfield, Mark U.S. Senator (R-OR)
Heath, Edward Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Helms, Richard Director of the CIA
Hilaly, Agha Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Hirohito Emperor of Japan
Hoang Duc Nha General, ARVN
Hodgson, James Secretary of Labor
Hoover, J. Edgar Director of the FBI
Hua, Huang Chinese (PRC) Ambassador to the United Nations Hubbard, Henry White House correspondent, Newsweek
Hughes, James Donald Deputy Commander, U.S. Air Force Humphrey, Hubert Former Vice President
Hunt, E. Howard Former CIA officer; member of the White House “Plumbers”
Jackson, Henry “Scoop” U.S. Senator (D-WA)
Jarring, Gunnar Swedish diplomat; UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Johnson, Lyndon B. 36th President of the United States (1963–69) Judd, Walter Former U.S. Representative (R-MN)
Kalb, Marvin Reporter, CBS News
Kennedy, Edward U.S. Senator (D-MA)
Kennedy, John 35th President of the United States (1961–63) Kennedy, Richard National Security Council staff member Kerry, John Spokesman, Vietnam Veterans Against the War Khiem, Tran Thien Prime Minister of South Vietnam Khrushchev, Nikita Former General Secretary, Soviet Union Kiichi, Aichi Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Kissinger, Henry National Security Advisor
Kleindienst, Richard Deputy Attorney General, later Attorney General Korologos, Thomas Deputy Assistant to the President for Congressional Relations Kosygin, Alexei Premier, Soviet Council of Ministers Kraemer, Fritz G. A. Pentagon analyst and Kissinger mentor Kraft, Joseph Columnist, Field Newspapers Syndicate Kuznetsov, Vasily First Deputy Soviet Foreign Minister Ky, Nguyen Cao Former Prime Minister of South Vietnam Laird, Melvin Secretary of Defense
Lake, Antony Former National Security Council staff member Le Duan First Secretary, North Vietnamese Workers’ Party Le Duc Tho Special Advisor, North Vietnamese delegation to the Paris Peace Talks Liddy, G. Gordon Member of the White House “Plumbers”
Lodge, Henry Cabot Director, U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks Lon Nol Prime Minister of Cambodia
MacGregor, Clark Counsel to the President for Congressional Relations Malraux, André Former French Minister of Culture Mansfield, Michael Majority Leader, U.S. Senate (D-MT) Mao Zedong Chairman, People’s Republic of China Matskevich, Vladimir Soviet Minister of Agriculture Mazurov, Kirill First Deputy, Soviet Foreign Ministry McCain, John Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC) McConaughy, Walter U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of China (Taiwan) McCracken, Paul Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors McGovern, George U.S. Senator (D-SD); 1972 Democratic presidential nominee McNamara, Robert Former Secretary of Defense
Meany, George President, AFL-CIO
Mitchell, John Attorney General
Moorer, Thomas Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Murphy, Robert Former American diplomat; informal advisor to Henry Kissinger Muskie, Edmund U.S. Senator (D-ME); 1972 Democratic presidential candidate Nguyen Phu Doc Special Assistant to South Vietnamese President Thieu Nguyen Thi Binh Chief Delegate of the PRG in South Vietnam Nguyen Van Thieu President of South Vietnam
Nitze, Paul Member, U.S. delegation to the SALT talks Nixon, Patricia “Pat” First Lady of the United States Nixon, Richard 37th President of the United States (1969–74) Noyes, Crosby Reporter and editor, Washington Star
O’Neill, John Leader, Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace Osborne, John F. Columnist, New Republic
Packard, David Deputy Secretary of Defense
Panetta, Leon Former Assistant to Secretary Robert Finch Patolichev, Nikolai Soviet Minister of Foreign Trade Pearson, Drew Former syndicated columnist
Pegov, Nikolai Soviet Ambassador to India
Percy, Charles U.S. Senator (R-IL)
Peterson, Peter Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs Pham Van Dong Prime Minister of North Vietnam
Podgorny, Nikolai Chairman, Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Pompidou, Georges President of France
Porter, Sylvia Financial reporter and journalist Porter, William Chief, U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks Price, Raymond White House speechwriter
Rabin, Yitzak Israeli Ambassador to the United States Rather, Dan White House correspondent, CBS News Reagan, Ronald Governor of California (R)
Reston, James “Scotty” Vice President, New York Times
Richardson, Elliot Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Roberts, Chalmers Chief Diplomatic Correspondent, Washington Post
Rockefeller, Nelson Governor of New York (R)
Rogers, William Secretary of State
Rostow, Walt Former National Security Advisor
Rowen, Hobart Financial editor, Washington Post
Rumsfeld, Donald Counselor to the President Rush, Kenneth U.S. Ambassador to West Germany
Rusk, Dean Former Secretary of State
Ryan, John Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force
Sadat, Anwar President of Egypt
Safire, William White House speechwriter
Scali, John Special Counsel to the President
Schecter, Jerrold Moscow Bureau Chief, Time magazine Schumann, Maurice Former French Minister of Foreign Affairs Scott, Hugh U.S. Senator (R-PA)
Semenov, Vladimir Deputy Soviet Foreign Minister Sevareid, Eric Journalist, CBS Evening News
Shakespeare, Frank Director, United States Information Agency Shen, James Republic of China (Taiwan) Ambassador to the United States Shultz, George Director, Office of Management and Budget Singh, Swaran Foreign Minister of India
Sisco, Joseph Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Smith, Gerard Director, ACDA
Smith, Howard K. Co-anchor, ABC Evening News
Snow, Edgar American pro–Chinese Communist journalist Stalin, Josef Former General Secretary, Soviet Union Stans, Maurice Secretary of Commerce
Stein, Herbert Member and later Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors Stennis, John U.S. Senator (D-MS)
Stephens, Melville U.S. Army Vietnam veteran
Stevenson, Adlai U.S. Senator (D-IL)
Sullivan, William Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Symington, Stuart U.S. Senator (D-MO)
Thieu, Nguyen Van See Nguyen Van Thieu
Thompson, Llewellyn Member, U.S. delegation to the SALT talks Thompson, Robert British military officer and counterinsurgency expert Thurmond, Strom U.S. Senator (R-SC)
Tito, Josip Broz President of Yugoslavia
Tower, John U.S. Senator (R-TX)
Train, Russell Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality Tran Kim Phuong South Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States Tran Van Lam South Vietnamese Foreign Minister
Tri, Do Cao ARVN general
Trudeau, Pierre Prime Minister of Canada
Vogt, John Deputy Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Volcker, Paul Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs Volpe, John Secretary of Transportation
Vorontsov, Yuli Soviet Minister Counselor to the United States Wallace, George Governor of Alabama (D)
Walters, Vernon Military Attaché, U.S. Embassy in Paris; Deputy Director of Intelligence Warren, Gerald Deputy White House Press Secretary Watson, Richard “Dick” U.S. Ambassador to France Weinberger, Caspar Deputy Director, Office of Management and Budget Westmoreland, William Former Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Weyand, Frederick Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Whitehouse, Charles Deputy U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Xuan Thuy Chief, North Vietnamese delegation to the Paris Peace Talks Yahya Khan President of Pakistan
Young, David National Security Council staff member Young, Milt U.S. Senator (R-ND)
Zhou Enlai Premier, People’s Republic of China
Zhou Shukai Republic of China (Taiwan) Ambassador to the United States Ziegler, Ronald White House Press Secretary
Zumwalt, Elmo Chief of Naval Operations

Abbreviations and Terms

AA Antiaircraft
ABA American Bar Association
ABM Antiballistic missile
ACDA Arms Control and Disarmament Agency AID Agency for International Development AP Associated Press
ARVN Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) CBU Cluster bomb unit
Central Committee Soviet high-ranking policy committee ChiCom Chinese Communists (see PRC) China Lobby Special-interest groups acting on behalf of the Republic of China (Taiwan) ChiNats Chinese Nationalists (Taiwanese) CIA Central Intelligence Agency
CINCPAC Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command COMINT Communications intelligence
CV U.S. Navy hull designation for aircraft carriers DIA Defense Intelligence Agency
DMZ/DMZL Demilitarized zone
DRV Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation GAO U.S. Government Accountability Office GATT General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GCI Ground-controlled interception (of incoming aircraft) Glassboro Reference to a 1967 U.S.-Soviet summit in Glassboro, New Jersey GVN Government of Vietnam (South Vietnam) HEW Department of Health, Education, and Welfare ICBM (or IC) Intercontinental ballistic missile JCS Joint Chiefs of Staff
LDP Liberal Democratic Party (Japan) LOC Line of communication
LORAN Long-range navigation systems MACV Military Assistance Command, Vietnam MBFR Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions MFN Most favored nation
MiG Mikoyan and Gurevich, a Russian aircraft manufacturer Minuteman American land-based intercontinental ballistic missile MIRV Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (ballistic missile) NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization NCA National Command Authorities (Washington and Moscow) NLF National Liberation Front (North Vietnamese political and military organization) NSC National Security Council
NVA North Vietnamese Army
OP Observation post
PF North Vietnamese Popular Forces (irregulars) POL Petroleum
Polaris/Poseidon American sea-based ballistic missile systems Politburo Soviet executive committee composed of top Central Committee members POW Prisoner of war
PRC People’s Republic of China
PRG Provisional Revolutionary Government (Communist government in waiting) PRO Public relations officer
Quadriad Nixon’s economic kitchen cabinet (Connally, Shultz, McCracken, and Burns) RF North Vietnamese Regional Forces (irregulars) Safeguard American defensive missile system SALT Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) SAM Surface-to-air missile
SDS Students for a Democratic Society Sihanoukville Location in Cambodia of intense fighting during the Vietnam War SIOP Single Integrated Operational Plan (U.S. plan for nuclear war) SLBM (or SL) Submarine-launched ballistic missile TASS Russian state-run news syndicating agency Trident British sea-based ballistic missile system U-2 American reconnaissance aircraft UAR United Arab Republic, which included the political union of Egypt and Syria ULMS Undersea long-range missile system UN United Nations
UP United Press International
VC Viet Cong
Vienna Location of public SALT talks WSAG Washington Special Actions Group (subcommittee of NSC)


The Start of Taping to the China Announcement

February–July 1971

The start of taping
February 16, 1971, 7:56 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Alexander Butterfield

When Richard Nixon entered the White House on January 20, 1969, he rejected Lyndon Johnson’s suggestion to secretly record his meetings and telephone calls. Presidents had taped for over thirty years, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Oval Office press conferences in 1940.
Two years later, in early 1971, Nixon changed his mind. He wanted an accurate, private record of his conversations. He did not want a system that had to be turned on and off, or was difficult to operate. The system the Secret Service installed was sound activated, so it recorded everything whenever Nixon was within range.
Taping started in the Oval Office and was later expanded to locations where the president spent time: various White House telephones, Nixon’s office in the Executive Office Building, the Cabinet Room, and Camp David. The taping system was one of the most closely held secrets in the Nixon White House. Even many of Nixon’s most senior assistants did not know they were being recorded. The existence of 3,700 hours of Nixon tapes was not revealed until July 1973, during Alexander Butterfield’s sworn testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee.
Immediately following the installation of the taping system on February 16, 1971, Alexander Butterfield briefed Nixon on its operation. Nixon inquired if it would be possible to expand the system, which at the time operated only in the Oval Office. Butterfield acknowledged that it was possible to expand the system to include other locations, and that he had reviewed with Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman the potential use of the tapes for note-taking purposes.

NIXON: How does it work in here?
BUTTERFIELD: Well, they’re [the Secret Service] sorting it out now. What activates it [unclear] locator on [unclear] the machine starts. [unclear] You might not be surprised by this [unclear], locator on. It tells us where you are, including [unclear] the office [unclear]. It’s automatically working, so it’s working now. [unclear]
NIXON: The system stays off, no? It’s working?
BUTTERFIELD: You’re wearing the locator right now and you’re in the office [unclear] it depends on voice activation—
NIXON: Right.
BUTTERFIELD: —so you don’t have to turn it on and off.
NIXON: Oh, this is good. Is there any chance to get two? You see, the purpose of this is to have the whole thing on the file—
NIXON: —for professional reasons.
BUTTERFIELD: Right, but if it were voice activated in the Cabinet Room, because there’s so much going on there all the time—
NIXON: Yeah.
BUTTERFIELD: [unclear] it’d be using up stuff so fast [unclear], so—
NIXON: Yeah.
BUTTERFIELD: I mean you can come in but [unclear] chance that you turn it off and you’ve got no record. I can tell when it’s on and off, but only from my office. There’s no way of telling that [unclear]. When it is going on, you just have to remember we selectively [unclear].
NIXON: All right.
BUTTERFIELD: It could be used to make notes [unclear]. I was going over this [unclear] this morning with Bob.
NIXON: Uh-huh.
BUTTERFIELD: And we’re going to monitor it. [unclear] He called my attention to this.
NIXON: How does that work, Alex? Does it work with you here?
BUTTERFIELD: Uh, no. I’m going to monitor this [unclear].
NIXON: I don’t want it monitored, you see?
BUTTERFIELD: [unclear]
NIXON: What happens when a record is made—a tape?
BUTTERFIELD: A tape is made, yes, sir.
NIXON: And then it’s, well—
BUTTERFIELD: There are only five people that know about it, outside of Haldeman, Ziegler, you, and me. Only five people in our office, [and] Secret Service—none of Taylor’s people [Robert H. Taylor, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the White House detail for both Presidents Johnson and Nixon].
NIXON: No. No.
BUTTERFIELD: None of Taylor’s people. They’re all [unclear].
NIXON: Yeah, then it’s used for, uh—
BUTTERFIELD: They only change the spools. They cannot monitor it.
NIXON: Yeah.

“I will not be transcribed.”
February 16, 1971, 10:28 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Alexander Butterfield

In one of the first recordings made in the Oval Office, Nixon stated that the purpose of the system was that a record of every conversation would “be put in the file.” This new system of recording meetings and phone calls was to replace the prior practice of having a note taker sit in on every meeting and prepare a memorandum for the president’s files.

BUTTERFIELD: You don’t have any questions on this other business that you might want me to answer now? This, this voice, I explained to the president that the secretary can’t— NIXON: No. Mum’s the whole word. I will not be transcribed.
NIXON: This is totally for, basically, to be put in the file. In my file. I don’t want it in your file or Bob’s or anybody else’s. My file.
NIXON: And my [unclear] today. The whole purpose, basically, is [unclear] so there may be a day when we have to have this for purposes of, maybe we want to put out something that’s positive, maybe we need something just to be sure that we can correct the record. But we’re going to [unclear] that’s all. And also, though, because I won’t have to have people in the room when I see people— HALDEMAN: That’s right.
NIXON: —which is much better. I can have my personal conversations, which I want to have, and don’t have the people there, you know, which I’d much rather do anyway, unless I feel that I need them there to carry out something or as buffers. Then I’ll have them, of course. So I think it’ll work fine. It’s a good system.
HALDEMAN: Just don’t tell anybody you’ve got it and don’t try to hide anything [unclear]—
NIXON: [unclear]
HALDEMAN: Anytime that anything gets used from it, it’s on the basis of “your notes” or “the president’s notes”—
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: —or “my notes” or—
NIXON: [unclear] For example, you’ve got nothing to use from this today. Just forget it. File it. Everything today will be filed.
NIXON: Fair enough?
BUTTERFIELD: I think it’s gonna be a very fine system.

A Soviet nuclear submarine in Cuba
February 16, 1971, 10:48 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

In the late summer of 1970, Richard Nixon faced a situation that he and most other observers compared to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Intelligence reports and U-2 spy plane photographs indicated that the Soviet navy was not only servicing nuclear submarines at the small Cuban port of Cienfuegos but expanding the port there. Any such installation was unacceptable according to U.S. policy. In response, Nixon plied a course that he described as “strong but quiet diplomacy,” although it was soon racked by leaks that made the news anything but quiet. Nixon chose not to comment on the reports of Soviet activities in the press, leaving them to circulate as unconfirmed rumors. He then used the press reports to spur his strategy, directing his security advisor, Henry Kissinger, to privately inform Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin that the president would allow Moscow to withdraw the plans for Cienfuegos before he turned the situation into a public confrontation—and a detrimental one—like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Within weeks, construction of the port stopped.
Nixon and Kissinger congratulated themselves on handling a dangerous situation with cunning, but in mid-February 1971 they had to measure yet another response, when the Soviets visited Cienfuegos again.

KISSINGER: The Russians now have put a tender back—
NIXON: Yeah, I saw that.
KISSINGER: —in Cienfuegos and a nuclear submarine next to it.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And that really is a kick in the teeth in the light of what you said on your—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —television program. Of course, it was produced by all these leaked stories that came out early in January saying that no one—well, that’s not the story now.
NIXON: The Soviet Union [unclear] that was exactly what they did.
KISSINGER: That’s right. But I then told—
NIXON: Isn’t that what the understanding was?
KISSINGER: That is the understanding. But I told Ehrlichman early in January. There were two stories in the New York Times saying State didn’t think—that State thought we exaggerated it and there was no problem. I told him—I said they’d be back there in six weeks and here they are. I think I ought to tell Dobrynin that until this damn nuclear submarine leaves I can’t continue talking to him.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, now do you consider [unclear]? Do you consider that a violation of the understanding?
KISSINGER: I would think you should say something very enigmatic: “The Soviets know the understanding and the consequences.”
NIXON: Yeah, I saw that. All right. You could say that. But as a matter of fact, they—
KISSINGER: This comes very close—
NIXON: They better not—it’s servicing a nuclear submarine.
KISSINGER: Well, it says that when they have a nuclear submarine next to a tender—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: It’s also—if we then say this is a servicing unit—if they can establish that, then—
NIXON: Yeah. Okay.
KISSINGER: Mr. President, they’re really putting it to us. If they put a submarine into Havana and a tender into Cienfuegos, it would be rough but we could close our eyes. But I think on this one, I hate to run any risks on the thing that’s going on now, but our experience with them is whenever we’ve played it hard—if they really want that summit and that agreement, particularly now that we’re giving them their goodies on Berlin— NIXON: Well, we have to do it because we said so, Henry.
NIXON: Don’t you understand?
KISSINGER: Mr. President, what is—
NIXON: What are [unclear]?
KISSINGER: That’s what they—sort of, yes. They’re probably going to make the distinction between port visits and servicing. But—and it’s all right if they have a port visit without the tender and the tender next to the— NIXON: Well, when do we find out? You have to make the distinction if it’s real. This is not a—this is what kind of a submarine?
KISSINGER: It’s a nuclear-powered submarine.
NIXON: I know. With missiles?
KISSINGER: I don’t know if it’s an attack submarine.
NIXON: Yeah. But we consider that—oh, I know what we said: “nuclear submarine free.”
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: You didn’t say anything about the other. Remember, I had to raise the question.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: As you’ll recall, all the others said no, right?
KISSINGER: Well, because the British, the navy, everybody felt that that distinction—
NIXON: Is meaningless?
KISSINGER: —is practically meaningless. No, it’s one of their games. They are just a bunch of thugs.
NIXON: They just are. And then—what else? Well, play it tough with the Soviet, too.
NIXON: [unclear] Yeah, I saw that and I said, “Well, here we go again.” What a jerk.
KISSINGER: I’ll just tell him until that submarine leaves Cienfuegos I won’t continue my conversations with him. I think it will leave.
NIXON: Just tell him he started this thing.
KISSINGER: Right. I think it’s the only thing he respects. I’ve got the whole thing set but I think if we let them put it to us and continue talking as if nothing were happening— NIXON: I know. [unclear]
KISSINGER: You have publicly said “servicing in or from Cuban ports.”

Afterword: The Soviet visit did not develop into further activity in Cienfuegos.

Lack of trust in the SALT negotiations
February 18, 1971, 9:56 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

By early 1971, President Nixon was growing impatient with the lack of progress in the negotiations over the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) talks between the United States and the Soviet Union.
During the 1968 presidential campaign, Nixon had promised to make SALT a top priority. Starting in his first year in office, the talks received continual attention as a proving ground for his international views and abilities, yet he was frustrated by the slow, detail-oriented process. The negotiations, staged in Helsinki and Vienna, soon formalized into semiweekly conferences between teams of up to a dozen diplomats. Overall, the personnel on each side numbered about one hundred. The American delegation was headed by lawyer Gerard Smith, who was also then serving as director of a federal agency called the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). During SALT, Smith later wrote, “White House suspicion of ACDA officials was often apparent.” ACDA officials, however, should have been more suspicious in return, as Nixon and Kissinger began negotiating arms control directly with Moscow through secret memos, without telling the members of the SALT team.

KISSINGER: Well, what these guys want, they are afraid we—that this section is holding them to your position and they want a free hand to negotiate an ABM-only agreement.
NIXON: Who? Who’s “they”?
KISSINGER: The ACDA people. And today they have—they leaked a column to Kraft, which I’m afraid is going to blow up my negotiation with Dobrynin because they put in there that—they put the whole debate on the arms control section, which I thought was entirely editorial. I didn’t take it seriously, in there. And they said, it’s, the reason is that I want to hold them to an option which they want to change. And, in effect, they said Rogers, which isn’t true, and Smith, but we’ve got to think it through. I don’t think Rogers has studied the problem with our position, but Rogers and Smith want to give them—have an ABM-only agreement. Now here, the Russians have already accepted your proposal. And now, they get this column. I would bet they are going to back off now, to see whether they can’t get more.
NIXON: [unclear] the Russians very sanguine about what else but the [unclear].
KISSINGER: But it’s one of the most irresponsible things that I’ve seen—
NIXON: [unclear] been through it with the Senate.
KISSINGER: And now, I couldn’t really give a damn about that section, but they’ve now turned it into a damn extra distraction. On the negotiating position, which I didn’t even realize it, Kraft has more detail in his column in three paragraphs than we have in ten pages. But I’m going to still try to because I don’t want a huge fight on the report. But this— NIXON: It’s an act of spite.
KISSINGER: I thought, frankly, Mr. President, it was an issue of pure vanity. That they wanted to get credit, and they didn’t want you to get credit.
NIXON: Yeah. But you think [unclear].
KISSINGER: That’s right. [unclear] What is so revolting to me is that last August, when we could have had an ABM-only agreement, and when it could have helped you at the elections, they fought it, saying it was an election stunt.
NIXON: Hmm. Yeah. That I did what?
KISSINGER: Last August, we could have had an ABM-only agreement. The Russians offered it, and I checked with Smith. He said, “No, it would be an election stunt.”
NIXON: Huh. Whose side is he on?
KISSINGER: That’s what I’m beginning to wonder. I’ve got the correspondence—
NIXON: I’d just get Smith out of there if we can. I think we should send him to Vienna in the next few days. But, on this I want him out. And, he—
KISSINGER: No, what he wants is a completely free hand, so that he gets the credit for whatever is achieved. We’ve got the Soviet agreement to your secret memo, and—
[Staff member interrupts.]
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: But I’ll just get out.

“We can lose an election, but we’re not going to lose this war.”
February 18, 1971, 6:16 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

As of mid-February in 1971, 332,900 American troops were in Southeast Asia, down from a high of 536,100 at the end of 1968, the year Nixon was elected. The Americans were fighting to defend South Vietnam against the intention of the North Vietnamese to unify the two nations into a single Communist state. North Vietnam was supported in varying degrees by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, yet the war was more than a proxy battle between superpowers.
As Nixon and Kissinger recognized, it was the resolve of the North Vietnamese and their loyalists in the South, the Viet Cong, that made victory elusive. Yet some scholars argue that Nixon and Kissinger’s strategy in Vietnam was never more than securing a “decent interval” between American withdrawal and Communist takeover, a point that other scholars dispute, as have Nixon and Kissinger.
When reviewing the broad arc of Nixon and Kissinger’s conversations related to Vietnam, it becomes clear that their moods on a given day were a direct reflection of how the war was going. Their feelings about the war evolved, just as the war itself evolved. For example, in this conversation late on another day of frustrating war news, the president made his views on the end of the war clear.

KISSINGER: Because they couldn’t get a large number of troops that far south, they’re not—the North Vietnamese are not limited by troops, by manpower. They’re limited by the, by the difficulty of access.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And they, that problem is solved by putting the Chinese in there. If we went north, if we landed in Haiphong, or if we landed in Vinh or someplace like that, then it’s conceivable. But I don’t think under present circumstances, they cannot.
NIXON: But the battle is shaping up on [unclear]?
NIXON: Well, they’re moving their divisions?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. But they are practically committing their entire strategic reserve force—
NIXON: What does the intelligence say? Are they still confused? Are they [unclear]?
KISSINGER: Now, they’re pretty—
NIXON: What do the intercepts [unclear] when you were there?
KISSINGER: No. Well, now, they’re pretty sure of what it is, and they’re moving in whenever they can.
NIXON: Our diversionary tactics aren’t fooling them much now?
KISSINGER: Well, they’re fool—still fooling them some. They’re holding some, but they’re not moving anyone from the coast. [unclear] But, again, they—
NIXON: The South Vietnamese tried this torpedo boat to attack ships? [On the evening of February 17, two South Vietnamese torpedo boats out of Da Nang, on interdiction patrol in the South China Sea opposite Quang Binh province in southern North Vietnam, engaged and destroyed a North Vietnamese gunboat and a tanker.]
KISSINGER: They tried one, and they’re trying another one tonight. They did one; they’re doing another one tonight.
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: Now, some people scream that that’s a violation of the understanding.
NIXON: By the South Vietnamese?
KISSINGER: Yeah, because they are technically part of the—but, I think you should just state that he—they violated the understanding on it they had with us.
NIXON: Oh, I see. The point being that they’re part of the understanding?
KISSINGER: Yeah, but all attacks would stop on North Vietnam.
NIXON: What’ll they do when you [unclear]?
KISSINGER: We think that this—
NIXON: Mm-hmm?
KISSINGER: —they’ve actually claimed they sank eight ships last time. I don’t know whether that’s true. Well, they’ve got one more scheduled. It’s probably already over today, and that’s all that’s authorized [unclear].
NIXON: Well, how do you feel your people will think? WSAG and the rest? Are they all reasonably staying [unclear]?
KISSINGER: They’re feeling fine.
NIXON: They’re not getting jumpy? Do you know if Laird is a bit?
KISSINGER: Well, Laird is a little bit jumpy, but I had breakfast with him this morning.
NIXON: He told me he was going to see you.
KISSINGER: Yeah, I had breakfast with him, and he’s all right.
NIXON: He’s calmed down a little?
KISSINGER: Yes. Laird is a funny guy; he maneuvers like a maniac, but when the chips are really down, he’s amazing, and he’s also loyal to you—
NIXON: Depending on this.
NIXON: Well, he is. He’s a—
KISSINGER: I rather like Mel.
NIXON: He’s a rascal, but by golly, he’s our rascal—
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: —and those kind of rascals [unclear]. I think, too, that on this thing, now, thank God, we’re not going to lose it. That’s all there is to it.
NIXON: We can’t. We can’t lose.
KISSINGER: No, Mr. President—
NIXON: We—but, I can’t. I am thinking more in terms of Vietnam. For us, the objective of all these things is to get out of there and [unclear] it’s not going to be done. We can’t lose. We can lose an election, but we’re not going to lose this war, Henry. That’s my view. Do you agree with it?
KISSINGER: I agree, Mr. President—
NIXON: I have a feeling about Laos as well.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: It isn’t a question of losing it, but we might. I mean, that’s it. This can make a hell of a difference. You say that the air is really pounding them pretty good?
KISSINGER: I thought the weather has been off and on, but for the next three days, it’s expected to be perfect. It’s perfect now, and they’re pounding them. They’re putting every B-52 they’ve got in there. They’re putting [unclear]. They are pounding them around the clock.
NIXON: As far as on the ground, is there any way we can determine?
KISSINGER: They’ve set up special radars on the ground, things they can bomb within, I think, 150 yards of these, of the frontline troops. And—
NIXON: [unclear]—
KISSINGER: —[unclear] the South Vietnamese.
NIXON: ’Cause they’re lining up these B-52s?
KISSINGER: Then, it’s going to be awfully tough for them to take this pounding. They—they took a direct pounding in Khe Sanh three years ago.
NIXON: Did they? And that turned out all right for us.
KISSINGER: That worked out all right. We chewed up a lot of their troops. I’ve got a feeling, if things build up, I don’t doubt that the press is going to try to, to cut us up. Now, the major work should be over. And they should stay out if they keep the roads cut. They already determined the Chup operation is going extremely well.
NIXON: It seems to me, everybody’s agreed. That’s what I understand.
KISSINGER: Well, and Laos—we expected Laos to be much tougher. If they would roll over and play dead ten miles from their border, then they’d be completely through. On the other hand, all of the units they’re going to lose up there [unclear] will not be ready for an offensive next year, or later this year.
NIXON: The main thing I’m interested in is just to be sure the South Vietnamese fight well—
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: —because they’re going to be battling in there for years to come. I guess if they fight well, North Vietnam can never beat South Vietnam. Never. And it’s because our South Vietnam has more people, and more— KISSINGER: And more equipment.
NIXON: What happens?
KISSINGER: North Vietnam will be at the end of their supply lines. The geography will work against it. And in the meantime, in Cambodia, for example, what they have done in the Chup plantation area is to introduce Cambodian troops behind the Vietnamese troops, so that they’re beginning to take over some of the territory. And— NIXON: The Cambodians are not becoming hysterical over Lon Nol[’s increasingly authoritarian rule]?
KISSINGER: No, no. No. That’s gone very smoothly. And also, it’s interesting—of course, now, they don’t report it anymore—there haven’t been any road cuts—roads cut since the Chup plantation operation started.
NIXON: Did we draw them off?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. We are occupying them all. They can’t move around the country now.
NIXON: Did they fight in there? Three hundred thousand that are in reserve, though, that’s—Abrams believes is an adequate reserve for whatever North Vietnam—
KISSINGER: Yeah. I understand there’s another division he’s got in reserve, too. We’ve just got to stay cool now and, and shove in whatever reserves are needed. It’s going to be tough, and we’ll need strong will the next few weeks; there’ll be panicky moments. But I think, having made strides, we ought to stay in there now through the rainy season—until the rainy season starts, and just chew them up.
NIXON: We’ve got to develop a position in terms of being able to stay as long as we’re needed there.
KISSINGER: And Moorer gave me some statistics today on helicopter losses, that, actually, they, they lost only six more helicopters last week than in a normal operating week for all of Southeast Asia, and less than they did in a comparable week last year. That, even with the Laos operation, and even with all these horror stories, they lost fewer helicopters last week than they did in the comparable period— NIXON: I wonder if the—that’s good. I wonder what the situation is with regard to fellows like goddamn Gardner and Kennedy going. Kennedy started—you know, they started to press buttons, and the libs kind of all get together and go. But, this time, they aren’t all going together [unclear].
KISSINGER: What I’m beginning to think—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —is that those who are, who are subject to Communist influence are all going nuts.
NIXON: Exactly.
NIXON: I think Gardner is subject to Communist influence—
KISSINGER: Yeah, I’m afraid so. And he’s got this bastard Halperin, who used to be on my staff for three months. He was—he’s become—
NIXON: He’s got Halperin now?
KISSINGER: Yeah, who’s his chief aide, apparently—
NIXON: Gardner’s?
KISSINGER: Yes. But, at some moment, I’m going to surface some memos that Halperin wrote for me when he was trying to butter me up.
NIXON: Jesus! We still have Halperin. [unclear] Son of a bitch. What’s happened to him?
KISSINGER: Well, I fired Halperin in July of ’69—
NIXON: Muskie is the man with Lake?
NIXON: I noticed Muskie is reorganizing his staff, because Lake is still [unclear].
KISSINGER: I haven’t seen him. Well, he’s certainly not as sharp with policy research, which is what he said—he thought he was going to be. And, I don’t think Lake is—
NIXON: He’s not that gifted.
KISSINGER: (a) He isn’t that heavy. (b) His knowledge is very out of date. Halperin doesn’t have any insight on this, anyway, because he was across the street writing think papers for me; he didn’t even see any documents. In fact, as I said, I got rid of him in July ’69. But, Halperin is probably very much on the list in influence.
NIXON: Yeah, I know. I heard that he is.
KISSINGER: And, I think those are the guys—
NIXON: [unclear] overconceited. [unclear]
KISSINGER: And those are the guys that are going now.
NIXON: Like Gardner is? Who’d want that fool anyway?
KISSINGER: Well, it’s a tragedy. At one stage, I thought Gardner had pot—potential presidential caliber.
NIXON: You ever hear Johnson’s strategy? Gardner came in—I guess Johnson called him and Gardner came in—he said he just couldn’t go with the emotional energy, you know, with Vietnam, and Johnson says, “Well, that’s just fine. You can resign.” He kicked him out. Just think. He shouldn’t have done it. I mean, these guys [unclear]. If not, you kick ’em out. We can’t just do it. One of these guys— KISSINGER: Yeah. But, you know, to say your policy is a policy that leads to more war—what is their alternative? If they had the guts to say, “Just get out,” but that they don’t have the guts to say. I may have to ask John Dutton [unknown acquaintance of Kissinger’s] for lunch sometime because he used to be an old friend and just ask him, as a friend, “Now, what the hell would you do if you’d been in this whole thing?” It’s a pity to see a man of his caliber go to hell.
NIXON: Henry, [unclear] no hard feelings. You’ve got to see who finances [unclear]. It may be that. I’ve noticed that that’s the fellow from Dreyfus [Corporation], [Howard] Stein is financing it. Stein is way left, you know.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Howard Stein—
NIXON: I think maybe he’s just a pacifist. He’s not to the left of these other financiers, who may be left, too.
NIXON: Well, Stein is. Isn’t it amazing? Here is Stein, one of the richest men in the country, and he is so goddamn liberal.
KISSINGER: Well, but what you should see—Mr. President, you’ve changed the political landscape. I’m—
NIXON: I’m convinced of that.
KISSINGER: I am absolutely convinced that you [unclear] Vietnam, as you are now eighty percent of the way to doing, no matter what happens—
NIXON: [unclear] if we get knocked out of Laos, they’ll succeed on that—
KISSINGER: Yeah, but we won’t get knocked out of Laos. [unclear]—
NIXON: [unclear] The South Vietnamese are going to fight. They’re going to stand and fight. Aren’t they?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. So far, they have. They are, right now, moving cautiously to reconnect, so that they can cover each other with artillery. That’s fine. We don’t care, as long as they’ve got the roads cut. And, the—but I think we can win in ’72. These guys won’t be able to stand four years in the wilderness. More, you can fight them off cheap.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: I know, but I—
NIXON: I’ll get a new establishment.
KISSINGER: You can create your new establishmnt.

KISSINGER: Agnew would like to go to Asia again to visit some of our friends.
NIXON: Yeah. This is a question of honor, isn’t it?
KISSINGER: I think it’s not. I think we don’t need any additional covenants on paper, now.
NIXON: I don’t think it’s the time. I think we should do it if we get anything in Laos.
KISSINGER: That’s what I think. It would just—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Well, I just wanted to—
NIXON: We have been a little tentative, Henry, considering [unclear]—
KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: You know what that is—you know what I mean? That’s—
KISSINGER: Well, it’s partly human. He likes to be in places where he gets a nice human reception.
NIXON: Yes, of course, Henry. He’s [unclear] very sensitive [unclear] he gets a hell of a good reception. But, I must say, you know, after seeing Hubert [Humphrey] today with all his good qualities, can you really imagine Hubert— KISSINGER: No way—
NIXON: —being, being here?
KISSINGER: Mr. President, I, I told Chancellor this. I said, “I love Hubert.” And, I said, “But, can you really feel that if there was a Democrat here, this country wouldn’t be torn to pieces?” He asked me what your—I said, “The thing you never get credit for is you’ve kept the Right in this country related to this, to the government, where, in all normal situations, if anyone else had had to do this difficult thing, and—so, you’ll still turn out to be the best protection of the students who are rioting against you, even though they’ll never thank you for it, because the alternative to you in 1968 was not a liberal Democrat, but a Wallace or a Reagan. And, I think that if this country is radicalized, it will not be from the Left. The Left will start it, but the Right will take it over.”
NIXON: Yeah, maybe. But, right now, the important thing is to see this miserable thing through. They [unclear] the North Vietnamese [unclear] settle the thing. In fact, there it is. And, I suppose it’s a long shot, it may just be the Chinese government saying it.
KISSINGER: No, that’s against their national—
[unclear exchange]
KISSINGER: I mean, Duc called them their “hereditary enemy.” What I think we can do, what I would recommend, Mr. President, in our game plan is if we get through this [unclear] bomb September, close to the election, I ask for a meeting with Le Duc Tho. Then have it October 15, and tell him, “Look, we’re willing to give you a fixed deadline of total withdrawal next year for the release of all prisoners and a cease-fire.” What we can then tell the South Vietnamese, “You’ve had a year without war to build up.” And, I think, then, we can settle. We may have a fifty–fifty chance to get it.
NIXON: We should be able to get it. What the hell is their choice? [unclear]
KISSINGER: I think they may take it. But it’s too early, because it would panic the South Vietnamese. But, after Thieu’s election, I think we may be able to do that.
NIXON: Okay.

“There’s an insurmountable problem between the two of them.”
February 23, 1971, 10:05 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

Richard Nixon’s distrust of the State Department went back at least as far as his energetic investigation of employees there in 1948–51, when he was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He led the effort to implicate Alger Hiss for disloyalty and had several clashes with Dean Acheson, then secretary of state, or what Nixon termed the “Cowardly College of Communist Containment.” During his first term as president, Nixon looked to an old friend and early supporter, William P. Rogers, to be secretary of state. Like Nixon, he came from humble beginnings, though he later attended some of the finest colleges in the East on scholarships. Rogers was a lawyer, not a career diplomat, but he was an articulate man and open-minded. He should have made a successful colleague for Nixon. By 1971, though, Nixon’s attitude toward the Department of State had become more strained than ever. One complicating factor was the presence of Henry Kissinger in the White House.
At once shy and aggressive, Kissinger was a difficult personality for Nixon to control. The president unburdened himself on the subject of Kissinger in a brief talk with Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, as the two were waiting for Kissinger to join them in a meeting.

NIXON: [The trouble] with Henry’s personality, Bob, is it’s just too goddamn difficult for us to deal with. I mean, let me just put it out there for a minute, for this reason. If we—you know, I have, I beat him over the head time and again, you know, to get him to—you see, he’s trying to get involved in the Mideast again. I said, “Don’t do it.” I mean, I just don’t encourage him, because I don’t know whether that’s going to come out or not. He’s praying every day they’ll have a war out there, because, you know—and I know that. [unclear] I went over that speech. That’s why I sent Safire to see Rogers. But I use that only as an example.
We also have the problem too, that in these other areas, he is just so damn jealous of letting even Haig come in. You know, I had—I’ve called Haig a couple of times. And last night, I called Moorer, you know, to keep an eye on this myself. Keeping up on things—I should. I’ve got to. But I only mention that as a problem. He’s a—maybe he was wrong, you know, in those negotiations, you know, to go to Paris and those trips.
NIXON: Not all the time, about it. That doesn’t prove anything. I mean, many of us have been wrong.
NIXON: He’s always tried. He was wrong; he tried. But he was wrong in the sense of saying, “Well, they’re ready to start jiggling,” or “They’re—I think they’re going to twitch,” or “We can just hope.” You know, all that sort of thing. He has always felt that. His big pitch last night to me was: he was talking to Dobrynin, and Dobrynin raised the point today—yesterday that they [North Vietnamese] would be willing to talk again to him.
NIXON: Now, I don’t believe that at all. I think what has happened is that Henry has planted the idea again. Henry said, “This is the time.” I said, “No, it isn’t.” It’s not. I’ve got to tell him to waste no time. You see, the problem is that, let me put it: Henry’s not a good negotiator. He just is not. He does not know—shit, he does not know how to—you’ve got to keep him the hell out of that sort of thing, because he’s a—he’s in negotiation just like he is in your staff meetings.
HALDEMAN: It’s an attitude.
NIXON: He’s an admirable worker, he’s a superb writer, he’s absolutely loyal to the country, to us, and so forth and so on. But in a deeper sense, a very, very difficult problem in working with these people that I must work around. We just can’t have a blowup, you know.
I mean, I can’t have a blowup with Rogers—or Laird, for that matter. And once Connally gets in there, he could blow up with him. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a matter of—at the present time, of course, we’re kicking around the possibility of wanting a letter to Kosygin.
HALDEMAN: Well, we’re back on a sticky wicket there, because on the plane down to Florida, Rogers said he wanted to talk to you about it.
NIXON: About the summit?
HALDEMAN: He said, “You know”—you see, he doesn’t—
NIXON: He thinks that we should have it next year.
HALDEMAN: He raised the scenario yesterday that—he said, “We aren’t going to get a SALT agreement.” Of course, Henry thinks we have one.
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: And, therefore, we—then we might as well forget that and we ought to work to a summit next year. He raised it. I was over there for lunch yesterday going over personnel stuff with him. And he raised that whole thing again, that Moorer said; so then, he thinks the Russians will go along because they need this as much as we do. They’ve got their own— NIXON: Reasons?
HALDEMAN: Mm-hmm. And I—well, I can’t—you know, don’t say anything to him at all—
NIXON: Letters.
HALDEMAN: —whatever he’s talking about. And get—
NIXON: Henry’s only reason, Bob—
HALDEMAN: This puts it—I don’t know. It’s this problem there that—
NIXON: It’s a very difficult problem, because I can’t conduct these negotiations, conduct, you know, independent discussions here without—Henry is—goddamn it, Bob, he’s psychopathic about trying to screw Rogers. That’s what it really gets down to. He wants to have a SALT agreement and a Berlin agreement. And I keep him out of the Mideast with, just by tugging. But he wants to do that without, so that—I don’t think I’m overestimating the problem. I think it’s a very serious one.
HALDEMAN: Oh, it is.
NIXON: He’s just goddamn hard. I mean, I can’t—don’t you agree?
HALDEMAN: And we kept, you know, patching it over with Band-Aids and airbrushing it, but—which we do. Maybe we keep on doing that now. But I’m not sure. It flares up and down and—the problem really is, though, at least I think, and as I found when—if you face that there’s an insurmountable problem between the two of them, Henry is clearly, to me at least, more valuable than Rogers is.
NIXON: That’s true.
HALDEMAN: And more irreplaceable than Rogers is.
NIXON: True. True. Because I don’t trust the State Department.
HALDEMAN: But if Henry wins the battle with Rogers—
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: —and resulting in Rogers going, then I’m not sure Henry’s going to be livable afterwards, livable with afterwards.
NIXON: He’s going to be a dictator.
NIXON: You got to remember, too, the need for Henry becomes less as time goes on. Do you really realize that? He divides us. And you know—
HALDEMAN: But it takes—you see, he’s right on a lot of things—
NIXON: I know.
HALDEMAN: —like procedurally, that don’t interest you and—
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: —that we don’t want to be bothered with and shouldn’t be.
NIXON: That’s right.

NIXON: You’ve got to remember that Henry is a terribly difficult individual to have around, you know, in terms of our, just our whole general morale. I mean, he just really is, Bob. It’s too damn bad. But he’s making himself so, and I think it’s because of his, this psychotic hatred that he has for Bill. What the Christ is the matter with him? What the hell is it? I mean, he—hardly anybody believes that—is Rogers out to get him? Is that it? He’s constantly saying, “I don’t want to—I can’t go into it.” Then he shouldn’t mention it to me. He says, “I can’t go into it now, but—” Well, Christ, then he shouldn’t tell me. I shouldn’t be worried about things that he can’t go into now. He just says— HALDEMAN: Did he raise that with you?
NIXON: Every day. It’s something or other. Well, you know about what’s, the way State’s cutting him out, cutting us up, the things they are doing, the horrible things they are doing.
NIXON: And then I find it in Joe Kraft’s column [Kraft’s February 18 column stated that Kissinger was “in the thick of a furious internal fight about the next American move in the arms control negotiations”]. Now, what the Christ bit of difference does that make?
HALDEMAN: Well, they leak something big they’re going to want to hit you on today.
NIXON: Sure.
HALDEMAN: I don’t know if you saw that story today, put out that State had triumphed over the NSC and got SALT removed from the State of the World message, the basis on which the SALT talks are [unclear]. Not a lot on that other story.
NIXON: Kraft?
HALDEMAN: No, it’s not a piece of his.
NIXON: Just say—I want you to send a memorandum to Rogers and just say that “the president’s on this and he thinks this is not helpful. He says it makes the task exceedingly more difficult. Really believe that you—” Well, why don’t you call him? Say, “Look, that’s it. That’s a real tough thing.” You know, “We have enough [with] our routine to do anything about whether someone would do such a thing.” You see, Rogers overlooks a lot of his damn people too. He will not discipline them. It doesn’t make a goddamn bit of difference whether SALT’s in the State of the World or not. You know it’s—nobody gives a shit, except Henry.

[KISSINGER joins the conversation.]
NIXON: Let me ask this: where does everything stand now? Do I understand that—did we, with regard to a letter to Dobrynin—to Kosygin, have I sent a letter to Kosygin?
NIXON: That wasn’t a letter.
KISSINGER: No, what I have done is—
NIXON: Is to suggest—
KISSINGER: No. I have given a draft letter—
KISSINGER: —to Dobrynin—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —which Kosygin will approve.
NIXON: Yeah. And then—
NIXON: And then he will clear that through the bureaucracy? Is that the goal?
KISSINGER: Then, if he approves it, then we’ll know what his answer will be too.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: He will give me a copy of his answer and I’ll edit that.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: That Dobrynin is sharp as a tack. The way that he edited that letter of yours—
NIXON: Good.
KISSINGER: —actually strengthened it.
NIXON: Yeah. Now, the point is, that having done that, then when we get it back, we just bring in the people and say, “Look, here’s the”—what do I do?
KISSINGER: If they accept our proposal, you’re going to have more trouble with Smith. Smith will tell you they won’t accept it.
NIXON: That’s all right, because I’ll just say that I—that I’ve decided to take an initiative here and I’m going to do it. And that’s that. I’m not going to screw around with Smith on SALT anymore.
KISSINGER: And, of course, today they have another story that they made me back off SALT.
NIXON: I saw that.
NIXON: I saw it. Let me first—
KISSINGER: And it’s going to hurt me again with Dobrynin.
NIXON: Is it? That’s a screw-up. That’s—that doesn’t make any difference, a long op-ed on this whole—but it’s interesting. We have a section on SALT.
KISSINGER: Yeah, but I yielded and I—
NIXON: You gave in?
KISSINGER: For the sake of peace with Rogers, I yielded on it.
NIXON: Did you?
KISSINGER: It was frivolous. Well, because I don’t want to come to you—
NIXON: No, but how much did you—? You had something, but you didn’t take the whole section on SALT?
KISSINGER: Oh, no. But I took out much of it. And it’s pure mischief. They had me on the phone ten times in one day. And then they demanded to see you. I didn’t want to put you in the position where you would have to rule either for me or for Rogers.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Because I don’t think it’s the right position for you to be in.

NIXON: Getting back to the other thing.
NIXON: On Berlin. How do we do the—? Don’t worry about this one now. But on Berlin—
KISSINGER: Well, on Berlin, we—
NIXON: There—the deal there, it’s all in channels—
NIXON: —so we don’t have to worry about that.
KISSINGER: With the Berlin deal, the only pity is you won’t get the credit.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, let’s try.
NIXON: Let’s leak a story.
KISSINGER: But we can leak it. I’ll tell you when we get the—after the agreement is signed.
NIXON: No. No, I don’t want it before—I want it before the agreement is signed.
KISSINGER: Well, before the agreement is signed—
NIXON: I’m going to leak the story that we’re doing it. Screw them.
KISSINGER: That’s right. Of course—
NIXON: We’ve got to leak stories that we—well, then, why not leak it now?
KISSINGER: Well, because it’s too early. But this is going to be obvious long before there’s a signature. We’ll have plenty of opportunities.
NIXON: When do you think Berlin will come off?
KISSINGER: Depending on how quickly we can move the Germans, within two months.
NIXON: All right. Send a letter—send a message to Rush and say that he should indicate that the president is playing a personal role in these negotiations.
KISSINGER: Right. To whom?
NIXON: The press. When he’s talking to them, you know, on this background.
NIXON: That the president is personally in charge of these negotiations. Let’s just get that in.
KISSINGER: I think if—well, Mr. President, if we could wait a week—
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: —until we could get some answers—
NIXON: All right, fine. As soon as you get the answers—
KISSINGER: Otherwise, if it fails—
NIXON: As soon as you get the answers, and you think it’s on stream, have him put out the fact that the president is personally—and have him put it out. It’s much better than having it come from here.
KISSINGER: Because at this point—
NIXON: Then, you see, then we could—then the people, the other people in the government, they can’t claim they did it. But I want them to know that we did it.
KISSINGER: Because at this point, Mr. President, we’re not—this is not like SALT. SALT, you can make one big play.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And they’ll accept it or not.
NIXON: And then have the State Department trying to—
KISSINGER: And I think they’ll—
NIXON: Now, on this one—on SALT—my view on that is that, if they come back and accept this thing—and you think they may now.
KISSINGER: Oh, yes. I think—
NIXON: If they come back and accept it, then my view is that, I just call in—well, I’d have to have that son of a—I have to have Smith in too, don’t I? What do I do? We’ll have an NSC meeting or what? Or just have him— KISSINGER: Well, I’d call in Rogers and Smith and I’d say, “I’ve thought about it.”
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: Actually, the New York Times yesterday had an editorial suggesting you write a letter to Kosygin.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: So you say, before they go you want to break the deadlock. And this is the letter you’re going to write. Now, Smith is going to have a heart attack at that point.
NIXON: Smith? I’ll call in Rogers to tell him.
KISSINGER: And tell Rogers then.
NIXON: And he just tells Smith. And that’s it. I’m going to tell Bill that’s the way it’s going to be.
NIXON: That’s better. I think with Rogers along, I could say that I have strong feelings about this.
KISSINGER: And I can get Laird aboard.
NIXON: I’m so sick of that Smith anyway. I don’t like him. I don’t trust him.
KISSINGER: Well, I think we can get Laird aboard. The only thing that’s going to cause trouble—there are two things that are going to cause trouble. One, they can’t surface. That’s why they didn’t want the long SALT section, because they didn’t want to get you—the section is long but not as detailed as it was. But [that’s] not important. They don’t want you to get the credit for it, but they can’t say that. The second thing they won’t want is the change in the position on the ABM, because they’ll say the Russians won’t accept it.
NIXON: Could you get Laird to agree to that?
KISSINGER: But Laird will back that. I’ve already talked to Laird, because we couldn’t do it without Laird.
NIXON: [unclear] Well, go ahead and work that out.
KISSINGER: But to show you something of this labor of Dobrynin: when I gave him the letter to Kosygin—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —he didn’t say, “I have to refer that to Moscow.” He said that too, but he immediately started editing it to see what would be easier for them to take and what wouldn’t. And I had a section in there about MIRVs. And he said, “Why don’t we both drop that one, since it’s embarrassing for you?” And he’s got a good point. I had in the letter, “MIRVs would be permitted.” He said, “Of course, they’ll be permitted.”

“The whole damn Defense Department is PR crazy.”
February 26, 1971, 5:15 p.m.
Richard Nixon and William Rogers

The Soviets pressed to divide the definition of “strategic” weapons into separate categories: defensive, including mainly the new antiballistic missile (ABM) systems, and offensive, including an array of various warheads. Nixon was in favor of the division. The U.S. negotiating team didn’t want to cede anything until all of the points had been addressed. Nixon discussed the matter with Rogers, treating it as a public relations matter.

NIXON: I’m not ready to tell you, but I’ve been doing a little thinking about the SALT thing, and I’m—I want to, before they go back on March 15, it may be that I may want to either say something or write a letter or something else, [unclear] to have some outcome [unclear]. Let me put it this way: I think the—I’m not as bearish about this as some who are willing to do something. I’m inclined to think that right now they want to do something. Now, let me say on that, for your information, I [unclear]. I want to talk, I want to think about it for a while. I just wanted to tell you about it now. It would have to be before March 15, if anything I’ve said here that—but I would like to do it in terms of a, where, if I do it, here, where you inform [unclear] to tell Smith but on a, on an absolutely—I don’t believe him, I don’t have any confidence in him, basically, as a—and particularly his shop [the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency], naturally. And, now, understand, I think he does as well as he can, considering the people that are there. But I, I feel that he looks at this thing [unclear] but, as anybody who would be involved in long negotiations, are personally, sometimes in minuscule terms. And also that, he just has too much of a tendency sometimes, he doesn’t want to fight with his own people.
NIXON: Now, this is a big play, you know, when you really come down to it, if there’s any agreement with the Russians, this might be it, you know, the ABM and something else. But if we do it, I think we’ve got to get the credit here. I don’t believe it should be in Vienna. You know what I mean?
NIXON: So give some thought to that, but I sense he—I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I would particularly suggest that we, we ought to keep that very closely held to ourselves, you know.
ROGERS: I was asking Bob Haldeman the other day, what you—I felt, sort of, basically, my own feeling is that if we could get an agreement which became effective at the end of this year. By “effective,” I mean “signed.” It would be effective sometime this year or the beginning of the next, and as long as it didn’t cause us to have—be at any, be at any disadvantage, as long as we have— NIXON: Right.
ROGERS: As long as we have, we have the opportunity to develop all the things we would develop anyway—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
ROGERS: —and really stop the things that we probably would stop anyway—
NIXON: Well, I’m on the same track. I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I’ve told Haig and Kissinger [unclear] the steps that I can think of, and yourself, and now we really have studied it, but I think something could come of it. I think something might come of it, because I think maybe they could use something, too. What the hell?
ROGERS: It’s just a matter of saving some money. That’s all [unclear].
NIXON: Say that we do.
ROGERS: Well, I’ve been thinking along the same line. As a matter of fact, I—
NIXON: But also, it could be an enormously good thing to have if we could get something said or done, or at least some indications of progress this spring, well, which would take the heat off some of this press thing, too [unclear].
ROGERS: Well, I think—I really—I don’t think Mr. Brezhnev [unclear] these people left out. I think what we should—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: [unclear] the damn television and, incidentally, they’re absolutely right. [unclear] I don’t look at it, but I read it and I know how horrible it is. Bill, the whole trouble is, I think you can’t blame Mel [Laird]. You can’t. The whole damn Defense Department is PR crazy.
NIXON: And I personally think he felt, I would have been a lot more tough on this end. Let ’em squeal. Let ’em squeal. Look at Woody Hayes after a football game.
NIXON: Vince Lombardi—whenever he lost a game, he wouldn’t let anybody in for thirty minutes. Ted Williams?
ROGERS: Of course.
NIXON: You know, he never lets the press in after the foot—the baseball players lose a game for a half-hour. Oh hell, this is war.
NIXON: And, so, the press squeals at Ted Williams. And most of the people say he’s right. What do you think?
NIXON: I tell you, God, I just think we’re just going crazy to get ourselves beat over the head, bloodied. I talked to Moorer afterwards, after you had, and I said, now [unclear]. And he’s good. He said, “Now, I’m going to do everything I can.” And he will. Jesus, you’re absolutely right. In a war, you’d never let a guy talk to the press after he’d been in a battle, would you?
NIXON: When he’s shell-shocked?
ROGERS: What we used to do is, afterwards, we took them—
[unclear exchange]
ROGERS: [unclear] when I was in the—
NIXON: Naval Intelligence?
ROGERS: Yeah. And what we used to do is, when we were ready, then we would let them go and talk to the press. You see, we didn’t do it under orders, we just did it—
NIXON: Yeah.
ROGERS: It made sense. I mean, that was the choice we had to make. So, we just didn’t go out and talk to the press until we were ready.
NIXON: Look, on the SALT thing, let us develop our own strategy. Let Smith continue to work on table support. We must do better, ’cause it has to be done that way. Well, I’ll see you.
ROGERS: All right, Mr. President.

“This whole SALT mess.”
February 26, 1971, 5:47 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Two minutes after Rogers left the Oval Office, Kissinger walked in. The contrast in Nixon’s conversations with the two is striking, in terms of the level of discourse and the decisions made.

NIXON: Hello.
NIXON: I thought you were going to see him.
KISSINGER: I’m seeing Dobrynin at—
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —six. And I have an answer from Rush on Berlin. And I’ll just put that to him.
NIXON: Where are you going to see him? Over here?
KISSINGER: In the Map Room here.
NIXON: Right. Because—
KISSINGER: I have two—three items—and one other thing.

NIXON: As far as I’m concerned, I’m not too—
KISSINGER: And also—
NIXON: I just thought that psych—I wasn’t doing it because we lost the hill [Hill 31, a key defensive position in Laos, overrun by North Vietnamese troops on February 25]. I just thought that psychologically it was a damn good thing to keep banging them there.
KISSINGER: And also, I must then say, the day after the TASS statement, to then hit them—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I’d just like to see whether we get an answer from Kosygin to your letter.
NIXON: What is the—what’s your evaluation of the TASS statement? I think what you did was written last night.
KISSINGER: My evaluation is that that was the—
NIXON: Why did they move it two weeks? And why did they make it? Because they’re—?
KISSINGER: I think it’s the minimum that they could do. They would have had a hell of a lot of explaining—
NIXON: You mean they must have had a lot of argument before they decided to make it?
KISSINGER: Well, I think they must have had some hell from Hanoi. Why—
KISSINGER: —why it is this that they didn’t make any statement of support.
NIXON: I see.
KISSINGER: And China must have attacked it. And I think it’s the minimum that they can do. But maybe it indicates that they’re shifting to a tougher line. I just—
NIXON: I doubt it.
KISSINGER: You couldn’t draw the conclusion—after Cambodia [the Cambodian incursion, the American–South Vietnamese sweep into Cambodia that began on April 29, 1970, for the South Vietnamese and the following day for the Americans and ended on June 30] they made an immediate statement. They held a press conference. They went into high gear. This time they said nothing officially— NIXON: I wonder if they’re doing it because they think that maybe they’ll get public support—try to stir up, gin up support in this country.
KISSINGER: I think that’s one of the factors.
NIXON: That’s what I was thinking it would be.
KISSINGER: And I think that the public support is—
NIXON: They always react to that, Henry.
NIXON: But as a matter of fact, it’s interesting to note, as they said to me, the doves have one hell of a time getting—they’re split without Symington, Aiken, and all these other faces, it’ll be faceless.

NIXON: Well, how did you feel your—what’s your conversation supposed to be about with him today?
KISSINGER: And I just wanted to—he might, might have an answer from, well, on the letter, but we’ll have to see.
NIXON: Probably not. I’ve prepared the way, incidentally, for the summit thing. Not just the summit, but the SALT thing. I told Rogers I didn’t have any confidence in Smith. I didn’t want him to have any discussions with him until I had him in. But I said, “I’ve been thinking a great deal about this whole SALT mess. I might want to make a statement or I might want to write a letter or something.” And I said, “If I do, look, I’ll tell you, and you’re going to tell Smith, but I’m not going to go let him in.”
KISSINGER: No. Excellent.
NIXON: Now, you see, I’ve figured we really don’t need him. If he doesn’t come in, forget it. My view is that we get it, then I’ll get the letter, and I’ll write it out because I’ve already decided on it. This is it. I’m going to do this on my own.
KISSINGER: No, I think, Mr. President, if he doesn’t come, you ought to make a public statement offering it publicly.
NIXON: That’s what I was thinking, Henry.
KISSINGER: I mean, if Kosygin—
NIXON: Oh, I know.
KISSINGER: If we don’t get an answer, then I would make a very forthcoming offer.
NIXON: And before it, so people—so that we can—I told Bill, I said, “We have got—I’ve got to take credit,” I told him, “for anything that happens in arms control.” And I said, “It can’t be Smith who’s going to get the credit.” I said, “He’s a small player and I don’t trust him.” I put it right to him. I said, “Therefore, I’m going to make a statement or”—I didn’t indicate a letter to whom—but “I’ve decided I might want to write a letter and make a statement before the thing begins. And then we’re going to go back. I won’t—I will not discuss it with Smith.” So we’re all set on that.
NIXON: Now, “The ball’s in your court and it can go over if you can.” I hope it’s a letter.
KISSINGER: Oh, that would be spectacular.
NIXON: That would be great.
KISSINGER: And that would shut up the doves a bit.

An offensive in Laos
February 27, 1971, 9:18 a.m.
Richard Nixon, William Rogers, Melvin Laird, Richard
Helms, Thomas Moorer, and Henry Kissinger

Even as Nixon reduced American troop strength in Vietnam, he expanded the war geographically with a 1970 strategic bombing campaign over Cambodia. Early in 1971, he was faced with related decisions regarding Laos, where the South Vietnamese were poised to begin an offensive called Operation Lam Son 719. The ultimate goal of the offensive was to cut the North Vietnamese supply network of routes known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail by capturing key bases in the neighboring nation. By law, American soldiers could not fight in any country beyond the Vietnam border, but Nixon made a bold decision to offer massive noncombat military support to South Vietnamese troops, an overall shift known as Nixon’s “Vietnamization” of the war.
On February 27, about two weeks after the operation began, Nixon met with his ranking advisors to discuss the fighting and its ramifications on the home front. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird was a proponent of Vietnamization, as a means of moving Americans out of harm’s way. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas Moorer, was not intrinsically any more interested in Vietnam than was Laird, but he did believe that if the United States was in a war, it should make an all-out effort to win.

NIXON: All right, so what the main, main point is: what about all the hills we lost yesterday, and what’s the situation? At any rate, are we ready to bug out, and so forth and so on, or not? I think I know the answers, but quickly tell us what has happened overnight, since—in the last twenty-four hours? Is it up, down, or sideways?
MOORER: All right, sir. First, this week we had this operation [Operation Toan Thang during January] down in the south in Cambodia and, as you know, there was very heavy fighting right there at [unclear] where over two hundred of the enemy were killed— NIXON: Good.
MOORER: —very light casualties on the part of the South Vietnamese. The operations are continuing on schedule. As you know, sir, this operation will go till 1 July, and then making a— NIXON: Yeah.
MOORER: —deliberate, thorough—
NIXON: Yeah. Tom [Moorer], with regard to that operation, is it—could it be fairly safe to be said at the present time the death of Tri has not, to an appreciable extent, reduced the effectiveness—the verve of the operation [Lam Son 719]?
MOORER: Oh, that’s right. That’s quite true.
NIXON: In other words, they were able to change commands.
MOORER: We had the one report—
NIXON: This is not unimportant—
MOORER: —that the—
NIXON: In one, they thought it was Tri, only it didn’t—
MOORER: Yes, sir. We, we had one report that the—of course, the—that some of the senior commanders actually were—
NIXON: Yeah?
MOORER: —upset about his—
NIXON: [unclear]
MOORER: —actions. On the other hand, what they want is contact, they say, and then they are [unclear] go right back to—
NIXON: Yeah.
MOORER: —the very top [unclear].
NIXON: You’ve already answered this question. That’s—
MOORER: I think the answer to that’s no, sir—
NIXON: [unclear] agree on the answer to this question. You know, we all know from, from the historical thing. Everybody, everybody—I’ll ask it—almost everybody agrees that [unclear] had Stonewall Jackson been at Gettysburg, the South might have won the war. So, the general does make a difference.
ROGERS: That’s right.
LAIRD: It would have made a difference—
MOORER: Mr. President—
LAIRD: It would have made a hell of a difference there.
NIXON: Because Stonewall Jackson would have, instead of marching those poor bastards across that [unclear]. [laughter] He’d have gone around and taken them from the rear. Go ahead.
MOORER: Yes, well, now I wanted to describe to you, I guess, a pretty significant thing we got over the evening. One is, as I told you when I briefed you on this plan, I think we left a—the idea for the First Regiment of the First Division to move prior on this highway here, 914, and for the Third Regiment to come across here. They are grouping these battalions now into—so that they’ll have their whole organization intact, of the—with the—this is what these movement flags mean as they move the First and the Third Regiments up into position. They’re moving there, as you know, they already—then there are reporters traveling this road, though, operating along this road, and there’s nary a bomb-free area from here, down to here. We’re not bombing in there because the ARVN is patrolling that road. Next, up here, where there’s been quite a bit of COMINT about Fire Support Base 31A. It was an area called Hill 31. And there’s some very heavy fighting in this area.
NIXON: Well, the score last night: they had lost 450 South Vietnamese killed?
LAIRD: No, sir, that’s not correct.
MOORER: That’s not right. We don’t have reports. This battle is still going on, and they report as follows: that the South Vietnamese are, are dug in two hundred meters from their previous position, and that the North Vietnamese have taken a part of the hill; that they are still fighting. [unclear] the fact is reported that 250 North Vietnamese dead, 100 along—right on the base, I think in the center of the base, and another 150 or so in the vicinity. Two kilometers to the east, they reported another 200 dead. And I think the radio this morning was talking about very large numbers of North Vietnamese casualties. That’s the first time that I’ve heard anything at that—in that direction. But, there’s been a, a series of attacks—tank fights. They’ve— NIXON: What about Laird’s [unclear]?
MOORER: They reported ten tanks destroyed: one by artillery and nine by Tactical Air. And then, there was a tank fight by—between the ARVN tanks and the North Vietnamese tanks along this Road 92, just at dusk—which would be just a day like this morning—where there were three North Vietnamese tanks destroyed and one South Vietnamese tank destroyed. So, the issue is a stalemate down there, but I think the significant thing is that the South Vietnamese are staying there and fighting. As you know, they brought the armored reinforcements up here, and they have linked up with one company, but the enemy has landed two or three kilometers from the group of North Viet—South Vietnamese that have dug in right adjacent to this position. And they’re still fighting, and I think that the, the fact that they are still there and holding on under this intensive fighting is an indication that they are certainly fighting well. The casualties are very heavy on the North Vietnamese side. I’m—I’m sure the forces of the South Vietnamese will suffer casualties, but the—in other words, I think the most encouraging part is that they didn’t break and, and blew ’em away— NIXON: Those people on Hill 31, they have been the survivors of that other hill we lost and moved in with them. Is that right?
MOORER: No, sir. No, sir. That was—this was independent of that. That operation was back over here. This is a separate operation.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
MOORER: What they did, and you’re quite correct, the Thirty-ninth Battalion, in the first action that you were reported to, did join up with the Twenty-first—
NIXON: Yeah?
MOORER: —but they were not related to this action over here.
NIXON: Now, with regard to General Abrams’s plan to replace the Airborne with the Marines—that’ll take about a week, or—?
MOORER: Yes, sir. I think so. I’ve asked him, though, what time then that’s going to be. If you look over here, you’ll see where these Marines are. You see, the green— NIXON: Yeah?
MOORER: —indicates the position of the South Vietnamese. There are some of the Marines here. Some of them are back here in reserve; they’ll be brought forward—
NIXON: Uh-huh.
MOORER: —but, he’ll, he’ll move them in there in a few days, I’m pretty sure.
NIXON: Fine.
MOORER: And then at [unclear]. Also, he wanted to bring up that one brigade which would be moving in there to replace this one. I think it would come across. [unclear]
NIXON: What about the balance of the reserves that he has in South Vietnam? He still has—after he moves these—he will still have [unclear] reserves in South Vietnam? But the point that Mel raised after our meeting yesterday was that—or maybe it was during the [unclear] meetings—the North Vietnamese must be making a major effort to, to cut off those, go to the rear of our force—the South Vietnamese forces that are on Route 9, and cut ’em off. Is that action, what does our intelligence show in that respect?
MOORER: Well, there was an intelligence report to the effect that two regiments were moving almost directly south.
NIXON: Right.
MOORER: On—just down the line, more or less.
NIXON: Right.
MOORER: As you know, the—
NIXON: What are we doing? Just punishing them with air, or—?
MOORER: Yes, sir. We’re doing more than that. We’re putting out patrols, and, of course, when they get over there to the South Vietnamese side, then they are up against [unclear] forces. But we have right here a very large fire support base, and we have artillery, and we are covering this with twenty-four-hour attacks. With all of that, General Abrams, of course, has all the intelligence. And, here again, there may be some enemy fire, but I think that—Mr. Helms will back me up—here, for the first time in a long time, we have the North Vietnamese willing, apparently willing, to commit as much as a battalion, which they haven’t done in a long, long time.
NIXON: Well, what the North Vietnamese are obviously doing, it seems, is to make a major effort—
MOORER: I think—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Now they’re trying to conserve their forces. Not fighting in the Giap fashion, but going all out to break the back of this thing. Is that correct?
ROGERS: That’s correct. Did we get any intercepts that [unclear]? Do we have any conversations?
MOORER: Yes, sir.
ROGERS: You know what I mean?
HELMS: Well, we do have some conversations. Conversations saying, “Stand and fight.” I mean, definite orders to these units. This is the first time we’ve seen this in, oh, literally years.
MOORER: Not only that, but they’re establishing headquarters—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: You said what?
MOORER: They’ve established headquarters down here, sir, 70B they call it, to control the entire operation. Heretofore, they’ve been leaving the actions in the different base areas up to the local commanders. And, now, they have headquarters— NIXON: Right. I assume that our air force, as usual, does not have the capacity to know how to hit such headquarters, is that correct?
MOORER: Well, sir, if they get the top men over at the headquarters, of course, they will lay the B-52 strikes on this target. [unclear] have to recognize that these generals move— NIXON: Is that right—?
MOORER: —every day. They move from one place to another. By the time you know they’re, uh—
NIXON: Yeah.
MOORER: [unclear] are reported to be down there in the Lam Son—or rather the Chup operation, we did pick up the headquarters, laid down a B-52 strike, and killed the Twentieth Headquarters area here a few days ago.
NIXON: One point, Dick, that concerned me, and I saw on television and so forth, and the news summaries, that our intelligence people are saying that our intelligence is inefficient, inadequate, bad, and that that’s the reason that we’re, we’re running into more resistance than was expected— HELMS: Mr. President, resistance is precisely what we expected. It’s been there, we outlined it before the plan ever kicked off—
NIXON: They both quote, “A high official said—”
HELMS: What if that high official doesn’t know? When we were in here briefing you long before this operation kicked off, we identified all of those units surrounded on the map, and [unclear].
MOORER: We thought [unclear].
NIXON: I don’t suppose [unclear] find the high official who said this—
HELMS: [unclear]
NIXON: All right. Go ahead.
MOORER: Well, sir, that’s our—that’s about it. As I say here, of course, it’s night over there, now. They’ll start in, again, first thing in the morning. General Abrams reports that General Lam is very resolute and— NIXON: Yeah.
MOORER: And, now, one other interesting aspect of this is the sensors indicated, indicated in the last twenty-four hours, which just confirms what we talked about yesterday, I think, in the sense that if you look at what’s happening on these fire bases. You see, here on [Route] 922, which is a route in through Base Area— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
MOORER: —611, the traffic is down by nine trucks. In [Route] 9G, which, of course, is the one that they had tried again, is—well, they’ve got zero yesterday, and two northbound and five southbound today. This could have been, we do know that there’s something going on to put a strike in. We do know that there’s some enemy forces on that road, and so, these five trucks could have been, I suppose, anything. Let me turn to Route 99, which goes off to the south, whereas we had, three or four days ago, 86 and 80, yesterday, we had fourteen trucks and some of them were knocked off by air.
NIXON: Very important.
MOORER: But only thirty. Then, you go to Route 914B, which is the one we’ve all been so interested in. They—the one that comes down here.
LAIRD: Yeah.
MOORER: It was a—
[unclear exchange]
MOORER: —the twenty-third [of February]—
LAIRD: Going up the “Kissinger Trail.”
MOORER: The twenty-third was a hundred, the twenty-fourth was eighty-four, yesterday twenty-eight, and today seventeen. And so, I think that, overall, there’s no question about the fact that they have slowed this, it appears. Now, I just had a briefing on the input through the passes.
NIXON: Yeah, and one aside: that very little figure is still valid, but [unclear]. The press will get it out, and so forth. In other words, there’s so many traps before this began and so many now [unclear]. These are things people understand, right?
MOORER: Well, we haven’t enough. I could give you some better charts and that’s it to show that and make that point, but not, now, our intelligence indicates, also, that—and this is about five days old now, because it takes that long to accumulate. In any event, the input through those passes has been high. So, the point up to this, there’s still a tremendous amount of material north of this area we’re operating in.
ROGERS: But that, Tom, is what I said is a source of confusion. You read in the papers, somebody says the—
NIXON: [unclear]—
ROGERS: —it’s a lot more traffic—
[unclear exchange]
ROGERS: Now, what it is: it’s traffic in, but not out. What we’re trying to do is cut it off. I mean, the traffic below Tchepone is greatly reduced.
MOORER: That’s right.
ROGERS: But that, as you read—sometimes read in the papers—
NIXON: That’s what it’s all about.

NIXON: A question, with regard to the DMZ: the major purpose, of course, of statements in which we have deliberately left fuzzed up, with the North Vietnamese—the South Vietnamese, what they do in North Vietnam. The purpose of that, of course, is not because they’re going north. We all know that. They can’t do it without our support. But, I don’t think at this point, I think the main purpose of that is to tie those forces down. Isn’t that true, what I said?
MOORER: Exactly.
NIXON: That they have a free shot. They just move our guys out of there and come on over here.
MOORER: As you see, they have not reduced the total number of forces, at least going back there, though, right on the DMZ they—
NIXON: How many Americans—how many Americans across that section are facing the DMZ approximately?
MOORER: Well, in this general area, we have about nine thousand.
NIXON: I see. Huh? Only nine thousand?
MOORER: Yes, sir—
LAIRD: American combat troops.
MOORER: American combat forces right there, sir.
NIXON: Right.
MOORER: We’re talking about the helo operations, and support people, and add those people on Khe Sanh.
NIXON: Okay, at Khe Sanh. Did you mean the total at Khe Sanh, and clear across that whole bottom half of the DMZ, there’re only nine thousand American forces?
MOORER: There’s about nine—
NIXON: I know about combat. I want to know about all Americans. How many are in the region?
MOORER: [unclear]
NIXON: Oh, I mean the whole goddamn bunch. What is it?
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Fifty thousand?
LAIRD: [unclear] to Da Nang and through there—
MOORER: That’s right. It depends on how far you go, go south—
NIXON: All right.
[unclear exchange]
MOORER: But they, traditionally, they have eight thousand up here, and we have about nine thousand in this blocking position.
NIXON: Now, the point I’m making has nothing to do with how many combat, military, or any of that. It has to do with: how many Americans might be vulnerable, in the case that the people are going to be there when those in North Vietnam thought they had a free shot at coming across? Now, is it nine thousand combat? Or is it twenty-five thousand or fifty thousand— MOORER: [unclear]
NIXON: —Americans? Forget combat—
MOORER: Yes, sir. I think it’s about, well, I think the figure’s twenty-nine thousand based on my knowledge—
NIXON: I’d like to verify it again. Get that figure—
MOORER: Should we go all the way down to—it depends on where you stop, Mr. President.
[unclear exchange]
MOORER: If you include all of Military Region I.
NIXON: Fine, Military Region I. That’s great. Just get me that there [unclear] below the DMZ. That, really, is what this is all about. [unclear] Now, the second point is that, with regard to the whole business about [unclear] and so forth and so on. It, as we all know in this room, the purpose of that is [unclear] just like your little running, your boat up there with five thousand Marines on it, sending them for a field trip, with boats and the rest, to keep them worried over there, and at least tie down a few of their people, so that they don’t come running around over here and get these guys. Is that true?
MOORER: Yes, sir.
LAIRD: Now, we were, during the meeting with [unclear] said he wants more this week—
NIXON: Good.
LAIRD: —and—
NIXON: That’s all right.
LAIRD: —there is, we’ve been watching those pass areas up there and getting the best kind of intelligence that we can. Both CIA and DIA have been working closely together.
NIXON: Well—
LAIRD: There is a substantial amount up there, but I think it would be worthwhile, maybe, but I didn’t think it was going to be—
NIXON: [unclear]
LAIRD: —this weekend.
NIXON: We’ve got another week to go.
LAIRD: Because—
NIXON: I’m sorry, but we will present that, though. I’m going to talk about that. But, understand: it’s militarily that can have the effect of tying those people down. That’s all.
MOORER: It’s already doing it, sir. We’ve got intercepts—
NIXON: I know, I know, but I’d keep hitting that pass area.

NIXON: Don’t give ’em news. I told Ziegler, for example, when they ask about, “What, what is the American position about supporting the North—South Vietnamese if they go north?” He says, “Gentlemen, I have nothing new on that. The president covered that completely at his press briefing. What’s the next question?”
NIXON: Because I did cover it. I said, “Well, obviously, I don’t have anything with what the South Vietnamese are going to do [unclear]. As far as our policy, it will be solely dictated in terms of whether or not there’s a threat to our forces in the South.” And that’s true, we all know. Which, really, is, in effect, saying that we won’t. And then, if somebody did ask a question. He says, “Well, what if there were such an operation, and it required a combined thing, and so forth? What would you do?” And I said, “Why, of course, we have no plans to do anything like that.” But, you see, the point is, Mel, it makes news— LAIRD: Yeah.
NIXON: —whenever a press secretary, and he does a good job, but whenever a press secretary, in answering a question, tries to give the answer directly, rather than telling the son of a bitch in the press, “Gentlemen, I refer you to the secretary’s comment on that. What’s the next question?” You see, but that’s not news, sir, because there is nothing new. Don’t you agree, Bill?
ROGERS: It’s very tough for them to say that, but that’s what they should—
NIXON: I do it all the time.

NIXON: You know, the, the other thing is, which I’m sure Abrams was shooting at, up there in Laos, the South Vietnamese could just win one cheap one, just a cheap one. Yeah. Take a stinking hill. Carefully bring back a prisoner or two, anything. I’m sure that has all been brought up.
MOORER: [unclear] I mean, there’s a seizing of men, seizing of prisoners, and killing the 250 survivors—
NIXON: No, but they don’t believe those figures.
ROGERS: Tom, there’s no sign of any—
NIXON: Prisoners.
ROGERS: —demoralization—deterioration of the South Vietnamese?
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: That’s the point that I’m worried about.
ROGERS: I think we’ve got to, you’ve got to be sure that everybody out there’s very [unclear]. Even a sign of it, because we can get on it right away—
NIXON: Right.
ROGERS: —so that it doesn’t [unclear].
NIXON: We mustn’t have nothing. The South Vietnamese demoralization has been terribly important.
MOORER: Yes, sir. Well, we, we recognize—
NIXON: The North Vietnamese, I think they’d be getting it when we hit ’em—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: What do you think, Dick?
HELMS: That’s right. I think—the North Vietnamese are having a rough time. This time, the South Vietnamese stand their ground, and the operation will run out [unclear] when Mel came back from his trip. But they’ll stand and fight, and we can really clobber them, and so forth. They’ll not only take losses in men, but they’ll take losses in supplies.

“His people were crucified over there. . . . five million of them, popped into bake ovens!”
March 9, 1971, 5:36 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman

National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was the point man on every major foreign policy during Nixon’s first term of office. The president set the policy and Kissinger carried it out. Sometimes Nixon had to mediate between Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers when turf battles popped up, and they did from time to time. Nixon felt that if there was one area of the world that Kissinger should not lead American policy, it was the Middle East. Nixon worried that Kissinger’s well-known Jewish heritage could create the perception that the United States showed favoritism in the region.

NIXON: In regard to Henry, he was in talking about his problems, you know. This is only for your own information, you know. He’s—I don’t know why he reads all this stuff. Apparently Newsweek has an article this week that talks about his— HALDEMAN: At a press—
NIXON: —religious background, or something, or his being in an [unclear]—
HALDEMAN: That’s what I was saying, Jewish.
NIXON: Yeah, he was talking about that. Safire had given it to him. He’s terribly upset. He feels now that he really ought to resign. You know, he mentioned that little [unclear] when he came in, and so forth and so on. He took the position that [unclear]. The position that I have taken, and this is very, I said, “All right, look, I am just not going to talk about it now. We’ve got several very big things in the air. Laos, and the possibility of some deal with the Soviets, and SALT.” [unclear] And I said to him, “We cannot allow this to be a situation where it worries him.” Besides, I said, but the difficulty in Henry’s case, it’s very simple. He’s somewhat more, I must say, I think somewhat more honest than Rogers in that Henry knows his ego problem. And so he says, “I’ve got an ego,” he said, “when Rogers is around.” Rogers is a different problem. Rogers is a vanity problem. Henry’s is not a vanity problem. Henry has an ego for reasons that [unclear] vanity.
What apparently set him all off on this, State is in the process of preparing a paper on the Mideast. If only, God, if Henry could only get, even have that one issue, if he could have that not handled by himself! My [unclear] behind it is true. Anybody who is Jewish cannot handle it. Even though Henry’s, I know, as fair as he can possibly be, he can’t help but be affected by it. You know, put yourself in his position. Good God! You know, his people were crucified over there. Jesus Christ! And five million of them, popped into bake ovens! What the hell does he feel about all this?!
HALDEMAN: Well, what he ought to recognize is even if he had no problems at all on it, it’s wrong for the country, for American policy in the Middle East, to be made by a Jew.
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: And he ought to recognize that. Because, then if anything goes wrong—
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: —they’re going to say it’s because a goddamn Jew did it rather than blame Americans.
EHRLICHMAN: We’ve just been through this on health.
HALDEMAN: Yeah. You, as a Christian Scientist, shouldn’t be making health decisions, either.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, that’s why I farmed it out.

Crisscrossing negotiations with the Soviets on SALT
March 11, 1971, 4:00 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

In early March, Ambassador Dobrynin tried to make clever use of the secret communications from Nixon and Kissinger over the ABM aspect of SALT. He contacted Smith, the chief negotiator, and played him against the president. Dobrynin pressed Smith for the possibility of an ABM-only agreement, which could be negotiated in 1971, while an offensive/defensive agreement could not. Smith told Dobrynin that he must follow the president’s guidance, which stressed the relationship between offensive and defensive weapons control.

KISSINGER: I think, incidentally, that the Russians are feeling that. I read now the Smith record of the Dobrynin conversation. That son of a bitch is just taking your letter, without telling Smith he’s got it, and feeling out whether Smith is willing to give more.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: Because Smith’s nearly dropped his teeth, because Dobrynin had—he had always said the Russians will never accept trading Washington—and the Washington system in for, for ABM. Here, Dobrynin offered it to him yesterday for nothing. And that actually helped us, because if they do come back now with the letter, it doesn’t look like an arbitrary decision of yours. We’ve positioned it at the NSC meeting with Laird— HALDEMAN: And it’s easy to cover now—
KISSINGER: Dobrynin has come in, and you were—and it’s much better for us. Scoop Jackson called this afternoon, and he said if we screw him on this Washington defense after all the pleading he’s done for us on— NIXON: We’re not going to do that.
KISSINGER: —on Safeguard, he’ll never forgive us.
NIXON: Well, you told him we weren’t?
KISSINGER: I told him we weren’t, and he should come in. I’m seeing him Saturday, and I’ll—
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: —I’ll tell him.
NIXON: Because after all, he is a decent man.
KISSINGER: I think he’s a decent guy.
NIXON: Oh, sure.

“An ABM-only agreement. It’s fine, as far as you could do it, but that would be a disaster.”
March 12, 1971, 8:50 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Nixon was at first willing to accede to the Soviet suggestion of signing an agreement for defense systems (ABM), while continuing talks about offensive systems. On March 9, Secretary of Defense Laird sent Nixon a stern warning: “We should not accept a formal agreement on defensive weapons only, even with an informal agreement on offensive systems.” On March 12, Nixon heard via Dobrynin that Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, insisted that there would be no agreement beyond the anticipated ABM treaty. Nixon had no intention of acquiescing, so he had to decide who would write whom how long a letter, and when.

KISSINGER: Well, I saw our friend [Dobrynin].
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
KISSINGER: And he brought me a reply, a draft letter, which they would give you. And now we’re in a bit of a negotiation. I don’t know if at first you want to hear the details. They want a shorter letter from you.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: In fact, there was a lot of detail—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —in mine.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And Dobrynin says—
NIXON: Well, at least, it’s a reply though.
KISSINGER: Oh, they’re dying to reaffirm the summit meeting.
NIXON: All right. All right.
KISSINGER: And they’re saying—
NIXON: They want that announced now?
NIXON: They don’t want it announced?
KISSINGER: Not now. [That would be] too fast, Mr. President.
NIXON: Fine. Look, I’m just trying to feel them out.
NIXON: All right. But on this, do they want this exchange of letters to occur now?
KISSINGER: Well, yeah. Oh, yeah.
NIXON: Do you think we can? Why don’t you just summarize it for me?
KISSINGER: Well, the exchange of letters is that I have proposed with him, in the draft of your letter, a very detailed agreement on freezing.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: They don’t want to do that. They, and Dobrynin says frankly they don’t want to do it because he thinks that the preparation for the party congress they can’t all get together— NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. Fine. So what?
KISSINGER: So they gave us a much shorter reply and they recommended we give them a much shorter letter, which just talks about the principles rather than the technical details.
NIXON: But does it mention offensive and defensive?
KISSINGER: Yes. Now, there we had one point—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —which we have to settle with them.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: They, of course, are driving their usual hard bargain. They say, “Let’s negotiate in detail defensive first and then we will discuss the freezing.” I told him that I didn’t know your thinking— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —but that that was too vague. I think what we have to ask them is this, Mr. President: that they agree to the principle of the freezing of deployments. Then we will authorize Smith to discuss ABM limits. And then, before the whole thing gets wrapped up, we will agree to the specifics of the freezing. I don’t think with this new Soviet missile buildup we can afford to sign an ABM-only agreement— NIXON: No.
KISSINGER: —that isn’t very specific.
NIXON: Yeah.

NIXON: My view is you get what you can get in the beginning and then you do whatever to have an agreement together. It’s nice for their—I don’t mean—you see what I mean? Particularly with an ABM-only agreement. It’s fine, as far as you could do it, but that would be a disaster.
KISSINGER: Disaster. Well, on that kind of language, they are—
NIXON: That would be a mistake. Well, I don’t know what you can get.
KISSINGER: On this one, too, they prefer Moscow and Washington rather than—
NIXON: What?
KISSINGER: Rather than two sites. These are—
NIXON: Well, they can’t compare these things in significance, Henry.
KISSINGER: Exactly, Mr. President. I think the significance of this is that they’ve gone this far. This is their first position on the inspection. Obviously, they’re going to try to get the best possible deal.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I don’t believe that he expected for a minute that we would accept this draft, as I said before.
NIXON: Yeah. Keep you both working on it—did he agree to that?
KISSINGER: That’s right.

KISSINGER: Smith won’t, can’t do any damage, because he’s frozen for four weeks—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —into position. We’ll have this settled in two weeks, leaving only two topics left to go.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: We’ll be done within ten days in my view.
NIXON: Your view is that we might have the exchange of letters in ten days?
KISSINGER: Within two weeks. If—unless there’s a total deadlock, which I don’t believe.

NIXON: Listen, we’ve got to stick to our guns but, I think, running this thing now could have an enormous effect. We need something like this about now.
KISSINGER: Well, we’ll have this—
NIXON: Just make any kind of a damn deal. You know it doesn’t make a goddamn bit of difference. We’re going to agree to settle it anyway. Just drive the hardest deal you can.
KISSINGER: Push the letter. I think, Mr. President—
NIXON: You drive it and I’m going to write the letter.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. What we can do is probably, after being—we may have to give on Moscow and Washington.
NIXON: But what about Scoop Jackson?
KISSINGER: Well, he’s only a senator.
NIXON: Don’t tell him that.

“They say we’re being obstinate by linking offensive and defensive weapons.”
March 16, 1971, 9:30 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

On March 15, the official SALT negotiations began again in Vienna—the fifty-fifth such session. At the same time, Washington and Moscow were in public discussions over a planned summit, with private haggling over just what would be concluded there.

KISSINGER: Mr. President, if I could just bother you with that letter so that—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —I can get it to Dobrynin today.
NIXON: Okay.
KISSINGER: They have a Politburo meeting on Thursday, which means he’s got to get it out by four this afternoon.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: [showing Nixon several drafts] This is the one where we stand now.

KISSINGER: This is what they want to say, so you see it’s a lot more. This was his counterproposal to the previous draft. [pause] Notice it says nothing about a freeze.
NIXON: [reading] “Negotiations and to reach an agreement on the limitation of strategic offensive weapons.”
KISSINGER: I think they’ll accept this one because—
[Nixon reads several drafts of his letter to Kosygin.]
KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Fine.
KISSINGER: We’ll know by Friday if we can’t get an agreement.
NIXON: However that would be seen, do you think we’re going to get it?
KISSINGER: I think we may have better than a fifty–fifty chance.
NIXON: I wonder if, well, if we put ourselves in the [unclear], saying that we shall reach an agreement before we know for sure.
KISSINGER: And then we have the freeze. Oh, you mean on the ABM?
NIXON: Well, on the both, Henry. You see, a freeze may—it’s just a document. [unclear] to cover MIRVs. I mean it’s a—
KISSINGER: We didn’t ask for a MIRV even in our formal proposal.
NIXON: I know, but I, I’m getting at—the point I’m getting at, the point here, is whether we just—puts us any worse off than we are now.
KISSINGER: I think it would show an initiative of trying to break the deadlock. If they then deadlock on technical—I have the impression that they want an agreement.
NIXON: What we’re doing is—say we negotiate an agreement in Vienna that has the opposite effect. It’s still worth doing. With ABM we could still not get, get together on that. Then we would have a freeze on offensive weapons and agree to negotiate more at a later time.
KISSINGER: Well, what it would do, Mr. President—right now the deadlock is—for example, we have a long New York Times editorial again today, not that that matters, but in which they say we’re being obstinate by linking offensive and defensive weapons. And this is your way to break that deadlock. Whatever we put in the letter would still—you couldn’t possibly cover all the bases because— NIXON: The New York Times just wants a SALT agreement [to] agree to an ABM limitation.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: They want it, because that’s the drive of everybody who’s opposed to ABMs, is simply to go back and be done with it. Correct?
KISSINGER: That’s right. But in that case, we’re doing better than what the New York Times recommended. They accept it because we’re getting an offensive freeze also. You’ll get an ABM limitation with a good chance of one different from what they want, which is Washington— NIXON: Mm-hmm. Do you see anything [unclear]—?
KISSINGER: I mean, we were just—
NIXON: Do they want us to stop?
KISSINGER: Yeah. We would instruct Smith to stick with—
NIXON: Three [missile sites].
KISSINGER: —our present program. But, his present instructions are four, and we could let him fall back to three. Of course, what we really need is the radar, and the radar does the same for three and four. Only we’ll get—three gets us fewer launchers.
NIXON: Fine. Well, let’s go on that. We’ll do it that way.
KISSINGER: Okay, Mr. President.
NIXON: Fine.

KISSINGER: I think that every time we’ve tried to meet, to placate these liberals, they’ve gotten nastier—
NIXON: A lot worse.
KISSINGER: As I see it, every time we’ve met them frontally, they’ve started wailing.
NIXON: Damn. I don’t think we need to worry about them now—
KISSINGER: I don’t think that’s—
NIXON: —I think what the problem right now is this: I’m not so sure the SALT thing is going to be all that important. I think it’s basically what I’m placating the critics with. Maybe it’s just as well.
KISSINGER: Well, I think—I met with a group of senior businessmen yesterday.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I think it would be considered a generally hopeful thing. And it would be a run-up to a summit. I think, if we got that and the summit—and Rush sent me a cable that some of the stuff Dobrynin and I have been talking about is beginning to be reflected where he is.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: I consider it—in Berlin, all we can do is cut our losses. But Brandt has, in effect, has practically given away the ball game there already. So—
NIXON: Sure. Nothing we can lose.
NIXON: There’s nothing to lose that he hasn’t lost already.

NIXON: Laos was the right thing to do. Cambodia was the right thing to do. But my point is, we did both of those for the purpose of getting to another point. Now we’ve reached the other point.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: And once we reach it—now, every decision is now made not in terms of, well, what’s the effect going to be on Saigon. The decision has got to be made on what’s the effect on us.
KISSINGER: Absolutely. I agree.
KISSINGER: One thing too—
NIXON: We have to remember that our giving to the Russians—everything is all tied to this. And we have—now, about Thieu, we have to remember that our view of the Russians, everything, is all tied into this, and we— KISSINGER: If we could—the advantage of a summit, even if it gets a sort of half-baked SALT agreement, whatever the SALT agreement is, it’s a lot better than the nuclear test ban.
NIXON: Of course. Of course. Of course.
NIXON: I agree with you. It would stop—
KISSINGER: —it would defuse people. They can’t very well attack their president when he’s getting ready for a summit meeting.
KISSINGER: And that would get us a few months of, of, of, you know, of quiet here. One thing we might consider that’s in the summer, a meeting with Thieu in which Thieu asks us to end our combat role. That would be an— NIXON: Well, we’ve got to figure all those things out. The combat thing, no draftees—
NIXON: —a whole series of announcements for the purpose of getting the thing cooled off.
KISSINGER: That’s right.

Afterword: Nixon directed Kissinger to negotiate an agreement that both types of military systems would be included in the SALT treaty.

“Announce the whole damn thing, and that’s that. The war is dead as an issue.”
March 18, 1971, 6:25 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

One of the continuing issues of 1971 was the need for a renewed agreement on the situation in Berlin. Since the end of World War II, the city had been divided, the original four sectors evolving into East Berlin (Soviet-protected) and West Berlin (U.S.-protected). The entire metropolitan area was located in East Germany, a Soviet satellite state, making West Berlin an island of Western-style culture and government. As such, it was a highly charged symbol of U.S. support of non-Communists along the Iron Curtain. Nonetheless, servicing West Berlin with food and other essentials was awkward and the Soviets wanted to erase access to the isolated city. Meanwhile, Nixon and Kissinger groped for substantive information about the progress of the war in Vietnam.

KISSINGER: Dobrynin sent over a message.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: They’ve come up with a draft agreement on Berlin, which on first reading is acceptable. I sent it to Rush on my private channel to him for his analytical comment. But in the two areas that I’ve discussed with him, Federal presence and—it’s a major, there’s some major concessions.
KISSINGER: He just called ten minutes ago to say he hoped he’d have a response by—a preliminary response from me by Monday, that they’re very anxious to move ahead.
KISSINGER: And I said, “Well, you know, as you know, there are parts of it that are totally unacceptable.” He recognized that.
NIXON: On Berlin?
KISSINGER: Yeah, on Berlin.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: But he said, “But, as you know, none of the parts that are unacceptable to you are worse, and a lot of the parts are better”—which is true. I think we should use Berlin just to keep him talking— NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —and to do the—
NIXON: But he also expects you to—does he still feel he’ll have some answer on the other proposition on Monday, too?
KISSINGER: Yeah. I won’t give him an answer on this until—
NIXON: Of course not.
KISSINGER: —he gives me an answer on the other.

KISSINGER: We had another two-hour session on these—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —logistics, and it’s a hopelessly complicated subject. I’m writing a memo for you to read over the weekend, without figures, just to—
NIXON: Well, I don’t want to read any memos, because I’m going to be preparing for the [Howard K.] Smith thing next week—
KISSINGER: No, no, but I thought you might use it for the Smith thing—
NIXON: Oh. Oh, I see.
KISSINGER: Not use figures, but show some of the factors why we are so confident that this has been a success. And now, I really am very confident, now that I’ve worked through these things.

KISSINGER: So, they put in fifty thousand troops where, last year, they had seven thousand troops. If you just add the rice consumption for fifty thousand troops—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —you create a totally new consumption pattern, and no one had done this before.

KISSINGER: Some of this stuff, because when you add it, the figures of what it takes to feed fifty thousand people in southern Laos, as compared to eight thousand last year, and— NIXON: [unclear] Let me tell you, Henry, I have that feeling. There are other reasons. I just know that going in there and knocking the livin’ bejeezus out of those in Laos [unclear]— KISSINGER: It scared them.
NIXON: And it scared ’em. And part of it—and it sent the international establishment into such a tizzy, and these people are deeply proud. The other thing—and I think your point is—these bastards, they’ve got to look at their hole card now. We’ll find out. If they’re going to negotiate, they’re going to negotiate in the next three or four months.
KISSINGER: That’s right. Well, Walt Rostow was in today.
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
KISSINGER: Of course, he’s often wrong, but he’s—
NIXON: No, I—he’s not really—
KISSINGER: Actually, his judgments have been—
HALDEMAN: Pretty right.
NIXON: No. Hell, no! I agree with Rostow. He makes good speeches, everything.
NIXON: He should have been in to come and say hello.
KISSINGER: Well, Walt Rostow said—
NIXON: He knows we’re doing the right thing, doesn’t he? Huh?
KISSINGER: Absolutely. He, he—
KISSINGER: —he said something today—he said—and that really takes a lot for him— he said, “If we could have put your president together with our cabinet, we would have really done something.”
NIXON: [laughs] [unclear]
HALDEMAN: That’s kind of interesting.
NIXON: Well—
KISSINGER: This is an interesting—
NIXON: Well, he had Rusk, of course, who is a tower of strength.
KISSINGER: Yeah. And McNamara, in his way—
NIXON: He did what he was told.
[unclear exchange]
KISSINGER: McNamara would never have leaked.
NIXON: Never.
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: But what, what did Walt say?
KISSINGER: Well, Walt says his gut feeling tells him they’re getting ready to negotiate, and, to him, the Zhou Enlai visit to Hanoi—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —was the beginning of a political process rather than the opposite.
KISSINGER: And, today, the Russians attacked China on the radio for being willing to sell out in Vietnam.
NIXON: [laughs] Sell out?
NIXON: There is the problem, I think. I think the problem with both—the reason the Russians can’t help us there is that they can’t be timid, and they can’t be accused of selling out. The reason the Chinese can—they can’t be accused of it, so the hardliners in Hanoi— KISSINGER: Of course, the, the trouble for Hanoi is—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —that they’ve now fought for ten years against us. They must’ve lost at least seven hundred thousand men.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: They’ve had a whole young generation that are neither productive in North Vietnam, or, for that matter, even breeding.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I bet their birthrate—I’m serious—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —their birthrate must be way, way down.
NIXON: Why—good God, there’s no men!
KISSINGER: There are no men there.
NIXON: Yeah!
KISSINGER: And, all it—if it ends now, they’ll have very little to show for it. The fact that we can now run two big operations—at this moment there are five and a half North and South Vietnamese divisions outside of the country, and they haven’t been able to get a guerrilla movement started. And that is— NIXON: They haven’t got one in Cambodia. Incidentally, what’s happening in northern Laos?
NIXON: What the hell’s the trouble there, though?
KISSINGER: Well, we laid in some B-52 strikes a few weeks ago.
NIXON: Aren’t we—but, but, you know—
KISSINGER: They all told—
NIXON: —Helms told us five weeks ago, we’re going to lose it again.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Maybe we’ll lose it next month?
KISSINGER: We may lose it, but every month, week we gain brings that rainy season closer.
NIXON: When is their rainy season? Theirs is early, isn’t it?
KISSINGER: It starts in the middle of June.
NIXON: Middle of June?
NIXON: May? Because it varies over there, doesn’t it?
KISSINGER: Yeah. And the—and in Cambodia, there are next to no incidents.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Route 4 is open. You see, when Route 4 was cut, it was reported every day. Now, unescorted convoys go from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh every day. And there’s no report in the newspapers— NIXON: No—
KISSINGER: —that there are no incidents.
NIXON: —good news is never reported.
NIXON: It’s all right. It comes out in the end, when we’re done.
KISSINGER: But, I must say, this analysis, I found very encouraging, because I, I didn’t go in with that expectation, particularly. I didn’t know what the—
NIXON: But, this analysis—they’ve got it, too, Henry. And they’ve got to look at their hole card. What the hell can they do?
KISSINGER: They have only—they have two hopes, now. The one hope is that—
NIXON: Get Thieu out—
KISSINGER: —that Thieu would collapse with the election in October. So, he may not be so wrong in playing it closely.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And, the other one is our election. But our election, in my judgment, is a double-edged sword for him—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —for them, because if you get reelected—because you’ve demonstrated, from their point of view, unpredictability—and now, not having to be elected again—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —there’s just no telling what you’ll do.
NIXON: Yeah. So damn true.
KISSINGER: That’s one problem. The second problem is: if we don’t give them a date before, and if you leave it in fairly good shape, and you should get defeated, would a Democrat dare to sell it out and take the opprobrium? So— NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: So, I’m not sure that the ’72 election is as clear a signal to them as the ’68 one was. In ’68, they thought if they would get rid of Johnson, they’d have it made.
NIXON: Hmm. They thought they’d get Humphrey.
KISSINGER: And they thought they’d get Humphrey. But, in ’72, this isn’t so, so clear to them. And, if we get into a negotiation with them on a very private basis, this is a point— NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —that should be made to them.
NIXON: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
KISSINGER: I actually think this summer, if we—if our domestic situation holds reasonably well, and we don’t give the deadline away, the deadline is our best bargaining chip— NIXON: Sure it is. Well, maybe that little memorandum will help.
KISSINGER: If we give it away in November or December or October—if we—if we don’t get a negotiation by November—
NIXON: We’ll do it then.
KISSINGER: —then it doesn’t make any difference—
NIXON: No, that’s right.
KISSINGER: Then we can do it—
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: Then we should do it.
NIXON: What we should—we’ve got to, then. That’s the time to give it away. Right after Thieu’s election, we’ll have a little meeting—assuming he gets elected—
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: —and announce the whole damn thing, and that’s that. And the war is dead as an issue.
KISSINGER: No problem.
NIXON: [snaps his fingers] Like that. Out! That’s the time to do it.
KISSINGER: But, if you do it now, you’ll just get into the [unclear].
NIXON: Well, if you do it now, the main problem is right now, if you do it it’s a little bit more important, you—there is still a chance that you could negotiate something. And, boy, that would be the best of all worlds— KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: —to get it done. And I had chances. You know, I never thought it was very good, but there’s some, now. There was none before. So, what the hell?
KISSINGER: And now, what—we wouldn’t put to them the political proposition. Now, we would just negotiate military arrangements.
NIXON: Military arrangements. Mutual withdrawal.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: What about Cambodia and Laos?
KISSINGER: Well, they’ll have to stand down there, too.
NIXON: Yeah. All right, well, if it’s something—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: —or, or, or the cease-fire, at least.
KISSINGER: Yeah, we can do it in one of two ways. We can either not have mutual withdrawal, but just negotiate a cease-fire for our withdrawal and the prisoners, which would give everybody another year to gear themselves up without Communist attacks.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And, since we’re going to get out anyway in, in a year and a half, it doesn’t make any difference whether we agree to get out in a year.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: Once we are below one hundred thousand troops we have no combat effectiveness left—
NIXON: None.
NIXON: Well, the air.
KISSINGER: The air. Yeah, but we could do a lot from Thailand and from carriers if they break the agreement.
NIXON: Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah. Okay.

“The Chinese really blasted Russia.”
March 19, 1971, 11:45 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

On the hundredth anniversary of the Paris Commune, Chinese newspapers harshly criticized the Soviet Union as an unworthy heir to the revolution, an imperial nation that was both overly militaristic and expansionist. Implying that Brezhnev was “a traitor to the proletariat,” the editorialists lambasted the use of police to oppress people in the Soviet Union and armies to control citizens of other nations around the world. The Soviets responded to the attack by accusing China of merely trying to curry favor with the United States.

KISSINGER: The Chinese really blasted Russia.
NIXON: The Chinese did?
NIXON: About what?
KISSINGER: About, oh, bourgeois—a real all-out blast just before their party congress. So—
NIXON: It’s a real fight.

“Let this country go up in flames.”
April 6, 1971, 1:00 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Nixon and Kissinger continued to read the political tea leaves as they considered their approach to talks with the Soviet Union.

KISSINGER: One interesting thing happened this morning. That vulture McGeorge Bundy called up.
KISSINGER: And he’s a great weathervane for them.
NIXON: Is he?
NIXON: They were giving money to Muskie all the time, you know. Did you know the Ford Foundation has financed all of Muskie’s trips to Africa? Now that’s a foundation for you. Now, Muskie is a presidential candidate. I traveled for eight years by myself. I paid it all out of my own pocket. I earned the money by writing for the Reader’s Digest, Henry. And with a two-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollar law firm practice, and I made two hundred fifty thousand dollars on my book, I financed the whole goddamn thing. Did I ever hear a word from the Ford Foundation? How many foundations suggested, “Look, Nixon, the former vice president, is going to make this trip abroad. You’re going on a nonpartisan basis. We’d like to help”? No. They finance this son of a bitch Muskie. Boy, and he’s had his [unclear].
KISSINGER: Well, he [Bundy] was very cagey again. And—
NIXON: What’s he cagey about?
KISSINGER: Well, he said, “Well, it’s a tough one.” And—
NIXON: Yes, yes.
KISSINGER: —there’s more support than you think. Well, he will never say so. But what—but he did say that when he returns—
NIXON: More support than you think. I think there is more than we think. I don’t—
KISSINGER: Well, one thing he said was: there’s a fellow at the UN, with whom he—the Soviet mission to the UN—with whom he was working when he was assistant to the president. And he said he called him yesterday, or over the weekend, and he said, “We want you to know that Brezhnev is deadly serious about wanting to improve relations with the United States.” He wanted to know if we had an answer to give to this fellow. Well, I— NIXON: [laughs]
KISSINGER: I didn’t give him an answer because—
NIXON: What?
KISSINGER: I made the statement, we’re deadly serious too. And—
NIXON: Well, Brezhnev is going every which way. And he probably doesn’t trust Dobrynin’s word and so forth.
KISSINGER: It’s very interesting. It’s typically Russian to try to handle it through another channel too.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: But I don’t think—my instinct is that the reason they were holding out until spring is what this congress is doing in terms of Brezhnev’s preeminence. And I— NIXON: Well, when will they know? When will they know? The end of the week?
KISSINGER: About what happened?
NIXON: The congress. When will that be over?
KISSINGER: Well, it probably will be over—
NIXON: Or is it over?
KISSINGER: No, no. It will be over no later than a week from today.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: And then he’ll [Dobrynin] be back within a week after some time.
NIXON: Well, things better start to happen or—you know, I’m—you probably don’t believe me, but I can perfectly turn, I’m capable, that is—even my own, even Haldeman wouldn’t know—I’m perfectly capable of turning right awful hard. I never have in my life. But if I found that there’s no other way—in other words, hell, if you think Cambodia had flower children fighting, we’ll bomb the goddamn North like it’s never been bombed. That’s why we’ve had these planes gotten ready, Henry. They’re not getting ready just to get these people over there.
KISSINGER: Well, I will—
NIXON: We’ll start doing it, and we’ll bomb those bastards, and then let the American people—let this country go up in flames.

“There will come a time when there ain’t nothing more to negotiate.”
April 7, 1971, 3:15 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

The year 1971 continued to be a difficult one for Nixon and Kissinger. The war was not going the way they wanted, the Soviets were not being as responsive as they had hoped—secret talks had been going on for nearly two years at this point—and a breakthrough somewhere was desperately needed.

NIXON: Look, Henry, the difficulty with our position is this: you’ve got to know that there will come a time when there ain’t nothing more to negotiate. In January of next year, what the hell are you going to negotiate about?

NIXON: Do you think if America loses, what this country is going to do? I don’t understand why the intellectuals, they really just—
KISSINGER: They don’t mind losing. They don’t like America, and that’s the difference.
NIXON: They don’t, huh? That’s nice. Isn’t that’s just great? I wish to Christ they had to live someplace else. I wish they did.
KISSINGER: They don’t have the patriotism.

“You even threw ol’ Dan Rather off balance.”
April 7, 1971, 9:52 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Billy Graham

Following a major speech, Nixon often received congratulatory phone calls and instant analysis from friends and major figures in the administration late into the night. His Vietnam speech on the evening of April 7, 1971, was no exception, when Reverend Billy Graham was one such caller. Graham counseled Nixon from time to time not only on spiritual matters, but also on policy and politics. Graham’s international ministry came in contact with millions of people, and his insight was valuable. Here, the subject is Graham’s view on how the United States got into the war in Vietnam.

GRAHAM: I want to tell you that that’s by far the best anybody has done on Vietnam. You had me in tears. I really feel that—
NIXON: Well I was in tears myself, you know. Every time I think of that little Kevin, and he saluted, it just broke me up.
GRAHAM: I think you even threw ol’ Dan Rather off balance. [laughs]
NIXON: Yeah.
GRAHAM: I thought it was just tremendous, and I just wanted to tell you that—
NIXON: Are you in Knoxville?
GRAHAM: No, I’m still in Vero Beach, Florida.
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
GRAHAM: I’ve been down here for about five weeks.
NIXON: When are you going for your crusade in Kentucky?
GRAHAM: Yes, that starts in about two weeks.
NIXON: Oh, yeah. I see.
GRAHAM: But I go to California to deliver a couple of speeches first.
NIXON: That’s right. But you felt it was the right—of course we’re fighting a very tough battle here. You know, everybody wants to pull out, but I have to fight against the tide. I have to do the right thing.
GRAHAM: I think you defused a lot of it tonight, though. I don’t see what in the world they can say after tonight. I think that you’ve given some of, people like me, you’ve given me something to hold on to, and to really say, and I’ve got an editorial in the New York Times on Friday, which I wrote this morning— NIXON: Good for you.
GRAHAM: —which I wrote this morning. They asked me to do it yesterday.
NIXON: Good.
GRAHAM: And I’m putting all the blame of this whole thing on Kennedy.
NIXON: That’s right! He started the damn thing!
GRAHAM: Well, I—
NIXON: He killed Diem!
GRAHAM: Right.
NIXON: And he sent the first sixteen thousand combat people there himself!
GRAHAM: Well, I’m saying that the first time I heard about involvement was four days before he was inaugurated, playing golf with him. He said, I quote, “We cannot allow Laos and South Vietnam to fall to the Communists.” And then I— NIXON: [laughs]
GRAHAM: I said when President Johnson took over we had sixteen thousand troops there.
NIXON: That’s right!
GRAHAM: And I said the political climate in the United States—
NIXON: And Diem had been murdered. You see, Billy, the key thing here was Kennedy’s, and I must say our friend Lodge’s, agreement to the murder of Diem. Diem, that’s what killed the, opened the whole thing.
GRAHAM: The whole thing. And I said this sentence, I said, “Many of the present doves in the Senate were not then so dovish. Even Senator Fulbright, who introduced the now-famous Tonkin Resolution.” And I got all that in there. They’ve taken it. They’re going to print it Friday morning.
NIXON: Good. Well, anyway, I appreciate—
GRAHAM: But I thought it was—
NIXON: Yeah.
GRAHAM: Your sincerity and manner of presentation was just excellent.
NIXON: Yeah.
GRAHAM: It was just wonderful. I was—
NIXON: One thing, incidentally, I threw away the text at the last and talked about this little boy that came there. That little Kevin, when he saluted me, I damn near broke up.
GRAHAM: I am sure you did.
NIXON: You know how it is.
GRAHAM: I sure do.
NIXON: It’s awful tough, isn’t it?
GRAHAM: Well, God bless. You’ve got a lot of people praying for you and pulling for you.
NIXON: Believe me, Billy, it means an awful lot. And you keep the faith, huh?
GRAHAM: Ah, you betcha.
NIXON: Keep the faith.
GRAHAM: Yes, sir. Bye.
NIXON: We’re going to win.

“There ought to be a way to get him [Kennedy] covered.”
April 9, 1971, 11:40 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Ron Ziegler

Long before the Democratic Party named a nominee in the 1972 presidential election, Nixon feared that a Kennedy-Nixon rematch was inevitable. It had been almost a dozen years since his defeat by John F. Kennedy, and this time his attention was focused on Edward Kennedy. While Kennedy clearly was the most recognized name among possible rivals, the senator from Massachusetts was still recovering from Chappaquiddick, an incident during July 1969 in which Mary Jo Kopechne, a passenger in Kennedy’s car, was killed when he accidentally drove off a bridge. Nixon was eager for regular updates on Kennedy’s political intentions, and he was willing to use questionable means to obtain them.

NIXON: Well goddamn it, there ought to be a way to get him [Kennedy] covered. I wouldn’t bother with McGovern. Certainly, I think with Teddy, the reason I would cover him is from a personal standpoint. You’re likely to find something on that [Chappaquiddick].
HALDEMAN: He’s covered on that.
NIXON: You’re sure?
HALDEMAN: Pretty much.
NIXON: You watch. I predict something more is going to happen.
HALDEMAN: They’re keeping an eye on that one and in [unclear].
NIXON: I mean, it’s a matter of judgment. I mean, he’s just gonna—
HALDEMAN: Did you see his wife [Joan] came into the White House again all done up in some crazy outfit?
NIXON: What, did Pat [Nixon] [unclear] something?
HALDEMAN: Yeah, a Senate wives’ luncheon.
NIXON: What did she [Joan] wear?
ZIEGLER: Body stocking.
HALDEMAN: —gaucho, leather gaucho—
ZIEGLER: With a leather gaucho over it.
HALDEMAN: —with a bare midriff, or something.
ZIEGLER: Well, no, they put on a body stocking, which is flesh tone.
HALDEMAN: Oh, is that it?
ZIEGLER: And then they wrap the leather, you know, gaucho-type thing around it. So you look at it from a distance, and you think, “My God—”
HALDEMAN: You think she’s naked.
ZIEGLER: [laughs] “—there she is.” But she has a body stocking.
NIXON: Weird.
HALDEMAN: She was going to wear hot pants but Teddy told her she couldn’t.
ZIEGLER: They’re weird people. They really are. I mean, even the—
NIXON: It’s crude. What the hell’s the matter with them? What’s she trying to prove?
HALDEMAN: Whatever it is, she ain’t gaining many votes, because they’ve got, the super-swinger jet-set types are going to be for them and not for you no matter what happens.
ZIEGLER: I don’t know, the super-swingin’ jet-set types don’t even relate to that type thing. It’s a very, very small group.
HALDEMAN: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: Middle American folk, they don’t think they like, that’s desecration of the White House to most Americans [unclear].
ZIEGLER: Oh, sure.
HALDEMAN: She does it every time she comes. That’s why she does that.
NIXON: I know.
ZIEGLER: She has to have some sort of hang-up herself personally. She knows what Teddy was doing out there with that girl [Mary Jo Kopechne] running her into the water, you know, and what he’s been doing.
HALDEMAN: But that family’s used to that.
NIXON: They do it all the time.
HALDEMAN: That’s the price you pay when you join that club. They all know that. Ethel, Jackie, and all the rest of them.
NIXON: They gotta expect that.
HALDEMAN: That’s the game you play. If you want to get in their ball game, you play by their rules.

“On the UN membership issue . . . some people say, ‘Let’s find a clever way of doing it,’ but there is no clever way of being defeated.”
April 12, 1971, 11:28 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Taiwanese Ambassador Zhou Shukai, and Henry Kissinger

During World War II, Chinese and Americans fought side by side against the Japanese. After 1948, however, when mainland China became a Communist state—the People’s Republic of China—the two nations had little or nothing to do with one another. Occasionally they staged limited conferences, but there was no travel, no trade, very little communication, and no diplomatic relations. For decades, the United States sided with the former Chinese leaders, President and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, who took up residence on the island of Taiwan. Many Americans, especially in the conservative ranks, were highly emotional on the subject of the two Chinas, siding entirely with Democratic, capitalistic Taiwan.
After assuming office, Nixon indicated that he was open to efforts to improve relations with the mainland. The Chinese responded in subtle ways, but the greatest leap of progress was made in spring 1971, when two Ping-Pong players representing the feuding nations made friends at a meet in Japan. Mao Zedong, the leader of the PRC, took an interest and allowed the U.S. Ping-Pong team to travel to his country for a tournament. That small event was a sensation in diplomatic circles and across the United States.
The sobering decision facing Nixon concerned Chinese representation in the United Nations. Taiwan had a seat there, and mainland China had been excluded since the founding of the UN. A compromise “two-China policy” was widely discussed but had little hope of being implemented, presenting Nixon with major problems in 1971.

NIXON: One interesting thing is that we’re saying goodbye to him on the day that the Ping-Pong team, waited, you know, Ping-Pong team makes the front page of the New York Times.
KISSINGER: They are very subtle though, these Chinese.
NIXON: You think it means something?
KISSINGER: No question.

KISSINGER: Mr. President, one more thing I want to mention, about the Chinese ambassador. He’s going to be the Chinese foreign minister, and we’re going to announce the relaxation of our trade restrictions [with the PRC]. He’s going straight back to Taipei. I wonder whether you could just mention that to him, so that he doesn’t arrive there with a severe loss of face after seeing you and not having been told about it. Now this first group, there are actually three groups of relaxations. The first one is minor, the entry of Chinese, currency controls, bunkering, some shipping restrictions.

[Zhou joins the conversation.]
NIXON: I want you to convey my warmest greetings to Generalissimo and Madame Chiang. We will stick by our treaty commitments to Taiwan; we will honor them. I said so in my State of the World report. We will do nothing in the trade and travel field which is in derogation of friendship to your president and to Madame Chiang. On the other hand, we will take some steps in the next few days that are primarily to be seen as part of our world perspective, particularly vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.
On the UN membership issue, some of our friends have deserted us. We are prepared to fight for you but we want to do it in an effective way. I have many proposals on various schemes such as dual representation. I will make this decision, not the State Department. Some people say, “Let’s find a clever way of doing it,” but there is no clever way of being defeated. There is no change in our basic position, but there may have to be some adaptation of our strategy.
We, however, before we make a decision want to talk to you. I am sending Ambassador Murphy to Taiwan; he is going there on business anyway, and the Generalissimo should talk to him as he talks to me. Taiwan and the UN is a fact of life for us and we will do nothing to give it up, but we have to be intelligent and we want to hear your views.
ZHOU: We appreciate your special attention; above all, don’t spread the impression that all is lost.

NIXON: I want you to know that the relaxation of trade that we are planning is mostly symbolic; the important issue is the UN. We will be very much influenced by what the Generalissimo will think. As long as I am here, you have a friend in the White House and you should do nothing to embarrass him. The Chinese should look at the subtleties. You help us and we will help you. I want Murphy to bring his report personally to me. We will stand firm as long as we can, but we must have an army behind us.

“Everybody in the government, in the NSC, is not told everything.”
April 13, 1971, 11:19 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, Henry Kissinger, and John Scali

Thanks to “Ping-Pong diplomacy,” Nixon suddenly found himself in the driver’s seat of a fast-moving car. He talked with his advisors about how to handle the many possibilities, especially in terms of the reaction from the Soviets. Included in the meeting was John A. Scali, a former journalist and special consultant to the president, who became a regular advisor on U.S.-China relations.

NIXON: Now, one area that is particularly—it will be particularly important too. And I noticed that, I mean, I was eager to hear your comment on the China thing. And, I think, Henry, that it’s important that you have a talk with John about how all this began— KISSINGER: We’re going to get together. We’re going to get together this afternoon—
NIXON: —how all this began. There’s much more than meets the eye here. For example, you probably were under the impression, and much of the press corps is, that the China initiative came from State.
SCALI: Right.
NIXON: It may surprise you to know that the China initiative I undertook started twenty months ago. The first announcement made thirteen months ago was utterly opposed by the Foreign Service. You know why? Well, they’re not—they’re for it now. You know why? The Kremlinologists. [Former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union] Chip Bohlen wrote in a memo.
HALDEMAN: Llewellyn Thompson.
KISSINGER: Tommy Thompson.
NIXON: Tommy Thompson did. The State Department Foreign Service people—not Bill. I’m not referring to Bill.
SCALI: Bill Rogers?
NIXON: Bill Rogers plays the game the way that he’s supposed to. In other words, by [unclear]. They opposed it because they said it’s going to make the Russians mad. Sure, it made the Russians mad. We didn’t do it for that purpose, although it may be a dividend. Who knows? It depends. If it makes them mad, it helps us. But the point is, State, from the beginning, opposed it. They only came around on it in the past, perhaps, two or three months. Now, the reason being, that is, that they have the idea that we need a détente with the Russians; we must do nothing that irritates the Russians. Every time Kosygin came to see anybody at State, or anybody in the White House, he raised holy hell about what we were doing with China. And he scared them off—but not me. I deal with the China things for long-range reasons—very, very important reasons.
Now, that brings us to the present thing: Ping-Pong. It’s very important now— we’re going to have another announcement tomorrow, which you should fill John in on—it’s very important now that we, while we want to get every dividend we can on this, that we not appear to exploit it. Now, the reasoning is that, much as we want the publicity, we’re playing for much higher stakes. We’re playing for much higher stakes with the Russians—and this thing is sending them right up the wall, the Ping-Pong team. And we also are playing for high stakes with the Chinese. It makes good—it’s very good copy here for us to appear to be the people that are, have opened up the Chinese thing, and so forth and so on. But our major goal is to open it up. And whenever a propaganda initiative will have the effect of hurting that goal, we can’t do it.
SCALI: Sure.
NIXON: Now, the reasons why, at this point, what I think we can get when we—and this is where subtlety is involved—where we can get maximum benefit here. When this announcement is made tomorrow, everybody’s going to read into it a hell of a lot more. Incidentally, this announcement that’s going to be made tomorrow, we’ve been planning for months. It just happens to fall right after the Ping-Pong team. See, we didn’t know the Ping-Pong team was going to happen like that.
KISSINGER: We had some feeling that something was going to happen. They—
NIXON: Oh, yeah. Because they have been dropping little hints around the world at the various embassies, and for months we’ve been expecting some thaw. We didn’t expect—but I suppose we were looking more to the fact that the thaw might come in Warsaw. But the Chinese, with their usual subtlety, had the thaw—we’ll call it a “thaw” for lack of something else; the press will all write it that way anyway—it comes in another area. Right?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: You never can predict how the Chinese are. They’re much less predictable than the Russians. The Russians are predictable. The Chinese are not predictable.
KISSINGER: But they’re subtler.
NIXON: Because they are Chinese, not because they’re Communists. The Russians are more predictable because they’re doctrinaire, but you can goddamn near tell how the Russians will react to the Chinese Ping-Pong thing. I can almost tell you what Dobrynin will say when he comes back—and particularly on this announcement.
KISSINGER: Well, if Dobrynin were here, he’d be over here already.
NIXON: So—but my point is, and this is the thing where John can probably get the word out, we—now, let me say: we don’t want to start a fight with State about this—actually, with the career guys. We’re not trying to, even though they constantly may try to cut us out, but—at the White House. And we don’t want to embarrass—we don’t want to, particularly, have anything with regard to the—with regard to Rogers, you see, because that’s very important to maintain that.
SCALI: That’s right.
NIXON: But on the other hand, we cannot allow the myth to exist, to get [unclear], that this whole thing, which was mine alone—
NIXON: Henry, you recall I put it out. It didn’t come from the NSC staff either. I put the whole damn thing out twenty months ago, starting that trip around the world.
NIXON: He’ll give you the chapter and verse. It’s a fascinating story, and someday it’s going to be written. But anyway—and maybe now, maybe a little bit of it now. A little bit of it now, before it’s announced, just to see if we can’t— KISSINGER: I think we should get a little further. It’s—the danger is that this whole operation will stop again. And we’ve had it started once and it stopped.
NIXON: And it stopped. That’s right.
KISSINGER: We shouldn’t crow too early.
NIXON: We don’t want to crow. We don’t want to crow. We simply want to say we’re watching with interest and all that sort of thing. The point is that I think that it’s important, Henry, for John to know what the game is.
KISSINGER: I’ll give him the picture this afternoon—
NIXON: Now, John, the main thing that you have to know is that first, everybody around here, and everybody in the government, in the NSC, is not told everything. They are not. But I told Henry that I want you to know anything that—in these critical areas. But you must remember that when we are telling you these things, as I’m sure you know, that, usually, there’s an awful good reason not to tell others.
SCALI: I understand.
NIXON: And so, you know what I mean. And that’s the reason on the—I use the China thing as an example; I don’t know of a better one. It’s a very delicate situation. Maybe in three weeks we’ll want to tell a little more of the story. Maybe not this week. Maybe a little of it comes out this week. As I suggested to you this morning, I may have to remind you— KISSINGER: We can get a little out. Well—
SCALI: I want to be in the position of knowing so that I can recommend to you, perhaps, when.
NIXON: That’s right.
NIXON: Sure.

[HALDEMAN and SCALI leave the conversation.]
NIXON: I don’t think you’ll have any—I know you’ll have no problem with leaks from him [Scali]. None.
KISSINGER: I won’t tell him, though, about the summit game yet.
NIXON: Oh, God no. I don’t want anybody to know about the summit game—
NIXON: —that hasn’t been told. The only one that knows is Haldeman.
NIXON: Shultz doesn’t know.
NIXON: Ehrlichman doesn’t know.
NIXON: Jesus Christ! If that ever gets out, it’s down the drain.
NIXON: The summit game should be absolutely between us.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Until Dobrynin gets back. And also the SALT game.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Don’t tell him about the SALT game—the SALT game, the summit game. But the China game is something else again. He should know that background. Tell him why we don’t want a broker.
KISSINGER: Incidentally, I thought I’d have Dobrynin’s replacement in for five minutes this afternoon, because there’s a meeting—it’s just a technical thing—between Rush and Abrasimov that I’ve set up for Berlin for Friday. And I’ll just review the arrangements with him. It will take five minutes, but it’s—it shows them that this channel has some uses for them. I won’t say anything else except the technical arrangements of that meeting.
NIXON: Yeah. Fine. Whatever you want.

KISSINGER: But now, if a few good things happen, people will say, “He [Nixon] knew all along what he was doing.”
KISSINGER: And, of course, if we pulled off a spectacular and—
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: —settled it this year—
NIXON: Well, let’s not even think about that.
NIXON: The only good thing that I would like to see—
KISSINGER: It could happen, Mr. President.
NIXON: Well, it could.
KISSINGER: I really think it could—
NIXON: It could. But the good thing that I would like to see—I mean, I’m shooting low. At the lowest, I want the summit.
KISSINGER: Yeah. I think that will—
NIXON: Even without SALT. Just the summit.
KISSINGER: I just don’t see how they cannot have a summit.
NIXON: Yeah.
NIXON: If we have the summit—
KISSINGER: —looked at from their cold-blooded point of view, they may—after all, you don’t like Brezhnev and you would just as soon screw Brezhnev. But why would you expend your capital on somebody who is irrelevant to you? They may not like you. If this were ’72, they probably would hang on. But the fact that Brezhnev has just been elevated to the top spot, and you would be the first president to come to Moscow—the Russian people are pro-American. It would mean one hell of a lot of symbolism to them if they can get a SALT agreement signed in Moscow, so that the— NIXON: The Russian people are pro-American.
KISSINGER: Yeah. It’s a Moscow treaty. He can claim credit for it all over the Communist world.
NIXON: Incidentally, could I—could you make a note, and I know that it’s a silly thing to even think about, but why not—why don’t we consider the possibility of a, which you raised with Dobrynin, of a nonaggression pact? Why not?
KISSINGER: No. That’s dangerous because that would be the end of NATO.
NIXON: No, I mean with NATO.
KISSINGER: Well, that’s what they’ve always offered.
NIXON: No, no, no, no. What I meant is the whole wax—the whole ball of wax.
KISSINGER: Yeah, but the danger—
NIXON: Not with America in, not the Soviet Union and the United States in—
KISSINGER: No, but the danger—
NIXON: Now, look, I know that—
KISSINGER: The danger is that then they’ll say you don’t need a NATO. But what we can do is have a European security conference next year.
NIXON: Well, we agree to that next year.
KISSINGER: No, we agree to it at the summit for next year, so you have had—
NIXON: And that’s got to come for a reason.
KISSINGER: —a big conference next year.
NIXON: Have that next year, but what the hell comes out of that? Hope?
KISSINGER: Nothing but a conference.
NIXON: Well, we can have a lot of nice little truisms about travel.
KISSINGER: Well, it just keeps things moving. I mean, at this stage of the game, if we can play a cold-blooded game, in which we don’t give anything away, we can make them work for it, because I really think your reelection is essential for the country. There just isn’t anybody else.
NIXON: Except Connally.

“Brezhnev has two choices. . . . He’s got to break out, one way or the other, just as we do.”
April 14, 1971, 9:10 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

As much as Nixon and Kissinger hoped their friendly signals to China would be reciprocated, even they were caught off guard by Premier Zhou Enlai’s unprecedented private comments to the U.S. Ping-Pong team in Beijing. This might just be the breakthrough that Nixon and Kissinger were looking for.

KISSINGER: Zhou Enlai gave an interview to that Ping-Pong team—he’s such a subtle guy—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —in which he said that this begins a new era of Chinese-American relations.
NIXON: Really?!
NIXON: [laughs] To a Ping-Pong team?!
KISSINGER: [laughs]
NIXON: You know, what they’re really—
NIXON: —they’re really trying to drive at: irritating the Russians.
NIXON: Two questions: I don’t know, but are we unnecessarily irritating the Russians about this right now?
KISSINGER: Well, I am slightly—I’m thinking this, Mr. President. Well, first of all, my call to Dobrynin was a good move.
NIXON: Well, you think that may have been too eager?
NIXON: No, I wondered, in light of this, that whether or not you—
KISSINGER: No, I just called him to congratulate him on the Central Committee election and—
NIXON: Yeah, but I mean, you call him and then today we—wham!
KISSINGER: Well, I think what I might do is to get this fellow Vorontsov over here again and say, “Now, look, our top priority is the relation with you.”
NIXON: That’s right. And that this is something that’s been in the works for six months.
KISSINGER: And now let’s not miss the opportunity.
NIXON: Yeah.

KISSINGER: He [Vorontsov] said that he had noticed I had said some friendly things about the Brezhnev speech and that pleased him very much. And he slobbered all over me. And he said the ambassador would come back with new instructions on Sunday. And they hope— NIXON: He said we should pay attention to Brezhnev’s speech?
KISSINGER: Yes. And he said, “Now, you noticed that we were paying constructive attention.” Because I had said on Air Force One—
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
KISSINGER: —that it was a conciliatory speech, coming, when I was coming back from California.
NIXON: And he said we should know?
KISSINGER: Right. Then I said as a joke, I said, “You know, your ambassador gave me his phone number in Moscow, and I lost it, and it’s too late in the day now anyway to call him”—there’s an eight-hour difference—“otherwise, I’d congratulate him for his, on his election to the Central Committee. Why don’t you do it for me?”
NIXON: That’s fine.
KISSINGER: A half-hour later, they called over and they said, “The time difference doesn’t, is of no account. Why don’t you call him? It would please him very much,” and gave me the Moscow phone number— NIXON: Oh, the phone number. Good.
KISSINGER: —which, as you know, they don’t give out Moscow phone numbers.
NIXON: No, no.
KISSINGER: Well, I called him in Moscow. I said, “I just want to congratulate you.” And I said, “I just want to tell you I discussed some procedural things with your man here.” And he said, “Was it about the exchange of letters? Because I’ll have something to say about that.” I said, “Oh, no. They’re just purely technical things.” And he said, “Well, I’m coming back with new instructions on Sunday.” He was very—Haig listened in to it, on it. And he said it was— NIXON: Of course, the instructions—well, we’ve been through this before, Henry.
KISSINGER: Well, it looks—
NIXON: The instructions could turn the other way too.
KISSINGER: I doubt it. They could but I doubt it. I’m looking at it from Brezhnev’s point of view. Now, Brezhnev has two choices. He can’t continue the way he’s going. He’s got to break out, one way or the other, just as we do.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: So he’s going to go either very tough, which I think is premature for him, or he’s going to go the way we want him to go. Not to help—certainly not to help us out. You see, I’m beginning to think we can get that ambassador into Beijing before the year, before another calendar year has passed.

NIXON: Be sure that this one—they [Department of State] have been screwing us so much on leaks. Now, we’re about to screw them on this one. For this thing, just a little lightly.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Well, I think this China thing is completely confusing our opponents also. That’s a tremendous break that—
NIXON: You really think it is?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. They just can’t tell what else is going on. And, of course, they’re right.
NIXON: What’s going on—
KISSINGER: I think, Mr. President, this is going to have a significant backwash on Hanoi.
NIXON: That’s the point that I think you—that I hadn’t thought of, but you’re right. They’ve got to worry about our looking at China. They don’t—no Communist trusts another Communist. He doesn’t trust his own mother. Isn’t that right?
KISSINGER: They—and no Vietnamese trusts any foreigner, so they must think that they could become an insignificant plaything.
KISSINGER: And they must figure, as they correctly do, that unless the Chinese, who are very worried about the Russians—see, I think if Brezhnev jumps anyone, it will be the Chinese. Not us.
NIXON: He’s not going to jump us—
NIXON: —as we get reelected.
KISSINGER: Yeah. And if he’s not going to jump us, he’s got to go the other way with us. Anything else will look like stagnation. And he needs some sort of big leadership ploy. It’s a—in my view, it’s a coincidence of needs.
NIXON: And his aim—
KISSINGER: We need a leadership ploy and he needs one.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

NIXON: On ABM, I must say, throw at them what we know privately. But that means that in our discussions with this son of a bitch [Dobrynin] when he comes back, you’ve got to—if there is just—you’ve got to remember, there isn’t much to deal with. To me, the worst of both worlds would be for us to get nothing.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Nothing. To be beaten in the House—in the Senate on the thing. We could just forget any kind of thing, you know. Then SALT is dead. Absolutely dead. I think you should know that, while you must play the game, that we’re going to go forward with the ABM in your talks with him. You got to assume, they’re for immediate agreement on it.
KISSINGER: Oh, I recognize that, Mr. President.
NIXON: Well, let me say, now, we have to recognize it not because it’s right but because we can’t get it otherwise. That’s all there is to it. That’s all. We’ve got it figured out.
KISSINGER: Yeah. I thought they’d give us one more year of—they just—you see, if—
NIXON: Henry, if you get any kind of a letter or any kind of a, even a half-assed statement, you could get another year. That’s good.
KISSINGER: Well, we’ll get a half-assed statement by June 1.
NIXON: How do you do that? We can say—
NIXON: We can say—
KISSINGER: I don’t know why I’m so confident, because if they figure we’re going to lose it anyway, why should they make a deal?
NIXON: Yeah, well, maybe they’re not so sure. They—we’ve surprised them before. I think maybe that’s part of it. But I think you should know it’s awful tough. The ABM one is very tough because of the way the damn split has come. If we were—just figure—if we could just figure what happened on, in our states, it’d be fine. But the two southerners that we lost— KISSINGER: Yeah.
NIXON: Goddamn.
KISSINGER: Lawton Chiles.
NIXON: And Lloyd Bentsen. Then they may be better, better than they seem so far.
KISSINGER: He may vote with us on that.
NIXON: Might they? They were very mad.
KISSINGER: I think he’ll vote with us on that.
NIXON: Put the heat on but—Bentsen may. I think you ought to—I think that when he [Dobrynin] gets back, he probably will have something to say. But I don’t want this damn Chinese action to infuriate them so damn much— KISSINGER: No, well—
NIXON: —that they figure they got to keep us waiting a month.
KISSINGER: They are tough customers, Mr. President. They don’t play it that way.
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: And I think from—our experience with them now has been that whenever we put it to them—I’m—when he comes back, I’m going to tell him that if we don’t settle it in two weeks, I’ll send him back to the State Department. Might as well go for broke on it.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: That I won’t deal with him anymore. If we can’t settle a simple matter like a SALT exchange of letters in this channel, there’s nothing worth doing.
NIXON: That’s right. That’s right.
KISSINGER: Now, if it fails, it fails.
NIXON: That’s an impediment.
KISSINGER: With this luck, they’ll—but I don’t think it will fail. And really, I think these Russians are so tough that if we—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —if they have any sense of insecurity on our part—they will be impressed by this Chinese thing—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —if we give them a way out.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: We’ll get them that message to say that our priority is Soviet relations and that it’s really up to them—
NIXON: I think you could get that to Vorontsov.
KISSINGER: Yeah, I’ll—just so—because they’re meeting tomorrow.
NIXON: He’ll dutifully report it.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Thursday is the Politburo meeting there.
NIXON: Right. The Politburo meeting.
NIXON: Another thing: they did launch that raid yesterday, or they’re going today, or what’s—?
KISSINGER: They’ve started the movement, yes.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: The first part of it is inside South Vietnam—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —down the A Shau Valley.
NIXON: Well, you’re right about one thing. We are not interested, Henry, at this point—particularly at this point too—[in] anything, whenever they’ve got to take any risks on our casualties.
NIXON: It just isn’t worth it now.
NIXON: We’ve got too many other fish to fry.
KISSINGER: No, no. We’ve got—you know—
NIXON: Yeah, but even there, we could—
KISSINGER: —I’ve always been for a tough policy on Vietnam—
NIXON: So have I. Already—
KISSINGER: —but we’ve got to cool it a bit there now.
NIXON: We always have—actually, Henry, we’ve given them everything now.
NIXON: I mean, they’ve fouled everything up. We just got to—we have to do a little bit, little bit different game.
KISSINGER: Yeah. I told him that. We can’t have it. We can’t have many helicopter losses, because we’re now, if we get—this Chinese thing is deflating matters. With half a break, we should get that SALT thing wrapped up in two weeks.
NIXON: The SALT thing, huh? You think the China policy—the SALT thing will have one enormous wallop.
KISSINGER: That’s two weeks more, and then, if the SALT thing works, we’ll have the summit by the middle of May, and then we have the summer free.
NIXON: [The] whole thing will pack a wallop such as you can’t imagine.
KISSINGER: Well, that’s good. And on SALT, State won’t be able to leak a damn thing because they won’t know it—
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: —until you’re ready to do it.
NIXON: And the summit, they won’t be able to leak a thing, because—
NIXON: —they won’t know it either. You know, I think we should—while on the summit, just as soon as it gets down to any kind of an understanding, we ought to get it out. Do you understand?
KISSINGER: No—oh, no question.

NIXON: The main thing: what pace it is, is not important now. That will set them talking. I mean, the press corps here will be writing spec stories, and so forth, fighting to get out, over there, and trying to, you know, determine who’s going to get to go, and who’s going to cover it and all—an American president to visit Russia. If it comes, do you realize what that’s going to be? The damnedest show you ever saw in the world.
KISSINGER: One thing—maybe another thing I ought to tell Vorontsov, which I haven’t told Dobrynin yet, just so that we get it into the system, that August is no longer possible for a summit. We’ve got to have it in the first half of September.
NIXON: After Labor Day.
NIXON: We can leave—that I have a very important—I have a schedule right through Labor Day, but I can leave the day after Labor Day. You know, let’s just put it that way.
KISSINGER: So that we don’t waste any exchanges of—
NIXON: Yeah. I wouldn’t fall on that but that’s a good point [unclear].
KISSINGER: Just—one reason why it’s a pleasure to deal with these sons of bitches is you know that you can’t hurt their feelings.
NIXON: No. No.
KISSINGER: And you can—you can get them mad. And that’s why perhaps it would be useful if I saw this guy today.
NIXON: That’s quite interesting.
KISSINGER: All our experts were again wrong. All of them said it would hurt us with the Soviets—Laos would hurt with the Chinese, with the Soviets, and with everybody else. It hasn’t. It—if anything, it’s helped with the Chinese.

“Kennedy was cold, impersonal, he treated his staff like dogs.”
April 15, 1971, 8:59 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

The Kennedys were one of Richard Nixon’s favorite conversation topics. “Obsession” might be an overstatement, but Nixon often compared their achievements with his own political career. He criticized the myth of Camelot and drew a contrast between their public image and what he believed was the private reality. Long before the term “frenemy” entered our lexicon, Nixon spoke of the Kennedys with a combination of admiration and disgust.

NIXON: Kennedy was cold, impersonal, he treated his staff like dogs, particularly his secretaries and the others. He was not a beat man, he didn’t read, all these other things. His staff created the impression of warm, sweet, and nice to people, reads lot of books, a philosopher, and all that sort of thing. That was a pure creation of mythology. We have created no mythology. The one thing, Bob, that has not gotten across, and I come back to it again. Henry’s beginning to get some of it across now. For Christ’s sakes, can’t we get across the courage more? Courage, boldness, guts? Goddamn it! That is the thing.

NIXON: What is the most important single factor that should come across out of the first two years? Guts! Absolutely. Guts! Don’t you agree, Henry?
NIXON: Intelligence? Maybe, but a president is expected to be intelligent.
KISSINGER: Well, complexity and guts.
NIXON: Well, complexity. But a president is expected to be intelligent, so wash that out. I mean, I may have a little more than most, but not as much as some. But on the other hand, just sheer unadulterated guts, and boldness stand alone. And coolness under fire. Now goddamn it, can’t we just try to get one point across, Bob? That’s all. What do you think, Henry, or do you agree?
KISSINGER: No, I think that should get across.

KISSINGER: I was thinking today, the Washington Post editorial, he had to find something to slam.
KISSINGER: So they said, they don’t understand why you said that the trade, lifting the trade restrictions, easing up on China, why is it you had to say it was planned a long time ago. It would have been much better if you had said it was in response to the Ping-Pong trip.
NIXON: Oh, shit! Really? Oh, God!
HALDEMAN: They didn’t put it exactly that way, but what they did was take a cheap shot. They said it was a good thing to have done, but they couldn’t understand why you were so concerned with making the point that it had been decided before the Ping-Pong.
KISSINGER: Because you don’t make a major addition of your policy—
NIXON: Because of a Ping-Pong team.
KISSINGER: —because of a Ping-Pong team. It makes you look trivial. Because you don’t want to scare the Russians out of their mind.
NIXON: We don’t care what they say.
KISSINGER: If Kennedy had brought China policy a tenth of the way to this point, they’d be throwing bouquets at me [unclear].
HALDEMAN: The overall thing out of there is, what bothers them is that they don’t like the fact that Nixon is going to get credit for it.
KISSINGER: That’s right. That’s right.

“You know, when you stop to think of eight hundred million people, and where they’re going to be. Jesus, this is a hell of a move.”
April 15, 1971, 7:33 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Even as the reality of a potential breakthrough with China set in, Nixon and Kissinger returned to reality. The outcome remained an unknown, and the impact on the Vietnam War or U.S.-Soviet relations was also an unknown.

NIXON: Henry, you know, we don’t realize—I think China, more than Moscow, is a goddamn nerve thing for these people. What do you think? I don’t know.
KISSINGER: Because it’s so new.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And, of course, there’s—
NIXON: And, of course, let’s face it, in the long run, it’s so historic. You know, when you stop to think of eight hundred million people, and where they’re going to be. Jesus, this is a hell of a move.
KISSINGER: Of course, I don’t want to get our hopes up too much, but one of the things that has occurred to me, that I did not tell to this fellow [Henry Hubbard of Newsweek]— NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —is that it is conceivable—indeed, it is very possible—that they know Hanoi’s going to make a peace move and they don’t want to be left out.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, that’ll take care of itself. Getting back to the Russian thing, I was concerned about the TASS thing. [On April 15, TASS reported that “reciprocal gestures” between the United States and the People’s Republic of China had taken place.] I don’t know how—how are you—are you concerned that much? Are we—let’s—or do we—can you call Vorontsov again and—or that would be too much?
KISSINGER: No, I think that would make us look too eager, Mr. President.
NIXON: Well, I don’t want them to think, though, that—you know what I mean? Maybe you should call Dobrynin.
KISSINGER: No, Mr. President—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: I’ve called Dobrynin once.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: I’ve had Vorontsov in.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: I’ve called Vorontsov this morning.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And I’ve had Ziegler put out a statement.
NIXON: Right, that’s enough. Okay.
KISSINGER: And I think any more would really be overeager—
NIXON: Yeah. And now, at this point, they’re basically, TASS is simply—but TASS, that shows that they must be hysterical about this damn thing.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: [laughs] Because they said, “This removed the mask of U.S-China”—[laughs] shit, we don’t have any relations with the Chinese.
KISSINGER: Well, they’re also—
NIXON: They must think we’re doing something.
KISSINGER: Well, they’re also using it against the Chinese.
NIXON: Oh, how’s that?
KISSINGER: Well, because one of the things in which the Chinese have been driving them crazy, is by claiming they were revolutionary purists while the Russians were opportunists— NIXON: Yeah, I see.
KISSINGER: So this is part of their internal problem.
NIXON: I see. So they’re saying that we are the—they are, the Chinese, colluding with the capitalists.
KISSINGER: That’s right. I think this was more directed at them.
NIXON: You know, I would say this: the columnists and the rest, they should have enough to write about for at least two weeks. I don’t say it’s a month—
NIXON: —but two weeks—
KISSINGER: —but, of course, at the end of those two weeks, we may have something else to tell them.
NIXON: Yeah.

“Because the American people are so peace-loving, they think agreements solve everything.”
April 17, 1971, 2:36 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

Nixon often spoke of wanting to erase the Vietnam War from his agenda. In calm or frustrated moments, he spoke of all-out bombing of North Vietnam in order to end the war once and for all, and with a victory. Demonstrations against the war rocked college campuses, reaching a peak in 1970 after the May 4 shooting at Kent State University where Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students. In the aftermath of Kent State there was a fury of protest not seen since the Johnson administration. For a brief time in 1970, the Nixon White House was even ringed bumper to bumper with buses to prevent protesters from breaching the grounds of the White House.
A steady sequence of troop withdrawals by Nixon, beginning in his first year in office, was planned in part to defuse the antiwar movement. Nonetheless, plans for major antiwar activity leading up to May Day 1971 were in the works, and Nixon knew it. The new, angry season of protests was set to begin on April 23–24 with massive demonstrations in Washington, and students were planning a May Day march on Washington on May 5.

NIXON: That’s right, but they say, “Well, by God, we’re going to keep—” It—well, the main thing it does: it tells the enemy that in no uncertain terms that, by God, you’re going to do—we’re going to stay right there, and also, I’ve thrown out something there, as you noticed: that we’re going to bomb ’em, which we damn well will. If we’ve withdrawn and they haven’t returned a thing, we’ll bomb the hell out of North Vietnam. Get my point? Just bomb the living bejeezus out of it, and everybody would approve of it. Well, I don’t know about that.

[KISSINGER joins the conversation.]
NIXON: We’re not moving too fast on that [China]. We’re moving goddamn slowly.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: We’re going to continue to move slowly, Henry.
KISSINGER: I don’t think we have to hurry now.
NIXON: If we push—
KISSINGER: First of all, we now have to hear from the Russians. We have to hear what they’ve got to say.
NIXON: That’s right, if anything. And also what Chiang has to say.
KISSINGER: No, the Russians, after that first bleat, I think we’ve quieted them down with our statement. See, that Ziegler statement—
NIXON: —was very good.
KISSINGER: —was front page in the New York Times and they reported it in Moscow.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. And you, of course, calling him—
KISSINGER: And my calling Dobrynin.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And my calling Vorontsov.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And while I’m sure they’re spinning like crazy—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And we’ve got their paranoia working for us. No matter how much we protest, they don’t believe it anyway.
NIXON: They particularly won’t believe me.
KISSINGER: Yeah. But on the other hand—
NIXON: You see, they really think I’m a tricky bastard. And they’re right.
KISSINGER: Well, you’re the toughest president they’ve dealt with.
NIXON: You see, the others—
KISSINGER: If you had the nuclear superiority—
NIXON: You see, the sentiment that—if they thought I was sentimental, you know, if they thought I was really like I was talking last night [at a “panel interview” during the annual convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors at the Shoreham Hotel], you know, about wanting to visit China and the whole joke, you know, and all that crap, then [laughs] there’s nothing—but they know that— KISSINGER: No, they know you.
NIXON: They know that’s cosmetic.

NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —with the Chinese, the Russians, there is an enormous respect. And in this respect—from this point of view, your April 7 speech—
NIXON: Helped?
KISSINGER: —was crucial.

KISSINGER: If you analyze—I’ve become convinced, Mr. President, we cannot accept the Soviet proposal. Their proposal is Moscow versus Washington, and no offensive limitations— NIXON: You haven’t told him anything? Dobrynin doesn’t know you’re not going to accept it then?
KISSINGER: No, I’ve told him we want Safeguard. He knows we want Safeguard.
NIXON: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: But the proposal that Smith is pushing is the following: we would have to tear down the only thing we’re building with the right to build something that Congress will never appropriate, namely a Washington defense. And they can continue to keep what they already have.
NIXON: Which—which defends some of their missiles, right?
KISSINGER: Which defends five hundred of their missiles. Plus—plus, permitting them to continue their offensive buildup. Once the American people understand that, I think—
HALDEMAN: What, what do we get from them in this respect?
NIXON: Clever bastards, aren’t they?
KISSINGER: I mean it’s a really ridiculous proposal. But of course—
NIXON: On our part, it’s ridiculous? Oh—
KISSINGER: Yeah. Well, what I’ve told Dobrynin, what Smith doesn’t know, is that we won’t accept it. What we want is Safeguard. That at least enables us to keep what we’ve already got, and it protects some of our missiles. Next week, if they accept our— NIXON: If we find that out next week, then we got to start the big push for more national defense. That also means, of course, then we’ve got to go for more taxes. It’s a tough row.

NIXON: The real point here, what you’re talking—what we’re really talking about here, though, is something different. And I know that this kind of an agreement isn’t worth a damn.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Any kind of agreement with the Soviet—
NIXON: We’re having it for political reasons.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Because the American people are so peace-loving, they think agreements solve everything. If we can do it for political reasons—this is where I would disagree with Buckley, who won’t understand it—if we can do this, and get sort of the peace issue going with us, we—the Democrats— KISSINGER: No, no. Buckley isn’t against a SALT agreement.
NIXON: The Democrats—I know. But I’m a lot more hard-line than he is on this kind of thing. Once we get it in, and then, should we then survive in the election—
KISSINGER: Then it’s separately—
NIXON: —then by God, we have got to lay the facts before the Soviet and before the American people and go all out—
NIXON: —on more defense. That is really what—
KISSINGER: That’s how I see it, Mr. President.
NIXON: The whole point of this, as you know, that—
HALDEMAN: Well, and that’s the argument to the defense, to the hard-line sophisticates, is that that’s their only hope. Because—
NIXON: Yeah, Bob—
HALDEMAN: —if Nixon’s defeated, you know damn well—
NIXON: Well, there the point is, the reason that we can’t get the defense now is that the goddamn Congress won’t give it to us.
HALDEMAN: It won’t give us the money.
NIXON: That’s right. We’re having a hell of a time. They’re going to be cutting this defense budget—
KISSINGER: But, what it may suggest, Mr. President, is that we’d be better off having the Democrats cut us than compromising with them ahead of time on some of these defense items.
NIXON: Oh, hell. I wouldn’t compromise.
KISSINGER: Simply as a strategy.
NIXON: That’s right. And vote against the cuts.
KISSINGER: And vote against the cuts and then accept them.
NIXON: And I’ll simply say that the cuts in defense are, are—endanger our national security. Let them be against national security—

KISSINGER: I think the China story has driven Vietnam into a secondary rank.
NIXON: For what?
HALDEMAN: Although going into Laos has been—we’ve got to watch that, too. I think that’s been the view of—
KISSINGER: Who’s going into Laos?
HALDEMAN: The South Vietnamese.
KISSINGER: Oh, but that’s just in and out.
NIXON: I mean, these little—they’ve already done that.
NIXON: Those raids? Is that what you mean?
KISSINGER: Yeah, yeah.
NIXON: The raids?
NIXON: We’ve been in twice, and they didn’t make a blip.
HALDEMAN: Now they’re talking about the buildup in A Shau, and all that stuff—
KISSINGER: Yeah, but A Shau is in—on the Vietnamese side.
NIXON: But that is—
HALDEMAN: It still leads to Laos, doesn’t it?
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: Yeah, but they clean that out once a year, in order to prevent an attack on Hue. They’re not going deep into there. They’ll—that won’t go.
HALDEMAN: That’s the only, only area where you’ve got any activity in Vietnam that’s gonna, you know, make a blip.
KISSINGER: I know, but there isn’t much—
NIXON: I do not think that will be too big. I—my guess is that I don’t think it’ll make that big an operation. Does it, Henry?
KISSINGER: No. And, they’re not—the South Vietnamese aren’t going anywhere where they’re going to suffer casualties right now. Doing that for their own [unclear].
HALDEMAN: They did good at Fire Base 6. They finally—even the media has finally got [laughs] has given us that.
KISSINGER: That was a big victory.
HALDEMAN: Sure. But it took a long time before they admitted it. They didn’t call it that. They—
KISSINGER: Oh yeah, they’re now give—
HALDEMAN: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —fifteen hundred enemy killed, three battalions—
NIXON: And a little air power. The A Shau Valley, I don’t think it’s the same thing as Laos, Bob, for the reason that it doesn’t involve a tremendous exposed flank, and all the rest. I mean, they’re just going to— HALDEMAN: It is the same thing, though—
NIXON: Incidentally—
HALDEMAN: [unclear] the media [unclear] I think you’re gonna—any chance they get, like they’re picking up Abrams’s statement that he wouldn’t rule out another invasion of Laos.
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: That’s—they’re, they’re going to look for any little thing—
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: —like that to try and regenerate. I don’t think they’ll succeed. I think you’re right.
NIXON: Yeah. Well—
KISSINGER: Besides, I told Osborne, you know—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: You remember now, six weeks ago, everyone told us that we are bringing China into Southeast Asia.
HALDEMAN: Yeah. That’s the one that’s fun to throw at them.
NIXON: Yeah. What did he say?
KISSINGER: And I said, “Now, look—”
NIXON: Because he wrote it, too—
KISSINGER: Yeah. I said not a word that they haven’t mentioned Vietnam once on this whole trip of this Ping-Pong team, and to the journalists. The Hanoi people put out a statement in Paris today saying that China stands unalterably behind them. I consider that a sign of weakness. They have to put out a statement— NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: And they put it out, not China?
KISSINGER: No, no. Hanoi put it out in Paris.
NIXON: We just know that means that they’re, they’re defensive—
KISSINGER: That they’re defensive, and they announced in Hanoi a railway agreement between China and North Vietnam with big fanfare—the sort of thing they do once every six months.

KISSINGER: You see, the way we are setting up the Hanoi thing, we’ll be in a position where we either get a settlement, or announce, together with Thieu, not a complete terminal date, but something in which, for a cease-fire and—and a prisoner exchange, we will give a terminal date.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: So, if we will either get Hanoi to agree, or we’ll announce it during the summit—
NIXON: Remember, at the same—at that time, too, we will then announce the end of the American combat role.
KISSINGER: At the same time—
NIXON: At the very least.
NIXON: What I think we ought to do on that, if we—if it turns out that way, is not to put it all in one announcement. I’d have it—I’d make it a two-day meeting. Let’s let ’em come one day, and then come the other. And we could get maximum bang out of it.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Knock everything for what it’s worth.

KISSINGER: But we’ll know by Wednesday, I would think, what—where the Russian thing is going. I mean, if we know that the week after next we have a SALT announcement—
NIXON: Well—
KISSINGER: —then that’s going to be a tremendous thing—
NIXON: And, hell, that’ll take—that will take care of China for a while? And—
KISSINGER: If we get this—
NIXON: If we could get—to be perfectly frank with you, Henry, maybe we want it after the [May Day] demonstrations.
KISSINGER: I think it’s better that way.
HALDEMAN: I would.
KISSINGER: Well, we couldn’t.
NIXON: Why is it better? Why have the demonstrations afterwards?
HALDEMAN: Let them have them. Let them run their course through May 5. We can’t make it by then anyway. Can you?
KISSINGER: No. I think you can get the SALT announcement, not next week; I think you could get it the week after next by around the thirtieth.
NIXON: You mean before the demonstration?
HALDEMAN: No. No, you’ve got one demonstration—the big demonstration’s on the twenty-fourth. Then you have—
NIXON: When’s that?
HALDEMAN: This—a week from today.
NIXON: Right.
NIXON: Well, it’s my view that, I’ve just decided—I told you, Henry—I decided, Henry, not to do—I was going to have an office press conference next week. Then, I decided not to— KISSINGER: I think—
NIXON: I think this serves as two press conferences. [unclear]
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Don’t you agree?
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: Now, two weeks, however, from now, I’ll have a press conference.
NIXON: I’m not getting frozen into it, but I—about the time, I’ll want to hit television.
HALDEMAN: You won’t be—we are just about getting to the point where you have to do one on TV.
NIXON: TV? That’s right. You get back to TV leadership. Now—
HALDEMAN: And that’ll have been three weeks after your—
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: —your troop announcement.
NIXON: Three weeks after the troop, which is about right. See, we’re trying to hit about every three weeks.
KISSINGER: No, that’s—that fits very—
NIXON: Now, if that—by that time we might have SALT.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Or at least we would know whether we won’t have it—
NIXON: We’ll know. We’ll know if we won’t have it.
HALDEMAN: If we do have it—
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: —I sure wouldn’t announce it at the press conference.
NIXON: Oh, hell no! Come to think of it, you know what I could do? [laughs] Well, we—it depends on how we want to play it. Rather than having a press conference, we may just go on— HALDEMAN: TV.
NIXON: —go on TV for five minutes at night.
NIXON: See, Henry?
NIXON: Five minutes at night at prime time to, to make an announcement—
HALDEMAN: All from here.
KISSINGER: Another possibility—but I think Bob is right. The more likely thing is that it would be around May 7. This stuff probably will have to go back and forth once, and they [the Soviet Politburo] meet every Thursday.
NIXON: Okay. Right.
KISSINGER: But we’ll know all of this when Dobrynin is back.

NIXON: I think you can tell me when he [Dobrynin] gets back whether he’s going to diddle you.
KISSINGER: I’m not going to let him diddle me. My judgment, Mr. President, if you agree, is that we should go for broke with this fellow now. And then—
NIXON: Oh, hell yes.
KISSINGER: I’ll just tell him this is—I’ll break the contact, I won’t see him anymore, because if we can’t settle a simple exchange of letters, then let him work with the State Department.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: I mean, that’s a daring ploy, but they want this contact.

KISSINGER: He [Brezhnev] needs some successes. He, Mr. President, in his way, he’s got a domestic situation as complex as you have and more intractable. He’s got to do something that he did. And he’s got a lot of opponents in the Politburo, and he’s got to make the same decision. He’s got to get—I think he needs you in Moscow at least as much as you need to be there. The best thing the Chinese have done for us is not so much in domestic opinion, which is good enough, but it’s given us the maneuvering room with the Russians. The thing that worried me with the Russians was that they might think you are so vulnerable— NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —that they’re doing you a personal favor that they wouldn’t have done.
NIXON: So what if maybe they couldn’t. But now they may have to do it for themselves.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: In other words, they figure that the Chinese—the race to Beijing is on. Well, just so we can keep Beijing from slapping us. Well, it isn’t—well, we can’t control that either. They might. Do you think they might?
KISSINGER: No, but we should just—insofar as possible, if we could just be a little more disciplined. The government has been superb.
NIXON: Yeah, but the—
KISSINGER: What you said yesterday was—
NIXON: Well, but what about the press shitting and the rest? Should we—?
KISSINGER: But there’s nothing we can do.
NIXON: That’s right. They’re going hog-wild.
KISSINGER: Well, after that first orgasm, I think they’ve got to quiet down. And they can’t keep sending telegrams.
NIXON: Let’s see. They’re probably thinking [unclear] hay out of the China policy again. Because, as I said last night, implied, if you try to make hay out of it, it won’t work.
HALDEMAN: With all we’ve done, you don’t really need to make much hay out of it.
NIXON: I think what we do—
HALDEMAN: It makes hay out of itself.
KISSINGER: That would—
NIXON: We should just let it rest. And, well, also, there’s this other danger: you might make hay out of it and then—
KISSINGER: Could I make a [unclear]—
NIXON: —and it’d be a disappointment.
NIXON: They could turn on it.
NIXON: Well, we’re prepared for that. We’re prepared.
KISSINGER: Well, you’re, publicly—you have been less enthusiastic than some of the people who have been praising it.
NIXON: That’s right.

“There wouldn’t be a chance of a Russian play now, a year before the election, if we didn’t have the Chinese warming.”
April 20, 1971, 1:12 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Awaiting Brezhnev’s response to the week’s events between the United States and China, Nixon hoped that they might spur him to compromise on SALT, Berlin, and other issues. If, however, the Soviets came back with a hard line, Nixon was ready with an aggressive stance of his own.

NIXON: You say Dobrynin will be back tomorrow night?
KISSINGER: Tomorrow late afternoon. I’ve got it—we’ve—I’ve got the FBI checking passenger lists.
NIXON: You expect, then, to hear from him probably Thursday, don’t you?
KISSINGER: No later than Friday. He may have to translate something he’s bringing back.
NIXON: Translate. All right.
KISSINGER: Oh, he’ll bring something back.
NIXON: Now, hold the horses: he’s going to bring something. He said he had a message.
KISSINGER: Well, if not, I’ll call him.
NIXON: If not, you say, “What the hell is the message here?”
KISSINGER: Yeah. I’ll tell him—
NIXON: I mean, don’t—
KISSINGER: —either now or we’ll break the channel. I think we—
NIXON: Hell, no. No fooling around. But I think it’s got to be, it’s got to well be understood—I mean you, for your bargaining purposes—that if they, if he ain’t going to play, then we’ll explore the Chinese one to the hilt if there’s any way of exploring it.
NIXON: The other way—the other thing is, Henry, if he isn’t going to play, even though probably it’s going to get a little—it will cost us, however, our electoral future—by God, we’re going to wake this country up to the danger. And I’ll do it. I’m going to tell the country that things are—that we’ve got to get re-armed.
KISSINGER: I’m not sure it’s going to cost us.
NIXON: I’m not sure. It may be—it may, it may.
KISSINGER: It would put the other side into a hell of a position.
NIXON: The country is so, you know, weary trying to get peace.
KISSINGER: But I think—
NIXON: Our problem—
KISSINGER: But I think they’re going to play, Mr. President. I can’t imagine—
KISSINGER: I think the best explanation for the Russian—for the Chinese behavior is that they’re—that they had to get in before Brezhnev did.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Because then, on any other ground, they could have waited a month or two.
NIXON: Let me tell you this though, Henry. If they play, God knows—we all know —but if they play, it will be because you and I planned the whole goddamn thing. It wouldn’t—listen, there wouldn’t be a chance of a Russian play now, a year before the election, if we didn’t have the Chinese warming. There wouldn’t be a chance. You know that. Is that right?
KISSINGER: And there wouldn’t be a chance with the Russians if we hadn’t played them so cool all along.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Hell, they were going to give SALT away the first year.
NIXON: That’s right. Oh, sure. SALT. Yeah, they would have given the Mideast away—not the Mideast but Berlin.
NIXON: They were going to give Berlin away. They’ll do anything for Willy Brandt.
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: Right. To hell with them. Don’t give them a thing.
KISSINGER: And if we hadn’t—if you hadn’t done Cambodia—
KISSINGER: Basically, we gained with the Russians with these tough moves. They screamed a bit, but that’s something they understand.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: We’ll know by Friday what he’s come back with.

“What was Zhou Enlai like? Tell me about him.”
April 21, 1971, 11:35 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Graham Steenhoven, Ron Ziegler, John Scali, and Henry Kissinger

Few Americans had met Zhou Enlai in the previous two decades. Fewer still conservative anti-Communist Republicans had met him or had visited the People’s Republic of China. Graham Steenhoven was the lone exception. Steenhoven, a Republican from Detroit, was the coach of the American Ping-Pong team that visited China the week before and was received by Premier Zhou Enlai.

STEENHOVEN: I came here from England when I was thirteen and a half.
NIXON: Or you were born in England?
STEENHOVEN: Born in England, yeah. And that’s why I said, this group that we took, that were invited, couldn’t be any more representative of the United States.
NIXON: Tell me a little about it, will you?
STEENHOVEN: Well, just background-wise, we have a seventeen-year-old girl, who was born in Hungary—
NIXON: Do you pick them?
STEENHOVEN: No, these people were selected on the basis on their ability to play, to go to Japan. And we all go on our own money—
NIXON: Yeah.
STEENHOVEN: —you know, so that was the type of thing. We were completely independent.
KISSINGER: Did you pay for yourselves?
STEENHOVEN: All of us paid for ourselves. Not to go to China.
STEENHOVEN: But to go to Japan.
NIXON: Well, that’s the big piece of it.
STEENHOVEN: That’s why we had to go.
NIXON: Did you say, what, a fifteen-year—
STEENHOVEN: No, the fifteen-year-old girl [Judy Bochenski]’s from Eugene, Oregon. We had a seventeen-year-old girl [Olga Soltesz] born in Hungary, that lives in Orlando, Florida. We had a twenty-three-year-old housewife [Connie Sweeris] whose baby was two years old a couple of days, just a day before we got home. It was a bad day for her, she wanted to be home with her child. She’s our national champion, a marvelous girl from Grand Rapids.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
STEENHOVEN: Then we had myself, born in England, and Rufford Harrison’s born in England. And we had a, the term is “black,” not “colored” anymore, but the black man [George Braithwaite], who’s a real gentleman, you might have seen him on The Tonight Show.
KISSINGER: I saw him.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
STEENHOVEN: He’s in a shirt and tie when the rest look like bums, right? He’s from British Guyana.
NIXON: God, this is an international group!
STEENHOVEN: We had one from the Dominican Republic.
NIXON: Did you?
STEENHOVEN: Yes, Errol Resek is from the Dominican Republic.
NIXON: Isn’t that something.
STEENHOVEN: So you couldn’t have had, and then we had a guy with hair down to here.
NIXON: Yeah. Who was he?
STEENHOVEN: Frankie Allen from California.
NIXON: California, that’s my state!

NIXON: Let me ask a question that you’ve probably responded to, but I would like to get your evaluation. What was Zhou Enlai like? How did he look physically? I know he is very intelligent, because I have mutual friends, even though we’re on this side [unclear]. But George Yeh, the respected ambassador, knows Zhou Enlai. What was he like? Tell me about him.
STEENHOVEN: First, let me explain how, we went into a room and there were now five countries there, and we weren’t alone. So there were five countries all over China, but they kept us separated until we met Zhou Enlai.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
STEENHOVEN: We went into this tremendous room. What was it, you know, the equivalent of the White House?
NIXON: Sure.
STEENHOVEN: And they had us alphabetically, and of course that made the USA last. Because when they put up signs, we were America, but when we were seated, we were USA.
NIXON: Sure, sure. It’s like the UN.
STEENHOVEN: Well anyhow, he talked with Marge Baldwin of Canada. Now, we know the Canadians very well, and I know Marge Baldwin, and he talked with her, and of course—
KISSINGER: In English?
NIXON: He does know English though?
STEENHOVEN: I’m positive he knows better English than the interpreter.
KISSINGER: Oh no, he speaks English.
NIXON: He didn’t speak English to you?
STEENHOVEN: No, not to us. He spoke Chinese.
STEENHOVEN: But when the interpreter was interpreting to us, in English, and made a mistake, he corrected her.
STEENHOVEN: And it didn’t take long to pick that up. But he’s very bright. And anyway, he’d be talking, and he knew everything about each group. He was so thoroughly briefed, and an immense memory. And he kept asking for criticism. “Please criticize us. We want to do better. Let us know your criticisms.” You know.
NIXON: You mean of the country?
STEENHOVEN: Anything, he didn’t care. And, nobody crit—
NIXON: He asked you that kind of question?
STEENHOVEN: He asked all of us this, as a group. He said—
NIXON: More importantly, what did he ask you? Because you’re the Americans.
STEENHOVEN: So he got around to sitting with me. And he commented about the various things we had done, and how pleased he was to see us, and so on. And he asked some of the same questions again. And I said, “Well, I’ve been thinking that, because you’ve been asking about that. Nobody has criticized you, but I have one.” “What is it?” I said, “Well, you feed us too much.” He answered just like this, and he said, “Well, that’s not your fault. That’s the fault of your host. He should have provided you with a menu.” So I had to get the host off the spot, because, you know, so I said, “It’s not his fault, either. Because you put out the cold meat, and we thought that was the whole course. We thought that’s the lunch. We have cold meat in the United States. We were so busy filling ourselves with that cold meat, we failed to see that there was a menu right by our place with ten other courses! And, however, I want you to know we ate them all.” [laughter] He kind of grinned at that.
NIXON: Was the food good?
STEENHOVEN: Excellent.
NIXON: The Chinese are great cooks.
STEENHOVEN: Oh, well, they must have—
NIXON: They were there, too.
STEENHOVEN: If somebody was a gourmet, they would have [unclear], because we just got everything, everything!
NIXON: Had you ever been to any Chinese cities—
STEENHOVEN: Never. Never been to China.
NIXON: —or, ever been to the Far East?
STEENHOVEN: Not at all, sir. No, never. It was all new to us.

“I’m getting sick of the military, anyway. They drag their feet about everything.”
April 21, 1971, 12:50 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Operation Lam Son 719 in Laos was a temporary victory for the South Vietnamese, but as soon as the combat was over in early April, North Vietnam put more traffic than ever on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Nixon was left with a very partial victory that had no permanent effect, except to fuel the suspicion among Americans that he was expanding the war rather than stopping it.

NIXON: The war presents a very serious problem. You see, the war has eroded America’s confidence up to this point. The people are sick of it, and, and so, therefore, our game here, of course, must be to deal with it. And we’ve played it right to the hilt with no support and got—and, as far as the last Laotian thing, goddamn poor execution on the part of the military. No support from anybody else and a poor excuse militarily. On the other hand, we also have to realize that simply ending the war in the right way may not save the country. At this point, if it goes too far—let’s put it this way: let’s suppose the war ends; let’s suppose that it isn’t known until next year; and then the war is over, and then, politically, we go down—the country. No way. You understand?
NIXON: Everything has to be played, now, in terms of how we survive. It has to be played that way due to—not because of the war, and not because of Asia, but because of defense. Goddamn it, nobody else is going to be for defense. Who the hell else is going to be for defense? It’s the point I make there. Who’s going to be sitting there?
KISSINGER: Well, of course, it depends entirely on how one interprets ending the war. I think your strength is that you’ve been a strong president.
NIXON: That’s true, and I agree. I agree. I’m simply saying—
NIXON: —saying that we realize, though that—
KISSINGER: Even the, I think, the polls if you had announced a cave-in on April 7, I think in—
NIXON: It’d move the other way.
KISSINGER: —two months, you would’ve been the way that—
NIXON: Johnson.
KISSINGER: —Johnson was after Glassboro. You would have had a big rise, and then a sharp—but, I’m no expert at that.
NIXON: Let me put it this way: I had no intention of announcing a cave-in, as you know. I had no intention of it. As a matter of fact, we took the Laotian gamble solely for the reason that— KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: —we had one more. The Laotian gamble cost us. It cost us very, very seriously, because we probably did—well, let me put it this way: had it not been done—I think the comfort we can take from it—had it not been done, there certainly would’ve been a big summer offensive by the Communists this summer. All right, on the other hand, doing it did—as, as Baker put it pretty well. He thought the war issue was finished last fall. A lot of people thought it was finished, and everybody was relaxed. And that’s why we held up rather well in the polls. The action in Laos, itself, dropped us ten points in the polls. You know that?
KISSINGER: No question.
NIXON: Just the action. And then, the coverage of the action continued to drop us. We held it off just a little by our press conference. Then, of course, the, the night after night on television continued to drop us—a little. Then, then came the defeat weekend, which took us along. Then came Kalb, which shook the stuff all up. And then, for the first time, we get a little bit up from—a good boost by reason of doing something that the people wanted in Calley. But, even after the speech, we have to realize, we’re only back to where we were. Not to where we were before we went into Laos, but when we—but where we were after we had taken the bump going into Laos.
NIXON: See my point? Now, what I’m getting at is that from now on, we have to ruthlessly play for the best news that we can.
KISSINGER: No question.
NIXON: That’s why I would have—we—Henry, that’s why I was disturbed about Abrams’s statement about supporting Thieu—
KISSINGER: Oh, it was outrageous.
NIXON: You see, it’s that—it’s what we have to realize: that, from now on, Henry, the people have got to be reassured.
NIXON: I’ve got to have good news—
KISSINGER: On that, I agree, and we can do—well, see, a lot would depend—supposing Hanoi bites at this proposal. Then, of course, we’ll settle the war—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —then we’ll settle the war this year, and then we have no problem. But, assuming Hanoi rejects the proposal—
NIXON: That’s right. There’s where we go.
KISSINGER: Well, but then—
NIXON: [unclear] I want us to reexamine, though, the—it, if it—but, let’s assume rejection. We’ve got to examine the strongest possible thing we could do this year. That’s my point— KISSINGER: Well, that’s something—
NIXON: Or, because we may erode so much, that next year won’t matter.
KISSINGER: No, but that’s what I’m asking—
NIXON: Don’t assume—you see, Henry, you’ve been calculating, and we’ve all been calculating, “Well, we’ll make a final announcement in April or May of next year.”
KISSINGER: No. No, no, I—
NIXON: The final announcement must be made later this summer. That’s when it must be made.
KISSINGER: Well, the—
NIXON: People have got to know. People have got to know. I don’t mean you put the date on, necessarily. People have got to know the war is over. They’ve got to know that—
KISSINGER: Well, preferably, it should be made after the Vietnamese election. But, we—
NIXON: Well, we can, we can make it go that long.
KISSINGER: But we can wait. We can do—
NIXON: [unclear] I’m just saying, you’ve got to examine it. Let’s remember, if we’re going to make the final announcement, don’t hold it. I mean, don’t worry so goddamn much about the Vietnamese election. You’d better worry about our own.
KISSINGER: Well, I think the final announcement should certainly be made this year, and it should be a part of the next announcement—your—well—
NIXON: The No—November 15, you mean?
KISSINGER: Well, or it could be November 1. Well, whether it’s the fifteenth or the first of November, or October 20, that’s no—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —makes no difference as long as the Vietnamese election is behind us—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Secondly, we can, during the summer—
NIXON: We’ll take a look at the Vietnamese election. We’ll see how it comes out, who shapes up, who’s getting into it, and the rest. Let’s see.
KISSINGER: Well, we can—
NIXON: This summer, we could do—
KISSINGER: This summer, we can announce the end of American ground combat, and we can probably announce—and I’m just going to drive it—announce the end of draftees being sent.
NIXON: I think you’ve got to drive that.
NIXON: I’ll say that I think that has to be. Look, when a guy as hawkish as Bill Buckley—
KISSINGER: No question.
NIXON: —is hitting it, goddamn it—
NIXON: —let’s just do it. Now—
KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: —I have to tell you, I’m getting sick of the military, anyway. They drag their feet about everything, and they—the bastards want everything, and they’re selfish. They [unclear].
KISSINGER: Well, you see, for example, if you had a meeting in Midway with, with Thieu—
NIXON: Mm-hmm?
KISSINGER: —at which you announce the end of American ground combat, plus the end of American draftees—
NIXON: Those two things.
KISSINGER: —that would be a pretty big—
NIXON: That would be a good thing—
KISSINGER: —story. It would be a—that would take the mothers off your back immediately. If you could announce that after July 1, no more draftees would be sent to Vietnam, uh— NIXON: Can you drive that?
KISSINGER: I’m driving it like crazy. Laird is fighting it, probably because he wants to leak the thing himself.
NIXON: Aren’t—aren’t you planning to have him in for breakfast, one day here?
KISSINGER: Yeah, tomorrow or Friday.
NIXON: Want me to work it out now? Or—
KISSINGER: Yeah, that would be a good one to work out. I forgot to raise it with Haldeman in the morning.

KISSINGER: Another thing we could do, Mr. President, for the summer: if—supposing Hanoi turns us down.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Then, I think, out of the Midway thing we should offer a deadline. We know they’re going to turn it down, anyway.
NIXON: Well, we’ve offered a deadline, but not—never publicly, huh?
KISSINGER: By that time, we’ll have offered the deadline, privately. They’ll have turned it down—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —then, we’ll offer it, publicly. By that time, that will get the, the—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —the doves off our back for the rest of the summer. Then, you can do it unilaterally. At that time, the offer would be release prisoners—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —cease-fire, and a deadline. They will then refuse that.
NIXON: Not bad.
KISSINGER: I mean, we’ll know—
NIXON: It’s about as far as we can go. I mean, I’m just asking, Henry, how far we could go short of—
KISSINGER: Now, on the other hand, if they—
NIXON: —a bug-out.
KISSINGER: —if they have accepted our propositions, so we are not—
NIXON: Oh, if they accept it, it’s a different case.
KISSINGER: Then, we don’t announce it at, at Midway, we’ll just get it done during the summer. And, if they’ve accepted our proposition, the more squealing our opponents do, the better off you are.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: Because you know you’re going to pull the rug right out from under them—
NIXON: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right—
KISSINGER: So, so either way, once we’ve made the proposition to them, and they’ve rejected it, we can have a very successful Midway meeting—
NIXON: Yeah, we’ll see.

“I think you’ll find Kerry is running for political office . . . the way he’s building himself.”
April 23, 1971, 9:15 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Bob Haldeman

On Friday, April 23, while Nixon, Haldeman, and Kissinger were chatting in the White House, thousands of veterans were collecting at the Capitol. In protest against the Vietnam War, they threw their medals away. As a former air force sergeant said, throwing a certificate onto the pile, “I consider that I am now serving my country.” Vietnam Veterans Against the War, including their spokesperson, John Kerry, had been congregating all week in Washington.

NIXON: Kerry is goddamn pretty well wound up. [unclear] A group like that, you’re bound to find [unclear] World War II.
HALDEMAN: I think you’ll find Kerry running for political office. I mean—
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: —the way he’s building himself.
NIXON: He’s from Massachusetts.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.

“Despite all the way we put the cosmetics on, Henry, they know goddamn well that what our policy is, is to win the war.”
April 23, 1971, 11:56 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

As war demonstrators arrived in Washington, it was the only news story that mattered. All Nixon and Kissinger could do was watch and wait, and hope that the protests would not lead to a repetition of the massive demonstrations seen during the Johnson presidency, but also as recently as 1970.

NIXON: If it’s not television, it’s gone. You see, the point is that you have to realize that that’s what really matters in terms of the public thing. After all, the television at the present time is—has zeroed in on these people. It’ll zero in on the demonstrations Saturday [a rally in Washington by antiwar groups and labor unions that attracted an estimated two hundred thousand to five hundred thousand demonstrators]. And then they’ll try to play it with the next two weeks. They’re stringing it out, and it’s highly unconscionable reporting on the part of television.
KISSINGER: Oh, it’s awful.
NIXON: Highly unconscionable. They’re just—
KISSINGER: Well, they want to destroy you and they want us to lose in Vietnam.
NIXON: I really think that it’s more, it’s more the latter. If they destroy me, I think it’s—if they think, they know, they know that they’re both the same.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: But deep down, basically, you want to realize that critics of the war are furious, that when they thought they had it licked, when they threw Johnson out of office, they thought, “Well, now, we’ve won our point on the war.” Now, we’ve come in and it looks like we’re going to—they know what it is.
NIXON: They do, because, despite all the way we, look, put the cosmetics on, Henry, they know goddamn well that what our policy is, is to win the war.
NIXON: And winning the war simply means—
NIXON: —that South Vietnam survives. That’s all.
KISSINGER: To come out honorably—
NIXON: That wins the war.
KISSINGER: That’s right.

NIXON: We always said that. And now, you see, we—I think it’s good we forced them out now, so that they’re finally saying that, that they want—they say, “We must give up on the right of the South Vietnamese.” Even the Christian Science Monitor, I know, has an editorial to that effect. Well then, if we did, then nobody—there wouldn’t be any recrimination in this country, because nobody really cares what happens to South Vietnam. They’re crazy as hell.
KISSINGER: They’re crazy as hell.
NIXON: They’re crazy as hell because, afterwards—
KISSINGER: That’s what the radicals understand: they want to break the government. They want to break confidence in the government. They don’t give a damn about Vietnam, because as soon as Vietnam is finished, I will guarantee the radicals will be all over us—or all over any government for any of it—for other things. These tactics of confrontation aren’t going to end it. And, our tremendous national malaise—right now, the Establishment has the great excuse of Vietnam.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: No matter what goes wrong, they blame Vietnam.
NIXON: That’s right. Well, I told you what the college presidents, at the time of—do you remember, they were just—they were really relieved, really. That, as they say, their campuses were politicized. Do you remember the torrents— KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: —of frustration because of Cambodia? But, they were relieved, because it took the heat off of them.
KISSINGER: Well, they told you, “If you go on national—”
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: “—television, don’t talk about university problems, talk about international affairs.” When you asked, “What should I talk about?” they said, “Don’t talk about university problems, talk about international affairs—”
NIXON: And one day, when the war is over, then they’ve got to look in the mirror. And, they don’t want to do that, do they?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: That’s the real thing.
KISSINGER: And face the real issues. I remember four—three years ago when Arthur [possibly Arthur Schlesinger Jr.] first flew up. I told the liberals there that two years from now it will be infinitely worse with all the concessions you’ve made. You meet every one of these points, you’ll be worse off. Last year when the radicals smashed every window in Harvard Square, one of those professors was honest enough to call me up and say, “Yes, now I see.”
NIXON: Did he?
KISSINGER: Yeah. But, it got—now, now they have big riots at Harvard. They’re not reporting them, or big to-dos—
NIXON: Are there riots going on, now?
KISSINGER: Well, they have a tremendous campaign on against professors they consider right wing, with a slogan: “No Free Speech for War Criminals.” In other words, the movement that started as a free speech movement in Berkeley is now a “No Free Speech” movement for war criminals. And they’re after— NIXON: Oh, boy.
KISSINGER: —some of my colleagues—
NIXON: Isn’t that a shame?
KISSINGER: Sam Huntington, who would be—
NIXON: Yeah, I know—liberal.
KISSINGER: Liberal—well, he’s honest.
NIXON: I know him, I know him. I know who he is.
KISSINGER: And they want to force him off the faculty.
NIXON: I hope he doesn’t go.
KISSINGER: No, but I—the dean of the School of Public—the Kennedy School—called me yesterday and said, “We’re holding a meeting, and we’re convincing our faculty to vote for him.” I said, “Why do you have to have a meeting to affirm that you are against the ‘No Free Speech,’ and that—and why do you have to convince anybody? That ought to be taken for granted—”
NIXON: Who is “they,” when they say “No Free Speech for War Criminals”?
KISSINGER: That’s the SDS chapter. The—
NIXON: But, my God, does that represent the whole school? [unclear]
KISSINGER: No, but it’s the ten percent of the activists, and the others are cowardly. But, I think it’s the macrocosm of our society, Mr. President. I think the big problem in this country—I feel that as a historian, it’s going to happen after the war is over. They know the war is over— NIXON: Even if we end it right well?
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —but that’s why the radicals—the radicals understand what they’re doing. You cannot win for two reasons: one because it’s you; you’re so anathema—
NIXON: Yeah.
NIXON: They never—they know that they never will influence me.
KISSINGER: And, and, therefore, you don’t panic. You’re not Johnson. And, secondly, because they think the war is a magnificent opportunity to break the self-confidence of this, of this country.
NIXON: And the system, really—
KISSINGER: And of the system. So, they use both of it. But, they’ll be back next year with the war over, and they’ll find some other issue. These conference—if the war is over next year, or whenever it will be— NIXON: Hmm?
KISSINGER: —or two years from now, when it’ll surely be completely over—and they’ll find enough in Vietnam for a good long time, because—
NIXON: And then, we will be supporting the Thieu-Ky government with military assistance—
KISSINGER: They’re already starting that.
NIXON: —economic—oh, I know, and I know they will, Henry. Just like they do in Cambodia.
KISSINGER: In fact, I am wondering, Mr. President, if—it can’t be done this minute [unclear] shouldn’t go on the offensive against them. Whether one isn’t—
NIXON: Yeah, I know. I know.
KISSINGER: —on the wrong wicket, batting back the balls they throw? Whether one shouldn’t accuse them of turning the things over to the Communists? I just don’t have the sense that this is a soft country.
NIXON: I think I have been on the offensive as much as I can be.
KISSINGER: You have been the—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: You have—
NIXON: You know, everything I have said in my speech, in that meeting with the editors was hard-line—
KISSINGER: You couldn’t do—
NIXON: Hell, there’s—what, what more could I—I couldn’t [unclear]—
KISSINGER: You can do no more. You can do no more.
NIXON: —a thing. Do you think? Or should I do more? I think—
KISSINGER: Not right now.
NIXON: —I can hit them harder.
KISSINGER: Not right now—

KISSINGER: Well, I’ll be interested to see what the North Vietnamese are going to do. I—I think if we—as long as you stay in your present posture, I think we are—we may have a chance of breaking it this year.
NIXON: We’ll see.
KISSINGER: Or getting [unclear]. Or getting them to turn it down, and if they do, we can—we’ll surface that, because then we don’t need anything from them.
NIXON: Well, what I was going to tell you is that I think when you go to Paris that you’ve got to present it in a way—listen, I want it to be done in a way so that everybody—so that, so that—that with the assumption that we will want to be able to tell Rogers and everybody else that you’ve gone.
KISSINGER: Right. Oh, I’m going openly.
NIXON: Openly, that’s what I mean. Then you—but when you—you’re meeting them, as you already know—
NIXON: And then you have your meeting, and then we will say nothing about it in the event that anything’s going to come out of it. If something does not come out of it, however, then let’s say something about it and say, “Well, I was over there, and we knew it.” And have in mind the fact that we’ll surface those portions of it that will serve our interests.
NIXON: And, and—in other words, make an offer. Make an offer. Now—
KISSINGER: Mr. President—
NIXON: I—in other words, try to think in terms of, of—if you get to the point where you’re talking to them, and they’re dancing around, make an offer that is so outlandish—you know, not outlandish in terms of it—that they really ought to accept it. In other words, move the date and, right after, say, “We’ve offered this.” You see what I’m getting at?
NIXON: And they won’t. If—they’re either going to make a deal, or they’ve determined to sit it out. If they’re not going to make a deal, then, the thing to do is to make an offer that makes them look absolutely intransigent. See?
NIXON: And then, with the idea that the purpose is, is not to get them to accept the offer—we hope to Christ they don’t; we know they won’t—but that the purpose is to make an offer that is— KISSINGER: What I thought is, in the first meeting, I wouldn’t give them any date, so that it can’t fail on that. I’d say, “We’ll give you a date, if you’re willing to do—have a cease-fire and a repatriation of prisoners.” So then, they can’t say we gave them a, a lousy date.
KISSINGER: If they accept that in principle, then, we can go ahead. If they don’t accept it in principle—if they say, “You’ve got to overthrow Thieu, Ky, and Khiem, too—”
NIXON: It’s out [unclear].
KISSINGER: —then we can give them any date.
NIXON: Yeah. Then I’d off—then I would simply say, “All right, here’s our date. This is it. We offer it,” and I’d make it awfully good. I’d make—
KISSINGER: But one thing we might consider, Mr. President—it just occurred to me this week—as long as we’re playing it this way—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —whether it—depending—if they don’t accept it, or if they keep it in abeyance—if, at the end of the meeting, I don’t tell Xuan Thuy to talk to me alone for five minutes with just his interpreter present.
NIXON: Good.
KISSINGER: If I tell him, “Now, look, this president is extremely tough. You’ve been wrong every time. If you think you’re going to defeat him, if you don’t accept this, he will stop at nothing.”
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And imply that you might do it—
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: Use nuclear weapons—
NIXON: And then you could say—
KISSINGER: Do the Dulles ploy—
NIXON: You can say that. You can say, “I cannot control him.” Put it that way.
KISSINGER: Yeah. And imply that you might use nuclear weapons.
NIXON: Yes, sir. “He will. I just want you to know he is not going to cave.”
KISSINGER: If they, then, charge us with it, I’ll deny it.
NIXON: Oh, sure.

“Without China, they never would have agreed to the SALT.”
April 23, 1971, 2:52 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

In the early afternoon, Kissinger had a critical conversation with Dobrynin, which went surprisingly well, as he reported to Nixon. The Soviets were beginning to drop what Kissinger later called the “essentially meaningless preconditions” that had delayed the scheduling of the planned summit in Moscow. The implication was that the major thrust of the SALT treaty was acceptable. From Nixon’s point of view, the immediate concern was practical: how to agree to the basic terms without appearing relieved or, worse yet, eager.

KISSINGER: Hello, Mr. President.
HALDEMAN: Who won?
KISSINGER: It was a draw. To sum it up, Mr. President, they’ve, to all practical purposes, given in on this SALT thing. They’ve come back with a letter from Kosygin, and they’re willing to have the exchange of letters published. Up to now, they wanted it secret. There’s still one point, which I will raise in a minute. On the summit, they reaffirmed the invitation, and they want it in September. I mean, they agreed with us that it should be in September. They do not want an announcement now. And, they say there has to be some progress in Berlin [talks about the status of Berlin began in March 1970 among the Four Powers and ultimately led to the Four Power Agreement, also known as the Quadripartite Agreement, during September 1971]; they can never explain it to the Politburo. And I—when he said that, I blew my top. I mean, deliberately. I said, “Now,” I said, “you’re making a terrible mistake.” I said, “If we have a goal, then the president, who never plays for little stakes, would recognize that it has to fit into this framework. If you’re trying to hold him up with Berlin as a means to get to the summit, you don’t understand him. I’m not even sure if he’ll let me continue talking to you on Berlin under these circumstances.” I thought this— NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: —this was the only way of doing it, because we really cannot promise to be able to deliver on Berlin.
KISSINGER: I mean, the Germans have screwed it up to such a fare-thee-well that they may not be prepared to yield anything. I’m seeing Bahr this weekend. He’s up there. And I’ll have a better estimate at that Woodstock conference. [Kissinger planned to travel to Woodstock, Vermont, to attend the weekend-long Bilderberg Conference, an annual meeting of a private group of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people.] My estimate is—oh, he was really—then he started explaining, “Oh, they’re enthusiastic. Don’t you realize what a tremendous thing it is for us, the first American president in the Soviet Union? That we have four new members in the Politburo? I try,” he said, “you have only one man to convince. I had to talk to all fifteen.”
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: He said, “To sell this was almost impossible.” That I even believe—
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: —because on this one they have yielded ninety-eight percent. They’ve practically accepted our position on the SALT. They’re giving us a hell of a lot more than—
NIXON: What is left? Well, let’s look at where we start from here. What about the SALT position? What’s—?
KISSINGER: Well, they [unclear]—
NIXON: What is the timing?
KISSINGER: Well, that we can settle next week. We could publish the exchange of letters within a week.

KISSINGER: Well, now, the only point is this, Mr. President: what they want, the only disputed point—there are some other nitpicks, which I’ll explain to you in a minute—but the disputed point is on the limitation, Moscow against Washington, which will drive Scoop Jackson right up a wall— NIXON: Hell, that’s true.
KISSINGER: —and, on the other hand, Dobrynin says that it is almost impossible to explain to their military that we can protect our missiles, and they have to protect their population. Well, I told him, “Well, they have five hundred missiles protected by their Moscow system.”
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Well, he denies that. So, what I could propose to him on Monday is that they take out that one sentence which limits it to that, and that we throw that to the negotiators, with the understanding that if they can’t settle it, we’ll just have to yield. If that’s what you want. I think if they freeze their offensive weapons, that’s the big thing. If they freeze their offensive weapons, which they’ve agreed to do in this, then we can be— NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —then we can agree to this. Then we can agree to this. If they don’t freeze their offensive weapons, it’s too dangerous.

NIXON: Look, let me put it this way: all this is a bunch of shit, as you know. It’s not worth a damn. But the point is that in terms of our public relations, we can use something like this at this time. I— KISSINGER: Right—
NIXON: —don’t want to have anything wrong for public relations reasons, but I don’t want to horse around and put it out three weeks from now when it doesn’t make a goddamn bit of difference.

KISSINGER: Yeah, I thought, they’re—they’re a cool bunch. I thought, they are dying to get you to Moscow, Mr. President, and I think it would be a mistake for us to promise them a Berlin agreement. In fact, what I’m inclined to say, when I see him, is to say, “Your reaction was just what I predicted.” That you just make no commitments until then, when they are ready for the summit. I said, “You think you’re doing the president a favor about the summit, you’re absolutely wrong—”
NIXON: That’s right—
KISSINGER: “—we’re not going to pay any price for the summit. We make agreements in our mutual interests or not at all.” But they want you there. About that there’s no doubt. Because as soon as I got tough— NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: The sooner—
KISSINGER: Because as soon as I got tough, he started pulling back. He said, “No, no, no, you misunderstood. You have to tell the president we are renewing the invitation. September is an excellent time. It’s a good time, still good weather—”
NIXON: Yeah, but when do they want to announce it?
KISSINGER: Well, then I said, “Look, we would like to make the announcement four months ahead of time. That’s what we always do with state visits.” He said, “Well, two months is a little better.” I think they have a massive problem of getting their government to [unclear].
NIXON: Make it three months.
KISSINGER: And I think they really want it. They probably may need some progress on Berlin. But I think—I’m seeing Bahr this weekend, and I think they know there’ll be progress on Berlin, and they’re using this to— NIXON: Mm-hmm. [unclear] So it came out pretty well? Didn’t it?
KISSINGER: Well, I think this one, I think the SALT agreement, Mr. President—
NIXON: Without China, they aren’t going to [unclear]—
KISSINGER: The SALT agreement is going to drive Berlin.
NIXON: Let me tell you something: without China, they never would have agreed to the SALT.

“If those POW wives start running around . . . we are in trouble.”
April 26, 1971, 11:46 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

By 1971, it was easy to forget about the Paris Peace Talks. They were the public ongoing meetings that brought North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and American negotiators together to seek an end to the war. The talks had gone on for three years, with only minimal progress. Unbelievably, several months were devoted to the shape of the table at which the representatives would sit. As with the SALT talks, Nixon generally left the peace talks on a back burner while he worked a broader agenda through his own private channels, in concert with Kissinger.
In April, the peace talks were moved into the headlines by a group of one hundred women, the wives of prisoners of war held captive by the North Vietnamese. The women said nothing and did nothing except stand in vigil on the sidewalk outside of the building in which the peace talks were staged. According to the best records, 339 Americans were held as prisoners of war, though thousands more were missing in action with the possibility of imprisonment. The North Vietnamese stance was that it would not discuss the release of the Americans that it held until Nixon set a date for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the region.

KISSINGER: Now, Lodge collared me on the way in, and he said he’s developing some awfully strong feelings on the POWs, and he wants to talk to you.
NIXON: No, I’m not going to [unclear].
KISSINGER: Which is his way of saying he wants to bug out. But I told him he had to have another time; you were terribly busy.
NIXON: No, no, no [unclear].
KISSINGER: I’m seeing Dobrynin at noon, and I wanted to check with you before I did.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I believe, Mr. President, that your instinct on Saturday is the right one, that I ought to be—
NIXON: Oh, yes—
KISSINGER: —tough with him.
NIXON: Tough as hell. So what—you can’t do anything?
KISSINGER: No, I—what I was—
NIXON: Let me come to a couple of points before you get to that. It seems to me that—that’s all I have, Bob [unclear]. And I’ll talk to you about that press thing after I finish these— HALDEMAN: [laughs]
NIXON: —odds and ends. First, I think it—I think in view of that shelling [unclear] yesterday, we ought to hit those sites that, normally, we can’t bomb now.
KISSINGER: I think we ought to think about it very carefully.
NIXON: Why think, when I don’t think you need to think about it? My point is, you’ve got to show them right after these demonstrations, that we’re not going to be affected by them. I know a lot [unclear]— KISSINGER: I’m for it.
NIXON: Too much of this stuff—
NIXON: Too much of this stuff indicating we’re going to be affected by it.
KISSINGER: I’m for it.
NIXON: Now, the only thing to do is to bang ’em.
NIXON: So, you tell them to just do it—and protective reaction. Call it “protective reaction.”
NIXON: But, let ’em have it.
NIXON: Understand?
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: This is the time to do it.
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: So, they killed seven Americans at this base by random shelling? Correct?
KISSINGER: There—that’s the only thing they’ll understand.
NIXON: Yeah. And, also, you know, I mainly want them to know that we [unclear] demonstrations.
KISSINGER: Mr. President, I’m—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —thrilled by it.
NIXON: Hit ’em [unclear]—
KISSINGER: What I saw this weekend [at the Bilderberg Conference], Mr. President—
NIXON: Up there in New York? [unclear]
KISSINGER: This country needs—
NIXON: I was—
KISSINGER: In Woodstock. What—that’s what I mean.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: If we don’t—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: If we don’t do it, no one will do it.
NIXON: [unclear] no doubt, no doubt they’re going to do it. And the main point is, this is just a—we’re going to crack ’em this week—protective reaction—but, I mean, hit all three sites, now.
NIXON: I mean, I—or two or three. I don’t know. Whatever is militarily feasible.
KISSINGER: Let’s hit all of them—
NIXON: You know, I told Laird, “Whenever you’re ready, let’s go.” Now, the chokepoints are about ready; let ’em have it.
NIXON: We’re protecting American withdrawals. Second point is this: we do need something—I need something that Bruce can say on POWs on Thursday. Now, we’ve got to get something that he can say.
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: I don’t know what he can say, but what I mean is when you’ve got two—stupid [Senator Marlow W.] Cook [R-KY], you know, and that jackass [Republican Senator Jack R.] Miller from Iowa—both joining in this, “We’ll—we’ll predict—we’ll end the war nine months after the POW thing.” Well, of course, they’re goddamn nearing our ballpark. They’re—anyway, but the point is— KISSINGER: Well, they’re tougher than we will be.
NIXON: What? The congressmen are [unclear]?
KISSINGER: But, they want the con—POWs released first.
NIXON: Yeah. My whole point is, though: I think that we ought to have Bruce make a cosmetic offer on POWs, which we can publish. We said we will. You see what I mean? Make the offer. It isn’t going to affect your negotiation one damn bit.
KISSINGER: Well, what offer are you thinking of?
NIXON: Anything.
KISSINGER: All right.
NIXON: Just for the purpose—one, one we know they’re going to turn down. You know what I mean? So, you could say—well, I was thinking of—you could think of something like this: “That we will—we are prepared to do—we’re—we are prepared to discuss a, discuss a deadline, as soon you discuss POWs. We’re prepared to.”
KISSINGER: That would give away this, the [unclear].
NIXON: Oh, I’m not sure.
KISSINGER: That would—that you should do on television, if anyone does it.
NIXON: Well then, “We’re prepared—”
KISSINGER: If you’re willing to do that.
NIXON: Well, put it in that—put it in the context of what we—of what we have said, then. “We’re prepared to—”
KISSINGER: I mean, we can press any number of [unclear].
NIXON: Well then, say that. Then, separate it out. The—then make the POW–cease-fire—
KISSINGER: That we can do.
NIXON: —make that on Thursday.
KISSINGER: That we can do.
NIXON: He says, “We’ll—we will separate those things out.” Even when I do it later, you’re going to do it privately, of course.
KISSINGER: You’ll do the cease-fire—
NIXON: Because you’re going to give them the date. He’s not going to give them the date.
KISSINGER: No, if he, however, says, “We’re prepared to give a date—deadline,” that’s exactly what I planned to tell them.
NIXON: Well—
KISSINGER: And then, if you want, you can go this route, but it would—that would really look like yielding to the demonstrations. Then, you should do it. Why let him do it?
NIXON: Uh, no. I’m not going to give a date. We’re—we—look, we’re going to discuss it—
KISSINGER: But that, they’ll accept.
KISSINGER: They’ll accept that.
NIXON: No, I don’t think they will.
KISSINGER: Certainly.
NIXON: Cease-fire?
KISSINGER: Well, I think, Mr. President, that’s such a big step. To take that at an ordinary session, in the middle of a demonstration—
NIXON: What can we really offer them?
KISSINGER: We can say—
NIXON: Figure something out.
KISSINGER: Yeah. I’ll—
NIXON: Work on it—
KISSINGER: —I’ll try to have something for you—
NIXON: Something that they can turn down, but something where—and let’s, and let’s just build it up. Give it to Scali and say, “Now, build the hell out of this thing.” That’s the way I want to do it, Henry.
KISSINGER: Right. We can have some unilateral withdrawal for prisoners.
NIXON: Yeah.
NIXON: And don’t let—incidentally, I’m really tired of Lodge, anyway. Goddamn it, I sent him over there, fartin’ around there with the pope, and he comes in here on this thing and, now, he wants to take a trip to Vietnam. Goddamn it, leave me alone!
NIXON: He’s never come in and showed any—he didn’t—
NIXON: When he was here last time, he didn’t say anything about what the hell I’ve been doing. Where’s he been? Why doesn’t he stand up a little? I’m going to do this goddamn meeting; I’m going to get out of there. And I’m—don’t you feel that way?
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: I mean, and the idea is, Henry [unclear]. You talk to him. He can tell you about it.
NIXON: Can he?
KISSINGER: Oh, yes. He already has.
NIXON: Now, with regard to Dobrynin, I know that right now he’s as tough as hell. Let me tell you why you’ve got to have the POW thing: it’s purely a delaying action. Henry, [unclear] we’ve got to realize that we have got to keep them from running off. The POW wives may endorse this damn thing. You understand that?
NIXON: It’s too, too tantalizing for them. Bruce—we’ve got to indicate that we are at least doing something on POWs.
KISSINGER: Actually, Mr. President, this [proposal to end the Vietnam War by Senator] Miller thing is—unless he’s changed it—isn’t such a bad one, oh, from that point of view. They— NIXON: It says as soon as they’re released?
KISSINGER: They, first, have to release them, and a year afterwards, we’ll withdraw our troops.
NIXON: A year afterwards?
KISSINGER: It used to be a year.
NIXON: Or, nine months?
KISSINGER: Well, maybe he’s changed it to nine months, now.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: But that means they’d have to give up all their prisoners, first.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Well, we could almost buy that [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Well, not yet.
NIXON: I mean—
KISSINGER: You see, as soon as we’ve made the offer to them, Mr. President, and we know whether they’ll buy it or not, then we can play it any way we want.
NIXON: I know. I know. But right now—
KISSINGER: And it won’t be a big deal until the result of it—
NIXON: —right now, let me say that we’ve got to put a stopper in the POWs stuff. That’s the only thing that worries me at this time.
NIXON: The only thing.
NIXON: And I don’t think everybody around here is aware of that problem. You see—
KISSINGER: Well, I’ll have a suggestion—
NIXON: —because it’s our Achilles heel. If those POW wives start running around, coming onto this general election, and veterans, you’re in real—we are in troubles like you wouldn’t—and you must tell all of them— KISSINGER: Well, let me talk to the leader of these wives. I know her [likely reference is to Carol North, then chairman of the board, National League of Families]. She was on national television the other day. She was very good. She is very fond of me.
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: And I think—I quieted them down—
NIXON: I know, I know. But they—they’re still worried, though—
KISSINGER: Oh, they’re def—
NIXON: [unclear] you just talk to them every day, you know, and they’re, they’re a worried bunch. Yeah?

NIXON: Now, before we leave, you have advised that—just think about—understand: I’m just looking for a gimmick.
NIXON: I don’t give a goddamn. I don’t want to, Henry, to accept it, but don’t assume when you talk to ’em—Colson is very close to it. There’re a [unclear] number of groups Colson can use. Be sure you talk to them, too, to see what groups are ready to take off. You see?
NIXON: To see that they’re holding firm. See, Henry?
NIXON: We—don’t assume when you talk to one that you get them all, because there are about eighteen different—like it’s with veterans. We got ninety percent of the veterans—ninety-five percent of the veterans, but five percent go around and give you hell. See?
KISSINGER: Right. Right.
NIXON: I think we can hold ’em, but I think we’ve got to get it to them, and if we can make some kind of an offer, or even tell them that we are going to make an offer, fine. They have to get some assurance, Henry. They’ve got to get some assurance— KISSINGER: I’ll talk to the wives—
NIXON: —on what they want to know.
KISSINGER: What I should do—
NIXON: Don’t assume the one woman, though. She’s just one of many.
KISSINGER: No—but I want to talk and get her advice, because I trust her. And then, I’ll do—she’s, she’s tough enough. It isn’t—I don’t want to give the impression that she’s easy, but she’s been— NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: Let me talk to her, first. She was on national television the other day—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —and she was pretty firm.
NIXON: Well, we’ve got to have something new on POWs Thursday. It’s got to sound new. That’s all. Just put—have Bruce put something out, some gobbledygook. You know, take your pick.

“When we talked about ‘linkage,’ everyone was sneering.”
April 27, 1971, 8:16 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

When Zhou Enlai, premier of the People’s Republic of China, wrote to Nixon proposing a meeting in Beijing, it was a turning point that Kissinger termed “the most important communication that has come to an American president since the end of World War II.” The invitation mentioned an envoy making the trip. Part of the discussion that Kissinger and Nixon had about the letter focused on the person who might serve as the first representative of the United States to visit the PRC. They bluntly reviewed many possible figures, though the identity of the envoy may never really have been in doubt. The new probability of talks between the United States and China materially changed the other strains of U.S. foreign policy—the complex of challenges that Nixon called the “linkage.”

NIXON: I had a couple of thoughts on this. One with regard to the Bruce thing [Bruce was under consideration as Nixon’s envoy] which seems to me may pose to them a difficult problem because of him being directly involved in the Vietnam negotiations. Secondly, let me think of whether there is something else—how about Nelson [Rockefeller]?
NIXON: Can’t do it, huh?
KISSINGER: Mr. President, he wouldn’t be disciplined enough, although he is a possibility.
NIXON: It would engulf him in a big deal and he is outside of the government, you see.
KISSINGER: Let me think about it. I might be able to hold him in check.
NIXON: It is intriguing, don’t you think?
KISSINGER: It is intriguing.
NIXON: How about Bush?
KISSINGER: Absolutely not, he is too soft and not sophisticated enough.
NIXON: I thought of that myself.
KISSINGER: I thought about Richardson but he wouldn’t be the right thing.
NIXON: He is still too close to us and I don’t think it would sit well with Rogers. Nelson—the Chinese would consider him important and he would be—could do a lot for us in terms of the domestic situation. No, Nelson is a wild hare running around.
KISSINGER: I think for one operation I could keep him under control. To them a Rockefeller is a tremendous thing.
NIXON: Sure. Well, keep it in the back of your head.
KISSINGER: Bush would be too weak.
NIXON: I thought so too but I was trying to think of somebody with a title.
KISSINGER: Nelson has possibilities.
NIXON: A possibility, yeah. Of course, that would drive State up the wall.
KISSINGER: He would take someone from State along but he despises them so much he will take our direction and I would send someone from our staff to go along.
NIXON: Send Haig. Really, he’s really tough.
KISSINGER: And he knows Haig.

NIXON: All in all, of course, the whole thing that you can take some comfort in, you know, when you talk about how this happened, that it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t stuck to your guns through this period too, you know. We— KISSINGER: Well, Mr. President, you made it possible. It’s—
NIXON: We have played a game, and we’ve gotten a little break here. We were hoping we’d get one, and I think we have one now. If we—
NIXON: —play it skillfully. And we’ll wait a couple weeks and then—
KISSINGER: But we set up this—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —whole intricate web over—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: When we talked about “linkage,” everyone was sneering.
NIXON: Yeah. I know.
KISSINGER: But we’ve done it now.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: We’ve got it all hooked together.
KISSINGER: I mean, we’ve got Berlin hooked to SALT.

NIXON: Henry, it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t stuck to your guns. We played a game and we got a little break. It was done skillfully and now we will wait a couple of weeks.
KISSINGER: We have done it now, we have got it all hooked together; Berlin is hooked to SALT. Nelson might be able to do it, particularly if I sent Haig.
NIXON: Oh, we would have to have Haig; and a State guy but not that Green guy.
KISSINGER: Oh, Green could go. On foreign policy, Nelson would take my advice.
NIXON: He would be a special envoy in a sense.
KISSINGER: Actually, Mr. President, that’s a very original idea and he’s tough.
NIXON: Particularly if you get him in right at the mountaintop and say, “Look, it will make or break you, boy.”
KISSINGER: Oh, he would do it and I could tell him on this one. On the long operation he would be hard to control but on this one he would be good.
NIXON: If Dewey were alive, he could do it.
KISSINGER: Nelson would be better.
NIXON: But Dewey isn’t alive.
KISSINGER: If you can hold on a minute, I can get you—I have the oral note that the Pakistanis sent me. Here it is—the Pakistan note to Yahya [Khan] which Yahya passed on to the Chinese.

KISSINGER: Well, Mr. President—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —the difference between them [the Chinese] and the Russians is that if you drop some loose change and try to pick it up, the Russians step on your fingers and fight you for it. The Chinese don’t do that. I’ve reviewed all the communications with them. And all of it has been on a high level. I mean, if here you look at the summit exchange, they haven’t horsed around like the Russians.
NIXON: No, they haven’t.
KISSINGER: And compared to what the game was, the Russians squeezing us on every bloody move—
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: —has been just stupid.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And so I think that they probably figure they cannot trick us out of Taiwan, but they have to have a fundamental understanding.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, put Nelson in the back of our minds as one possibility.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Incidentally, what’d Haig think of this?
KISSINGER: Oh, he thinks this is one of the great diplomatic breakthroughs.
NIXON: Does he really? Yeah?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. And he thinks if we play it coolly and toughly and with the same subtlety we’ve shown up to now—
NIXON: Yeah—
KISSINGER: —we can settle everything now.
NIXON: He thinks we go—he goes that far [unclear]?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. I have absolute—I’ve never said this before. I’ve never given it more than one in three. I think if we get this thing working, we’ll end Vietnam this year. The mere fact of these contacts is one of— NIXON: Another thing, of course, that is important is [laughs], you know, we do have a little problem of time, in terms of wanting to announce something in this period of time. And— KISSINGER: Yeah, but we ought to be able to announce this by the end of the first week of June anyway.
NIXON: Well, we’d have to if you’re going to be there in June.
KISSINGER: And if we have the SALT—
NIXON: If we could get it earlier. Now, the thing is, is SALT going to turn them off? No. No?
NIXON: No, particularly—yeah, but, I must say, we’re going to drag our feet on that summit with the Russians, though. They’re—
KISSINGER: Well, nothing can happen on that for a while now.
NIXON: No, no. They—that’s—the ball’s in their court and—
NIXON: —they’re sitting there piddling around. All right, they can piddle. And—
KISSINGER: They won’t move fast.
KISSINGER: And they’ll be confused by the protests in this country. A more sophisticated analysis of the report was made by Zhou Enlai.
NIXON: His analysis in effect realized what we were doing.
KISSINGER: A very subtle analysis of the international situation.
NIXON: Well, anyway, there is another player we can keep. Bruce is another possibility, too. It would be quite dramatic to pull Bruce out of Paris and send him to Beijing.
KISSINGER: For that reason, they might not take him.
NIXON: In terms of Bruce, he is our senior ambassador and we feel he is the best-qualified man.
KISSINGER: They would jump at Rockefeller, a high-visibility one.
NIXON: Visibility and it would be enormous. Can’t you just see what that would do to the libs in this country, oh, God. Rockefeller over there, Jesus Christ.
KISSINGER: That has great possibilities.
NIXON: Here is Rockefeller—he is lined up with us all the way; he has lined up with us on foreign policy all the way. Anyway, that is something to think about.
KISSINGER: That’s a good problem to have.
NIXON: It is a good luxury to have.
KISSINGER: Once this gets going—everything is beginning to fit together.
NIXON: I hope so.
KISSINGER: You will have to hold hard on Vietnam on Thursday.
NIXON: I intend to hold it hard. What’s happening on the prisoners?
KISSINGER: I have three proposals which I am putting in writing—they will release one thousand, they are opening their camps and calling on the North Vietnamese to do the same, and proposing that all prisoners be held in a neutral country. This should be announced by Bruce in the morning— NIXON: Good.
KISSINGER: And you can hit it in the evening.
NIXON: They might hit that play if we build it up a bit. They will all think it is about bugging out but it will be on prisoners.
KISSINGER: We are beginning to hold the cards.
NIXON: That’s true but we are going to hold it. The demonstrators may overplay their hand.
KISSINGER: John Chancellor, whom I had lunch with today, thinks the tide has turned.
NIXON: What turned it?
KISSINGER: He thinks what happened this week has ruined them.
NIXON: John Chancellor—
KISSINGER: Absolutely. He doesn’t exactly know what you have up your sleeve but—
NIXON: I am not saying anything about China except that the proposals are at a very sensitive stage and I don’t intend to comment on the future and next question, gentlemen.
NIXON: I don’t want to get into the proposal of a two-China policy, UN membership, Taiwan, and so forth. I am going to finesse all questions by saying that developments here are significant and I don’t think the interests of the nation will be served by commenting on it further.
KISSINGER: I think that would be the best position to take, Mr. President.
NIXON: Haig was pretty pleased.
KISSINGER: If anyone had predicted that two months ago, we would have thought it was inconceivable.
NIXON: Yeah, yeah. After Laos—
KISSINGER: After Cambodia, the same thing—
NIXON: Yeah. But look at after Laos, the people over two to one thought it had failed and yet here comes the Chinese move, the Ping-Pong team, and something more significant that pales that into nothing. It can have an enormous significance. Well, look, Nelson’s tongue made that statement to Snow. How can we get the Mansfield [Amendment] thing turned off? I don’t know how we can do it but one way we could do it is to invite him to go along.
KISSINGER: No. Why give this to him?
NIXON: He could go along with me.
KISSINGER: He can go along with you when you go.
NIXON: We could invite Mansfield and Scott.
KISSINGER: If you want to share it with the Democrats.
NIXON: Share it; the Chinese will treat them very well but they will know where the power is.
KISSINGER: But they actually haven’t invited anyone yet.
NIXON: Could you get a message to him?
KISSINGER: Think I can get some oral message to him.
NIXON: Two weeks away and I wonder if they will move on Mansfield before then.
KISSINGER: No, but they may.
NIXON: As a temporary action, can you say that the president will be in California and—
KISSINGER: I have already told them and that a constructive reply will be coming.
NIXON: If you could add to that, that any other visits should be held in abeyance until we give our reply.
KISSINGER: I will get that across.
NIXON: There will be many requests and we feel that political requests—
NIXON: Good idea. Okay, Henry.
KISSINGER: Right, Mr. President.

“That’s a lifestyle I don’t want to touch.”
April 28, 1971, 9:28 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

For over seventy years, the White House sponsored an annual conference on children and youth. The last year this conference was held was 1971, in the middle of Nixon’s first term. In Nixon’s view, there was a good reason it was the last.
The conference was organized by Counselor to the President for Urban Affairs Pat Moynihan’s former staff (after he had left the administration to return to Harvard University), in particular Stephen Hess, and was held in Estes Park, Colorado. A series of proposals came out of the conference, including the demand for the immediate resignation of President Nixon, Vice President Agnew, and all of their staff members, as well as other proposals on lowering the age of consent and more formal government recognition of homosexual relationships. These proposals led to an Oval Office discussion about homosexuality and society.

NIXON: Let me say something before we get off the gay thing. I don’t want my views misunderstood. I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop. They have a problem. They’re born that way. You know that. That’s all. I think they are. Anyway, my point is, though, when I say they’re born that way, the tendency is there. By my point is, that Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders, and others, bring them in that direction, and teachers. And, if you look over the history of societies, you will find of course that some of the highly intelligent people—[unclear], Oscar Wilde, Aristotle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera—were all homosexuals. Nero, of course, was, in a public way, in with a boy in Rome.
HALDEMAN: There’s a whole bunch of Roman emperors.
NIXON: [unclear] but the point is, look at that, once a society moves in that direction, the vitality goes out of that society. Now isn’t that right, Henry?
NIXON: Do you see any other change, anywhere where it doesn’t fit?
KISSINGER: That’s certainly been the case in antiquity. The Romans were notorious—
HALDEMAN: The Greeks.
KISSINGER: —homosexuals.
NIXON: The Greeks.
KISSINGER: The Greeks.
NIXON: The Greeks. And they had plenty of it [unclear]. By God, I am not going to have a situation where we pass along a law indicating, “Well, now, kids, just go out and be gay.” They can do it. Just leave them alone. That’s a lifestyle I don’t want to touch.
KISSINGER: Well, it’s one thing—
HALDEMAN: I’m afraid that’s what they’re doing now.
NIXON: Just leave them alone.
KISSINGER: It’s one thing for people, to, you know, like some people we know, who would do it discreetly, but to make that a national policy.

KISSINGER: But something this profoundly offensive to the majority of the population, to flaunt it as an act of public policy. That seems to me to be the issue involved here.
HALDEMAN: It’s like any of those other things. You make the public policy, and then you reduce one more barrier that keeps some kids—
NIXON: This is what it really comes down to. The point is now, Henry, drinking at eighteen. Because, well, seventy-five percent of the kids might drink at eighteen, most kids, twenty-five percent that drink at eighteen would probably go off their rockers. It’s not a good idea. I mean, you’ve got to stop at a certain point. Why is it that the girls don’t swear? Because a man, when he swears, people can’t tolerate a girl who is a— HALDEMAN: Girls do swear.
HALDEMAN: They do now.
NIXON: Oh, they do now? But, nevertheless, it removes something from them. They don’t even realize it. A man drunk, and a man who swears, people will tolerate and say that’s a sign of masculinity or some other damn thing. We all do it. We all swear. But you show me a girl that swears and I’ll show you an awful unattractive person. You know, really.
NIXON: I mean, all femininity is gone. And none of the smart girls do swear, incidentally. That’s why you should tell a dirty story about a girl. The reason is, basically, that once you start [unclear] on just as crude as the man. And believe me, they call it the theory of ethics. The hell with it. It’s what made this country. Hell, it goes, Henry, back to the Jewish religion. That’s where most of it is, you know. You read the Old Testament, this is Old Testament stuff, not New Testament stuff.
HALDEMAN: You lose the distinction between the sexes, which is one of the main—
NIXON: That’s right. [unclear] But the thing about drinking is there, the thing about, that’s right. Let’s come to the other thing. Then you get, frankly, the public houses of prostitution, that are legalized. Well, frankly, the question there is, well, they’re cleaner, the French legalize them, and all that sort of thing. And they’re going to have them anyway, and so forth, and there are houses of prostitution everywhere. The moment you move in that direction, you break another barrier down. You say, well, all the whores are over here, and the good girls are over here. Well, the point is that all girls, almost all girls, are potentially interested in some sort of relationship with a man one way or other and they’re going to have it. Goddamn it! You don’t put it all out there! You just make it too common, too crude. It’s everything, really. I think it’s a, I must say, I don’t do it to say it out of any sense of prudeness, or purity, or anything. I can’t buy a lot of the—but I do think that as a society starts to tell all the decent, God-fearing people in this country, and there are still a hell of a lot of them, that the homosexual, the sixteen-year-old that drinks, the public houses of prostitution, you’ll have a decadent society. You’ll have a decadent society. Now, let’s take a look at the Communist societies, for whatever they’re worth. Let’s take a look at them. All revolutionary societies, for whatever they’re worth. They’re goddamn pure.
NIXON: Pure in their public ethics, on any issue. And pure in their private lives. They don’t stand for anything.

“Before I get there, the war has to be pretty well settled.”
April 28, 1971, 4:51 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

Sino-U.S. relations posed the danger of moving too smoothly and quickly, leaving serious problems, notably the Vietnam War and Taiwan, unaddressed before any meetings. The potential summit with the Soviets presented exactly the opposite challenge, seeming to falter over every point, even ones previously covered time and again. Kissinger lobbied to position himself as Nixon’s point man on both initiatives.

KISSINGER: Actually I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I happen to be the only one who knows all the negotiations.

NIXON: Well my point is that he [Rockefeller] does not have the subtlety of moving around. He is the kind of a guy that wants to make a quick shot, dramatic, you know, bold. Now goddamn it, we’re going to do things bold, but we don’t want to fall down doing it. You can do it. The best thing, the best thing to do is this: set up a secret negotiation. But the way I would start the telegram, I would say the president has considered, and he would like to arrange a visit to Beijing. He believes, he would like to come to Beijing. He thinks, however, that the best way to arrange that is for his—must be arranged at the highest level, the agenda, the modalities, et cetera should be arranged by Dr. Kissinger and whatever.

NIXON: What we are playing for basically is the Chinese summit, that’s my plan. That is the big play. Now, that’s only half of it; the other part of the play is to do something about this war. That’s the other half of it.
KISSINGER: With that, I think, those guys in ’54 they needed peace, and they settled Vietnam then. They need peace now, it’s got to have an effect on Hanoi. That’s one advantage of a public emissary.

NIXON: Well, let me say, before I get there, the war has to be pretty well settled. I’d just simply say, we can’t come there until we have some idea. The fact must be known in the United States that the war is settled. I can’t come to China before that.

KISSINGER: They’re [the Chinese] so scared of the Russians that they’re better off having your visit next May or April and keeping it hanging and keep daring the Russians to attack them with the presidential visit. That’s what I think they want. I do not believe they want you now. That would be too quick a turnaround time for them.

NIXON: We’ve got to deal with the Russians. The Russians can cause us too goddamn much trouble. Between now and 1972, I feel, if there’s any place in the world, they can screw us in Cuba. They can screw us in—in Berlin we can screw them. We got the ball there. We got— KISSINGER: Well, oh, we can certainly wreck the Berlin—
NIXON: I mean, as far as SALT is concerned, it’s dead. I mean, the Russians, let us suppose that they come back, you know—the Soviet summit is still possible. Did Dobrynin raise the summit today? Or you just didn’t raise that?
KISSINGER: Well, I said, “Anatol, you remember the—”
NIXON: You just mentioned it to him.
KISSINGER: To him. “Now, look,” I said, “you know, the big issue, the only reason there’s any movement on Berlin at all is because of me.” And I said, “The president”—a minute later, I said, “Anatol, of course, the president believes [I should break] this contact, if it doesn’t work out on SALT.” Instead of— NIXON: His position is going to be that—
KISSINGER: Instead of Rogers—
NIXON: Don’t call—
KISSINGER: Well, I had to give them a name. I told him.
NIXON: I’d add something else: you have decided [against the] summit. Say, I know with Bill, bureaucratic problems here, that you—the problem you weren’t at the State Department, the problem with the Russians—you figure the Russian game is over. You know, that’s just sticking it right to them, right? I don’t know if they’re going to be upset. But that’s my approach. Nice to have these phrases.

KISSINGER: Having gotten to this point, Mr. President, they’re not going to bail.
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: But the Russians didn’t get diplomatic relations—
NIXON: Of course, you want to—that’s right, that’s right. You want to—if we’re going to get a summit with the Russians, then you were wrong.
KISSINGER: I wasn’t wrong. We’re going to get a summit, [Mr.] President.
NIXON: Well, we’re certainly not sucking after it, believe me.
KISSINGER: I’m not so sure we want it in this way.
NIXON: That’s right. Yeah.
KISSINGER: My instinct tells me we’re going to get the SALT and the summit. Look at their choices: what—where else are they going to go?

“All that really matters is the talk that’s going on in that Senate.”
May 6, 1971, 11:00 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Alexander Haig

Spurred by the May Day protests that brought four hundred thousand more protesters to Washington than the one hundred thousand originally envisioned, the Senate was engaged in debate over two antiwar amendments to the bill extending the military draft. The first amendment under discussion, written by George McGovern (D-SD) and Mark Hatfield (R-OR), called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of the year. The second, promoted by Frank Church (D-ID) and Sherman Cooper (R-KY), would allow the president to use defense funds in Vietnam only for the removal of the troops. The mood in the Senate had changed, and the possibility of passing such amendments was realistic for the first time since the war began.

NIXON: I think that, Al, we’re going to have to come—to plan that trip on the eighth. You know, the Thieu trip.
HAIG: Yes, sir.

NIXON: We can haggle around through the summer. I mean, you’ve got the Chinese game, and we’ve got the Soviet game, and we’ve got the, the other game, and so forth and so on. Because I know the domestic game at this point. At the present time, we have got to move decisively [unclear] for domestic reasons. Not, not to—we’re not going to change in terms of withdrawal, or anything like that, but we’ve got to move on the Thieu meeting if we’re going to.
If that’s going to be our big announcement for the summer, get it over with and get it over fast, because that’s the only way you can stop. See, Henry has no, no concern or, certainly, no understanding of the situation in the Senate. Now, the votes are going to start coming around the eighth, ninth, and tenth. We’ll have one in the House next week on the appropriations bill with a terminal date. The Senate votes are the ones I’m concerned about. I’ve got to have something, something more than simply, “Well, and—well, we offered the South Vietnamese—or the North Vietnamese, a terminal date, we’ve got a date.” You know what I mean. It won’t be that way in a cease-fire, and so forth, but it’s too complicated. It’s a good offer, I mean. I agree, and Stewart Alsop will understand it, Chalmers Roberts and a few others, but the guys up there that are—will not. So, on the other hand, the announcement from—after meeting with Thieu, the American combat role ends at a certain time; that’ll have some impact. Right?
NIXON: [unclear] my view.
HALDEMAN: That’s just an offer that’s turned down.
NIXON: Well, now look. Here’s the point—
HALDEMAN: Except that—
NIXON: We have offered everything else. I noted already that—we all know the technical difference. That here, we are not—that here, we are separating out the political settlement, we’re separating out the element of the China peace conference, and, and we are saying, “As of a certain date, if you’ll give us a cease-fire and release our prisoners, we’ll be out.” That’s new, and we all know that it’s new. And it’s very significant. We all know it’s very significant. But, Al, to the average person in the country, that’s just another [unclear] gobbledygook like the one we made before. See?
HAIG: Well, it’s not going to mean anything, no.
NIXON: See? You make my point.
HAIG: That—
NIXON: You see, what they need, now, is something, Al. We’ve got to have something that means something to domestic people, here. That, that, that’s—that’s why the, the Thieu vote, if we don’t have another vote, has got to be thrown—shot on the eighth. And the other vote isn’t going to come out of Paris in my opinion. I don’t know.

HAIG: I think a SALT agreement would be a substantial move—
NIXON: Well, well, but we’ll have that soon, if we’re going to get a SALT agreement. That—I agree, I agree. If we get that, and we announce it, and if we—that’s a, that would be a [unclear]— HALDEMAN: It will confuse them. It isn’t gonna—it isn’t going to undo your Vietnam thing—
NIXON: But it is—the point is, it’ll confuse them just like China—
HALDEMAN: China did.
NIXON: —but it will not have the impact that’s needed. The American people—we polled all this and so forth. It’s too complicated. Intelligent people, it will confuse the hell out of them. We—but we must not ever confuse ourselves by thinking that that’s the way that folks are.

NIXON: The people—the people that Henry sees—
HALDEMAN: —and know it’s a hell of a [unclear]—
NIXON: —are obsessed with SALT, and the rest. I—we all know, you and I know, it’s the most important goddamn thing. It’s more important than whether we have eternal aid to Vietnam, or combat troops, or anything else. But you see, Al, in terms of the kind of clowns we’re dealing with in the Congress, it just doesn’t, doesn’t have any time to sit. It’ll help. It’ll help. But what do you—what we do, on that one, we can appraise it. If my judgment is wrong we can embrace it. I can damn well assure you, in terms of—we’ll have a chance to appraise it, because if we announce it next week, and it must be—incidentally, if we’re going to do it, as I put in a note to you today, we’re going to do it. It has to be done Wednesday of next week, or then put it off two weeks.
Now, there’s a reason for that: there’s a critical vote in the House on Wednesday. And, and otherwise, we should let it go two weeks. Screw it. I mean, there’s no real reason to—no reason to get it out any sooner. We might as well drag it along and go through all the process, and inform all the embassies and talk to all the columnists, and all that bullshit. By Friday—but, otherwise, get it out on Wednesday. Thursday’s too late—Thursday or Friday. So, that’s, that’s where we have it there. To do us any good in Congress, you see, I would rather have SALT come out two weeks later to affect the Senate vote. But you see these things wash out. All of a sudden they’re forgotten. So, we either have to do it Wednesday or just fart around, which we probably will do, and not do anything about it, and let it get screwed up in Vienna. You know it will be. It probably will be. Now, it could be ready next week, of course, if he [Dobrynin] comes back with some kind of an answer.
HAIG: If he has an answer.
NIXON: If he has an answer. If he doesn’t have an answer—it probably isn’t going to be ready anyway for two weeks, so it’s probably a moot question. Now, what could happen, what could have an effect? I will agree what could have an effect is an announcement of a summit with the Russians. That would have an effect on this whole thing. However, they aren’t ready to do much else— HAIG: They’re not—
NIXON: —and we’re not going to press them for an announcement. They’re—we’ve told them already, “When you’re ready, you tell us.” Now, they’ll tell us. If they should come in, unexpectedly, and say, “Look, we’d like to go forward with an announcement, and so forth”—because we’re not going to ask; no more, no more; we can’t appear anxious—that could have a very dramatic effect. See, that’s the kind of announcement, though. And that’s what an announcement will be with the Chinese—of a meeting, you understand, as distinctive from—well, that the president will receive the table tennis team when it comes over, and we’re going to release some more items for trade with China. See? These—so, here’s the things that will happen.

NIXON: See my point? I don’t want to have actions taken which appear to be in reaction to duress, or to the Senate. And the—that’s why the Thieu thing very well may have to be the eighth, because there could God-well be an action in the Senate, which—it’s hard to phrase all this very well, now, because we can’t tell what their reactions will be to the recent demonstrations, and the rest. And some of them may start to harden up a bit, and maybe the House will be better next week than we [unclear] thought, but, it’s really the Senate we’re worried about. But I do know, I do know this: that, now, it’s a cold-turkey proposition.

HAIG: Of course, the China thing, I think, has the greatest impact.
NIXON: It has an impact. But there, they’re going to need [unclear exchange]. But the China thing, the China thing, which—a China—an open meeting by a presidential emissary, or actually a presidential visit. You see, the difficulty with our whole China thing, though, is that there we have the Russian game. We can’t announce that, that, “Well, there will be a presidential visit to China.” First, there can’t be a presidential visit to China as long as they’re supporting South Vietnam—North Vietnam. So that’s the deal. It’s got to be a straight cold-turkey deal on that. Second, we don’t want to throw the China thing, until we get the Russian thing, one way or the other. Because, once you do that, you knock off the Russian summit. And the Russian summit is more important. It may be that we don’t want it, but my point is you’ve got to play, you’ve got to let both strings play out a bit.
HALDEMAN: The Russian summit is more important substantively. It sure isn’t more important, I don’t think, in public drama in this country.
NIXON: Could be.
HALDEMAN: We get more out of China, [unclear].
HAIG: The China thing, I think, means more in terms of the war in Southeast Asia—
NIXON: To the postwar order?
HAIG: Yes, sir.

NIXON: Now, the other thing, of course, that I thought of, was that in view of their turndown of our prisoner thing, you know what I mean? Normal reaction was that it was—that it would have been a hell of a good time to, to hit those three passes in North Vietnam. But, on the other hand, since he has this damn offer hanging out there—I want to get that over with for that reason, too, Al.
HAIG: Yes, sir.
NIXON: You understand, with Henry bouncing back and forth with Paris and those goddamn trips, I mean, that’ll—they’d like to string it along, because they know very well that we don’t do anything when those—when that’s going on. We’re going to hit ’em. I mean, they can’t turn down an offer like that, and they can’t make some of the jackass statements they make without paying some consequences, and that’s the only thing we’ve got left. We’re just about ready to hit ’em again, so I—so they—see, that’s another reason for you, when you’re talking to Henry, must be pressing Thieu. I mean, we—look, we can’t diddle anymore. That’s the whole point.
HAIG: Exactly.
NIXON: We’ve got to cut the diddling. Oh, the idea that, well, we can’t do this, or that, or the other thing, because of the fact that it might disturb our talks with the Chinese; it might disturb our talks with the Russians; or it might disturb what talks we might have with the South—North Vietnamese. Just let me say: all that really matters is the talk that’s going on in that Senate at the present time.
HAIG: Yes, sir.

HAIG: You know, I think your problems in the Senate, sir, are really your intellectual people.
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: And SALT does mean something to these men. These are—these are the leaders that are impressed by that.
NIXON: That’s true. [unclear]
HAIG: I think the popular problem we’re having now is dialectic, as it was last year. It’s a—the swing is a little higher, but it’s gonna recede the same way. So, we have to hold these, these real conscientious doves that are in the Senate. And I think the SALT would mean a hell of a lot to those people. I really do.

HAIG: I think actually, sir, you’ve got everything postured just beautifully in timing it, with the exception of this Senate—
NIXON: Yeah?
HAIG: —Senate problem, which is where we have a short fuse on it. But, the other things are ideal.
NIXON: You just have to have something when it comes off.
HAIG: They want a summit. I think they don’t want us to move with the Chinese. We can’t—that’s the other reason why we can’t move too quickly with the Chinese—
NIXON: Oh, now that’s—you understand, I’m not saying we’re going to move to the Chinese or the Russians. And on ABM, I’ll delay that goddamn thing till hell freezes over, if necessary. But I do say that we have to do something— HAIG: We have to get it—
NIXON: —tangible on Vietnam. And since we don’t have—if we can’t do it with regard to the draftee thing, then we’ll have to move the Thieu thing up to the eighth. That’ll work, and that’s good enough. It’s the best we got. It’ll help.
HAIG: A little bit of a mixed package with Thieu’s visit. The—they’ll be—
NIXON: [unclear]
HAIG: The doves will say that you’re propping up his election, too.
NIXON: That’s right.
HAIG: That’s—that’s one of the criticisms we’ll get.
NIXON: I guess you will. So, we will. But he wants to come over. Let’s say that, look, if he, after that, announces that he will assume the full combat responsibility at a certain time, that’s pretty goddamn good news, isn’t it?
HAIG: I think it’s very good. I think it’ll help.
HALDEMAN: [unclear] you’re not being accused of propping up the Thieu government, because you are.
NIXON: And, Al, that’s accurate—
HAIG: [unclear]
NIXON: —and everybody thinks we’re propping up the goddamn Thieu government, and I don’t think—I just think we just, just do it and do it well. That’s the point. Good God, you’d have thought we were propping up [unclear].
HAIG: You can talk about, at that meeting, also, about the peaceful development of Vietnam later. [unclear]
NIXON: The most important thing is that announcement, though. If we can get the, if we can get the—if we can get the SALT thing, that will set a warmer climate for the Thieu visit and everything else that comes among the intellectuals. I agree with that. But then, don’t let, don’t let the little junket to Paris. I mean, that’s the one thing I [unclear].
HAIG: I don’t see anything.
NIXON: Look, Al—
HAIG: I never have.
NIXON: Yeah. Henry has been too bullish [unclear] he thinks that—as you know, as he’s said, because of the Chinese thing and the Russian—particularly the Chinese thing—he thinks there’s a fifty percent chance, now, that maybe they’ll talk. They aren’t going to talk. Why the hell should they?
NIXON: We’re going to get out anyway. You see my point?
HAIG: And they read. They read our problems here, too—
NIXON: Yeah. Oh, sure. He talks about ’em.

“They think we’re caving in to the students?”
May 10, 1971, 12:57 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

During a wide-ranging talk, Kissinger cheered his boss by assuring him of his support from Americans beyond the capital region. He even reported the comments of Ronald Reagan, the governor of California, whom Nixon considered a spokesman for the Right.

NIXON: Hi, Henry.
KISSINGER: Mr. President.
NIXON: How are you?
NIXON: You look good.
KISSINGER: Yes, I had a good vacation.
NIXON: You have a meeting as soon as you get back?
KISSINGER: Yeah, I’m seeing the head of the Institute of World Politics in Moscow [Georgi Arbatov, director of the Institute for the USA, USSR Academy of Sciences]—
NIXON: Oh, I see.
KISSINGER: —and he’s well connected at the Politburo. But—but they really are playing a rough game with us on that SALT business, and—
NIXON: Oh, I expected they would.
KISSINGER: Because what they’re doing now is, they’ve put into Vienna the proposal which we turned down. They made us a formal proposal.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And, I had Haig call in Dobrynin and raise hell with him last week, as he probably told you.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And Dobrynin said, “Oh, it was all a mistake.” But, of course, they’re—what they may do is they may finally accept our proposal.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: But deprive you of the credit for it by putting it into Vienna.
KISSINGER: I mean, they won’t deprive—it’s such a cheap little stunt.
NIXON: They’ll try, and if anything happens at Vienna, they’ll take the credit for it.

NIXON: Getting back to the Russians. I think that the—I think that when he [Dobrynin] came back, they watched the demonstrations and the rest. You noticed Joe Kraft’s been worming around to the effect that the Russians don’t want Nixon and so forth. I think the Russians may be playing a strict political game.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: And if they are, they can’t play it with us.
KISSINGER: Well, that’s what I mean, Mr. President. I don’t think we should get into a position where we are caught between the doves and the hawks.
KISSINGER: And where the Russians are whipsawing us.
NIXON: So, how do you avoid that?
KISSINGER: Well, what I think, if they—what I would suggest is the following: if they don’t come through with an answer by next Monday—
NIXON: Right. One week.
KISSINGER: One week. We tell Rush he’s no longer authorized to talk on Berlin, except in formal channels. No private meetings with the Russians on Berlin—
NIXON: Good. Do you think that will hurt them?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: All right. Good.

KISSINGER: Haig told me he talked to the agricultural people on my behalf on Friday. There was only one question on Vietnam. I—if I heard a hundred times out on the West Coast, “Why won’t the president get up and fight these people? Why does he keep turning the other cheek?” That we may wind up in a— NIXON: They think we’re caving in to the students?
NIXON: On what?
NIXON: Demonstrations, you mean?
KISSINGER: Well, not on demonstrations, so much. I mean, I had a long conversation with Reagan on, on Saturday who was [unclear]—
NIXON: Who does he think we’re turning it to? That’s the point.
KISSINGER: Well, no, Reagan made a—well, he made a point that was actually not so bad. He said he listened to your television speech on April 7, and he said the end of it was superlative.
KISSINGER: The body of it, he said he thought, was too defensive. I’m just giving you his reaction.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Well, that’s the reaction of the Right, yeah?
KISSINGER: And, a number of people who are not as far right as he is—
NIXON: I mean, we thought the body was pretty strong, you know?
KISSINGER: That’s right. Right—
NIXON: Well, most of the people back here wrote that it was strong. They, they were—
KISSINGER: Oh, yes. Yes.
NIXON: So, you see, it shows you, though, that there’s a hell of a lot of people in the country that want you to move a little further.
KISSINGER: This wouldn’t have been my view—
NIXON: But, it’s—it’s important, you know.
KISSINGER: But I’ve been really struck out there by—
NIXON: It’s good to be out there, isn’t it?
KISSINGER: Yeah. First of all, how much support you’ve got—
NIXON: [unclear] people.
KISSINGER: How much support you’ve got.
NIXON: We’ve got some.

NIXON: Coming back to this, the Russian thing, the other play we have to do is on Vietnam. See, that’s the game, though. Let’s forget the Russian thing and the rest at the present time. The game is where it is. All that matters here is Vietnam, though. Well, it seems to me, all we’ve got to play is the combat role, but what about making the offer sooner?
KISSINGER: I think it would bring Thieu down. I think the way to do it is to [unclear].
NIXON: All right, that’s a reason not to do it. In other words, you don’t think we can sell it to Thieu?
KISSINGER: I think you can sell it to Thieu, but no one else.
NIXON: I have to tell him we’re going to offer a cease-fire, and—but we wouldn’t do it there.
KISSINGER: No, you’d do it as soon as you—within a week of coming back.
NIXON: After he goes back, and we do it simultaneously?
KISSINGER: Yes. Something may come out of this Le Duan visit to Moscow, Mr. President. It’s three weeks—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —and that—they may be getting ready to settle it. I’ve still—a three-week visit for the leading North Vietnamese in Russia—
NIXON: Maybe he’s sick?
KISSINGER: No. It’s highly unusual. In fact, four weeks he’s stayed on after the party congress. He’s never left, and—
NIXON: Is he the big man?
NIXON: You consider him to be one?
KISSINGER: Yeah, he’s the party—he’s the number-one man.
NIXON: I think that’s one way, but then, let’s understand: the least we have to do is to go there. I mean, we planned to go to—let’s just plan to go to Midway on the eighth.
KISSINGER: I think that’s a good idea—
NIXON: I—see, we’ve got to start planning that, now.
KISSINGER: I—I’ve thought about it all last week—
NIXON: We’ll go on the eighth, and let’s get it done. And then—
KISSINGER: In fact, there’s a lot to be said to get—
NIXON: And then it’s early, before the election.
KISSINGER: —to do it before. It’s good to have it before the election; it’s good to have it in a way before the Chinese answer.
NIXON: I know. Coming just two years after Vietnamization and making the announcement that the American combat role will end on—what is it? What’s he going to say? The first of December? The first of January?
KISSINGER: Yeah. End of this troop withdrawal, the first of December.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, we could make it spring pretty soon.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. And then, if a week later, you come up with a—
NIXON: What were the casualties this week?
KISSINGER: Thirty-two.
NIXON: I thought they’d be down.
KISSINGER: Cut in half—
NIXON: I mean, I thought they’d be lower than that.
KISSINGER: Thirty-two is pretty low. Once you get below—
NIXON: Fifty?
KISSINGER: Fifty, it’s really—
NIXON: Forty? [unclear]
KISSINGER: That’s cut in half—
NIXON: There’s still probably some carryovers from—
NIXON: —helicopter pilots, the poor guys. That’s one bit of good news, isn’t it?
NIXON: All right. Then, in the other part—so, that’s the Vietnam. In the meantime, Henry, we’ve got to keep our goddamn troops in the Senate. Do you notice, for example, if you read the weekend news summary, that all these people are, you know, yelling around about what they’re going to do, and this, or that. Or Church says the shared responsibility with the House—with the Congress, you know. Responsibility? You know what they’re petrified at?
KISSINGER: That you’ll succeed.
NIXON: We’ll end the goddamn war and blame—and say, “We ended it, they started it.”
NIXON: And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
NIXON: I think we can beat them on that issue. I think—but, provided we keep one step ahead. Now, unfortunately, I was hoping we’d have a SALT thing. Let’s assume we don’t have it. Let’s assume we don’t have a summit thing. That means we just—I think, at the very least, we’ve got to figure that what we’ve got, we’re going to have a June 8 announcement, and then we’ve got to come back with another announcement of a new negotiating offer and our final negotiating offer. Right?
NIXON: And we make it publicly?
NIXON: What date would you put?
KISSINGER: I’d put September 1, ’72. Well, I don’t think that makes a hell—
NIXON: I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. They’re not going to take it.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Cease-fire, and all the rest. I’d make it July 1. If you put it September 1 it looks like you’re doing it just before the election, and for the election. See my point?
NIXON: I think it’s—I think you got to move [unclear]. Well, you don’t have to negotiate too much. We’ve got to sell Thieu on it. Just say, “Let’s do it July 1,” and then see what happens.
NIXON: He knows goddamn well we’re not going to agree. You know, on the prisoner thing, their attitude is a cold-blooded deal. They’re not going to do a damn thing on prisoners. You know why? They know they’ve got us by the balls.
KISSINGER: But—no, they’re going to use the prisoners. As soon as we give a deadline, they’ll insist that we stop military—
NIXON: You don’t want to—you don’t think we, we should consider any more bombing at the present time?
KISSINGER: I think we should consider it, seriously.
NIXON: As of now?
KISSINGER: Wait till we get their answer.

NIXON: You haven’t heard anything. I don’t think they’ll give it. They might not even answer at all.
KISSINGER: No, but then, we’re in great shape.
NIXON: Well, [unclear]. In other words, we made an offer, and they refused.
NIXON: Bruce, he made an offer and they refused in all the private meetings and the rest. They’ve been hurt by Laos, and the rest, despite everything they tell him—
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. Or—and, of course, they think they’ve got us on the run with all these demonstrations, which they’re misreading.

KISSINGER: And, then, I think, Mr. President, if we know we are going to be in trouble with the Russians, you might consider—
NIXON: The Chinese thing?
KISSINGER: Well, the Chinese anyway—going on television with, with the facts of the military situation and just put it to our opponents.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And, and play very tough in SALT. What we mustn’t do is yield in SALT—
KISSINGER: —beyond the point, which we’ve already given them in my channel, because that will just encourage them to whipsaw us.
NIXON: What have they offered? Have they offered in—they offered in SALT—they offered in Vienna the National Command Center?
KISSINGER: No, they’ve done two things in Vienna. They’ve offered the National Command thing.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And they’ve offered the construction freeze after the ABM agreement, which while we—we have insisted on—
NIXON: Simultaneous?
KISSINGER: —on simultaneous, and on Safeguard. Now, we could conceivably give on Safeguard but we cannot do it—
NIXON: After?
KISSINGER: —afterwards, because there’ll be nothing left for us to negotiate—
NIXON: That’s right. Yeah.
KISSINGER: If they’re not willing to give us a freeze before an ABM agreement, they sure as hell aren’t going to give it to us after an ABM agreement.
NIXON: They’ve offered to discuss it afterwards. Is that it?
KISSINGER: They’ve offered to discuss it afterwards. They’re trying the Hanoi tactic.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And that, Mr. President, I really think would be disastrous to national security—
NIXON: You’re not going to do it.
KISSINGER: Also, we have told—
NIXON: You told Smith not to do anything on it, am I right? Haven’t we told him? Does he know?
KISSINGER: We told him. He’s coming back for consultation anyway—
NIXON: Good.
KISSINGER: Nothing can happen.
NIXON: Well, he’ll understand.

NIXON: Let’s just think about that a minute. Did you give this to the Pakistan ambassador this afternoon? [Before this meeting with Nixon, Kissinger met Agha Hilaly at 12:10 p.m. to deliver the reply to Zhou Enlai’s latest message.]
KISSINGER: I’ve already told the essence of it to Farland, who’s giving it to Yahya. Yes. This is going with the packet.
NIXON: You’ve already given it to him. Okay.
KISSINGER: But we could have, if this comes off—
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —we could have a public—that’s why I put in this idea of a special emissary.
NIXON: Yeah, I know. I saw that. That was to follow the secret meeting. You see what I’m getting at is that the Russians are going to play this kind of game with us, so we may have to play the public—if we only had a man to send over there. Goddamn it. I’ll try to do this tomorrow. A half-hour thing won’t work, will it?
NIXON: It won’t work.
KISSINGER: I think it’s the best way to get results, because—
NIXON: You can talk turkey.
KISSINGER: I could talk turkey and we could announce this, if it works at all, say, August 1, and then have an emissary, and then have you go.
NIXON: I wouldn’t have the emissary if that was the case.
KISSINGER: No. Well, you might, but—
NIXON: Well, if we’re going to announce me going, why have somebody else take the cream off?
KISSINGER: Well, if we sent an inconspicuous—if we sent a guy like Bruce, he wouldn’t take any cream off.
NIXON: Hmm. Maybe.
KISSINGER: Or even Murphy. Just in case the Chinese want some public demonstration.
NIXON: I see. Well, we’ve got other plans. We’ll see what happens. I’m not—I think— I’m inclined to agree, to say a little bit. We have weathered this storm of demonstrations and so forth, extremely well.
NIXON: We—it’s to the consternation of all the intellectual, all of the intelligent critics of our policy. They’re worried as hell about it, that we didn’t cave for—by God, I just don’t know, Henry, whether—how you can be a lot tougher now. Right now—I mean, I don’t know what we can do at the moment. We’re certainly prepared to do something.
KISSINGER: Well, we can—
NIXON: We’ve got to turn on the goddamn Russians though.
KISSINGER: We’ve got to turn on the Russians.
NIXON: With Russia, there’s no question, and that’s why the public surfacing, the surfacing of the visit to the Chinese, it’s quite apparent, is worrying the hell out of them.
NIXON: I wouldn’t diddle it away, though. I think that’s—
KISSINGER: I just think that once—what we absolutely have to have to the Chinese is a reliable contact and a game plan, which they and we follow. And if we can get—once we get that visit set up— NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —we may still get—the secret meeting has the other advantage. Of course, you’re assuming we won’t get the SALT—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I’m not so sure on that yet.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: We’ve got to do it—
NIXON: Well, anyway, we’ll see. [laughs] I’ll see you later.
NIXON: Have a good time.

“A little package for bombing the North.”
May 13, 1971, 9:28 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

Nixon, perhaps frustrated by the response to Operation Lam Son 719, spoke of aggressive bombing against North Vietnam.

NIXON: Cambodia [the 1970 Cambodian incursion] was right.
NIXON: And—well, not public-opinion-wise. Laos [Operation Lam Son 719] was right, too.
KISSINGER: Mr. President—
NIXON: The best thing about Laos that, Bob, you ought to have in mind is, you know, when all these people complain about it and then they vote. We’ll never get any credit till later. But, if opponents see through [unclear] the casualties and the level of military activity since Laos—no, from Laos, and since—there has been no spring offensive. And that’s when they have the offensive.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Now, something had to happen. What happened? The South Vietnamese went in and kicked the hell out of a lot of North Vietnamese—
KISSINGER: No spring offensive, despite the largest input of materiel in any period, including Tet.
NIXON: That’s right. Now, one thing else, get the [unclear]—get, get, get that fellow Laird—well, no, no, Moorer. Tell him I want a, a little package for bombing the North.
NIXON: And I want it goddamn fast. Now, I don’t think we should—I don’t think you need to wait for Bill [Rogers]. I think maybe this weekend’s a good time. I don’t think [unclear]— KISSINGER: Well, unless—
NIXON: —to think why, why does it, why does it have any relationship with the Russians? You think it has some relationship with the Russians?
KISSINGER: Well, I think we shouldn’t put it to the Russians [unclear].
NIXON: Well, then, when can you? But we always—there’s never a good time. [unclear]
KISSINGER: No, after we’ve made this announcement. No, no, after the twentieth. Let’s get the [SALT] announcement under the belt. Let’s not get that—
NIXON: See, your problem, see, too, with any kind of a summit announcement: once it’s out, it’s going to tie our hands. You see? When you’ve got to do anything you’re going to do, we want to be in a position to bang ’em. Look, we’ve got to bang ’em somehow, Henry. We cannot have them— KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: —turn down our prisoner offer, you know, and just kick us around in Paris. We’ve got to do something.
KISSINGER: I agree completely, and I think—but, I just think, Mr. President, to be—having come this close, we can wait five days. After the twentieth, a week after—
NIXON: We’ve been waiting five months.
KISSINGER: Oh, no, we’ve hit them in March.
NIXON: Not much.
KISSINGER: Oh, no, that was a pretty good jolt. But, we haven’t held up with bombing them. There was this damn air force—
HALDEMAN: And we hit some last weekend. There was a thing that was in the news about the [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Yeah, but that was just three airplanes.
HALDEMAN: Antiaircraft [unclear].
NIXON: Well, just, just have no illusions. We’re not going to go till we hear from the North Vietnamese, and we end up banging them. Having that in mind, we play out this string [unclear]— KISSINGER: They—there’s something funny going on, though. Le Duan, who was four weeks in Moscow, now, he’s in Beijing.
KISSINGER: There’s something. Something is cooking—
NIXON: You think they’re getting ready for a big offensive?
KISSINGER: No. No, they—to them, what’s going on—to them, there’s some—this SALT thing is going to be a jolt, because no matter what the Russians tell them they can’t be sure of what side deals are being made.

“This is just a terribly bureaucratic government, Mr. President.”
May 18, 1971, 9:41 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

On May 12, the Soviets submitted an outline of the SALT agreement with a plan for the summit. It was hardly the first one, but it was finally acceptable to Nixon, who began to make plans to announce it as a breakthrough in the long, hard Cold War stalemate between the two powers. The outline called for continuing the SALT negotiations, in order to complete a working agreement covering both ABM systems and offensive weaponry before the summit, which would remain unscheduled for the time being. The announcement would be mostly an agreement to try to agree, yet it had taken Nixon more than half a year to bring even that much to fruition. As of May 18, however, Dobrynin was asking for more time in which to circulate the plan in Moscow.

KISSINGER: I called Dobrynin, Mr. President, and Vorontsov picked up the phone.
NIXON: Yeah.

KISSINGER: He thinks there’s no—he is in the box that, until he gets the word, he can’t say yes. But he just doesn’t think there is an issue. I just don’t want to speculate, Mr. President, because— NIXON: Well—
KISSINGER: —there may be a hundred reasons why in their bureaucracy—
NIXON: Yeah. I think—it seems to me—I can’t see why—or I can’t see one reason in a thousand why they aren’t going to do it. But the point is, you see—
KISSINGER: I can’t see any.
NIXON: —you’ve got to—I can’t see. As I said, one in a thousand. I don’t know. Except—
KISSINGER: If they had wanted to stop it, Mr. President, the easy way to stop it was last week, to tell us our proposal is unacceptable.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: To get an agreed text and then, at the last minute—we’ve got too many things hanging over them: China, Berlin—
NIXON: There’s nothing he can do to find out what the hell the story is?
KISSINGER: No, he said he sent a cable last night. He said it—and he said it’s too early for him to have heard today.
NIXON: Yeah? Too early? Hell.
KISSINGER: Well, there’s a two-hour transmission time, because—
NIXON: The problem is that we need to go—we need to know, well—
KISSINGER: Well, I think—I have canceled—
NIXON: —whether we go Thursday or not. That’s the point.
KISSINGER: Well, I’ve canceled Smith for now.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And you might consider canceling—
NIXON: I canceled Rogers.
KISSINGER: —canceling Rogers.
NIXON: I did.
NIXON: I’m not going to tell him though that we’re, of course, we’re doing this thing.
KISSINGER: In concrete—
NIXON: If the son of a bitch [Rogers] should turn back on us, this would be a—we just can’t—
KISSINGER: No, your—
NIXON: —let him know. You know what I mean, Henry?
KISSINGER: Your one—
NIXON: Never take such a chance.
KISSINGER: Your one thousand—if there’s even—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —one chance in ten thousand—
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: —why make ourselves look bad?
NIXON: That’s right. That’s right. Well, because then they’ll think we’re—we give away the game without getting anything for it.
NIXON: So would a—
KISSINGER: Well, we’ve kept the Smith appointment with you for three [p.m.].
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: If we haven’t heard, we can say you got locked in the congressional battle.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I’d like to get him out of town, quite frankly.
NIXON: But you think you can get him out?
KISSINGER: Of course, we can get him out of town without telling him anything.
NIXON: I think I’d get him out of town without telling him anything and then come back and tell him. You could even—
KISSINGER: Or we get Farley in and have him tell.
NIXON: Why don’t you get Farley in and tell him?
KISSINGER: All right.
NIXON: I think it would be better to get Smith out of town.
KISSINGER: Right. Then I just—
NIXON: It’s too late to react.
KISSINGER: Then I just have to make sure that Semenov doesn’t say anything to him. And I can handle that.

KISSINGER: And I think after the SALT announcement, which—
KISSINGER: —after all, we’ll have within a week—
NIXON: If we get it. If we get it.
KISSINGER: Oh, Mr. President, I cannot—if they negotiate for four months, make that many concessions, and then kick it over when an agreed text exists, that would be so unconscionable. They paid such a price for it. They also—they have a truck plant they are negotiating with us, and I arranged for Peterson to see their man on it. And I—we’re holding that.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: It can’t fail. This is just a terribly bureaucratic government, Mr. President.
NIXON: I know. I think it’s going to come, but my point is—
NIXON: —I’m just taking that extra degree of caution that I know in dealing with this, in dealing with—
KISSINGER: You’re a thousand percent right.
NIXON: In dealing with Smith and Rogers, we must never go unless we got them by the balls.
KISSINGER: You couldn’t be more right.
NIXON: We got them by the balls, then we go, right?
KISSINGER: You couldn’t be more right.

KISSINGER: As Scali said to me yesterday, that if you would have put this proposal into the bureaucracy, they would have all accused you of sabotaging the SALT talks. It would have leaked all over town. Because we really did something on these negotiations. We pulled away from our own proposal on ABM and got the offensive link. Well, it’s— NIXON: It’s a hell of a job. I read the, your memorandum. It’s a hell of a job.
KISSINGER: Well, Mr. President, if it fails—
NIXON: And I know the hours that went into it.
KISSINGER: Oh, God, but—
NIXON: Well, if it fails, we—
KISSINGER: It cannot fail.
NIXON: Eight years [unclear]—
KISSINGER: It cannot fail.
NIXON: If it fails, listen, we’ll burn the house down ourselves. If it fails, I don’t see anything else to do but to fight on everything. I mean, then we’ll have to go out and—and if the Russians turn this, we’re going to have to go out and say, “To hell with elections and the rest. Let’s build up American forces.”
KISSINGER: It can’t fail.
NIXON: “There has to be more taxes—”
KISSINGER: They’re not that stupid, Mr. President. If they wanted it to fail, after having made six major concessions, for them to let it fail now, would be nuts. It—
NIXON: Did they make them? Or did Dobrynin make them?
KISSINGER: Oh, no. They are—Dobrynin always has a note. This is why I’m so confident, because Dobrynin, if he had the slightest doubt about the date—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —would tell me there’s a problem. All he is telling me—what he says is, Gromyko—he says Brezhnev was out of town, Gromyko can’t set the date alone, and he’s now going around town talking to the senior government officials because they don’t want to call a new government meeting. That would be too time-consuming.

NIXON: By God, if we can get this SALT thing, this will really make these bastards look like a bunch of cheap politicians and cowards—
KISSINGER: Oh, that’s why it’s so important, Mr. President, because—
NIXON: That’s why we’ve got to get—I wish [unclear]—I know I was the one who wanted that word changed but—
KISSINGER: I don’t think that’s the thing.
NIXON: —that’s denial or the—
KISSINGER: I think Dobrynin—I don’t think Gromyko has the—
NIXON: It may be that they, however, they could be—the only danger we have is this: they could be looking at the—they have people. Look, they’re Communists. They have an American section analyzing American opinion. They also have American agents over here. You got a fellow like Joe Kraft, who’s a slimy son of a bitch, constantly saying, “Nixon can’t get along with the Russians.” Now, it just may be they decided they could—that is what could move them, those great historical facts.
KISSINGER: Yeah, but if they do that, they also know that they won’t get a [Berlin] agreement.
NIXON: Well, if they know that. That’s—
KISSINGER: If [laughs]—Mr. President, I’m going to do a memo for you summing up what we did on Berlin, because if you think this is—
NIXON: Do they think—does Dobrynin know that we’ll flush it?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: Listen, don’t worry. There ain’t going to be no doubt about flushing it. I’m not going to—
KISSINGER: Dobrynin—Dobrynin said to me last week that, that I’m the toughest fellow he’s negotiated with since he’s come here, and he says his government is just up a tree, because they’ll—because I fight over every word. Now, basically, you know, I’m sure they’re irritated with me. On the other hand, that’s what they respect.
NIXON: That’s what they do. They fight over every word.
KISSINGER: I don’t—it’s that word, Mr. President. Maybe we should have let it go. But I think for them to announce—what I am afraid happened is not the word. Basically, that announcement, which they drafted themselves, is a mistake— NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —from their point of view. The word is nothing. But the announcement is where they made their mistake. And I am afraid what happened is that Semenov came back to Moscow from Vienna, saw that announcement, and said, “You idiots, you gave away too much.” That’s what worries me, because that announcement gives us more than we asked for. Even I didn’t have the heart to say—to use the word “agree,” “agree.”
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: That’s the—
NIXON: Oh, well, I think—I don’t think they can—
KISSINGER: But I don’t see—
NIXON: I doubt that they can screw around on the announcement.
KISSINGER: But I don’t see how they can pull off from an announcement, which is verbatim the text they gave us. That’s not—I didn’t change a word in the announcement, except put it into English. But I’d worked that out with his own man, with—I mean, with Dobrynin. We’ll have it. It’s too far down the track.

KISSINGER: By this time tomorrow, we will have heard. No question. They just cannot not do it.
NIXON: Well, we will have heard what, though? You can’t tell.
KISSINGER: We’ll have heard—
NIXON: You’ll hear?
KISSINGER: —that they want to announce it either Thursday or Friday.
NIXON: I think you’re probably right.
NIXON: And if they say no, though, then we know what we’re up against. We’re up against a hell of a—
KISSINGER: Mr. President, if they say no, then we know that we’re dealing with an insane government.
NIXON: That’s right.

Sadat approaches Rogers
May 19, 1971, 9:05 a.m.
Richard Nixon and William Rogers

When Egyptian President Gamal Nasser died in late 1970 and a military officer took his place, little real change was expected in the national outlook. That assumption was proven wrong within months, as the new president, Anwar Sadat, presented American officials with a strong initiative to negotiate peace with Israel. Secretary Rogers was dispatched to discuss the possibilities with Sadat, and he reported the details to Nixon as soon as he returned. Nixon, however, was already working a second channel to Sadat and his representatives, the secret meetings being conducted personally by Kissinger, who was far more pessimistic than Rogers about the viability of an agreement.

ROGERS: Now, Sadat is a very forceful man. He has a lot of strength. He is nationalistic as the devil. He probably is untrustworthy, so I don’t want you to think that I’m trusting him.
NIXON: Sure.
ROGERS: But he has decided to—I am convinced—to change his position. He is determined to become closer to the West for economic and political reasons. He’s got a hell of a situation there. He’s spending his money on his arms; he knows his people can’t operate them, can’t fly the damn airplanes. He’s surrounded with Russians; he doesn’t like that very much. Now, what I wanted to say to you, and he told me this in private and then he told Joe [Sisco] the same thing—and he didn’t say it unequivocally; he said it as categorically as you possibly can. And I haven’t briefed, I haven’t told anybody at the State Department or anywhere else because it would be a disaster if we did— NIXON: [If it] got out.
ROGERS: He said, “I have to have the Soviet agreement.”
NIXON: Sure.
ROGERS: “It’s important for me to have the new agreement. You’re the only one who can help us get it—you, the United States.”
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
ROGERS: “I don’t like the presence of the Russians. I am a nationalist but I have no way of defending our country—we had no way of defending our country—except to get Russian help. You wouldn’t give it to us; nobody else would. It’s costing me a lot of money. I’m paying the salaries of the Russians. I’m paying cash for the equipment I get.”
And he said, “I want to give you this promise: that if we can work out an interim settlement—and it will take me six months to open the canal—I promise you, I give you my personal assurance, that all the Russian ground troops will be out of my country at the end of six months. I will keep Russian pilots to train my pilots because that’s the only way my pilots can learn to fly. But insofar as the bulk of the Russians are concerned, the ten or twelve thousand, they will all be out of Egypt in six months, if we can make a deal.”
NIXON: On Suez?
ROGERS: On the interim—Suez.
NIXON: “Interim” means Suez in other words.
NIXON: I see.
ROGERS: The final peace agreement is—
NIXON: [unclear]
ROGERS: [unclear] The interim is—we’re talking about the Suez Canal. Now—and I said, “Well, Mr. President, you know, based on that, we may be able to work it out.” I said, “The complicating factor is the Russian—the presence of the Russians’ troops. If you can assure us that they’ll be out in six months, that makes our problem a lot easier.” I said, “You tell us that we shouldn’t be so pro-Israeli. We have to be supportive of Israel’s position because you got the Russians here in large numbers.” I said, “For as much as we would like to be friendly as hell with you, we can’t as long as you have this number of Russians here. You might as well realize that.” I said, “We have to supply Israel with arms as long as you’ve got a large number of Russian troops in your country. On the other hand, once that is not the case, once they’ve left, or most of them, it’s a different ball game.”

“I just have a hunch here.”
May 21, 1971, 11:29 a.m.
Richard Nixon and William Rogers

Nixon’s career-long reputation as an anti-Communist zealot has given rise to the modern saying, “Only Nixon could go to China.” Yet there was another reason why “only Nixon could go to China”: he had an instinct for Maoist strategy. As seen in the following exchanges and other short excerpts that follow, Nixon had a clear sense of direction in turning U.S.-Chinese relations around, after a generation of mutually assured antipathy.

NIXON: Now, it’s something that we should keep very much, now one thing I’ve done that you should know, Maurice Stans wants to take a commercial mission, Ted Kennedy suggested he could drop over from there [the PRC] on his trips, and so forth. And I said none of you even approach it, don’t even suggest it, we’re not going to get into [unclear]. Any visits must be at the highest level. It would have to be you or me or both. And it might come, it might come. I just have a hunch here, a feeling that there’s something going on there. I think that this Russian thing has a hell of a lot more to do with China than anything else. They’re scared of them.
ROGERS: Yeah, no doubt about it. I think we want to be careful, that’s why I want to mention today in my speech, on not appearing that we’ve turned them off. I think we’ve got to soften, to downplay a little bit so we don’t get too eager.

“Both cannot have seats in the UN.”
May 21, 1971, 5:26 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Alexander Haig

Even as Nixon continued to argue publicly for Taiwan remaining in the UN, privately he knew that would not happen. The key, then, was for Taiwan to have a graceful exit—graceful for Taiwan, but also for the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

NIXON: There’s only one way to do this; it’s either up or down. In my opinion, it’s got to be one or the other. Both cannot have seats in the UN. I don’t think so.
HAIG: It won’t work.
NIXON: It’s not going to work. Now, under those circumstances, it’s going to be Communist China at some time, [it’s] inevitable, it’s got to be. But let them do it, don’t let us do it. That’s the way I feel about it.

“Except in Vietnam.”
May 25, 1971, 8:28 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

As the details continued to be addressed on the SALT agreement, on the developing Quadripartite treaty on Berlin, and on Soviet relations in general, Nixon looked for public appreciation of his progress in foreign relations. As he admitted to Kissinger, though, he knew that he couldn’t have it and he knew why.

KISSINGER: By the end of the month—by June 25, you will see your cards much more clearly.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Mr. President, one thing I was going to suggest to you tomorrow—we ought to give the Russians an ultimatum in about two weeks. If they don’t deliver now, we will just delay till next spring on the summit.
NIXON: This is June—in two weeks you say we would do this?
KISSINGER: Yes. We have announced a summit or know we are going to get a summit.
NIXON: I don’t know if you can get anything out of them on that.
KISSINGER: We have just given them the Gleason [gear contract], a huge package on economics they want—
NIXON: I spoke to these editors down there today—I talked generally about the whole thing. I said it could open to other things but a lot of negotiating to go forward and so on.
KISSINGER: They are trying to play Berlin. If we get a commitment out of them, [unclear] pressure on SALT.
NIXON: A commitment isn’t enough.
KISSINGER: I mean an announcement. They are going to harvest everything and we will end up losing.
NIXON: You didn’t talk about SALT today?
KISSINGER: No, no; on Monday. He said if these things work out, bigger things will follow.
NIXON: What the hell bigger can follow?
KISSINGER: We can speed up the Berlin negotiations. If there isn’t a summit—there is no earthly reason to refuse a summit now.
NIXON: And we have settled on SALT—I mean [unclear].
KISSINGER: We have given them the economic package. Mr. President, if you agree, fairly soon—after the first of June, around the fourth or fifth—I will say we have been horsing around for a year that we would be glad to come to Moscow but will delay. On SALT, I gave him forty-eight hours—and he came back in twenty-four.
NIXON: We will just say we will have to postpone it indefinitely.
KISSINGER: Then let’s just forget about it.
NIXON: As far as this year is concerned.
KISSINGER: That’s what I mean. We have all the cards in our hands. We will know yes or no from them. We will have the Chinese answer and see Thieu and they won’t scream so much.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, that doesn’t bother me any to push them on that. The only thing that worries me is that it appears we are begging for the goddamn summit. I would think they would want it too.
KISSINGER: They want it. They are playing a cute game. I think this way if we keep giving them economic aid—
NIXON: Gleason is all we are going to give them.
KISSINGER: And the computer. You had already given them your approval when Heath was there.
NIXON: The computer, yeah.
KISSINGER: We have a chance to give them more economic things—
NIXON: I would do it in a week then.
KISSINGER: On the second or third of June.
NIXON: Right after Memorial Day, Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
NIXON: All right.

NIXON: Anything else new—you think the SALT thing is eventually going to get understood by everyone?
KISSINGER: It is understood now.
NIXON: By people that know anything about it.
KISSINGER: By people that don’t know anything, they think you have achieved something they don’t understand. The whole press, very positive. Henry Brandon had a very good article in the London Sunday Times although I don’t know what distribution is here—a very good response.
NIXON: It is kind of like the China thing, it has the same positive response.
KISSINGER: Everyone feels in foreign policy you know what you are doing.
NIXON: Except in Vietnam. Really the problem—our enemies and press, people like [Stanley] Resor [the outgoing secretary of the army who recently expressed his personal doubts to the press about the war in Vietnam] keep hacking away. We are carrying a burden, then we have to make a sale nobody will buy.
KISSINGER: People will buy it.
NIXON: Except in Vietnam. The polls are pretty rough and they have some effect on the jackasses that read them. Well, we will hope for the best. Go right ahead with the Thieu thing and get it out of the way. I don’t mind putting it off.
KISSINGER: Right, Mr. President.

“When you go to two-China, that’s going to appear awfully reasonable.”
May 27, 1971, 2:42 p.m.
Richard Nixon, William Rogers, and Henry Kissinger

During the first half of 1971, students of diplomacy noticed a well-orchestrated campaign to pave the way for mainland China to enter the UN. In fact, the impression was that Beijing wanted a seat at the UN even more than normalized relations with the United States. Nations all around the world were aware that China expected a vote to occur in the autumn. The question was what the U.S. president thought about the most widely discussed possibility, a “two-China” UN that included both Beijing and Taipei.

NIXON: Frankly if we start out fresh, we would put, I mean, Communist China in the UN, right?
ROGERS: Mm-hmm.
NIXON: And, we wouldn’t dream of letting Communist China take over fifteen million Taiwanese any more than we’d let North Korea take over South Korea. That’s another point.
ROGERS: That’s another point.
NIXON: And a defense treaty and all the rest.
ROGERS: This doesn’t relate to our relations with Taiwan at all, this is just representation in the UN.
NIXON: Could I suggest a line, which you could do? [unclear] How, first what is—we’re talking now on the twenty-seventh of May, how long will you be, until you are back? You’ll be over two weeks in Europe?
ROGERS: No, ten days.
NIXON: Ten days. Well, of course, the time, and incidentally, I think you should handle it pretty much yourself on a very, very close basis, indicating that we have reached a position. You can say that we have talked, you know what I mean? And that we frankly are examining our position. We tend, we are examining our position at this point, and you are trying to determine—now I wonder if you can do that. I’d just, or perhaps [unclear] on the British before they say, “You put them all on that basis.”
ROGERS: Yeah, I can’t do it.
NIXON: Well—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: What I meant is, could you put it up in this term. I know you’ve got to have something to say to them. Could you say to them, “Look here,” because, you see, since you’ve returned, we’ve had Murphy come back. And Murphy has said that Chiang says that they’d accept two-China provided we give them the Security Council seat. We can’t do that, it won’t work. Nobody can guarantee the Security Council seat.
ROGERS: [unclear]
NIXON: Well, he didn’t understand. Anyway, that’s done. The point I made, we now know Chiang’s position, which is very clear. And he’s, he says, “Either go down fighting, or I’ll take two-China but you’ve got to give me a Security Council seat.” Well, we can’t do that. But on the other hand, knowing now what our problem is there, could you give us the time [unclear], because I think time is going to be extremely important in terms of—I’m going to have to, on this one, if we make a move on the two-China thing, I’ve got to move on the right wing myself.
I’ve got to get Walter Judd in and talk about this issue. I may be able to do something with him. But I want to do it by, I want to be able to move now. I think if you could, if we could confirm [unclear], discuss with the various—I figured you could discuss this matter for this period of time, then come in and, I realize you probably already have. But there’s still, it’s further along and it’s crystallizing all over the bullets. I think that’s, that would then allow me to have the chance to sort of figure out how exactly to do it. I wouldn’t want to have, for example, on your trip, I wouldn’t want to have the whole thing come out.
The United States has changed its position and is trying to develop the support for it. I think it’s premature to do that. When we change the position, I think that we ought to try to involve—I’d like to compose a message. I’m not concerned about [unclear]. We’ll take the heat on the international stuff. You can handle that. But I’ve got to handle these domestic people—the hardliners in the House and Senate, some of the columnists, and people, frankly, who are part of the China Lobby, which is still a considerable group. I think that if you can get a verdict in the next couple weeks, if it were to come out that the U.S. has actually changed its position and is consulting with its allies to get support for a new position, that would be very difficult. If, on the other hand, you can discuss it in a way that we, you were trying to explore the position that they would take, in other words, “Here are the options, where will you end up?” Having in mind the fact that in the final analysis we will have to take a position one way or the other. Could you do that? Can you handle it that way?
ROGERS: I don’t think that’s [unclear].
NIXON: You see, the things seeping out is what I’m concerned about. I’m concerned about having to come out because [unclear] I don’t want them to descend on me like a pack of little jackals and I have to say, then I’ll have to lie to them, and [unclear] lie to the press conference and say, “Oh no, we’re not considering, we haven’t decided anything yet and so forth.” See what I mean?
ROGERS: I don’t see how there’s any problem with me. I think it’s going to be a problem of, as far as our policy is concerned, because so much has gone on with the delay that no policy is going to succeed. In other words, other nations are making, they’ve been waiting for us to tell them.
NIXON: Yeah. Well now wait a minute. Let me ask you, when we talk about delay, I’m not talking about a delay of two months. I’m talking about a delay of [unclear].
ROGERS: [unclear] talk to him about it? I know, you know, [unclear]. The present course as agreed to by everybody is disastrous, even Chiang Kai-shek. So what we’re talking about is suicide as far as they’re concerned. I mean, it’s doomed to failure. And they know that and everybody that talks about the subject knows that. Really what we’re asking them is, “Do you want us to go down in defeat in this way or would you rather have us try something else?”
NIXON: Well, what you’re suggesting is that, what you would like to do, or what you would recommend is that you go over and—
ROGERS: What I’d like to do is to—
NIXON: See, if you do that, that will get out—
[unclear exchange]
ROGERS: I don’t have to when we get there, but I, what I think we ought to do is to decide now what we want to do. Then I think all, whoever we want to talk to, the Walter Judds and the others, put it on the line. And say, “Lookit, are you prepared, do you want us to go down to defeat this way? We don’t think this is a good thing for Chiang Kai-shek and for us.” Now they’ll all have to come to that conclusion.
NIXON: I think the way we ought to handle that is, the best way to handle that, probably it’s the best way anyway, remember you’ve got to have [unclear]. You do not feel—now wait a minute, leaving out the Walter Judds and the rest for a moment. What I’m getting at is what is going to come out between now and the next couple of weeks? What is going to come out is that, this is a, this isn’t, even announcing two Chinas is a monumental decision. And it is a monumental decision, it’s a hell of a news story.
ROGERS: Oh, sure.
NIXON: Now, if that comes out in a way, that well, that the United States is privately or secretly discussing the, is trying to enlist support for the two-China thing, it seems to me that that’s, I’d rather, I think maybe the proposition of doing it through a speech, as you suggested, at a later time, more frontally [unclear] is better than doing it through consultations.
See my point? You see what I’m afraid of, you talk to the British and you talk to the French or all these other people, now this is the way to do it. I think when it’s done, it ought to be done in an orderly— [unclear exchange]
NIXON: I had a feeling myself, I don’t know, it’s just a thing, Bill will do this and it’s the kind of a thing that he ought to handle.
KISSINGER: Well, he could, I don’t see, he could do the consultation and still give the speech in July.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I mean, he wouldn’t—
ROGERS: Well the president’s giving [unclear]. I’m not—see, everybody knows we’re talking about [unclear] all over the world.
NIXON: That’s true.

NIXON: I said, “Here is the proposition. We examined the situation. It appears that we are certain to lose if we consider the present course. For that reason, we are seriously considering this proposition.” What do you think of it?
ROGERS: That’s the way I feel.
NIXON: How’s that sound, Henry?
ROGERS: That’s what I think.
NIXON: Don’t you think that’s good?
NIXON: “We’re seriously considering it.”
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: What do you think [unclear]? And as you go down and then, you can—
ROGERS: Now, in other words, [unclear] we can sort of get a count now that we find out the number of votes. But in the meantime, I think we should start talking to [unclear].
NIXON: Yes, I know. I know. Well, my inclination with them is to hit them pretty hard and frontally, when it’s due, just before it’s done, and then just say, “All right. The [unclear].” I think if you, the trouble is, you see, you hit them over a period of time though. I know this will hurt extremely well. What happens? They go home and they [unclear], and they talk about it and the rest, and then they gin up a lot of columns, and raise hell, letters and all that sort of thing. I’m inclined to think, once we decide, I like the idea of decisive motion, decisive motion. We get them all in, we hit them and say, “Here we go.” Henry, you know some of these people there? [unclear]
KISSINGER: Just to be the devil’s advocate and express [unclear], on this one I go back and forth. [unclear]
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: It’s really a very close vote. What would we lose if we delayed another six weeks without having a vote?
ROGERS: Well, we’d lose a lot of votes. We’d get a lot of people [unclear]. What do we gain by it? Aren’t we just sort of—
ROGERS: [unclear]
NIXON: That’s really—
KISSINGER: Well, no. [unclear] We cut six weeks off the public discussion.
ROGERS: Oh, no. We need the public discussion. The public discussion is [unclear]. Allows us to get nations to support us.
KISSINGER: Well now—
NIXON: He’s referring to public discussion on that.
KISSINGER: Taking also the fact that [unclear] this new position.
ROGERS: [unclear] You think that’s the way to look at it, if you do what you’re doing you’re going to die? Do you think we should state our position? How can they [unclear]? Even Chiang Kai-shek recognizes this. [unclear] Everybody knows that what we’re doing, our present course is doomed to failure. So how can anybody be unhappy if you say, “Well, should we try something else?”
KISSINGER: Why would you try something else six weeks later? I mean, to whom did he [unclear]?
NIXON: What we’re talking about basically is a moot question in a sense but [unclear] come down to is this. That I think that it would be best just to, [unclear] that we should, after you completed that process [unclear]. But, I think the idea, Henry, of building the thing that the ABA is building— KISSINGER: But that speech offered—
NIXON: I think his idea—
ROGERS: By that time we’ll know the vote [unclear] too. [unclear]
NIXON: I think if he makes the announcement there, and he can make it there. But then that also, it also will [unclear] that much of a crack in the door in other words. And I’m considering it from this standpoint. That then we can evaluate the events and so forth.
ROGERS: I would like it—
NIXON: But you think [unclear]—
ROGERS: Well, I think it will hurt you. I really do think it hurts you. I think it’ll—
NIXON: You mean get rolled?
ROGERS: I think you’ll get rolled. I think your conservative friends will think that it’s a terrible defeat and you followed a policy that’s doomed to failure.

[Rogers leaves the conversation.]
KISSINGER: I don’t see the sense of urgency that Bill feels, because it’s a purely tactical embarrassment we are suffering from not having a position. But this way is the best we could get out of it.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: It’s my own, you know, it isn’t worth overruling the secretary of state on it. I think tactically the best would have been just to keep it hushed up for another two months.
NIXON: He doesn’t think he can do that.
KISSINGER: Well I think he believes that—

KISSINGER: I suspect they’re going to sell the living bejeezus out of it.
NIXON: What?
KISSINGER: I suspect they’re going to sell the living bejeezus out of it.
NIXON: Oh, sure.
KISSINGER: What I find so interesting in the State Department is that they have no strategic sense. All they worry about is their personal embarrassment and not having a position. So now they can [unclear]— NIXON: That’s the whole point, that is, of his concern was that I’ve already told them that I don’t have any position. Well Christ almighty, so we’ve got no position, just go out and say so. Goddamn it, I do it every day in a press conference. But, or every week.
KISSINGER: Well, he follows Green’s advice. It isn’t, he doesn’t, but it’s, it’s really—we can handle it.
NIXON: Let him go. As a matter of fact we can handle it. After all, Henry, there is a lot of discussion about the two-China thing. It’s probably what we’re going to end up with. [unclear] I am greatly tempted to stand on principle and get rolled and get them out. I am concerned about one thing: we’ve got to think very selfishly. But— KISSINGER: But another way of getting rolled, Mr. President, is to delay our position as long as possible. Then, fairly late, go to a two-China position and then lose on that. Then we’ve done everything.
NIXON: Well—
KISSINGER: But that’s—
NIXON: But that’s another thing. The main thing—
KISSINGER: It’s really not important enough.
NIXON: When you go to two-China, that’s going to appear awfully reasonable to a hell of a lot of people.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: Awfully reasonable.
KISSINGER: Actually, the way he’s formulated it now is better.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: If he then gets off the universality one which will drive everybody, will drive the German situation. He just says, “Communist China in by majority vote; Taiwan expelled only by a two-thirds vote.”
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Then we don’t make a general principle. And that we can, I think—
NIXON: I like that formula, the expulsion by two-thirds vote. And that [unclear], but I’m going to pull this. I want to know what the hell our problem is in the domestic politics before we do it. And I also will have to determine whether or not I am announcing it myself or have him do it. I think there is much to be said for letting him do the announcement.
NIXON: It’s a technical matter. There’s a hell of a lot of people who are going to say we’ll get the credit for it anyway.

NIXON: Now on the China thing, we’re back exactly around the time he needs.
KISSINGER: That’s right. Because—
NIXON: Now if the China [thing] doesn’t come back, they should be back—
KISSINGER: They’ll be back within ten days to two weeks.
NIXON: You think so? Has Yahya delivered the message?
KISSINGER: He delivered the message on May 19. It took five days. I’ve now got a good channel, but I told his ambassador to send it by pouch, didn’t want it on a Pakistan wire. I’ve now set up a wire to Karachi for our ambassador, which goes only through Moorer. Nobody knows it. And it’s got a special code, which only Haig knows, so even Moorer can’t read it. And which only, and so now we can deliver messages in twenty-four hours. It took five days to get there, then it took, then Yahya was in Lahore so he didn’t deliver it until the nineteenth. So they’ve only had it for seven days. And my guess is that they’ll reply the first week of June.
NIXON: You think they’ll reply in the positive or negative?
KISSINGER: Almost certainly, yes.
NIXON: There’s a lot of things in there about a presidential visit and all that kind of stuff.
KISSINGER: We offered them a presidential visit. We told them I’d be authorized to arrange the visit of a public emissary if it was thought useful; it’s hedged a little bit. And— NIXON: In addition to a presidential visit?
KISSINGER: Yeah, in addition to a presidential visit. And for them, Mr. President, after all, they are revolutionaries. But you think of this peasant, former peasant, Mao, the Great March, and then the president of the United States comes to Beijing at the end of his life. That’s— NIXON: Well that’s why this former [unclear] Brezhnev has goddamn well got to decide whether he wants to come or not. And—
KISSINGER: I think that, Dobrynin again this morning talked about that trade deal, that five-hundred-million-dollar trade deal.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: We just don’t have enough information to act on it.
NIXON: Well, but he didn’t raise the summit. He never raises it, does he?
NIXON: Well, he must have a reason, you know.
KISSINGER: Well, no. They are very cute. They figure you’re very eager, so they figure they’re first going to make you pay on Berlin. Then they’re going to make you pay on trade, and after that they give you the summit.
NIXON: What the hell are we going to talk about there?
KISSINGER: But I think, well, we can have, we need the summit for a number of reasons. It will discipline them during SALT.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, we’ve got to have, we need the summit for the reason of getting the deal on SALT.
KISSINGER: That’s what I mean.
NIXON: So then we’ve got to hammer them.

NIXON: Are we going to have a summit at all with the Russians? You got a deal with the Chinese, we’ll go to China earlier. Why not?
KISSINGER: It also has the advantage that then we know where we stand.
NIXON: You notice the hard line the Chinese are taking on Taiwan. Predictable, right?
NIXON: The Nineteenth Province [PRC reference to Taiwan] and all that sort of crap?
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Oh, I know. No, what they have asked from us up to now—
NIXON: Basically, to remove the Sixth Fleet.
KISSINGER: —is to remove our military forces from Taiwan. If they would help us make peace in Vietnam—
NIXON: We’ll do it.
KISSINGER: —we could do it early in your new term.
NIXON: Just put it in the terms, “Yes, we will do it. We made a private [unclear] to do so.”
KISSINGER: But Taiwan, except for the sentimental thing, is really the least significant American [unclear].
NIXON: I’m afraid it is. I’m sorry.
KISSINGER: It’s a heartbreaking thing. They’re a lovely people.
NIXON: I hate to do it, I hate to do it, I hate to do it, I know. And they’ve been my friends. [unclear] I still think, I can’t believe Bill is right when he says the Koreans don’t care, Kiichi doesn’t care, and the rest of them don’t care about Taiwan.
KISSINGER: Totally wrong.
NIXON: Somebody is selling him a bunch of shit.
KISSINGER: Totally wrong. Totally wrong. Your instinct is absolutely right.

Leon Panetta, and human rights in other countries
May 27, 1971, 4:28 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, John Ehrichman, and Henry Kissinger

Nixon’s dim view of the State Department was not improved by a statement it made in May in support of Soviet Jewry. His annoyance with any encroachment on his evolving diplomacy with the Soviets led to a discussion of the validity of the position offered in the statement.
First, however, was the problem of Leon Panetta. In the early 1970s, Panetta was a Republican staffer assigned to Secretary Robert Finch in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. By March of 1971, his views on civil rights had diverged from the administration’s. He quit, wrote a scathing critique of government policy, and switched political parties.

EHRLICHMAN: This damn Panetta book [Bring Us Together: The Nixon Team and the Civil Rights Retreat] is really a revelation about the Finch administration over there.
NIXON: Is it really?
EHRLICHMAN: It really is. This guy, apparently, was keeping notes.
NIXON: How does Finch come out?
NIXON: Does he?
EHRLICHMAN: Very weak, very [unclear]. Yeah. He comes out very weak, I come out some kind of a heady—the whole thing is on civil rights, of course. And, he lies in his teeth about five different places, and particularly about his resignation.
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: And then he quits, just before the March 24 statement on civil rights [Nixon’s public statement on the administration’s policy with respect to public school desegregation]. The book gives you no credit for civil rights. It’s a real ax job. But I told my staff to all read it, because I want them to understand what happens inside a department, and how the department courts us, and how they use us, and how they play us. It’s a damn good textbook on that.

KISSINGER: The State Department issued a terrific blast against the treatment of Jews in—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —the Soviet Union.
NIXON: Oh, why—didn’t we stop that? Goddamn, I thought we just had that little—
KISSINGER: I had thought—I reaffirmed—I may ask you to sign—
NIXON: All right. I’ll sign a letter.
KISSINGER: —that they—any statement concerning the Soviet Union for the next two months has to be cleared here no matter how trivial.
NIXON: I think you should get the memorandum to me today. I mean—
NIXON: —first thing in the morning, Henry. It’s so important.
KISSINGER: Because it’s a—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —it gets us nothing to—
NIXON: Yeah. But I don’t want to—because of very high considerations, indeed, I want no statement concerning the Soviet Union of any kind, public statements, to be made without clearance with me. [unclear]
HALDEMAN: Unless somebody comes—
KISSINGER: With all—you know, I’m Jewish myself, but who are we to complain—
EHRLICHMAN: [laughs]
KISSINGER: —about Soviet Jews? It’s none of our business. If they complain—if they made a public protest to us for the treatment of Negroes, we’d be—
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: You know, it’s none of our business how they treat their people.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, we—that’s why I think your—that’s why I couldn’t see Max Fisher and that other fellow, Schecter. Christ, I can’t see these people about the treatment of—we’re—they know how we feel, for Christ’s sakes.

“In terms of world peace.”
May 28, 1971, 9:50 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

In late May, when Dobrynin brought word of a further delay of the Moscow summit, Nixon saw easily that the scheduling was becoming a weapon.

KISSINGER: You have to decide what’s worth more to you: the announcement of a visit, and then the anticipation of it; or whether you want to actually have the visit this year, which would be a very dramatic turnaround.
NIXON: Just as long as I have the visit. Again: one or the other.
NIXON: Let me put it this way: don’t wait. Next year is a political year. Everything will be cast in a political connotation. Everything we do.
NIXON: It is not good, therefore—and also, if you get into next year, nothing can occur after July 1, when the Democrats nominate. Because after that time, all the goddamn press will insist that the Democratic candidate had to go along. You understand?
NIXON: That’s the other problem.
NIXON: Or his advisor will want to go along. Now, Johnson didn’t do that. The son of a bitch didn’t tell me about the bombing pause, except on the telephone. Nevertheless, that’s what they’re going to say. So, therefore, all of our foreign policy initiatives have to be completed by the first of July. There ain’t nothin’ else that could be done.
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: You see what I mean?
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: So there’s our—there’s the deal. That’s why, Henry, what we’ve got to think of: I prefer a Russian summit this year, and a Chinese next year. But it would have to be in the spring.
KISSINGER: Oh, yes. Absolutely in the spring.
NIXON: Not in July. You see, beginning—
KISSINGER: Oh, no. April or so—or May, or whenever you want it.
NIXON: Sure. Maybe March.
NIXON: What I’m getting at is, the further away from the election—
NIXON: You know how these damn bastards react to everything. Even now, they say it’s all political. Now, that doesn’t bother me particularly, except that, as you get to the point where they have selected a candidate, or where it’s quite obvious there’s going to be one, the pressure is going to be enormous.

KISSINGER: Yeah, but if a summit were announced, in the interval between its announcement and your going there, they don’t want to irritate you, I think. Well, let’s see what Dobrynin brings back. I’m going to give him the ultimatum very shortly and tell him if it isn’t now, we can’t do it this year. That’s the only way they’ll believe it. I cannot—if I just ask him for an answer— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —then we’ll look like plead—it’d look like pleading and nervousness. If I tell him it’s now or never—so far, brutality has been the only—and daring, gambling have been— NIXON: Just put it—you have to put it on the basis that our—“the president has got varying constituencies, you know.”
KISSINGER: I said we just will not be in the position—
NIXON: “He can’t be in the position. He’s filling it out for the balance of the year—state visits, and so forth and so on,” and—
KISSINGER: “And we just won’t let you play this game. You know as much now as you’re going to know from us. And if you can’t make up your mind, then let’s wait for a time when you can make up your mind, which cannot, then, be this year.” That’s—that language, he’ll understand.
NIXON: Then—
KISSINGER: It has a lot of advantages, because if—
NIXON: It may be that you ought to have both do it now—it may be that—actually, the best of both worlds would be to have the China card in your pocket before the—
KISSINGER: That’s why I hope—that would be—
NIXON: But you aren’t going to get that this week. You aren’t going to get the message?
KISSINGER: No, the Chinese will wait two weeks. That’s their system, Mr. President. There’s just no way they—
HALDEMAN: Has it been one week?
KISSINGER: Nineteenth, twenty-sixth, it could happen next week. It could happen by the end of next week. Very soon next week.

NIXON: We got to milk the publicity out of every achievement. And everything has got to be a presidential initiative. Now, as far as Berlin is concerned, we did it. And we’re going to— KISSINGER: We’ve got to leak that, because, really, that is a—
NIXON: Well—
KISSINGER: —it sounds as if—
NIXON: When will it come?
KISSINGER: It’s moving. Now, we can—I’m slowing it down a little bit—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —just to get the summit.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: July, I think.
NIXON: All right. That’s got to be a presidential initiative too. I might announce it.
KISSINGER: You may get credit, Mr. President. I set up that procedure, on your instructions, on an airplane. I got Bahr invited to the moon shot in January—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —so that I’d have an excuse to see him.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: I rode up on a plane with him to New York, and we worked out that whole procedure. And we’ve got a file this thick—
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —of back-channel traffic to Bahr and Rush.
NIXON: Right. Yeah.
KISSINGER: And the Russians—
NIXON: It’s a hell of a job. I know.
KISSINGER: And, actually, that was a trickier one, because we had another party involved, than—
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: —than SALT. And that—
NIXON: It’s a hell of a job.
KISSINGER: Now, if that happens in July, we can say they had a Berlin crisis and we solved it.
NIXON: [unclear]
HALDEMAN: They had an escalating war and we brought it down. They had a missile—
KISSINGER: The Berlin thing—actually, and the way it—
NIXON: The Berlin thing is really more important, really, in terms of world peace, than either the Mideast or—I mean, in order of magnitude, the least important is Vietnam. It never, never, never has risked world war.
NIXON: You know that. Hell, we all know that. I mean, I’ve been making that speech for twenty—for ten years. You know it’s true. China’s going to intervene? Russia’s going to intervene? None of them will ever intervene. Second, the next is the Mideast. That has the elements that could involve the major powers, because it’s important. But, compared in the order of magnitude, the Mideast to Berlin, Christ, it’s light-years’ difference. Berlin is it. Shit, if anything happens in Berlin, then you’re at it, right?
NIXON: That’s why Berlin is so enormous, and also—
NIXON: —it’s more important to the Russians.
KISSINGER: And, what we—
NIXON: The Russians will let—they’d let Egypt go down the tubes. They will never let Berlin go down the tubes.
KISSINGER: And we got a number of very significant concessions out of them. For example, they had always insisted that we call—these are minor things—that we describe in the document— NIXON: Uh-huh.
KISSINGER: —Berlin as “Berlin (West).” We’ve insisted that they say “the Western sectors of Berlin,” so that it shows—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —that, the Four Power responsibility. They’ve now accepted this.
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: Secondly, which is more important: they had insisted all along on legal justifications that gave East Germany control over access.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: They’ve now accepted legal formulations in which they have a responsibility for access, which they never did even in the forties. That’s more than Truman or Roosevelt got out of them.
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: And, under those conditions, the Berlin agreement—which I always told you, we had to cut our losses—will actually be a small net plus on the ground. I would like to call Dobrynin to discourage him from—he’s going over to State today—from mentioning a foreign ministers’ meeting on Berlin.
NIXON: Foreign ministers?
NIXON: Now, Bill didn’t raise this point at his crazy meeting with—
NIXON: He’s—well, he can—
KISSINGER: He can’t float it. It’s too complicated—
NIXON: Oh, it’s the silliest thing I ever heard of. Gromyko?
KISSINGER: I think if there are high-level meetings, Mr. President, for this year and next, they ought to be yours.

“‘We’ve horsed around long enough.’”
May 29, 1971, 9:08 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

The implication that the Soviets would host the summit without completing the SALT agreement pressed Nixon and Kissinger to prepare an ultimatum. As their discussion continued, Kissinger expressed an ever-stronger rationale for Nixon winning the 1972 election.

KISSINGER: Now, I had a cable from—
NIXON: Rush.
KISSINGER: —from Rush. And [laughs] we are in the ridiculous position, Mr. President, that—
NIXON: Yeah. What did he want?
KISSINGER: —the Berlin talks are going so well that we may not be able to slow them down enough. I think we’ll have the Berlin agreement, unless there’s a snag, by the middle of July, which makes it imperative that I talk to Dobrynin and tell him— NIXON: Yes.
KISSINGER: —“This is it, now.” And actually the Russians are making two-thirds of the concessions.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.

KISSINGER: Well, Mr. President, if we get Semenov over here to sign the hot line agreement—it doesn’t mean a goddamn thing. It just—
NIXON: It helps.
KISSINGER: It helps. If—the Berlin thing is going to break—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —in the next two or three weeks.
NIXON: I think that what we’ve got to figure, in the least, is that we get those two. But, on the other hand, the Berlin—can we keep Berlin from breaking if they don’t agree to a summit?
KISSINGER: Well, I’m going to give him [Dobrynin] an ultimatum on the summit a week from Monday. The next—
NIXON: It might work but I’m just asking, in order to go, whether we can mess it up.
KISSINGER: Yeah. We can keep it—
NIXON: You see?
KISSINGER: —we can keep it from breaking.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: We have to be bastards but we just—
NIXON: All right. We’ll be bastards. That’s right. Just say the president—all right, and when he gets to that say, “We’re not going to agree to Berlin. It’s up to you.”
KISSINGER: The next time they’re going to meet is on June 4. And that’s mostly technical stuff.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: Then Brandt and Rush are going to come over here.
NIXON: Then we see Brandt?
KISSINGER: And we see Brandt. And before Brandt gets here, I’m going to tell Dobrynin, “That’s it now. We’ve horsed around long enough.”
NIXON: We have.
KISSINGER: “We have to make our basic decisions.” The only thing is, the only way we’ll make it plausible is to say, “If you reject it now, that’s it for this year.” That’s the one thing— NIXON: The submarine that’s in Cuba is not nuclear, is it?
KISSINGER: It is nuclear.
KISSINGER: It is a nuclear-powered submarine. It doesn’t have missiles on it. It’s one of these cheap gangster shots. At first, I thought it wasn’t nuclear.
HALDEMAN: Did you know it wasn’t?
KISSINGER: No, that was another conversation. No, it is nuclear.
NIXON: Hmm. Is that right?
KISSINGER: That’s what I found out yesterday.
NIXON: I read something incorrectly.
KISSINGER: No, that’s right. He told me it wasn’t.
NIXON: I told him that although the submarines were not nuclear—
KISSINGER: Yeah. Our information was wrong.
NIXON: —there was a submarine at a base in Matanzas.
KISSINGER: And I corrected that. I called him back and said that—
NIXON: [unclear] All right.
KISSINGER: —we had gotten new photography, and it was nuclear.
NIXON: Yeah. So?
KISSINGER: Well, he says they announced it. It’s at the very edge of the understanding. It’s just at the edge of it. And they’re not in Cienfuegos. It’s a gangster thing to do. And I think if it comes up in the press conference, as it may because now the word will get out, I wouldn’t get into the question of whether it violated the understanding. But I’d be very tough on what we’re— NIXON: I’d just say, “There is an understanding and we expect it to be complied with. The Soviets are quite aware of it,” and let it go with that.
NIXON: And that I—
KISSINGER: I won’t comment on every single trip—
NIXON: “I’m not going to comment on it. The Soviets are quite aware.”
NIXON: Is that enigmatic as hell?
KISSINGER: Much better.

NIXON: The problem here, though, with the Russians and the Chinese, what really helps us, is that they have an enormous problem between each other. They try to cut us, our balls off, and here we are— KISSINGER: I think they’ve never had as tough an opponent in here, as you’ve turned out to be.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. In a minute here you’ve got to give Thurmond a call, right? And have, I mean, the Russian line that we’d agreed to quit—to give up ABM before we had an offensive limitation. But, it’s rather awkward language of the communiqué to have at all.
KISSINGER: It says “together with.”
NIXON: “Together with.” Goodness, if—aren’t these people stupid up there, though? We say, “We shall concentrate this year on negotiating—”
KISSINGER: But, of course—
NIXON: “—an ABM agreement.” And then, it goes on, in the next sentence—
KISSINGER: “Together with, we will agree on.”
NIXON: —“together with this, we will agree with that.” You see? That’s all we have to do: say, “Look, you’re off base, Senator.”
KISSINGER: They are—but, what is happening is, Mr. President, I really think that the Communists are beginning to dominate some of our media. Six weeks ago, they were—
NIXON: Oh, on that, I agree with you—
KISSINGER: Because, now—
NIXON: I’ve been saying it for years.
KISSINGER: I saw a New Republic article in which they castigated you for the SALT thing, because you maintained the relationship between offensive and defensive limitations. Here the Russians have already agreed to it, and they’re still hitting away at it, which is, of course, what the Russians really want. And that’s what, if they babble away enough, of course the Russians will pick it up at the next Helsinki thing. That’s why we should get this summit date fixed.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Because then they’ll be reluctant to be too—
NIXON: Well, Henry, no summit, however, under any circumstances, unless we do have a—an interim SALT agreement to put it to, to put it on the finish there. We have to do that, Henry. To go there without doing that, that’s not even worth our time.
KISSINGER: They agree to it now, because we can’t be sure. But—
NIXON: Perhaps.
KISSINGER: —we’ve got to gamble, I think. We can always sign the accidental war agreement. We can announce some progress on SALT. If there is a deadlock in Vienna we can break it at Moscow— NIXON: Why do you have the summit, then? Fisheries?
KISSINGER: Frankly, for—partly for domestic reasons, and partly—I frankly feel, Mr. President, at this point, that to keep the Democrats out of office next year— NIXON: Is the main thing.
KISSINGER: —is a major national necessity.
NIXON: That’s right. It’d be terrible if they got in.
NIXON: Terrible. You know, really, really, with the irresponsibility that they have displayed, it—
KISSINGER: The [Democratic] Party is unfit to conduct foreign policy. These are the radicals.
NIXON: Well, it’s just the Eastern establishment.
NIXON: That’s where the damn radicals are.
NIXON: Basically.
KISSINGER: And another argument for the summit is we have a better chance of getting the SALT with the summit that—
NIXON: I agree. I agree. They’ve got reasons as well as we have, to have something come out of the meeting. So, we can be sure on that. I’ll put this—the other side of the coin. That we’re not going to have a summit and come out without an ABM agreement.
KISSINGER: Out of the question. That we can’t do.
NIXON: [unclear] Never, never, never.
KISSINGER: That we cannot do.
NIXON: I don’t think it’s all that difficult. They can get—we can have an ABM agreement, and a limitation on offensive weapons—
KISSINGER: It’s on offensive weapons, so it shouldn’t be so hard—
NIXON: It’s all we’re asking.
KISSINGER: Mr. President, for us to get Berlin, SALT, China, the summit, all into one time frame, and to keep any of these countries—
NIXON: To keep Europe happy.
KISSINGER: —to keep Europe happy, to keep Vietnam from collapsing—
NIXON: Yeah. [unclear]
KISSINGER: —that takes great subtlety and intricacy.
NIXON: All of this, everything is close. But on the whole, everything worthwhile in the world is close. Nothing is easy. Nothing is easy in these times.
KISSINGER: To get this Berlin thing is, I now consider, practically certain. We’ve got that where we had SALT in March—
NIXON: I ought to get into that, don’t you think?
KISSINGER: I beg your pardon?
NIXON: I probably ought to get into that act sometime.
NIXON: Get a little credit.
KISSINGER: When Brandt is here, you may be able to do something with that—
NIXON: Well, we’ll see.

“This boy O’Neill, who’s, God, you’d just be proud of him.”
June 4, 1971, 2:34 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Charles Colson

Greater and greater numbers of Vietnam veterans were returning home. While many stayed out of politics, some expressed opinions about the war, their experience, and the draft. As a counter to John Kerry and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, John O’Neill started the pro-administration Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. The Nixon White House could not officially offer O’Neill any support, but Nixon understood the importance of a pro-administration veterans group. O’Neill was encouraged to take part in public events and speak in favor of government war policy, and to debate John Kerry in highly public venues.

COLSON: I had the most refreshing experience, Mr. President, I’ve had in a long time this week with the group of Vietnam veterans who are organized for us.
NIXON: They’re doing a great job.
COLSON: Oh! Well, they came in to see me after their—
NIXON: Yeah.
COLSON: —after their press conference, which, by the way, got remarkable press coverage.
NIXON: Yeah! Haldeman and I saw it.
COLSON: This boy O’Neill, who’s, God, you’d just be proud of him. They were ten of them. One of them, by the way, had been arrested for tearing down a Viet Cong flag a year ago.
NIXON: Great!
COLSON: They’re just marvelous kids! And one hundred percent behind you. They talked about the drug problem in Vietnam. They said it’s a problem, but no worse than in the high schools.
NIXON: That’s what I think.
COLSON: They’re going out, in fact, the Marines in the outfit, in that group, said it was much less in Vietnam. He said that this is all another one of the press exaggerations. These fellas are going out speaking in various parts of the country for us.
NIXON: Yeah.
COLSON: They were invited on Face the Nation this week for a debate with Kerry, but Kerry turned them down, refused to debate, refused to debate O’Neill.
COLSON: Which is a point we’ll get out to the press.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
COLSON: They’re just a grand bunch. And a few more like this and we can—
NIXON: Yeah.
COLSON: —get people thinking in different terms.
NIXON: Yeah, yeah. Well, of course, they can get equal time, I think, as they move around. And that’s good. Kerry may start to wear a little thin in time.
COLSON: Well, there have been some fascinating stories about him, you know. There’s one out now that his own organization’s going to dump him. And we’ve gotten out to the wire services the fact that he refused to debate O’Neill.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
COLSON: I think he’s beginning to tarnish. I think his image is tarnishing.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
COLSON: And these young fellas, we’ve had some luck getting them placed.
NIXON: Have you?
COLSON: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Good.
COLSON: They’ll be on, we’ll start seeing more of them.
NIXON: Oh, boy, that’s great. And they really, they haven’t given up then, these guys?
COLSON: They would give you the greatest lift. I told them that I couldn’t recommend their going in to see you because—
NIXON: I know. It would look like a fix. But sometime I want to thank them.
COLSON: I said that later in the summer, after they’ve done more of what they’re doing, that they ought to come in. And I was thinking of it almost as much from your standpoint as from theirs.
NIXON: Sure!
COLSON: They’re just believers.
NIXON: They think we’ve done the right thing.
COLSON: We’re doing the right thing, and continue to do the right thing. And they claim that all of their friends, they say, O’Neill said to me, “I don’t know how you fellas survive here in Washington,” he said. “When you get out in the country, you’ll find that people think like we think.” And he said, “When you come here, and you watch what you have to watch every night and you listen to this constant chatter and this constant bickering at you,” he said, “but let me tell you, it just isn’t that way out in the country.”
NIXON: Hmm! Isn’t that something? Well!

“By the end of the summer, we will know whether we have broken Vietnam.”
June 4, 1971, 4:47 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Nixon and Kissinger had high expectations for the summer months of 1971. They were close to making a breakthrough with either the Soviet Union or China, or both. It was not yet clear how the one would affect the other, or how talks with the North Vietnamese would be affected.

KISSINGER: By the end of the summer, we will know whether we have broken Vietnam.
NIXON: Or China.
NIXON: Once we know we’re going to do that, we’ll know which is which.
KISSINGER: Well, it’d be nice if we could make them all work together.
NIXON: As well as a summit.
KISSINGER: But China, we’ve got, and that we can—
NIXON: Yeah, if we can get one more, I mean—
NIXON: —then we could get two out of three. That’s pretty good.

KISSINGER: In terms of achievements—this sounds self-serving—but, who has had a three-year period like this? If you had said on January 20 that you would get four hundred thousand troops out of Vietnam in two years, open the way to—of a visit to Beijing, a visit to Moscow, a SALT agreement, you’d have all of that done at the end of your third year— NIXON: That’d be incredible, wouldn’t it?
KISSINGER: —they would have said, “That’s insanity!”

The value of reduced casualty statistics
June 11, 1971, 9:37 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

The Nixons were looking forward to the wedding of their daughter Tricia to lawyer Edward Cox on June 12 at the White House. Four hundred guests were expected at the first wedding ever held in the Rose Garden. Kissinger met with the president on the morning of June 11, having procured a transcript of a June 8 interview of North Vietnamese official Xuan Thuy by journalist Chalmers Roberts. Despite the relative clarity of Thuy’s answers, his intentions were as shrouded as ever. Based on the wording, Nixon and Kissinger decided that either the North Vietnamese war effort was collapsing or it was poised for greater aggression than ever. They could at least point to firm figures on the marked shrinkage of U.S. combat losses and wondered how to use that fact more publicly.

KISSINGER: You know, one of the problems with the—that the Vietnamese have is if they give us anything at all in Paris, even if it leads to another stalemate, if we could get any movement at all— NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —that looks like a serious negotiation—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —that would be a tremendous shot for public opinion.
NIXON: [chuckles] Yeah, you mean if they did it publicly.
KISSINGER: So, that’s—that’s the tough problem they’re up against for June 26 [Kissinger’s next secret meeting with the North Vietnamese].
NIXON: [unclear] They know. They must know that—
KISSINGER: Now, they are—I have had an analysis made, and I’ll send it in to you—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —taking the Xuan Thuy interview as against what I said to them—
NIXON: Mm-hmm?
KISSINGER: —and they are obviously talking to us in their crooked way—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: I mean, this idea, for example, of separating military and political issues—which no one here in town will understand because—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —they don’t know what we’ve said to them, but that’s all through that interview. I’ve got the full text now. Not in an acceptable way, but the mere fact that they’re talking about it is, is interesting. But it may not—this is just a bitter pill for them to swallow; they may not be ready to do it. And then they’re pushing their infiltration very hard, even in the rainy season— NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: But, that could mean two things. That could mean that they’re in desperate shape, too.
NIXON: Then we hit ’em. [unclear]
KISSINGER: At the middle of the week, it’s always tough to tell, but it’s—I would say it’s certainly not above thirty [casualties in the past week]—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —and it’s more likely to be at the low twenties.
NIXON: Where we were before?
KISSINGER: Yeah, it’s—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: There’s no significant difference from last week. But you can never tell whether there’s one helicopter down, or whether some people died in a hospital—
NIXON: Yeah, that’s right.
HALDEMAN: Because we’ve brought them down to such low numbers that each [unclear].
NIXON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. [unclear] My God, before if you shot down a helicopter and lost nineteen, it wouldn’t make any difference.
NIXON: Nineteen in relation to a hundred twenty is nothing.
NIXON: Nineteen in relation to nineteen doubles it.
HALDEMAN: Doubles it.
KISSINGER: But, if you look, for example, at the month, if it hadn’t been for these thirty-three—
NIXON: Mm-hmm?
KISSINGER: —we would have had below twenty-five every week—
NIXON: Yeah. I sure want them to—I sure want to get some sort of work done. I mean, get the—Scali to get out the—play the casualty line. And, it’s that what we said has happened. We said it would go down after Cambodia. It did. We said it would go down after Laos. It did. Now, just keep pointing. In other words— KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: —it’s a good point to, to go.

“At least he didn’t have it from within his administration.”
June 12, 1971, 10:32 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

On Saturday’s rainy morning, as the rest of the Nixon family fretted about whether or not to proceed with an outdoor wedding, the president met with Kissinger for a survey of the many irons that they had in the fire. The strategy that he and Kissinger had devised was layered in so much secrecy that it came to the point where they were the only people in whom either could confide.
Later in the morning, when Tricia asked her father whether to move the wedding indoors, he conferred with meteorologists attached to the air force and told her there would be a break in the clouds at about 4:00 p.m. The wedding was held then, under clear skies.

KISSINGER: Mr. President, Le Duc Tho is on the way west, stopping in Beijing and Moscow.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: He’s allegedly going to the East German party congress. You can bet your bottom dollar he’ll be in—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: He’s not at the meetings. He’s stopping in Beijing and Paris—and Moscow.

KISSINGER: This is as close as—Le Duc Tho never shows up. They may say no, Mr. President.
NIXON: You think he’ll show up at your conference?
KISSINGER: Certainly. Almost certainly. Eighty percent. If not, he’ll show up there to give them instructions.
NIXON: Well, it’s very good that he’s going to Beijing.
KISSINGER: But he is going through Beijing and Moscow. [unclear] Le Duc Tho is the third man in the hierarchy there, the only man who can take independent decisions on negotiations. He travels only when there are crucial matters. He was there for the bombing halt, and he was there for the— NIXON: Was he there for the bombing halt?
KISSINGER: Yeah. He was there for the early discussions with—until the fall of Sihanouk, and then he left. You remember those meetings we had in the spring of—
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
KISSINGER: —of six—of ’70 [Kissinger’s 1970 meetings with Le Duc Tho in Paris, on February 21, March 16, and April 4].
NIXON: Oh, yeah. He was there, yeah.
KISSINGER: And he is formidable.
NIXON: Yeah. I was reading a news summary, and just thinking of the public that we have. As you say, Johnson’s was nothing compared to this. ’Cause Christ almighty, at least he didn’t have it from within his administration.
NIXON: You know what I mean? While Gardner left, he never said anything. He was nobody. He was the secretary of HEW [John Gardner resigned his position in January 1968 because of his opposition to the war]. My God, we’ve got, as you know—but, the way these people are rushing around with this Clifford thing is unbelievable.
KISSINGER: Yeah. But, I actually think that Clifford—
NIXON: You don’t think he’s getting through?
KISSINGER: No, Mr. President. I really believe that—
NIXON: What’s he up to? Is he trying to fork—trying to recircuit the wires? Is that it?
KISSINGER: Yeah, but Mr. President, the North Vietnamese, with Le Duc Tho on the move, sure, they’re trying to—
NIXON: Mm-hmm?
KISSINGER: —to draw blood, and they’re trying to see whether they can trigger us into—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —into making concessions before he gets there.
NIXON: There ain’t going to be any.
KISSINGER: He does not have anything. I will bet my bottom dollar on it that he has nothing of any significance. He may have some Delphic hints by some low-level guy.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: It doesn’t—they don’t do business that way.
NIXON: The probability that they’re trying to do something that they don’t—they wanted to do it through somebody else. In other words, not let us do it. And there’s always that possibility, Henry.
KISSINGER: There’s always that slight possibility, Mr. President. But, even then, we’re not in a bad position, because we can say on May 31 we made this proposal. And, I mean, we’ve got him outflanked. That if they’re screwing us— NIXON: Mm-hmm?
KISSINGER: —you can say that. Whenever you decide you can—whenever you decide that this thing isn’t getting anywhere—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —you can decide on May 31, on the highest level, we made this proposal. While it was under consideration in Hanoi, we were forced into—Clifford came in with his variation of it. And, you can use it either as—in—as an example of independent negotiation by Clifford, or as an example of, of Hanoi’s treachery.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: I think we’ve got them outmaneuvered, but my impression is that the press—I saw Henry Hubbard and Schecter yesterday, and I took a very tough line. I said—I reminded them that on March 25, after Laos, when they were all sneering at us, on the patio of my office in San Clemente, I expressed your conviction and my conviction that this—there might be negotiations this year.
And that, at that time, everyone was saying negotiations were senseless; all that’s left to do is to get out. I said to them, “Do you people really believe that we’re missing a bet? Do you really believe we don’t look into all these things? If you do—” I said, “I admit it. We won’t give you any facts. We won’t confirm or deny anything. And if you write that we’re missing them, it even helps what we are trying to do. So, you just go ahead and write it. I am not going to negotiate publicly with, with them—with them.” They were really shaken. They didn’t know what to do. Because, on the one hand, they had this—I mean, after all, it isn’t plausible, that we, who—no one has talked more about negotiations than you, or I in my backgrounders, here. This is not a Johnson phenomenon.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And I don’t think they’re going to—they haven’t hit us in the press very hard. In fact, they haven’t hit us at all. Even the Washington Post had a very ambiguous editorial, yesterday, which for [them] it was really quite moderate. They said both are wrong, both Clifford and we. Well, that’s pretty good for them.
NIXON: Why’d they say Clifford was wrong?
KISSINGER: Well, because he was implying that there was a solution without giving it, and we were wrong by refusing to recognize that there may be movement. Hell, if there’s movement, we produced it. We will be able to show that this break of Xuan Thuy about Thieu was a direct outgrowth—you remember, I spotted it before they even saw it, and told you that this is an answer to what we said to them on May 31. I really think we have, we have a fighting chance, now, for a serious negotiation this summer. Le Duc Tho wouldn’t be there unless they really wanted to look it over. He may say no, as he did in March— NIXON: Suppose it does start to open up: what do you do? Then you put it in the Bruce channel?
KISSINGER: Well, then, we have to decide how to do it, Mr. President. Whether—I really believe—
NIXON: You just can’t keep running over there.
KISSINGER: No, no. I can’t do it. That’s—
NIXON: Why? We can’t do it without a—who could do it if we, if we—
KISSINGER: Well, I’ve worked out—
NIXON: —dispose of it? But, we’ve got to have something. You—we can’t just continue to do this, you know?
KISSINGER: No, no. No, the choice we have to make is—incidentally, I’ve worked out a way, now, by which I can get over there with great safety. The British have a courier plane that lands at an RAF base, and they will take me anytime I want to go, so we don’t have to use American planes.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And they are absolutely secure. [unclear] I might have to go once more—or at most, twice more—to do it, to get it done. The question we have to decide is whether we should let Bruce surface it, or whether we should get you to write a letter? My strong instinct is, Mr. President, that if they— NIXON: I’d better do it.
KISSINGER: —that you do it. This is what I meant. That’s the decision we have to make—
NIXON: [unclear] Hell, we could let Bruce do it. [unclear] both Laird and Rogers would be in saying, “Hey, great.”
KISSINGER: Well, that’s why I think, Mr. President, that, as soon as we know a serious negotiation is starting, you have to get out in front and break the deadlock. Or make something that breaks—do something that breaks the deadlock. And that can be easily arranged.
NIXON: We can arrange that.
KISSINGER: I think that’s better than just letting it trickle out in Paris.
NIXON: Work on it a bit, how long these general principles [unclear]—
KISSINGER: I think, Mr. President, that if there is going to be an agreement, and there—
NIXON: It’ll come quickly.
KISSINGER: It will come this summer. That’s the funny thing.
NIXON: That’s always the theory you’ve had. Is it—?
KISSINGER: Well, I’ve always had the theory, but I think the Vietnamese elections are helping us that way.
NIXON: What’s your view of the [South Vietnam anti-Thieu opposition leaders] Big Minh–Ky deal I noticed in the paper this morning?
KISSINGER: They actually made it?
NIXON: Well, it said that they had made a deal. I don’t know, maybe see if it’s true.
KISSINGER: Well, my view of the—
NIXON: It’s just as well; put ’em over there. But I want them to really ride hard on those bastards and let them know they aren’t going to get anything.
KISSINGER: Well, my view of the Big Minh–Ky deal is that it gives the opposition to Thieu a viable combination—
KISSINGER: —but that Thieu will, almost certainly, will win.
NIXON: Well, suppose they won? There’s not much difference, would it?
KISSINGER: Mr. President—
NIXON: They, they live at our sufferance, anyway. They’d have to come along. They’d have to.
KISSINGER: If—Ky is actually a friend of ours. Ky behaved with great dignity—
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: —on the occasion that I saw him to turn off his trip, yeah—
NIXON: Right.
NIXON: Big Minh is just dumb.
KISSINGER: Big Minh is just a front man.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And—so, I—I would think that if we get our deal, and if then Thieu is defeated in the election, so be it. It’s the major thing. But, I don’t think that will happen. If it does happen— NIXON: Mm-hmm? What is your [unclear]? What’s your—any judgment on the, the Cambodian action? I noticed they were trying to build that up now, at least at the present time.
KISSINGER: Well, uh—
NIXON: How significant is it?
KISSINGER: Well, it’s significant in the sense—
NIXON: Not as significant as the press obviously feels about it?
KISSINGER: No, but it’s significant in the sense that this damn—that the death of Tri obviously kept us from knocking them out in that area. And that may have been the worst loss, because we did gain in Lam Son 719— NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —sixty to eighty percent of what we wanted, but after Tri’s death—as I told you then—that Cambodian operation just petered out. I don’t think they’re going to topple the situation there. What they’re trying to do is to create—reconstitute the sanctuaries based on a northern supply route this time.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Well, that’s enough.
KISSINGER: And that’s—that, I think, they’re in the process of. But, another problem, of course, is—another—one reason for it is that Thieu is economizing his forces now, because of the election.
NIXON: Not trying to have too many casualties?

NIXON: Getting back to this Clifford/Gardner, et cetera. I noticed Gardner was on—
KISSINGER: Yeah, I saw that.
NIXON: —against our fellow [unclear]. But anyway, [unclear] miserable prick, isn’t he?
NIXON: Right?
KISSINGER: —he is as petty—
NIXON: [unclear] He’s not an admirable person.
KISSINGER: He’s an effeminate—I mean, after all, he does not know a goddamn thing about Vietnam.
NIXON: Or about anything else.
NIXON: I mean, about anything else in foreign policy.
KISSINGER: At least education he’s given some thought to, but—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —for him to say he—that you might still be there ten years from now, that is so—I told these guys yesterday from the press—
NIXON: Jesus Christ.
KISSINGER: —I said, “We’ve withdrawn steadily for two years. We’ve never lowered the withdrawal rate. We’ve never stopped withdrawing. What do you really think?”
NIXON: Well, that’s what I told Cooper. I said, “Now, John, you know damn well what the situation’s going to be next year, don’t you?” And I says, “You’re—you goddamn—you’re our opponents, now. Maybe you’d want to get on board? And you—” That’s it, Henry. They know damn well where we are.
KISSINGER: But I see now, Mr. President, why—
KISSINGER: —Le Duc—why they couldn’t come to the meeting: because there’s the East—on the twent[ieth], or the thirteenth, or the twentieth—because there’s the East German party congress from the fourteenth to the twenty-first. Xuan Thuy undoubtedly will be there to talk to Le Duc Tho. And— NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —so, the twenty-sixth is the earliest they could possibly be there.
NIXON: In terms of reaction to this Cambodian thing, is there—are we doing adequately there? Part of the problem with Laird is holding back on the—
NIXON: —air strikes?
KISSINGER: —not—no, the real problem is that MACV is just not on top of its job. That, either because Laird has a private deal with Abrams, or because Abrams has just quit, they’re not making their extra-special effort, Mr. President, that makes the difference between success and failure. I think that, that is the—that is one of the major problems.
NIXON: Just sitting out there like the French used to sit.
NIXON: [unclear] Goddamn it, we just need a general. I agree with you: we’ll take that little DePuy—he’s a cocky little bastard—and let him go out there and to shape them up.
KISSINGER: I think that is one of the big problems: that we’re just not—
NIXON: We’ll be—it’ll be easy after the next announcement to bring Abrams home.
NIXON: I mean, just say, “We’re finished there.” Hand DePuy with what we have left. That there’s been no deal, and tell him don’t worry, he’ll—he’ll be looking for our opportunities to smack ’em.
KISSINGER: I just have an instinct that we—I don’t know whether they’ll make it, but this is as close as we’ve ever been. It’s less—it’s still far. It’s at best one in three, Mr. President. I don’t want to— NIXON: I know. I know.
KISSINGER: —to mislead you, but—
NIXON: Don’t worry, I’m not. I’m not being hopeful, but, nevertheless, there’s a chance.
KISSINGER: There is a chance.
NIXON: And there has never been before. So, we’ll see. Hell, these, these people will—you can be sure, too, that every stinking political fellow like Clifford will try to get in on that chance. You realize what this would do to them politically?
KISSINGER: They’d be dead.
NIXON: If we pull off the negotiations, they’d be absolutely dead.
KISSINGER: If we are ruthless enough.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: If we don’t let them get off the hook, again.
NIXON: [unclear] off the hook—I’d never. On this one, we’re not going to bring them in on it, we’re not going to [unclear].
KISSINGER: Because that’s the mistake we made after October 7 [Nixon’s speech of 1970 in which he announced a five-point peace proposal].
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: Now that I look back, I was part of the mistake—
NIXON: I think we shouldn’t have even made the speech.
KISSINGER: We shouldn’t have made the speech, but instead then of wallowing in their approbation—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —we should have reminded the country that these were the guys who were rioting against us.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: Who were encouraging them and against whose opposition we got to that, that point.

KISSINGER: The thing we need for the next two months is quiet, because we don’t want to get the Russians lining up with the Egyptians and get everybody steaming up with a big Mideast crisis. And I think we should just slow that process down a little bit for the next two or three months and not get so much out front. Frankly, I think we have two ways we should have done it: either the way I suggested, by working out again with the Israelis, or to do it together with the Soviets.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: After the brokering around without objective and floating plan after plan, which puts us right into the middle of it, it’s going to—the problem now is to keep the Middle East from blowing up until the end of August. If we can get the other things going, then they will play back on the Middle East.
NIXON: Yeah, of course. Apparently, in terms of trying to—as far as the Soviet is concerned, there isn’t much of a problem. They won’t—
KISSINGER: No, they’re mad that they—
NIXON: They may come back. No, what I meant is, if they come—I’m speaking of a summit—
KISSINGER: Oh, the summit.
NIXON: If they come back, I’m happy just to have him [Dobrynin] come in and offer it to me.
KISSINGER: The summit?
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Oh, the summit is easy.
NIXON: It’s the easiest, because, I mean, he just comes in and says, “I have instructions from my government to invite you.” I’ll just tell everybody. I’m just going to do it that way.
KISSINGER: [That’s] how it should be.
NIXON: That’s right. Then—
KISSINGER: And that doesn’t involve me at all.
NIXON: Well, it doesn’t have to be done—what I mean, if you had suggested we do that, you know what I mean, go over and suggest it to State and so forth—
NIXON: The difficulty, if they do it over there, I have no control over the damn thing. It will get out in the press and screwed up beyond belief. So I’ll just have him come in here. It’s no problem.
NIXON: Call Bill in—
KISSINGER: And then we’ll announce it out of here.
NIXON: —just call Bill in and tell him. That’ll be that. The Chinese thing—that’s a tough one. That is really something. You see, we’re playing with fire, playing with fire. [On] Dobrynin, I guess we could do the—I think it’s—your thought is that when you’re there, I should send a message to arrange for you to have a meeting with Haig. My talk with—do you see? I mean, how do we get there? How do we get Bill informed?
KISSINGER: Well, I think once I am on the way, you might tell Bill that Yahya offered to arrange for me to talk to the Chinese when I’m there.
NIXON: Exactly. Without saying: what, how, when, who?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: And then blame, you know—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Then just say that I improvised everything once I got there.
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: And I mean, his concern—my impression of Bill is that he doesn’t give a damn what I do as long as I don’t get any credit for it. And as for what we could still consider, it depends on what the Russian game is. If the Russians don’t have a summit, then we would just announce a Chinese summit— NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —and we wouldn’t have to explain how it was arranged.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: We would just say, “As a result of high-level contacts—”
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: “—Prime Minister Zhou Enlai has—”
NIXON: No, I think we could tell Bill in that case. We’d just say that—
KISSINGER: Oh, we can tell Bill, but—
NIXON: No, Bill, I think you could just say that when you were there you saw the Chinese. You don’t tell him about seeing Zhou Enlai or anything. Or I guess you’d have to then, don’t you?
KISSINGER: I don’t think that Bill cares as long as we don’t let it out.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And we’ve now proved with SALT—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —where my name is—
NIXON: But you could just then say that when you got there, Yahya said Zhou Enlai would like to you see here, and you went over and saw him.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: After you leave, I guess the thing to do is to say, now, you’re going to Pakistan, Yahya is very interested for you to see the, talk to the Chinese ambassador, I’ll say, while you’re there. Then it develops beyond that— KISSINGER: Right.
NIXON: —and I say not to go ahead—
NIXON: —off this trade event, so then you just go on as it was. Then it comes from there. Right?
NIXON: You know, there’s too goddamn much been going on. That’s the problem.

“A devastating security breach of the greatest magnitude of anything I’ve ever seen.”
June 13, 1971, 12:18 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Alexander Haig

When Alexander Haig first told Richard Nixon about the leak of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and the newspaper’s decision to publish the highly classified study of the Vietnam War, Nixon did not fully grasp the situation. Nothing approaching the scale of the Pentagon Papers had been leaked before. The forty-seven-volume study, all seven thousand pages of which were finally declassified in 2011, focused primarily on the actions of Nixon’s Democratic predecessors, including Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
On another occasion, this could have been a chance to score a political victory. However, Nixon’s Department of Justice launched a vigorous yet ultimately unsuccessful defense of government secrecy and the records documenting private war deliberations that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The event played a direct role in creating the White House “Plumbers,” the group tasked with preventing leaks to the press whose existence became popularly known during the investigation into Watergate.

NIXON: Hello?
OPERATOR: General Haig, sir. He’s ready.
NIXON: Hello?
HAIG: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Hi, Al. What about the casualties last week? Have you got the figure yet?
HAIG: No, sir, but I think it’s going to be quite low.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: It should be last week or better.
NIXON: Yeah. Should be less than twenty, I would think. Yeah.
HAIG: It should be very—
NIXON: When do you get that? Do you know?
HAIG: We don’t get it officially until Monday afternoon.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: But we can get a reading on it.
NIXON: Right. Well, Monday afternoon, officially? Well, let’s wait until then. Fine. Okay. Nothing else of interest in the world?
HAIG: Yes, sir. Very significant. This goddamn New York Times exposé of the most highly classified documents of the war.
NIXON: Oh, that! I see. I didn’t read the story. Do you mean that was leaked out of the Pentagon?
HAIG: Sir, the whole study that was done for McNamara, and then carried on after McNamara left by Clifford and the peaceniks over there. This is a devastating security breach of the greatest magnitude of anything I’ve ever seen.
NIXON: Well, what’s being done about it then? I mean, I didn’t—did we know this was coming out?
HAIG: No, we did not, sir.
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: There are just a few copies of this whole multivolume report.
NIXON: Well, what about the—let me ask you this, though: what about Laird? What’s he going to do about it? Is—
HAIG: Well, I—
NIXON: Now, I would just start right at the top and fire some people. I mean, whatever department it came out of, I’d fire the top guy.
HAIG: Yes, sir. Well, I’m sure it came from Defense, and I’m sure it was stolen at the time of the turnover of the administration.
NIXON: Oh, it’s two years old then?
HAIG: I am sure it is. And they’ve been holding it for a juicy time. And I think they’ve thrown it out to affect Hatfield-McGovern, that’s my own estimate. But it’s something that is a mixed bag. It’s a tough attack on Kennedy. It shows that the genesis of the war really occurred during ’61.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. That’s Clifford! Yeah, I see.
HAIG: And it’s brutal on President Johnson. They’re going to end up in a massive gut fight in the Democratic Party on this thing.
NIXON: Are they?
HAIG: There’s some very—
NIXON: But also massive against the war?
HAIG: Against the war.

“The real issue is the Two-Power relationship.”
June 15, 1971, 2:39 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Anatoly Dobrynin, and Henry Kissinger

Ambassador Dobrynin personally delivered a message to the president and remained for a rare conversation with him about the future of relations between their two countries. Afterward, Kissinger and Nixon compared notes.

DOBRYNIN: As is obvious, the Soviet Union is asking for a conference of nuclear powers to discuss the question of general and complete nuclear disarmament. The place can be wherever is convenient and the agenda is open. A preparatory meeting is acceptable. The Soviet government hopes that your reply will be positive. Of course, Soviet-U.S. talks will continue bilaterally outside the conference as part of the SALT talks. The note is being delivered today in Paris, London, Beijing, and Washington.

NIXON: Let’s be realistic. The key to this sort of thing is what the two major nuclear powers will do. It is a question of leadership at the top—I don’t mean at the top of the governments, but at the top of this group of five.
DOBRYNIN: Do you have anything in mind, Mr. President?
NIXON: We will consider your proposal seriously. The way our two governments can make the most progress is through the talks that you and Kissinger have been having. They are completely confidential with nobody leaking. Your government has confidence in you; Kissinger has a special relationship with me. Apart from the cosmetics of a Five-Power discussion, the real issue is the Two-Power relationship.
DOBRYNIN: Well, how shall we do it?
NIXON: We will make a formal reply. Then you have a little talk with Henry Kissinger.
DOBRYNIN: What do you think of U.S.-Soviet relations in general?
NIXON: We can make a breakthrough on SALT and Berlin, and then our whole postwar relations will be on a new basis. The whole relationship can, indeed, be on a new basis. The press last week spoke of the failure of Berlin. You know better. We are at a point where we should make some agreement. If we culminate one, it will have a massive effect.
DOBRYNIN: Are there any other areas of discussion?
KISSINGER: Mr. President, he is trying to lead you into the Middle East.
DOBRYNIN: [laughs]
NIXON: As for the Middle East, there is, of course, a fear of a U.S.-Soviet condominium. Of course, Soviet and U.S. interests are quite different. We both have constituents we may not be able to control, and this makes the situation very explosive. The Middle East is very much on our mind and, at some point, discussions between us will be possible.

“Something’s going to happen.”
June 15, 1971, 3:19 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Would the Soviets or the Chinese agree on a summit first? Either option would require American maneuvering with the other.

KISSINGER: Something’s going to happen.
NIXON: Henry, can you wait to see their faces, though, if they do not give us the summit?
KISSINGER: And you announce [China]? [laughs] Mr. President, no matter what we do—what they do, we are so, for once, we are ahead of the power curve with them.

“Things are going, going great.”
June 16, 1971, 10:39 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Ellsworth Bunker, and Henry Kissinger

In 1967, Lyndon Johnson appointed Ellsworth Bunker as the ambassador to South Vietnam, a position that was, effectively, the president’s personal ambassador to the war. As can be seen in the June 16 conversation in the Oval Office, Bunker saw the war in the same light as President Nixon; either that or he considered it part of his job to tell Nixon what he wanted to hear. Bunker’s rather sunny conclusions about the war were at odds with those of many others who had been in country.

NIXON: Our goal is clear: our goal, now, is that, as we come to the—near the end of this long road is to succeed. We can succeed. You agree?
NIXON: Well, now, we can.
NIXON: We can, but, on the other hand, we must not give our enemies—and I’m not referring to our enemies in North Vietnam, but our enemies in this country—we cannot give them the weapons to kill us with. Now— BUNKER: Yeah.
NIXON: —I think that, for example, any meeting with Thieu, by me, at this point—that’s why I was trying—
NIXON: —to get it June 8, that early—
NIXON: —though we’ve had that washed out. But, any meeting, at this point, will—it’d be inevitably hyped into a blatant attempt on our part to strengthen his political position— BUNKER: I agree. I agree.
NIXON: That will hurt him here.
NIXON: It also could hurt him there.
BUNKER: It could hurt him in there, too.
NIXON: Now, I think he must be really—he must be told that in substitution for that, he will have our—he’s had as much support as he has, and God knows, nobody’s given him support as we have.
BUNKER: Certainly not.
NIXON: Second, that Henry’s going to come out and look the thing over. Now—
NIXON: —can you sell that to him?
BUNKER: I think so. Yes, sir. I will. He—I think, yes. I think that he’ll—
NIXON: You can tell him that you’ve—
BUNKER: He said [unclear]—
NIXON: —looked over American public opinion—
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: —and you’ve looked over the Senate.
NIXON: And that, right now, the best thing is to let it ride through the Senate.
BUNKER: I think—
KISSINGER: Because it’s all over the front pages.
BUNKER: You know, I think in the interest of the elections there, if this took place, Minh, for example, might use this as an excuse just to pull out, you know? And, as I’ve said to Thieu, “You can’t run alone. [chuckles] You can’t run for office alone. You’ve got to have some other competitors, and Minh is just that sort of fellow.” I’m afraid he’ll pull out, anyway, at the end.
NIXON: Is Ky running with Minh now, or not?
BUNKER: No. Ky’s running separately, independently.
NIXON: Yeah.
BUNKER: And, I have—
NIXON: So, Ky definitely is? Ky will get enough of the deputies to be able to run?
BUNKER: Oh, I think he’ll get the provincial—I think he and Minh have got a deal that Minh will work the assembly, and Ky will work the counselors. And Minh will get— KISSINGER: Oh. Oh, so they don’t take away from each other—
BUNKER: They don’t take it away from each other. I have a—
NIXON: Well—
BUNKER: I have an interesting document I’d like to show you and Henry.

NIXON: Just keep it—
NIXON: —and we’ll have to hope for the best.
NIXON: Well, right now, he is ahead. He’s very well advised not to press it.
BUNKER: Exactly.
NIXON: By the same token, I don’t know what else could keep him ahead. Getting back to this problem that we had yesterday in the drug thing, as you can see, that is a—that is just an enormously potent issue [reference is to a congressional report on the growing heroin problem among U.S. servicemen in Vietnam].
BUNKER: Oh, precisely—
NIXON: It’s—Young—Milt Young has never voted against us on Vietnam, he’s gonna vote against us on McGovern-Hatfield, solely because of drugs. Solely because of drugs.
NIXON: He went back to Bismarck, South [North] Dakota, and found out that people could buy shots for two dollars at Bien Hoa airport or Tan Son Nhut or some damn thing, and so he’s gonna vote against [unclear]. And, of course, there’re these stories about, well, the brother of the prime minister is involved; they don’t know that the prime minister is not Thieu, it’s somebody else. They think, “Well this is Thieu,” and then—and so forth and everything. It has a—it smacks of everything that’s wrong. What the hell is it? We all know that. The Turks have the same problem: their relatives are all in the business—the, the rest. But—but, I just can’t emphasize too strongly that— BUNKER: Hmm?
NIXON: —that—I don’t know. Maybe our own people just go in and shoot up those drug places. I don’t know why, but we’ve got to get—and this hurts us. It has to be done, or we’ve got a massive investigation on our hands.
BUNKER: Yes. He knows that, and I’ll—
NIXON: Yeah. I know you talked to him. In your briefing, you put it into him. And I don’t want to belabor the subject. You’re keenly aware of it.
BUNKER: Oh, yes.
NIXON: Just put it at the top of the agenda—
NIXON: —and don’t, don’t—
BUNKER: And Thieu is aware of it. He’s [unclear].
NIXON: Don’t give the press a chance to [unclear]. [laughs]
BUNKER: Yeah, yeah. And, it’s a tremendous problem. You see, as I said on Monday, they were not users. I mean—
BUNKER: —we brought it there and, and provided the market. And now, they’re scared, worried it’s going to spread to their own troops [unclear] and concerned that when we’re out, if it has spread to their troops, when we pull out, that they’re going to be in a real mess. So, let’s see. This morning, this report came in that he’d put in this colonel. He told me he was going to put in a new director-general for customs for South Vietnam, a big shakeup. So, we’ll get at—keep at it, and keep the pressure on.
NIXON: Well, the—with regard to other problems, what do you see then at the present time? Is there anything that you want to—
NIXON: —emphasize to Thieu?
BUNKER: President Thieu asked me, of course, to give you his regards, and as he said, which I’ve already reported, there are three things only that he’s concerned about and had one to take up with me. One was immediate economic assistance, long-term economic assistance.
NIXON: Well, he has our assurance on that. And Kissinger, when he is there will reassure him.
BUNKER: Yes. Now, the second thing—
NIXON: Why don’t you put it on the basis that Kissinger—that’s one of the points: that Kissinger is prepared—
BUNKER: Yes. Fine—
NIXON: —to discuss substantively with him at that point.
KISSINGER: That’s right, and [unclear]—
NIXON: Speaking—and that he can speak with total authority.
BUNKER: Good. The second thing, Mr. President, was the acceleration of the ARVN improvement and modernization program. They’ve asked for some improved weapons. As a result, Thieu said what they learned in the Lam Son operation, what the enemy had: they had longer-range artillery, they had bigger tanks, and they—these are things they want. And I think they want some more helicopters, probably. The— NIXON: Hmm.
BUNKER: —the—Abrams and I talked to him a week ago and went over some of these things with him. Abrams told him, he said, “Well, it wouldn’t have made a difference if you had bigger tanks because of the command problem [more] than your armor. The result would have been the same.” Well that’s true. But, as I said— NIXON: Hmm.
BUNKER: —they’ve got to fix up the command problem, but then when—if they do, they’ve still got—
NIXON: What if they got tanks?
BUNKER: —smaller tanks. [laughs]
NIXON: Listen, there can be no excuse about that, and Henry will be very forthcoming on that. Incidentally, I don’t care what’s out there. Leave it there. This business of just picking up a lot of stuff and hauling it home, it doesn’t do anything except for bookkeeping. I didn’t know they take it out to Arizona and let it rot and rust in the fields. Leave it in Vietnam. Let ’em sell it, put it on the black market, anything they want. Leave it in Vietnam if it’ll help.
BUNKER: Then the third thing, Mr. President, is assurance of continued air support. You see, on this basis, the—Thieu feels, and I think, we think, he’s right, too—that Lam Son and our better air position has taken care of this year. When it comes to the dry season again in the fall, November, they’ll begin to try to build up supplies— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: —for a push in the March–May period—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: —and again in the August–September period.
NIXON: Yeah.
BUNKER: Around our elections. And we can’t let anything go wrong next year before our elections here.
NIXON: Yeah.
BUNKER: And, therefore, they’ll need air support, because they can’t. Their planes, what we’ve given them, are really not, not much good for interdiction. They’re small jets that don’t carry bombs. The one thing they complain about is that they can’t carry enough bomb load; they have to go back and rearm so, so often that they lose time. But our interdiction has been improved tremendously this year. Last year— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: —the throughput was about thirty-seven percent of the input. So far this year, because of Lam Son and the interdiction, it’s been about fifteen point seven percent. It’s been a vast improvement, and it’s made a tremendous difference. And this is going to be a factor next year. And this is why both Abrams and I think Thieu is right about this; that he does need air support. And when Secretary Laird [unclear] he told us about the reduction in the budget proposal for air, for two hundred million dollars this coming year, and five hundred million dollars the next. Well, how, how that’s going to affect us? I don’t know, but I do think it’s an important thing.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: I think those are the three. Those are—he says those are the only three points that he’s concerned about—
NIXON: Well, now, on the air support, there’s certainly no problem this year.
NIXON: I mean [unclear] in October—in November and December, and so forth and so on, I mean, just drop everything there is. The real problem we get driven down to, the budgetary problems, I suppose, is what we’re going to have left by August and September of next year. And also what the situation is.
BUNKER: Well, he said it seems to be a question, then, of priorities. I mean, where they’re shifting from something else to this.
NIXON: Hmm. What’s your view on this, Henry?
NIXON: Your—
KISSINGER: My view is, first of all, we should force Defense to program full air support through next year, because if we don’t, they’ll just yank it out of there.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: Even if we don’t use it.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And, secondly, as long as we can keep the interdiction bombing going, they are in bad shape for launching a big offensive. If we started—I think after September next year, or, in fact, even earlier, that their supply effort for the August–September period is during the spring.
KISSINGER: So, we’ve got to keep it going through the spring in Laos, in southern Laos—
KISSINGER: —the northern part is, is less—
NIXON: It [unclear].
KISSINGER: Because of weather.
BUNKER: Yeah. And I think [unclear]. I think we can’t let anything go wrong before our elections next year.
NIXON: Yeah. Henry is right. As far as the air support is concerned, what really counts, insofar as their offensive in September, or August and September, it’s got to be—you’ve got to knock ’em off in the spring [unclear].
BUNKER: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.
NIXON: Well, we’ll do that. We can commit to that.
BUNKER: And they—
NIXON: They just have to do it.
BUNKER: Yeah. The interdiction has been—it’s been a tricky job this year. They’ve got some improved equipment, these new C-130 gunships—
NIXON: Yeah.
BUNKER: —are doing a good job—
NIXON: You mean they are doing better?
BUNKER: Oh, yeah. That’s the main thing, Mr. President. The economic situation, I think, is, at present, it’s better than I thought it would be, you know, with these—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: —reforms we’ve put in. Now, prices have only increased since the end of December about two point eight percent.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: And in the last twelve months, only eight point two percent, which is a pretty good, a pretty good record considering we used to think thirty percent a year was good. So, it’s been done pretty well. Their minister of economy is here, now— NIXON: Yeah.
BUNKER: —who is first-rate, the best man they’ve got in the cabinet—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: —and Thieu has given extremely good backing. But, those are the main things. The—Thieu, as you know, has suggested—has said that observer groups would be welcome, and— NIXON: Hmm?
BUNKER: —I think—
NIXON: Then get [unclear]. Get on the offensive on that.
KISSINGER: But we have a group. We have a—
NIXON: [unclear] get on the offensive [unclear].
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah, we’re putting one together.
BUNKER: Are you?
NIXON: Both sides? Democrats and Republicans?
KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: We’ve got to do it in order to—because, you know, some of these people are asking that a special committee be set up. Well, let’s—well, put one together, but put one together that’s representative. Let them go out and look.
BUNKER: As a matter of fact, Adlai Stevenson is coming to see me this afternoon.
NIXON: Well, he’s wanted to put in a resolution—
NIXON: —in that respect.
KISSINGER: Of course, what he really wants is something that means he really—
BUNKER: He wants to—he wants to monitor me.
NIXON: Yeah.
NIXON: Exactly.
BUNKER: [unclear]
NIXON: Well, to see that the Americans do not play a role in it. Well, you just say we’re not going to play any role.
BUNKER: That’s what I’ll give him the—that’s just something to put out to the Mission.
NIXON: Why, of course. We’ve got to keep it out of the Mission, and it’s sensible [unclear]. He, then, will look at the past history and that he’s on a bad wicket here.
NIXON: Say, “You—you’re welcome to come; we have nothing to hide.”
NIXON: But, let them—invite him as an individual to come. But put him on that committee, Henry. [unclear] Put him right on. In other words—what—who is on it, now? Who are they trying to—got any names?
KISSINGER: I have, but I don’t have the list here.
NIXON: But MacGregor is getting together a list, is he?
NIXON: Understand: this should not be an in-house deal. It should be a—
KISSINGER: No, no. It’s bipartisan.
NIXON: A bipartisan group. Go out and look at the elections. Let’s get it out. I’d like to have an announcement on that soon.
BUNKER: And we had two very—three good experts on it last time. We had Dick Scammon [political scientist and election analyst, who was an official U.S. observer of South Vietnam’s 1967 presidential election].
KISSINGER: Excellent.
BUNKER: And we had Professor [Donald G.] Herzberg from Rutgers, and [Howard R.] Penniman from Georgetown. They were both—they were very good [U.S. observers of South Vietnam’s 1967 presidential election].
NIXON: Well, fine. Put them on—
BUNKER: Scammon helped me out on the briefing questions.
NIXON: Scammon?
NIXON: Put him on.
BUNKER: Right.
NIXON: But Scammon, of course, is a top Democrat, which helps, too—
NIXON: —if Henry puts him on the thing. Look, those elections are more fair than most elections in most American cities. Now, let’s face it.
[unclear exchange]
KISSINGER: Than any of the elections in Southeast Asia.
NIXON: Well, there are no—there are no fair elections in Southeast Asia, and there are no fair elections in Latin America. You know that.
NIXON: Maybe Mexico.
BUNKER: Well, Scammon—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Well, they can’t—our Democratic critics can’t question Scammon because he’s their bible on politics.
NIXON: Well, let’s take the offensive on that. Let’s get that out right away. That it’s—it’s to knock off the Stevenson thing. We should see Stevenson, and—but point out that we welcome him. And I’d just disarm him. Say, “There’s nothing to hide.”
BUNKER: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Right.
NIXON: The interesting thing is that the, that the—apparently, from what I hear, most everybody who goes to Vietnam comes back [unclear]. Dick Watson is a case in point. He says, “You know, I went there with great skepticism,” and he says to me, he says, “I’ve—anyways, I came back a convert.”
BUNKER: Oh, yes. He had a breakdown there. He was—
NIXON: Yeah. But the point is that he’d been exposed to the French.
NIXON: He came out there and saw what was going on. He says, “I came back, said they were all wrong.” Our real accomplishment is that, at this time, is that nobody, really, would have predicted that things would be going as well as they are now. Put it—yeah, you can talk all you want about Lam Son, but, how in the world, how in the world would casualties have been averaging twenty, unless we’d done Lam Son, right?
NIXON: Nineteen last week, twenty-three this week, right?
KISSINGER: Twenty-five this week.
NIXON: They’d have been seventy-five, I mean—
BUNKER: Oh, absolutely. I—Lam Son, you know, in spite of the press, was a good operation, and some of the Vietnamese units did superb jobs: the First Division; the Marines; the Airborne. They did a tremendous job.
KISSINGER: Well, actually, the Vietnamese units that bothered me are not the ones in Lam Son. I think they fought well. It’s the ones that have, that fought in Cambodia.
BUNKER: Well, one division—
NIXON: I think that’s Tri’s.
KISSINGER: Yeah. The one that fought in Snuol.
BUNKER: Well, that’s the Fifth Division. Now—and this—Abrams and I have been a year trying to get that commander changed. And Thieu has agreed and agreed and agreed. Finally, six weeks before Snuol, Abe was off—was away a week in Thailand on a holiday, and Mike Davison sent in a memorandum [unclear] and said they had to really get this fellow out. I went to Thieu, and I said, “This is it. We’ve been talking about this for nine, ten months. You’ve got to do it.” He said, “Yes, a top priority to finally get the right man.” Well, it took Snuol, finally, to get the job done. Now, he’s put in a—what Abrams said was the best regimental commander from the Twenty-first Division, in the Delta, which was Minh’s old division, before he became [unclear]. But Minh is a good man. He’s—he’s all right.
NIXON: What is your—of course, when you come back to this country—it must depress you when you see—
BUNKER: Well, it sure does.
NIXON: But, out there, how do you feel?
BUNKER: Oh, out there, I feel fine. Out there, I mean, I think things are going well, except for this damn drug business. But, I think that as far as the Vietnamization goes, I think things are going, going great. And now, the situation is stable, and I think things are moving. The campaign, I think, is going to be rough— NIXON: Sure.
BUNKER: —and—but, I think it’s good. I think [unclear] if Ky and Minh do run, because I think Thieu will win, and I think that they have a chance to play for a big, open competition.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Hmm.
BUNKER: There’s criticism, of course, of this endorsement provision, but the reason for it is entirely fair, in that we had eleven candidates last time.

“Reassure people that those who do come back, like Kerry and the rest, don’t speak for all.”
June 16, 1971, 4:30 p.m.
Richard Nixon, John O’Neill, Melville Stephens, Charles Colson, and Henry Kissinger

It is no surprise that Richard Nixon eventually thanked John O’Neill for his work with Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. Later that month, on June 30, O’Neill and John Kerry debated on ABC’s Dick Cavett Show. Nixon wanted to personally encourage O’Neill to keep up the fight, even when the media coverage of his efforts was not favorable.

NIXON: It’s refreshing to have some guys who are willing to stand up and speak out as you have, particularly in light of the fact that you read polls, and they say, if you ask the individual, “Do you favor getting all Americans out of Vietnam in 1971?” and I’m surprised it isn’t a hundred percent! I know that.

NIXON: So all this adds up to this, it adds up to the fact that a majority of the American people are sick of the war, a majority now think it was a mistake to go in, a majority of the American people want to get out as quick as they can, and many want to get out regardless of the consequences. So that’s the public opinion that you run into. Also, other attitudes that have been created by the media are ideological. Most American servicemen serving abroad are brutes, savages. Second, that many others who have served abroad are dope addicts. Third, in any event, the morality is such that Johnson lied, Kennedy before him lied, and naturally you assume that because we were lied into war, that now as we are getting out probably we’re lying as we get out.

NIXON: Having said all that, I know that what really happens is, like when you fellas go on before some audiences, if you go on and debate or, for example, before a live audience, you go on some of these like the Cavett show, and so forth. Inevitably, first the producer will stack it against you. Second, you get the impression the country’s all against you and the rest. And it must be terribly discouraging, frustrating. So why do you do it? Well, the answer I have to give you is this. The answer is that, it’s not terribly reassuring, unless you can take a very long view. The answer is that you’re on the right side.
O’NEILL: Yes, sir.
NIXON: It’s hard to say that to people, to say, “Do you believe that we’ve done the right thing? Do you believe that we’d get out in a respectable manner?” Otherwise that would be disastrous to not only seventeen million South Vietnamese, but to American policy in the Pacific and the world. The answer is that the United States’ record in Vietnam is full of heroism and self-sacrifice, and so forth. And that under all these circumstances, it’s time for, when Americans look back on this difficult time in their history, that they’re going to look back with some pride. It’s going to take some time, take some time. It’ll take some luck. The South Vietnamese have to survive for a while after we leave, et cetera.
But you know, I just presented a Congressional Medal of Honor yesterday to a few people. [unclear] Most of them, you know, [unclear] military officers, [unclear] enlisted men, they come from middle-class, working families for the most part, from all over America. Not particularly well educated, and the rest. But they’re great people.
O’NEILL: Yes, sir.
NIXON: And this is the kind of thing, I really feel, in other words, what you’re doing, you’ll take [unclear]. When you go on some of these TV shows like the Cavett thing you’re going to get banged, and you’ll feel terribly discouraged and say that the whole country’s against you, and so forth. But I think you’ve got to remember, we have to remember that, now I would serve your same [fellow servicemen still] in Vietnam, once you get out, that now would you have the added burden of having to get back and reassure people that those who do come back, like Kerry and the rest, don’t speak for all.

“July 15, Mr. President. It’s the big play.”
June 29, 1971, 4:21 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

The clock was ticking until Kissinger departed on his secret trip to China, and the Soviets had not yet responded. Whether the Soviets realized it at the time or not, had they responded before Kissinger’s departure they likely would have had a summit with the United States first, before China. But, absent a response from the Soviets before Kissinger’s departure, Nixon and Kissinger had to move forward with the Chinese.

NIXON: The play—I mean the play that we’re making—I’m not a damn bit concerned if we—if you were just taking a trip normally, I wouldn’t be concerned. But, boy, on this one, I just want to make that big play.
KISSINGER: July 15, Mr. President. It’s the big play.
NIXON: Yeah. If we can make the new China on something.
NIXON: My current thinking is still, if we don’t get the answer from Dobrynin—you’re going to tell him we’ve got to have an answer by when?
KISSINGER: Well, my thinking is we should be done by July 4.
NIXON: And he’s got to inform Haig of that.
KISSINGER: Yeah. You’re leaving here for the West Coast when?
NIXON: On the sixth. I’ll be here.
KISSINGER: I’ll give him till the evening of July 5.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: So that Haig can get it to me.
NIXON: That’s why [I] have him here. Well, can I just say we got to know by, you know, around the evening of July 5? Good. Fair enough.
NIXON: Then, in the meantime, if he doesn’t make a move, then we go.
KISSINGER: Then we go this year. On the whole, Mr. President, I have to—my candid judgment is that the impact on Asia of immediately announcing this, announcing a summit, would really be a price we shouldn’t pay lightly, in terms of impression. I think it would help, if we can afford it, it would help your posture best, through ’72, if we—you can be seen to have moved deliberately but decisively. We’ve been talking about a summit so long that we forget how it, big it will [be] even if we had to send a special emissary to Beijing. But if we don’t get a Russian summit, we may be— NIXON: We may have to, Henry.
KISSINGER: If you feel you need it, nothing is more important—
NIXON: I understand. The impact on Asia, I know, is bad—I don’t want to complicate it—but we’re going to have to make some play [showing] that Nixon’s still in the arena.
KISSINGER: I agree, Mr. President.
NIXON: That’s it.
KISSINGER: And I’m just putting—
NIXON: I know the impact is going to be enormous.
KISSINGER: The ideal: if we could get the Russian summit and if we could string the Chinese one into April—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —with a Bruce visit before—and Bruce will play it so low-key that he won’t skim the cream off.
NIXON: In the meantime, though, you realize that others will go skim the cream off. They won’t wait that long.
KISSINGER: But they—
NIXON: I mean, I’m just thinking of what we got to think about, what is possible.
KISSINGER: Yeah. But, you see, I think if we announce that we’ve had high-level conversations with—
NIXON: I should be the first; I should be the first to go after you do it this time. Other case—unless it’s Bruce. Right?
KISSINGER: Well, you’ll have been the one that opened it.
NIXON: Yeah, I know—
KISSINGER: You’ll have been the first one—
NIXON: —but that’s not the same thing. It isn’t the same thing. The first time an American politician goes there, that’s going to be it. Everything else will be encores.

“You just don’t treat the president of the United States this way.”
June 29, 1971, 6:30 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Alexander Haig

Two hours later, at the end of the workday, Nixon was even more tired of what he saw as Soviet dithering. He consoled himself with imagining the response in Moscow when news of the U.S.-China summit was announced.

NIXON: We ought to—you think we ought to, we really ought to go for the summit?
KISSINGER: I think, Mr. President, in their brutal, cheap, third-rate way, they’re a miserable bunch of bastards. I mean, if you look at—
NIXON: It’s terrible.
KISSINGER: —the way the Chinese have done business with us, and the way they do business. You just don’t treat the president of the United States this way. Here is Gromyko sitting in here, inviting you to Moscow, and now they’ve been stringing it along, maneuvering, dancing around. And basically they’ve always been forthcoming when we scared them most.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. That’s true. [unclear] the truth.
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: Boy, if they only knew what the hell was coming up, they’d be in here panting for that summit, wouldn’t they? Huh?
KISSINGER: I’m sure.

“Fourteen million against 750 million.”
June 30, 1971, 12:18 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Walter McConaughy

By late June, Nixon was ready to discuss his decision to pursue a two-China policy, at least with select people within the administration. One was Walter McConaughy, the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of China (Taiwan). He and the president discussed the response to the support of the United States for mainland China’s entry into the UN.

MCCONAUGHY: Am I authorized, Mr. President, to continue telling them that we do not intend our efforts to lower tensions with the Chinese Communists—?
NIXON: Our intentions—
MCCONAUGHY: And to get some context. I mean, we do not intend for those efforts to prejudice the vital interests of the Republic of China. You authorized me to say that about twelve months ago.
NIXON: I think that’s fair enough. Just say that we, that our—as far as the Republic of China is concerned that we have—we know who our friends are. And we are continuing to continue our close, friendly relations with them. As for their vital interests, what you really mean by vital interests, what you mean is, are we going to turn them over to the ChiComs, is that it?
NIXON: Is that what they’re afraid of?
MCCONAUGHY: I think they, they’d find—of course they know we wouldn’t do that. I believe they think of that as just general support for their membership in the UN—general international backing of them.
NIXON: We will—we will certainly in the UN. We’re not going to support any proposition that would throw them out.
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah. Exactly.
NIXON: Now, whether or not we can do what they want to do, which is of course to support the proposition that they stay in the Security Council, that’s really—I think we can support them, but it isn’t really going to work.
NIXON: I mean, if they get in—if they should—and when they—that’s why the whole two-China thing is so really rather ridiculous, even if we eventually have to come to that. But our position will basically be that we support the Republic of China and especially in the UN. We will continue to. We will not support any resolution—our China position will not support any propositions that have the Republic of China put out of the UN.
NIXON: We will be strong, steadfast on that point, so that’s one. Now when you get into the other areas, we, after all, have a treaty commitment. We won’t manage to break our treaties. We are working with them economically, too.
MCCONAUGHY: And they’re—
NIXON: But we must have in mind, and they must be prepared for the fact, that there will continue to be a step-by-step, a more normal relationship with the other—the Chinese mainland. Because our interests require it. Not because we love them, but because they’re there.
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah. Precisely.
NIXON: And because the world situation has so drastically changed. This has not been a derogation of Taiwan.
NIXON: And it’s done because, as I say, because of very great considerations in other areas.
NIXON: It’s a hard thing to sell.
MCCONAUGHY: Yes it’s a—
NIXON: I know it’s terribly difficult.
MCCONAUGHY: Yes. It’s tough.
NIXON: They’re going to see it in black and white. And they—my personal friendship goes back many years.
MCCONAUGHY: It does indeed.
NIXON: They sent the most beautiful gifts to our daughter’s [unclear] wedding and so forth. We just—that’s the way we’re gonna deal with it. The personal considerations here are—we’ll put it this way, we’re not about to engage in what the Kennedy administration did with Diem. Because they might think that way. Either physically or philosophically, we don’t do that to our friends.
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah, exactly.
NIXON: You remember that?
MCCONAUGHY: Yes. Of course they—
NIXON: The Kennedy administration has Diem’s blood upon its hands, unfortunately. That was a bad deal.
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah. The president [Chiang Kai-shek] says repeatedly that you are the president, and your administration is the administration that understands the China issue and really sympathizes with his government, understands its ideals and its aspirations and its role in the world better than any other American president, any preceding administration, and he’s unshaken in that view.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. That’s why, of course, it causes me great concern that we have to move in this other direction. When I say we have to move, we have to because our failure to move would be—would prejudice our interests in other areas that are overwhelming.
MCCONAUGHY: Yes. Exactly.
NIXON: Let us suppose, for example, we require some cooperation in Vietnam. Let’s suppose that we could affect other relations—see many, there are different guesses on that—all these things are there.
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah. The real crunch on the UN issue is the Security Council seat.
NIXON: Of course it is.
MCCONAUGHY: I’m convinced we can keep them in if there’s no tender of the Security Council seat to the Chinese Communists. If there is—as of now it looks like they would withdraw.
NIXON: Yeah.
MCCONAUGHY: That would mean they’re giving up on the thing. They’ve pretty well convinced themselves they could make a go of it without UN membership.
NIXON: Oh, hell yes. To be perfectly frank with you—
MCCONAUGHY: And that would be—
NIXON: To be perfectly frank with you, if I were to be, if I were in their position, and the UN, as I say, the UN moves in that direction, I would just say the hell with the UN. What is it anyway? It’s a damn debating society. What good does it do?
NIXON: Very little. [unclear] They talk about hijacking, drugs, the challenges of modern society, and the rest just give hell to the United States. That’s all they do.
NIXON: No, my views about the UN, I must say, despite publicly I have to go through the usual façade, the act of praising the UN, but it’s had it.
NIXON: Every sophisticate knows it.
NIXON: I mean, it does not serve our interests to put anything up to the UN. As you know, none of our vital interests have ever been submitted to the UN and will never be while I’m here.
NIXON: So as far as they’re concerned, I think they ought to not give much of a damn what happens in the UN. I don’t think it hurts them one bit, but that’s for them to decide.
MCCONAUGHY: They recognize that it’s got a certain psychological importance, I think. They don’t want to be isolated—
NIXON: They don’t want to be isolated. They don’t want to be outside the community of nations.
MCCONAUGHY: A sort of a pariah. And they—they’re afraid that other countries might use their absence from the UN as sort of a pretext for discriminatory actions against them, even in the trade sector. And there might be some danger of this. For instance, the European Economic Community is rather inclined to exclude Taiwan from the list of preferential countries, the less developed countries that get preferential treatment on import duties. And they’re afraid that there’d be an extra argument for the EEC to cut them out if they’re not members of the UN. They might say, “Well then, who are they? They don’t even have UN status. Why should they go on any sort of a preferential list for concessions?”
NIXON: Uh-huh. Oh, I see.
MCCONAUGHY: That sort of thing. They’re just afraid that their efforts to keep up their exports might suffer.
MCCONAUGHY: And they’ve got to export to live, of course.
NIXON: Oh, yes.
MCCONAUGHY: And they’ve been phenomenally successful, as you well know. And that remarkable rate of growth is continuing. Their foreign—total foreign trade last year was greater than that of entire England and China.
NIXON: Yeah. Sure.
MCCONAUGHY: Just over three billion dollars, which slightly exceeded the total import and export trade of the Chinese Communists.
NIXON: Just think of that.
MCCONAUGHY: Fourteen million [people on Taiwan] against seven hundred fifty million [people on the mainland]—they had a little larger foreign trade.
NIXON: Well, you can just stop and think of what could happen if anybody with a decent system of government got control of that mainland. Good God.
NIXON: There’d be no power in the world that could even—I mean, you put eight hundred million Chinese to work under a decent system—
NIXON: —and they will be the leaders of the world. The Indians—you could put two hundred billion Indians to work, and they wouldn’t amount to a goddamn.
NIXON: You know, basically they’re different kinds of people.
MCCONAUGHY: That’s right. Yeah.
NIXON: But the Chinese, they’re all over Asia. I know. They’ve got what it takes.
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah, with an elected system of government. The one thing that—
NIXON: [unclear]
MCCONAUGHY: I’m just back from New York on some trade conference work for the Businessmen’s Council for International Understanding, Mr. President. I’ve assured them that we are well disposed toward continued American investment there. You know— NIXON: Absolutely.
MCCONAUGHY: —this very loyal American investment. I’ve encouraged them to continue. I’ve told them so far as I know the political climate is going to remain favorable if they can make an independent business judgment, which they must make for themselves. It’s good business risk. Then as far as we know, the political climate certainly would argue for their going in. We don’t foresee any change there. We anticipate it will be, continue to be a good climate. We’re continuing to give our export guarantees there, in concurrence the Ex-Im Bank program has done an awful lot there—wonderful job. Also, the AID guarantees on investments apply—the same as in other countries. So I encouraged them to continue their interest in investment.
NIXON: They should.
MCCONAUGHY: I got a very good response.
NIXON: I consider [unclear] a stable country and I certainly would not fault any course but that.
NIXON: But it’s a delicate line.
NIXON: And you’re going to have to—we’re going to depend on you to be as, you know, as effective as you can be under difficult circumstances to keep them from, well, just throwing up their hands. There isn’t anything they can do to us, of course. It isn’t that so much. But the point is we take no comfort in seeming to hurt our friends.
NIXON: No comfort at all.
NIXON: But the world is—theirs is a very delicate problem.
MCCONAUGHY: It’s something not to be talked about now, of course, Mr. President, but I conceive of Taiwan as gradually developing its own orbit, separate from that of the mainland.
NIXON: That’s what—
MCCONAUGHY: And I think this is going to be in our national interest too. We don’t need to talk about formal independence now or sovereignty questions. I think we’re wise to leave this open.
NIXON: That’s right.
MCCONAUGHY: In public.
NIXON: That’s right. They should go on. I think that’s their whole—their whole line of their thinking should be along that line.
MCCONAUGHY: Of course, the Generalissimo couldn’t come to that now. But someday I think they are going to accept a separate status, independent of the mainland, in a different orbit and a separate status. But Taiwan is a part of the general equilibrium in the Far East, and I think that’d be seriously disturbed, apart from every humanitarian consideration, if the Chinese Communists took it over. It’d be a disaster.
NIXON: If Chinese Communists took it over [unclear].
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah. Of course, it’d be a bloodbath, the same as Tibet. But from the geopolitical standpoint it would just change the sensitive equipoise in the area, I think. And I know the Japanese would be greatly disturbed, too.
MCCONAUGHY: The Filipinos would be. And of course with the reversion of Okinawa, the Japanese are all the more sensitive to any change there. I think we’ve got a real ally in the Japanese. [unclear], they’re basically with us.
NIXON: They sign on?
MCCONAUGHY: The LDP [Liberal Democratic Party] is. I don’t know how the Japanese Socialists would be, if they came into power. They never do. But the LDP is with us.
NIXON: Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. The Socialists [unclear]. Well, you don’t have—there isn’t any more delicate assignment, or I must say, as events unfold here, any one that will be more difficult than yours. And I just wish you the best. It’s just one of those things, as I say. I look around the world, and you have to deal sometimes with a bunch of damn bandits. We do. And we’re dealing with bandits, thugs, international outlaws, and so forth. But sometimes you have to because our interests are so deeply involved. With the Soviet—they’re really a despicable [unclear], but you’ve got to deal with them.
MCCONAUGHY: That’s right.
NIXON: You’ve got to talk with them.
MCCONAUGHY: Yeah. And we’ve got a complex interplay here—the Soviets and the Chinese Communists. They’ve obviously got very mixed feelings about the prospective entry of ChiComs into the UN. They don’t really want it, but they think they’ve got to give lip service.
NIXON: Sure.
MCCONAUGHY: I guess they’ll vote for the—
NIXON: Oh, sure.
MCCONAUGHY: —resolution, they don’t really want it.
NIXON: Boy, they just love sitting there with them. That’d be the worst thing that [unclear].
MCCONAUGHY: Well, you know that I will use every resource in my power, Mr. President, to keep them confident and reassured.
[unclear exchange]
MCCONAUGHY: You’ve given me a lot to work with.
NIXON: Well, I can’t say much more to be quite—just say as little as you can. Reassure them. But on the other hand, they have a friend, but we have to continue our other thing for other reasons that have nothing to do with our friendship with Taiwan.

“You set it up now that we could go visit China.”
July 1, 1971, 9:54 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Alexander Haig

Still with no response from the Soviets on their intentions vis-à-vis a summit, Nixon and Kissinger had a final huddle before the latter’s departure for China. Unless a Soviet response arrived in time, Kissinger’s marching orders were to flip priorities and schedule a Chinese summit first.

KISSINGER: This was Rogers, who just wanted to talk about it. He’s going up to testify—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —and he just wanted to know how to—what the [unclear]—
NIXON: Is this about the Papers? Do you think he’s gonna have to testify on the Papers? Is that what he—the Pentagon Papers?
KISSINGER: No, on the—
NIXON: This thing?
KISSINGER: —on the Vietnam proposal. But Sullivan is also thinking that he’ll—as long as they’ve added his political conditions, we’re in good shape.
NIXON: Sure, but it’s the same offer. I mean, we’re not going to overthrow—
NIXON: —throw our—and the thing is to not to use the word “overthrow” with “Thieu-Ky government.” You understand, Al?
HAIG: Yes, sir.
NIXON: We’re not going to turn the country over—seventeen million people—over to the Communists against their will. Put that down and get those sons of bitches to say it that way. Do I come through?
HAIG: Yes, sir.
NIXON: We are not going to—what they are saying is to turn seventeen million South Vietnamese over to the Communists against their will.
NIXON: That’s right. With the—and, and to—against their will with the, with the bloodbath that would be sure to follow. Put those words in! Now, I want them to go out and say it. Get out there and tell them to say it right now!

NIXON: Now, let me say, just a few other odds and ends as I read this thing [Kissinger’s briefing book for his secret trip to Beijing]. As I say, it is a brilliant job. You just tell your staff, get them together and tell them that I was enormously impressed; I’ve been reading the damn thing. Now, you’ve got to put in, more than you have here, a very real fear. Now, I want to say, “The president has been generous.” This general thing comes through as me being too soft and puts—it talks about [how] I’m a very reasonable man; I am not trying to do this; I am trying to have a position where we can have— KISSINGER: Yeah.
NIXON: —less presence and more permanence, and so forth. That’s all nice and so forth and so on. But I want you to put in that this is the man who did Cambodia. This is the man who did Laos. This is the man who will be, who will look to our interests, and who will protect our interests without regard to political considerations.

NIXON: Now, I think without being obvious about it—I mean, without being, without saying in so many words, but you should put in a little more about the necessity for our moving toward the Soviet. In other words, “With regard to the Soviet, we have to realize”—I mean, “They [the Chinese, have to realize]—we are seeking détente with the Soviets. It is not directed against you. But we have—our interests clash in Europe. Our interests clash in the Mideast. Our interests clash in the Caribbean. We intend to protect our interests. But we are going to seek it. And our interests clash, of course, as we have competition on arms.”

NIXON: And, in the same vein, we got to make it—put in fear with regard to the Soviet. [In his handwritten notation in the briefing book, Nixon expressed this point as follows: “Put in fear R.N. would turn hard on V. Nam. Play up our possible move toward Soviet.” “Put in more fears re Japan.”]
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: We fear—we don’t know what they’ll do. We know, for example, that—one thing you didn’t have in there: we have noted that our intelligence shows that the Soviet has more divisions lined up against China than they have against Europe.
KISSINGER: The one reason, Mr. President, I—
NIXON: You can’t put that in? [unclear], but why?
KISSINGER: Well, they’re undoubtedly going to tape what I say, and I didn’t want them to play that to the Soviet ambassador.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: But I’ve got some stuff in there—
NIXON: Well—
KISSINGER: —about exchanging military information.
NIXON: Well, I’d just put it in, that there are reports in the press then. Put it that way. Not that we show what you want. Reports in the press indicate that the Soviet has— that it has this. We were aware of that. Just sort of a low-key way. And we are also aware of the fact that in the SALT negotiations the Soviet are against zero ABM because they are concerned about China. Put it in. I want to build up their fears against Chiang. I want to build up their fears against Japan. And I want to build up their fears of what will happen on Vietnam. Those things are going to move them a hell of a lot more than all of the gobbledygook about all— KISSINGER: Oh, no question.
NIXON: —about, you know, our being civilized—which, also, is important.
KISSINGER: Well, that’s just—
NIXON: But, Henry, it’s excellent.
NIXON: And it’s excellent for the historical record. And it might have some effect. I don’t know. But I’m just telling you that I—my own inclination is to feel that you got to get down pretty crisply to the nut cutting. And, but—in other words, I like all that, but I would thin it down a bit so that you can get to the stuff that really counts very soon.

KISSINGER: Well, I think, Mr. President, we have now positioned the Russians. I haven’t—didn’t have a chance to tell you.
NIXON: You had Dobrynin in. Did you tell him?
KISSINGER: Yeah. From Dobrynin. I told him. He said—he said this: he thinks, his own guess is that the answer is yes. But, he says, Brezhnev was in Berlin until the twentieth, and now he is afraid that the session they had scheduled today of the Politburo is going to be canceled because of the cosmonauts. [After twenty-four days in the Salyut 1 space station, the Soyuz 11 spacecraft was destroyed on June 29 upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing its crew of three cosmonauts.] So he— NIXON: Well, you should tell him, “Look, we’ve got to have an answer—”
KISSINGER: I said, “I’ve got to have an answer.”
NIXON: Or if he doesn’t have it, they’ll be embarrassed [by] what we do.
KISSINGER: I said, “We’ve got to have an answer by the close of business on the sixth. And, if it comes in any later than that, I just want you to know, the president has already extended it. He may—he’s got to make other plans.” And so in a way now— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —if they can’t—if they—the best way for us to get off the hook with them is to say, “Anatol, I’ve told you and told you. I told you June 10 we had to know it on June 30—”
NIXON: Right. Right. Right. I know, you said that. You set it up now that we could go visit China, well, as far as the Russians are concerned.
KISSINGER: If the Russians do not give us a summit, we could go in December or—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —late November, a summit to China—
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
KISSINGER: Don’t you think, Al?
HAIG: Yes, sir, I do.
KISSINGER: And we can tell the Russians, and Anatol can go home and say, “You crazy sons of bitches, you screwed it up.”
NIXON: Yeah. That’s right.
KISSINGER: And—actually, technically, if we don’t get it by the seventh, it doesn’t make any difference what they decide.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Al can’t get it to me fast enough.
NIXON: Yeah. The other point, of course, is this: if we don’t get it there [by] the seventh of—
KISSINGER: On the other hand—
NIXON: —you have to fear—you’ve got to figure that the Russians then, if we go to China, there is a chance that they’ll blow Berlin—no, they won’t blow Berlin—
KISSINGER: Berlin they won’t blow, but—
NIXON: —we’ll blow that—but that they’ll blow SALT. And they’ll risk the summit.
KISSINGER: The Russians—the risk we run with the Russians—
NIXON: On the other hand—on the other hand, this or this presents hellish problems for them.
KISSINGER: Well, if they blow SALT—they could blow SALT. They could—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: They could jack up the Middle East. And they could start—
NIXON: Definitely.
KISSINGER: —raising hell in the Caribbean.
NIXON: That’s correct.
KISSINGER: Now, of course, we can go hard right.
NIXON: They won’t do Berlin, because they want to get along with the Germans.
KISSINGER: Yeah. That’s right. And, in fact, our major problem in Berlin now is we are coming up with—I know we’ll never get credit for it—but we are coming up with a really superb agreement on that— NIXON: Yeah. I want to—
KISSINGER: —which is actually an improvement—
NIXON: Can we still sink it?
KISSINGER: Yeah, but, you know, they are, the Russians are making so many concessions now that it’s getting tough to—
NIXON: Yeah. Fine.
KISSINGER: I’ve got Rush held until July 20.
NIXON: Yeah.

“Who, but America?”
July 3, 1971, 10:01 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Alexander Haig

Nixon was meeting with Haig about foreign affairs because Kissinger was on his long-planned trip to North Vietnam. After that, he was to fly to Pakistan, where, as Nixon wrote in his Memoirs, a “stomachache was scheduled for July 9–11.” While Kissinger was supposed to be sick in bed, he would actually be in Beijing, meeting with Chinese officials including Zhou Enlai. The two men discussed the reasons that mainland China needed America, if it wanted to find its way back into the world community.

HAIG: Henry came back. He said that—he asked me to get your guidance. If we get an affirmative Soviet response on the summit, and if the Chinese insist on an early summit in December, we’ll have these two, and he wanted to know if you would authorize him to— NIXON: Oh, sure. Oh, absolutely.
HAIG: All right.
NIXON: Don’t hold it. I’ll see the Soviet then have a return Soviet visit next year. We got to get everything out of the way before July. Nothing can be done after that for this summit, see? You see, anything to do [with] foreign policy, because after the damn guy— HAIG: Exactly.
NIXON: —the other guy is nominated, the left wing around here will try to say they got to go along. They never said that when I was nominated, I must say. They didn’t say the president ought to participate, et cetera.

NIXON: I was thinking a little about this whole business of Henry will clear it up, whether he really oughtn’t to say to them—I just don’t know what the hell the Chinese are going to say about what they want to do. I think he’s got to tell them, of course, that we’re—he’s got to be very forthcoming with regard to the fact that we’re meeting the Soviet.
HAIG: That’s correct.
NIXON: I mean, you can’t just slap them, or they’ll say, “To hell with you,” and they’ll get tough.
HAIG: Right.
NIXON: You got to be—but this thing with the Soviet, that son of a bitch Dobrynin comes in, which I won’t—Henry thinks he will. I don’t. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I won’t guess on that.
HAIG: I rather think he will. Your—
NIXON: Do you really think he’s going to come around? I want to know.
HAIG: Yes, sir. Everything they’ve done the last six months has been very much in the direction of—
NIXON: Yeah, I know. But whether they want to have a summit, they may be thinking that they can knock me over. I think they’re petrified of the thought of my sitting in this place for another four years.
HAIG: Oh, ho! No question about it.
NIXON: Yet, on the other hand, if they don’t get along with me now, they figure it’ll be worse.
HAIG: Could be. The one thing is that we’ve got two alternatives, and maybe we can get both of them, which would be the ideal. But either one of them is a very significant achievement. Very significant.
NIXON: Isn’t the Chinese—? Now, in terms of what we’d accomplish, in the short term, the Soviet thing is infinitely more important. In other words, we got SALT, we got Berlin, and we got the Mideast that we can talk about.
HAIG: Yeah.
NIXON: In terms of, on the other hand, what we can bring back from the Chinese thing is the biggest—
HAIG: Much, much more imaginative, and much more than that.
NIXON: Well, [unclear] people will be incredulous and that indicates—
HAIG: That’s right, sir.
NIXON: —that anything is possible.
HAIG: That’s right. But in the realities of the dangers of our position, the Soviet is—
NIXON: The Chinese is a long way off.
HAIG: Long way.
NIXON: Although they should be our natural allies, interestingly enough, shouldn’t they?
HAIG: They should.
NIXON: Against the Soviets, they need us. And also they need us against the Japanese.
HAIG: Exactly.
NIXON: You know, we aren’t [but] they must be petrified of the Japanese, because the Japanese did it to them once before. And here sit the Japanese over there, needing breathing space. Who’s going to keep the Japanese restrained? Who, but America?
HAIG: Who has all the economic power—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: This is very bad.
NIXON: God, they need us. If you really think straight, they need us desperately.
HAIG: Yes, and very much back in the traditional power configuration there, where the United States has got to give them some hope, some kind of threat on Japan’s flank, and some kind of a threat on Russia’s. Well, I think it’s a natural alignment, but [there’s] no sense kidding ourselves about the ideological problem. Those bastards are tough.
NIXON: Oh, yeah.

“‘What’s done, Henry.’”
July 6, 1971, 11:26 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Alexander Haig

Still with Haig, Nixon began to fear that Kissinger might become part of the problem in the aftermath of the China announcement. It was a dramatic betrayal of Kissinger to his underling. One of the characteristics that made Nixon appear strong in foreign relations was the fact that he really didn’t trust anyone. Ultimately, that included his partner, every step of the way, in formulating foreign policy.

NIXON: I think that the whole business here with regard to the Soviet, on reflection, is the more that he—I’ve come closer to your view of it. First, it’s what I expected, because I just was, as I told Henry, I said, “Henry, what the hell do you think? What’s in it for them?” He says, “Well, we got Berlin.” He says, “I’ll tell them I’ll cut off this channel” and all that. But, anyway, he could get it.
HAIG: Yeah.
NIXON: There isn’t a Soviet [unclear]—you know what it’s like. Well, that’s why I’m for getting out of this Paris meeting.
HAIG: Exactly.
NIXON: What’s in it for them, they get out anyway.
HAIG: That’s exactly right.
NIXON: Do you feel he’s going to get out of this Paris meeting?
HAIG: No, sir. I never have.
NIXON: Really?
HAIG: I had not. And I do not.
NIXON: No. I think he’s going to get a straight opinion. But the thing we’ve got to do with Henry on this is be very tough on him.
HAIG: Exactly.
NIXON: “What’s done, Henry”—you know what I mean? He just can’t keep going over there and diddling around, because he gets too impressed by the, basically, the cosmetics. He really does. I mean, as much as he’s—as realist as he is, you know, it does impress him. Cosmetics usually impress him. Now, he’ll— HAIG: His background is a problem. He’s cut from that goddamn—
NIXON: That’s right.
HAIG: —left wing and he, even though he’s a hard-line, tough guy, he’s working for the [unclear] class.
NIXON: You see, he wouldn’t realize, for example, that when I write a letter to an astronaut, I’m not doing it for the goddamn Russians. Fuck them. I’m doing it because it would look awfully good here, right now. You see what I mean?
HAIG: Yeah.
NIXON: People like to do that. But Henry’s just got to get him a little bit, got to be more—you know, he always has these long, goddamn tortuous meetings with Dobrynin, and it seems very interesting, very exciting, and all that sort of thing. Al, they’re suckering us along.
HAIG: That’s right.
NIXON: And I think you’ve got to be—now, it may be that their interests require a SALT agreement. Think so? Do they want a SALT agreement?
HAIG: I think they want an improvement in relations because they think they can unravel the NATO alliance—
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: —and split Germany up.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: That’s what they’re after.
NIXON: They want a Berlin agreement? Right?
HAIG: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Oh, we’ve got to screw that up. Now, that is, I mean, awfully clear to Rush. Is it?
HAIG: Yes, sir. And it’s sufficiently complicated—
NIXON: Yeah. Sure.
HAIG: —and still has a long enough way to go that we can do that. And this announcement, when it comes, will hit them right between the eyes. They’ll know goddamn well that they’re not fooling with people that are going to sit and get raped.
NIXON: Well, I just hope Henry gets in there.
HAIG: Well, I think that—that’s what I’m concerned about. I think it will work fine. I—
NIXON: You haven’t heard from the Paks yet?
HAIG: No. No.
NIXON: He said he thought there was another message here.
HAIG: Well, I think he said that he had alerted his number two—
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: —to convey additional messages because he felt there would be more.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: Because all they did was register their concern.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Now, well, let me say this: if they—if it’s knocked down, if this one goes because of that, it was too tenuous to begin [with] anyway.
HAIG: That’s right, sir.
NIXON: You see my point? If this—we better find out right now that if it ends because of some little pipsqueak story, they’re going to knock it down as too tenuous. Do you understand?
HAIG: No, I think they want it, sir. They’ve really made a firm commitment.
NIXON: Well, he sort of thought that, Henry’s always felt, the Russians wanted it. You sort of felt so too, didn’t you?
HAIG: Well, I did. And I still think they do, but they want to suck us dry.
NIXON: I guess they think, they think they can get more out of us for it. They’re going to ass-pick to pay a bigger price, which we have to consider.
HAIG: No, that response was an effort to just suck us dry, not to turn it down.
NIXON: Yeah, that’s right—
HAIG: They kept it open.
NIXON: “We hope our relations will improve. We’ve noted some positive things. What else are you going to do, boys?”
HAIG: Exactly.
NIXON: Well, what we’re going to do is kick them right in the teeth.
HAIG: Yeah.
NIXON: But the message to Henry is that no—I want him to be—and this is absolutely categorical—there is to be no intermediary. No Bruce trip.
HAIG: I sent him that this morning, sir.
NIXON: Don’t you agree?
HAIG: Yes, sir.
NIXON: And you can see why, Al, that the Bruce trip is now irrelevant. I mean, why do it twice? And we will just announce that, as I already said, that I’m prepared to go. And that’s much more frank with them, and they— HAIG: Well, that’s one thing. You’re dealing with a more straightforward customer. They’re tougher. But I think the Chinese are more direct and honest. When they say something, they mean it. They’ve made a decision. Oh, I think that’s going to go. They never would have sent you the message, if they didn’t mean it. Now, they may ask a price that you may—might not be willing to pay.
NIXON: Christ, yeah.
HAIG: That would be the complication on the Chinese. But the Soviets are just playing pussyfoot. They’re—
NIXON: Yeah.

“Dobrynin said . . . ‘What can you really settle with the Chinese?’”
July 19, 1971, 5:10 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

The news of Kissinger’s secret trip to Beijing, which was released on July 15, was a sensation. In the United States, war hawks and doves, Democrats and Republicans, those under thirty and over thirty, all paused to marvel at the thought of a quarter-billion people reaching out to China for the first time in a generation. According to the announcement, Nixon was to visit China sometime before May of 1972.
Very few people, even among Nixon’s inner circle, knew about the Kissinger trip in advance. Many had to be brought up-to-date, including the secretary of state, but of prime importance to Nixon and Kissinger was Dobrynin. That was a moment that Nixon had been waiting for, and on July 19, Kissinger briefed him on his first conversation about China with the Soviet ambassador.

NIXON: Well, Henry, tell me about your meeting with Mr. D.
KISSINGER: Oh, God, he was [unclear]—
NIXON: Who isn’t? How was your staff? I bet they were ecstatic.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah, Mr. President. Their morale is way high.

NIXON: Well, Henry—
KISSINGER: They have—
NIXON: But I think it’s too late.
KISSINGER: Every sophisticate—
NIXON: Well, sophisticate? I want the people.
KISSINGER: Well, the people—
NIXON: I don’t give a shit, but the story has now set in.
NIXON: State cannot—
KISSINGER: They can’t do it.
NIXON: I’m not going to let them do it.
KISSINGER: State can’t do it.
NIXON: On that, we did something that’s good. They’re not going to come in and preempt it.
KISSINGER: Well, they sure as hell—
NIXON: You’ve given Rogers one hell of a lot more than he pleaded about.
KISSINGER: They sure as hell weren’t claiming that they participated in the Cambodia decision, although they did a lot more there.
NIXON: Or Laos.
KISSINGER: Or Laos. Or anything else that was tough. Well, I told Dobrynin that I began to doubt that there is a God, because I lied to him actually. I’m sure that if there were one, I would have been punished. But— NIXON: [laughs]
KISSINGER: But I started off and then he—first of all, I’ve never seen him so forthcoming before today.
NIXON: Good. Really?
KISSINGER: Well—oh, yeah. Even the State Department will someday—
NIXON: Ambassadors.
NIXON: Rogers.
KISSINGER: But it’s best not to talk about it. I’ve got a lot of details here to show you.
NIXON: Sure.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: [I said,] “Let me give you a picture of how the president’s mind works. This isn’t to pacify you. He just—and he wants me to tell you that, in terms of world leadership, he recognizes only the Soviet Union and the United States will lead. But after June, we’re using every stop.”
NIXON: Precisely.
KISSINGER: “I want to tell you, under one trivial condition, which, well—which I’ve heard here as well.” I said, “Remember, we gave you until July 1. I can tell you in strictest confidence that, before we left Washington, my instructions to the president—I was going to go to China in June. My instructions to the president—from the president.”
NIXON: Which? Your role?
KISSINGER: It’s not that kind of relationship.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: But that—the burden’s on them.
KISSINGER: And then I said, “We have no choice. The president has said if anything we conduct will destroy us all, it’s the arms race.” I think here we could tell Rogers what we’re doing.
NIXON: Good. Tell him.
KISSINGER: Again, I told him that, he said I told him that—I said, “Moreover,” I said to him, “I told you six months ago that we couldn’t do it in November or December. So when you said you wanted it in November or December, well, the president had to assume that this was a nice way to back out.” He said, “No, no, no, no. We want it. We very much want it. I can tell you in strictest confidence, off the record.” Well, we’re both pushing at each other.
NIXON: Yeah, I know.
KISSINGER: You know, pushing this strictest confidence, off the record.
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: And they had already made their decision. They were getting ready to pick the date. Well, he said—“But now,” he said, “can we pick the date now? What can I report?” Then I said, “Well, in principle, yes, but, of course, now we have a new situation.” He said, “Would you be willing to come before going to Beijing?” I said, “Anatol, be classy.” I said, “We have to go now in the order in which we announce it.” He said, “Would you be willing to announce it before you go to Beijing?” I said, “Well, I’m not sure what the president’s”—but I said, “We may consider it. But I’ll talk to the president. The president makes decisions.”
NIXON: That’s right. I’ve approved anything—
KISSINGER: He said, “Well, it better go tonight; they’re having a meeting on it on Thursday.” So, what I think—
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: Then I said—then he said, “Well, if you go”—[laughs] the shoe is really on the other foot now—he said, but he said, “If you come after you’ve gone to Beijing, why won’t Beijing hold you up until May?”
NIXON: They can’t.
KISSINGER: I thought it was somewhat of a cheesy play. I said, “Sorry, I don’t know what Beijing is going to do, but if they try to make conditions—” What reason would they have for treating you, the president— NIXON: Just one.
KISSINGER: —to such a condition? “But I have no reason to believe that they would make such—” Well, he was just sniffing in a conniption. So what I think is going to happen now, unless they make public the decision to go very tough—which would be but, well, maybe thirty percent—I think they’re going to calm down. I think we can announce the Moscow summit before you go to Beijing. And that would actually help— NIXON: Exactly.
KISSINGER: —with the Chinese because—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —taking effect after we go to Moscow.
NIXON: Before.
KISSINGER: And the sequence that I now see is I might go to Beijing at the end of September, get the damn thing locked up.
NIXON: Then announce it.
KISSINGER: Then announce the summit for Beijing.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Then while I’m in Beijing tell them that you’re going to announce the summit for Moscow. And then at the end of October announce the summit for Moscow for the end of March.
NIXON: So, April is too early.
KISSINGER: Is April early for that?
NIXON: We could still do it in April. Work out your—you don’t have to worry about, well, going in the order we put ourselves in.
KISSINGER: Well, that’s April.
NIXON: April. Yeah. I hope they embrace it, that the Russians will do that time and play over there.
KISSINGER: But I think we could have one spectacular after another.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: The other trip to Beijing; the announcement of—
NIXON: Why don’t you let him know—?
KISSINGER: But I’m going to phone him tonight.
NIXON: I’d let him know that, well, there really are several—let me put it: I will hold the period around the first of May.
KISSINGER: I won’t even give on that.
NIXON: Okay. The spring of next year.
KISSINGER: No, I think what I would do is to say—we tell them in Sep[tember]—as I told them, that we’d do it after Beijing. And they sort of—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —come in with a specific proposal of when to announce it and so forth.
NIXON: We’ll ask them—
KISSINGER: We’re thinking of roughing our schedule.
NIXON: That’s right. And we’re seeking accommodation on other things and so forth. But he was certainly not unpleasant.
KISSINGER: Then he asked me, he said, “It would really help,” he said, “if you give our people a briefing—”
NIXON: [laughs]
KISSINGER: “—of what went on in Beijing.” Well, I gave him a briefing about this Aviation Week.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: He said, “Did you discuss Soviet air defenses or Soviet bases?” I said, “We avoided it for the first powwow.” He said, “Well, are they worried that we’d attack them?” I said, “Anatoly, you seem to be very [more] worried about China than Japan.”

KISSINGER: I think they [the North Vietnamese] have got to settle now, because if we—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Mr. President, if we get a Russian summit, I think—oh, another thing Dobrynin said is—who knows about these things?—“What can you really settle with the Chinese?” He said, “I thought we were your natural partners in Southeast Asia. We’re both trying to avoid Chinese expansion in Southeast Asia.”
NIXON: Shut up and get out!
KISSINGER: Then he said about India and Pakistan. He asked me what my impression was of, due to the fact there hasn’t been any war there for a while, whether it should become international.
NIXON: I agree.
KISSINGER: Exactly. The UN is chained up. He [Dobrynin] talked to me with a respect that I hadn’t encountered before.
NIXON: Did you see Harriman? Was he more affected?
KISSINGER: Oh, I saw him with the Indian ambassador.
NIXON: Was he shaken?
KISSINGER: He was shaken.
NIXON: Oh, well. You know, it shows what you’ve done. You know another thing too that shakes them, Henry. They worry, worry in a different sense: the information, gut issue. I was their fear. This shakes them up completely because people say, they say, “This son of a bitch went into Cambodia; this son of a bitch went into Laos; this son of a bitch may be a disaster; this son of a bitch is unpredictable. We don’t know what he’s going to do.”
KISSINGER: Yeah, but I—
NIXON: You see? That’s a good thing.
KISSINGER: “But he has big plays.” I mean, here you were, by any reasonable prediction, you were totally on the ropes.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: And if you, then, by any reasonable prediction, however, save yourself—
NIXON: Who would’ve dreamed—?
KISSINGER: Oh, absolutely. But that you held it with ice-cold nerves for two months.
NIXON: That’s something—
KISSINGER: You took the shellacking.
NIXON: That’s something that you could use with the people tonight, you know.
KISSINGER: Now, who, in God’s name—
KISSINGER: —which other American political figure would have just had the effrontery to take the riots, the congressional action for two months—?
NIXON: Without saying, “Gee whiz, fellows.”

NIXON: We’re going to be goddamn loose on Vietnam though, Henry.
KISSINGER: I thought I’d be in my manner much, very gentle with them.
NIXON: Exactly.
KISSINGER: Because they—I’d put it right into their heart, for one thing.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: They know now I’m not a pushover.
NIXON: I think that we—and I think in general it burns to say, you know, “Here’s what we differ on”—that kind of a spirit, Henry. “What do you have to offer?” and so forth; “Well, we’ll look it over,” then, “Screw you.”
KISSINGER: But never—that shouldn’t be gloating.
NIXON: No gloating ever. No. No, I agree. I agree. I think that the very cool and strong position that we know what we’re doing, we’ve got the hole card, and we’re not going to gloat over you. What do you got to offer? Another settlement.
NIXON: Now, what in the hell are they [North Vietnamese] going to do? What the Christ is their option now—except, I guess, to fight on?
KISSINGER: Well, but Mr. President, I think—there’s one point I made to Dobrynin here today: “You know, he [Nixon] has guts. There never was, to tell the truth, a tougher guy.”
NIXON: You told him that too?
KISSINGER: Yeah. I think—the Russians cannot control the Berlin thing. They can try to stir up the North Vietnamese people. And the North Vietnamese have to decide whether they want another series of bloodbaths. The Russians have to decide whether, that, having caused one great play, they might still go into a few other places. I mean, I can tell Dobrynin what I want, but I’m not concerned with the Soviet Union. That doesn’t, that’s just something for the record. We don’t have to discuss it. The mere fact though that those with ties to the Chinese, who have troops on the border— NIXON: That’s fine. You know, they’re capable of bringing a freeze, a deep freeze, you know, with the Chinese attacking the Russians for their program—that would be after SALT, you know.
KISSINGER: But when you consider that Kuznetsov has been—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —their deputy foreign minister, has been in Beijing for nearly two years and has yet to see Zhou Enlai.
NIXON: But, what I mean is, with the Chinese fear of the Russians on this, they would be close to us.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Now, now that this—this is just a total upheaval.


The Collapse of the Gold Standard to the India-Pakistan War

August–December 1971

“We get involved in all these screwball causes.”
August 2, 1971, 9:20 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

As the humanitarian situation deteriorated between India and Pakistan, foreign aid poured into the region. One prominent fundraiser for the Indian refugees was “The Concert for Bangla Desh,” held on August 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Organized by former Beatle George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, the event also headlined Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, former Beatle Ringo Starr, and former Beatles collaborator Billy Preston. As seen in his comments to Kissinger, Nixon had little consideration for those sympathetic to India.

KISSINGER: We’ll really, next year, have a record. Every problem we came in with will have been solved, except the Middle East. And that will have been improved.
NIXON: Tell me about Pakistan now. I read the, I see now the Beatles are out raising money for them. You know, it’s a funny thing, the way we are in this goddamn country. We get involved in all these screwball causes.
KISSINGER: Well, we have a hundred million dollars, it depends, for whom are the Beatles raising money for, the refugees in India?
NIXON: Refugees, yeah.
KISSINGER: Is it India or in Pakistan?
NIXON: The goddamn Indians.
KISSINGER: Well, the Indian side of it is economically in good shape. We’ve given them seventy million dollars.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: More is coming in, and no one knows how they’re using the goddamn money, because—
NIXON: You’re giving it to the government?
NIXON: Well that’s a terrible mistake.
KISSINGER: Yeah, well, they don’t let anyone in there. They permit no foreigners—
NIXON: The Indians don’t?
KISSINGER: —into the refugee area. No foreigners at all. Their record is outrageous.
NIXON: Well then, what about Pakistan?
KISSINGER: Well, on the Pakistan side, we have moved in a hundred million dollars’ worth of food, which is in the port. We’ve had a task force working on it, which is either in the ports or on the way to the ports. The big problem now is to get it distributed. The UN has sent in 38 experts. They’re prepared to send in 150 more.

“Everything the Chinese have done has been in big style.”
August 9, 1971, 8:55 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

America’s status with the Soviets had been altered far less than Nixon anticipated by the developments concerning Beijing. He and Kissinger didn’t even bother asking for a schedule for the summit, focusing instead on getting the SALT negotiations, both the public meetings and the secret channels, back on track. At the same time, they discussed the effect of the new Sino-American relationship on other Asian nations. They also hoped to differentiate Americans—Republicans and Democrats—in Chinese eyes, on the assumption that officials in Beijing were still unschooled in U.S. politics.

KISSINGER: Well, they’ve [the Chinese] been absolutely meticulous. And we’ve been meticulous. For example, I keep—every time we send a note to the Russians that concerns them— NIXON: I know that. That’s great.
KISSINGER: —I send a note to them about the content of this. And next Monday, when I’m going to Paris, I will now ask for a meeting with them, and I’m going to tell them about our India policy.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: Just as the Soviets are making a deal, I thought if I just give them five minutes of what you’re doing on India—
NIXON: Oh, I was—I just made a note this morning of that. I saw that Gromyko was down there talking to that damn Indian foreign minister [Swaran Singh]. That little son of a bitch is insufferable.
KISSINGER: Well, they’ve now signed—
HALDEMAN: Well, they announced a deal [unclear].
KISSINGER: They’ve signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation [on August 9].
HALDEMAN: Just announced that this morning.
NIXON: Oh, but I didn’t see that.
NIXON: I didn’t see it.
KISSINGER: —in which they will consult—
HALDEMAN: It’s not in there. It’s not in there. It was just on the radio.
KISSINGER: Yes. That’s that.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: They’ll consult with each other in case of aggression—of aggression of other countries against one of the parties. And then, it’s not clear—
NIXON: Consult?
KISSINGER: Well, it’s not clear whether they promised—
NIXON: I don’t think it means a hell of a lot.
KISSINGER: No, it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot, Mr. President.

KISSINGER: I’m going to give that Indian ambassador unshirted hell today.
NIXON: You want me to get him in?
KISSINGER: Well, let me get the text of the—maybe one more turn of the wheel.
NIXON: I know. But the thing is, though, they used to—well, they understand, if they’re going to choose to go with the Russians, they’re choosing not to go with us. Now, goddamn it, they’ve got to know this.
NIXON: Goddamn it, who’s given them a billion dollars a year?
NIXON: Shit, the Russians aren’t giving them a billion dollars a year, Henry.
KISSINGER: No. The Russians—really, one has to say, when you compare how Zhou Enlai has behaved towards us—now, ideologically, they’re as hostile. And we’ve understood, they’ve done some things with North Vietnam, but they’ve always— NIXON: Hmm.
KISSINGER: —stayed well short of inflaming the situation.

NIXON: All the damn Democrat candidates think the Russians are nice guys.
KISSINGER: And the Indians are—what helps us with the Chinese, vis-à-vis the Democrats, is that the Democrats are pro-Indian and pro-Russian.
KISSINGER: And we are pro-Pakistani and—
NIXON: In fact, could I suggest one thing? Is there any way that you could, in your conversation [with the Chinese], or otherwise, get it across—is there some way you could plant, some way where Democrats are, Democratic people are? That kind of a story? Or do you think they obviously are going to see it anyway?
KISSINGER: No, that’s why I want to see them next week. I want to tell them—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —that the Democratic Congress is putting the squeeze on Pakistan.
NIXON: Now, on the Pakistan—but I also want them to know that—
NIXON: —the Democratic candidates are pushing us on the Soviet side. I’d like to get that point: that we are—
KISSINGER: I’ll get that put in.
NIXON: And also the point that I resisted great pressure to go to the Soviet first.
NIXON: I think let’s get a little—let’s make a little mileage out of that. You know we’ve covered that point. We might as well get the benefit out of it, right?
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: Don’t you think so?
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: We were just—that the president was pressed. The Democratic—say some of his Democratic opponents are putting a lot of heat on the ground. And that’s true.

KISSINGER: And the Chinese are more worried about the Japs almost than about the Russians.
NIXON: They should be.
NIXON: You know, the interesting thing is here: what can we do though? What are you going to tell the Pakistan ambassador? What the hell can you tell that son of a gun? I mean, excuse me, the Indian ambassador.
KISSINGER: I’m going to tell him, “I just want you to understand one thing. If you—if there is a war in the subcontinent, we are going to move against you, one way or the other.”
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: “And you—your development program is down the drain. And if you want—if you think you can afford domestically to throw yourself completely into the Soviet arms, go ahead and do it.”
NIXON: That’s right. “You’re making a conscious choice.” Put it—I wanted to say this: “The president wants you to know”—tell him this, use it like this—“the president wants you to know he doesn’t want this to happen. The president is a friend of India. He wants India to succeed. He has said that and he means it. But as far as he’s concerned, however, the president wants, feels it’s his—that it’s your obligation”—tell him the president wants him to know that in the event that they decide that they go to war in the subcontinent, and side with the Soviet, that then they have chosen. And that we have—that is their choice. But that we shall have, then have to look in other, in another direction.
NIXON: And that we shall look in the other direction. And under the circumstances, much as I will regret it, we will have to take another position—and will. And they have a fit. “The president is”—“Now, Mr. Ambassador”—you can sort of play this—you say, “Now, Mr. Ambassador, you know how I personally feel.” Give him a little bullshit about how much you love the Indians. Then say, “Now—”
HALDEMAN: [laughs]
NIXON: “—but I just want you to know that—”
KISSINGER: If there’s a God, he’ll punish me.
NIXON: Well, then, you go on to say that “I just want you to know that this president is—you must not underestimate him. You know, I had to—” Tell him how hard it was to restrain me on Cambodia. “You know, I tried to restrain him on Laos and China, but he will not—he is—I cannot tell you how strongly he feels on this.” Tell him, “I cannot possibly tell you, Mr. Ambassador, how far—strong he feels about the war issue. As far as helping, as far as using our influence to get a political settlement, as far as the refugees, as far as helping India, he’s totally generous. But war, no.” I’d just lay the goddamn wood to him.

KISSINGER: And we’re giving them [the Chinese] a lot of incentives by being so meticulous.
NIXON: Actually—well, by being meticulous and also by letting them know that we’re—the best thing you’re doing is letting them know everything the Soviet tell you. I mean that’s— KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: —that we’re going to deal with them against the Soviet, which is just fine.
KISSINGER: That’s right. And also now what the Indians are doing.
NIXON: Yeah. Do they really hate the Indians? They must really—
HALDEMAN: They hate the Indians?
KISSINGER: No, they despise the Indians.
KISSINGER: They despise the Indians.
NIXON: Do they?
NIXON: What are we going to do about—what about the Soviet? What’s the next move there?
KISSINGER: They’re coming in to us within the next ten days with something. Actually, we’re not in a great hurry about it now.
NIXON: Yeah. But my point is: do you think there is any, that there is a reasonable chance that they may want to have some sort of a meeting?
KISSINGER: I think it’s eighty percent right now.
NIXON: Even after the Chinese meeting?
KISSINGER: Yeah. I told them—
NIXON: That’s when it has to come, of course.
KISSINGER: I’ve told them nothing else could even be considered.
NIXON: Why would they do it then, Henry? They don’t—they, as distinguished from the Chinese. The Chinese may have mixed emotions about who will be elected. But they damn well want to beat the shit out of us, Henry.
KISSINGER: Except on the Middle East.
NIXON: Yeah, and that’s their hubris.
NIXON: Do they realize on the Middle East—?
KISSINGER: But also—
NIXON: Besides the public sentiment—
KISSINGER: No, I’ll tell you why I think—
NIXON: —they can take Israel any day that they want to take an hors d’oeuvre.
KISSINGER: Yeah, but except they’re afraid we’ll protect Israel.
NIXON: Good. And they know with Democrats in, they have to and I might not. Is that it?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Okay.
KISSINGER: Well—but their major reason is they’re afraid of what you will do in Beijing if they’re in a posture of hostility to you. So they would like to have the visit hanging over Beijing—they would like to have—that you have the visit in the pocket— NIXON: I see.
KISSINGER: —so that you will not, so that you will be restrained in Beijing. We, in turn, want it because it’s helpful to us to have Moscow hanging over Beijing. It reinsures— NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —the Beijing visit. And, after all, when I handed your letter to Dobrynin, I didn’t even mention the summit. He said, “Does the fact that there’s no summit in there mean the president has lost interest?” He said, “Because I can tell you, unofficially, they’re considering it now at the highest level in Moscow and there’ll be an answer.” And he said, “The reason, I’m not”—speaking of himself—“they’re not letting me go on vacation is because they want me to transmit that answer, that proposal to you.”
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Well, either way, we shall see.
KISSINGER: But—no, I think it’s going to come. And for us that would have—then we’d be in great shape. Because if the summit is coming up, say, in the middle of May in Moscow, we know there won’t be a Middle East blowup before then, because they’ll sit on the Egyptians.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: That and India are the two big problems.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And that means we’ll be through the better part of next year, and they can’t start something up right after the summit either.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And we can keep the two to control each other.
NIXON: That’s right.

NIXON: Getting back to the Russians—I mean, on the Indians, yeah, they’re really trying to punish the Paks, but they sure as hell don’t want a war down there.
KISSINGER: No, but they are such a petty bunch of shits, if you’ll forgive me, that they—everything the Chinese have done has been in big style. And they make a deal with you and then they try to make you look good. And look at how they [the Soviets] handled the SALT thing.
NIXON: Yeah, the Russians.
KISSINGER: Grudging, mean, petty.
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: And they’re just putting—what they’re doing in India is putting enough oil on the fire to kick everybody and praying that it won’t blow up into a conflagration.
NIXON: It’s the same way they did the Middle East.
KISSINGER: Exactly the way they did it in the Middle East.
NIXON: Well, I was—the June war was brought on by [the] Russians.
KISSINGER: And by Russian stupidity.
NIXON: The Russians brought it on. They did.
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: They gave the Egyptians—and before the war, and until the final kind of a thing broke loose. Then, after it began, they said, “Let’s all get together and try to settle it.” But only after they knew the Egyptians were licked. Now, they played a very miserable role in that war.
KISSINGER: That’s right. Absolutely. Absolutely. And what they’re doing now is, they’re getting back at the Pakistanis.
NIXON: Do you really think that’s what it’s all about?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. Well, and at the Chinese.
NIXON: Okay.
KISSINGER: And they’re getting themselves some cheap shots in. And I’ll bet that when one reads the treaty—we haven’t got the text yet—that it has no formal legal obligation that means anything.
KISSINGER: But it’s enough to make it psychologically tough.
NIXON: We’ve got to fight like hell against—well, the Congress, thank God, is gone. So we’ve got at least three to four weeks when we don’t have to bother about India/Pakistan and that.

“I don’t want to be around to see the Soviet Union ever be in a position of superiority.”
August 10, 1971, 10:05 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Melvin Laird, David Packard, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Thomas Moorer, Elmo Zumwalt, John Ryan, William Westmoreland, and Leonard Chapman), Henry Kissinger, and Alexander Haig

Melvin Laird, in concert with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, kept as strong a hand as he could in the SALT negotiations. His basic concern was that U.S. superiority in ABM systems should not be traded, except in return for Soviet concessions on offensive weapons. In offensive systems, the Soviet Union was very strong and it could, Laird felt, easily emerge from SALT as the more powerful nation, if the United States wasn’t careful.
Earlier in the year, Laird had watched in dismay as Kissinger clumsily dropped submarine-launched ABMs from the SALT negotiations; it took a lot of long, hard dealing to reinsert them in the talks. As the one member of the cabinet who was fully aware of Kissinger’s ongoing secret negotiations, Laird was determined that both Kissinger and Nixon fully understand the weapons involved in “Strategic Arms,” and the problems unique to each, in developing parity between the superpowers.

ZUMWALT: On chart number five, I show you how I believe we can provide the kind of power that can help you. I’d like to talk about it. There’s nuclear standoff, as Admiral Moorer has discussed, and we hope it will continue into the future, preferably through a successful SALT, but if not, then through increased expenditures in strategic weaponry. But the standoff means that nuclear power is not a useful instrument; it’s just a necessary umbrella. And assuming the balance holds, the power which resolves issues will be appropriate conventional capability. My— NIXON: Before we go on at this point, let me interject one thought here. Mel, I noticed something in which Smith, where he’s gone off about the zero-ABM thing. Now, I understand, the Chiefs are all opposed.
LAIRD: Mr. President, the Chiefs—
NIXON: Zero ABM, as I—a zero-ABM deal, period. Is that right, Henry? Is that what we’re looking at?
KISSINGER: Well, what Smith wants to do is to slide in zero ABM for—
NIXON: For what?
KISSINGER: For the ABM portion of the May 20 agreement.
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: And without changing any of the offensive understandings that were reached. And that is what the Chiefs are opposed [unclear]—
LAIRD: We are opposed. And the Chiefs and Defense are opposed, Mr. President. If you go to zero, then you’ve got to change the offensive—
NIXON: Yeah.
LAIRD: —mix that we’ve already offered.
NIXON: Spend a second on that. I mean, when I say a second I mean whatever time you need. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just—we started talking about it assuming we have a SALT agreement. Let’s see what you’re talking about. Why—what is the argument? Why is zero ABM worse than [unclear] the National Command Center, and two Minutemen, and what have you? What’s your view on this?
LAIRD: Mr. President—
NIXON: I think I know, but I just wanted to be sure I’ve heard you.
LAIRD: From a military standpoint, it is difficult to defend the two-site proposal.
NIXON: Right.
LAIRD: The two-site proposal can be defended on the basis that it can be expanded for a twelve-site program.
NIXON: Right.
LAIRD: We have tabled a proposition in SALT, which gives the Soviet certainly an advantage as far as the long term is concerned on the offensive weapons systems. If we were to give up the capability, which we have, to go into a defensive system on down the road, by going to zero at this time, without opening up the offensive proposition that we have put on the table in the SALT talks, I believe it would be—endanger our security planning. And so the position of the Chiefs and the position that I’ve taken is that: no, do not table the zero at this time, unless you’re willing also at the same time to make a reduction as far as the offensive limitations are concerned— KISSINGER: Then, if you do that, you are—the May 20 thing is down the drain.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And we are right back to where we started from last January with the comprehensive negotiations—
LAIRD: It depends. Henry, it depends on what date you attach to the May 20 operation.
ZUMWALT: And whether or not in the offensive side you put into it an automatic date by which you have freedom to make it if they happen to come to a problem.
NIXON: Right. But—
KISSINGER: But then, what this will lead us to, if it’s a possible way of going, is towards the comprehensive agreement in which all the offensive and defensive weapons are included. What we had attempted to do on May 20 was to make an ABM limitation and a temporary offensive limitation which could act as a bridge to a more comprehensive one. So, what Mel is proposing could be incorporated in the second stage of the negotiation. That is to say, we could then keep the zero ABM for the second stage of the negotiation and couple it with offensive reductions. I agree with the Chiefs and with Mel. I think, however, that if we want a rapid agreement, we’ve got to stick with the May 20 framework.
NIXON: Do you agree we should stay with the May 20—?
LAIRD: Yes. But, I had some problems in that—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: That’s all right. Take your time.
LAIRD: I had some problems, Mr. President, with the date that’s been used in the—this and seventeenth, and this and twentieth, because it does give the Soviet Union, if this becomes the only agreement we have—and we have to look at it from the standpoint that we might not get anything else—it gives them an opportunity of having a superior force in ’74 and ’75. And I don’t want to be around to see the Soviet Union ever be in a position of superiority. I can accept parity, but I think that this particular proposition, if we don’t follow through on something else, gives them the opportunity for superiority. I think that’s the position of the Chiefs, too.
MOORER: That’s right. And that’s what’ll happen if the interim agreement turns out to be the final agreement. I don’t know, sir—
KISSINGER: But there is a provision, which is that if there is no permanent agreement, the whole thing becomes subject to abrogation after a year—
LAIRD: But, Henry, my problem is this: that I think it’s going to be most difficult for the United States to set aside the agreement. I think it’s easier for the Soviet Union to set aside an agreement because of the manner of our whole system of government is so much—it’s much more difficult for us to set aside the agreement than it is for the Soviet Union.
NIXON: Well, the difficulty with zero ABM—it’s just a simple point. Zero ABM, plus a freeze, basically—and that’s what it is on their offensive thing—means that we freeze, in terms of ourselves, into an inferior position, both ways.
ZUMWALT: That’s correct—
NIXON: That’s correct. Right? That’s why—
ZUMWALT: In both segments.
NIXON: That’s right. So, that is why we can under no circumstance let Smith continue, Henry, on that line.
NIXON: Make that clear to him—
KISSINGER: I’ll get a message to him—
NIXON: He must. See that he does. That was never the understanding. We are not gonna freeze ourselves. We can always be: “Well, that’s all right. We won’t have any ABM.” But you look at those charts, we’re already inferior, except in numbers, of course, of weapons, and it’s because of MIRVing—which we may have, basically, four or five years, if somebody doesn’t knock that out. So, we don’t want to freeze right now. Right? Is that right?
LAIRD: Mr. President—
[unclear exchange]
KISSINGER: We don’t want to have zero ABM.
NIXON: [unclear] Exactly. If you have zero ABM, in the context of the May 20 deal, we are freezing ourselves into a second position, an inferior position. Right?
LAIRD: That’s right.
MOORER: And I might add, sir, we are increasing the numbers where we have a lead in technology.
NIXON: Exactly. Go ahead, Admiral.
ZUMWALT: Yes, sir. So, my shorthand term for this appropriate conventional power is “relevant power.” On chart six, I show you examples of where I believe—power was held and used successfully, or was relevant. In the left-hand column, and this is—those were successful. Sea power includes the Marines, of course, with their three-division air wing teams. We could add appreciably to the list on the left. The list on the right is shorter because decision makers normally calculate the expected outcome, and hence they find other paths or back down, and these three catch you here. And any president’s options will, of course, depend on whether he possesses the relevant power.
Now, on chart number seven, I show you how I think relevant power is shifting. In line one, for example, the term “threat nuclear attack,” and the “X” under the column entitled “strategic nuclear forces,” shows these forces were exclusively relevant in the fifties and sixties. As discussed, the nuclear balance now makes this threat unlikely, although in ending World War II, and President Truman’s threat to Stalin to get him out of Iran, they were relevant.
Lines two to four show Europe. The shift in the threats on the NATO center in the fifties and sixties—line two. To NATO northern and southern flanks—lines three and four. The greater stability in the center is due to the perceived linking of nuclear weapons to conventional forces, to unrest in the Warsaw Pact, to Russia’s concern about the Chinese Communist border forces. The instability on the NATO flanks is due to Soviet flanking movements, increased strength of the Soviet fleet. I’ve just come back from a seven-country trip through central and northern Europe. I found not only the chiefs of navy, but the chiefs of defense staff, of all of those countries had that perception, and in many cases, the ministers of defense. In essence, they see Finland becoming a Latvia, Sweden becoming a Finland, and Norway, within five years, becoming a Sweden.

ZUMWALT: Now, what is the military situation? In chart ten, I’ll compare the U.S. and the Soviet forces, and discuss how we’ve allocated them. With regard to chart eleven, Admiral Moorer has discussed those, and I’ll just point out that in the slide on the right, with the graph on the right, a significant fraction of that MIRV increase is due to the Polaris/Poseidon. On that, those forces, in essence, represent the prestrike lineup. Now, on chart number twelve, I show you the total— NIXON: Right there, can I just ask one, one question? Are those Titans working well?
RYAN: Yes, sir. The first three have deployed—
NIXON: Yeah?
RYAN: They’re highly reliable. The test results looked like it’s a real beauty.
NIXON: In fact, the only—the only positive thing on all these charts that Admiral Moorer showed us—which I was surprised, frankly—is the warhead deal. But that’s MIRV isn’t it? Well, incidentally, the jackasses have been trying to get us to stop MIRV, and that’s worse than stopping ABM. Right, Mel?
LAIRD: It is.
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Interestingly enough, Henry, why in the—why is it that the Soviet isn’t interested in stopping MIRV?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Because they’re going to [unclear]—
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Well, because of throw-weight—
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: They’ve got that huge SS-9.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: It’s because of the throw-weight of the SS-9. They could put a hell of a lot of MIRVs up on top of—
KISSINGER: Because they’re behind us.
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: And also, it looks like, like they want to develop the capability, too. They figured that we’ve—
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: They already have the development program.
MOORER: No doubt about it, sir, they’re going to—
NIXON: They may be MIRVed already, you think?
MOORER: No, sir.
NIXON: We don’t—we don’t know for sure?
LAIRD: Well, we think they probably have multiple reentry vehicles—
NIXON: Yeah.
LAIRD: —on a few SS-9s. But I don’t like to get into the debate of whether they’re independently targeted or not. But they will have that capability, Mr. President, within the 1972–73 time period.
NIXON: Let me ask Dave [Packard] a question. Dave, looking at this from a, you know, the scientists, and all the rest. I mean, you know, we’ve been around the track on ABM, and MIRV, and so forth. But, you really—it would seem it’s rather interesting that there’s always these issues that stir the people up. It’s hard to realize it. About a year ago, eighteen months ago, it was MIRV; everybody squealing about MIRV, you know, “We got to stop MIRV.” What do you think of—MIRV is, wouldn’t you say, is almost indispensable in view of—in view of the fact that they have so much of that throw-weight? The advantage that we have, whatever advantage that we have, has got to be maintained by the MIRVing of the system.
PACKARD: Oh, I think it does, Mr. President, unless—
NIXON: And, as I understand, it works. Okay? Well, let’s—
PACKARD: Mr. President, let me suggest some agreement to reduce the total number of delivery vehicles, so that they are roughly equal.
NIXON: Yeah.
PACKARD: The MIRV is the one significant advantage we have. Let me just say a word for—
RYAN: Minuteman—
PACKARD: —General Ryan’s—
[unclear exchange]
PACKARD: —Minuteman III. I just looked at that program. That’s the MIRV program—
NIXON: Right.
PACKARD: —that the air force had. That force has better readiness than the previous Minuteman, and the improved accuracy gives each one of the Minuteman III warheads, of which there are three, each one of these warheads has as much probability to kill a hard target as one of the large Minuteman I warheads.
PACKARD: So, we have provided a significant improved capability with that program, and that’s the one advantage we have against that numbers imbalance, and I look at this MIRV program as being one of the only balances we have. It was put in originally as a hedge against ABM, but I think it has to be looked at in terms of the balance against their increased capability, and also as giving us more flexibility in terms of targets we can cover with the Chinese—the China situation buildup. So, I would consider that to be a very important program, and we should not give it up under any conditions.
AGNEW: Mr. President, may I ask a question?
NIXON: Ask it. Sure.
AGNEW: The—I raised this question before. I’m not sure I understood the answer. If you’ve got an offensive limitation on delivery vehicles, based on the megatonnage, throw-weight capability that they have, wouldn’t, in time, through their technological improvement and their ability to MIRV, wouldn’t they, then, far outstrip us without violating the agreements?
ZUMWALT: It depends on how many MIRVs they can put into the SS-9. We, for example, put ten into the Polaris—
NIXON: You put ten into the Polaris?
ZUMWALT: Yes, sir. We can put fourteen; we’re only putting ten—
NIXON: Phew—
ZUMWALT: So that there’s ten to fifteen [unclear]. The intelligence estimate says three for the SS-9. I believe they ought to be able to get twenty in, if they get our technology.
AGNEW: Looking ahead to the technological development of, Leonard [Chapman], how proficient we’ve become, we still have that question of throw-weight, though, and, eventually, as silos become harder, so that throw-weight is going to mean something different than it does. Shouldn’t we be thinking more about limiting throw-weights than delivery vehicles, for instance?
CHAPMAN: No, this is why—
NIXON: They won’t play.
CHAPMAN: This is one of the reasons why—
LAIRD: But this is one of the reasons that, that we’re concerned about this. But, I also think that it should be borne out and kept in mind, that, with our research and development program, which is so important, I think we can still keep ahead of them. There is a lot more we can even do with the Minuteman at the site as far as getting it even more accurate— UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: At a small price—
LAIRD: —and we can do it at a very small price, because we have the technological capability that far outstrips the Soviet Union. This is important to maintain this leadership.
NIXON: Let me say this, and I think this is the—this is important [unclear] of course, the big budget things won’t come up. The one place that, again, those of you with proficiency in this area—that I think we’ve really got to, got to prepare the forces is in improving our technological capability. Now, within the May 20 deal, that is allowed, right, Henry?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Both sides. Now, this is one place where we ought to do better. We have to, I mean, in terms of a higher standard, in terms of computers and all that sort of thing. That’s one of the reasons the Soviets are concerned. We are better in this, are we not?
PACKARD: Yes, that’s correct, Mr. President.
NIXON: And I feel that’s the place where research and development, R&D—not only in R&D, but of application, and so forth, where technological breakthroughs may be the answer.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: For increased accuracy—
[unclear exchange]
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Increased accuracy is the—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Exactly. One of the things—we talk about these huge weapons, and—but one that is—I mean, after all, the bang of one-tenth—of one-tenth of a Polaris is a hell of a bang. Right?
ZUMWALT: That’s right.
NIXON: If it’s accurate—
PACKARD: It’s as accurate as it can be made—
ZUMWALT: It is—it’s easily within—
NIXON: It’s like—it’s like hitting with a shotgun or a rifle—
PACKARD: That’s right.
NIXON: A shotgun may scar a guy up pretty good, but the rifle pierces his heart.
PACKARD: But you run into the people—
NIXON: Yeah?
PACKARD: —who claim, “Look, you’re improving the accuracy. It gives you a first-strike capability.” And, if that’s developed—
[unclear exchange]
PACKARD: —we’ve got—had got a hell of a lot of flak on that.
NIXON: I know. I know. But you see, the point that I’ve been—I think we have to, we have to make—there’s a real fight to be sure that on the—on that area, we do not, at this time, just talking about any kind of a SALT agreement, and so forth, that we go gung-ho on the accuracy side, because that is unlimited. Right, Henry?
KISSINGER: That’s right. And when we were discussing the strategic planning vis-à-vis China, one problem we had is that you can’t use the Minuteman against China—because it will have to overfly the Soviet Union. So, if we want to use—and against China, we do have a substantial preemptive capability for the next ten, fifteen years. So, with that, we have to use planes or Polarises. But Poseidons have—therefore, accuracy is absolutely essential.
NIXON: How long do we have a preemptive capability with China, you think?
KISSINGER: We’ve said about fifteen—ten, fifteen years.
MOORER: [unclear] twenty-five missiles.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s something that we should—
NIXON: And that preemptive capability depends upon Polarises and planes—
PACKARD: Aircraft, too. See, you can’t get it to China without overflying Russia—
NIXON: Yeah.
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: [unclear] This is where your aircraft becomes even more relevant.
ZUMWALT: Flexibility in the air.
NIXON: But, more relevant, really, than they are with the Soviet [unclear]—
KISSINGER: And also, I don’t believe—well, most people don’t believe—that the Poseidons are going to be very effective, no matter how accurate, against very hard Soviet silos. But they ought to be able to knock out anything the Chinese have— NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —for the foreseeable future.
ZUMWALT: Well, if we get stellar-inertial guidance, we can get down under a thousand feet and become highly accurate. So, your, your guidance there will—
NIXON: Well, go ahead, Admiral. We interrupted you.
ZUMWALT: The last thing I want to say about strategic, Mr. President, is chart twelve. This chart shows that using the surface forces [unclear] February of ’71. Over on the right, the costs—twenty-two percent of the strategic budget of the years ’73 through ’77, will provide, in the three ballistic missile forces, the capability to deliver forty-three percent of the equivalent megatonnage and seventy-three percent of the independently targeted weapons, as a result of the very high capability of the Poseidon.
Now, on chart thirteen, I show you just four of ten charts that I showed last year, which depict a continuing change in conventional balance. In the upper left, the two hundred thirty-seven percent shows you that they continue over a five-year period to out-build us at the rate of about two and a half in most categories of ships. In the upper right, their missile platforms have increased fourfold in ten years. In the lower left, they over—they’ve overtaken us in numbers of merchant ships, and will in deadweight tonnage shortly. And over in the lower right, there, theirs are new and ours are old.
NIXON: This is all U.S., and not—not with the British, and all the rest added in. Right?
ZUMWALT: That is correct, sir—
NIXON: Only U.S. versus USSR.
ZUMWALT: However, I will be showing you outcomes of—
NIXON: Right.
ZUMWALT: —that on the next page. The most worrisome thing of all is their continued submarine force. This shows you their attack boats, without the missile boats, a threefold superiority. They have more nuclear boats than we do, and in 1973, they will have more nuclear boats than the total number of diesel and attack boats that we have. More honest still, the lower graph shows you that their noise levels are rapidly catching up with ours.
NIXON: We’re doing better though?
ZUMWALT: Yes, sir. We reckoned we could kill five to one in the sixties. It’s down to something like two to one now. If they’re building twelve per year, we’re building five per year, so they’re overtaking us.

ZUMWALT: The temptation for the Soviets to hold out for a better and better deal on SALT, and the pressures on you to settle for a lesser and lesser deal on SALT, and MBFR, and in the Mideast, are getting great. There is decreasing inclination on the part of Moscow and Beijing, with this ’73 budget, to work with us to resolve the conflict in Southeast Asia, or to follow up on any initiatives you take after your trip to Communist China.

“We kick the Russians in the teeth—and they invite us.”
August 11, 1971, 9:15 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

While reviewing 1971’s developments in foreign affairs, Nixon discussed Kissinger’s contributions with Haldeman, and then all three talked about the shifts they’d already witnessed. Nixon candidly spoke of what he thought were the successes of his bold style. He also lambasted many of the ranking officials of his administration.

KISSINGER: They’re having three-day sessions on Berlin. [The Four Powers met from August 10 through August 23 at the Allied Control Council building in West Berlin to negotiate the final terms of the Quadripartite Agreement.]
NIXON: Who? State?
KISSINGER: No, no. The Four Powers. And it’s—the problem is to get the French [laughs]—
KISSINGER: —from shutting up long enough so that the Russians can make the concessions which are already agreed to. We have a text. It’s all agreed to. But we have to go through a— NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: You go through the ritual so the French will keep quiet.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: We’re going through the ritual. We have a script in which the Russians make extreme demands and then yield.

NIXON: Henry, how much have you talked to Bob about the other thing? Did you just mention it to him?
KISSINGER: I just hinted—I mentioned it to him in passing. I haven’t—
NIXON: Well, did you talk about the meeting?
KISSINGER: On walk—going into the boat yesterday evening. [Nixon and Kissinger had dinner aboard the presidential yacht Sequoia.] You mean the Russian thing?
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I haven’t given him any of the details about it.
NIXON: You mean, about it—but you keep hinting to him about the possibility of a meeting?
NIXON: A summit or something of that sort?
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. The reason I wanted to get you in, Bob, was to emphasize that, probably, ten times as important as keeping the Chinese thing secret, this must be secret. Now, this means Ehrlichman. It means, obviously, Peterson. It, of course, means Scali. It, naturally, means Ziegler. But it particularly means—let me say: I don’t want you to break over—the only one that I’m sure you’d even be tempted to ever mention it to would be Ehrlichman, because he’s so— HALDEMAN: I don’t mention any of these to anybody.
NIXON: I know. I know. I know. What I meant is, though—incidentally, we got to go further. It means John Mitchell.
NIXON: It means John Connally.
NIXON: Naturally, if we just mention it to either of those, and you haven’t told Agnew, he gets pissed off. Now, what is involved here is that, in essence, is that the Soviet have replied—replied in a very positive, simple note. Henry’s going to meet with Dobrynin—when?
KISSINGER: Next Tuesday, after I’m back from Paris.
NIXON: The purpose is to—he’s got—the purpose is to set the date. And the date of the meeting we’ve decided upon will be between May—May 20 to June 1.
HALDEMAN: End of May.
NIXON: So the Soviet meeting’s set. And they’ve offered May or June, did they not?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: So we—that would fit in perfectly then. I wouldn’t mind having it—the later in May, the better, in my opinion.
NIXON: The date, May 25, May 27—something like that. It’s just—
KISSINGER: My [unclear]—
NIXON: If you could even start it on May 28 and finish June 3 or something, that would be all right. Do you understand?
NIXON: Because then you have—it’s a good time. The weather’s a little better and all that crap. Now, whatever you want, but if they want it a little sooner, that’s fine. Now— HALDEMAN: Do you care at all about coincidence with primaries? In other words, do you want to look at that in any of that context?
NIXON: I think it’s—that’s always irrelevant.
KISSINGER: I think California—
HALDEMAN: —except for the way it’s going to be played. The California primary is clearly going to be the primary. It’s the first Tuesday in June.
NIXON: Yeah, but that’s—what day is it?
HALDEMAN: I don’t know. I’d have to look—get it now.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, do you think we’ll run right into it?
HALDEMAN: Oh, that’s the thing. Whether you want it—we ought to at least consider whether you want to run into it or whether—
NIXON: Or not. These are bigger than China in March now—bigger, Henry. They’re earlier in March.
KISSINGER: Yeah. First—
HALDEMAN: June 6 [the California primary election].
NIXON: Well, that’s fine.
NIXON: No, no, that’s too late.
KISSINGER: I think it’s a mistake, Mr. President. When we’ve told the Chinese we—the Chinese, after all, first asked us for—
NIXON: It must be in May. All right, fine. We’ve got to have it in May. So we’ll work it out in May. And the other one, you figure March for—
KISSINGER: I thought any time in the first ten days of March.
HALDEMAN: Then you got the other—the other big primaries will be next year in Florida and Wisconsin, which are [in] March and April.
NIXON: Well, you said we were heading in there in April.
HALDEMAN: Afterward.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: Well, if you go from around—
NIXON: March?
KISSINGER: If you go in the first week of March to Beijing, that runs into the campaigning in New Hampshire.
NIXON: Well, the campaigning in New Hampshire itself is really all February and part of March. But we can’t say that we’re not going to go anyplace until April.
KISSINGER: No, no. That’s good. I mean, it blankets the—if the trip—
HALDEMAN: Yeah, but there’s some advantage to not blanketing the Democratic campaign for one thing.
NIXON: Well—
HALDEMAN: There’s also the question of whether you get charged with the cheap shot of trying to blanket it by taking your trip.
NIXON: No, we should not take it—no, I’ve deliberately worked it out so we would not take either one on the day of a primary.

KISSINGER: Now, what date should I give the Chinese? This is important because—
NIXON: When is the date of the [Florida] primary? Fourteenth?
KISSINGER: Oh, I’m sorry.
HALDEMAN: It’s another [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Because, now, we have to play it differently. The original idea was not to give them a date until I’d been in Beijing—to have that hanging over their heads. But now that we’ve got to make the announcement with the Russians in September— HALDEMAN: You have to announce Russia in September?
KISSINGER: Well, my worry is this: if we tell the Russians we agree now, but we’ll announce it in December, which was the original game plan—
NIXON: No, no—
KISSINGER: —and then I go to Beijing before—
NIXON: Well, yeah.
KISSINGER: —it will look like a transparent slap in the face.
KISSINGER: That we’re running—
NIXON: But when you got something, use it.
HALDEMAN: On television, the Chinese—
NIXON: When you got something, use it.
KISSINGER: So the way to handle the Chinese is to do it—if you agree, Mr. President, what I thought I would do on Monday is say this: we’re willing to set the date, whichever we agree on here— NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —and give it to them. But we’d like to announce it only after I’ve been to Beijing.
NIXON: Don’t you think that we should give them a choice?
KISSINGER: Yeah, I’d give them a range of days.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Then, secondly, I’d say, “Now, you remember I told the prime minister—”
NIXON: “I told you it should go in order—the president’s the very first to come.”
KISSINGER: Yeah. I told him, and I’ll tell them that I’ve—
NIXON: For maybe four days?
NIXON: For talking, we need a week in China.
KISSINGER: I think you’ll need four days in Beijing. And then—
NIXON: To talk.
NIXON: Yeah, I’d say a week. That we’re—a week to one—
KISSINGER: And I think if they, for example—
NIXON: The translation problems. You see, the visits to both Russia and China take twice as much time to accomplish—first of all, there’s more to talk about. Second, they take twice as much time because of the enormous translation problem.
KISSINGER: And you don’t want to put yourself through what I did.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: It was necessary in my case, but it’s too dangerous for a president to be talking—
HALDEMAN: Going all night.
KISSINGER: —ten hours a day. I mean, because if you make a slip—
HALDEMAN: Except that’s the way they do these things.
NIXON: Well, but—
KISSINGER: Well, but—
HALDEMAN: Well, the point is that the Chinese—
NIXON: Yeah, we’ll see.
KISSINGER: But we can break that up.
NIXON: But we won’t—it will be better, better handled than that.
KISSINGER: At any rate, what I would propose to tell them, Mr. President, is—give them this date. We’ll set the time for my trip to Beijing. But, I’ll remind them of the fact that I told Zhou Enlai, and you said in your press conference, that whenever a negotiation reaches a certain point—that we had already accepted before I had been there—that, under those conditions, we’d go to Moscow.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Now, it looks as if Berlin is coming to a point. Thank God, it is.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And I can’t tell them [the Chinese] yet whether it will or will not. But, if it does, if they then extend the invitation, we can’t refuse it, except that we will do it two or three months after we’ve been there, and we’ll give them a week’s warning— NIXON: But we will have—we will announce it, but we—our trip will be three months after their trip.
KISSINGER: Right. But I won’t tell them, yet, that it’s set. I’ll tell them we’ll let them know five days or a week ahead of time if we do announce it. I don’t think it—I want to give them a full week.
KISSINGER: Besides, I’ve got to tell them you’re going to see the emperor of Japan, too, which they won’t like.
NIXON: Yeah. Just a courtesy. They’ll understand that.

NIXON: Put yourself in the position they are in. Bill [Rogers] and his people over there, naturally, are proud men, and they’re intelligent men, and the rest. They do like to think they run foreign policy. They don’t, and they’re just finally learning it. Because in every major decision, they have either been against it or don’t know about it. They didn’t do SALT. They didn’t do Cambodia and Laos. And they were very glad not to do it. They had no influence on our whole—they peed, you know, on all of our programs. Take the Jordan thing. Christ, they didn’t do anything but screw that one up.
KISSINGER: And then there’s Cienfuegos, for which we’ve never gotten any credit.
NIXON: As a matter of fact—as a matter of fact—Cienfuegos? Christ, did they do anything about it? Hell no.
KISSINGER: They fought like hell.
NIXON: We have played a very goddamn tough, skillful game here. It’ll come out sometime. And I don’t mind Bill now and then getting a little of this. But, Bob, we’re not going to let State put out any line that they pushed me into something. Now that would be a very bad thing— HALDEMAN: Yeah.
NIXON: —to be in the press. Do you agree, Henry?
KISSINGER: Oh, yes, and that’s what the liberals would like. They need some guy who made you do these things.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: We’ve avoided this on China. There’s no one—that hasn’t been written at all.
NIXON: Well, this is being said. It will be—
KISSINGER: Yeah, but it hasn’t happened yet. And I think this one ought to be positioned as your initiative—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —growing out of—
NIXON: Well, Henry, I can understand—
KISSINGER: I can background it—
NIXON: But let me say that I—you can do the backgrounder as you should, but, in a very curious way, even though it is, on reflection, a little embarrassing at the moment, I backgrounded it a bit when I mentioned that we discussed the matter with Gromyko.
NIXON: They know damn well—
KISSINGER: But I thought we could tie it back to—
NIXON: And did you know—and we remembered too late—the day we were across the street, and we talked about it a little and so forth, that day we had a long discussion and we decided then that there should be one in principle?
KISSINGER: That’s right. That’s why we ought to hold the announcement tight. Once it’s made, we can background it the way we backgrounded the China thing.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Tying it back to your moves over two years.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And I think we can get the same sort of stories again. Not as dramatic, because—but still enough people will write it.
NIXON: Well, but I think when you play down the dramatic, we may be thinking a little too small here. I knew the China thing would be big because of the land of mystery. But the reason this is dramatic is that a trip [to the Soviet Union] would not have occurred to unsophisticated people. The reason this is dramatic is that so many, though, of the smart people have said, “The China thing makes the Russians mad.”
KISSINGER: Of course, the—
NIXON: “Now, the Russians, we have a terrible problem in our foreign policy.” Here we kick the Russians in the teeth—and they invite us. So it shows enormous hope on the big problems. Now, I don’t think the Russian—I mean, the Russian thing is going to be one hell of a story.
KISSINGER: Well, you’re changing the whole approach to foreign policy, because all the wise guys, the people who told you, “ABM will kill SALT”—that’s been proved wrong. “Go to Beijing, it will drive the Russians crazy.” That’s been proved wrong. “If you play it tough in Jordan, there will be a war.” The opposite was true. It ended the war.
NIXON: Well, they’re—
KISSINGER: No, I think the record in foreign policy next year is going to be—
NIXON: Well, hold on. One more. We’ve got two out of three now.
NIXON: And we always said there were three. The two is pretty good.
KISSINGER: Well, Mr. President, if I were in Hanoi now, this is not a brilliant position for them. They’ve got their—I don’t think either Brezhnev or Mao wants them to screw it all up.
HALDEMAN: Will they give you a signal on that before you go over this week, do you think?
HALDEMAN: Will the Russians signal what—not on the trip, but on what their position ought to be?
KISSINGER: No, they may wait till November. But, in my view, they’ll accept it either now or—by next spring, I think we’ll be—we’ll have to meet before we go on these trips.

[KISSINGER leaves the conversation.]
NIXON: They [the Department of State leaders] do not think big. Henry is, I mean, he’s probably a little off the wall, and I know that in these NSC meetings, I am too at times. The earlier ones we’ve had. Henry and I would take, we both talk about long-range strategy and philosophy and so forth. And Bill gets very impatient with this philosophy. In all honesty, what are we going to do, he says. He doesn’t understand that you must not talk about what you’re going to do outside of a framework of philosophy. You’ve got to talk philosophy; you’ve got to be a great mosaic and you put in the pieces.
And State is not thinking in mosaic terms. The Communists do. The Chinese do, the Russians do. We must. The British used to. They don’t anymore, because they aren’t a power anymore. And the British are only thinking about how much they’re going to get and whether or not whipped cream goes with their strawberries, going to be higher or less and that sort of thing. They’re down to the piddling little goddamn things which are not worthy of a parliament. But that’s all they’ve got to talk about. But we’ve got big things to talk about, and we’re going to play it. But on Bill, we’ll handle it well.

“All that is needed is to close the gold window. That stops the crisis, right?”
August 12, 1971, 5:30 p.m.
Richard Nixon, John Connally, and George Shultz

When Vice President Richard Nixon lost his 1960 presidential bid to Senator John F. Kennedy by the narrowest of margins, some encouraged Nixon to challenge the result. While he did not do so, there was plenty of blame to go around for Nixon’s loss. There were charges of corruption in Cook County, Illinois, and various South Texas counties that had a history of voting irregularities. Some thought Eisenhower did not do enough to support Nixon. Some blamed the candidate himself, especially after Nixon looked pale and tired during the televised debates against the tanned and handsome Kennedy.
Nixon believed some of the blame belonged to the Eisenhower-appointed Federal Reserve, which did not do enough to help the nation out of a mild recession that occurred in the run-up to the 1960 election. The recession handed the Kennedy campaign an easy issue: Kennedy critiqued Nixon and the Republican Party as no longer being the party of prosperity. The issue fueled Nixon’s resentment of the Fed, which carried into his presidency. Nixon clashed with Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Arthur Burns on numerous occasions, delayed appointing board replacements, and threatened the Fed’s traditional independence.
In the summer of 1971, Nixon was faced with the decision about whether to end the gold standard. Something had to be done. The United States had $30 billion in printed dollars and debt in circulation, yet less than $10 billion in gold reserves to pay for this debt. The one-to-one link had been lost more than a decade earlier, but the system depended on the understanding that while in theory dollars could be exchanged for the gold equivalent, the United States did not have enough gold to pay its debt. It was an unstable system, but it was how the system had always worked. Some economists predicted global depression if the system were ended.
Disconnecting the world’s currency—the U.S. dollar—from a stable commodity like gold was a test of our faith in capitalism and the free market. With untethered currency, there would be no limit on growth, but also no limit on losses. Nixon feared making any decision without the consensus of his economic advisors, especially considering that the decision took place little more than a year before the 1972 elections. If this decision went wrong, it could mean losing another election over economic policy. Therefore, what Nixon decided to do was a combination of actions that addressed the problem of gold, but—in case anything went terribly wrong—also contained protectionist elements that could allow the government to intervene and restabilize the economy.
On August 15, 1971, Nixon severed the link between the dollar and gold, a first experiment at “floating,” which has been the norm for major world currencies since 1973. He also announced a ten percent tax on imports to appease labor unions, which largely backed Nixon in 1972. For businesses, Nixon included a business tax credit to encourage businesses to expand and invest. For conservatives, some of whom were not in favor of Nixon’s opening to China, he announced a system of wage and price controls. Although universally condemned now, the controls were popular among the “heartland” voters in the Farm and Rust Belts then.
In addition, the Sunday night televised announcement that preempted Bonanza came as a shock to the rest of the world. It was largely a unilateral decision, coordinated by Nixon and his two top economic advisors, John Connally and George Shultz, in the meeting that follows. Some have called Nixon’s severing of the link between the dollar and gold the beginning of the global financial system. It was one of the most important economic events since the Great Depression. In the long run it made the nation’s economic woes worse in the late 1970s, but in the short run the decision was popular and contributed to Nixon’s landslide election victory in 1972.

NIXON: Looking at what we, what is needed now, in order to stop the crisis, if we look at the international monetary thing, all that is needed is to close the gold window. That stops the crisis, right?
CONNALLY: That stops the crisis from our losing assets, but in effect it may create a crisis in terms of the international money markets. It’ll leave them in a chaotic state until something else happens, in my judgment.
NIXON: You have to say of course, that when you do this, well the way I had it positioned is that, the way it would be done, and I mean just putting it out, was that you would make an announcement to the effect that because of speculation against the dollar, that the United States was taking action to preserve the dollar, to that effect, and that we were temporarily closing the gold window, and that we would be prepared now to discuss with our major, with nations around the world, the setting up of a new, a better, more stable system, or whatever we want to call it, and that we’re prepared to do that. Right, George? Is that the way you would say it?
And then, that sets in motion so that you and Arthur [Burns]—could go have your meeting with five nations, or one, or ten, or fifty, or none. You know what I mean? Frankly, at least you can say you’re doing it for the purpose of defending the dollar against speculators, and, and incidentally, I would, if we did just this one thing, I would not have you do it—you should do it, not me, and you should not do it at prime time at night. Those people are—there’s no use to stir up a lot of people about things they don’t understand. You should do it just in a straight, a brief statement, take questions, and that’s it. Now that’s the way I would position that.
Then also, you would say that, in Burns, I think you could lift the lid, but we can’t lift it up on the wage-price freeze unfortunately, but you could say that, we are going to take actions, that we want to take actions this year, the president will present to the Congress when it returns, and we can say on the budgetary front, put ’em off a little, because you see, if you say it’s going to have a wage-price freeze, as you know, then, the cat’s out of the bag, they’ll all raise their prices, and, we’re screwed. So you might throw ’em off on that, that we’re going to take action, something of that sort. And then three weeks from now there’ll be other—now that’s one way to plug it.
Now, the other way to plug it, is to do exactly the reverse. And that is, just to announce now, only to announce, only the wage-price freeze. Just that. That’s another way to do it. And then, figuring that that, will, sort of stabilize the, that that might, we should say stabilize the situation, and then, then come up with our legislative package on taxes, on, including the border tax and so forth at a later point, and then if necessary, as necessary, work out your international problem on a negotiated basis, rather than on, unilaterally closing the gold window. Now that’s another way you can get at the damn thing.
And of course the third way is to, frankly, to go before we’re ready, do it now. The difficulty in going before we’re ready is that I, I think they’re about the same as we talked about before, and, you’ve probably had a chance to think about it, too, is that, first that we, we won’t do it as well, not nearly as well, in terms of everything we do, in terms of our budget action, in terms of our—well, we can put that off I guess, we can really put our budget and tax action off, we could put that off until the seventh in any event, because that is not essential to this. We, all we have to do in relation to the present crisis is to do the wage and price thing, and presumably the gold window. We ought to do both, I mean to be sure that we deal with it most effectively, we ought to do both of those things.
Now, on the other hand, that misses the great advantage of your program, in the way we put it of one, big, bold, play, that you do the whole damn thing at one time.
NIXON: Now, the question is, if we do the whole thing at one time, could we do it now, tonight? I don’t think so, no, and you would agree with that. And I don’t think we could do it even—well, I guess we could start burning the coal and we could get it by tomorrow night. But I don’t see any damn advantage of that, I mean. In my view, if we don’t do it tonight, John, then if we’re thinking of doing the whole package, what I was thinking we would do, is call the whole working group together, and we could whip up to Camp David tomorrow, and spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then on Monday, we announce the whole program.
NIXON: Now that’s one thing we could do, go for the whole ball on Sunday, and on Monday. It’s like all these [unclear] because we have this one, we know, we have a good idea what the public reaction will be to everything else, but nobody knows what the public reaction will be to the gold window, I mean, because, frankly, good God the people that are the experts don’t know what the hell it ought to be! They— CONNALLY: I’ll make a prediction—
SHULTZ: [unclear]
CONNALLY: I don’t think—
NIXON: Go ahead.
SHULTZ: I was going to say, I think that the closing of the gold window and the impact of that has already been taken into account in the marketplaces, and is not going to produce any [unclear]. My [unclear] that there will be a big currency devaluation [unclear] be a gyration of the stock market.
NIXON: All right, John, your turn.
CONNALLY: That’s basically my judgment. There’s been too much this week, too much written—
NIXON: That we’re going to do it.
CONNALLY: It has to come, there’s not a question of whether, it’s a question of when. There were three stories I just picked up, there were three stories on the editorial page in the Dallas Morning News this morning on the gold devaluation, three different stories, one with a question-and-answer stockholders’ advice, what does this mean, does this mean to me, you know, and so forth, some woman, who writes the stock market— NIXON: Oh.
CONNALLY: —and basically she said it’s not going to affect you—
NIXON: Sylvia Porter?
CONNALLY: No, it’s not Sylvia Porter, someone else, and it’s not going to affect you. None of the stories were bad, and all—they’re all just in effect—
NIXON: Well, even Hobart Rowen called me!
CONNALLY: Well, they’re all predicting, all the professionals think it’s coming.
NIXON: That may be one of the reasons everybody’s so jittery.
CONNALLY: Well, sure it’s why.
NIXON: The professionals are all so jittery.
CONNALLY: Sure it’s why it’s jittery, that’s why it’s going to remain jittery. I don’t really think we ought to be concerned about that. I think we ought to, primarily be concerned about how you can most effectively convince the American people that you, number one, are aware of your economic problems, number two, that you have thoughtfully considered them not as a piecemeal emergency stopgap measure, but that you have analyzed them in depth, and that you have dealt with them in a substantive manner, and of all of them, I think that’s the whole point. I wouldn’t consider the Congress too much.
CONNALLY: And your impact on the Congress, I wouldn’t think about what the reaction of the gold window thing is, that’s not going to be the big news. The big news is going to be in the, in what else you do, the wage and price, just as you said a moment ago— NIXON: That’s the big news.
CONNALLY: The wage and price, hell, this is the big news.
NIXON: Oh yeah, that’s all the folks are going to care about.
CONNALLY: Sure, that’s all they’re going to care about. Oh, they won’t worry about—
NIXON: They aren’t going to analyze something about the tax thing.
CONNALLY: Oh, the businesses will eat the tax up, the investment tax credit. And most people will have to say the problem with doing it piecemeal, and this is what worries me— NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: The problem of doing it piecemeal is number one, everybody’s going to be saying, well what’s—he’s got to do something else, what comes next?
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: And beyond that, they start speculating. That everybody starts trying to jump the gun on you, you get a bunch of leaks, you get a bunch of congressmen, and they all want to be holding things to show how smart they are. And they’ve already proposed a lot of these things. This is what, and I just think you’re going to get robbed of a hell of a lot of the impact of it, that’s what worries me about it. I agree with you completely that if you could wait until the day before, wait until September 7 to do it, no question whether that’s the wise thing to do, no question in my mind that if you do the whole package, the impact will be infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.
NIXON: Okay. The main point is—
CONNALLY: I don’t think you can wait that long in terms of the international money market. We’ve lost since August, in the twelve days in August, they, the foreign governments have acquired over three billion dollars.
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: And when we consider our three billion six hundred and ninety-four million dollars, just since the last twelve days. Today was a billion-dollar day, tomorrow might be three billion. We could ride it out, but when you consider what debts we have and the— NIXON: Well, let me ask you this, John, just so we can see what our options are, in terms of doing it all in one package, and what you prefer. Let me see if I get your thinking correct. You believe, you would have doubts about closing the gold window, and then doing the rest of it on September 7. That doesn’t sound good to you.
CONNALLY: I don’t think it’s the best solution.
NIXON: Because you think you’d be nibbled to death in between.
CONNALLY: Yes, I think the net effect of that is, that number one, the impression is that you were forced to do it by what’s happened in Europe in the last two weeks. And secondly, that you didn’t know what to do, it took you from now, from tomorrow, to September 7 to figure out what to do, and that you were merely reacting. That’s the thing that worries me about that.
NIXON: Another way you could do it, to get around that is to say when the Congress returns I will propose something. That’s the way you could do it.
CONNALLY: Yes, you could do that, that immediately of course, that immediately starts wild speculation—
NIXON: Correct.
CONNALLY: What’s he going to propose? What’s it going to contain? And then you’ve got everybody, you got everybody harassing now with them trying to find out, and everybody’s going to be speculating, and, I don’t think you should butcher it, which may not be bad, but— NIXON: No.
CONNALLY: But it is bad, I think it’s bad, and frankly, you don’t have a good situation. Polls indicate you’re taking a whipping on this economic issue, so I don’t think we ought to think in terms of a crisis. We’re lined up here with six billion dollars. What the hell difference does it make whether we’ve got six or ten billion, in the final analysis. I’m not worried about that, that doesn’t worry me in the least, that’s the reason I was thinking we [unclear] pay it out, I couldn’t care less. We owe thirty billion, so what, so we can’t pay it [unclear], if they call us. That isn’t the critical point.
It seems to me the critical point is that enough has been written now to trigger a comprehensive action on your part. I think that’s the main point. And the main point you want to come out of this, and I’m being repetitive and redundant here, is that none of this is new to you, that you knew what was happening, you picked a time, and you can just say, “I’d hoped that I might wait, but the situation has reached the point where I think I must say to the nation and the world now what my plan is, or I hope not to reveal this until Congress returns on the eighth, but the situation is such that I think damage would be done to the international monetary stability as well as the domestic economy to wait further. I’m telling you now what my plan is going to be and what I’m going to ask the Congress to do.”
I just think that overall it makes you a much wiser person. I think it gives you the initiative again. I think it takes away a lot of the criticism that is going to be heaped on you between now and then, which you can always recoup from, but I don’t think it helps to have these polls coming out showing that more and more people think the Democrats are the party of prosperity, and they’ve got less and less faith in your ability to deal with this economic issue. And we are all looking at that going too long, that you [unclear], how long can you stand it, I’m not going to say that you can’t stand it until September, but I’m going to say, though, that we can’t go tonight, we’re not ready for it, we can’t go tomorrow, we’re not ready for tomorrow night. We don’t have the text, we don’t have this type of presentation ready.
SHULTZ: [unclear] I think we could have a good thing [unclear] Camp David.
CONNALLY: Well I agree with that.
NIXON: Well why don’t we, it seems to me, George, based on what you say, that, let’s come back to Arthur’s view. Arthur’s view is that we should do it all at once.
SHULTZ: Well, if he had his choice, but his program, to do these domestic-type things, including the border tax, and see if that doesn’t handle the gold crisis. Don’t close the gold window, and carry on these discussions that are essentially aimed at changing the price of gold.
NIXON: In other words, what I had suggested to you over the phone, John, of doing the whole domestic side and letting the gold—you don’t buy that?
SHULTZ: And then, to say—
CONNALLY: Well, I buy it, but I just don’t see the point. Hell if you’re going to do all this domestic stuff, let’s close the gold window, so we don’t have the rest of these guys just keep nibbling at us. Because if they keep nibbling, if the announcement of the domestic program doesn’t work, then next week you got to close the gold window, and I think that’s a— NIXON: I think he has a point there.
CONNALLY: I think that’s a risk you don’t have to take.
NIXON: As a matter of fact, George, as we look at your analysis, we really, the gold, we really ought to close the gold window, shouldn’t we?
SHULTZ: Sure, I believe as a long-run proposition—
NIXON: That’s right.
SHULTZ: —that we ought to close it and keep it closed.
CONNALLY: [unclear]
NIXON: That’s what I mean. That’s why I—
SHULTZ: Arthur does not agree with that.
CONNALLY: No, but you’ve got to remember now, Arthur gives a standpoint, Mr. President, of a central banker. He doesn’t want to close the gold window. He doesn’t— NIXON: But he said he would support whatever we decided.
SHULTZ: Sure he would.
NIXON: Oh, I’m sure he would.
SHULTZ: I told him that I was just coming over to get an official reading, and that I knew that you would want to talk to him personally before you decided anything. He said [unclear] conversation that he wanted to be involved— NIXON: Oh, sure, he’s got to be involved.
SHULTZ: He is critical to putting [unclear]. He’ll support whatever you do.
NIXON: And also, Arthur of course is getting something out of this that he dearly wants, the wage and price freeze. Does he buy that?
SHULTZ: Well, he wants that, but he—
NIXON: Refers to the wage-price board.
SHULTZ: He—no, he thinks the idea of the freeze and the board—
NIXON: Following—
SHULTZ: —coming out of it, fine, and he’s very agreeable. He has his ideas, but he’s very agreeable.
CONNALLY: What was Paul Volcker’s reaction? Did you talk to him?
NIXON: He wants to do the whole ball.
SHULTZ: Well, I think Paul feels that this is D-Day, he said, the way he puts it. And then second, I [unclear] of what he said, but I think he feels the domestic problems [unclear].
NIXON: In other words, he feels that the two have to go together, which of course we all feel, but the question is whether or not it can be separated, separated one from the other. I don’t think that’ll work.
CONNALLY: What did he say the attitude of the market was this afternoon? The last thing I talked to him, he said it looks like panic. Just, [unclear], it looks like panic in the market, and in the international funds [unclear]. Did he say?
SHULTZ: No, just presumably, the [unclear].
CONNALLY: Yeah, we’d already had the figures, but I got an eval[uation] for [the impact] psychologically [it could cause]. It’s hard to determine.
SHULTZ: Well, on the other hand, the stock market went up.
CONNALLY: The stock market went up, yeah.
NIXON: Which, of course, has another—has an effect the other way, even on this side of the thing. You just never know, do you?
CONNALLY: No, Mr. President, after all, this international monetary thing, in a way, it’s a mystery, and in a way it isn’t a mystery. Now the guy who is the best-informed man in the United States on it is down here. And at some point, you ought to, I think you ought to talk to Paul Volcker yourself, and get a direct feel from him. The [unclear] to the Fed down here, and he’ll [unclear] run the country. In terms of the mechanics, I must say his judgment [unclear], but, in the final analysis— NIXON: Oh, look, I’m not going to talk to him tonight. We all know what his views are, we’ll just have to, if we have to bite the bullet, we bite it.
CONNALLY: I don’t know that it’s that big of a deal. I think ultimately, what you have to do, what is really important in this whole thing, is the impact on the American people, and their reaction to you and what you did, and their reaction to your action. That’s the important thing. The international thing, hell, it’s going to be in turmoil or a state of turmoil or semi-turmoil from now on. And it has been before. The French franc went through the gold, went through the bottom, the British pound has, the German mark has, the Italian lira has, and the dollar will be up and down. And I just don’t think you ought to worry too much about that.
NIXON: Yeah. One point where Volcker, previously, where I disagreed with him. He, like all people, is so tied up in the international thing. He thinks that we should make every sacrifice domestically to save the dollar internationally. I do not agree with that.
CONNALLY: Well, I wouldn’t say that’s his view, but—
NIXON: Well, he leans more—my view is, John, we’ve got to look mainly, as you have indicated, too, at the domestic problem. The international problem is going to be here regardless of what we do.
CONNALLY: Well, to put it in perspective, we talk about the balance of payments, Mr. President—
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: —the balance of payments, the exports from this country, represents four percent of your GNP. So we can’t let the tail wag the dog.
NIXON: Exactly.
CONNALLY: Now what’s happening in the international markets, frankly, is a reflection of what’s happening here at home. You’re not to cure it. This is what I’ve said to you since the outset. There’s monetary magic, international monetary magic that’s going to solve our problems. Our problems are basically, to the extent that we have them, right here at home. And when they’re solved, your international problems are solved, your international trade problems to a large extent are solved, because it’s merely a reflection. It just mirrors your economic strength at home, that’s all.
NIXON: Well that’s good. What I meant, John, one thing that you and I, on a political matter, in talking to the Quadriad, have to remember, is this: our primary goal must be a continued upward surge in the domestic economy. And we must not, in order to stabilize the international situation, cut our guts out here. See what I mean?
CONNALLY: I couldn’t agree more.
NIXON: In other words, blood, sweat, and tears, hell no. [laughter] Well, I mean, we’ll cut the budget, that isn’t a problem, but I mean we’re going to, we’ve got to continue to have an expansive policy in terms of—that’s why we’re going to have a package for this. That’s expansion.
CONNALLY: Well, here’s, to put it a different way, let me try to approach it a little different way, the reason why the whole package appeals to me so much. At home, if you have a problem with the conservatives because of the China thing, cutting the budget, these budget cuts are going to be manna from heaven for them.
NIXON: That’s why Weinberger agreed with us.
SHULTZ: Yes, sir, he’s the guy [unclear].
CONNALLY: Fiscal responsibility is just going to be like opening the gates of heaven to them, to the social conservatives who are critical of your China policy. To the American businessmen, who sit around, they really want to be Republican, but they’ll support anybody that they think— NIXON: Times will be better? Right.
CONNALLY: —is better for them. When you start talking about the investment tax credit, and these other tax actions, they’re going to jump up and down and shout hallelujah, whether they’re Bohemian Grove, or [unclear] Club, wherever they are. Now, to the average person in the country, this wage and price freeze, to him, means you mean business. You’re going to stop this inflation, you’re going to try to get control of this economy. Now, if you, when you take all of these actions, you’re not going to have anybody out, you’re not going to have anybody left out to be critical of you. Again, you’re going to have, it seems to me, you’re going to have your critics and your opponents fenced off to where they can’t really latch onto you.
NIXON: The critics will develop, John, we have to realize, on the administration, the administering of the wage and price son of a bitch.
NIXON: We must have no illusions.
NIXON: But on the other hand, we all know that a great majority of the American people want to go down that road at this moment, so you’ve got to give them a little whack at it. That’s why I told him to do it. See what I mean?
CONNALLY: As soon as the problems get insurmountable in the administration, let go of the damn thing, and follow it with something else. No one, none of us—
NIXON: That’s why we have to be ready, that’s why I think it’s good to have people ready for, say, the idea of the selecting of the major industries that’ll come up with George’s plan, [unclear] and have the board, we can do pretty well that way. Fortunately, we don’t have many labor negotiations coming up next year.
SHULTZ: On the wage-price, it seems to me, a freeze of no longer than 120, perhaps shorter, number of days. I lean towards short [unclear].
NIXON: Right. Well, the shorter it is, the simpler it can be. The longer it is, the more you have to have provisions for equity. But for a short freeze, what the hell, anybody can suffer for 60 days, or 90 days, 120 maybe.
SHULTZ: Then I think there has to be some kind of body to deal with these kinds of problems that John mentions, that eventually can deal with these generalities and spin off the problems that they come up with. If a coal man dealt with the coal problem until the coal problem is over and then that disappears. But if you don’t have a permanent structure to deal with— NIXON: If you continue your [unclear] panel indefinitely—
SHULTZ: If you continue the [unclear] panel, and have by design a notion of something going to business and they go out of it, so that you don’t get a bigger structure and get [unclear].
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: Now, in World War II, they had sixty-three thousand full-time federal employees and another two hundred thousand [unclear] people. They had close to three hundred thousand people in jobs.
NIXON: What I think we should do is this. I think that, after hearing all the possibilities of trying to separate it out, waiting and so forth and so on, which is better to have preparation, in view of what you say, George, about the amount of work you’ve already done, and, you’ve done a lot of things, all these people have done, what I mean is, George, you’ve already done— CONNALLY: Yes, sir.
NIXON: McCracken’s people, see, John, we’ve put all these people working not knowing what the hell they’re working on, and so we’ve got a little work done. I think we ought to go Monday, with the whole ball. Now, I think, George, it just makes sense, for reasons that, first of all, I think—I don’t think it’s, [unclear], the way I would do it is that, I would suggest that, and this is one way we can keep it closely held, is just have a meeting in Camp David over the weekend, and have everybody locked up up there. Does that sound all right to you?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Is that all right to you?
NIXON: Now, we go, I think we would leave, say, tomorrow afternoon. Whether we can get away, I’ve got a few, McCracken I guess I’ll do tomorrow, I think maybe I’ll put that in the NSC meeting, I’ll slip that in, all right, [unclear]—well anyway, this is more important. I just don’t want to [unclear], to get through that at this point. It’s on the national, it’s on the budget, defense, in fact, I may even have them come to California to do it [unclear].
Now, as I suggested, do either of you have doubts, do either of you have anything? What I would like to do would be to set the whole thing up. The men that I think should participate, and definitely we will need some staffers, the man from your shop should be— CONNALLY: Volcker.
NIXON: Well, and whoever else you want. I think Arthur obviously should come, and, I don’t, as far as people who participate in the meeting, the only ones who should participate in the meeting now are the three of us plus Arthur, and McCracken, and Peterson. I think Peterson has to be in there, too, because he’s been all over this, don’t you agree?
SHULTZ: I agree.
NIXON: And he’s got some good ideas, too. So those are the people that I want, we’ll have basically, the quintuplet people. The five of us will be the meeting. Now, as far as staff people, I would not expand it beyond what is needed. But you can take—you, for example, have to have Weinberger up there, don’t you? Well, let me say— SHULTZ: To deal with the budget thing?
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: Not necessary.
NIXON: Oh no?
SHULTZ: Not necessary.
NIXON: You can, frankly, just get it from him before he comes [unclear]. Let me say that, and also we don’t have to get into the nuts and bolts and that sort of thing. We can just say that we are going to cut it by so much money, including these things, da-da-da-da-da-da! And later on that can come. But, if we get Arthur up there, he may want to bring one man with him. I think having—the fewer we bring the better.
SHULTZ: Arthur can handle it.
NIXON: You—all right, you should have Volcker of course. You need him, right?
SHULTZ: Volcker would disapprove, I would say. He knows the mechanics of the monetary system, whatever you may think of his judgment. He knows the mechanics of the system.
NIXON: Who? Volcker?
CONNALLY: No question.
NIXON: Oh, hell yes. Sure, well why we’ve wanted him over there. He’s—
CONNALLY: He’s the best man in your government.
NIXON: I think that the three of us, I think we should go up there, and I just think, think we ought to bite the bullet. It does appear that, well let’s face it, George, answering my own, I raised this question, not wanting to appear to panic, and that, to do this in a deliberate way. We have been meeting for a long time on this subject, so we’re up there over a weekend, and we go over this thing, and I don’t think, incidentally, John, that the reason for presenting it, that I would say that I was hoping I could delay.
NIXON: I think I wouldn’t be a bit defensive. I think we can just go out and say that we are taking these steps because we think it is time now for the United States to do this, that, and the other thing, da-da-da-da-da-da! Just crack it out there. Very simple, not too much explanation. I’ll tell you, the wage-price freeze is going to be so—you see, first of all, as far as the tax things are concerned, you don’t have to explain anything, the business guys will all get the message. As far as the budget cut is concerned, you don’t have to explain anything, people are going to know that goddamn it, he’s cutting the budget.
CONNALLY: That’s right.
NIXON: As far as the wage-price freeze is concerned, they’re going to say thank God, we’ve got a wage-price freeze. This isn’t something where I think that there should be, the more I think about it, well, a great big long presentation, you know, half-hour speech about the economy and so forth. I don’t think that’s as good. I think this is something where action, it’s like the China announcement, where action is so powerful, the words should be very brief. That’s my view, or do you disagree?
CONNALLY: No, I don’t disagree with that.
NIXON: See what I mean? We’re doing things that are so powerful, and so—
SHULTZ: Combine that with some really—
NIXON: Backgrounder.
SHULTZ: —some good, strong materials for background.
NIXON: Well, the background thing—
SHULTZ: In one of our sessions, John mentioned to me the idea of having a chart—
SHULTZ: —that shows the buildup of the liabilities and the decline of the gold—
NIXON: Right. Yeah.
SHULTZ: —and shows this goes way, way back to—
NIXON: That is something, on the other hand, that is something I should not do probably—
NIXON: —because it is too complicated, but it is something John should do. I mean, there’s where you have, where the experts will then see it and write it.
CONNALLY: The reason you want this background, in detail along these lines, is to show that we’ve been deteriorating for twenty-five years—
NIXON: Right.
CONNALLY: —and that you’re the first president that’s had the guts—
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: —to take this comprehensive—
NIXON: Great.
CONNALLY: —action, because out of this whole thing—
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: —we want to come, hopefully somebody will say that he not only did move in the international field—
NIXON: Right.
CONNALLY: —moved on the domestic front, moved on the—
NIXON: That I would want to get in my own remarks. I would say that for the past twenty-five years we’ve seen a gradual deterioration of our position, and we’ve had this situation, we’ve had these monetary crises and so forth, and it’s time now to call it off. What we’re going to do is do these things. First, we’re going to close the gold window and we’ll be prepared to negotiate about this sort of thing and have a more stable situation. Second, we’re going to have an import tax, da-da-da-da. Third, we’re going to do this thing.
Now, let’s wait a minute here. One thing here. The import tax thing is the question, George, is the legal question that you raised. George has got two different ways, John, that we might be able to do the import tax, without asking the Congress. I’d hate to have the Congress go in there, because they’ll put in exceptions and screw it up beyond belief. So he thinks that you might use, he doesn’t know, the national security [unclear], or you might use, the GATT provision, but this could only cover those items that remain GATT, and could only mean moving up our duties, like on automobiles it would be six percent.
CONNALLY: That’s right.
NIXON: Not bad though.
CONNALLY: Well, we’ve got this divided opinion on that—
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: —in Treasury. Within Treasury, we’ve got two legal opinions, one says you can do it, and the other says you can’t. One of ’em’s Trading with the Enemy Act going all the way back, that’s one way you can do it, to 1917. And the other is, that you can use your authority that was granted under the—let me see the precise title of it— NIXON: Emergency preparedness—
CONNALLY: Trade agreements, your tariffs—
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: That’s what you’re—
NIXON: Yeah, that’s George’s dealing. I don’t understand what that is.
SHULTZ: John is, John Mitchell is working on that now. He may know whether or not he is prepared to give an opinion.
NIXON: Yeah. Well now, let’s take that out a bit. Are we—let us suppose, John, we go for Monday, that we say that I am going to ask the Congress for a legislation proposal, an import tax?
SHULTZ: Well, could I—
NIXON: Maybe, if, let me say, if we have to get it to the Congress, I don’t think I should say it three weeks before. Get my point?
CONNALLY: Understand.
NIXON: I’m afraid of that. Now, the freeze, you don’t have to go to the Congress. Other legislative proposals, no problem, you can just send these to the Congress. But this one—go ahead.
SHULTZ: Two points, I think, on the import tax. One is, that it has the same attributes as the wage-price, in that if people think that might be imposed, they’ll import as much as they can beforehand— NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —and it’ll tend to aggravate the balance of payments for a while.
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: Now, that has the same—
NIXON: Therefore—
SHULTZ: The second point of this thing is, if you go back again to your point about the connection between the devaluation and the tax, in a sense the tax is a form of devaluation, and— NIXON: [Gives unrelated instruction on the telephone.]
SHULTZ: The devaluation question and the tax question are closely connected, as you pointed out, the tax is a form of devaluation.
NIXON: Sure, sure.
SHULTZ: So you have the gold, and the float, and will anything happen as a result of that, question mark. And as some time elapses you can find out how much. So then you know more about what you want to do on that. Second, there’s the question of what kind of creations take place and what can be done on that score. So that it seems to me there’s an argument at least for saying do these things not including the border tax, and let the border tax come along a little later, whether or not you decide you can do it unilaterally or have to do it through the Congress.
NIXON: Well, let me put it this way, let me say this, if we decide that it is too close a question from a legal standpoint to do it unilaterally, then we must not announce it. I think you would agree, John, on Monday, or do you?
CONNALLY: Yes, I would.
NIXON: I do think that the idea that they would pour in the imports and then we would aggravate the balance of payments is probably true, but then we hold that in reserve, and smack that later. But how much does that detract from our package, John?
CONNALLY: Well, quite a bit. What I would do, I would simply say that I’m going to ask the Congress to impose the border tax effective as of today. Congress can always backdate things. They do it on a tax bill. They do it on everything else. You have to assume they are going to act favorably on it. And they certainly will, just say I’m going to, I’m going to ask— NIXON: What about the budget?
SHULTZ: That would take care of this speculating problem, but I think that it still leaves the question of these interrelationships, and whether or not you can get what you want out of the devaluation, because on the whole, that’s a preferable way to do it— CONNALLY: George is right.
SHULTZ: —[unclear] out of the marketplace.
NIXON: What’s that?
CONNALLY: George is right. The two are, that they really, reach toward the same objective. And Paul takes the same position, and George does, really if you’re going to have the float, this ought to cure your problems.
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: You don’t need the border taxes. You’re trying to reach the same objectives. But I want it to get the devaluation. I just think if you don’t have something, and just say we want the Congress, if the Congress will put it on there, you can say, then we can say, the Japanese, the Germans, and so forth, if we get it, a proper exchange rate, differential here, we’ll repeal the border tax. But, I just think you ought to leave it in strength as long as we’re doing it.
Now, I recognize full well that the two, the two are basically incompatible. You shouldn’t need both, except that, that we’re dealing with all these countries around the world, and hell, they’re not going to just let us do what we want to, to the extent that we want to. Now they’ll give you a five percent, or they’ll give you a seven percent, differential in your exchange rates without too much trouble, but that’s not going to solve our problem here. I’d like to have a fifteen percent border tax, and then say we want a ten percent, differential in the exchange rate, or ten percent devaluation, whatever kind of wording you want to use.
NIXON: In other words, your idea would be to impose the border tax, but then have, would you ask for the Congress to impose it?
CONNALLY: Sure, I’d ask them to impose it. To give you the authority to remove it when, in your judgment, the international exchange rates have reached a point where the United States is receiving a fair deal, in effect, in its trade relations. I’d even ask them to impose it. Now, the other way you play it, and I assume it’s a part of George[’s views] and a certain part of Paul[’s views], is, if you’re going to float, that this tends to let the currencies seek their level, so you don’t need the border tax. But to threaten them with the border tax, say now, we haven’t got it, but if we don’t get an exchange rate that is satisfactory to us, if you don’t in effect reevaluate the yen twenty percent instead of five percent, we’re going to ask the Congress for a border tax. So it’s just a question, it’s a question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. You can get the tax and agree to remove it if you get what you want, or you can try to get what you want and threaten to impose it. Because I think you have to have something to deal with these countries, other than just a float. I just— NIXON: Incidentally, George talked to Rogers, and Rogers said that he would not oppose the border tax threat.
SHULTZ: He called me to give me that feeling.
NIXON: Who would have talked to him, Peterson?
SHULTZ: I don’t know who talked to him, I mean [unclear] on the Hill.
CONNALLY: Well, how’s he talking to him?
SHULTZ: Bill Rogers has been around a lot. He called me to tell me that, and specifically asked me to tell you about it.
NIXON: Well, that’s an interesting view.
CONNALLY: It sure is.
NIXON: It sure doesn’t represent the views of the State Department bureaucracy!
SHULTZ: Well, it represents the fears that we will have a big quota bill and they would rather have [unclear].
CONNALLY: That’s correct. That’s what I said.
NIXON: We’re talking, George, about some other things, here, too. Think about the border tax. It has some appeal to me. I think it gets us away, even though it doesn’t solve the textile thing. It gets at it in a way.
CONNALLY: It gets at a lot of these problems. My God, if you can get the Congress in, I can’t believe they won’t pass it. And you immediately lay in on textiles, and automo—and Japanese automobiles, Japanese steel, and everything else, while you’re negotiating. Mr. President, we can be negotiating. George is not going to be in a hurry to stop the float, of the dollar. And a lot of people are not. We may be floating years from now. This exchange rate will be up and down, and, and you have to remember, that we are the least controlled currency, and we are the least controlled economy in the world, among the industrial nations. Isn’t that a fair statement?
NIXON: I’ll say.
CONNALLY: We certainly are less controlled than Japan, we are certainly less than Germany, we are certainly less than France, or Italy, or Great Britain, or any of these countries. So they’ve got to be [unclear].
SHULTZ: That’s the reason why we’ve got a good economy.
CONNALLY: Well, that’s very true, but they’ve got the advantage over us in negotiations, because we don’t have any tool with which to negotiate with ’em. That’s the problem. Now, philosophically, I don’t have any argument with George. Not at all. But as a practical matter, I’d damn sure rather have a fifteen percent tax on ’em so that they can’t ship in their cars without paying it on their textiles, and then it makes them a little more pliable if we say we’ll take it off, fellas, if you all could give us an exchange rate that is acceptable to us.
SHULTZ: This is, I suppose, just the kind of thing we need to take out—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —over the weekend, and the first thing is to have in place, if it’s possible, if there’s a legal basis for doing something—
NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: —and research that out, which I’m sure we can.
NIXON: Right.
CONNALLY: Well, I don’t think we’ll take action for something we don’t have a sound basis for.
NIXON: I think that John’s point that about the [unclear], that’s a good point—
CONNALLY: And again—
NIXON: Get an [unclear]—
SHULTZ: [unclear] if we impose the tax here, I think, on the [unclear], move to impose the tax [unclear].
CONNALLY: Let me point out to you now, George, if you don’t, going into a political year, and if we don’t get some real relief, if we don’t improve, odds are that our balance of payments is not going to improve the rest of this year, because the turnaround time takes so damn long as you well know. Maybe— SHULTZ: I’ll wager—
CONNALLY: All right.
SHULTZ: —a dollar that the third quarter’s better than the second quarter.
CONNALLY: Well, it may be anyway. I would anticipate it would be.
NIXON: As bad as?
SHULTZ: Better.
CONNALLY: Better. But, I would anticipate that anyway. But my point is that our actions are not going to result in any great change for several months. Now, during that period of time, you’re going to have these guys in Congress holler for more protection, and they’re going to go on a quarterly basis in an election year, but if you go with the import tax, you can remove it, and there isn’t a person I don’t know that wouldn’t rather have the tax, the border tax, than to have a quota.
NIXON: Yeah, I must say, George, that argument is quite persuasive to me. The quota thing is, just testing it out, is just desperate. It is totally wrong, and I have come down, John, against the textile thing. I’ve been wrestling with that, and [unclear]. But I just can’t, I’ve come down against the use of that national security authority. Mitchell is for it, Stans is for it, Hodgson is for it, in fact, all the most political people. I’ll tell you what, if we do it there, we are opening Pandora’s box, and I’ll have to do it for steel, and it’s stretching one hell of a lot. I think Lincoln, well, not that he would, he’d probably have to resign. I mean, we really can’t, you just can’t beat him over the head and say, look, textiles, you know what I mean? I just don’t like, I don’t think we can stretch it that far, and I think it’s a hell of a bad precedent.
Now, on the textile thing, however, this could give you one hell of a—looking at the textile problem, George, here is [unclear], goddamn, look at that paper, would you [slaps paper]? But anyway, this gives you some bargaining position with the Japanese.
CONNALLY: That’s right.
NIXON: Even on the textile problem, in my view.
SHULTZ: No, I think we could—
NIXON: Even the quota thing, I mean, the border tax.
SHULTZ: Anyhow, suppose that we get a favorable opinion from John on the GATT thing—
NIXON: Yeah. Right.
SHULTZ: —that would be [unclear]. Everybody knows that you have that, so that you’ve got that tool there. Then, you can go to border taxes, or you go to closure under that. Closures are more specific, and that involves [unclear], and maybe in addition to the devaluation, you can hit the textiles thing like a ton of bricks on the basis of that, and walk away.
NIXON: What do you mean, how would you do that?
SHULTZ: To, if—
NIXON: On the basis of the GATT thing, how?
SHULTZ: It may be that you could—you wouldn’t have to go across the board. That you could just take a particular thing, under the devaluation, take the textile bit, and do something of it [unclear], a special case could be probably made on textiles, that again, is something that you could do.
NIXON: Hmm. In other words, rather than the national security authority, the GATT, under the rules of GATT, you could do this?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir.
SHULTZ: That may be.
NIXON: On textiles? Why in the hell haven’t we thought of this before then? What’s the matter?
NIXON: [unclear] [laughs] Well, I just think, it seems to me that if that were possible somebody should have told me a year ago. Maybe it’s not possible.
SHULTZ: This is related to the, to the recognition of a critical point in the balance of payments, in general here, that is the situation.
NIXON: Well, everybody says it’s critical.
SHULTZ: There’s no doubt about that.
NIXON: That’s the one thing you’ve got agreement on. What’s unanimous is we’re in a crisis.
SHULTZ: Well, I think there’s also an interesting agreement on the basic set of points that you and John have talked about, [unclear] somehow some combination of the gold and the monetary business, and the wage-price, the budget stuff, and the border tax. Some combination of that is the right answer, and those are the pieces that everybody comes up with. And there’s a very strong, centrality of view on that, and of course there’s a great relationship both politically, as John brings out, and I think, substantively among these things.
It seems to me you have a short-term monetary crisis that has to be dealt with. That’s part of that package. There’s a long-term monetary, or international balance of payments problem that has to be dealt with that the package deals with. There is a problem of domestic inflation, regardless of the international debacle, that has to be dealt with, that this deals with. And then, beyond that, there are these great underlying points that you emphasize, that there is the problem of continuing domestic expansion— NIXON: Stimulating the economy.
SHULTZ: —and stimulating the economy.
NIXON: We’re speaking to those pressures.
CONNALLY: And creating jobs.
NIXON: We’re speaking to all these pressures.
CONNALLY: We’re speaking to every single one of them, and that is the beauty of it.
SHULTZ: Then there is the notion of leadership from you, domestically, and I think that this also can be said, depending on how it is structured, as a chance to make a strong international economic leadership pitch here— NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —to go alongside the other, and that’s very [unclear]—
NIXON: That’s a—right, that’s a very good point, and would be a good one to say. Now we’re—rather than that we are doing this because our backs are against a wall, we’re simply saying we’re doing this because it’s time to change this obsolete system to set up a new system in its place, and these are the steps that we’re going to take, and now we’re prepared to negotiate with our friends around the world, to tend to solve the problem. Is that the way you would do it?
SHULTZ: Here I think the border tax has a, it’s a negotiating point, it is a point of, it’s one of these retaliatory things, to a greater extent I think than the monetary is, if you just do it— NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —and then negotiate it. And, at the same time, it seems to me, a very good thing to surface if we can say it is in your hands to do, and let everybody know.
NIXON: In other words, rather than doing it, to threaten?
SHULTZ: Just to let people know it’s there, and not do it.
NIXON: Well, the thing about doing it that appeals to me, is that, of course you would go either way—
CONNALLY: No, I’d go for imposing it.
NIXON: I prefer to do it, George, for another reason. That I feel we’re dealing in the world with some very tough customers, and that I feel that, that we, like with the Japanese, if we say well, we’ll put some quotas on, and that sort of thing. Well Christ, they don’t believe it, and naturally we want them to feel it. I’m inclined to think that we’ll act first, talk later, after we’ve shot the gun out of their hands.
But, anyway, that’s the way I lean at this point, particularly if we do it all in a context of, of leadership and conciliation. We will say, now look, we’re not doing this for the purpose of permanency. We’re doing this for the purpose of building a more stable system.
CONNALLY: I’d call—
NIXON: We’re prepared to negotiate. See, that’s the way I would, prepared to negotiate. We’ll deal with this. See my point?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir.
NIXON: I don’t think we should—I don’t think, John, it would be in our interest, it isn’t in the interest of world leadership to step up and say the United States is going to isolate itself with a fifteen percent wall around it— CONNALLY: No.
NIXON: —because also that’s very bad for American industry. A lot of these guys are going to sit on their butts and won’t work.
CONNALLY: I couldn’t agree more.
NIXON: So, the purpose of this, really, is the use of a temporary nature, to get the—
CONNALLY: In the bill, I would insist that you have the authority to lift the tax at any time, when in your judgment, you no longer need it. And if they didn’t give you that, I’d veto it. I don’t think they are going to impose a fifteen percent tax, without your having the right— NIXON: Well, the beauty of not having to do it in a bill, if we could do it in the GATT it would be much easier, just do it and take it away.
CONNALLY: That’s correct.
NIXON: Go ahead.
SHULTZ: I was just going to ask. Suppose you could have it either way, unilateral through the president, or through the Congress, would you have a preference?
CONNALLY: Oh, unilateral would be the preference.
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: I think you need to have flexibility, because I would use it as a trading—
NIXON: I prefer the unilateral thing for another reason, that the Congress is likely to put, hedge it with so many restrictions—
CONNALLY: That’s correct.
NIXON: —with regard to, it must, it cannot be imposed without sending it to the Congress, or it cannot be removed, et cetera. It’ll just get screwed up, George. It’ll just get screwed up.
CONNALLY: One way or the other.
NIXON: I think we have got to bend the law. Let me say, we’re not bending the law. So somebody will sue us, so what the hell! We’ll be sued for two years. We’ll fight that damn thing in the Supreme Court. Right?
CONNALLY: I think you’ve got enough coverage from Clark [possibly Ed Clark, a Treasury Department attorney] under both the Treasury Act of 1917 and the Treasury Agreements Act to do it, and one of our young lawyers over there thinks so now— NIXON: Another one doesn’t?
CONNALLY: Another one doesn’t.
NIXON: What are lawyers for if they disagree?
CONNALLY: Well sure, as long you can get one good lawyer to say you can do it—
SHULTZ: It’s one good lawyer that counts—
CONNALLY: That’s right, and if he can find a way, why, I just—
NIXON: Well now, John, John Mitchell, let’s get the ducks in a row then. I think we can go Monday. And I think that having this meeting, George, to a certain extent, answers my concern about not being orderly. Another thing about this is, putting it in the context of the China thing, I did that with great surprise, and we could, when we brief on Monday, we’ll say the president has had this under consideration for, which is actually true. Peterson wrote me a memorandum months ago on border taxes. You wrote me one on, well, you know— CONNALLY: Mr. President, I think you take the position that we have been actively discussing this since the mark crisis in the spring.
NIXON: That’s right.
CONNALLY: Because we did talk about it.
NIXON: This has been discussed, and that now is the time for decision. And we’re decided, and we’re getting up there, and then we just come on it, when, unexpected, and whack it right to it. And off we go. Now, we’ve got to remember, that, apart from the fact [unclear] we weren’t listening too much and so forth and so on. What the hell [unclear].
SHULTZ: They’ll hear this.
CONNALLY: They’ll hear this.
NIXON: The businessmen will hear it, and—
CONNALLY: It’ll be the shot heard around the world, you can be sure of that. [laughter] It’ll be in every town and hamlet.
NIXON: Can we talk again about who goes, because I don’t want to get this beyond—John, do you like anybody besides Volcker?
CONNALLY: No, we ought to have one good lawyer knowledgeable in this field. Now, if Justice is going to brief this question, they ought to have a man. Otherwise, we ought to take Roy Englert or somebody from Treasury who has lived with this— NIXON: Well, another thing you could do, is of course, once you—
CONNALLY: He doesn’t have to sit in all of the meetings—
NIXON: Fine.
CONNALLY: —just be available.
NIXON: There is a little problem of how do we get space provided, you see. You would want?
SHULTZ: There is one possibility, Cap [Weinberger]—
NIXON: No, not necessary.
SHULTZ: —one possibility is this fellow named Dan Whitlay, who is a lawyer, he is very, very good, who was brought over—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —I don’t know what he’s been [unclear].
NIXON: He’s good, he’s working. Well, bring him along, there’s no problem there. Well then, look, you fellows decide. Arthur—alone, right? He is. Arthur just needs his wisdom. Arthur, then Peterson—incidentally, I think Peterson should be alone. Do you agree?
SHULTZ: Yes, [unclear].
NIXON: He should. He’s another principal. McCracken? I think we ought to have McCracken—
CONNALLY: I think he has to be there.
NIXON: —and Stein.
SHULTZ: Stein adds a lot.
NIXON: The reason I’d have Stein, John, now I said, I wouldn’t have the new man, because he isn’t up with it yet. But Stein has a very, what I would call a very cold, hard, mind. And he’s the kind of a guy who will contribute more than McCracken will to this kind of conversation. McCracken will contribute to the discussion, but Stein will contribute to the decision. He’s a very cold customer. So I think they ought to come.
How’s that sound? Now will you, George, take down the logistical thing and work it out with them? With regard to what we put on, with regard to what we’re going to put in that budget cut, and so forth and so on. That’s all the domestic field, you should have Ehrlichman there, not to participate in all of our meetings, or maybe we can just have him there.
Well, there are two major things. One is that, putting off the deferring, maybe you can talk to him about it tomorrow, the deferring of the—
SHULTZ: We can go over all of the budget things at the cabinet tomorrow.
NIXON: Yeah. Could you do that? Good. You do that. Now, and arrange for that. Let me, John?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir?
NIXON: I think what we’ll do is just helicopter up. We’ll go up at noon, well, right after lunch, let’s say. Does that sound all right?
CONNALLY: That’s fine.
NIXON: Go right up there, and then we’ll have a meeting. But if we have a meeting we’ll spend a lot of time gassing. What do you fellows visualize as a good way to structure this thing? What do you say, John?
CONNALLY: I would simply say that you ought to have a meeting with everybody. I wouldn’t take anybody up there that you couldn’t have in this meeting.
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: And this is Stein, Volcker, and so forth.
NIXON: Oh yeah, all of them.
CONNALLY: And let ’em all sit there, and then discuss this whole problem as if you have not made a decision at all. Don’t tell them you’ve made a decision to do it. Now, let ’em all sit there, let ’em all discuss it, and lead the thing. Then after an hour or so of general discussion, which they all [unclear]— NIXON: Send it back?
CONNALLY: Ask ’em to do something, and set out, and say all right, you all go and work on this and this and this and this, and come back and we’ll have another meeting— NIXON: Saturday night?
CONNALLY: —Saturday night, and that I’ll be thinking about it and make a decision. Let ’em all feel that they’re a part of the decision.
NIXON: Oh, sure, I want them to do that, but what I meant is how do we get a lot of them to do their thinking and homework before they get to the meeting. You see my point? Now maybe they’ve already done it.
CONNALLY: Oh, I think they—
SHULTZ: To some extent, we could work up a little thing for who—
NIXON: All right.
SHULTZ: —would report on what—
NIXON: Well, I think—
SHULTZ: —I wonder if—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —you have a general meeting like that, and the elements are laid out, if you then might want to suggest and say John chair a meeting, that’s essentially you task the people up there who is going to be in charge of coming up with what— NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: —and then let him—
NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: —chair another meeting that in a sense develops that material before it’s brought to you.
NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: And then we have a second meeting with you. We have these pieces lined up, and we have this kind of a discussion people always have and kind of ramble around a little bit— NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: —without having you to have to sit in—
NIXON: Well, I know—listen, I am perfectly willing to sit in and talk all night, you know, if it’s useful. But I do know that when time is of the essence, that you finally get down to the nut cutting, and some guy’s just—you’ve got to go off and I say what the hell is the program? Now let’s see what it is, you see what I mean, John?
CONNALLY: Now may I suggest, that you take somebody with you, designate one of these people to start working on the speech?
NIXON: Yeah, yeah.
CONNALLY: I don’t know who you like to have do it, but we can start to work on it. I can work on it, [unclear] want your speechwriters [unclear]. But someone should be there and they should get started fairly early on that.
SHULTZ: [unclear] could have Ziegler run the press [unclear]. The marketing for this is through the press. Now that has to be done, and Ziegler [unclear]—
NIXON: No, there’s not.
SHULTZ: —or Haldeman, or—
NIXON: Haldeman is the one to do that. I mean, he will supervise it, you know, Ziegler, Ziegler and Klein, and all those people, and he knows how to, we can bring somebody up [unclear].
SHULTZ: [unclear], he’s as clever a writer as there is, there’s not [unclear]—
NIXON: You know, you’re right.
SHULTZ: —he’s just written a little piece that I got this morning, I don’t know whether you’ve seen it, called “The Discouraged Employer”—
NIXON: The what?
SHULTZ: “The Discouraged Employer,” who is—
NIXON: How fast is Dennison? How fast can Curt write?
SHULTZ: Oh, he writes very fast. He writes like Safire. And—
NIXON: [unclear], Stein, I’d just as soon not to have another speechwriter there. I’m going to do all of the writing myself, of course, but I, that’s the reason that I’ve got to have the damn decisions made fairly soon so that I’ll know what’s going to go in. But what I’d like is, let me say, that what we need, from your side, John, let’s get from your people what they think ought to be said. Let me get, I feel, that what ought to be said should be crisp, reassuring, and brief. I feel very strongly that, incidentally, where you have strong, powerful actions, that it loses by adding a lot of fat and words around it, you know, and I think it’s, in a sense that, then if I am not satisfied with the way it’s coming around, on say, Sunday, then we have to [unclear] for something like that, well, I’ll try to think of one of our people here. Safire has considerable abilities in this field. He’s done, he’s done one [unclear]. I think I’d like to give St—let’s see what, Stein is so sophisticated here.
SHULTZ: [unclear] Stein [unclear]—
NIXON: What’s that?
SHULTZ: I said that probably helps Stein—
NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: —that’s one of his roles.
NIXON: Right, well, but on the other hand, John, your people have already done some writing on this.
CONNALLY: Oh yeah, they know. We just give whoever you want—
NIXON: The raw materials.
CONNALLY: —the raw materials, if you’d like—
NIXON: Right.
CONNALLY: —or we can try to prepare a finished draft tomorrow.
NIXON: Well, let’s start with this. You might as well give it to them right now. I’d like to see what they come up with in the way of a finished draft. And say, it would be very helpful, because you know I find in this speech business, I dredge out nuggets out of everyone.
NIXON: You get the best of ’em that way. Fine, will you do that?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir.
NIXON: And I would say—
CONNALLY: I agree on Stein. I’ve seen a bunch of his stuff, and he is quite [unclear]. He really has improved.
NIXON: I would say that we would go, let me say that we would set our meeting for three o’clock tomorrow afternoon. We will be prepared, my thought is in that first meeting, to meet for, basically six o’clock. I think, John, you just take three hours— SHULTZ: Three to six?
NIXON: Huh? Don’t you think so?
SHULTZ: Three to six in the afternoon?
NIXON: Yeah. Don’t you think so?
CONNALLY: I hope it wouldn’t take that long, but we’ll—
NIXON: Well, three to five, maybe.
CONNALLY: That certainly ought to cover it.
NIXON: Well, let me say, I was just thinking that if you wanted to give everybody a chance to say something—
CONNALLY: Fine. That’s right. And you see, when we talk about the investment tax credit, Mr. President, we need to talk about is it going to be seven percent, or why not ten percent?
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: Why not eight percent? I think that after everything that’s been said, we had seven, I don’t even know how to change it, we’ve been ordered to change it.
NIXON: Yeah. Okay. At least make it eight!
CONNALLY: Sure, make it eight.
SHULTZ: After the tax thing passes, about [unclear] then we can [unclear]—
NIXON: Maybe five. But that is without the import tax.
SHULTZ: That’s without the import tax.
NIXON: We don’t want [unclear].
CONNALLY: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Ten percent and fifteen. And also you ought to check it out in terms of GATT things, and the other things, you know. Would you do that?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Well, we’ll have a lot of fun. We will have, we’ll work, then it would be my view that after we have the opening meeting, then we break up, and each group would, you take the budget stuff, you take the tax stuff, right? And, we’ll go after it all, on Saturday, we’ll get down to some real tough arguments. I think we ought to decide the meeting Friday should be for discussion. I think Saturday afternoon by three o’clock we should begin, we should then get into the purpose of where I say well, this is what we want to do—isn’t that a reasonable thing? Incidentally, I’ve got to be decided— SHULTZ: You can—
NIXON: —because if you see, the speech then, I then have to know, I’ve got to let them know by Saturday night, so that I can then use Sunday, and Monday, well, all day Sunday, and part of Monday, to write the damn speech.
SHULTZ: You’ll have a meeting on Friday afternoon—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —and then let them dredge up on the basis of discussion—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —and then, you can decide, and then let everybody know that I have to have a meeting about it [unclear], and everybody decides do you want to go on Monday, or do you want to leave it, tighten the thing, and have all of the details, or just what happens— NIXON: You would say that Friday?
CONNALLY: Saturday?
NIXON: At the end of the meeting?
SHULTZ: Well, maybe Saturday morning, just send word to us—
NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: —that’s what you’ve decided, and then people are no longer working on the question of whether—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —they’re working on a question of what’s decided, now how do we do it—
NIXON: Now that’s very—
SHULTZ: —because I think that really is what we want to spend our time on.
CONNALLY: Of course, you’re not going to have that much time for all the other things. We’ll just have to know how we do it.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, the thing is, John, I personally have pretty much decided what I want to do anyway.
CONNALLY: Well, announce it Friday.
NIXON: And, I think that, you know what I mean, there is a difference. It’s one of the things where there are no safe choices, and nothing worthwhile is ever safe, and perhaps no difference. But on the other hand, I feel that on this thing that I’m pretty well decided, and I think that [unclear] maybe Friday afternoon, George, I’ll just say well, this is what I think we ought to do. That’s really the way I tend to operate anyway, and everybody knows it. I usually don’t horse around and say, let’s take a vote. And so, then I say, now fellows, let’s work out who’s going to do what. I mean Arthur’s pretty good at putting a few words together.
CONNALLY: Oh, yes, he is.
SHULTZ: Very skillful.
NIXON: Very skillful. We could have him help on the press thing. Do you all think we should have a speech? Let me just, just be the devil’s advocate for one moment. On the other side of it, rather than going on television, and you know, talking to the American people about, the crisis we’ve got, and so on, just make up a hell of a good statement, and then background on it— CONNALLY: That’s it.
NIXON: You’ve got to educate them. The advantages of that are, it’s a very, the fact that it is a complicated subject, and no one could judge whether a speech, no matter how carefully written, is going to have the effect of shaping the confidence of the people. The very fact of the speech, you know can take, it may be that these actions are so effective, so effective, that they, that they would be—that rather than asking for it, you see, the speech requires asking for it, John, and a major announcement, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And then of course, the other way to do it, is to just put out the thing at, say, four o’clock Sunday afternoon, and give my proposal. Now— SHULTZ: I think it’s good, well we’ll know of course on Friday that they’ll screw this up at Camp David—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —you’ll know who it is—
NIXON: Right.
SHULTZ: —so it’ll be clear what it is about—
NIXON: That’s right.
SHULTZ: That would, to me, mean, that of course the markets will boil Friday afternoon, and then on Monday they’ll know what happened. There’ll be a tremendous amount of speculation about what was in those meetings concluded. Perhaps there’s an advantage to saying, either making your statement, or issue a statement Sunday night.
NIXON: Well, if you do it Sunday night, it has to be issued by—well, not has to be, but it’s a little diff—it’s not really quite a diff—if it is to go on Sunday night, you know, I don’t want to preempt time for the purpose of, talking about this kind of subject. This might work. I see your point about Sunday night. Well, if we can get ready, that would be better, then we wouldn’t screw around and have Monday to lose another billion dollars. What’s your feeling, John, do you think it should be a national speech, or do you— CONNALLY: Well, I’m inclined to agree it ought to be. I’m inclined to think it ought to be a national speech. It is a national speech, it is a major one. Oh yeah, it is a very major, and rather than viewing it as, again, as a reaction to a crisis, I think you, you’ve got to posture it as a position, you’re speaking from a position of strength, and finding solutions to problems that plague this country, and you’ve got to, you’re going to ensure— NIXON: Let me—
CONNALLY: —that we have continued expansion and job opportunities—
NIXON: Let me say this. Let me say this. I think Monday is good. I think you’re just going to have to take the risk Monday. Monday, so you have another Monday and there’ll be a lot of speculation of what you’re going to do, but what the hell.
SHULTZ: Well, you’re—
NIXON: We’ll do a better job.
SHULTZ: And second, our time, beginning about midnight Sunday night, in other words the markets in Brussels, the European markets—
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: —with the time difference, all this, this kind of speculation is going on beginning about midnight on Sunday.
CONNALLY: No, it would be later—
NIXON: Five o’clock.
CONNALLY: Five hours’ difference.
SHULTZ: Well, three in the morning.
NIXON: Yeah.
SHULTZ: That’s, that’s another point on Sunday.
NIXON: Yeah.
CONNALLY: Oh yeah, well, no question about that. We’re not thinking just in our markets. We’re doing things about the international markets.
NIXON: Well, those international markets, though, we’re going to have to do something, so what can we do, so we take more dollars out?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir. We may know the answer to that, we don’t have to make that decision. We may know the answer tomorrow depending on what happens with that market tomorrow. Monday’s going to be a very bad day because, and I’ve got to check, they’re going into a big Catholic holiday over in Europe tomorrow, that’s why we think tomorrow could be such a donnybrook. Tomorrow will be the last trading day. I don’t even think they’ll trade.
NIXON: Oh, in Europe, I see.
CONNALLY: Well, they may trade, but in any event, my information is fragmentary, but if they do, it’s going to be [unclear], because—
NIXON: Mainly because—
CONNALLY: I think they’ve got an extended weekend holiday. Tomorrow’s the last day before the holiday.
NIXON: You prefer a speech?
CONNALLY: Yes, sir, I do, simply because, I think you can make some real hay out of it. You’re talking to the American people, and they get their impression from you, about your concerns for expansion, your concerns for jobs, and you’re taking these actions to ensure that they’re going to have equal opportunity.
NIXON: I can do it myself, but I’m just trying to raise the whole—
CONNALLY: And now, if it were just going to be a strictly technical move in terms of closing the market or something, no, I wouldn’t do it. But my God, you are announcing the import tax, if you can do it, the investment tax credit, and so forth and so on. All of this has a direct impact on these people. Wage and price freeze, why, I’d be sure I think you ought to do it.
NIXON: It ought to be done, but why on that basis?
CONNALLY: Because I just think—
SHULTZ: I think it’s the biggest economic policy since the end of World War II.
CONNALLY: I can say in twenty-five years, no question about it.
SHULTZ: And that’s—
CONNALLY: I think it’s good. I think it gives you an opportunity to make a tremendous [unclear]. I may be wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m wrong, but I think this might put your critics so far behind the eight ball that they’re not going to know what to do.
NIXON: Well, I’m supposed to take my wife so that we can get out. Wolf. Trap. Farm. Has anybody been to Wolf. Trap. Farm?
CONNALLY: No, sir. I’ve heard of it.
NIXON: Don’t do it.
SHULTZ: It’s fantastic.
NIXON: You’ve been there?
SHULTZ: I’ve not been there, but I’ve heard about it. I was going to go tomorrow night, as a matter of fact.
NIXON: Well, I’ll tell ya, I’ll tell ya, you can have my seat! [laughter] Do you want it?
SHULTZ: The program tonight is supposed to be marvelous.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
SHULTZ: It’s a great place.
NIXON: This is fine. Listen, John, it occurs to me, hell, we don’t have to, why screw up the market tomorrow? If it’s your thinking about the—you think that our stock market tomorrow, I don’t think that’s going to make a difference.
CONNALLY: Don’t worry, they’ll know—
NIXON: In fact, we’ll get our helicopters, we don’t have to announce we’re all going. We won’t announce a goddamn thing.
CONNALLY: I think that’s—
NIXON: We’ll just get on the helicopter at two o’clock. I go to Camp David regularly, and some of you, the rest of you happen to come up, that’s all.
CONNALLY: I would low-key it, but I’m not sure where—
NIXON: The main purpose of going to Camp David, I happen to—see, I can take people up there and they don’t need to know a hell of a lot about it. The main purpose of going to Camp David, frankly, is to get everybody in there where they’re not going to talk to anybody.
NIXON: Where everybody keeps his damn mouth shut, and there’s no papers. Now, I know there’s going to be a story in the New York Times Sunday about the fact that within the administration [a select few are] going out [to Camp David]. That is what I don’t want. But we meet for three days, get the job done, and come back and slap ’em on Sunday night. And I can keep ’em up there, too, until I get back. You see what I mean? Without any leaks. That’s the way I can do it. But we won’t say, I think, just say, I would tell everybody who’s going. You can tell Paul about this. Everybody, what I’d say, look, the president’s inviting you up for the weekend. Inviting you up to Camp David for the weekend, and have all the arrangements. Fair enough?
SHULTZ: It’s a very heavy, work-type weekend. People will, look to bring their families along—
NIXON: What’s that?
SHULTZ: At least I know that question will be raised.
NIXON: Families? I wouldn’t bring ’em. Not on this one. I think, because of the work and everything.

“Who knows about the Kennedys? Shouldn’t they be investigated?”
September 8, 1971, 3:26 p.m.
Richard Nixon and John Ehrlichman

Less than a year before the Democratic National Convention would name a 1972 presidential nominee, Nixon continued to fear that Senator Edward Kennedy would become a surprise candidate in the race. Even while other candidates started to formalize their campaigns, including George McGovern, Edmund Muskie, and Hubert Humphrey, it was Kennedy whom Nixon was most concerned about, despite the fact that he had not declared any intention to run.

NIXON: I could only hope that we are, frankly, doing a little persecuting.
NIXON: We ought to persecute them [Democratic candidates] [unclear] you can.
EHRLICHMAN: That’s right.
NIXON: And on the IRS, if you can do it, are we looking into Muskie’s returns? Does he have any? Hubert [Humphrey]? Hubert’s been in a lot of fine deals.
EHRLICHMAN: Yes he has.
NIXON: Teddy? Who knows about the Kennedys? Shouldn’t they be investigated?
EHRLICHMAN: IRS-wise, I don’t know the answer. Teddy, we are covering—
NIXON: Are you?
EHRLICHMAN: —personally. When he goes on holidays, when he stopped in Hawaii on his way back from Pakistan.
NIXON: Does he do anything?
EHRLICHMAN: No, no. He’s very clean. Very clean.
NIXON: Be careful now.
EHRLICHMAN: Affirmative. He was in Hawaii on his own. He was staying at some guy’s villa and we had a guy on him. He was just as nice as he could be the whole time.
NIXON: The thing to do is to watch him, because what happens to fellows like that, who have that kind of problem, is that they go for quite a while—
NIXON: —and they’ll break open.
EHRLICHMAN: That’s what I’m hoping for.

EHRLICHMAN: This time, between now and convention time, anything could happen.
NIXON: You mean that he [Kennedy] will be under great pressure?
EHRLICHMAN: He will be under the pressure, but he will also be out of the limelight somewhat. I mean, he was in Hawaii pretty much incognito. Very little staff, and played tennis, moved around, visited good people, and socialized some. So you would expect at a time like that that you might catch him. And then he went up to Hyannis. And we’ve got an arrangement.

“It isn’t a miserable war. The goddamn war was fought for a great cause.”
September 17, 1971, 5:37 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

On September 16, Nixon met with reporters in a news conference, where three highly controversial questions pertained to the presidential election in South Vietnam. Because Thieu was running unopposed, many U.S. critics of the war wondered about the need to defend such a dubious democracy. Nixon defended South Vietnam, “where they at least have some elections, [as opposed to] North Vietnam, where they have none.” To that kind of argument, Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA) suggested that the United States had enough influence over South Vietnam to ensure a fair election.
In a frank discussion with Kissinger and Haldeman, Nixon expressed his belief in the Vietnam War, whether or not it had any effect on what he considered the major issue of foreign policy—Soviet relations. Nixon remained a hawk, even though he successfully reduced the number of American troops in Vietnam.

KISSINGER: We’re going to go on Monday, Mr. President, with a—
NIXON: Good.
KISSINGER: —maximum effort, everything that flies in a stretch of twenty miles north of the DMZ—
NIXON: Good. They’ve been asking for it.
NIXON: Because they’re building up, and they’ve been violating the thing. Don’t you think it’s the right thing to do?
KISSINGER: Oh, yes. Oh, I—you know the domestic heat we’re going to take. But we’re—the way we’re going to do it, you know, you can judge it better than I can. I think the way we’re going to do it—see, if we hit Monday—what is Monday morning there, that’s Sunday night here—by the time it’s Monday morning here, we will already have announced that the raid is over, and there’ll be no other. We’ll just say, “This completes—this is protective action, and violation of the understandings. They’ve built a road across the DMZ; they’ve been shooting at our planes.”
NIXON: “And endangering—and endangering our forces as we withdraw.”
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: I’d put that point in, rather than protective—“endangering our forces as we were withdrawing.”
KISSINGER: So, we’ll have a—
NIXON: I don’t think anybody’s going to complain about that.
HALDEMAN: They’re going to know you did. Really, they [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Well, four hundred airplanes [unclear]—
HALDEMAN: Okay, but they get confused, Henry. But—
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: —the people—the paper—the press will know it, but when they write it, it still comes out as—they think we’re bombing all the time there, anyway.
NIXON: But you see, Henry, from the standpoint of our diplomatic move—
KISSINGER: It’s essential.
NIXON: —it’s indispensable.
KISSINGER: It is essential, because—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —it’s—in terms of what you said to the Romanian [Ambassador Corneliu Bogdan] this morning, which I thought was superb, incidentally.
NIXON: Well, Henry—
NIXON: —did he get the message?
KISSINGER: Well, if he—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —didn’t get the message he ought to be fired.
KISSINGER: You said—and you said it in this nice, quiet way. You said, “I just want you to know my patience with these people is wearing thin.” And—that they—you— NIXON: And I says, “I don’t want you to be surprised by anything that happens.” I said, “You—you know what I mean.” I mean, after all—I says, “I—”
KISSINGER: Now, with this thing happening—
NIXON: [unclear] we did in Cambodia, and Laos, and China, and so forth. I said, “I—I’m just not gonna—I mean, they have—we’ve been forthcoming, and they haven’t.” And I said, “My patience is coming to an end.” I said, “They just mustn’t press me too far.”
KISSINGER: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: [laughs]
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Well, they’ve played into our hands in one respect. Yesterday, Xuan Thuy tied the overthrow of Thieu again—
NIXON: To POWs, even.
NIXON: That was good. That was good.
KISSINGER: So, they’re going through a tough phase now, for a few weeks. So this—
NIXON: Well, I feel that—I kind of feel in a way, that with the vote on [extending] the draft today, which I just as—of course, I mean, we were all pleased with: forty-seven to thirty-six.
KISSINGER: Yeah, but it was another example where everyone of—told you, or told me at least—I don’t know what they told you—
NIXON: Oh, we were behind seven votes.
KISSINGER: —that it was lost. It was like the Mansfield thing, and when—
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: —you stepped in there—
HALDEMAN: They didn’t tell us that; they told us it was forty-five to forty-five.
NIXON: No. No. Seven votes behind, Bob, is one thing.

KISSINGER: You know, Jackson was stunned by what you said yesterday; he thought it was aimed at him.
NIXON: Jackson did?
KISSINGER: Yeah, and he said that he’s releasing a letter—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —he’s releasing a letter he wrote to you, which is, in effect, saying the same thing.
NIXON: That it’s [unclear]? Well, what do you mean?
KISSINGER: Well, he’s releasing a letter saying how you should fix the election: that get another—he said he would never have wanted to suggest overthrowing Thieu.
NIXON: He—oh, he denies that, huh?
HALDEMAN: Well, you didn’t aim that at him. But, you said that he said, specifically, you should withdraw—withhold foreign aid.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HALDEMAN: If they don’t—
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
HALDEMAN: —hold free elections, and you said [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Well, he didn’t quite say it. He said he wants to reserve it—
NIXON: Nevertheless, at least it got him to respond.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: I think they’re all on a—
KISSINGER: And that’s one of the great advantages—great advantages, Mr. President. If they are responding to you, that’s a hell of a lot better than if we are running around defending ourselves against their nitpicking.
HALDEMAN: That’s really kind of the difference we’re in now. We’re on the offensive, and they’re, they’re having to swing back, instead of the other way.
KISSINGER: McGovern looks like a horse’s ass now.
HALDEMAN: Yes, he does.
KISSINGER: Well, he says they’re softening their terms the same week that they’re hardening it. He says you can get—when I explained to these AP and UP guys this morning the—what, what they mean by a cease-fire when they offered it, they said, “Well, how can McGovern do this?” I said, “Well, I know him. He’s a very honest, very honorable man. He just didn’t study this thing. We live with it day after day. He doesn’t know the strict terminology they use.”
NIXON: Cease-fire, yeah.

NIXON: But, getting back to [Lyndon] Johnson, don’t you think he’s just terribly—must be terribly frustrated, the poor son of a bitch? You know, you think of this miserable war—and, first of all, Henry, it isn’t a miserable war. The goddamn war was fought for a great cause and a good cause— HALDEMAN: But it’s been made—
NIXON: —and we didn’t have to get into it, to begin with. We shouldn’t have started down the Diem trail. We shouldn’t have made the Laotian deal, in my opinion. All right, that’s all second-guessing. But once in it, this war could have been ended in a year or two years— KISSINGER: Mr. President—
NIXON: Using our air power we could have knocked those bastards right off the lot—
KISSINGER: —if you, if you had been in office—if we had done Cambodia in ’66—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: If we had done Cambodia in ’66, and Laos in ’67, the war would be history.
NIXON: And with a victory.
KISSINGER: And with a—they couldn’t have taken that, plus the bombing. Impossible.
HALDEMAN: We wouldn’t have had to do it if we had done the bombing right, early enough—
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: And [unclear].
KISSINGER: And we might not have had to do the bombing if you had done Cambodia and Laos. So—
NIXON: Now, Moorer—evidently, Laird is clued in on this thing, isn’t he?
KISSINGER: On the—Monday? Yeah.
NIXON: Yeah. All right.
KISSINGER: We did it through Laird.
NIXON: Fine. And he knows that, that there were a variety of reasons [unclear]. Good. Good. Okay. Do we—
KISSINGER: Well, you—
NIXON: —tell Rogers, or not?
NIXON: And he shouldn’t. Probably not.
KISSINGER: He’s up in New York.
NIXON: Probably not, it’s just as well to just let it—
KISSINGER: To let it—
NIXON: —and when it comes, just say, “Well, it’s a routine matter.” I just—I wouldn’t play the whole thing.
KISSINGER: Or, I could call him tomorrow and say that—
NIXON: I’d just say, “Look, you ought to know that we had this—”
KISSINGER: “The president has author—”
NIXON: “—we had this enormous buildup in the DMZ, and it threatened our forces, and because, and so forth. So, we thought—the president just authorized this one—”
NIXON: “—two-hour strike to take out the stuff so that we aren’t going to have some casualties.” I’d put it on that deal.
KISSINGER: Right. Right.
NIXON: Would you do that?
KISSINGER: I’ll do it tomorrow—
NIXON: And then, we could—and we’re not going to comment. We’re going to throw all the comment over to Defense—
NIXON: —and we’re not going to say anything. It’s just the one—the few hours.
KISSINGER: I’ll do it.
NIXON: But I want him to know.
KISSINGER: Right. I think it’s better.
NIXON: Yeah, then we—but, you see, Henry, in terms of your diplomatic game, coming back to [unclear]—
KISSINGER: We must have it. If we’re going to—
NIXON: —I feel that, I feel that—now, the little Romanian gnome, he’ll wire that tonight, won’t he?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. That’s back already.
NIXON: And then, what you told him—you left that hanging over the son of a bitch, didn’t you? You had—
KISSINGER: Oh, and I warned them. Our records show I warned them at every meeting, “Stop this buildup of—north of the DMZ.” They’ve been firing from north of the DMZ.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And we’re getting a poop sheet together in case if the public—
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: —reaction gets bigger than we think it will.
NIXON: Good.
KISSINGER: To get it around. And, uh—
HALDEMAN: Can you hang that on violation of the DMZ?
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: It’s a violation of the understanding, a clear violation of the understanding. But tomorrow’s thing, I—rather than a technical thing—I never get into that.
NIXON: I’d simply say, “They had a buildup in—”
HALDEMAN: [unclear]
NIXON: “—violation of the understanding, which endangered our American forces that are withdrawing. It would have increased our casualties, and we’ve taken it out.” Yeah, boy, and then let it fly— HALDEMAN: And you’ve said all along if, you know, we’re—
NIXON: Sure.
HALDEMAN: —pulling out [unclear].
KISSINGER: No, in terms of the diplomatic game that we are proposing it’s essential—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: It’s highly important because it enables the Russians to say things could get worse.

KISSINGER: But, for example, you know very well, Mr. President, if they could launch a big offensive, now—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —they’d have us on the ropes. And the fact that they are not launching a big offensive shows that they just haven’t got it. Laos used up this year’s supplies, one way or the other, because they expended them or because they were destroyed. But, one way or the other, they couldn’t launch an attack even in I Corps. Every other year they’ve had an attack in the highlands in the summer. This year we figured, with elections coming up, they’d certainly have an attack.
NIXON: And they didn’t.
KISSINGER: And they haven’t had any significant—even—
NIXON: Well, now the argument that could be made that they didn’t do that is because they were having talks with you, you know.
KISSINGER: But no one thinks they have the forces there.
NIXON: No, I’m just suggesting that.
KISSINGER: Yeah. You could say that. That’s true, you could say that.
NIXON: That’s possible, because we have been restrained.
KISSINGER: You could say that.
NIXON: I don’t agree. I—but you don’t think that’s the reason?
KISSINGER: I don’t think so. Because—
HALDEMAN: Can they still attack now?
KISSINGER: Because their usual tactic is—
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: But they—
NIXON: [unclear] but, so they don’t.
KISSINGER: Well, but their usual tactic is not to do that. Their usual tactic is to hit you while they’re talking.
NIXON: That’s correct. And so is ours.
KISSINGER: Although, I did warn them that if there were attacks—
NIXON: Well, all right. We’re going to do this for—incidentally, this has to be done anyway.
NIXON: Because, looking down the road, I think it is dangerous to have this buildup. Do you not agree?
KISSINGER: Oh, yes. Well, Abrams urged it on me when I was there in June. He was pleading for it then.
NIXON: Well, here we’ve given it to him. And, incidentally, won’t there be a bigger target now?
KISSINGER: Oh, they’ll—that—that’s a big one. Oh, yeah.
NIXON: There’s plenty of stuff in there to hit.
KISSINGER: Oh, well, he wants to hit it for five days. But that we can’t. That—
NIXON: Is there enough to hit?
KISSINGER: Oh, there’s more than enough. I—there’s five days’ worth of attacks in there. He wanted five to ten days, but that would create too much of a furor, don’t you think?
NIXON: No, no, no. We’re just resuming the bombing in the North.

“I think you ought to take Dobrynin, [and] brace him damn hard.”
September 18, 1971, 10:40 a.m.
Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, and Henry Kissinger

In mid-September the Quadripartite negotiations in Berlin were coming to a close, after eighteen months. The American position in the negotiations was taken by Kenneth Rush, ambassador to West Germany. Meanwhile, the SALT conferences were a source of aggravation for Nixon. The idea of a total ABM ban had been seriously discussed since early July, but Nixon—prompted by Laird—had rejected a total ban in August. Smith continued to believe that a total ban had deterrent strength. Nixon found it easy to believe that his chief negotiator was continuing to maneuver in that direction, as the SALT meetings drew to a close in Helsinki.

KISSINGER: [There’s] some shooting going on along the Suez Canal, which started—in the middle of the week, the Israelis—
NIXON: I saw that.
KISSINGER: —shot down an Egyptian plane that was overflying them for reconnaissance. And they have been firing machine guns at these planes just to show that they weren’t— NIXON: And they hit one?
KISSINGER: When they hit one by, really by accident, more or less—
NIXON: [laughs] Goodness sakes, if you can bring a quick, a modern plane down with a machine gun, it must be a horrible, poor pilot.
KISSINGER: Right, it was—
NIXON: Jesus Christ!
KISSINGER: It was a lucky hit. Thereupon, or maybe for other reasons, the Egyptians shot down an Israeli plane thirty miles inside Israeli territory yesterday: a transport, a combination transport/intelligence plane that was thirty miles inside the Sinai Peninsula. So this morning the Israelis have taken out some [Egyptian] SAM sites. And that’s where it is. Now, there were some people who wanted you to appeal to both sides to show restraint. I think it’d be a great mistake at this stage. The thing may stop now. The Israelis have said they’d stop. The Egyptians know we want to preserve the cease-fire. I think we ought to watch it another couple of days.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: I don’t think we ought to get ourselves drawn into another negotiating round there.

KISSINGER: The Israelis won’t do anything; the Egyptians won’t do anything unless the Russians urge them—or unless the Russians tolerate it. For reasons we know, the Russians are unlikely to have a big blowup in the Middle East between now and October 12.
NIXON: Do you think that really reached them?
NIXON: Do you think you ought to call Dobrynin?
KISSINGER: Dobrynin isn’t back yet. He’ll be back Monday, which is another reason—
NIXON: Well, you could tell Dobrynin [on] Monday, “Now, look here, [unclear].”
KISSINGER: If it’s still going on Monday I think it would—that would not be a bad move to appeal to the Russians—whether we should jointly cool it.
NIXON: I marked, incidentally, Henry, on the letter from Brezhnev. I think you ought to take Dobrynin, [and] brace him damn hard on the fact that Brezhnev did not respond with regard to the offensive weapons thing at SALT.
NIXON: I don’t want that. We have enough of a problem with our hawks here. They, as I understand it, at SALT, all they’ve talked about, and I assume that Gerry Smith has not pressed them on it, is about defensive—totally. They haven’t—have they blocked offensive or [unclear]—?
KISSINGER: No. No. That’s Laird. Laird is beginning to try to make a record on that. The major problem has been—there’ve been two problems. They’ve been pretty tough on the defensive ones. And they’ve— NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —on the offensive ones, have not gone into great detail, but they’ve discussed it. But, part of the trouble has been our delegation. John [Mitchell] sits on this committee— NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —and it’s the goddamnedest thing you’ve ever seen. They’re running this as if it’s—if they had gone in there early in July and said, “Here is our understanding of May 20. This is what we want to discuss,” then we would’ve known within three weeks where we stood.
NIXON: What’ve they done?
KISSINGER: Instead, they—first, they raised zero ABM. Then they raised so many abstruse points that you have to be a theologian to understand them. And finally, last week, John was at the meeting, I just cut them all off.
NIXON: Henry, for Christ’s sakes, I wrote a letter to the son of a bitch, Smith, and said, “This is the line.” Why didn’t he follow the letter?
KISSINGER: Because, he is like—
NIXON: You mean [unclear] everything here?
KISSINGER: Well, he’s like a shyster lawyer. You put in that letter that we are willing to have zero ABM—
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
KISSINGER: —eventually. So, the next thing—
NIXON: He started there, at the beginning. I get it. [unclear]
KISSINGER: So, the next thing, he now wants to put it into the preamble of the present treaty. He’s wasting time on it when he doesn’t even have an agreement yet. And the Russians have put up a whole series of really cynical proposals, which— NIXON: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Which, of course, they would.
KISSINGER: —which they would, and which we should have disposed of in the first week.

“He doesn’t have to do it. We just say he did it.”
September 21, 1971, 12:46 p.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

The Soviet foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, scheduled a visit to Washington on September 29. The details of the summit had finally been worked out, after a year of sometimes dizzying negotiations, and Nixon was determined that no aspect of the announcement could go awry. The sides had already decided on a statement, to be released simultaneously in Washington and Moscow, and so the president couldn’t be deterred, not even by the possibility that Gromyko would fail to verbalize the invitation. He and Kissinger even had a contingency plan for that.

NIXON: Well, let me say, your conversation with your friend [Dobrynin] was very interesting, though.
KISSINGER: I thought it was.
NIXON: It’s very important.
KISSINGER: And when they start feeding out this stuff through a lot of other channels—
NIXON: I have a—and I particularly liked the idea that you have in mind. And the way I’m going to do it this time, I’m not going to continue in another room. I’m just going to ask Rogers and everybody else to leave—say, “I’d like to speak with the foreign minister for a moment alone.”
NIXON: You just leave and I’ll talk to him here.
KISSINGER: We go to the Cabinet Room.
NIXON: You get the hell out. That’s right.
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: No reason for me to take him out. And I’ll say, “Now, I want to tell you about this.” And then he, at that time, should give me the summit invitation. Right?
KISSINGER: He doesn’t have to do it. We just say he did it.
NIXON: Well, I’ll just say that, when I speak to him, I’ll say, “I appreciate the summit invitation,” and so forth, and then we—but that is the basis for telling Rogers.
KISSINGER: And that gives you an explanation of what you spent a half an hour with him on.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: We’ll just tell Rogers that you agreed on the spot to the announcement. That keeps me out of it.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: His feelings won’t be hurt. And it focuses it all on you.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And then, as they leave, then they’re attacking you.
NIXON: Well, the minute that it’s done, I’ll just call him [Rogers] in and say, “Well, he [Gromyko] made the summit thing and I just agreed that we’d have the announcement on the twelfth.”
NIXON: And I’ve agreed it’ll be in May.
KISSINGER: Right. I think that way, you’ll get—
NIXON: Right. Very polished.
HALDEMAN: I mean, you then tell Bill not to tell anybody at State?
NIXON: Hell, yes. You’re goddamn right. I’ll say, “We’re going to have the same rule on this we had on China.” We’ll inform them right before because the Russians are just as sensitive as the Chinese about a leak.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Don’t you agree?
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: Everybody will be informed. Incidentally, anyway there isn’t the same problem of informing. People expect us to meet with the Russians.
KISSINGER: Well, we’ll have to let NATO know about it.
NIXON: I understand, but it isn’t the—
KISSINGER: Well, it’s not the bombshell—
NIXON: What?
KISSINGER: It’s going to—the funny thing is—
NIXON: It isn’t?
KISSINGER: It doesn’t got to fit a goddamn, Bob. No one is speculating on it.
HALDEMAN: Not anymore. They used to. They used to talk about a Russian summit, didn’t they?
NIXON: Well, they think the Chinese thing knocks it out of the box and so forth.
HALDEMAN: The one thing they’re speculating on now is that what’s-his-name is coming to the UN and will come down and see you or something.
NIXON: Yeah, Kosygin.
HALDEMAN: Kosygin.
NIXON: Kosygin.
KISSINGER: Is he coming to the UN?
HALDEMAN: He’s going to Canada and then, or something—
NIXON: Right.
HALDEMAN: And then they’re saying he may go to the UN, and then he’ll come down and see the president on the SALT thing.
NIXON: That must not fly. [unclear] Damn it, I won’t see him here. I’m not going to.
KISSINGER: Oh, no, no, no.
HALDEMAN: The speculation, they’re just going wild. They’ve also got you going to China this weekend too. They say the Alaska trip is just a cover and that you’re really going to China.
NIXON: Yeah. [laughs]
KISSINGER: Dobrynin asked me that too. I said, “Listen, Anatol. Do you really believe—can you seriously believe that the president—”
NIXON: [laughs]
KISSINGER: “—would go from a visit with Hirohito to Beijing?”
NIXON: [laughs]
KISSINGER: You should have [seen] my face.
HALDEMAN: But that’s the value of your surprise stuff. They now—
NIXON: They’re scared to death.
HALDEMAN: —scared to death.
NIXON: I know.
HALDEMAN: They fear probably you’re [laughs]—you’re capable of anything.
KISSINGER: When we announce it—and that’s why I think it’d be best if you didn’t go to this accidental war signing [the signing of the Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on September 30, 1971].
NIXON: I don’t want to go.
KISSINGER: It makes it too big.
NIXON: Good. Who decided that? Well, I didn’t want to go. It builds it up too much.
KISSINGER: Yeah. It builds it up too much and also makes people think something else may be going on.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And since it’s close enough, the twelfth is—
NIXON: Well, Gromyko’s going to be in here. That’s enough. We’ll give them that.
HALDEMAN: That’s enough Russian stuff.
NIXON: And then for me to go on—it’s slobbering over the Russians too much.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: Then two weeks later you’re announcing the trip.
NIXON: Yeah.

NIXON: You know, incidentally, one thing that may have helped us a little—I was mentioning it to Bob before—one thing that may help us at the present time with both the Chinese and the Russians is that, as Colson was pointing out here, we have a situation where both Gallup and Harris have reported within the last two weeks that the president has moved ahead of all three Democratic candidates.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Oh, enormously.
NIXON: Yeah, now that—we haven’t moved yet enormously.
KISSINGER: No, no. It helps enormously.
HALDEMAN: It helps enormously.
NIXON: Exactly.
HALDEMAN: That’s what Henry was talking about. On the floor of the Senate—
KISSINGER: That’s what I was talking about, Mr. President.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
HALDEMAN: That figure he had was not that.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t think there was some new Gallup poll.
KISSINGER: No, no. No, I was talking about the fact that in the trial heats you were ahead of them all by—
HALDEMAN: You won the [Senate vote to extend the] draft, fifty-five to thirty.
NIXON: That’s great.
KISSINGER: Last week, at this time, everyone felt that we couldn’t—
HALDEMAN: The fall-off in votes was due to the fact that many senators thought the debate would go on, so they walked off the floor and missed the final vote.
NIXON: [laughs]
HALDEMAN: So when they held it for a while to give them [some time] but only eighty-five voted out of ninety-one.
KISSINGER: Well, but when the Russians say, Mr. President, that—you know, I’ve [unclear] seventy percent of the [unclear]. But when Dobrynin says that a lot of his people used to think that you couldn’t be dealt with, that they’d be better off with another president, and that this has changed completely, that’s a gratuitous comment he doesn’t have to make.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: And since they said essentially the same thing to Brandt, if that word gets around, that’s, as it must—
NIXON: That’d be fine.
NIXON: Thanks, Henry.
KISSINGER: Right, Mr. President.

“Either side . . . has got to play this game with us.”
September 21, 1971, 4:04 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Kissinger, watching Chinese affairs more closely than ever, received word of some unusual developments in Beijing. Nixon speculated that the improving relationship with the United States had caused unrest in government circles among those who did not agree with the Chinese effort to ameliorate relations with their ideological enemy. Naturally, the two wondered what any change in the Chinese regime might do to their master plan for 1972 as a year of summits.

KISSINGER: Something funny is going on in China, Mr. President. They have—there is a stand-down on civil aviation there for nearly a week now. And today they have canceled the October 1 parade on their national holiday. We’ve had other reports that they’ve been taking down pictures of Mao.

NIXON: —taking it out on Zhou Enlai for his American initiative.
KISSINGER: Conceivable, but those are the guys who are also the most—no, they are the most anti-Russian too. The Cultural Revolutionists were the ones that physically peed on the Russian ambassador.
NIXON: Well, put yourself in their position: either side has got, it would seem to me, has got to play this game with us.

“We’ve got everything linked together, just as you said.”
September 21, 1971, 5:02 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

One of the overarching Nixon foreign policy strategies was known as “linkage,” an approach in negotiations of leveraging strengths in order to reduce weaknesses. For example, if one is negotiating both economic and military issues, a compromise in one area may help in the other in such a way that both sides can come away satisfied. This was the basic approach Nixon and Kissinger used in looking for improvements in the American position across the board: with China, the Soviets, and the North Vietnamese—politically, economically, and militarily.

KISSINGER: We’ve got everything linked together, just as you said. We’ve got the Middle East. We’ve got everything in the game now.
NIXON: Well, if the Chinese should knock this thing off, what does that do to the Russians? They’ll still want the visit?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. But we’ve just got a little less pressure on them. With a visit, I think if the visit to China is in the cards, the Russians are going to be most eager to—not most eager. We have a pretty good chance now of bringing off that ploy which I have in my memo to you. If the visit to China is not in the cards, they’ll be a little less eager. They’ll be a little less under pressure. On the other hand, they might figure, they better use this time to get us lined up. It would be better for us, if there were no turmoil in China.

“The two most likely possibilities are either that Mao is ill, which I don’t believe, or that Zhou is purging his opponents.”
September 22, 1971, 10:03 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Even though Lin Biao had been named Mao’s official successor during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, beginning in 1970 he had a falling-out with other Chinese leaders. The succession that followed was noticed by Nixon and Kissinger, who could not help but wonder whether it was related to the recent thawing in relations between China and the United States.

KISSINGER: Well, I’ve reviewed the thing a little more until I’ve—and I’m beginning to think—this is a good summary of what we know.

KISSINGER: The two most likely possibilities are either that Mao is ill, which I don’t believe, or that Zhou is purging his opponents.

Afterword: China underwent a brief purge, after Mao’s vice chairman, Lin Biao, and his wife, Ye Qun (a Politburo member), were suspected of plotting to assassinate Chairman Mao on September 12. In what was described as a rushed attempt to escape China, they were said to have been killed in a plane crash. The details have always been sketchy, but whether or not there really was a plan for a coup d’état, Mao had approximately one thousand officials executed or arrested. There is no evidence that the situation stemmed from the thaw in relations with the United States.

Preparing for Gromyko
September 29, 1971, 12:00 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

On September 29, Nixon was set to host Gromyko at the White House. It would be his first meeting with a Soviet official in just about a year. In a preconference coaching session, Kissinger meticulously previewed the topics and procedures. One of the surprising concerns involved the fact that the president would be accompanied by both Kissinger and Rogers—and Rogers was not aware of secret communications sure to be mentioned by the Soviets.

KISSINGER: Well, first, for the procedures [for the meeting with Gromyko]. They’ll come in here, pictures and so forth. You have about forty-five minutes—
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: —to an hour with him in here.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: Then you ask us all to leave, and you’ll talk to him privately.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Here, what he expects is that you’ll say, “Mr.—” something like, “Mr. Foreign Minister, it’s been a year since we’ve met. Do you want to give us your impression of—where do Soviet-American relations stand now?”
NIXON: That’s at the beginning of the formal—
KISSINGER: At the beginning of the formal meeting. Then he’ll give you a little speech, which will be very conciliatory, and then he’ll turn to European matters. On that, incidentally—well, let me first go a little through it, on European matters.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: He’ll probably wind that up by saying, “Now, where do you stand on [the] European Security Conference? How do we move it forward?” I think you ought to preserve as much of that for the private channel as possible, so that we can play it into the summit, and say that, well, the conditions are getting ripe—that with the Berlin, once the Berlin agreement is ratified, and the German treaties are ratified, then you think we can go ahead with some preparatory work on [the] European Security Conference, and that— NIXON: Except he wants the Berlin. Hmm?
KISSINGER: And that then there should be some informal discussions in the meantime of what the agenda might be, and so forth.
NIXON: Beginning now?
KISSINGER: Beginning once the treaties are—
NIXON: Oh, the informal discussions would begin when?
KISSINGER: I’d say after the German treaties are ratified.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: But we could have some informal—you’d always be interested to hear from them what agenda—
NIXON: On an informal basis and on a bilateral basis.
NIXON: Okay.
KISSINGER: Then, on the Middle East, he’ll give you—he’ll do that—
NIXON: At which part—will he raise that in the public meeting?
KISSINGER: The European—Middle East?
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: He’ll do it in two parts. He’ll raise it at the public meeting—
NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —in the familiar way, and I’ve written down what our official position is.
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: And if you just stick with what’s in the basic memo—
NIXON: Don’t worry. I’ll follow your instructions right to the letter.
KISSINGER: —on that. Early in the discussion, Mr. President, you should raise SALT.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And on SALT, the issue, briefly, is this. We had told them that—in the private discussions—we had told them: three of our ABM sites for their Moscow system, plus an offensive freeze. They now say it’s got to be one for one on the defensive side too. But that means their Moscow system covers forty percent of the population, while one ABM site for us covers only two percent of the population, up in North Dakota. Now, you shouldn’t go into all this detail, but— NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: —what you might say, though, is, “We have to move it forward at the next session.” Our proposal, in effect, is that both sides stay where they are in both categories. We have two ABM sites defensively, but they have more missiles offensively. And therefore the freeze is equiv—that if we freeze now, and on both of them, that is fair. They can’t ask us to cut down on our ABM sites but keep an edge in offensive missiles.
NIXON: So, in effect, we just reiterate we want a freeze?
KISSINGER: We reiterate that the—that when they speak of equivalence, they can’t say there’s going to be the same number of things on the defensive side, but they can stay ahead in the offensive side. So, what you could say: the essence of our proposal is that both sides stay where they are in both categories, defensive and offensive.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. What if he says, “What about MIRV?”
KISSINGER: He won’t say that.
NIXON: That changes—
KISSINGER: I’ll guarantee you he won’t change—
NIXON: That changes the number too. Well, go ahead.
KISSINGER: That’s right. I mean, that’s our hole card.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: But we need that with two—
NIXON: You know, you stop to think here. Suppose we’d given in to Percy and, frankly, broken the rest and say, “Why don’t we have a ban on MIRV?” You know, we will have—we would have—if a Kennedy, or a Muskie, or a Humphrey had been sitting in this chair, the United States today would have Gromyko looking right down our throat.
KISSINGER: This, Mr. President—
NIXON: It’s close as it is.
KISSINGER: This is where these—when these conservatives say, “Well, what difference did it make who was here?” Good God, we would have no ABM, we would have no MIRV.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: In net, we would have no B-1; we would have no ULMS.
NIXON: Henry, the conservatives, I frankly think they’re—then let them squeal. I’m almost inclined to think that a little of their squealiness has got to be, is just par for the course. And if they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it.
KISSINGER: Yeah. I think so.
NIXON: This time, we’ll stick it out anyway.
KISSINGER: Now, on Vietnam—I wouldn’t let him—then, on the Middle East, he will go through their formal position, which is that the Israelis are unreasonable—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —and that we have gone ahead on the interim settlement without consulting them. And I would just repeat the position that we want an interim settlement as a first step and we think that this thing can help quiet the situation in the Middle East—our formal position on that. Then he will mention trade, and he will suggest that you might send either Stans or Peterson to the Soviet Union. Incidentally, I told Dobrynin this morning we have granted—we’ve approved two hundred million dollars more of the Kama River project; we’re now up to over four hundred million dollars on that.
NIXON: Only now, let’s be sure it gets some credit in this country.
KISSINGER: Yeah, I’ve called Scott on it because it’s in his area.
NIXON: I know. Good. Well, that’s a good national story too.
NIXON: Okay. Be sure it’s highly publicized.
KISSINGER: Well, it will be formally announced on Friday.
NIXON: All right. Would you give that to Scali? Yes, tell him, because he likes to run with those things. And let Stans—and let old Stans run it too.
NIXON: It’s a chance for Stans to do more East-West trade.
KISSINGER: I’m beginning to think that we’d be better off having Stans go there rather than Peterson. Peterson would be—
NIXON: Do we want Peterson? I think Peterson would be too outgoing. And, well, he might—
KISSINGER: And he’d freewheel too much. There’s no telling what—
NIXON: What I mean, when I say “outgoing,” I mean he would tend to want to really negotiate. Or another way is to have the two go together. That might be an idea.
KISSINGER: Well, you don’t have to react at all. You just have to say it’s, you’re very sympathetic. You might mention you’ve already approved over four hundred million dollars for the Kama River project, and over— NIXON: I can also say that, as we finish Vietnam, more will come.
KISSINGER: Right. That would do it.
NIXON: And I think I’ll get right into it.
KISSINGER: You know, altogether, we’ve approved over six hundred million dollars of—
NIXON: Trade and money, and the rest. I know.
NIXON: On the Middle East, if I can come back to it. What he wants—do you want me to say in the public session, you know, [that] we’re—?
KISSINGER: I’d just be very vapid in the public session—
NIXON: All right. All right. Now—
KISSINGER: Just say that you’re supporting—
NIXON: You’re going to take up the Middle East with him in your private session? Is that correct?
KISSINGER: Right. Well now, that’s where—what I wanted to ask you. We’ll first go through the formal ones.
NIXON: All right. Go ahead.
KISSINGER: Then on—then South Asia, I would urge them that—I would tell them, “Whatever one’s views on East Bengal, that a war in that area would have the gravest consequences of international involvement.” And that you— NIXON: If he’s going to raise the subject—or am I?
KISSINGER: Well, if he doesn’t—
NIXON: I don’t want to raise all these things. Do you think I should? Well—
KISSINGER: No, no. He will raise—I’ll tell you what you can be sure he’ll raise: he’ll raise Europe, Middle East—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —trade. You might consider raising SALT—
KISSINGER: —and South Asia. And maybe they’d only give you first—
NIXON: On SALT, I’d say that it’s important to have progress, and this defensive thing is—well, we can’t freeze offensive, an offensive superiority and a defensive inferiority. Is that what we’ve agreed?
KISSINGER: Well, you see, we can’t insist on a de—that they can’t insist that on the defense things must be equal, but on the offense they can stay ahead.
NIXON: Right. All right. Good.
KISSINGER: And that, therefore, you do not believe we can adjust, that we’ve gone from—we—that from three to one in our proposals, we’ve made a concession; we’ve gone down to two to one. But you might as well say you cannot go any further on the defensive thing.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And you just want them to understand that.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: Because then I think we can break it. But they have to hear it from you.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: Those are the major topics he’s going to raise with you at that session. Then he will, when you see him alone in this office—and I think your instinct is absolutely right. You shouldn’t have a system that you always take him into a different— NIXON: No, no. That’s right. It looks no good.
KISSINGER: But I have now told them that you’ll take us all to the Map Room, and I’ll have—
NIXON: And have the cars there.
KISSINGER: I’ll have the cars there—
NIXON: We’ll all walk out together.
NIXON: And that’s not unusual. We’ll just walk out that way and say, “I’d like to take you to your car, and on the way, I’d like to show you—”
NIXON: “—this room.” And we’ll stop in there.
KISSINGER: I think it has historic significance for them. Now, there, he has—oh, no, I meant, forgot one other thing. He will mention to you Vietnam. He will say that Podgorny is going to Hanoi; that they will have very serious discussions about Southeast Asia: “Do you have any additional ideas that you want to say?”
KISSINGER: You want to say no. Now, I would—there I’d be very tough. I would say, “We’ve been very disappointed. The Soviet Union hasn’t done a great deal. All we ever hear from Hanoi is the concessions we want to make—have to make. We’ve made one concession after another, and it is time for Hanoi, now, to talk to us seriously.” That’s all I’d say at the formal meeting, because it helps to give, to have them be able to carry this, as having heard from you. Now, then we go to the private meeting. The private meeting, they’ll discuss two subjects: one is he will bring you a warm message from Brezhnev. He [Dobrynin] hasn’t told me what it is.
NIXON: Does he know that I will suggest a private meeting?
KISSINGER: He’s asked for it. But he’s all programmed—
NIXON: And he doesn’t want me to say that we’ve asked—just to say that I would suggest that I’d like to have some words alone.
NIXON: Can you tell Rogers that he’s asked for it?
NIXON: You tell Rogers in advance that—
KISSINGER: I’ll tell Rogers. As soon as I leave here, I’ll call him and say Dobrynin has just called me and says that—
NIXON: Just say on this that Gromyko has a private message—
NIXON: —he wants to give the president. See, I want the lay of the thing to be on the summit thing—
NIXON: —that Dobrynin has just called; and that the president has—what we’d like to do is, he’d like to, he’ll have us go to the Cabinet Room while he receives them, and then we will walk out and as—and he’s going to escort him to the car. And then, afterwards, that the president—that the president will—no, no, don’t tell him that we— KISSINGER: Don’t, because we don’t know what it is.
NIXON: Just say to him—and he’ll be—I’ll tell him that afterwards. I’ll—
KISSINGER: Well, you don’t—I won’t say anything. You can tell us after we’ve said goodbye to Gromyko—
NIXON: I’ll tell Gromyko to step in—
KISSINGER: You can just say, “Why don’t you step into my office?”
NIXON: “Come on in.” Yeah. “Come in and come back into the Map Room.” Good.
NIXON: Okay.
KISSINGER: Well, then you can fold it and put it into your pocket. Then it’s natural that you kept it folded—
NIXON: All right. Good. All right. Now, in the private meeting, he will give me a message.
KISSINGER: In the private meeting, he’ll give you a private message. Well, it won’t be in writing. It will just be a personal message on bilateral—
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: Then he will raise the Middle East. And he will say something to the effect that, last year, I had mentioned—he won’t mention my name—to them that, if any real progress is to be made in the Middle East, the Soviet Union and the United States have to agree on their basic presence there. You remember? Your press conference— NIXON: Right.
KISSINGER: —and my backgrounder. And they’re ready to talk in that framework to us now, until there’s a comprehensive Middle East deal.
NIXON: If there’s any progress in the Middle East, they have to agree to our presence there?
KISSINGER: No, no. They are willing, in effect, to limit their presence.
NIXON: Oh. Yeah. All right.
KISSINGER: And they’re willing to have some general exchanges.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And I think he’s going to say that this should be in the same sort of channel that handled Berlin. My recommendation is, Mr. President, that you say, “This is a very complex subject,” that you recommend that Dobrynin and I have some preliminary conversations to find out just how it could be done, after which you’ll make a decision. This doesn’t commit you to anything— NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: —but keeps the carrot dangling.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: You might also, at the private meeting, reaffirm again this channel. It’s just good for them to hear.
NIXON: Oh, don’t worry.
KISSINGER: Now, then finally, you should say—if you agree—that you understand that I will be talking to him the next day, and I will talk to him more fully about Vietnam— NIXON: Right. Right.
KISSINGER: —and that you want to say that what you say has had the most—what I’ll say has had the most urgent consideration here—
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: —and that you’re fully—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —behind it and—
NIXON: Behind it and all the rest.
KISSINGER: Something like that.
NIXON: And I’ll say, “He’ll be—when you talk to him, you’re talking to me.”
KISSINGER: Yeah. And on Vietnam—and he—
NIXON: And how do we get the summit in the deal?
KISSINGER: He won’t make—they know that—
NIXON: I see.
KISSINGER: They know that—he doesn’t have to say it will be—they know that Rogers—
NIXON: Now, on the summit: he isn’t going to mention the summit in the public meeting.
NIXON: Now, he must not do that, because I don’t want Rogers to get involved in that.
KISSINGER: No, no, no.
NIXON: Fine. Okay.
KISSINGER: They are fully programmed, Mr. President. They know, however, that before—Gromyko is giving a lunch for Rogers tomorrow at one.
NIXON: And he knows that Rogers will know before the lunch?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Fine. But it’s not to be talked about here.
KISSINGER: No. Now, another thing he does not know about—that Rogers does not know about—is the exchange of letters between you and Brezhnev, to which they’re attaching enormous importance.
NIXON: What exchange is that?
KISSINGER: You wrote a long letter.
NIXON: Doesn’t Rogers know about that? He doesn’t know about that?
NIXON: No. Well—
KISSINGER: Because it mentions the summit, Mr. President.
NIXON: Oh, I see. Well, frankly, it was done while I was in San Clemente; I was still out there.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Well, they won’t mention it.
KISSINGER: You can be sure.
NIXON: Not yet. Well, Bill’s—Christ, he can’t object to this one. He might say, “Oh, what the hell?” And that’s why he’s willing to put up—well, that’s the date they suggested, and I said, “Fine.”
KISSINGER: That’s the—and you just felt you wanted to get it done.
NIXON: And also—no, I’m going to say that once this sort of thing is agreed, it’s going to leak. And I then—well, even if he’s—I said, “Fine, we’ll do it. We’ll do it.”
KISSINGER: But you better pledge him to absolute secrecy.
NIXON: Pledge Bill?
NIXON: Oh, shit. Don’t worry. I’m going to say, “Now, this has got to be absolutely secret.”
KISSINGER: This is the easiest way, Mr. President. That way, it makes a lot of sense. Gromyko brought you, technically, the invitation last year.
NIXON: That’s right. That’s right.
KISSINGER: And he—now, he made it definite, and so—
NIXON: Right. And Bill can think that’s what the whole damn meeting was about.
KISSINGER: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
NIXON: Yeah. So that we don’t have—so I don’t have to go right in—and the other thing is that—
KISSINGER: Bill has such a naive conception of foreign policy that he really will think this is how it happened.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, we’ll do it that way. And then—
KISSINGER: And also it keeps them absolutely from leaking that they rammed it down your throat. And it keeps me out of it, so then—
NIXON: Well, Bill knows that I took him over and talked about the summit in the Red Room.
KISSINGER: Well, actually, last year, Mr. President—
NIXON: It was here.
KISSINGER: —he brought the summit up.
NIXON: I know. And Bill said, “Why don’t we announce it now?” And I told him—
NIXON: I said, “Well, they came—he [Gromyko] came back with this summit thing.” And he [Rogers] said, “Its time has come.” And I said, “This is a good thing.” I said, “Fine, we’ll go.”
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Yeah. Bill will probably wonder how we agreed on a date so quickly. But—
KISSINGER: Well, you can—if he asks that, you can say that before he went back, Dobrynin said, “In principle, does the Chinese summit rule out—”
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: “—a Russian summit?” And I said—
NIXON: And then he said, “I’ll send you a message.”
KISSINGER: And I said, “No—”
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: “—but it has to be after the Russian—the Chinese one.”

“I do not take charge of things that don’t matter.”
September 29, 1971, 4:40 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Andrei Gromyko

After ninety minutes of general conversations that included Nixon, Gromyko, Dobrynin, Kissinger, Rogers, and interpreters, the president had a private meeting with the Soviet foreign minister. In a talk that both sides later described as cordial, the most noteworthy interchange concerned the Mideast and specifically Egypt.

NIXON: Well, I thought it would be helpful if we could have a private chat like we did before, and to say that I am pleased that we are now going forward on our meeting, which I think can—will come at a useful time. A meeting at the top level. I have noted with— GROMYKO: Good.
NIXON: I think it’s good—
GROMYKO: Very good.
NIXON: —and it’s time. It’s time we begin with our list of the—[with] Berlin out of the way, and then if we can move on these other areas, it will be—for example, if we could get the SALT thing ready, that would be a pretty good time. But maybe we can get it ready before that. Who knows? The Mideast and SALT—the main thing at such a meeting is to have some things that we can make progress on.
GROMYKO: It must be done—something good.
NIXON: Yeah. That’s right.
GROMYKO: What is possible—what is possible on the—
NIXON: Yeah. Right. You know, or maybe—
GROMYKO: Even before.
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: For that we—
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: —which is, it must be done.
NIXON: We have to decide—
GROMYKO: Must be done.
NIXON: Yeah. Then, for example, at such a meeting we can—I would like to, I want to talk to you about the channel to use here. We might be able to make some significant announcement on trade and things of that sort. You see there—we must have some positive things come out.
GROMYKO: Just now? No.
NIXON: No, no. I meant when the meeting takes place, that we should plan it so that some positive—
GROMYKO: Yes, yes.
NIXON: —statements can be made. I thought—basically, I think we would have a new—
GROMYKO: Whatever—
NIXON: I have nothing in mind, but something to do with trade or something to do with, as well as on the political side.
GROMYKO: Before the May meeting?
NIXON: Before—or at the meeting.
GROMYKO: Or at the meeting. Yes.
NIXON: So that when, for them to come, when leaders at the top sit down, they produce something.
GROMYKO: Yes. Yes.
NIXON: You see, the mountain cannot labor and produce a mouse.
NIXON: Right. You know this? It’s an American expression.
GROMYKO: This is—this subject, as well, I would say.
NIXON: All right.
GROMYKO: This subject, as well.
NIXON: And I will—I shall look forward very much to meeting the—I do not—I have not met either Mr. Brezhnev or Mr. Kosygin, and I shall look forward to it. And we will be forthcoming, and we hope—and we know you will too.
GROMYKO: Good. Mr. President, I would like to open—broach essentially two questions.
NIXON: Sure.
NIXON: Sure. Sure.
GROMYKO: First, you received letter from our Mr. Brezhnev.
NIXON: Right.
GROMYKO: Mr. Brezhnev attaches importance—I would say major importance—to the letter.
NIXON: The one that he sent?
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah.
GROMYKO: That is right.
NIXON: I have not replied yet. I didn’t.
GROMYKO: No. You didn’t.
NIXON: I have not yet. No.
GROMYKO: Not yet. Not yet.
NIXON: You see, that correspondence is private. The letter I sent to him—
GROMYKO: Letter.
NIXON: —was private, too.
GROMYKO: Private. Yes.
NIXON: So, let’s see, the State Department doesn’t know, so—
GROMYKO: I know. But I’ve got—
NIXON: But I will respond soon.
GROMYKO: Nice idea.
NIXON: I see.
GROMYKO: Good idea.
NIXON: Good. It may be—
GROMYKO: Only for us two.
NIXON: Good.
GROMYKO: Only the ambassador—
NIXON: Good. Us two.
GROMYKO: —who will be—
NIXON: It’s best to keep it to us two.
GROMYKO: I think Mr. Brezhnev attaches great importance—
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: —to the letter, and I am sure when you reply, he will study your reply—
NIXON: All right.
GROMYKO: —most thoroughly.
NIXON: Good.
GROMYKO: I wish to also tell you something that I know: [I saw] Mr. Brezhnev twelve days ago—
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: —and maybe it could be useful to have.
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: He is not a new man—
GROMYKO: —in our leadership. He is not new man. He—
NIXON: A long time.
GROMYKO: —has been in the Politburo a long time. He was one of the secretaries, a state provincial secretary, and an authoritative, I would say, secretary of the Communist Party. Even before, he was chairman of the, even on the Supreme Soviet, our parliament— NIXON: Hmm.
GROMYKO: —for a long time.
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: And he followed, he became joint secretary of the Central Committee of the party, and then secretary-general of the Central Committee. He is man of great authority in hands.
NIXON: Hmm. He’s in charge.
GROMYKO: Yes. Yes.
NIXON: That’s good. That’s the man we want to talk to us.
GROMYKO: Absolutely. Absolutely.
NIXON: And also you know that we know—
GROMYKO: You probably know this, but I think it is not, it is not uninteresting now to hear it from me—
NIXON: Yeah. Sure.
GROMYKO: —today. I know Mr. Brezhnev for a long period of time. He spoke with me; we met on the eve of my departure from Moscow to the United States to attend the session of the [United Nations] General Assembly, and then to meet you.
GROMYKO: We spoke quite extensively, a great deal, on Soviet-American relations. And he expressed his urgent wishes to see improvement of our relations.
NIXON: Good.
GROMYKO: He said this. And he said that he stands for—whether if you can achieve it or not, we do not know—but he would like to see friendly relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: And he knows that I’m going to tell you—
NIXON: A couple things.
GROMYKO: Then, after conversation, we went together to—he received [unclear]—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: —of that organization. Then next, we continued conversation, left together to the airport, because he was going to meet—to Crimea to meet Brandt.
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
GROMYKO: To meet Brandt.
NIXON: [unclear]
GROMYKO: I needed to do some interview. And we continued to discuss this matter in the car to the airport.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: And he especially expressed his hope that it would be good if we can achieve sometimes point of view to say—I stressed the point in my conversation—to say that “all—at last our relations are good, and maybe even friendly.”
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: This is the thing I wish to tell—to tell you personally.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: Not in presence of—
NIXON: I understand.
GROMYKO: —interpreters.
NIXON: Translators.
GROMYKO: The second thing, he is not the man, which would like for you to dismantle the NATO.
NIXON: Oh, no, no.
GROMYKO: Test NATO. He does not like. He does not like.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: And maybe you sometimes, sometimes read or hear information about the Soviet press, hear your name, well, in connection with the policies sometimes of another correspondent—private correspondent. But this is not the line of the leadership— NIXON: Right, right. I understand the difference. I understand the difference—
GROMYKO: Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. And he does not like this line they employ.
NIXON: No. Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: He is against it. He is against it. I wish just to inform you, if you don’t know about it. Never he—what still more, I would like to tell you, so he—[laughs] initiative he’s asked me to tell you about, this guarantee. But I’m privy because I know him very well.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: And I take this responsibility.
NIXON: Sure.
GROMYKO: Responsibility. He is man of strong character, strong character—strong character, strong will. And when he says that something must be done—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: —he is going in the direction he outlined.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: It relates to all questions. It relates to the question of our relations with the United States.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Good.
GROMYKO: If I did not know you for a long time, maybe I would not go this far.
NIXON: Well, I appreciate that.
GROMYKO: But I think—
NIXON: Let me say that—let me—let me just—let me say that, first, I will continue the private correspondence with him. You tell him that—
GROMYKO: I will tell him.
NIXON: —that I will respond personally, myself. Second, and—I appreciate his sentiments that he’s expressed and I have the same sentiment. I am known, I know, as the—it’s rather ironical—as really anti-Communist and all that, but I’m a very realistic man, a very practical man.
Also, I am one who has, as I’ve often said, enormous respect for the Russian people—a great people. I know that looking at the world, even if we—even though our political systems are very different, that the future of peace in the world for twenty-five years—and nobody can look further than that, I think—is in our hands. It’s in the hands of the United States and Russia. Nobody else. Someone else can stir it up, but if we put our foot down, we can make a great contribution. I think that the—I think that it would be a great signal to the world if—not only the announcement that we’re doing, but also if, at such a meeting, it could be said that the relations that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Great War began—were—are again resuming.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean—we have to be practical—that we’re going to agree on systems of government, that we won’t be competing here and there. But it does mean that we have a new dialogue, a new relationship where we solve the problems. That’s what I want. And I—you can tell the chairman— GROMYKO: I will—
NIXON: —that I feel exactly the same way. And I also feel that now is the time. I think it’s very important. If we let the time slip by, the events may drag us into something, so now is the time to get together if we can.
GROMYKO: That means that both sides must work with patience—
NIXON: That’s right.
GROMYKO: —work with will—
NIXON: That’s right.
GROMYKO: —and—
NIXON: That’s right.
GROMYKO: —with determination.
NIXON: Determination. Bargain hard, but agree.
GROMYKO: This, let me say, it will require time and energy—
NIXON: Let me—let me suggest a couple of things that are very important. Kissinger’s meetings with Dobrynin are very important. As you know, they were helpful in— GROMYKO: In Berlin.
NIXON: Yes. Tomorrow, I have asked Kissinger to meet with you, to call on you, or I guess he’s going to meet you. He has a message—
GROMYKO: I know.
NIXON: —that he would like to convey. It’s from me—
NIXON: —on a technical matter. It has to do with Vietnam. And we just want to pass it on to you.
GROMYKO: Mm-hmm.
NIXON: The other thing that I didn’t want to go into in the circle here is on the Mideast.
GROMYKO: Mm-hmm.
NIXON: Now, it may be that working very, very quietly—Kissinger and Dobrynin, you see—that we can explore something on the Mideast. I don’t know.
GROMYKO: Mm-hmm.
NIXON: But you raise that subject with him, with Kissinger, if you like.
GROMYKO: I will tell you—
NIXON: Then the—
GROMYKO: —I will tell you something there though.
NIXON: Yeah. Just—and so, because it may be that the Mideast is too complicated to handle at the—
GROMYKO: With Rogers?
NIXON: —or SALT. Well, at the foreign secretary level. See?
GROMYKO: Mm-hmm.
NIXON: It may be we have to work very privately.
GROMYKO: Mm-hmm.
NIXON: Now, I think that those—but I think—I think that in—and even take a matter like the European Security Conference: I think it’s probably better to keep that in this channel, you know, where we’re very private. And it will—and, sure, of course, some things will be at the State—ambassador level, and the secretary of state, and the rest—but the more we can have in this channel, then I will personally take charge, which is what is important. And Brezhnev, of course, must do the same.
GROMYKO: Good. Good.
NIXON: Is that fair enough? Good?
GROMYKO: Good. Good. Good. We—
NIXON: Good. You see, I—we’re—I do not take charge of things that don’t matter, but where they matter, like between our countries, then I make the decisions.
GROMYKO: The channel proved to be effective, in the experience of the Berlin negotiations for us.
NIXON: It couldn’t have been done without that channel.
GROMYKO: One thing on the Middle East, I would like, if you had not mentioned it, I would mention it. I wish to tell you privately, strictly privately—
NIXON: Yeah?
GROMYKO: —two key points. Frankly, some time ago, the United States government, and you personally—and I think a sufficient decision was made—expressed concern about how delivery of armaments— NIXON: To Egypt? Right?
NIXON: Fine.
GROMYKO: We think that it would be possible to reach understanding, if some kind of framework is reached, which would provide [for] withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories. We would agree on the limitation, or, if you wish, even on stoppage—full stoppage of delivery [of armaments]— NIXON: Hmm.
GROMYKO: —in connection—even in connection with understanding on the first stage—
NIXON: What to do here—
GROMYKO: On the—
NIXON: Exactly. In terms of the—
GROMYKO: —even in connection with the interim [agreement]—
NIXON: —interim. Right.
GROMYKO: You agree.
NIXON: Right.
GROMYKO: Even in connection, provided that this is the—connected with the final, with the withdrawal—
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: —of—from all territories, within a certain period of time. More than this, I would like to tell you, also frankly, confidentially, both this point and then the third one I discussed with Mr. Brezhnev. So this is not the second point here. The second point is this: some time ago, you expressed interest—oh, I don’t know—in Egypt, about our presence there, our military— NIXON: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
GROMYKO: —presence in Egypt.
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: I do not know whether you know precisely our position, or not, on our presence, but, in a sense, we are present there. In a sense—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: —north of Cairo, certain personnel, and certain forces—
NIXON: I see.
GROMYKO: —and such presence, the presence is agreed. We are ready, in connection with understanding, full understanding, on the Middle East—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: —we are ready to agree not to have our military units there.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: Not to have soldiers based there—
NIXON: Not the civilian, I understand.
GROMYKO: Not precisely. Not to have military units, you know, there—
NIXON: Not there.
GROMYKO: We probably—we would leave a limited number, a limited number of advisors for purely advisory—
NIXON: Advisory purposes.
GROMYKO: You know—
NIXON: Technical advisors.
GROMYKO: —like you have in Iran.
NIXON: Like we have in Cambodia and the rest.
GROMYKO: Yes, that is right.
NIXON: That’s right.
GROMYKO: I said it’s for—
NIXON: I understand.
GROMYKO: —for purely advisory purposes.
NIXON: But not for—I see.
NIXON: Right. I understand.
GROMYKO: Absolutely right. I know that you—
NIXON: But these are matters that I deal with.
GROMYKO: I know. You understand very clearly.
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: I would say limited, and maybe very limited.
NIXON: I understand.
GROMYKO: Maybe very.
NIXON: Well, those are matters that could threaten—be discussed, if—but that has to be very private.
GROMYKO: And it would be very private, very private—
NIXON: Right. Right. Right. The Mideast is so tense—so touchy, politically, in this country—
GROMYKO: All these—
NIXON: —it has to be private here.
GROMYKO: All these—
NIXON: Right.
GROMYKO: —ideas, we did not put into motion—
NIXON: Sure. Right. Right—
GROMYKO: —with anybody. Never. This is—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: —new, and this is principle.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: And the third point, whether you attach importance or not, but Israel always stresses anything you don’t want to stress. It would be—we would be ready, even if this accord is written on this basis, even in connection with the interim agreement, in the third stage.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: And we will be ready to deal—to sign, if you wish, together with you, or with U.S. and other powers, or with all other powers who are on the [United Nations] Security Council. This initiative [is] possible in a document, if with additional— NIXON: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
GROMYKO: —agreement and understanding on security for Israel—
[unclear exchange]
GROMYKO: —that is—
NIXON: Sure.
GROMYKO: —in connection with the interim. With the interim—
NIXON: I see.
GROMYKO: —provided that interim is—
NIXON: All right.
GROMYKO: —connected. [unclear] and our own suggestion was that, well, when vis-à-vis the border or finalization of the agreement, only some kind of decision—
NIXON: True.
GROMYKO: —should be taken on guarantees. But we are ready to discuss this idea in connection—we can sign any agreement with guarantees in connection with the interim, provided that the interim is linked with Israeli [withdrawal]. The limitation of even—limitation, even stoppage [unclear]— NIXON: Your arms?
GROMYKO: Second—
NIXON: Present?
GROMYKO: —not presence of any Soviet units. Not—
NIXON: Sure.
GROMYKO: —[unclear] heavy units, intermediate military—
NIXON: Right.
GROMYKO: —you could say.
NIXON: Sure.
GROMYKO: Some of the limited—I say this would [be] limited number of advisors for purely, purely, purely advisory purposes.
NIXON: I understand.
[unclear exchange]
GROMYKO: If you—
NIXON: Let us do a little—as I say, we’ll do a private talking on this. And then, on this message that Kissinger brings you tomorrow on Vietnam, I think you’ll find very interesting. It could be very— GROMYKO: Good.
NIXON: It could be very important.
GROMYKO: Very good.
NIXON: If we could get that out of the way, you could see—and I don’t, we don’t want to ask you to do anything that’s not in your interest—but if we get that out of the way, it opens other doors. You see?
GROMYKO: Good. I have to say—what I told you about this Middle East, this is—
NIXON: Comes from—
GROMYKO: —result of the conversation personally with Brezhnev. And he wants me to say to you—
NIXON: Yeah.
GROMYKO: So we are taking a position.
NIXON: I understand.

“And then we say that I am going to resume the bombing.”
September 30, 1971, 9:22 a.m.
Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, and Henry Kissinger

In the postmortem of the Gromyko meetings, Nixon and Kissinger were enthusiastic about the Soviet offer of a reduced presence in the Mideast. Buoyed by the success of the previous day’s talks, Nixon presented a new scenario for the Vietnam War, one that would end it, but on his terms.

KISSINGER: I was wondering, we were exploring all possibilities, but if the American speech [in the UN General Assembly] could be put after I’ve left there, since the debate will go on for three or four days after I’ve left there.

KISSINGER: You said yesterday I should check with you about that Gromyko conversation.
NIXON: Yeah. He said that—three things that they’ve agreed to—except I don’t think we’re going to give on. He said, “First,” he said, “we will agree to stop sending arms into the area [Middle East]. Second, we will agree to remove all military units from the UAR—all military units.” He said, “Now, these”—I want to be precise. He said, “We will keep advisors, like you have in Iran, but no military units. We will remove them all. And third, we will agree to participate in any kind of a guarantee of Israel’s integrity, sovereignty, et cetera, et cetera. Any—with you or anybody else, we will agree to participate.” And then he said, “We will do all this at the time of an interim settlement, provided there is an understanding it should go on to a more permanent one”—or I could get something like that.
KISSINGER: That’s a tremendous step.
NIXON: Well, it is a—and so I said—through the whole thing, when he said—the last point, I think, is a significant [one]. I, through the whole thing, I said, “Well, Dr. Kissinger’s assistant will, first,” I said, “will bring you a message that I consider of enormous importance on the Vietnam thing.” And I said, “I have discussed it with you. Second, let him discuss this. And third,” I said, “as I told you, on any, on European security, and all these other matters,” I said, “let’s keep to—let’s talk about it in this channel.” And I said, “So that we can work things out privately.” It was about what—that’s what he was talking about. Now, it seems to me that on the Vietnam thing, he has to [unclear]. Actually, the idea of getting the damn thing out of the way before the summit is important. But also, the idea that [unclear] make a settlement—I mean, that we’re—I don’t know how far you’re going to go in talking about the Thieu thing. Not far, I trust.
KISSINGER: No. No. I won’t even—
NIXON: I haven’t [said] I think that you ought to disclose that to him in any way.
KISSINGER: What I thought, with your permission, I would tell him, Mr. President, is that we are going through those eight points.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: We are prepared to make a compromise in the political field and in the withdrawal field, but I won’t tell him what it is, that we may propose it—we will propose it to Hanoi within the near future, and we want Hanoi to think about it. That’s going to be our last offer.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And we want them to use their influence—
NIXON: Well, I wrote down something last night that I just—in view of all the malarkey he was giving me about the desire of Brezhnev to—and it may be that Brezhnev would like, does realize that a Soviet-American pact of friendship is very much in their interest—and also that we may need it too. You know, not a “pact,” but, you know, the idea we are friends and so forth.
NIXON: It occurred to me that the way you could put this is that Brezhnev wants friendship. That, “Look, Mr. Foreign Minister, I myself can’t even predict what this president, Mr. Nixon, President Nixon will do. He surprises me. But he is a man, more than anybody that has been in this office in this century, who will make a daring, big play.”
KISSINGER: That they’ve learned now.
NIXON: “A daring, big play. He made it. Now, you people wondered about China.” They wondered about the economy; they wondered about this. “He is prepared to make a very big play with you, because he considers your situation infinitely more important than anything else. You know why?” I thought—my little analogy is, when I talk about it, I said, “Now, we always say in these meetings that we want peace, and that it’s important.” I said, “We want peace with Bolivia, but whether we have peace with Bolivia doesn’t make any difference, because the world—”
KISSINGER: I think, Mr. President, your meeting yesterday ranked right up there with the Ceausescu meeting [Nixon’s visit to Bucharest in August 1969].
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And, in a way, it was more difficult, because you couldn’t be quite that tough—
NIXON: Tough.
KISSINGER: [unclear] But you were so firm, and when he started with this malarkey, and you said, “All right, but that we say this—we say this, but what else can we say here? But let’s”—in effect, you said, “Let’s get concrete.”
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I think when the history of this is written, it will turn out that you turned around SALT yesterday, as much as you turned around Berlin. You remember—you notice how he said to you what you said last year about Berlin has come true?
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And I think these are going to be—
NIXON: At least we got through this—we got through on SALT the very simple point that we couldn’t freeze in a superiority for them on offensive weapons, and an inferiority for us on defensive weapons— KISSINGER: Right.
NIXON: —and that we had to look at the whole bag.
KISSINGER: Well, and he kept—and Dobrynin, while we were waiting for you—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —kept coming back to that two or three times.
NIXON: All right, now, that, in my opinion, and also that I am the only one who can deliver on a big play—I’m the only one that can deliver because I can hold the Right. If Vietnam is the only thing that stands in the way, it will open all doors. Now, just—and that it’s time to get it over with. Now, I think we go on just throwing the carrot out there. Put the stick out there. Say, “Now, his patience is running out in Vietnam and he may be very embarrassed in the polls.” And I’d throw in a hell of threat. Because my view on Vietnam, the more I’ve thought about it, is that toward the end of the year—and I’m going to poll it in advance to see what it is—that I will say, “All right, we’ll make an announcement of some sort.” And then we—I’m assuming these bastards turn us down—and then we say that I am going to resume the bombing— KISSINGER: That’s what I think.
NIXON: —of military targets in North Vietnam unless and until we get the prisoners back.
KISSINGER: That is what I would say. Absolutely.
NIXON: Just lay it right to them—
KISSINGER: I would say that we—
NIXON: “I will resume the bombing until—when we get the prisoners back.” Just put it on that basis.
KISSINGER: I’d say we’ve offered everything. Go through the whole record.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: We’ve been there. We have gone to the Russians. We’ve gone to the Chinese. We’ve gone every avenue. We’ve offered to replace Thieu. Everything has been offered. All has been rejected. And this is it.
NIXON: Yeah. Ehrlichman [unclear]. But anyway, we have a—
KISSINGER: Incidentally, I think, Mr. President, if we could go back to the China thing for a minute.
NIXON: Yeah, we’ve got to go—
KISSINGER: We wanted this stuff early in this congressional session.
NIXON: Where’s Ehrlichman? He can come in now, if you can find his [unclear].
KISSINGER: We wanted this early in the congressional session. We’re having a terrific double play with two successive Tuesdays [the announcement on October 5 of Kissinger’s trip to China and on October 12 of Nixon’s trip to Moscow].
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: And I think it’s going to pull the teeth of a lot of opponents. When we planned this in the middle of August, we just couldn’t know they—
NIXON: Look, we just got to—don’t worry about it, Henry. We’ve got to—I’ll sit there with Bill, and we’ll talk about it, and I’m going to talk about the Russian summit a little with him.
NIXON: Listen, this is a—the Russian summit is a hell of a thing for Rogers.
KISSINGER: Well, we don’t want him, though, to start planning it. He screws up really every—
NIXON: He’s not going to plan it, but, I mean, it’s a hell of a thing for him to go!
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: Jesus Christ, I’m going to do it. You know that. By God, I’ll tell you one thing: I have decided, with all his faults, I’m not going to let him do anything. I’m going to do it. And do it—Christ, by that, I mean this office is going to plan on the summit matter.
KISSINGER: And he really doesn’t understand.
KISSINGER: In fact, I don’t want to go into detail, but he screwed up something on Germany with Gromyko on the Berlin thing, because he couldn’t understand it.
NIXON: When will you see Gromyko?
KISSINGER: At five thirty.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: I’ll call you—or you’ll be on the way? Will you—I’ll call over here.
NIXON: I’ll be over here at a reception. And then I’m seeing—I ought to have a talk with Haig. Is Haig here?
NIXON: To get his report. I’ll tell you what I might do: I might have—Shultz is going down to get me a report on the domestic thing, and maybe—and then come back the next morning. Maybe I could have Haig do the same thing, and we can go back— KISSINGER: Sure. Sure.
NIXON: —right away. Because I just want to just hear from him—
KISSINGER: Absolutely, I think it’d be very useful.
NIXON: —hear what the hell the story is. But what do you think of my plan? That, by God, if they turn down everything, we resume the bombing of military [unclear] with the purpose of bringing them home. I’ll bet you the American people back it with seventy percent. What do you think?
KISSINGER: I would do it. I think we cannot go out whimpering.
NIXON: Yes, sir. Incidentally, though, I think, speaking of whimpering, that goddamn Teddy [Kennedy] overstepped when he said he would crawl on his hands and knees— KISSINGER: Mr. President, if we think where we were when we came in here, and at the various stages, to get Gromyko here the way we were—he was yesterday.
NIXON: Jesus.
KISSINGER: To get the Chinese. We’ve got everything working together. The only thing that’s missing—I think with this, we may do something on the Middle East.
NIXON: Well, I don’t understand the Middle East problem well enough to know whether we can, but, it seems to me, it’s a hell of a concession.
KISSINGER: Oh, it’s a—
NIXON: Yeah. If we really focus—
KISSINGER: —if he really means it.
NIXON: But the point is, the way it now ought to be done, frankly, you—and that, of course, means me—I ought to get in Rabin and say, “Now, look here, this is a hell of a deal. And we think we can sell—this is what we’re prepared to put, to run down the Russians’ throat, if you’ll do something.” See my point?
KISSINGER: Yeah, but we’d have to—
NIXON: Don’t tell him the Russians offered. Tell him we will get it for them. Come on in, John [Ehrlichman].
[EHRLICHMAN enters.]
KISSINGER: But we’d have to find out first what they want in return for the interim settlement.
NIXON: Oh, I know. What—but what by whom? [What] the Russians want?
KISSINGER: I mean, how they define interim settlement, because—
NIXON: No, look. I mean, no, before we get—in order to get the Russians—let me put it this way: the Israelis are the tough ones. They’re going to be a hell of a lot tougher than the Russians. Now, in order to get the Israelis to come some way, we’ve got to say—we’ve got—we mustn’t let them think the Russians are prepared to offer this, until we get a hell of an offer from them.
KISSINGER: No, but we have to find out from the Russians, and I can find out from Gromyko, what he has in mind, how far the Israelis have to go—
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
KISSINGER: —on the interim settlement.
NIXON: Yeah, but don’t tell anybody. Never tell the Israelis what the Russians are prepared to do—
NIXON: —because then they’ll say, “We’ll start from there.”
NIXON: Okay, I’ll see you later.

“I want them to want something from us on the Middle East.”
September 30, 1971, 12:20 p.m.
Richard Nixon, William Rogers, and Henry Kissinger

The follow-up to the Nixon meeting with Gromyko was in Rogers’s hands, as he was scheduled to have lunch with the foreign minister at the Soviet embassy on September 30. While there, the two would sign a pact ancillary to SALT; it called for upgrades to the “hot line” between the two superpowers, literally and figuratively keeping the line of communication open in order to reduce the chance of nuclear war. Nixon and Kissinger, however, had become more interested in the Soviet attitude toward the Mideast. They wanted Rogers to keep that topic alive, even while he said nothing that was in the least bit encouraging. It was a diplomatic trick for which they rehearsed just before he left for the Soviet embassy.

NIXON: You’re going to see Dobrynin?
KISSINGER: Gromyko went home.
ROGERS: Gromyko. I have a lunch today at the embassy.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. Just keep the Middle East dangled.
ROGERS: Really?
NIXON: They need us—what I meant is: I have a feeling, in my talk with him, that they’re at least—the two reasons that they’re, two things that they want from us, not only—one is the China thing worries them; and the second is the Middle East. They really are worried about the damn place. I’ve got—but I’ve had—in the private conversation, he talked about the Middle East a great deal. You know, that Brezhnev, particularly, was interested and that sort of thing. And I think it’s very important that you— ROGERS: When you say “dangled,” what do you mean exactly? In other words—
NIXON: Well, what I meant is that—well, I don’t want them to think that we can help solve this problem but that it’s terribly difficult, as we emphasized yesterday, working with our Israeli friends; it’s terribly difficult, and that it’s going to take an awful lot on their part to do it. What do you think, Henry? I don’t know. You—you’re— KISSINGER: I think the way it is now—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —they really—I think the way Bill has it now, as between the Israelis and the Egyptians, without tricking them into it—
ROGERS: I think it’s perfect now. That’s why I already told them that—
NIXON: Well, but after that meeting—but I think we—
ROGERS: I don’t have a plan to—
NIXON: By “dangle,” I mean leave it right there. I don’t want to—
ROGERS: Well, the point I—
NIXON: I don’t want you to go any further. Don’t be too—what I’m getting at is this: I want them to want something from us on the Middle East. They must want our cooperation, and we must not be in the position of wanting theirs so much.
ROGERS: I don’t think they want ours, and I don’t think we want theirs, especially.
NIXON: Well, we sure don’t want to guarantee or something.
ROGERS: I mean, from the—you see, the way we’ve been playing, Mr. President—I’ve been playing is—they don’t want anything from us; they like it the way it is. So I kept them out. I haven’t asked them for a goddamn thing. We haven’t yielded one of the things that concerns them.
KISSINGER: I’ve been impressed with the—
NIXON: One has to say—
ROGERS: Now, what I’ve tried to do is, this time, is to give him a little more information, without really telling him anything or without asking anything. I’ve been telling him, “We’re working this for this cause; we think it’s a good one; we’re the only ones that are doing it; both Egypt and Israel have asked us to do it; and we’re going to keep pushing at it; and we don’t want you to work with us; we don’t ask you to do anything.”
ROGERS: But we want to keep advised—
NIXON: Good. Good. Because—that’s good. That’s good. Because I have—
ROGERS: This is the position I take—
NIXON: Listen, I’d say to him—I’m not so sure, Bill, that you are, just based on what he said then, I’m not so sure but what they may get a hell of a lot more worried about the Middle East and their clients.
ROGERS: Sure, their—
NIXON: And for that reason, they may not like things the way they are. They may not. That’s my point. So I’d keep them worried.
NIXON: Keep them worried. That’s what I mean.
ROGERS: Yeah. On this European [Security] Conference, if it’s all right with you, I would like to suggest to him that any discussions on it should be with me. That we don’t want any other—that it’s such—it’s got to be such a private matter, and we can’t let our allies know that we’re seriously considering a conference— NIXON: Absolutely.
ROGERS: —until a satisfactory solution to the problem [unclear]—
NIXON: No ambassadorial—
ROGERS: And if there’s any contact on it, let Dobrynin talk to me or have him send a message, because I think we should seriously delay any discussion—
NIXON: Yeah.
ROGERS: —of substance for a while.
NIXON: Good. Good.
ROGERS: Then when he has something—
NIXON: I would say that we would do not—well, you noticed how I was trying to dance off of it, because I’d read your briefing paper. I think you should tell him that I said when I used the word “preliminary” and “private,” I meant exactly that.
NIXON: And that means preliminary and private—that we do not set up a working group.
ROGERS: Working group.
NIXON: On the first part, we don’t have it done in a, you know, in any formalized way, and that you’ll just chat about the thing.
ROGERS: Well, what I was going to tell him—
NIXON: Yeah?
ROGERS: —is that you and I had first talked, and that you said—
NIXON: Right.
ROGERS: —“preliminary” and “private,” and that you wanted him to understand that it would be with me. If Dobrynin wanted to talk about it, fine, come with me.
NIXON: Fine.
ROGERS: Because, otherwise, he’s going to pass the word to everybody that we’ve agreed to private talks.
NIXON: Exactly.
ROGERS: And I don’t want that.
NIXON: Exactly. Exactly. And also, tell him how the meeting would—but you would say—be with you on a completely private basis.
ROGERS: Oh, oh sure. Well, they would understand that.
NIXON: No crapping around.
ROGERS: They’ve been pretty good about that.
NIXON: Well, that’s what I mean—if you tell him that. Good. Good.
ROGERS: They’re pretty good when they deal with you privately. But they’re not very good when they deal with everybody else in a big—
NIXON: Yeah, well, as you noticed, Gromyko was trying to push us toward, yesterday, into the position of saying—
ROGERS: I know—
NIXON: “Can I say we’ll do it before a conference?”
ROGERS: Oh, sure. Sure.
NIXON: But I didn’t say that. And I think that’s pretty clear.
ROGERS: Yeah, it was.
ROGERS: No doubt about that.
NIXON: Yeah.
NIXON: All right. Bye.

“A non-Communist Asia . . . without the United States is potentially more dangerous than an Asia with the United States.”
October 14, 1971, 3:05 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

As Nixon looked forward to his summit in China in February, he became noticeably nervous. Practically everything about his China was “goddamn,” even the schools that Mrs. Nixon was scheduled to visit. Some of the president’s discomfort probably related to the approaching conundrum of Taiwan and the UN. The General Assembly was preparing to vote on a single-China resolution later in the month, while the United States tried to enlist support for a delay on the part of the resolution that ejected Taiwan from the UN. If that didn’t work, the resolution was expected to reach the Security Council before the end of the year. At that point, the United States could veto it, but Nixon had no plans for doing so.

NIXON: My idea is that the time for Taiwan to go out is next year, shouldn’t be this year, it’s not good for the Chinese.

NIXON: Let me say, there’s never been a, no president in my memory has made a state visit longer than four days. That’s our standard rule. And I’m just not going over that.
KISSINGER: I have no problem with that, the more serious, the more businesslike—

NIXON: I just meet them at the airport and then I go in and get closeted for four days. And she [Mrs. Nixon] goes out to the goddamn schools. You know what I mean? So they get the feel of Americans; you see, there’s a missionary feel about China. And they just like the idea that we love the goddamn Chinese, that’s what I really meant about that.

NIXON: —get a feel for the goddamn place. That’s one thing about the Communist system, the capital is the least, it’s like Washington, it’s the least representative. It’s so tightly controlled. You get to another city, it’s an entirely different thing.

NIXON: We’re in a stronger position, particularly in Cambodia, than they are, and a lot stronger than we were in October. I’d be tougher on Cambodia and I’d be tougher on Laos.
But with Japan, I believe that we have got to frankly scare the bejeezus out of them more on Japan. It’s just my sense as I read through this [an early U.S. draft of the communiqué]. I can see what they’re doing. He’s [Zhou Enlai] talking with strong language. But on the other hand, here’s the key thing, they have got to become convinced that a Japan and going further, a non-Communist Asia, without the United States is potentially more dangerous than an Asia with the United States. Now, you made that point, but I’d hit it right on the nose, say we’re going to stick around.

NIXON: For example, we’ll take the Taiwan thing, we know what has to happen. Korea, we will work that out in an oral way. Except, I’d work that out orally. But also—but I would state very, very firmly, “Now look, the United States is a Pacific power and an Asian power, and we are going to maintain a presence there.”

KISSINGER: One of two things are going to happen. After the election either Beijing is going to get impatient and then there’s going to be a blowup in their relations with you because their demands [unclear]. Or Chiang will die and there’ll be negotiations. Or Mao and Zhou will die and there’s such a goddamn turmoil in Beijing that no one will know anymore what the hell is going on anymore.
NIXON: So the only thing I think is that we have to remember that everything always comes out. I don’t think we can have a secret deal, if we sold out Taiwan, you understand? I know what we’re doing, but I want to be very careful.

“You can be mighty proud of the Pirates.”
October 17, 1971, 4:18 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Danny Murtaugh

While it is hard for any president to break away from the daily demands of the office for very long, President Nixon found time for sports as much as he could. He was an intense fan, especially of baseball and football, and can be heard yelling at the television on the Nixon tapes.
Moments after the conclusion of the World Series, he called both team managers. Speaking first to Danny Murtaugh of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nixon congratulated him on winning the best-of-seven-game series. The Pirates, led by MVP Roberto Clemente, defeated the Baltimore Orioles four games to three. The final game was a pitching duel in which Pirates pitcher Steve Blass threw his second complete game win of the series.

NIXON: Hello?
OPERATOR: Mr. President—
NIXON: Yeah.
OPERATOR: I have Danny Murtaugh.
NIXON: Hello?
OPERATOR: There you are.
NIXON: Hello?
NIXON: Danny, I just want you to know that I saw the game on television, and you can be mighty proud of the Pirates. You beat a great team, and yours was a great team.
MURTAUGH: Well, thank you Mr. Pr—
NIXON: And I must say, the way you sat in that dugout without ever being flappable, that’s really something.
MURTAUGH: Yeah, but I chewed about four packets of tobacco today.
NIXON: That’s right. Well, I know that, of course, Clemente, of course was fantastic, and Blass, but really it was a team effort, the fantastic defense you had, I thought, was really outstanding.
MURTAUGH: Well, I actually—
NIXON: That second baseman, you know, they said he couldn’t field, but I didn’t see him miss a chance the whole series.
MURTAUGH: He did a tremendous job out there, Mr. Pr—
NIXON: Well, I don’t want, I know all the press is there to talk to you, but I just wanted you to know it was a great effort and you can be mighty proud of them.
MURTAUGH: Well, thank you, and I appreciate you taking—
MURTAUGH: —the time out—
MURTAUGH: —of your busy schedule to call me.
NIXON: I must say, I was hoping I’d get out there, but I’m a little busy right now, but I caught most of the game on TV.
MURTAUGH: Well, we realize that, and thank you for your interest in our game.
NIXON: Right. I’ll bet Pittsburgh tears the town up when you get back! [laughs]
MURTAUGH: We sure intend to, I believe.
NIXON: You bet. Good luck. Bye.
MURTAUGH: Bye, Mr. President.

“I’ve lost a few, and I know that you don’t get many calls when you lose.”
October 17, 1971, 4:22 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Earl Weaver

Next, Nixon called legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver to congratulate him on a good season, even though the team fell short in the final game of the World Series. Nixon also wished Weaver good luck on his team’s visit to Japan, where the Orioles would face off with the Yomiuri Giants.

NIXON: Hello?
OPERATOR: I have Mr. Weaver for you.
OPERATOR: There you are.
NIXON: Hello?
WEAVER: Hello, sir.
NIXON: Earl, I know this is a tough time for you, but let me tell you that the Orioles played like champions when they lost, and it’s, you, and I also admire your fighting spirit.
WEAVER: Well, Mr. President—
NIXON: Yeah.
WEAVER: I’ll tell you, you couldn’t have called at a better time, because—
NIXON: Well—
WEAVER: —because it means much more now than it would have meant at another time.
NIXON: Well, let me tell you, you know, I’ve lost a few, and I know that you don’t get many calls when you lose, but boy you fellows were great, and, I saw the game yesterday on TV, and, that was one of the greatest, and the one today was, it could have gone either way. I’m telling you, [Mike] Cuellar and your boys were just fantastic.
WEAVER: Well, thank you very much.
NIXON: And, just tell the boys that, they played like champions, and you’ll get a great reception in Japan, too, I’m sure.
WEAVER: Well, we hope to represent the United States as well as we can—
NIXON: Listen, I—
WEAVER: —and we would have liked to have gone as World Champions, but, we’re going as American League Champions—
NIXON: American League Champions, and just one run away from the top.
WEAVER: Thank you.
NIXON: So, after all, as you’ve pointed out, I guess no other team’s won a hundred games for three, three straight years in the American League, and there’ll be another day. Well, tell all those fellows that, I must say, when I saw, yesterday, when Frank Robinson went to third, and then, and that one, and then, I said, “My God, if an old man can run like that, he’s doing all right!”
WEAVER: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. I’ll go right out and tell him.
NIXON: Fine, and good luck to you, Earl.
WEAVER: Okay, thank you.
NIXON: Fine, bye.

“Well, that was a bad vote, wasn’t it?”
October 26, 1971, 11:13 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan

On October 25, the General Assembly of the UN voted to admit the People’s Republic of China and expel the Republic of China (Taiwan). A compromise by Ambassador George H. W. Bush to permit membership by both nations was defeated.
California Governor Ronald Reagan called Nixon to express his disgust with the vote. He suggested recalling Bush in protest and announcing that the United States would no longer take part in or be bound by General Assembly votes.

NIXON: Well, that was a bad vote, wasn’t it?
REAGAN: Well, I want to tell you—
NIXON: We worked our tails off, I must say. I think—
REAGAN: I know. I was just sick.
NIXON: Fifty-four to fifty-nine, I’m telling you. I just finished a meeting with Ted Agnew. He’s back from Greece and Turkey, both of whom we got, incidentally. We didn’t get Iran, though, damn it. You know, you figure there’s the shah, we’ve done all the things for him, but— REAGAN: Yeah.
NIXON: These African countries, they’re the ones that I must say were disappointing.
REAGAN: Well, Mr. President, the reason I called was I know it is not easy to give a suggestion or advice to the president of the United States. But I just feel so strongly that we can’t, in view of ’72, we can’t just sit and take this and continue as if nothing had happened. And I had a suggestion— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
REAGAN: —for an action that I’d like to be so presumptuous as to suggest. My every instinct says get the hell out of that—
NIXON: [laughs]
REAGAN: —kangaroo court and let it sink. But I know that would be extremely difficult, and not the thing to do. But it has occurred to me that the United States, the people, I just know, first of all, they don’t like the UN to begin with.
NIXON: That’s right.
REAGAN: And it seemed to me that if you brought Mr. Bush back to Washington to let them sweat for about twenty-four hours as to what you were thinking of, and then if you went on television to the people of the United States and said that Mr. Bush was going back to the UN to participate in debate and discussions, to present our views and so forth, but he would not participate in any votes. That the United States would not vote, and would not be bound by the votes of the UN, because it is a debating society. You don’t have to say that— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
REAGAN: —but it is a debating society. So we’d be there. Our presence would be there, but we would just not participate in their votes. I think it would put those bums in the perspective they belong.
NIXON: Ha! It sure would! [laughs] Yeah.
REAGAN: I think it would make a hell of a campaign issue.
REAGAN: Because I am positive that the people of the United States are thoroughly disgusted. And I think that this would put any candidate from the other side, the constant question would come to him— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
REAGAN: —in the midst of this campaign, “What would you do, now?” And if he was stupid enough to open his mouth and say, “Oh, hell,” you know, “we’d go right back to operating as usual [in the UN],” I think he’d be hung out to dry.
NIXON: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Well, we’ve been trying to think here about what the reaction would be. I must say that the congressional action may be very interesting, on the appropriations side.
REAGAN: Well, you see, Mr. President, then, if they [the Congress] did what they threatened to do, they would simply be confirming your action.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
REAGAN: They’d be making the budget meet that new position of the United States in the UN.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
REAGAN: Reducing our importance. If the other way, if we do nothing and they take that action, it’s a rebuff.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, let me give some thought to the whole thing. It’s a tough one, as you’re well aware. We’ve got some fish to fry on India-Pakistan. We’re trying to avoid a war there. And the UN may have to play some damn role there, because we don’t want to get involved— REAGAN: No.
NIXON: —let me say, in that miserable place. Let me give some thought to this whole thing. As you know, I have been thinking about it. And I’ve talked this morning to two or three people about it. What the legal problems are, and so forth.
REAGAN: Well, I just felt I had to make this suggestion.
NIXON: No, I know, I appreciate it.
REAGAN: Last night, after that announcement came on, one commentator called me.
NIXON: Yeah.
REAGAN: He told me that the—and I told him, I said, “Well, I just think it confirms the moral bankruptcy of the organization—”
NIXON: [laughs]
REAGAN: “—of the UN.” He told me the phone was ringing off the wall, and he said with people that are just enraged!
NIXON: Mm-hmm.

“It’s at their initiative this time.”
November 2, 1971, 9:32 a.m.
Richard Nixon, William Rogers, and Henry Kissinger

The two main negotiators for the North Vietnamese in the peace talks, chief delegate Thuy and special consultant Le Duc Tho (Le Duan’s second in command in North Vietnam), requested a meeting with Kissinger in Paris toward the end of November. Tho had already been meeting with Kissinger in secret, but Nixon had directed him to clearly decline further talks unless there was new movement on the part of the North Vietnamese.

NIXON: We just got word that Le Duc Tho is coming back to Paris on the twentieth to meet with him on Sunday.
KISSINGER: That’s [unclear].
KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: Now, in my view, this is either fish or cut bait. There isn’t any more reason to meet again. On the other hand, the—you know, you know the pattern of the previous meetings, and how much we have offered. We’ve answered the seven points, and they’ve agreed to some things, and so forth and so on.
KISSINGER: Bill has seen every memo—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —that I’ve given you.
NIXON: Yeah. What is the situation at the present time? Le Duc Tho—
KISSINGER: Well, [unclear]—
NIXON: —wants this meeting, though. What I’m getting at is this meeting assumes more importance due to the fact. Remember, I said, “No more meetings unless they have a direct expectation to discuss something new.”
KISSINGER: Well, they—they sent us a message, which said that. We left it the last time, as you’ll remember, Bill, that if I decide there’s nothing to say, we’ll meet again— ROGERS: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: —but—that if you’ll schedule a meeting. Well, we got a message—actually, we got it while I was in China—while in Paris; we didn’t hear it in China—which said that Le Duc Tho is coming back to Paris, and Xuan Thuy and Le Duc Tho would like to meet me on November 20. We got it four weeks ahead of time. In other words, we got it the last week of October. They added to it that the reason they’re suggesting November 20 is because Xuan Thuy is ill and recuperating. And you remember, they’ve given us that message also in the official— NIXON: Hmm.
KISSINGER: Normally, they don’t give any explanation for their movement. And—
NIXON: Yeah, that’s public knowledge.
NIXON: The Xuan Thuy part is [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Yeah, but normally when Xuan Thuy doesn’t come to a meeting—
NIXON: Le Duc Tho is not public knowledge?
KISSINGER: That’s right. Well, but—
NIXON: Yeah. Then he’s coming back.
KISSINGER: That he’s coming—
NIXON: He will be—
KISSINGER: He will be coming back. So, now, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth—if he’s coming—through the twentieth, he’ll be in Paris, and that’s [unclear]—
NIXON: The most important point is that this is—
KISSINGER: That he’s asked for a meeting in a public venue.
NIXON: Yeah. Now, the most important point is that, then, the—we know, we’ve always said that there will come a time when the negotiating track is either closed, or it could really mean something. It could mean something this time. It could. I—I don’t know. But, it—the point is, it’s at their initiative this time; they want to meet. Now, this occurred, of course, before this damn vote. [On October 29, the Senate rejected H.R. 9910, which authorized $3.4 billion in economic and military foreign aid, in part to Vietnam.] I don’t know how much effect this will have [unclear]. But, if we can get a continuing resolution through before that meeting, it would be very helpful. You see? Well, as a matter of fact, continuing resolutions have to go through— [unclear exchange]
NIXON: —the fifteenth.
KISSINGER: It’s got to go through with—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: I think we really need the heat on that [unclear]. Now, this comes back to the point about the, about the troop withdrawal that—which—we got Laird on it; Laird’s set up for it, but no idea that I’ve—here’s what I had in mind, and, see if [unclear]. I think that we cannot make a—what I would call, and you know—I felt that there has to come a time when we make a—[unclear] you—we talk about a proposal, we may make an announcement: “Well, this is it. We have finished, and now—and the war is—it’s completed, now.” I was hoping we could do it now. We can, in the light of this meeting. We can. Before the meeting, you say, “Regardless of what happens, on the negotiating front, we’re going to do this, or that, and the other thing.”

“While she was a bitch, we got what we wanted too.”
November 5, 1971, 7:50 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger

At the beginning of November, Indira Gandhi visited Washington to press India’s case and explain the dire nature of the refugee crisis. Nixon and Gandhi had already made up their minds long before they met in the Oval Office. Nixon believed that India wanted to confront Pakistan and underlined the potential consequences: American aid to India would be cut off, and the American people would not understand aggressive action. Gandhi knew that Nixon would not take India’s side and had already calculated that the consequences would be short-lived. The American perception that India was going to go to war against Pakistan was fairly well established in the wake of Gandhi’s trip to Washington.

NIXON: This is just the point when she [Gandhi] is a bitch.
KISSINGER: Well, the Indians are bastards anyway. They are starting a war there. It’s, to them East Pakistan is no longer the issue. Now, I found it very interesting how she carried on to you yesterday about West Pakistan.
NIXON: I think I’ll make the meeting today rather brief, cool. [unclear] I don’t mean by that cool in terms of not trying to bring up [unclear]. I’ll talk to her a little about Vietnam, and— KISSINGER: I’d let her talk a little more, maybe today—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —to be a little less forthcoming. But basically, Mr. President—
NIXON: So I was trying to give her no excuses. Now I’ve talked to her, told her everything we’re going to do. Now it’s up to her.
KISSINGER: While she was a bitch, we got what we wanted too. You very subtly—I mean, she will not be able to go home and say that the United States didn’t give her a warm reception and therefore, in despair, she’s got to go to war.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: So her objective—she has a right to be a little sore because you thwarted her objective. She would rather have had you give her a cool reception—
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: —so that she could say that she was really put upon.
NIXON: Oh, we really—
NIXON: We really slobbered over the old witch.
KISSINGER: How you slobbered over her in things that did not matter, but in the things that did matter—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —you didn’t give her an inch. So that she’s—
NIXON: She knows.
KISSINGER: She knows she isn’t coming out of here with any—she can’t go home and say, “The president promised to do the following for me,” and then when you don’t do it— NIXON: Did you get across with that clown [Sardar Swaran Singh, the Indian minister of foreign affairs] yesterday afternoon at five? You went on the, that as far as the, as she was concerned that she would consider letting him— KISSINGER: Yep.
NIXON: —consult with regard to the designation. We want to be sure he understood that was the situation.
KISSINGER: Right, and I fixed it in the memorandum of conversation which I’m giving him in such a way that it—just a little. I’ve made it a little more explicit.
NIXON: Now you’ve covered Rogers for long enough—
KISSINGER: Oh yeah, Rogers is in good shape.
NIXON: He’s prepared to be told this?
KISSINGER: Oh yes. They’ve apparently treated him personally in a way that he doesn’t like, so he’s very—
KISSINGER: No, no. He’ll be very tough with them.
NIXON: Yeah, he’s likely to be sharper with them than I was, you know. He can do that [unclear].
KISSINGER: Well, he will be personally sharper but he doesn’t like her. In substance he won’t be as tough as you—
NIXON: He’s likely [unclear].
KISSINGER: —because he doesn’t know the subject so well. I mean the skill—
NIXON: You should have heard, Bob, the way we worked her around. I dropped stilettos all over her. It’s like, you know—
KISSINGER: She didn’t know [unclear exchange] about the guerrillas in East Pakistan. [unclear] One thing that really struck me, the blown-up [unclear] and that takes a lot of technical training. I wonder where they got that.
NIXON: She [unclear] so fast.
KISSINGER: She said the East Bengal rifles [unclear—used to?]. That’s where it came from.
NIXON: That’s right. We also stuck it to her on that book—Henry’s book about India-Pakistan.
KISSINGER: She said she studied a lot about the problems—how these conflicts started. Read a book by [Neville] Maxwell, called India-China War, which is a book that in effect proves that India started the ’62 war. It was done with an enormous politeness and courtesy and warmth.
NIXON: Well I acted as if I didn’t know what the hell had happened—
NIXON: —so she couldn’t say anything. But she knew goddamn well that I knew what happened, don’t you think?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. You stuck it to her about the press.
NIXON: On that I hit it hard.
KISSINGER: And I told—
NIXON: I raised my voice a little.
KISSINGER: And I told her assistant—I told my opposite number that the thing that is really striking to us is that last year Mrs. Gandhi, during her election campaign, made official protests that we were intervening when we weren’t. And she never produced any proof. And yet every opposition candidate gets a royal reception, tremendous publicity, personal meetings. And then after you do all of this you come over here and ask us to solve all your problems.
NIXON: You told him that?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: Good for you.
KISSINGER: I said look at the record the last three months. You’ve had a press campaign against us. You put out the word that our relations are the worst ever. You get Kennedy over. You get that Congressman [Cornelius] Gallagher over. You make a treaty with the Russians. And then you come here and say we have to solve your problems for you.
NIXON: Well if it was any—
KISSINGER: But, Mr. President, even though she was a bitch, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that we got what we wanted, which was we kept her from going out of here saying that the United States kicked her in the teeth. We’ve got the film clip of this; you’ve got the toast. You’ve got the general warmth that you generated in the personal meeting.
NIXON: I do think at dinner tonight [unclear].
KISSINGER: You didn’t give her a goddamn thing.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: If you would have put on a Johnson performance, it would have been emotionally more satisfying but it would have hurt us. Because—I mean if you had been rough with her— NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —then she’d be crying, going back crying to India. So I think even though she is a bitch, I’d be a shade cooler today, but—
NIXON: No, no. I mean, “cool” in terms of, like yesterday, as you noted, I tried to carry the conversation—
KISSINGER: No, I’d let her carry it.
NIXON: —and was sort of saying, “Look, we’re being as good as we can in dealing with Pakistan. What else can we do?” Today, I’m just going to say [unclear].
KISSINGER: That’s what I would do. Except for Vietnam, I’d give her five minutes of the Tito talk because it will go right back to the Russians as well as to the Vietnamese.
NIXON: Will it?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. They have the closest diplomatic ties now with Russia. They leak everything right back to them.

“They’ll want to know . . . what kind of a man is the president?”
November 15, 1971, 5:21 p.m.
Richard Nixon, William Rogers, Maurice Stans, and Alexander Haig

Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans was scheduled to visit Moscow starting November 22 to discuss trade between the United States and the Soviet Union. The importance of the trip escalated in anticipation of the president’s planned summit the following May.

NIXON: Now the other thing is, as Bill will tell you, that anyone who has talked to the Russians, our Russian friends, Gromyko and the rest, they’re enormously interested in trade. That’s one of the big things we’ve got for them.
NIXON: It’s something that we must not indicate is going to be linked with something else. But they, in their minds, know very well that if you make progress on the political front, that you’ll make progress on the trade front. The way I’ve always described it is this: that you never say trade and political accommodation are linked. But the two are just inevitably intertwined. If you move on one it helps the other. If you move on—and it just moves like that. So—and we know that. Now I think the thing I want to do is to go out and—if you look at the situation and notice that their—I think it’s sixteen billion dollars’ worth of trade the Soviet Union has at the present time; sixteen billion dollars’ worth and we’ve got two hundred fifty million dollars’ worth, approximately.
STANS: That’s in both directions.
NIXON: That’s right.
STANS: Our exports were less than—are worth about half of that.
NIXON: That’s what I mean. And, so we—we’ve got a hell of a big say in this. On the other hand, we—and frankly we have been fairly careful up to this point. I think more than anything else it’s a, it’s a—to the extent you can and then, Bill, if you have a different view, you can express it. I think what we want is for Maury to talk to everybody; listen and learn everything you can. But I don’t think we want to appear to be panting so much after. I don’t think we want to be—I don’t think we—I mean I don’t—I think we oughta—I think—let me put it this way: there’s some things we’d like to get from them. I mean if, for example, we’re still screwing around on Vietnam because [unclear] and, the arms control and the rest. Trade is something. Trade from us to them is infinitely more important than it is for us to have trade with them. We’d like—you know what I mean—I read the Times story about, you know, how much it would mean if we had all this and the Europeans are going to trade. But this is something that means a hell of a lot more to them than it does to us. Now you, of course, I don’t think you should play it that way. That’s too crude. But isn’t that about what it is? And I don’t want hear a blanket [unclear] as a matter of fact. Bill, do you agree?
ROGERS: Mr. President, I agree to everything.
NIXON: [unclear]
ROGERS: It’s important to let them know that the climate for trade has improved, that the political climate is better.
NIXON: Exactly.
ROGERS: The political climate will be better when the president goes there, particularly if they cooperate with us on some of these things that we’re trying to accomplish—Berlin, Indochina, and other matters.
NIXON: And arms control.
ROGERS: And arms control. Now they need to trade a hell of a lot more than we do. They, they’ve got a real problem because what they’re doing—some of their allies, particularly Hungary, is doing a lot better in the trade field than they are, so they’re trying— NIXON: Hungary is?
ROGERS: Oh yeah. Hungary is doing very well. And, of course, Romania is building up a little trade. So they’re concerned about having more trade with us. And I think we should, we should set the prospects for trade— NIXON: Right.
ROGERS: —and listen and see where we can get some benefit, but not seem overeager. If they think we’re overeager for trade, they’ll snap at it. Furthermore, they’ve got a lot of other irons in the fire. They want this conference on European security very much.
NIXON: Yeah.
ROGERS: They want discussion on mutual balance force reduction.
NIXON: Watch all of this.
ROGERS: They want an agreement on Berlin, but they don’t want to concede very much. Now, as the president said, the presence of trade is something of a weapon that we have. They need it. Now it will benefit us some, and politically it’s always good to talk about it. But if you analyze it in real terms, it doesn’t amount to a hell of a lot with us and it won’t for some time, little bits and drags once in a while.
STANS: Now I differ a little bit on that, Bill. There’s a great interest on the part of American businessmen and quite a number have been over there recently— ROGERS: Oh, yes.
STANS: There’s a group of fifty, of a hundred, including our friend Don Kendall, who’s going to be over there the last day or two that I’m there.
NIXON: Let me say, let me say, Maury, I think that you’re absolutely right. I know Don Kendall and all this group. But what I’m suggesting that you do, to you is that you play a different game. That’s our businessmen, and they’re over there panting around over the Soviets so much that they’re slobbering away and giving away our bargaining position. You should not go there and say—I want you to take the position, which indicates that we’re going to look at this stuff. We’re very interested in hearing what they have to offer. We have people, of course, who would like to do this, that, and the other thing. But you see, ’cause I think—I really do believe that on the, this business side of it—Bill, I’ve talked to some of these guys and, gosh, they’d give away the store.
ROGERS: Yep. But we don’t disagree on this thing.
[unclear exchange]
ROGERS: The total impact at the moment, for the next couple of years, isn’t going to amount to a lot. We can talk about it.
NIXON: That’s right.
ROGERS: We should tell American business we’re doing everything we can. We want to increase our trade, but if you look at it in the total, in the overall picture, it’s not going to amount to a hell of a lot in the next couple of years.
STANS: Well, I think there’s millions of dollars of business there. The big problem is that they have difficulty in paying for it.
NIXON: Yeah.
STANS: And the next thing they’re going to ask, and I’m sure they’re going to press it with me, is two things: export-import credits so they can buy more, and MFN so they ship more to the United States.
NIXON: Yeah.
STANS: These are the roadblocks. I think that the business is there. I think that we could have four or five billion dollars by 1975 if we—
NIXON: You think so?
ROGERS: But think about what they’ll use to give us. What have they got that we want? That’s the problem.
STANS: Well, they’re—they’ve taken a new line, which is a very interesting one. And I’ve spent a lot—
NIXON: You haven’t said that before.
STANS: I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks talking to American businessmen. They’re talking about joint ventures. Not of the type that we’re talking about in Romania, Yugoslavia, where the American company would have a fifty percent interest in the business and a fifty percent interest in profits. They’re not willing to give up title to property or define profits. But what they are talking about is having American companies come over there and develop natural resources—oil, gas, copper, other minerals, and so forth—under a deal where we put up the technology and part of the money. They put in some labor. We get the product; get our money back out of the product and then have a share in the product rather than in the profits.
Now there’s a lot of minerals—oil and natural gas—that would be a great deal to us. They’re already talking with one American company about a deal for natural gas similar to the Algerian deal where there would be about a billion dollars’ worth of gas moving over the year beginning about 1975. And the American companies who would go in there and invest wherever they think the natural gas is, freeze it, and bring it over to the United States. Now they’re talking some real big things to think you know [unclear]. Real big things of that nature. And, of course, the one thing our American business has to learn is that anything we do in terms of trade is not going to be small potatoes because the Russian government is the buyer for the whole economy.
NIXON: That’s right.
STANS: They can buy ten thousand lathes at one time if they want to and spread them around to all their plants. They can buy two thousand drill presses.
NIXON: Oh, I—what we—what—what I look upon this trip as being, which you have—would you have—tell the photographer I want to get his pictures of this. So that we could [unclear, pause] I think that it would be very helpful for us to know, that we just, just before the world [unclear]. What do you have in mind? What do you think? Don’t you think so, Al?
HAIG: Yes, sir. I think [unclear].
NIXON: And incidentally I would say that you have mentioned these other things. If they raise, and I don’t know the extent to which they get it, the European Security Conference and all the rest. That should stay miles away.
STANS: I thought I would listen and ask them if they have any message for me to bring back to you. But the message—
ROGERS: But, you know, if they do they’re just playing games because they talk to us all the time.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. I would stay away from the political questions because we’re not—we don’t want to talk about a European Security Conference. We’re not, but—
STANS: I’m not informed on the military—
NIXON: And I would just simply say that that’s not your responsibility. That’s—you’d just rather not express any opinions on it, that you’re just an expert in the one area. I think that’s very important to play. Why don’t you shoot the picture there so that we can [unclear].
STANS: I would—I would like to look at ideas that you could develop for your May visit. I think that maybe some things could come out of this that you could use for May.
ROGERS: [unclear] that they could give us some gold [unclear]?
STANS: Well, they don’t have much gold left. They only have about a billion eight.
ROGERS: They’ve got more [unclear]?
NIXON: What? Is that right?
STANS: In reserves. A billion eight.
ROGERS: No, they’ve got a lot in the mines.
STANS: They’ve got it in the ground.
ROGERS: They’ve got petroleum and aluminum, what, chrome and a few other minerals. [unclear] If they start—if they start exporting petroleum to this country, that’s a whole other ball game.
STANS: That’s an element of risk according to—for that to be on a minimum basis. But what I propose to do is go over the whole list of possibilities; talk to all of them; see what needs to be done. As I say, they’re going to press for export credit. They’re going to press for MFN treatment—most favored nation.
NIXON: I think on those things that you can, you can indicate—the thing that we have done and the conversation we’ve had here with Gromyko is to indicate that there are very great possibilities in this country for improvement in those areas. But obviously they are contingent upon, they’re related to improvement in political areas. Now we can’t talk about the MFN, the Export-Import Bank as long as they’re helping the North Vietnamese.
ROGERS: Or joint ventures for that matter. You know, our large investment for joint ventures has got to be—the political climate has got to be pretty good.
NIXON: Yeah.
STANS: I think the American companies are going to want that.
NIXON: But we have a very—our, our, our attitude toward progress on the political front is very, very open. And our attitude toward progress on the trade front is very open.
ROGERS: How about manufactured goods? We could send them manufactured goods.
STANS: Well, I think they’ll buy something. I don’t think they’ll buy much—
ROGERS: See, that’s what we should push for.
STANS: It’s machine tools they want—
ROGERS: That’s what we should push for. We’ve got plenty of manufactured goods we can send them.
NIXON: Boy they need [unclear].
STANS: They need it.
NIXON: Exactly. Their economy has been flat for how many years? Four or five years?
ROGERS: Oh, yeah, at least. What they want us to do is teach them how to manufacture them so they don’t have to buy them from us—
STANS: Well—
NIXON: They want computers. [unclear] They want technology. They don’t want the goods.
ROGERS: Machine tools.
STANS: Right, but the American automobile companies and some of them have been pretty smart about this. Ford and General Motors have told them and told us that they’re not interested in going over there and building a plant for them. They’re interested in going in there and working with them if there’s a longtime relationship of some kind from which they can benefit. They’re not going to build a plant and walk away from it. And I, I told a group of American businessmen today that I’m concerned about selling our technology too cheap— ROGERS: You’re damn right.
NIXON: You’re so right.
STANS: Three percent patent and license fee and so forth doesn’t give us much of anything.
NIXON: No. Oh boy.
STANS: If we can’t get more than that out of it. If we can’t—
NIXON: It will do absolutely no harm at all for you to be a very shrewd trader—Yankee trader—with the Russians. That’s the way they are. They expect it and they’d be very surprised—but, well, you know, as you would, of course, with a very, very—we’re very interested in this, but as you know this is the way our guys look at it. It’s something we may want to do. If you’d like to help on this sort of situation, but we’ve got some real problems and what can you do? And they come. They come that way. The Russians are a tough bunch of bastards.
ROGERS: Sell them campers and television sets and radios.
NIXON: Any day, any day.
STANS: They’re probably buying those from the Japanese right now.
NIXON: Have you been there before?
STANS: I’ve never been in Russia before, no.
NIXON: What cities are you going to visit?
STANS: Well, it’s still pretty indefinite. We’ve—we will go to Leningrad the first weekend, on Sunday, and spend a day there. The second weekend I suggested that we go south to Georgia. They’re suggesting Baku and Tbilisi and possibly— NIXON: [unclear]
STANS: —Samarkand and Tashkent. Which is—
NIXON: Samarkand?
STANS: —strictly sightseeing.
STANS: Really?
NIXON: Beautiful place.
STANS: Never been there.
NIXON: Well, Samarkand has—you know that’s one of Genghis Khan’s residences. It has those magnificent little temples.
STANS: It sounds heavenly.
NIXON: Oh yeah, yeah. Oh you go. Go.
STANS: Well, I’d love to do that. I think—
NIXON: That’s worth going [unclear] out there, but I’d go.
STANS: They’re making quite a thing of this because—
NIXON: And you’ll see Asians out there. That’s the interesting thing. You see you’ll get out there and you realize that Russia is not a country of Russians. There are all sorts of Asians. You go down the [unclear]—which is right near— STANS: I’d like to see that—
NIXON: —the Chinese border—
STANS: It looks pretty fun.
NIXON: —you’ll see the valley of apples. And, by God, they’re all Chinese. They’re all slant-eyed. It’s a fascinating thing to see this.
STANS: Well, they’re putting out the red carpet because they say it is an ordinary expense. They want me to stay even longer. We’ll probably stay longer [unclear].
NIXON: Are you going to—how about to one city—for example, I wonder if they’d want you to see it. How about Sverdlovsk? Are they going to have you go there?
STANS: They haven’t mentioned it—
NIXON: It’s a huge steel complex place. Novosibirsk, in Siberia, how about there?
STANS: They offered to take us to Lake Baikal, but that’s so far. It’s seven hours outside Moscow on the fastest jet. It’s farther than across the United States.

STANS: Well, Mr. President, I’m going to stop over in Sweden on the way over to rest a day.
NIXON: Oh, for Christ’s sake—
NIXON: —why did you have to stop in Sweden?
STANS: Well, they’re a big customer. They buy a lot of goods from us.
NIXON: Fine. All right, fine. Sell them something they don’t want. [laughter] All right, that’s fine. That’s fine. Have you ever been there before?
NIXON: Neither have I—
STANS: We’re going to stop in Warsaw on the way back. We’re—I didn’t realize Volpe had been there, but the embassy [unclear]—
NIXON: That’s all right.
STANS: —the embassy and then a press conference—
NIXON: That’s all right.
STANS: Is there any special message in Warsaw?
NIXON: You get your message [unclear]?
ROGERS: Yeah. We—I told them, “Be cool. Be polite but cool.”
NIXON: What? Yeah. They’ve done an awful lot for us—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: We respect their—we respect their people. They’ve contributed so much to this country. But basically we, we’re not too damn happy about the way they kick us around the world. But that’s fine. Let them do it. That’s their choice. Warsaw is another matter. I think there, we do want to play the line of—the more—and all the rest. They are— ROGERS: Yes they are.
NIXON: They are already [unclear]—
ROGERS: But we also have good, good relations with them. And they’ve improved some in the last year—
STANS: Warsaw, oh, excuse me.
ROGERS: And the people, of course, particularly Poles, very much—
NIXON: They love Americans.
STANS: Warsaw doesn’t have [unclear] credit, and they’re actually going to press for that. I would guess from all the discussion [unclear] that they’ll come after Romania. Possibly fairly soon.
NIXON: Well, what—
STANS: They’re—
NIXON: Well, let me say this. I think what the Russians, and all the rest, I’d hold it all out there. Hell, [unclear] hold it all. This is something you’ll look into and so forth. Don’t you think so, Al?
HAIG: Yes, sir. I think [unclear] sympathetic with us—
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: And with that we can—

NIXON: You have to remember that Khrushchev—incidentally, you can also recall, [he] wrote in his book, he bragged that he helped to defeat Nixon in 1960. And we’re quite aware of that. That may come up. You might bring it up. See? And at this time, we’re, we—it’s just an interesting little point. That just shows how much they care about our politics.
ROGERS: Be a little careful with him, Maury, if you raise this. They’ll—they leak things all over, hell. Particularly Dobrynin. So we wouldn’t want to be in a position of asking for any help for the president.
NIXON: Oh, God no.
STANS: Oh, no. No.
[unclear exchange]
ROGERS: The thing that we really need to do is convince them that he [Nixon] is going to be the sure thing.
ROGERS: Because that’s what they pay more attention to than anything else. I think they’ve come around to that point of view. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re anxious for the president’s visit.
NIXON: I think that’s probably why they agreed to it. The—I think there might be a, a—basically, they’ll want to know what kind of a man is this—another point, Bill, I think you would agree—what kind of a man is the president? And so you tell them [unclear] is like that. But particularly emphasize, though, that he’s a man you can make a deal with. But he’s a, I mean a—eyes totally open; you know, he’s a pragmatic man.
STANS: Analytical.
NIXON: Analytical and far-seeing. You know, give them all that crap. Because they—I think this is the important thing. I noticed that when I talked to Tito he was very interested in telling me what kind of a fellow Brezhnev was. And, and he compared Brezhnev to Kosygin. The Communists are quite interested in men. I mean in the— ROGERS: In what sense? In how they get along?
NIXON: That’s the point. In their personalities. You could say, “Here he is and—” You could say—I must say—I mean I have to be because we deal with a Democratic Congress and I’m naturally conciliatory all the time.

“A hell of a good time to bomb.”
November 20, 1971, 8:45 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Frustrated with the diplomatic process of ending the war with North Vietnam, Nixon spoke emphatically of using a bombing campaign to bring Hanoi into submission. On this occasion he didn’t necessarily speak of winning the war anymore. He was interested in a deal that acknowledged the stalemate with a return of all POWs and security for both North and South Vietnam.

KISSINGER: Then, I gave them a personal note from me to Zhou Enlai, so that you—about events with the North Vietnamese.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: As—and I just recounted when we had made a proposal, when they had agreed to it, that then they canceled it. Their ambassador said, “What? They canceled it three days before the meeting?” And he— NIXON: Is Walters there?
KISSINGER: Yeah, and Walters said, “Yes.” He said, “That’s impossible,” but that’s not an official comment. And that’s amazing. And—
NIXON: Well, Xuan Thuy’s not sick. Do you think he’s sick?
KISSINGER: No, no. He’s in—he’s in Beijing with Pham Van Dong.
NIXON: So he wasn’t sick the last time?
KISSINGER: No. Now, Haig believes that the Chinese—that they are up there because the Chinese are going to try to make them settle. I’m not that sure. I’m not sure about that.
NIXON: [unclear] the Chinese even talk to them?
KISSINGER: No, no. The Chinese are talking. They’re up there now.
NIXON: It’s right there, I know.

NIXON: What I had in mind, Henry, is—and I think it fits in, in any event—I’d like to get, first, that major—I’m considering summoning Moorer over here—if it doesn’t cost too much—that major movement of the fleet, and an alert, and all that sort of thing, that we did at one other previous time— KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: —and the mining exercise, having it ready. And now, it’ll be useful to have those carriers up there, anyway, for the purpose of this three-day bombing run— KISSINGER: Yeah.
NIXON: —that we’re going to do if these bastards don’t do it. But, if we can get those ships moving now, and also get out something with regard to mining or—I don’t know whether that’s too far, or if it takes too long or not. Second, I want you to get Helms, and get ahold of him with regard to massive CIA harassment during the period of this two- to three-day deal. Now, by that, I mean everything he can. Third, I think we need a propaganda thing, with regard to broadcasts, and all that sort of thing. In other words, build it up like we did Son Tay [the North Vietnamese prison camp where, in 1970, U.S. special forces conducted a covert mission to free POWs].
NIXON: Now, if we’re going to do this—in other words, if we have to go hard—or what it basically is: being hard, Henry—let’s do it in a clever way this time, in a coordinated approach. If you can think of anything else?
KISSINGER: I think this is excellent. I think—
NIXON: How does that sound to you as a plan?
KISSINGER: I think it’s outstanding. And I think that we ought to begin the fleet movement. We shouldn’t do it while Pham Van Dong is in Beijing. Let’s say—
NIXON: No, I think you could move now, because the fleet, the fleet—
KISSINGER: Okay, we’ll start it, then—
NIXON: You see, the fleet has to—it takes time for it to move. We know those bastards. The time in Korea we had a hell of a time—
KISSINGER: That—there’s a long distance. I think they can be there in four days.
NIXON: Now listen: they can make movements that are not going to be noted. Well, I want them there so that—
KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: You get my point?
NIXON: I think it might be well that they—
KISSINGER: Well, they will be—
NIXON: —that they know that they’re moving while he’s [Pham Van Dong] there [in China].
KISSINGER: All right.
NIXON: If you don’t hit ’em, what difference does it make? Maybe, just [unclear]. I don’t know. [unclear]
KISSINGER: Well, what I would like to avoid is for Zhou Enlai to be confronted with a request by Pham Van Dong of a new threat. Because I thought—in the message I sent to Zhou— NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —I put in a threat, already.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: But, we can start immediately on the fleet movement, and then keep building it—
NIXON: Well, yeah. Now, one other thought occurred to me: we have more of a card than we think regarding settlement. We have always assumed—I mean, you’ve just assumed, and I have, too—that these fellows would not want to risk my being reelected. I’m sure it must have occurred to you, Henry, that regardless of how the election comes out in November, I will still be president until January 20, and I’ll be commander in chief. And, if I should have lost, I would certainly, certainly, not go out with my tail between my legs. Now, if those prisoners are not back by the time of the election, if we should lose the election, the day after that election—win, lose, or draw—we will bomb the bejeezus out of them. Because then, to hell with history. To hell with history— KISSINGER: History will think well of you, then.
NIXON: You see my point?
NIXON: Then I’ll say, “All right, my predecessor—my successor isn’t going to be able to do it.” But you can order—as commander in chief—say, “Now, in this case”—and then, I would really take it out. I’d take out the railroads; I’d take out the air force; I’d take out the—you know, just, just knock the shit out of ’em for three months. Now— KISSINGER: That’s the best—I had not thought of that—
NIXON: You see what I mean?
NIXON: Now, you have to seize it. Put that into a bargaining equation there.
NIXON: These guys haven’t got all that good a—haven’t got all that good a thing. Now, I—they’re right: to do anything before the election would pose problems, politically. But, do they realize that they have to deal with, here, a man, who if he wins the election will kick the shit out of them, and if he loses the election will do it even more? Now, there’s where we are. Did that ever occur to you?
KISSINGER: I—I have to say, honestly, it did not.
NIXON: Now, some would say—
KISSINGER: [unclear]
NIXON: Some would say, “Well, if you lost the election, the editorials will scream: ‘He doesn’t have a mandate,’” and so forth. Bullshit! I couldn’t care less. I could care, then, about seeing that America didn’t lose the war. And getting back our prisoners, which is even more important at that time. See? I’m telling you: we’ve got cards then, and we’d be ready. And they’d have to do what I said—I mean the [Joint] Chiefs—wouldn’t they?
KISSINGER: The Chiefs have to, of course. And they’ll do it enthusiastically.
NIXON: But out of that intriguing idea—it occurred to me at two thirty in the morning—
KISSINGER: I think that if—
NIXON: —this morning I woke up, and I was thinking a little, and, you know, sometimes the best ideas come in. I thought, “Why do we have to just think in terms of winning the election, or not?” All right, we lose it. I think we’re gonna—we have a chance of winning it, and maybe there is a chance of losing it. I said, “By God, these guys are going to be playing—they’re playing with a tough situation here. I’m going to be here from November 7 until January 20, come hell or high water, and that’s a hell of a good time to bomb, too.” That’s another thing: it’s good in terms of the weather then. Correct?
NIXON: December and January aren’t bad?
KISSINGER: With our bloody air force—no, no, they are—they’re pretty good. Our damn air force, you never—
NIXON: I know—
KISSINGER: I have yet to find a time when they think it’s good—
NIXON: I’d get the navy in. I’d get them in, and I’d say, “Boys, here’s your chance to be heroes. I want you to knock out everything. These bastards have got your buddies up there, and they haven’t turned them loose. Now punish them.” And, incidentally, I wouldn’t worry about a little slop-over, and knock off a few villages and hamlets, and the rest. We’ve just got to do it— KISSINGER: Oh, under those conditions, I’d—
NIXON: This would be war. I’d take out—I wouldn’t worry about a Soviet ship, you know, that was in Haiphong harbor—
KISSINGER: I think, Mr. President—
NIXON: You see my point?
KISSINGER: And if you win the election, we, we should not make the mistake that we did the last time—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —of wasting the first six months.
NIXON: Never. No, if we win the election, the day after, we say, “All right, we give you thirty days.”
NIXON: And then, if we don’t get it in thirty—I think thirty is an ultimatum. I’d lay down an ultimatum, just like it was done in the old days.
NIXON: We haven’t done an ultimatum, yet, except through these silly little things with Tito and the rest. But I—this, this is an ultimatum. I’m sure you realize, you know, before, before China—before November 3, we laid down some ultimatums. Then the speech came, but we didn’t come through on the ultimatums [unclear]. But, I want you to know, Henry: I meant exactly what I said. If those bastards do not come back with something, we are going to hit them for three or four days. [unclear] It isn’t as much as I’d like, but we’ll do at least that much. The only reason that I can’t do more than that is that I don’t want to go so far as to jeopardize the Chinese trip. The Russian trip will go on, I don’t care what. The Chinese trip might be difficult.
KISSINGER: I think it will go on, too.

NIXON: But I just thought that idea would intrigue the hell out of you.
NIXON: Regardless of the election, we are going to give them a pop. Huh?
KISSINGER: Well, with, with your permission, it’s one that I intend to use—that I should use the next time I see the North Vietnamese—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —because I’ll guarantee you, they’ll—they’re coming back to us.
NIXON: [unclear] And, and just say, “Now, gentlemen, regardless of how this election comes out, don’t count on that. You remember that he was—this man is going to be president, and I have never seen a man more determined. He’s made the decision. We’re going to finish it off.” And, I mean, I would. I really would. I’d finish off the goddamn place.
KISSINGER: And they’ll—
NIXON: Bomb Haiphong. You know, the whole thing. I would put a crippling blow on it. Go on for sixty days of bombing. Just knock the shit out of them— KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: —and then, everybody would say, “Oh, horrible, horrible, horrible.” [laughs] That’s all right. You agree or not?
KISSINGER: Absolutely. Absolutely!

“‘The Indians have been kicking us in the ass for twenty-five years.’”
November 22, 1971, 3:51 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

The Oval Office was shrouded in the fog of war. On the one hand, reports came in that Pakistani President Yayha had commenced an air raid against India. On the other hand, the State Department was receiving contradictory reports from both Pakistan and India. Nixon and Kissinger genuinely believed that India had started the war by supporting Mukti Bahini forces with regular Indian troops on Pakistani territory; Indian regular forces had violated Pakistan’s border in support of insurgents who were both trained and supplied by India. As reports of the number and severity of border skirmishes increased, Kissinger convened the interagency WSAG to develop a response.

KISSINGER: In my view, I have found, and that doesn’t prove anything, but when I’m—in Cincinnati, for example, somebody asked me, “Nobody likes the Indians!”
NIXON: I talked to Connally. I asked him about it. He said, “For Christ’s sakes,” he says, “the Indians have been kicking us in the ass for twenty-five years.”
KISSINGER: And I said, I just laid it into them. I say, “On refugees we are helping them. We are giving more than half of the aid. What we do not want is a military aggression by them against their neighbor, in such a way that the whole country disintegrates.” What I would recommend, we are meeting again at eight thirty tomorrow morning. First, I’d like to stall out the Security Council resolution till Wednesday so we can find out what the Chinese are planning.
NIXON: The Security Council resolution [unclear]—
KISSINGER: The Security Council meeting.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: Because the strong possibility is that the Chi—we’d be caught between the Soviets and the Chinese, between the Indians and the Pakistanis. And there’s nothing in that lineup that, they’re gonna pass a resolution urging a political accommodation more likely than condemning India.
NIXON: The Chinese would never agree to that.
KISSINGER: Probably not. But we have to take a position. I’m not—
NIXON: Yeah, I’m just trying to think of how, if I agree to a stall, can we get it stalled?
KISSINGER: Well, I’ve got a back channel to the—to Yahya saying if he could wait till Wednesday it would help us, but he hasn’t—
NIXON: Oh, he’s asking for a Security Council resolution?
KISSINGER: Not yet. So that they don’t ask for one. I’ve also told their ambassador here who asked my advice what they should do.
NIXON: Mm-hmm. Is Yahya saying it’s war or not?
KISSINGER: Yeah, they’re saying it’s war.
NIXON: And the Indians say it isn’t?
KISSINGER: It isn’t. That’s right. It’s a naked case of aggression, Mr. President. There’s absolutely no—
NIXON: Goddamn it, maybe we ought to say that.
KISSINGER: They have been back exactly one week. If you cut off arms, you told her [Indira Gandhi] we were going to try to move them politically.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: She doesn’t even know yet what the answers to these various proposals are that you made to them, that we said we were going to take up with Yahya—
NIXON: A unilateral withdrawal.
KISSINGER: Unilateral withdrawal. So, we’ve done everything that is humanly possible. I think if we, I think if we line up with India and the Soviet Union—
NIXON: We’re not going to do it. Don’t worry. We aren’t going to do it. Never!
KISSINGER: What I think we should do is to send a sharp note—
NIXON: Goddamn it! I told those people over there! They sat in those meetings—
NIXON: They know how I feel about India.

KISSINGER: The thing to do, Mr. President, in my view, is to send a very sharp note to the Indians reminding them of all the things we’ve done and saying that, repeating what you’ve said, that it simply will not be understood in this country, without any pledge.
NIXON: That’s what I want to do. So—
KISSINGER: Urging at this point, and—
NIXON: And then what—
KISSINGER: Two, we should get a note to the Soviets along the same lines.
NIXON: Right. Right.
KISSINGER: Point three: well, those are the two things we ought to get done immediately.
NIXON: All right.
KISSINGER: The third one is we ought to talk to, which I’ll do tomorrow night, to the Chinese to find out what they’ll do at the Security Council. If they take it to the Security Council, but we have to lean, we don’t have to go as far as the Chinese, but I would lean— NIXON: I want to go damn near as far! Now, understand: I don’t like the Indians!
KISSINGER: We ought to lean pretty close to the Chinese and make it an international—
NIXON: And, also, let’s remember the Pakistanis have been our friends in these late few days and the damn Indians have not been. You know—
KISSINGER: And above all I don’t see what we gain by helping out the Indians.

“There’s a totally immoral attitude of our critics here.”
December 8, 1971, 4:20 p.m.
Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, and Henry Kissinger

Nixon and Kissinger got together to relieve frustration at the fact that many intellectuals and those in the American media continued to disagree with the Nixon “tilt” toward Pakistan.

NIXON: You see, this is where the New York Times and the rest are wrong, where they said that if aggression is engaged in by a democracy it’s all right.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: But where it’s engaged in by a dictatorship, it’s wrong. They forget that most of the countries in the world are dictatorships—
NIXON: —including all these little countries!

NIXON: There’s a totally immoral attitude of our critics here. First, they say, they make the point that because there’s six hundred million Indians and only sixty million in West Pakistan, we’re on the wrong side. We should be with the six hundred million Indians. I said since when do we determine the morality of our policy on the basis of how many people a country has? I said the second reason that they’re wrong, then they say but India is a democratic country, and Pakistan is a totalitarian country, a dictatorship, and therefore India, we shouldn’t be on the side of a dictatorship but on the side of the democratic country. I said if aggression is engaged in by any country, it’s wrong. And in a sense it’s even more wrong for a democratic country to engage in it because democratic countries are held in a higher degree of morality. And I said international morality will be finished—the United Nations will be finished—if you adopt the principle that because a country is democratic and big it can do what the hell it pleases. I really think that puts the issue to these sons of bitches.

“A federal offense of the highest order.”
December 21, 1971, 6:07 p.m.
Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, Bob Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman

During late 1971, investigative journalist Jack Anderson published a series of exposés on Nixon’s “tilt” toward Pakistan during the India-Pakistan war then taking place. Anderson’s reporting was based on a leak of highly classified National Security Council records pilfered by Charles Radford, a navy yeoman assigned to a liaison role between the National Security Council and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Thomas Moorer. When it was discovered that Radford stole records from Henry Kissinger’s and Alexander Haig’s offices, briefcases, and burn bags, Nixon called Radford’s actions “a federal offense of the highest order.”
Nixon ordered John Ehrlichman to launch a rigorous internal investigation into what motivated Radford to steal the material and give it to Anderson. Nixon wondered whether a sexual relationship between Radford and Anderson was a possible motivation. While he weighed criminal prosecution of Radford and the Joint Chiefs, Nixon decided against it. He believed it was more important to avoid a public break between the White House and the military during the Vietnam War. Radford was reassigned to a remote duty station in Oregon, where FBI wiretaps provided further clues to the relationship between Radford and Anderson.
The scandal stayed out of the public eye until 1974, when Congress held hearings and conducted an inquiry into the matter. However, the effort was short-lived: by that time a scandal-weary nation was overwhelmed with Watergate, and the investigation into what became known as the Moorer-Radford affair went nowhere.

EHRLICHMAN: They were able to pinpoint that there was really only one place in the whole federal government where all of those documents were available.
NIXON: That’s here.
EHRLICHMAN: And that was here in the Joint Chiefs of Staff liaison office of the National Security Council.
NIXON: Yeah.
NIXON: Jesus Christ!
EHRLICHMAN: —there are only two men in that office. One’s an admiral [Robert Welander] and one’s a yeoman [Radford]. So they began interviewing both of them, and they polygraphed both of them. And the yeoman, obviously, was the guy. He knew Jack Anderson. He had had dinner with Jack Anderson the previous Sunday. His wife and Jack Anderson’s wife were Mormons and friends, and were doing things together, and so on and so forth. He had been stationed in India for two years. He felt strongly about the India-Pakistan thing. So there was motive, opportunity, and access. The whole thing.
NIXON: Can I ask how in the name of God do we have a yeoman having access to documents of that type?
EHRLICHMAN: Well, he’s the key man. He is the, he’s the fellow that types all the memcons, the memoranda of conversations, who files all the—
NIXON: Does Henry know him?
EHRLICHMAN: Everybody knows him.
MITCHELL: He’s traveled with Henry.
EHRLICHMAN: He’s traveled with Haig.
NIXON: Did he go to China?
EHRLICHMAN: No, but he went to—
NIXON: Indonesia?
EHRLICHMAN: —Indonesia with, I mean Vietnam with Haig. And did all Haig’s dealings with [unclear]. So he’s been right at the crux of this thing. Now, he works for this Admiral Welander, who is the Joint Chiefs of Staff liaison man. Before him, there was a captain, a navy captain [Rembrandt Robinson] in the office.
NIXON: I remember him.
EHRLICHMAN: This fellow, while being polygraphed, was asked, among other things, if he had ever—
NIXON: You did that with the polygraph?
EHRLICHMAN: Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. And he has refused to admit turning any documents over to Anderson. But he has admitted something else. That he’s had access, so on and so forth, all the way through.
EHRLICHMAN: He realizes he may be the only man in government other than the admiral [Welander] to have access to all these documents. He understands the circumstance. Says, “It’s obviously a good, tight circumstantial case. I’ll answer any questions that you have.”
NIXON: He’s trying to be very polite.
EHRLICHMAN: He’s very, very polite.
NIXON: Right. Incidentally, is he Jewish?
EHRLICHMAN: No. He’s Mormon. [unclear] But, in the course of the polygraph, he was asked whether or not he had ever stolen any documents. And—
NIXON: Stolen? The fact is, he leaks.
NIXON: He had to, to give them to Anderson.
MITCHELL: Taken them out of the security—
EHRLICHMAN: [unclear] They put the question to him, as if they were assuming that he was [unclear]. They got a big flip on the polygraph. So then they doubled back.

EHRLICHMAN: The interrogator then doubles back. Says, “Now you got a bad reading on your polygraph on this. What other documents?” And the guy [Radford] broke down and cried. And then he said, “I can’t answer that question without the permission of Admiral Welander.” So David Young called me, and he called the admiral [Welander]. And he said, “Would you talk to this fellow [Radford]? I want you to tell him to tell everything he knows.” To the admiral: “Do you have any problem with the guy?” He said, “Hell, no.”
So then it all came out. He has, under the express directions of Captain [Rembrandt] Robinson, and under the implied approval of his successor, the admiral [Welander], he has systematically stolen documents out of Henry’s briefcase, Haig’s briefcase, people’s desks, anyplace and everyplace in the NSC apparatus that he can lay his hands on. And has duplicated them and turned them over to the Joint Chiefs, through his boss. This has been going on now for about thirteen months.
NIXON: Well, has that been a Joint Chiefs’ practice for a long time?
EHRLICHMAN: Apparently so.

EHRLICHMAN: It is all written up, in memo form. And he has access to everything out of State, the Pentagon, NSC, everyplace. And he just Xeroxed it and turned it over to Anderson. There’s no question. Now, as I say, we started off on Anderson.
NIXON: Right.
EHRLICHMAN: We were slowed down by the fact that this guy is obviously very hot. Then we got this Joint Chiefs angle, and so we’ve shut the whole thing down. The guy is obviously cooperative. We’ve had him standing by at home for further interrogation. We then, I think we have him tapped. Do we have him tapped?
MITCHELL: No, we do not.
EHRLICHMAN: We don’t have him tapped.
HALDEMAN: Can’t you put him under some kind of arrest?
EHRLICHMAN: Well, we could—
MITCHELL: We could, but that’s not the point.
EHRLICHMAN: This is a little bit like trying to catch a skunk. And, you may get some on you if you [unclear].
NIXON: You’re right. Exactly right about this point.
EHRLICHMAN: The Joint Chiefs’ liaison office is over here in the EOB, and it’s right in the NSC complex. It’s very nice. It’s Captain Robinson, who, Dave got to know on the first day Dave came to work, and said: “Now, Dave, we’re really your eyes and ears in the Pentagon. You can trust me entirely. My job is to get you fellows information out of the Pentagon.” It turned out to be, in effect, a reverse agent. Working for the Pentagon inside here. That office, it seems to me, constitutes a clear and present danger to the, since [unclear] in the NSC. John has suggestions as to how to proceed in this that I think are very sound, and I’ll leave him to explain them.
MITCHELL: Well, Mr. President, I’d like to point out that this thing goes right into the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Undoubtedly they’d know if it has participated in this ill-gotten gains they received.
NIXON: Sure.
MITCHELL: The first thing you’re—
NIXON: Prosecuting is a possibility for the Joint Chiefs. Now, I have to think about it.
MITCHELL: I agree with you, but we have to take it from there as to what this would lead to if you pursued it by way of prosecution of Moorer, or, even a public confrontation. You would have the Joint Chiefs aligned on that side directly against you. And the, what has been done has been done. I think that the important thing is to paper this thing over.
NIXON: Yeah.
MITCHELL: This way, first of all, get that liaison office the hell out of NSC and put it back at the Pentagon.
NIXON: Correct.
MITCHELL: Secondly, to get a security officer into the NSC.
NIXON: Correct. But what about Henry Kissinger?
MITCHELL: Well, I think that whoever goes in there is going to have to ride herd not only on the rest of the staff, but on Henry. It turns out that one of these most important memorandums here that Henry had was lost, and that somebody just handed him another copy. They shouldn’t have even had another copy. This came out in the papers.
Now, with respect to the Joint Chiefs, you have to get, in my opinion, this guy Admiral Welander the hell out of there, by way of a signal. That way you can transfer him to Kokomo or Indiana, or anywhere we want to have him, along, of course, with this yeoman. And I think the best thing to do is for me, and we’ll leave Laird aside for a moment, but for me to sit down with Tom Moorer, and point out what this game is that’s been going on.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
MITCHELL: And it’s the end of the road. The liaison is going back to the Pentagon. If they want him, they can call him over here. And there’s a security quotient going into the NSC, and this ball game’s over with.

NIXON: Let me ask this first. Is Anderson guilty of anything?
NIXON: What?
MITCHELL: He’s guilty of possession of these documents.
NIXON: Can you really prosecute, let’s say, the person that publishes them?
MITCHELL: You can prosecute ’em not under the publication. But for the possession of them. I don’t know if we need to find that. But if you start opening up—
NIXON: [unclear]
MITCHELL: If you start opening up on Anderson, assuming you did make the case, turned this guy [Radford], give him immunity and so forth, then Lord knows where this is going to lead to.
NIXON: Yeah.
MITCHELL: Because he’s [Radford] going to come out with a story, “Well, I gave it,” this business with Admiral Welander, “and he’s had all of this,” and the Joint Chiefs and all the rest of it.
NIXON: Well, it blows the Joint Chiefs right out of the Pentagon, through the roof of the Pentagon, right?
EHRLICHMAN: It ruptures your relationship.

EHRLICHMAN: I lost more sleep than—
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: [unclear] on what to do with this guy. And I have finally come to the conclusion that you can’t touch him.
NIXON: I agree.
EHRLICHMAN: And, you probably can’t touch him because it would—
NIXON: Hurt the Joint Chiefs.
NIXON: And the Joint Chiefs, the military, et cetera, cannot become our enemy. We cannot have it. And also, we can’t have this goddamn security problem!
EHRLICHMAN: There’s that, too.

NIXON: There is a federal offense of the highest order here. And you have reported it to the president. The president says you can’t discuss it.

“I want a direct question about homosexuality asked.”
December 22, 1971, 11:03 a.m.
Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, and John Ehrlichman

Nixon received the latest update in Ehrlichman’s investigation of the Moorer-Radford affair. The president was desperate to learn anything about what could have motivated a navy yeoman to steal and leak classified records to journalist Jack Anderson.

NIXON: Any verdict at all on this?
EHRLICHMAN: Yes and no. This fellow’s undergone a thorough polygraph exam.
NIXON: Good.
MITCHELL: This is the yeoman [Charles Radford]?
EHRLICHMAN: The yeoman.
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: And I’m going to have [Radford’s supervisor, Admiral Robert] Welander up at one o’clock, and tape an interview with him. Henry has signed a letter instructing Welander— NIXON: Henry, does he know what we’re up to yet now?
EHRLICHMAN: I just put the letter under his nose and he signed it. So, we’ll know more in the middle of the afternoon than we do right now.
NIXON: The problem that I, after sleeping on it, one thing I—John, when you approach him, I want him to ask. I want a direct question about homosexuality asked. You never know what you’re going to find.
NIXON: Because we got a couple on Hiss and Chambers, you know. Nobody knows that, but that’s the background on how that one began. They were both that way. And relationships sometimes poison a lot of these things. Now, if Anderson, I’m just getting, but if there’s any possibility of this, John, that could be a key as well. If something, he may be under blackmail.

EHRLICHMAN: They’ve got a perfect excuse for reinterrogating him [Radford], because of yesterday’s Anderson column. And the question of whether this fellow had access to that. So I’m going to get into that, and then slide into this other thing in passing. Because the interrogator first thing this morning got him all upset.
MITCHELL: This is the polygraph again?
NIXON: Yeah. The thing that concerns me, John, and I think your strategy is exactly right, except with one thing that I would worry about. This guy is a potential Ellsberg, in terms of, and he knows more. He knows— EHRLICHMAN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
NIXON: Because he really knows what happens. Now, fortunately, what he knows is not anything that’s going to be, in my view, I wouldn’t have it all come out, but it’s better for it not to. The point is: is there any way that we can keep him scared to death, so that he doesn’t get out and think, “Oh, I’m now going to write the book, or I’m going to do this, or that or the other thing”? Can he be told that a criminal, I think he’s got to be told that a criminal offense hangs over him, that it’s going to hang over him, and that we’re going to be, you see what I mean? I’d like to scare the son of a bitch to death!
MITCHELL: I would believe—
NIXON: And if, do you believe that’s what you ought to do?
NIXON: Do you agree we should?
MITCHELL: We talked about that yesterday, Mr. President. I think the sign-off on this guy, when he’s sent to wherever he’s going to be sent, is going to be just that. You can sit down and read the statutes to him, and the background, and the sentences, and so forth, and really give him a good understanding of what is going to be in his background for a long time to come. I think this, if anything will keep this fellow from opening up, will be that.
NIXON: I think it’s important just to silence him. Correct? Fine. And also, the important thing is to handle the captain—and the admiral [Welander]—in a way that they do not talk.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, they’re career, and I suspect that that’s enough leverage—
NIXON: And they’re probably loyal fellows.
EHRLICHMAN: I suspect so.
NIXON: They’re just doing it for the service. This fellow, I think they’d be shocked to know what this guy did.
EHRLICHMAN: Oh, they know! They’re the—
NIXON: They know about the packet?
EHRLICHMAN: Absolutely!
EHRLICHMAN: Absolutely! See, they—Welander and the captain—used him!
NIXON: And they knew that he was stealing from Kissinger?
EHRLICHMAN: Oh, they had to! They had to.
NIXON: Jesus Christ!
EHRLICHMAN: I just don’t see any escape from that.
NIXON: Well, that’s the reason they need to be transferred. If they knew he was stealing from Kissinger—
EHRLICHMAN: See, the complicity there—
NIXON: Yeah. If they knew that, they have to be transferred.
MITCHELL: This is the only way you’re going to have a deterrent on future such operations.
NIXON: Right. That’s why you’ve got to have Moorer, you’re going to do him when?
MITCHELL: Well, your suggestion was to let this fester.
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, now, I’m going to interrogate Welander today at one.
NIXON: That’s fine.
EHRLICHMAN: And then we’ll just let it sit for a bit, and regroup, and we can compare notes and see where we go from here, depending on what we get. But I hope from this interrogation comes an admission from him that he has been passing this stuff to the Joint Chiefs, so that we can complete the chain. That’s the missing link right now. One thing that concerns me a little bit: I met Hughes’s successor this morning, and he is from the Joint Chiefs. Now, I don’t know that everybody in the outfit’s tainted, but— NIXON: Mm-hmm.
EHRLICHMAN: It rang a bell just because I’m kind of alert to that these days.
MITCHELL: And Welander, Welander’s going to have a pretty difficult time not talking to the subject matter.
EHRLICHMAN: That’s right. Oh, he’s, he’s going to have to talk to it.
EHRLICHMAN: Or that’s the end of his career. I think that’s his choice.
NIXON: [unclear] This son of a bitch Anderson really knows how to work on us.
EHRLICHMAN: He does. He’s a master.
MITCHELL: He has more people around this government than, I guess, anybody has ever had. Far more than Drew Pearson ever had.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, he got them from Pearson. He was Pearson’s leg man.
MITCHELL: Yes, I know, but he—
NIXON: He was all over the town!
MITCHELL: He’s developed a lot more of them.
NIXON: He developed them all around.
NIXON: I certainly would say this: I’d watch around. I’d see anybody that’s—he was close to Wally Hickel, as I recall. I just think that—
MITCHELL: Does he have—
NIXON: I think we better check everybody that Anderson knows and talks to. I really think we better do that, you know, if we want to find out where it leads, what he believes, if that’s gonna help us.
EHRLICHMAN: I’m not so sure. I think his regular sources are not a problem for us. That is, Safire, if he’s a source, or something like that—
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: That’s not a problem.
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: It’s the hidden guys like this, who bootleg stuff to him, that we just stumble onto occasionally that we’ve got to root out. Now, I don’t know how you find those people.
MITCHELL: Have you had a report on a check-back of his columns yet?
EHRLICHMAN: No, not yet. David [Young] may have it for me when he comes in.

NIXON: Well, incidentally, on this, I think you’ve done a marvelous job of sleuthing. This is a great job of, of detective work—
NIXON: —and one day we’ll write it. But the point is now, as I say, John, your strategy is correct. We can’t blow it. But we ought to get out of this. Keep this guy under wraps by scaring him to death. And something’s got to hang over it. And second, use this as a device, of course, to clean out the Joint Chiefs operation. And third, you got to get to Henry. Now, you’ve got to get to Henry another way. Henry, we all know State leaks, and tries to jive Henry, and vice versa. On the other hand, Henry is paranoiacal with regard to anything that comes out. He says, “Well, it’s somebody at State,” you know, “Rogers is doing this,” or something. Now you, we’ve got to get to the point, he’s got to have it brought home to him that he’s got to look to his own shop, and not always assume that somebody else is doin’ it to him. Right?
MITCHELL: And there has to be ordered in there that security officer.
NIXON: That’s right.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, yeah.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
EHRLICHMAN: And I think we’ll get Young to sit down with him, because Young knows that system so well. Sit down with the security officer and give him everything he knows, so the guy starts out ahead of the game a little bit.
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: Now, Young is writing up a memo for your file on this whole episode.
NIXON: Good.
EHRLICHMAN: And it’ll be just the only copy there is, of the whole thing, and we’ll just sock that away, so you’re in a position to write about it sometime. But then, Young— NIXON: See, what we’re doing here is, in effect, excusing a crime.
NIXON: So it’s a hell of a damn thing to do.
MITCHELL: But this has been the history all through this question of espionage—
NIXON: Has it?
MITCHELL: —all the way through.
NIXON: Yeah. All right.

“In the end, we’re still going to be accused that we fucked up something.”
December 23, 1971, 12:27 p.m.
Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, Bob Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman

Nixon continued to weigh whether criminal prosecution was an option he held for those involved in the Moorer-Radford affair. At the same time, he wondered what damage that would do to his relationship with the military, on which he continued to depend as long as the Vietnam War waged on.

NIXON: Boy, there’s something to be said really for prosecuting the yeoman.
HALDEMAN: I hope John is bringing Admiral Robinson back in. Because that—
NIXON: The yeoman really was giving him what amounted to a high crime.
NIXON: He really ought to be prosecuted for it. I mean, my God! It reflects on us here. But I don’t know.
HALDEMAN: Well, it blows up that Joint Chiefs business.
NIXON: That’s the problem. It hurts the military. They can’t take it. This kid will go in and rat on them. That’s for sure. It’s a smart motive if he will take it.
HALDEMAN: Sure, it’d get—
NIXON: Put it all on those [unclear].
HALDEMAN: [unclear].
NIXON: Frankly, by the end, it will reflect on us because, in the end, we’re still going to be accused that we fucked up something.
HALDEMAN: That’s right.
NIXON: It’s the whole story. It’s like the Pentagon Papers. We didn’t have anything to do with it, but in the end hurt us some.

NIXON: I’m not sure what to do about the news of this fact that Henry is not in here telling us what the hell he’s going to do to find out about that leak! You know what I mean? There’s something wrong. There’s something screwy here. But let him stew. Let them all stew. There’s a great tendency, Bob. We all have this fault, but there’s certainly a particular tendency in Henry’s case, always to find blame in other people but to deny anything in his shop could be anything but perfect. Goddamn it, that’s what could be involved here. I mean he said—look, if he thought this was being leaked from State, he’d be in here pounding the table— HALDEMAN: “If this was true—”
NIXON: —threatening to resign.
HALDEMAN: “—he should be shot!”
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: He’d go berserk.
[EHRLICHMAN enters.]
NIXON: This is pretty big. It’s pretty serious.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, John [Mitchell] talked to the admiral. The admiral said he didn’t exactly say what Mel says he said, but Admiral Moorer feels that his admiral should go to jail for all the terrible things he’s been doing over here!
HALDEMAN: That’s their standard [unclear]. [laughter] Send some guy down the ladder to do it!
NIXON: Everybody else should go to jail!
EHRLICHMAN: That’s about it! John says that Moorer admits that he saw stuff, but that he operated on the assumption that his liaison man was working this all out with Henry.

EHRLICHMAN: David replayed the tape last night and there’s something you kind of miss going by, but this yeoman could be sent into the process over in the NSC paper mill to pull out what the staff was recommending to Henry on decision papers that were coming to you in advance of the decision. And this was, he described, too, some names of people that meant nothing to me but that Young recognized. So that in fact the Joint Chiefs were getting advances on where the weaknesses were in their case in a decision that was coming to you, ahead of the word getting to you so that this would be— NIXON: Yeah. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me so much.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, it’ll bother the hell out of Henry, and—
NIXON: It will?
EHRLICHMAN: I think that will, in a way, be more important to him than the rifling of the briefcases. So that’s the integrity of that whole process that he holds pretty dear.
NIXON: Yeah.
HALDEMAN: Nobody knows what’s coming forward.
NIXON: You better talk to him. You talk to him. Understand that it should be kept away from me, don’t you agree?
HALDEMAN: Absolutely.
NIXON: I mean, I’ve decided Henry is like a child in certain—he won’t know how handle it, and what to do, and so forth. Just say we’re going to handle this this way, and that Mitchell sent it to us. Now, I’ve put it in the hands of the Justice Department and it’s, the blood’s going to flow here.

HALDEMAN: That’s the way it goes, though.
NIXON: Intellectuals are that way. They’re—
EHRLICHMAN: Bunch of jackals!
HALDEMAN: They back off fast.
NIXON: You must remember, though, you’ve got to remember this. That’s also Henry. Henry’s got that intellectual arrogance, too, you know. And, he will justify every goddamn thing he’s ever done. He cannot be like we are in terms of saying, well, we all justify it to an extent that he cannot. One thing he cannot bear, believe me, is to be wrong.
NIXON: That’s the problem, when I said he’d backstab me, Bob. You know—
HALDEMAN: Sure it is.
NIXON: It’s like when he, did that backgrounder on the plane. He knew he screwed it up. And, it’s like, remember that other one he did out here once? Well, it’s hard. It’s hard. That’s the problem with too much education. People get the feeling that they can do no wrong, and then, well, their defense is always to show, whenever they do make a mistake, they didn’t do it. But that, actually, they were right all the time. Whenever you make a mistake, unless you cut your losses and get out, you compound it by trying to prove you’re right. That was the trouble with Kennedy and Johnson on Vietnam. Assuming it was a mistake, they compounded it by trying to prove that it wasn’t.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, yeah.
NIXON: So it got deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper.
EHRLICHMAN: They showed that one sequence in a show. McNamara kept going over there and coming back, and they had clips of the things that he said and they compared it with what was really going on.
NIXON: Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: It was just devastating.
NIXON: I know.

“Have you got any ideas?” “Yeah, but they’re all illegal.”
December 24, 1971, 12:00 p.m.
Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman, and Henry Kissinger

With the Joint Chiefs’ liaison office in the National Security Council closed down, Nixon’s attention turned to others who might know about the Moorer-Radford affair, as well as monitoring the yeoman for additional clues as to his motive.

EHRLICHMAN: The admiral was cleaned out last night, lock, stock, and barrel.
NIXON: Who was cleaned out?
EHRLICHMAN: Welander. He closed the office and moved out.
NIXON: Good.
EHRLICHMAN: Al Haig called David [Young] last night and indicated that he is very concerned about the quality of the evidence of the perjury that the admiral was being jobbed on. It’s circumstantial evidence. So, I had Henry and Al up this morning and I played the tape for them of the, Welander’s interview, and they were both convinced— NIXON: Of course.
EHRLICHMAN: And they both now are—
NIXON: For Christ’s sakes! They’re just covering up here. That’s what Al wanted to do.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, no, I think Al genuinely was concerned. He at least has now sold me—
NIXON: Well—
EHRLICHMAN: —that he’s loyal. He and Henry both agree in very strong terms that Moorer should go. They’re both now satisfied that Moorer is heavily implicated in this. They’re doubly concerned because they’ve been using Moorer’s back channels for all kinds of communications and they’re afraid that they’ve been compromised. Whatever problems that raises I don’t know, but the indications are there, but Henry then treated me to a half-an-hour monologue.
NIXON: On Rogers?
EHRLICHMAN: No, not just Rogers, but just the whole gap, but Rogers is certainly a big part of it. And he then came down very strong and said that he would never mention this to you, and that Al would never mention this to you, but that he wanted me to understand that their very strong feeling was that Goodpaster should replace Moorer at the earliest possible time, that their ability to work with a man like him was impaired, and on and on and on. So— NIXON: I don’t know, it sounds like they’re railroading Moorer.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, this whole thing has been that way. The admiral wanted to railroad the yeoman and Moorer is—
NIXON: Moorer is too good a man. Moorer stood with us when it was tough, remember?
NIXON: I don’t feel that way at all.

NIXON: His problem with all these things, is when they don’t go quite the way we expect them to. I said, “Now look, it’s going to come out all right, Henry. India-Pakistan is going to come out not looking [unclear]. No sweat.”
EHRLICHMAN: Well, you cut your losses there.
NIXON: Yeah, he has. And Henry thinks that the whole world thinks that he’s failed, and that we’ve failed, and so forth. That’s bullshit, don’t you agree?
EHRLICHMAN: That’s what’s worth working on.
NIXON: Do you think there’s that much to be concerned about?
EHRLICHMAN: No, I don’t.
NIXON: In his case, put yourself in his position.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, Henry, of course, sees his reputation as sort of a reputation for the ages and—
EHRLICHMAN: —as a sort of Metternich of the sixties—
EHRLICHMAN: —and seventies.
NIXON: We don’t want to make any mistakes.
EHRLICHMAN: No mistakes at all.
NIXON: Grip of steel. Perfect man. Yeah.

[KISSINGER enters.]
KISSINGER: What concerns me is the way the system had leaked at the time, leaked out from within the government.
NIXON: But not by Moorer.
KISSINGER: No, no. Not by Moorer. No, that’s—
NIXON: That’s the point.
KISSINGER: That’s where the major problem is.
NIXON: He seems to be doing the job that—you see the problem is that I don’t care if Moorer is guilty [unclear]. We cannot weaken the only part of the government that for philosophical reasons supports us. We can’t do anything with the problem that would just weaken the Joint Chiefs. The military would receive a blow from which it’d never recover. It would never recover if we did do it. We can’t do it. The military must survive. We’ll see that they—this is not the place to do the disciplining. That’s the problem. Now get—take care of the yeoman. We better do something with him, but I don’t know what the hell. Have you got any ideas?
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, but they’re all illegal.
NIXON: All of them illegal? Hah, hah. That’s good.
EHRLICHMAN: Put him in a sack and drop him out of an airplane.
NIXON: That would do it. Yeah.

NIXON: Keep the yeoman here in Washington. Is anybody talking with him at all? Keeping in touch with him?
EHRLICHMAN: We’re keeping in touch with him, but he doesn’t know it. He’s under surveillance. We’re tapping him.
NIXON: Tap him, all right.
EHRLICHMAN: We had a report in yesterday that the yeoman, he’s taking his time off. I don’t know where.
NIXON: Keep him in Washington. I have a feeling it’s better to have him here where we can watch him—
NIXON: —than to put him out at some post where he’ll be thinking about all this, worried to death, carrying out a lot of information. I’d like to have him closer, where we’ve got the FBI or, you know, our organization that can watch him— EHRLICHMAN: Well, that’s one, that’s the—
NIXON: I’d put him over in the Pentagon.
EHRLICHMAN: That’s one thing that John [Mitchell] and I have discussed is the possibility of just keeping him here under surveillance in the hope you catch him in bed with Jack Anderson some night.
NIXON: Exactly. Exactly.

All photographs courtesy of the White House Photographic Office Collection, Richard Nixon Presidential Library, except where otherwise noted

Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office.

Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers.

White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman working at his desk.

Nixon and John Connally in the Oval Office just after the Democratic former Texas governor was appointed Nixon’s secretary of the Treasury. Nixon admired Connally more than any other man in his cabinet.

Nixon and Governor Ronald Reagan (center) at Nixon’s Western White House, La Casa Pacifica, in San Clemente, California.

The famous handshake with Chairman Mao during Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972.

Nixon at the Great Wall. A snowfall that morning nearly canceled the visit, but Zhou Enlai (at Nixon’s left) ordered thousands to sweep the streets with rudimentary brooms throughout the night so that Nixon could travel by car from Beijing to the wall. Other faces in the crowd include William Rogers, Bob Haldeman, and advance men Ron Walker and Dwight Chapin.

Nixon and Zhou (and Kissinger and Rogers) at one of the many long negotiating sessions during Nixon’s famous trip.

The Nixons and Zhou Enlai share a laugh in the Great Hall of the People.

Following the visit of the American Ping-Pong team to China in 1971 and Nixon’s visit to Beijing, the United States invited the Chinese team for a reciprocal visit in the spring of 1972. The visit took place in the White House Rose Garden.

The first two pandas given by the Chinese government to the National Zoo in Washington, following Nixon’s visit to China.

Many conversations with Soviet officials were needed to lay the groundwork for Nixon’s visit to Moscow and for the summit meeting. Here, Nixon meets at the White House with (left to right) Anatoly Dobrynin, Andrei Gromyko, and William Rogers. Henry Kissinger is off camera.

On May 22, 1972, Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit Moscow. Here, he and Kissinger take a stroll in Red Square.

Inside the Kremlin, Nixon and Kissinger confer between negotiating sessions.

On May 26, Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT I agreement.

Pat Nixon and Kissinger watch Nixon’s live address to the Russian people from an adjacent holding room.

Vietnam was a constant preoccupation during Nixon’s first term. The president visited with troops in 1969, his first year in office, and in private spent many hours reviewing military tactics and, with Kissinger, the protracted peace talks.

As antiwar protests grew and Nixon became concerned with John Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he met with Charles Colson (right), John O’Neill (center left), and a companion of O’Neill’s. O’Neill helped found Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. Many years later, he would serve as spokesman for Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, opposing Kerry’s presidential campaign.

Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in Paris after agreeing to peace in Vietnam, January 1973. Since their talks were almost always secret, this was a rare photo opportunity.

By day, Henry Kissinger conducted secret negotiations with American enemies from China, the Soviet Union, and North Vietnam. After hours, the media feasted on the image of Kissinger as a ladies’ man with a string of celebrity companions, in this case Marlo Thomas. A 1972 poll of Playboy bunnies selected Kissinger as the man with whom they would most like to go out on a date.

Thanks in part to the historic summit meetings in Beijing and Moscow, Richard Nixon cruised to an overwhelming forty-nine-state victory in the 1972 election. In 1973, inquiries into Watergate began, bringing an end to the taping system and, in August of the following year, an end to his presidency.


Summit Planning and Escalation in Vietnam

January–May 1972

“I’m gonna get this son of a bitch straightened out a little.”
January 3, 1972, 9:25 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

The SALT talks, which had recessed December 22, were due to begin again on January 4, but Nixon postponed them by a day. He considered it urgent that he see his chief negotiator, Gerard Smith, at the White House for last-minute instructions. The antagonism Nixon felt for Smith was evident, especially in his suspicion that Smith was angling to take credit for any success resulting from the talks. As they planned the next session of talks—the last before Nixon’s summit meeting with Brezhnev during the final week in May—every announcement regarding the proposed arms treaty was regarded as sensitve.

NIXON: Incidentally, we’ve got a little problem on Bill [Rogers], because I had him come on over here—I had him come over here [unclear] the damn meetings on the economic thing [unclear]. I—what I’d like to do is review the meetings with Smith, first; to give Smith his marching orders; and I told Bill not to come ’cause he’s not coming till ten—till ten thirty, but when he comes in—
KISSINGER: Gets his picture taken.
NIXON: Now, I—
KISSINGER: That wouldn’t make any difference—
NIXON: —wouldn’t be too concerned about his trying to get credit for SALT, because, as a matter of fact, as it—we’re going to screw SALT up. There isn’t going to be any goddamn SALT if—unless these people get a little bit better.
KISSINGER: Well, what—to give you the feel for what Smith will want from you—
NIXON: What’s that?
KISSINGER: He wants your final position on ABM. I’d never give that to him—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Besides, I don’t think you should give much ground on ABM, because we’ve already gone a long way towards them.
NIXON: Yeah. But, the thing I would encourage is to get him in and—
KISSINGER: It makes no difference if Bill wants to be here.
NIXON: [unclear] No, no, no. I’ll—no, no. I would like to, I’d like to get some tough talk with him, first, and say—
NIXON: —“Now, look here: there isn’t going to be any final position on ABM.” There’s nothing left, but he—
KISSINGER: It’d just—
NIXON: —he wants the final position on everything so he can negotiate a settlement. Isn’t that it?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: All right. What other things do you want me to say, Henry? [unclear]
KISSINGER: I wouldn’t even say there won’t be any final position, Mr. President, because he’ll just leak it. I would say you’re studying the problem very carefully, as you—
NIXON: [unclear] I’ll say we’ve got a hell of a problem with Defense. How about that?
KISSINGER: Well, no. He’s already dealing with them, because they’ve got their own fish to fry. I’ve got to get Moorer positioned. I would just say you’re studying it; it’s a tough problem; and you’ll let him know—
NIXON: All right. What—what—why don’t—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Why don’t you say what we can give?
KISSINGER: Yes. Well, I think you can tell him that he can tell them that it should be a treaty—
NIXON: Fine.
KISSINGER: —for ABM, and an executive agreement for offensive—
NIXON: All right, all right, all right. Okay.
KISSINGER: That the SLBMs should be in terms of tubes, rather than in terms of boats.
NIXON: Right. Fine.
KISSINGER: These are two major—
NIXON: That’s fine. But, but on the other things, I [unclear]—
KISSINGER: On the other things, you want him to go on the present line for a while longer.
NIXON: Until we let him know.
KISSINGER: And then—
NIXON: Henry, the best thing to do is to get him in. Under, under those circumstances, it would be best to get him and let Bill hear that, so that he knows that the treaty entails this move, just to tell him that I made this decision. And just let him ride—and have to ride out the thing. This fellow is—this fellow Smith, how’s he thinking, Henry?
KISSINGER: Well, he’s greasy and oily.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Now, we—well, you know, we are told that Bill is launching, and I’m—this happens to be one that’s so complex that he doesn’t understand it, so I’m not that eager to get him into too much of the line of command on it. But, whether he’s in on one meeting or not, doesn’t make any difference.
NIXON: This meeting is not a big deal.
KISSINGER: It’s not a major deal.
NIXON: Smith will run right over there afterwards. That’s our problem.
KISSINGER: Yeah. And I don’t want to come—
NIXON: Did he say he’s got Laird under control?
KISSINGER: Well, Laird is playing such a crooked game—
KISSINGER: —as always. He has a bewildering series of memoranda here.
NIXON: Just don’t tell him any more. Don’t—I [unclear]—
KISSINGER: And, there are such—one of them is that he wants three ABM sites. Another is that he wants to go for an NCA defense, now, a defense of Washington. Another is—
NIXON: I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to take a very hard line with Smith, and I know this could get back to State, but, honestly, I’ve been very concerned about the Soviet buildup. I’ve been concerned about the fact that they have had—I’m gonna get this son of a bitch straightened out a little, Henry—that they have more tests this year than in any year since the Test Ban Treaty. Under the circumstances, that I have some very grave doubts about what their intentions are, and that I’m just—that we’re going to go with these two steps and then take a look. I want to leave ’em in their tracks. How’s that sound?
KISSINGER: That’s right. And I think I can—the Soviets have already asked for a recess on the twentieth. Now, Smith thinks he can talk them out of it—
NIXON: Bullshit.
KISSINGER: —and I don’t think you should show any eagerness for a recess, because I think I can position the Soviets to ask for it, so you’re not the villain. Smith’s line is—every Verification Panel meeting, Smith says, “I just want to make sure, now, that the president isn’t stalling this for the summit.” Of course, if [Edward] Kennedy were the president—
NIXON: What the Christ is he talking about?
KISSINGER: He should be stalling. I always say, “No, your instructions are to get it as fast as possible.” But, of course, if Kennedy were the president, the whole goddamn bureaucracy would be stalling it for the summit.
NIXON: And that’s just the SALT thing, Henry.
KISSINGER: Of course.
NIXON: Goddamn positioning. Why shouldn’t we stall for the summit? So that he can get the credit, is that it?
KISSINGER: He isn’t running for reelection this year, Mr. President. And he—
NIXON: Well, I, of course, can’t give him any indication that I want to stall for the summit. That’s not—
KISSINGER: That’s the problem.

“I wish we could do something tough in Vietnam.”
January 20, 1972, 6:08 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

The Indian subcontinent was roiled in violence during 1971, encompassing Pakistan and India in two related wars. Since 1947, Pakistan had consisted of separate regions to the west and east of India, controlled by the government based in West Pakistan. A strong movement for independence arose in East Pakistan and evolved into a civil war.
India, the giant between its two enemies, backed the fledgling new state of Bangladesh, in order to weaken its rival, leading to the Indo-Pakistani War in December 1971. Mainland China supported Pakistan, while the Soviets backed India. Nixon threw U.S. support to the Pakistanis, who were losing badly. Nixon’s move was seen as a continuation of his courtship of Beijing. Controversial on humanitarian grounds, it gave Pakistan the chance to sue for peace with some dignity after only sixteen days of war. Nixon took pleasure in the outcome, looking on it as a sign of his ability to steer world events. That made him all the more frustrated that he couldn’t do the same in Vietam.

KISSINGER: Dobrynin called me.
NIXON: He did?
KISSINGER: Yeah. Through Haig. Said he had a—he needs a long conversation with me. I made some jokes about India-Pakistan. He said, “Let’s put it behind us. Let’s work positively for the future.” And I’m having dinner with him tomorrow night.
NIXON: So he doesn’t appear to be negative about it?
KISSINGER: Not at all. No. One massive problem we have is in Vietnam. We had a message from Abrams today. They are putting in every reserve unit they have. Everything. They’re stripping North Vietnam.
NIXON: The North Vietnamese are?
KISSINGER: Yeah, they’re stripping it bare and—
NIXON: What can we do?
KISSINGER: Well, he wants to bomb the southern part of North Vietnam, where they have their logistic buildup. So we’ve got to look at it tomorrow. I want to talk to Dobrynin and tell him, “Look, if this offensive”—of course, they want to put it to us.
NIXON: Well, I think they want to put it to us. My view is that we may have to risk the Chinese thing, Henry. I—
KISSINGER: It’s my view, too, Mr. President—
NIXON: I just don’t believe you can let them knock the shit out of South—I mean China—so if the Chinese—the Chinese aren’t going to cancel the trip [Nixon’s upcoming visit to China, scheduled to take place in February].
NIXON: They’re not going to cancel the trip because—
KISSINGER: I don’t think we should go quite as far north but we should, as we did in the last attacks, I think we should let him do something. I think if—
NIXON: Well, Henry, you—you remember I—
KISSINGER: Particularly after your peace speech. [Nixon planned to make a major nationally televised speech on the status of the Vietnam peace negotiations on January 25.] I don’t think you should do it—
NIXON: I wouldn’t do it now. I mean, wait till the—after the peace speech.
NIXON: I think you’re right.
KISSINGER: I’d wait until they’ve—
NIXON: Do you think they’d respond with—to our speech—with an increased buildup?
NIXON: I think so, too.
KISSINGER: That’s my understanding.
NIXON: We could just simply—what does Abrams—does Abrams have a plan? Or—
KISSINGER: Well, he has targets. And I think they probably are going to make an all-out—and then they’re going to settle. If they don’t tip it then, they’re going to settle. They’re going to settle either way, because if they win, of course, they’re going to have it, and if they don’t make it then they’re going to—
NIXON: When you speak in terms of the win, what are they doing? What do you envision?
KISSINGER: Well, what they could wind up doing is have a massive attack in II Corps, and come across the DMZ, and across the—and go all out in I Corps. Now, we ought to be able to handle it with massive air. But, if they go across the DMZ, of course, they’d be violating the understandings totally—
KISSINGER: And, of course it’s also conceivable that Dobrynin brings us a message tomorrow. I don’t really believe it. Not on Vietnam. He’s—but he was very conciliatory and very—somewhat apologetic.
NIXON: About what?
KISSINGER: India-Pakistan.
NIXON: You think so?
KISSINGER: Yeah. I said to him, “You know, Anatoly, every time you leave town I know you’re doing something mischievous ’cause every time you’re out of town things are in crisis.” He said, “Oh, I can tell you some interesting things.” He said, “Let’s put it behind us. But as a friend, I’ll give you a lot of explanations which will—”
NIXON: He’ll probably say that Kuznetsov tried—
KISSINGER: Well that I believe. But that, in fact, there’s no doubt. Because we have the telegram from the Soviet ambassador to India, Pegov, who told the Indians on Friday, which was the tenth, that they should take Kashmir as quickly as possible. And on Sunday Kuznetsov showed up and everything began to turn. So the signals were clearly changed after your conversations with that [Soviet] agricultural minister [Vladimir Matskevich on December 9, 1971].
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: There’s no question. No question.
NIXON: Let me ask you, is there anything that—there’s nothing you can do with Dobrynin on that damn Vietnam thing. Not a damn thing—
KISSINGER: Well, I’m gonna, well, I’ll see him tomorrow.
NIXON: You’re going to have to see him tomorrow night?
KISSINGER: Tomorrow night. For dinner. I’ll call you.
NIXON: Is your present thinking though that we still go ahead Tuesday night? That’s what we want to do?
KISSINGER: I think so. Oh, no question about that.
NIXON: [unclear] I mean, in relation to the Dobrynin conversation, will that change anything?
KISSINGER: Well, unless he has a message that they are ready to start talking in which case—but that’s inconceivable to me. They wouldn’t send it through him.
NIXON: You think that what they’re really doing is—what Abrams says is a massive buildup?
KISSINGER: Biggest buildup in four years. Every reserve division they’ve got. Literally, they’ve stripped it. If we could land one division up north we could drive to Hanoi.
NIXON: And where are they all? He says—
KISSINGER: Well they’re coming down—
NIXON: How’d they get there so fast?
KISSINGER: Well some are on the train and some are just north of the DMZ. And they’ve built a road across the DMZ, which they don’t need for infiltration—
NIXON: Well what the hell. Why aren’t we hitting the road?
KISSINGER: Mr. President, this has been one of the—
NIXON: What in the name of God are we doing about the road?
KISSINGER: Well, oh yeah, we are bombing it. But it’s one of the worst disgraces, that here the great U.S. Air Force can’t keep a road from being built. They still haven’t finished it completely so I don’t think they’ll start the DMZ attack yet. Our judgment is, or the intelligent judgment is, that they’ll start their attacks in Vietnam in February, and in the II Corps area in March, and the I Corps area. I think they’ll have knocked it off by May 1. They will not—my judgment is that the Russians will not want you to come to Moscow—they’d like you to be in Beijing.
NIXON: Beijing—
KISSINGER: With egg on your face. But, if we set up these negotiations on the Middle East properly, they’ll need you to deliver on it. If you’re the one that delivers, you need to be strong. If we—that’s why we have to set up trade and the Middle East in such a way that you are the one that has to deliver it after the election.
NIXON: Coming back to this immediate problem, I see no choice but to, do what Abrams recommends on that. The—
KISSINGER: We kicked the Russians in the teeth when we had to for the national interest and we’ll have to do it to the Chinese.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: But I’d do it after the peace offensive.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah, I think you’re right. That isn’t going to make that much difference, is it?
KISSINGER: I think we should send a note to the Chinese when you give your speech and a note to the Russians. And—
NIXON: If they’ll [unclear] escalation we will have to respond in kind?
KISSINGER: Yeah. And we hope—
NIXON: It’s not [unclear] against them.
KISSINGER: And we hope that they’ll use the affair to help us—to help our settlement.
NIXON: Who will you do that through? Have Walters deliver it in Paris?
KISSINGER: Walters in Paris and I can give it to Dobrynin on Tuesday just before your speech.
NIXON: I’d do it beforehand. That’s what I’d do. I really would.
KISSINGER: Well, the warning I can give Dobrynin tomorrow, but I think the speech with the request—we don’t want to—
NIXON: Yes, yes, I know.
KISSINGER: Because otherwise—
NIXON: What will you tell him tomorrow?
KISSINGER: Well, I’ll tell him—
NIXON: Do we think, for example, that our air strike did any good? We do, don’t we?
KISSINGER: Yeah. I’ll tell him that what—I’ll say, “Now look, you’ve watched the president. Time and again he’s done things which you would have not predicted. Run enormous risks, and I’ll tell you now he’s going to do it again if this Vietnam offensive comes off at the scale at which we’re now seeing it develop.”
NIXON: Incidentally, what are the South Vietnamese doing in terms of preparing to meet the offensive? Are they—
KISSINGER: Well, he’s changed a commander of the second—of two of the divisions in II Corps.
NIXON: Has he?
NIXON: Has he—the commander change been—they must be pretty good now, the South Vietnamese.
KISSINGER: Well, in I Corps they’re pretty good but that’s where they may run into a lot of tanks. This may be a replay of the—
NIXON: We have tanks there now, remember? We’ve been delivering tanks to [unclear].
KISSINGER: No, no. That should be a gory battle but, you know, it would be a lot of publicity in this country.
NIXON: Look, if it doesn’t involve Americans, it’s all right. They’re going to have publicity on it anyway.

KISSINGER: I told Dobrynin—I said, “I saw you applauding the defense program part.” He said, “No, you must have been watching this [unclear].”
NIXON: Did he say anything?
KISSINGER: I said it as a joke. I knew he hadn’t applauded. But it was a good story.
NIXON: Well, we had one little hooker in there, for the good of the Russians too. We said, “We’re for limitation of arms, looking to the future.” We want to reduce arms. Dobrynin should know that.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: That we’re willing to talk about that.
KISSINGER: Mr. President—
NIXON: He didn’t object to the speech, did he?
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Mr. President, I have—one thing is clear to me ever since my meeting with the [Soviet] cultural minister [Yekaterina A. Furtseva]. What we did in India-Pakistan, I don’t care what it does here, we’ve got new respect from the Russians. She’s now sent me presents and a note of [unclear].
NIXON: Did she?
NIXON: Great.
KISSINGER: And Dobrynin. I can tell how he slobbers. He says, “I have some very interesting communications for you and it’s terribly important. We have a big agenda. Let’s get right to work.” And he wanted to come for breakfast, as you know. He said—but he said he needs most of the morning, so I said, no, why don’t we do it—
NIXON: At least it’s—at least the summit is still on. You know, you hear about these people that—I—
KISSINGER: I told your staff this morning that I thought we would have more results—
NIXON: They kept saying—they kept saying, “Well, because of India-Pakistan Dobrynin will come back and tell you to go to hell.” Well if they do then we know where we are.
KISSINGER: Mr. President, there is absolutely no chance—
NIXON: They’ve got [unclear].
KISSINGER: He told me—I had told his minister, his trade minister [Nikolai Patolichev]—I dropped in at Sam’s for drinks with his trade minister and I said, “You know the president is prepared to do things that are beyond the imagination of everybody. On the other hand, if you don’t stop these propaganda attacks on us, we can only conclude you—you want—you don’t want improved relations and in that case we’re not going to trade.” So we’ve got to get Dobrynin back. We’ve got to get him back. He’s the only guy that can straighten it out. And Dobrynin said he really had intended to stay another week, but they made him come back right after that conversation because they are determined to have this thing develop. So—
NIXON: Why don’t you talk to him about Vietnam and give, you could give ’em almost anything right now. The trade, of course, you could give them.
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah.
NIXON: But damn it, they don’t want to play. I don’t know what we can do. We don’t have any cards there, Henry, nothing but the damn air force. We’ll use it. We’ve got to use the air force—
KISSINGER: Mr. President, I think the demonstration of impotence, of getting them out of Vietnam physically—
NIXON: What’s that? I couldn’t hear you.
NIXON: It’s a demonstration of what?
KISSINGER: Of being run out physically. It would be too great.
NIXON: Oh, we can’t do anything.
KISSINGER: Because I think they will be—after this shot—I think they—
NIXON: They’ve got to settle.
KISSINGER: Yeah. That’s it.
NIXON: Don’t you think so?
KISSINGER: They’ve got to settle this summer. One way or the other, I think, in making your planning, you can pretty well assume, one way or the other it’s gonna be done—
NIXON: [unclear] we get number three?
KISSINGER: It’s going to be—
NIXON: Remember we always talked in terms of two and three.
KISSINGER: Well, we got the two. I think we’ll get number three.
NIXON: You know, it’s interesting when you think, when you put down, you read the little foreign policy section in that speech. It’s a pretty goddamn good policy, isn’t it?
KISSINGER: It was very strong.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And very thoughtful.
NIXON: And you know we’ve said our commitments will be minimal. We will not enter in militarily, but we will do this and that. And also we’ve got in—we’ll use our military—we’ve got it all down there. People know exactly what we will do and what we won’t do. And it’s damn strong. And of course, as you know, the kicker is an interest.
NIXON: Oh. It’s what—that means everybody gets it. I might decide that our interests were threatened in Bolivia, right?
KISSINGER: It was no—
NIXON: See the interest is the thing that they—that the peaceniks will—well, some of them will be smart. But a lot of peaceniks will say, “Ah, thank God we’re not going to intervene.” Bullshit. We’ll intervene in any place—
KISSINGER: [unclear]—
NIXON: If [unclear].
KISSINGER: Well, with you as president, I—
NIXON: They’d be scared to death I might do something foolish.
KISSINGER: Foolish hasn’t been your record but something tough.
NIXON: I wish we could do something tough in Vietnam. I don’t—well, goddamn it, that air force plus the South Vietnamese should be able to do it. I don’t think the North Vietnamese are that strong. I can’t believe—
KISSINGER: What we ought to do—
NIXON: —in Laos, in Cambodia they could be that strong.
KISSINGER: What we ought to do is get a series of one- or two-day strikes. I don’t think we can do five days at a clip, but we can—
NIXON: No, I—we can’t. As I told you before, I really think that the last two days of the last mission [in Cambodia]—it wasn’t fatal, but it didn’t help us. I don’t think it was worth [unclear] just continuing. It looked like we just didn’t hit ’em. But hit ’em for a couple of days and then stop. As you noticed that, we stopped the bombing. They quit talking about it after three days—
KISSINGER: Yeah. Yeah. In two days, we can do one week. And then two weeks later, another day. They’ve just got to, and then—
NIXON: Why do you think that the fact—the reason I asked you about the other one, Henry, I think the fact that we did that five-day—
KISSINGER: Oh, that was very strong—
NIXON: —gave them some pause.
NIXON: Don’t you think it would worry them a little? They needed [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Yeah, but I think we may have to hit them early in February. I don’t think it’s—
NIXON: Well, that means next week maybe, though.
KISSINGER: No, the week after your proposal.
NIXON: Oh, you want to wait that long?
KISSINGER: Oh, maybe at the end of the week. I’d like to give your proposal a little more ride. I think they’re going to—
NIXON: Yeah, I think we should let it ride the weekend, if we can.
NIXON: How about that?
KISSINGER: And then if they hit us, then maybe we hit them for five days. You know, if they respond to your proposal with an all-out offensive.
NIXON: That’s right. But we can—in your briefing you could hit that. I don’t want to say it. I don’t want to threaten in my speech—
NIXON: Or, do you think I should?
KISSINGER: No, you should not.
NIXON: I don’t think I should be threatening at all in the speech.
KISSINGER: No, no, no.

“Play the weaker against the stronger. That’s what we’re doing with the Chinese.”
January 24, 1972, 1:51 p.m.
Richard Nixon and John Ehrlichman

Since President Nixon’s initial overtures to China, first through intermediaries like Romania and Pakistan, then later through direct dialogue, his thinking had matured. What originally was a scheme devised to break a stalemate in U.S.-Soviet relations or result in more favorable treatment at the negotiating table by the North Vietnamese now had greater meaning. Nixon’s secret tapes reveal the risk he took in order to raise the global position of China—his standing in the Republican Party, his reelection, and relations with allies and adversaries. In the short run, doing so was a scheme to extract concessions from others, such as the Soviet Union, but in the long run the friendship that Nixon offered to the Chinese had much greater consequences.

NIXON: You see, in the field of foreign policy, I can remember my direction, you know, but I must say that Henry, once he’s got the direction from the beginning followed it to a T. We are playing a game, without being too melodramatic, whatever happens with the election [unclear] is going to change the face of the world. And it just happens that we are the only administration with the willingness, the only country in the world at this time—
NIXON: Now, the China move I’ve made not because of any concern about China, because I have none, not for fifteen years. [unclear] the need to do something about the Russians and to have another specter over ’em. The reason the Russians are now playing a very forthcoming thing on their summit, and it is forthcoming as hell—
NIXON: Dobrynin came back [unclear] because we had this flop over India-Pakistan, and all that, and the Russians are taking us on, only to find we’re going to China. The Russians are going to throw the summit, throw it [unclear]? Not on your life. They’ve gone exactly the other direction. They want theirs [unclear] the Chinese. The Chinese want theirs because of the Russians. Now, this is a good thing.
NIXON: As long as you can play it evenhandedly. Now, this, therefore, can put us in a very powerful position. It’s the sort of position the British were in in the nineteenth century when among the great powers of Europe, they’d always play the weaker against the stronger. That’s what we’re doing with the Chinese. You see? [unclear] and that brings the stronger around. Now, we’re—if we can survive this, there’ll be ups and downs in this, too. Christ, how many columns have you read that said the Chinese game screws us with the Japanese?
NIXON: Screws us with the—
NIXON: —Russians? Right. And, “Was it worth it?” We’re gonna hear more and more of that. Those who write are, basically, pro-Russian. That’s where [unclear] pro-Russian columnists, and the Russians have figured that out. Now, on the other hand, if we had not played the Chinese game, we’d be in a hell of a spot today with the Russians—
EHRLICHMAN: Looking down our throats.
NIXON: We wouldn’t be—
NIXON: Shit, they wouldn’t want them to deal with us. Why would they?
NIXON: What can we do for them? But we can do something to them.
NIXON: They know that the Russian—that American-Chinese détente, with the Russians outside, is a hell of a dangerous thing. American power and Chinese manpower gives us the balance of power in the world. Correct? Now, I saw they sent Gromyko to Japan. Naturally. [unclear] You think for one minute any Japanese government is gonna give up its nuclear shield to make some silly deal with the Russians? Never. They’ll trade with them and do other things.
EHRLICHMAN: Particularly not before they see how the Chinese summit’s going to come out.
NIXON: The Chinese summit is not going to hurt them. They’re gonna want to get to China first. That’s all right. We don’t mind if they do. See, we’re playing the Chinese for different reasons than the Japanese.
NIXON: The Japanese are playing it for themselves. We’re playing the Chinese because of the Russians. Well, this is the game. Henry understands, totally. I understand. Rogers will play. I think he is—I didn’t tell him about it for [unclear] China thing, and two, because, God only knows, not only State Department finds, you know, [unclear] say, “Oh, Christ, it’ll make the Russians mad.”
NIXON: So, there’s where we are on that. But let’s assume for the moment that we get through those two. I don’t think it’s probably going to help us in terms of public opinion polls and the rest. People rather expect we’ll do well on that and the rest on that basis, but when you come right down to the election, I just wonder what the American voters are going to think. Assuming that your economy is not totally [unclear] how could—they’re going to think a hell of a lot before they risk the possibility of, shall we say, some so-called generation of peace.

“Take Vietnam. . . . we should have flushed it down the drain three years ago, blamed Johnson and Kennedy.”
February 1, 1972, 10:03 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Billy Graham, and Bob Haldeman

Since its start in 1953, each president since Dwight D. Eisenhower had taken part in the National Prayer Breakfast, a yearly event hosted by members of Congress that typically takes place in February. The audience often includes at least three thousand guests from industry, politics, society, and many foreign countries. Following the 1972 breakfast, Nixon and Reverend Billy Graham returned to the Oval Office for a recap of the morning’s discussions. Nixon expanded on his prepared remarks, including his feelings about the media, the Vietnam War, and the role of the United States in the world.

NIXON: It’s a very interesting thing. You really can’t talk about it publicly. Do you know Paul Keyes?
NIXON: He was saying, on his show, he says it’s true of every show in Hollywood. Eleven out of the twelve writers are Jewish.
GRAHAM: That’s right.
NIXON: Now, Life is totally dominated by the Jews. Newsweek is totally, is owned by Jews, and dominated by them, their editorials. The New York Times, the Washington Post, are totally Jewish.
HALDEMAN: [unclear]
NIXON: The ownership of the Los Angeles Times is now totally Jewish. Poor Otis Chandler, who sits on the top of the heap. The other thing, though, is that all three networks, except for, they have front men—they have Howard K. Smith, or [David] Brinkley, or a Cronkite may not be of that persuasion—but the writers though, ninety-five percent are Jewish. Now, what does this mean? Does this mean that all the Jews are bad? No. It does mean that most Jews are left-wing, particularly the younger ones like that.
HALDEMAN: [unclear]
NIXON: They’re way out. They’re radical. They’re for peace at any price, except where the support of Israel is concerned. The only way [unclear] that I have on this, and this is the reason: the best Jews, actually, are the Israeli Jews.
GRAHAM: That’s right.
NIXON: Because Israel, the reason [Prime Minister of Israel] Mrs. [Golda] Meir supports me, which she does, is for a very fundamental reason. They know the Democratic candidates will be catering to the domestic Jewish vote, but she supports me. Because she knows the greatest danger to Israel is Russia. And she knows that in the [1970] crisis involving Jordan that I faced the Russians down for ’em. She knows that I am the only one that will do it. She knows that any Democrat will cave to the Communists, to the Russians. See, that’s the point. She’s tough. We talked about this. Rabin is the same way.
GRAHAM: Oh yeah.
NIXON: Rabin, of course, is a Russian Jew, and boy does he know them. Now, however, in this country we must be under no illusions. You’re aware of that, aren’t you? You’re aware of the fact that in the media, we confront almost a solid block of people [unclear]. And it doesn’t have anything to do with anti-Semitism. It happens, though, insofar as the media is concerned, the power of the media—
GRAHAM: They’ve got it!
NIXON: They’ve got it right by—
GRAHAM: And they’re the ones putting out the pornographic stuff, and putting out everything.
NIXON: I don’t know why they do.

GRAHAM: But this stranglehold has got to be broken or this country is going to go down the drain!
NIXON: Do you believe that?
GRAHAM: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Boy! I can never say it though, but I believe—
GRAHAM: But if you’ve been elected a second time, you might be able to do something.

NIXON: The remarks I made this morning were not fit for a column, but there was much more to it than that if any sophisticated person was listening. And there normally is on that occasion. The point being that we are in a situation at the present time where, and it will be the last time when the United States, through its power, can create conditions which can lead to peace for, perhaps, twenty-five years. Nobody can look beyond that. That would be a great deal.
Now, what is important is that the United States use that power, and use it effectively. Now I said something which many people, of course, do not like to hear. Most people like to think that “if we just get to know each better we’ll have no differences.” But the people that have the biggest fights are people that are married! They know each other really well! The problem, of course, that we have with the Russians and the Chinese, as I say, and I am sure you get the point. It’s not that we do not know each other, but the fact that we do know each other! They believe in one thing, we believe in another. They believe in one kind of world, we believe in another.
But if you start talks with that in mind, then there is a chance to find those areas where you live and let live. Which is about the way the world is going to have these, the millennium is going to come someday, we hope, when everybody may want peace for the right reasons. But at the present time, we may want peace for reasons of necessity. They’re not necessarily wrong, [unclear] but we do. The only thing I would give to the other side is what I say about the fact that any man, no matter how tough, or savage, or barbaric he is, probably does think of young people, the kids. I mean, the Russians must think of the Russian kids, and the Chinese must think of the Chinese kids, and would hope that they not be incinerated. And they know, as we know, that in the event of war it will be mass incineration. So we can think of that.
Now, but the point I make, however, is that there has never been a time when the United States needed, in this office, somebody who knew the Communists, who knows our strengths. Take Vietnam. Who is more keenly aware than I am, that from a political standpoint, we should have flushed it down the drain three years ago, blamed Johnson and Kennedy. Kennedy got us in, Johnson kept us in. I could have blamed them and been the national hero! As Eisenhower was for ending Korea. And it wouldn’t have been too bad. Sure, the North Vietnamese would have probably slaughtered and castrated two million South Vietnamese Catholics, but nobody would have cared. These little brown people, so far away, we don’t know them very well, naturally you would say.
But on the other hand, we couldn’t do that. Not because of Vietnam, but because of Japan, because of Germany, because of the Mideast. Once the United States ceases to be a great power, acting responsibly, to restrain aggression, which is actually what we did in India-Pakistan. Our problem was no quarrel with India. I can count. I know there are a lot more Indians than there are Pakistanis, and I prefer the Pakistani government. But we could not allow India, with the support of Russia, to gobble up its neighbor. So we said stop, and it was right!

“I don’t think anybody else sitting in this chair would have ordered Cambodia or Laos.”
February 2, 1972, 10:05 a.m.
Richard Nixon and the National Security Council

Nixon had promised the American people that U.S. troop strength in Vietnam would be reduced dramatically to sixty-nine thousand by May 1. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were well aware of his commitment to the withdrawal, and they gradually increased their aggression early in 1972, leading the president to a long discussion with the National Security Council regarding his options. The meeting centered on a series of requests made by the U.S. field commander, General Creighton Abrams. Most controversially, he wanted permission to use increased air power against North Vietnamese targets. While his strategy would compensate for the reduced troop strength, it could be interpreted as an escalation of the war in the midst of Nixon’s deescalation policy. Nixon had two good reasons to let the war end without further effort: first, his reelection campaign in 1972, and second, the overtures he was making to Vietnam’s erstwhile ally, mainland China. Instead, facing a fork in the road regarding the course of the war, Nixon offered the reasons why he felt compelled to hit back in an effort to win.

NIXON: We have this meeting for purposes of one subject, which we have discussed individually with several of you here, but never in an official group. I’ve talked with Bill, Mel, John, and others numbers of times. I have also [unclear] I thought it would be well to pull all together at this time to see where we stand and what we can do in terms of responding to the enemy’s actions over the next three months, three months or four, at least through the dry season. The intelligence community has a, I was going to say, not a divergence, but there’s a shading of views on this, as there always is, as to what to expect. But they all agree that the enemy wants [unclear] in this period, so I think we would start with the intelligence analysis of how we’re going to [unclear], then we’ll go to Admiral Moorer for his briefing on ARVN capabilities, our capabilities, enemy capabilities, what we see from the standpoint of the services. And then we’ll go to what we want to do.

NIXON: Could I ask one question there? Perhaps Ambassador Bunker could comment upon it. I indicated a couple months ago that Thieu might consider the possibility, rather than just, you know, just a nitpicking kind of operation, of some major action in the Cambodian area in order to divert the enemy’s attention. When you see the fact that the South Vietnamese ground forces are, in terms of numbers, three times as strong as the North Vietnamese, and you see the fact that the South Vietnamese have air support and a navy, and the North Vietnamese have neither, it would seem that they might consider the possibility of blunting the enemy’s offensive by some action on their own. Is that—as I understand, the South Vietnamese have rejected that idea due to the fact that they want to be in place for the expected enemy attacks. Is that—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Do you think that’s the case?
BUNKER: Yes, I think that’s true, but they were, as you know, in Cambodia.
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: What I was referring to, of course, now, here we sit and we see three divisions there, we see this, that, and the other thing. Everybody’s worried, well, what are the North Vietnamese going to do? Well, here the North Vietnamese have one-third of the forces, with a long supply trail, with no air force, no navy; and here’s the South Vietnamese. I’m just trying to put it in terms of—is that accurate at the moment?
AGNEW: To follow on that, because the same thing was going through my mind, except that between modifications, is it feasible or possible to consider an initiative on the part of the South Vietnamese, possibly on a reserve unit of the North Vietnamese in North Vietnam, instead of in Cambodia? Mainly looking at the propaganda effect of a South Vietnamese initiative in response to all this, where they actually go into North Vietnam, where there’s a large concentration of reserve troops or materiel, and maybe another parachute operation will stop them. Just knock the hell out of them eventually. Give the papers something to write about.
NIXON: Have they considered those kinds of actions, commando raids, anything of that kind?
BUNKER: Well, yes, they’ve considered that. I think that’s one thing that Thieu thought that they might be able to do is small raids. But not anything on a large scale like Lam Son, for example, last year. They won’t take—their view is, I think, and I think we agree with them, is that the defense against this sort of thing is better on their territory than it is trying to move into, into Laos, which is very difficult territory to fight in.
LAIRD: Well, their military people, though—isn’t it true, fair to say, Ellsworth?—are more apt to be willing to do some of these things presently. Now, the president [Thieu], when I discussed this matter with him, this was very firm and as frankly as I could. You remember—
BUNKER: Yes, yeah.
LAIRD: —on this operation, and also on raids to the north, and went into these things in some detail with him. He is a little reluctant. He was reluctant in Lam Son. He didn’t personally put the, the hold on Lam Son when [unclear] up there would have done a—would have gone a little further, and Tom might be well to comment on that, because he really feels that his primary responsibility is not to Cambodia. He’ll help Cambodia if he thinks it helps him.
BUNKER: Well, I think that’s true, and I think he’s not willing to risk the destruction of his own forces. That’s the main thing, and this is the—this is why he didn’t go further in Lam Son.
NIXON: Given Napoleon’s biography—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: —during Napoleon’s earlier years, the way in which to avoid the destruction of your own forces is not to sit in place and get your ass beat off. The way to avoid it is to go in with inferior forces and knock the hell out of the opposition. We’ve seen that. In fact, I just, without getting into the strategy, but I—it seems to me that the long range of communications, no air force, no navy, and here they all say, sit there and say, “Gee whiz, we’re going to have an offensive.” Well, I wonder. I can understand that, but I understand that you can’t do anything that he will not approve. I mean, he’s been, he’s been fine, and he stands up brilliantly in this political thing and the rest. And I’m not suggesting that our people are [unclear]. We aren’t engaged in his activities on the ground, but—and I know Mel didn’t raise this because we discussed it before.
LAIRD: You told me to and I had that.
NIXON: The thing that I’m concerned about is that—well, it’s probably too late. They’re just not going to do it. Isn’t that right? They’re going to wait and take the blow, is that correct?
MOORER: In this particular [unclear]—
NIXON: As regards the enemy, the enemy’s going to take the play and they’ll just play the defense.

MOORER: At the same time, we have moved out on several precautionary actions. The first three I’m going to talk to separately. Additional air authorities have been granted. We have developed plans for a certain amount of air capabilities. We have carefully reviewed our helicopter assets. We have planned for increased CV and naval gun fire support, we have allocated all the CV using munitions that we have. These are the small antipersonnel-type weapons, Mr. President, that have been very effective recently. We’ve sent over—we’ve made certain that all we have in inventory is available for this operation. We have developed a plan for strikes against the LOCs in North Vietnam. I mentioned the airlift augmentation. And General Abrams has talked about the security of our forces. He has formed twenty-eight teams. He sent them to examine the defense plans and the alertness of every U.S. unit in South Vietnam. He reports to me that the oral reporting received so far is good, that they are—that all our people are aware of the threat and they are not going to be surprised. And in addition to that, we’ve developed plans to increase P-3 offshore patrols in the event that the sea infiltration is kept up during this crisis.
Now, I’d like to talk about these first three: the air authorities, the plan to develop the surge of air elements, and the availability of the [unclear]. First, the air authorities, I’ve listed here with the red dots. This is what General Abrams requested. Next to it, the black square shows the authority he’s been granted so far. Now, the first thing he asked for was air support for the Vietnam forces that might be in pursuit across—to conduct cross-border operations. This has been given to him. Across the Laotian and Cambodian borders he can’t use U.S. air assets to support the South Vietnamese if they conduct operations across the border. Secondly, he asked for authority to release the sensors north of the DMZL. Heretofore, we had only been supplying the operating sensors south of the DMZL. This will give us a readout on the activity along the northern part of the DMZ, both lateral and vertical activity, and will, I think, provide more warning and permit a better counteraction can be taken.
Next, he asked for authority to strike the GCI radars in North Vietnam that are directing the fighters, the MiG fighters. He was given the authority to fire the antiradar missiles, mainly the Shrike and the Standard ARM, against these GCI sites when they locked on or when there was MiG activity and the GCI site was operating. In addition to that, so far, he was not given authority to attack these radars whenever one was located, but rather we have directed CINCPAC to prepare contingency plans for this purpose. So, if it’s directed from here, he can in fact do that.
NIXON: How many? What are we talking about there in terms of numbers of strikes?
MOORER: No, there were five radars, sir. Of course, we were given five of these large [unclear]-type radars. I have them on this other chart—
NIXON: It’s all right. I don’t need it. I’ll explain to you something: what I’m trying to get at is the magnitude of the authority he’s requested. He wants authority to go in and hit the five radar sites, and—
MOORER: Yes, sir.
NIXON: —we have said only, basically, hit them only if it is really protective reactions? That’s in effect what he asks?
MOORER: No, that isn’t what we said there. That’s a little different, Mr. President. You have noticed that whenever they’re using—directing MiGs up in that particular area, he wouldn’t hit them.
NIXON: Look, I understand. But that—but the—
MOORER: They’re already in there.
NIXON: Yeah. The authority he wants is to what, to hit—?
MOORER: Once he locates one, he wants to go get it, when the weather permits, regardless of MiG activity. In other words, he does not want to wait for protective reaction situations.
NIXON: How many would it be? What does it require? How many strikes and where to do that?
MOORER: Well, he wants, he asked for authority for those south of twenty degrees—
NIXON: Those?
MOORER: Five, sir. There are five sites, I believe.
NIXON: Okay, I got it.
LAIRD: Well, we asked him to develop a plan, Mr. President, how many strikes it would take to do it and we haven’t got that plan back yet.
NIXON: Yes, well [unclear].
KISSINGER: And also, as I understand it, there are three different states that one could talk about that one. One is that if the radar locks on the airplane that then they can fire a strike against that radar, which—
NIXON: Sure—
KISSINGER: The second is that while the radar is locked they can also use other explosives that are not focused on the radar, that do not depend on being—on homing in on the radar. Third, is what he’s asked for, namely to attack it outside the engagement, but even while the engagement’s going on, he does not now have authority to use anything other than homing beacons.
MOORER: That’s right.
KISSINGER: Isn’t that correct?
KISSINGER: So, then he would—
NIXON: But he would like authority, he has asked for authority, to strike regardless, regardless of engagement.
MOORER: When he finds it. [unclear] You have to understand, Mr. President, that one strike might not necessarily, although he may demolish [unclear] they would bring it—they would put it back in action a week later, so what he was really asking for was the authority to—
NIXON: To keep it up?
MOORER: —anytime he found one, to go knock it out—
NIXON: Yeah. Okay. I was just wondering.
MOORER: Now, the same thing he—was requested with respect to the SAM sites. As you know, he already had authority to fire the antiradar missiles against the SAM sites, and we have been doing this with increasing regularity as the SAM activity increases. He would advise that once the ground offensive starts, that this authority would be considered on a case-by-case basis. And we would go ahead and prepare contingency plans for the one-time strikes against SAM sites. I should point out that we have authority today to strike those four sites in Laos, and we have struck the four sites, parts of them. What they do is they—these are mobile, and they move them around all the time. And consequently, you may know where one is today, and it may not be there tomorrow.
NIXON: Do I understand, that what we have, in effect, said to them that after the enemy launches its massive attack, that he then, on a case-by-case basis, has got to get authority to take out [unclear]?
MOORER: Yes, sir, that’s what we’re talking about.
LAIRD: Well, what we’ve asked him—
NIXON: Change that.
LAIRD: —we’ve asked him, Mr. President, to come in with a plan to do it now. And that plan is to be submitted. [unclear]
NIXON: Well, I just—I’m just trying—I know that there’s been some disagreement as to what should be done and so forth.
LAIRD: I don’t think there’s any disagreement.
NIXON: Well, [unclear] what I meant is that I just want to be sure that there’s a clear understanding here as to the two different phases: what do we do now, what do we do when it starts. Now, without, of course, giving commanders in the field the right to start a nuclear war, once their major offensive has begun the situation totally changes, in my opinion. We’re not going to go through this crap of saying, well, we have to approve every goddamn thing. It’s not going to be done that way and I want to—
LAIRD: I don’t think there’s any question.
NIXON: No, there is. That’s exactly what we’ve been talking about in both places. If they start an offensive, we’re not going to go through this nonsense of saying that we’ll wait until a SAM shoots and then we’ll knock it out. That’s what the real argument’s about?
MOORER: Yes, sir.
NIXON: Okay.
MOORER: Well, we will have plans to strike these sites and these radars subject to the authority.
NIXON: Yeah.
MOORER: Also, he requested permission to strike those airfields that I showed you, that—
NIXON: Now, here the argument is also, though, the question—what has been granted here? The authority, that’s to be done on a case-by-case basis, right?
MOORER: We have told him to increase his airfield reconnaissance and to make certain these reconnaissance aircraft are heavily supported with bombing aircraft, and if these aircraft are fired upon, which they always are, he was to then attack the airfield, and so we have been doing a series of operations of this type, sir.
NIXON: You’ve got all the intelligence ready, you know how to hit ’em, and so forth and so on?
MOORER: Yes, sir. Now, we have not attacked the Haiphong airfield, which is the one right up on the edge of the twenty-degree parallel, but we’ve attacked Dong Hoi, Binh, and Quan Lang. [unclear] And, incidentally, they’re very effective. Usually what happens is they have one reconnaissance plane, two fighters protecting against MiGs, and eight attack planes. And when the reconnaissance plane goes over the airfield, and as machine AA fires, they target their weapons on the—openly on the AA or on the support facilities at the airfield. But here again, Mr. President, I’d emphasize that this has be done continually in order to make certain that the airfield is not restored to operation.
NIXON: Go ahead.
MOORER: Well, he’s also been told that, again, that once the battle is joined, so to speak, that any aircraft south of eighteen, as Secretary Laird just said, is hostile and they can be attacked at any time in A-1. I should add to this that we have stationed two tail cruisers, with an awful big pulse radar in the vicinity of Binh, and they also have authority to fire at these MiGs that are indicating hostile intent. And we are interpreting hostile intent very broadly.
LAIRD: I guess we’ve had one firing hit.
MOORER: We had one, one firing so far. Right.
LAIRD: A hit, but they’re standing off. They’re ready to fight.
NIXON: Right.
CONNALLY: Mr. President, may I ask if the later discussion will bring out the objections to granting these authorities that he’s asked for?
NIXON: Let’s be particular and we’ll see at the next one. The last one is against—go-ahead—logistics.
MOORER: Yes, sir. He asked for authority to strike stockpiles and transshipment points, and conduct all reconnaissance against trucks moving down the LOCs leading into Laos, mainly through the, primarily through the Ban Karai and the Mu Gia passes. I have a chart here. We have—
NIXON: The point here is, the point here at issue, is the authority to hit such logistic places in North Vietnam?
MOORER: Yes, sir. South of eighteen degrees. Again—give him the first chart, Mel. Yeah, that’s all right.
NIXON: How close is twenty degrees to Hanoi?
MOORER: Well, it is—twenty degrees, sir, is right here, and it’s—that’s about—
NIXON: Yeah?
MOORER: —sixty miles, one more degree.
NIXON: Eighteen is—?
MOORER: A little over seventy-five miles, let’s say.
NIXON: I don’t understand this. What’s that? [unclear]
MOORER: [unclear]
NIXON: Now this logistics business, tell us what that’s all about.
MOORER: Yes, sir. [unclear] Here, we—I drew up a concept of the plan, have sent it out to the field to get them to flesh it out in terms of the exact numbers of sorties, the exact—some of them—they’ll take it apart and so on, and we have the candidate plan available, sir, which would authorize General Abrams to make these attacks on these logistics activities taking place, feeding into Laos.
NIXON: What’s the weather situation at this point? Will it be—?
MOORER: Well, during the month of February, sir, of course, is about—in January–February, as we found out last year, is the worst part of the year in the panhandles. Actually, there are six days out of February that have ten thousand feet altitude for a period of three hours, and there are three days that have a period of six hours wherein you have ten thousand feet. So, this is one of the reasons that General Abrams has asked to go when he has the opportunity so that—
NIXON: Whenever there’s a window?
MOORER: Whenever there’s a window is what we talked about. Yes, sir.
ROGERS: Tom, these are all based on what General Abrams requested. How about the Joint Chiefs? Are there things that we should be doing now that aren’t included here? Because it seems to me that because of the importance of this new offensive we ought to take every possible action. I don’t think we have anything to lose. The American people don’t understand all this stuff. [unclear] The only thing it seems to be, the only question we have, is what can we do that will be effective?
MITCHELL: Well, that kind of brings up the point that the one airfield with the seven MiGs is above the eighteenth parallel, and the other airfield with the one MiG is the one that below which he has the authority.
LAIRD: Mr. President, I’d just like to make a comment about what we can do. Because I think that’s the important question as to what we can do as far as the offensive is concerned. The offensive, I think, if it takes place, will be in the B-3 Front. [“B-3” refers to a North Vietnamese–designated area in the highlands, the B-3 Front, which was located within MR-2, the U.S.-designated Military Region 2.] I think that that’s indicated by all of the activities that that’s where the attack will be made. Now, we’ve got to concentrate on limiting that attack, it seems to me, and do everything we possibly can with all the air power we have, because this inasmuch as it gives the South Vietnamese a much greater advantage than any kind of artillery or anything else the other side can have. The activities in the North will not have anything to do with B-3 activities because every bit of logistic support, if the activities that are going to take place in the next three weeks have already gone through these passes and is already in place. Anything that needs to come down to support that operation now won’t be available until March or April.
So everything that for this attack that we’re concerned about is in place and has been, including the people that are involved, as far as the B-3 Front is concerned. Now, as far as an attack may be in March or April, I think these logistic strikes should be authorized, and I hope that the contingency plan, as finally approved, gives the latitude to General Abrams to go three or four times for letting him pick the particular day that he goes, based upon the weather conditions that exist. I think it’s better to give him either twenty-four or forty-eight hours two or three times that he can make the choice, because that’s the most effective way to limit a possible offensive in the March–April period, because those would be the supplies that would be used in March and April, not the February offensive. In that way, we can live with it as far as the country is concerned. I think it’s understandable in a short period that if we go for five, six, seven, or eight days in a row, there is a certain amount of political pressure that people get over a long period of time. And I am sure that General Abrams would be more effective with the use of his assets if he has the authority himself to go twenty-four or forty-eight hours in the North in these areas to hit logistics. Now, I don’t want to mislead anybody at this table. That is not going to have an effect upon the B-3 Front offensive if it comes.
It will have an effect upon a possible future offensive that might come in the April–May period, but it takes at least that long. Now that’s not true of Military Region 1, but it is true of Military Region 2 and in the highlands area. That stuff is already in place.
MOORER: I suppose, Mel, you have—
LAIRD: Yeah—?
MOORER: —you have a built-in restraint in terms of the weather. [unclear]
LAIRD: Well it is—the weather is going to be lousy all month, so that this idea that we’re going to have great weather out there—it’s going to be lousy weather.
NIXON: In February?
LAIRD: Yeah, the weather—the weather in December, January, and February is lousy, and it probably will be lousy into March.
MOORER: Yes, sir. The point I’m making is you’re not going to have a seven-day good-weather period.
MOORER: So, we don’t have to worry whether you make it seven days or not—
NIXON: What is the situation—let me come back to that DMZ, the possibility of their moving en masse across there, at the sanctuary they have where the line is drawn? The authority—has he asked for authority to hit above that line now to knock those roads out? [unclear]
MOORER: That would be part of this logistics plan.
NIXON: That’s—that’d be fine.
MOORER: Yes, sir—
NIXON: That’s fine. He’s not asked for that authority yet?
MOORER: Yes, sir. He has authority for [unclear]—
LAIRD: One pass area there goes through the upper part of the DMZ, and that he has asked for.
MOORER: And the road runs right parallel to the DMZ—
NIXON: How many—that’s one road. How many roads are being built? You said several roads are being built across the DMZ? That they’ll come, they thought, potentially might come down those roads.
LAIRD: There are two roads, two roads being built; one major road and the start of another—
NIXON: We bombed part of it, but not the other part now? Is that correct?
LAIRD: Well, the road is not in use now, but we are—it goes into South Vietnam—and we are, presently, are bombing it.
MOORER: We bomb all of it south of the DMZL.
NIXON: I understand.
LAIRD: But it has not been used and there hasn’t been much to hit there. They just reconstructed it.
NIXON: He wants the authority to be sure. Well—
LAIRD: He wants the authority to use that target area if there is a logistic buildup there. He won’t go up and just hit it if there isn’t a logistic buildup—
NIXON: [unclear]
LAIRD: But if there is a logistic buildup there, and he has a good-weather window, and there are supplies there, he’d like to hit it.
ROGERS: Mr. President, can I ask a question to Tom? It seems to me that in view of the fact that we’ve only got two weeks before the president leaves for Beijing, and I don’t—I think the American people feel the president’s gone so far now to try to work out an equal settlement that they’ll support it, [unclear]. It seems to me that if this offensive takes place while the president is in Beijing, and even if it’s reasonably successful from their standpoint, when we all try to second-guess the plan, then we should, the president should, seriously consider giving the military any authority that it wants—within reason, of course, not nuclear authority, but anything else. Because short of that, it seems to me we will—that this is, this is the key play. It could well be that this could be the turning point of the whole battle for South Vietnam. [unclear]
So, I would—what I was wondering about, in addition to what General Abrams is asking for, are there other things that the military thinks the president should consider and authorities that they should have to prevent this offensive or to deal with it successfully? In other words, is everything being done that can be done? Or are there other things that we should be thinking about, too?
AGNEW: I’d like to expand on that if I might. Listen, what you said really anticipated what I was going to say to some extent and that is this: that it seems that all of the military preparations and the carefully defined limits of what can be done prior to any strike are pretty well—have pretty well been anticipated and explored. Where—the point I’m worried about is what happens to us after this strike? And I’m not talking about, necessarily, actions that are of grave military importance. I’m talking about the psychology of the war and the fact that the North Vietnamese have now responded to, not only to the president’s peace initiatives, but to his three-times- or four-times-repeated warning that any escalation of the war on their part that jeopardizes the success of our troops there will be responded to immediately in a very affirmative way.
So, now it seems to me that military considerations aside, we have to look at the psychology of what’s going to take place in the United States the minute that they launch these attacks. That there’s going to be cries of the failure of Vietnamization, and we should have been out by now, and that it’s all lost, and the only thing that’ll overcome that, as I see it, is something that should be very carefully planned now that represents a punch action by the United States with the South Vietnamese in an area that we’ve never gone. And then, let them call it a widening of the war, but someplace where we can go in there and hit ’em in the gut real hard. Maybe—I don’t know whether you could think about doing something to Haiphong harbor or anything else? I mean, maybe that’s an unmentionable subject, but the point is that they’ve been warned three or four times not to do this. They’re going to do it anyhow. They’re going to do it for political reasons more than military reasons, because they think they can drive us out through the pressure of public opinion.
And it seems to me that it’s time when they do it, the president having issued these warnings on four occasions, not to make ’em idle, but to move in there and hit ’em a good one in the gut somewhere where they’ve never been touched before.
CONNALLY: Mr. President, may I add one thought to what the vice president said? I think both from the standpoint a public voter sees it and actions over there that a good part of it ought to precede your departure from the United States. We ought to be preparing our own propaganda offensive now, that you’re going to China didn’t precipitate all this, ’cause this is the posture which our enemies here are going to play it, “If you hadn’t gone to China, they wouldn’t have launched this offensive.” This—the propaganda offensive that ought to be launched here at home now, is that this is another Tet. Westmoreland’s the only man that I know of that’s really made a point of it.
Look, we ought to be saying it tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, long before people are conscious that you’re leaving on whatever day it is in February. And so that when you do react, you’re reacting to an offensive on their part that parallels what they did in the Tet offensive in ’68. It ought to be tied back in [unclear], so they’re prepared and they’re going to do it and so forth. Otherwise, I think the American press, our enemies in the press, are going to, frankly, lay it to your door and just say, “Well, if you hadn’t, prior to this Beijing trip, this wouldn’t have happened.”
LAIRD: Mr. President, can I add something to that? I want to make a point here that I think is overlooked, and that is that I am confident that this will be a success as far as the South Vietnamese are concerned, and I am confident that our program will hold. Now, they’re going to lose the battle or two, but they’re doing nothing differently than they did last year or the year before. The numbers are the—about the same.
Now, they’re going into a different area. They’re going into the B-3 Front and they will conduct a battle there, but let’s not forget that we have done certain things for the last three years to build up the South Vietnamese, to build up their capabilities. And I don’t believe that we’re going to be in a position where the South Vietnamese are going to get such a bad, bloody nose that it’s going to be any kind of a defeat, interpreted in that way here in the United States.
AGNEW: But, no, if it looks like a failure—
LAIRD: It doesn’t help—
AGNEW: —it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference how successful it is—
LAIRD: It’s very important, this one, but as far as the B-3 Front battle is concerned, we’ve got all the authorities we need for the B-3 Front battle. I’m concerned about the next battle, maybe on down the road in two or three months after you get back. We’ve got everything in place to handle the B-3. When I got back in November, I made the report to the president that, in that report, I anticipated the B-3 Front as the battle site, and at that time I went to the Joint Chiefs and asked them to prepare the plans to defend on the B-3 Front. And we’ve been planning for this since November. Now, we—everything that we have on the B-3 Front is in place right now. You can’t do a hell of a lot more on the B-3 Front. We’ve got a surge capability on our ’52s, we have a surge capability on our tactical air, we have a surge capability as far as our naval air is concerned. And if the president’s—while the president is in China that could be the major area of concern. Now, as far as the next offensive is concerned, that’s a different problem, and that’s why I believe that some standby authorities given to General Abrams in the area of logistics support, knocking out these particular areas. I would limit those authorities to him to go for a twenty-four- to forty-eight-hour period, but three or four times that he can do it, because then you can start the attack and you can announce when it is over. He should choose the times when there are logistic buildups up there so we can actually hit something, and you do have to have good weather. I think that is needed and necessary.
That isn’t going to help the problem while you’re in China, necessarily, Mr. President. I think that should be understood around the table. Because the—that battle is pretty well drawn, and if it comes—
NIXON: Well, you have a week then. That’s only a week that we’re there, so the point is that—
LAIRD: But I just don’t want people to get too panicky about the period of time that you’re gone in China because those particular supplies and the combat personnel—I think Dick would have to agree with that—that they’re in place on that front—
CONNALLY: Look, Mel, I can’t understand, if all the supplies are in place, all the personnel are in place, we obviously know that, we have to know where they are—
LAIRD: And we’re hitting ’em—
CONNALLY: —are we hitting ’em now?
LAIRD: All right. [unclear] what we’re doing there with the B-52s and with the TacAir right now. We’ve got the best all-source intelligence operation going on in the B-3 Front that we’ve ever had in the whole history of this war. And I think it would be well to explain to you exactly what we’re doing as far as hitting in there right now to—you’ve got some—
MOORER: Here, take these—
ROGERS: While they’re getting the charts out, though, Mel, your comment doesn’t—is not inconsistent [with] what John said—
CONNALLY: No. Not at all—
ROGERS: We can make this, if we do what John suggested, and I think we should, then if it doesn’t come off or is not successful we can say, “Well, hell, we anticipated it and we guarded against it and that’s why it was unsuccessful.”
LAIRD: But I don’t want anyone around this table to think that by hitting those places—
[unclear exchange]
LAIRD: —something to do with that fact, because it will not.
ROGERS: Everybody [unclear]—
LAIRD: And the problem that you have here is, you know, there are a lot of people who seem kind of panicky around here each time that you roll for four or five days. I happen to know. I sit down and I, I, I love to take the heat for this stuff; it doesn’t bother me a bit. I’ve always said, Mr. President, publicly and all over, that I would recommend—that never committed you—but I would recommend that we blast hell out of them if they come across the DMZ.
NIXON: Oh, well, we’ve said that, too. The point that I make is that you have that period when we’re back from China, the twenty-eighth of the month or something like, that’s plenty of time to get that March and April buildup. Don’t you think?
LAIRD: Oh, yes, sir.
MOORER: If I may make a point, sir? They’re always hard sell. The problem of hitting these fleeting targets is nothing more than weather. And so, it won’t be a matter of General Abrams discovering a supply buildup or something of this kind. Anytime during the next three months there will be targets, and if he has the visibility—if TacAir has the visibility, so they can strike these trucks, these moving trucks, these temporary stockpiles, and so on—they will find productive targets anytime that the weather was suitable.
CONNALLY: And they have authority to strike?
MOORER: And they have authority. Yes, sir. If they have the authorities.
CONNALLY: I’m asking, do they have the authority to strike?
NIXON: They have it. They have it outside of North Vietnam. The authority we’re arguing a bit, we’re discussing now, is the authority to go into North Vietnam—
LAIRD: The authority—
MOORER: That’s correct, sir—
LAIRD: The authority we are discussing is an authority which would grant him, below the eighteenth or maybe up to the twentieth in those pass areas, to go after any logistic buildups. We’ve gone after them before.
NIXON: In the period, for example, in the five-day period after Christmas, between Christmas and New Year’s [Operation Proud Deep Alpha, during which U.S. aircraft flew 1,025 sorties against targets north of the DMZ but south of the twentieth parallel]. That was originally authorized as a, basically, a two-day operation. Weather was lousy, so they took it for two days and we extended it finally—well actually, it was four days in turn, it was in total, but we extended it for two more days. The—what we’re really talking about here is rather than having the—rather than having these authorities in which you hit four days at a time, which each day escalates the news story, is to have the authority.
If we give the authority, it might be extended over, say, what as I understand it, is they want the authorities over a thirty-day period to hit for twenty-four hours, whenever the weather is good. In other words crack ’em, crack ’em, crack ’em.
LAIRD: And that’s what I’d like—
MOORER: That would be more effective, sir—
NIXON: That’s a different—rather than—rather than attempting on an ad hoc basis, to say, “Well, now you can go for five days.” Well, those five days may be the lousiest damn weather there is, so you wouldn’t want to do it. And also the difficulty is that, again, when it’s continued over a period of time, unless there is enormous provocation, you see, that’s more of a problem. On the other hand, if you follow your intelligence reports, we’re having correct protective reaction strikes every damn day right now, so you’re hitting things. Incidentally, and I understand, and I just want to be sure, that that’s being interpreted very, very broadly.
LAIRD: I don’t know if they can, because they can’t interpret it any—I’ve gone out and talked to Tom. Haven’t we given them the broadest interpretation?
NIXON: You see, the thing is they, they—there was a story here in the New York Times to the effect, first, that after the period after Christmas that we ordered these strikes for no military reason, which was not true, because as you remember, Mel, you came over, and some of the Joint Chiefs said, “We’ve got to hit ’em now.” Right?
LAIRD: Right.
NIXON: And because you were anticipating the B-3 buildup, right?
LAIRD: Right.
NIXON: Right. And that’s what we were trying to hit. And the second point was that it was extended beyond the time that it was useful, for no good reason. Well, the reason it was extended was because you said the weather was bad, right?
MOORER: Yes, sir. [unclear]
NIXON: The story was totally inaccurate.
MOORER: Those strikes were effective—
NIXON: It shows you the problems you’ve got. Huh?
MOORER: Those strikes were effective. We—
NIXON: Well, of course they were—
MOORER: We made the equivalent of 750 truckloads of supplies were destroyed—
NIXON: That’s very—
MOORER: —and—
NIXON: That’s very worthwhile—

NIXON: When people ask, “What should we do to bear out the indication of a practical use of a five-day strike?” We got through to ’em pretty tough and all of our intercepts indicate that. They’ve arranged to hit ’em. We should put in some more, too. You have to see to it some more—
MOORER: Yes, sir. I’ll tell you, sir, what we have laid on an effort here, not only against trucks coming down, but also against the infiltration by foot and bicycle, et cetera, that have been taking place, the several thousand that I indicated. And the B-52s near the An Khe area, in the base areas that they are going to use, would use against the highlands, have been laid on quite heavily using these CBUs, which I mentioned to you is equivalent—I think that one B-52 strike would be about 130 hand grenades—130,000 hand grenades going off at one time. And we do have indications, I believe, that everything’s effective against the forces that are moving into the B-3 Front. So we’ve—we’ve been, been working on those all right. I think an answer to add to the vice president’s question, the authorities that General Abrams has requested would give him the latitude, certainly south of eighteen, to do something that we haven’t done before. Of course, they think it would require some action north of the twentieth.
NIXON: How many—how many B-52s do we have at the present time operating in this area?
MOORER: Forty-seven, sir.
NIXON: Forty-seven? How many—how many do we have in the world?
MOORER: Four hundred fifty.
NIXON: How far away?
MOORER: They aren’t all equipped. Some of them are renewed, silent.
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Well, I know that they’re silent [unclear] anyway. What is the situation with regard to the—where the rest of those are? How far away are some of them? How many of them in Europe and other places?
MOORER: Well, sir, the aircraft like this are currently operating in Laos—in Thailand.
NIXON: [unclear] No, what I mean, is if we wanted to supplement the forces.
LAIRD: We have additional in [unclear] now.
MOORER: And, additionally, it would be the bombing and [unclear].
LAIRD: Right now, we’re not flying as many B-52 sorties as we could. Now, General Abrams has the authority to surge now. He has chosen not to surge at this particular time. But he can surge now, and he could surge from three to thirty days.
NIXON: Yeah. Yeah. To a certain extent, Mel, to a certain extent, though, I just want to be sure I understand where the real danger is. Is it the SIOP? Not now? The other danger is here—
LAIRD: You go there—
NIXON: We already have forty regiments against four hundred, and I want to see something on that. I know you’re looking into it, but [unclear]. Because you talk about saturation up there, you have to hit everything that moves out there. You might, you might, you might get another four or five hundred. When we really come down to it, I think we have to make sure that the South Vietnamese are taking some casualties, but their casualties are down this year as compared to last also. But, when you really come down to it, when you look at the North Vietnamese—I know we can’t agree on them, but they’re at least—when you look at the North Vietnamese casualties, their numbers are probably exaggerated, but a great, great number of those are due to our military—our air operations this spring.
ROGERS: Tom, what if we operated our B-52 strikes from Thailand? Would that be helpful in deterring this offensive?
MOORER: Well, that would certainly broaden the capabilities, particularly if we have problems here with—up in Long Tieng. The problem is it would push a couple of people to put in Thailand, for one thing. But we’d have to increase the numbers, [unclear]. And, in addition, we have been—
NIXON: Put it in temporary duty?
[unclear exchange]
MOORER: And we could run the number of sorties up. We could do twelve hundred a month now for one month, and then when the month runs out then he’s—he can go back to his previous [unclear]—
ROGERS: What I was thinking about is getting—getting a signal to the enemy: we’re getting ready, if you start something we will, we will really move massively.
LAIRD: We can move, Bill—and I looked at this—we can move ’52s off of Guam into Thailand to carry on the surge now, and he can’t surge now, but we’re not at that point yet. But we have the capability to take some of those aircraft and retrofit them in Guam. You see, we have to retrofit the aircraft and change them from nuclear weapons into this type of bombing, which can be done. But we have aircraft in Guam now that could be used at this particular moment.
NIXON: What about your carrier aircraft, Admiral? How many—I mean, could you bring some down from the Sea of Japan to supplement them? I mean, how many carriers do you have now operating with TacAir?
MOORER: Three, sir. Let me run through this, if I may. Currently, as this chart indicates, we have available more operating—5,000 South Vietnamese sorties a month. The U.S. Air Force is programmed for 6,700 and the Navy for 3,300. That gives us a total of 15,000 TacAir sorties and 1,000 B-52s, 33 a day. Now, in country we have the capability to assume we take certain actions for sixty to ninety days to stay, by increasing the numbers this much, up to 17,540, and surging the B-52s to 1,200.
Now, this 540 is the result of a plan I made, which would move aircraft from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines down to Thailand. It would give us 18 additional—
NIXON: Are they A-1s? A-1s?
MOORER: No, sir. They’re F-4s. F-4s—
NIXON: Oh, F-4s, that’s okay. Right. Right. You mean the small planes?
MOORER: Yes, sir. Now, for thirty days where you would make an all-out effort, but of course subsequent to those thirty days you’d have to drop down considerably—
NIXON: Yeah.
MOORER: Now, we have the capability of about this many with the three carriers that are there. Now, I’ve issued instructions for none of those carriers to go north of Hong Kong.
NIXON: Where are those? You’ve got three carriers there in the area now [the USS Constellation, the USS Coral Sea, and the USS Hancock]. How many other carriers do you have? How many are over in Hawaii and others [unclear]? Could you get three more carriers out there, for example? I’m just thinking.
MOORER: Yes, sir. Well, we’ve got the next one we’ve had on standby is the Kitty Hawk. And she could—and we’re giving her ten days to get out. She could move out and be out there in—by the end of the month, sir.
NIXON: We’re into this month. The end of which month?
MOORER: The end of this month, sir. Yes.
NIXON: The Kitty Hawk? Where’s the Kitty Hawk now?
MOORER: The Kitty Hawk is stationed on the West Coast.
NIXON: That’d give you four?
MOORER: That would give us four, and that would—
NIXON: What about the one that’s up there around Korea?
MOORER: No, sir, we have all three of them down south.
LAIRD: All three, yes—
MOORER: Three of them on—
NIXON: So, if you had—you could—you couldn’t do—I’m just trying to—
MOORER: Yes, sir. We could send one more. We could send one more carrier, and—
NIXON: And have this, particularly the Kitty Hawk. I’d like to see a, see a contingency on that one.
LAIRD: Yes, sir.
MOORER: Yes, sir. And then of course the next step would be, if we needed more tactical air, would be to take the F-4s from either Okinawa or South Korea and move them down. And, so those are the alternatives we have. But we have right now, subject to making this call to deployment from the Philippines, a surge capability of 21,500 for thirty days. At that point, we would put all three carriers in the Tonkin Gulf and run them up to 5,300. The Kitty Hawk will add another 1,600 sorties to this number.
LAIRD: We probably wouldn’t ever use that many sorties, Mr. President, but we do have the capability. I think it’s—
NIXON: You’d have to get a real break on the weather.
LAIRD: We could double.
NIXON: Or—let me put it this way: when we think in terms of twenty-four-hour strikes, you get just as much heat for fifty as you do for five thousand, if it’s for twenty-four hours. If you expand it to five days, then the heat is enormous.
In other words, the point that I would like, what I think we need a contingency plan after all, because I—remember we once talked about this before, the contingency plan, I remember, Henry, we talked about earlier—I said, “Be ready that when there’s a window you can give them a hell of a sock. Then get in, get out, and then say it’s over.” Remember, we talked about this? Mel, you’ve got to have it there ready to give ’em the hell of a sock, rather than just dribbling it out, you know, and running over and dropping it on the combat troops, if the weather’s bad. That happens, too.
LAIRD: We can do that—
NIXON: More Air Medals are made that way.
LAIRD: We can do that, Mr. President. [unclear] And I just—I don’t think we’ll ever go as many sorties even on a good day as we can find on a surge basis. But we can do it. The B-52s are the ones that are limited as far as their surge to thirty days. The others can surge up to sixty to ninety days.
MOORER: Incidentally, [unclear]—
NIXON: The ’52s can move from what, from forty-two?
LAIRD: Well, we can go up to about forty sorties a day.
NIXON: Right now, the number of ’52s?
KISSINGER: Unless you increase the total number of planes there, you cannot reach the point that the president is making for twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
LAIRD: We can with three carriers there. We’ve never had three carriers there before—
KISSINGER: The way you get the surge capability is to increase the daily average and then that gives you a higher total at the end of the month. But if you want to put everything into one day or two days you need more airplanes there, because there’s no way you can [unclear]—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: The possibility of a one-day mission. If we think about the real problems of this war, public-relations-wise and the rest, I suppose many books will be written about it in the future, I hope that perhaps maybe—maybe it will come out all right. But, if you look at the problems we must remember that—and I don’t think it’s a criticism of people who have to take care of all of the decisions, but it was the gradual escalation, day after day, failing to use maximum force at a maximum point in time, that gradual escalation takes away all the strength that we had. It didn’t have the effect. It—it had, like water dropping on a rock, it destroyed the American support for the damn war. Now, as far as the American people were concerned, if we do something and do it not gradually—to them the theory of gradualism in war has always been wrong, totally wrong. It’s this tit-for-tat crap.
The only—the only thing to do if the other guy gives you a, you know, a slap on the wrist, is you kick him in the groin. That’s, that’s one theory. You know, that’s what we’ve got to do here—
AGNEW: Mr. President, Henry, you’re talking now—you were talking about flexibility, but you’re limiting your flexibility [unclear]. But the point I was trying to make before is that the flexibility that is really going to be valuable is the flexibility—
NIXON: That’s a plus—
AGNEW: —[unclear] something new that’s going to shock these people.
NIXON: Well we have a few places [unclear] and yet they were surprised. But I know exactly what you mean there. We—we wanted—
MOORER: Incidentally, it’s the first time we’ve been up to twenty degrees since the November ’68 stand-down—

NIXON: The point that you should make, of course, that everyone should make out there, is that putting it in its coldest terms: South Vietnam should get demoralized if they concluded that the peacenik portions in this country led to not just an American withdrawal, but led to withdrawal of our aid programs—
BUNKER: Oh, yes.
NIXON: —military and economic, in the future, which is their real objective.
NIXON: Now, the revelation of our peace initiative has bought a little time in that respect. The Congress, I mean the jackasses who are ready to go off on another one of their kicks, not just a withdrawal date, but to cut aid, cut sorties, and cut everything else. I think if the point could be strongly made, that public support at the moment, which is reflected in congressional support, support which is in turn reflected in the appropriations, is more solid than it has been for a long time—
BUNKER: Yeah. Yes.
NIXON: —and therefore they can have confidence that they’re going to continue to have economic and military aid so that they will be able to fight the enemy. That’s the key point—
BUNKER: Yes. Yes.
NIXON: —if they take the long view.
NIXON: Then, of course, you have the short problem, the short-view problem. That’s what you’re addressing [unclear]. There you say they think they’re ready for it.
BUNKER: Yes, sir.
NIXON: They’re not frightened to death of them, huh?
NIXON: I don’t think they would feel ready if, as I say, if I had an air force and a navy, and short communication lines up against an enemy with a long communication line, no air force, and no navy. Good God, if they aren’t building morale now, what can? They never, they can’t make it alone, can they, if they cannot at this time? Do you agree, Admiral?
MOORER: Yes, sir. I think this is a critical test of leadership—
NIXON: Good. It’s pretty good, pretty good odds on their side.
LAIRD: They’ve gone from two—a little under, about two hundred attack aircraft to over a thousand that they’re operating, in a period of twenty-four months.
NIXON: Who? The South Vietnamese?
LAIRD: The South Vietnamese.
NIXON: On their own? On their own. That’s right—
LAIRD: No, I—I, I just feel that, Mr. President, that we have accomplished something here in giving these people this capability, and I don’t want them to get into a panic situation. I want to do everything we can to protect them, but I don’t want to give the impression, as far as this country is concerned, particularly in view of the—I’ve got to testify before the Congress. Maybe everything is all right, but I’ll tell you it’s not going to be easy to get that economic aid through for Vietnam.
NIXON: Sure.
LAIRD: It’s a tough damn problem right now. We’re three hundred million dollars light right at the present time. Maybe others think that the atmosphere has changed and that we can get these—this money through easily, but it hasn’t changed as far as the damn gut questions in those committees.
Look at this last action of the Senate, just this last week. Those people are in there and sometimes I think our people aren’t being tough enough on this thing, but by God, they’d gut us. On the—they really gave us a gut shot this week on economic aid on Vietnamization. We’ve got to get that money back somehow, and it’s not easy.
NIXON: That’s right.
LAIRD: It’s going to be a tough, hard, rough fight, and they’re trying to take everything out of my budget and put it over in the AID administration, now, up there on the Hill, the Fulbrights, the Mansfields, and the rest of them. I’ll tell you, if it gets out of this defense budget, the Vietnamization program is down the drain in ’73 and ’74, because the only thing that keeps us going is that it’s in the defense budget, not over there in the AID budget. That’s the only thing that keeps it going. You know that, don’t you?
ROGERS: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. We all agree. You bet.

NIXON: The thing we have to bear in mind is that, the point that was made earlier, that if this offensive is one that was as far as the North Vietnamese is concerned, it isn’t about China and it isn’t about Russia. It’s about South Vietnam.
MOORER: Absolutely.
NIXON: It was going to come, it was inevitable, and they’re going to try to get on top. From the standpoint of the offensive, it will have—if it’s a failure—it will have a massive effect on them. It will have a massive effect on them because they will have failed not against the United States, although we will, of course, have helped a great deal in the air, but they will have failed against the ARVN, for whom they claim to have great contempt. Under these circumstances then, they then have to look at their hole card. And, so, as we see this offensive, the one that will come in February, or at least that’s anticipated, then the one that will come later in March and in April, we must realize that this—must know the North Vietnamese will come if they feel, after we’re out, they can make it. And, if they fail they’re going to have to look very, very closely to what their options are. If they succeed, [unclear]—the other point that should be made is this: that we don’t want to do anything that is stupid. We don’t want to do anything that unnecessarily exacerbates our public in this country, the ugly youth. We must realize that as support for what we’re doing—or, shall we put it, as the level of criticism of what we do escalates, it encourages the enemy. And therefore we don’t want that to happen, to the extent that we can mitigate it. On the other hand, we must also realize that in terms of a—of getting ourselves into a position where we can react very strongly to enemy offensive action, we have not been in a better position to do so for a long time. The American people will understand for two reasons: one, because American ground forces are not involved, and therefore we won’t have all that on television; and, second, because of the peace proposal having been made, and having been rather generally supported, and having been reacted to by a step-up in the military. So under these circumstances, we’re now in a position for a period of time which could pass. It might pass in sixty days, it might pass in thirty days. It will last for a period of time where the action we’ve taken, we can take, or the level of activity, is in the air. That’s what we’re talking about.
MOORER: Right, sir.
NIXON: It would be much greater than it otherwise would be. Now, we’ll look—do you want to look at the contingency plan in terms—because it is well to give enormous discretion, because there may be a day or a time when something very sensitive may be discussed on the diplomatic front. It might be, for example, one of the reasons you don’t give them just a blank [unclear] in this thing is that who knows? Maybe not too good a chance, but it could be. But who knows whether or not, perhaps, there can be some nibble in the negotiating. If there is—I’m just using that as an example—you have to be in a position to know whether you want to do it at that time or at another time. That’s what we have to do; we can’t go flat-footed. On the other hand, when we see other contingency plans, let’s see not only what the North, but the South Vietnamese we’ve got, who have been trained, but they’re still somewhat ignorant in terms of modern warfare is concerned, what they have asked for, what General Abrams asked for, but also what the CINCPAC, the Joint Chiefs, and the rest have come up with as to what we can do that we are not doing. That’s why I want to see the Kitty Hawk, we want to see more B-52s, we want to see A-1s, anything that you think.
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Just a minute. Maybe, maybe, maybe we won’t do any of them, but maybe we’ll do all of them. And, also, in terms of the targeting thing, we’ve gone over this before. I think we’ve got two or three plans I know on that issue. I think we’ve got a pretty good range of targets, including the ones you mentioned, but we’ll take another look at the targets, too. Because [unclear] those—if the level of enemy activity is such, and the timing is right, and the weather is dry, we can do quite a bit.
MOORER: Yes, sir, and the most—
NIXON: And we thoroughly intend to do so. The main thing we all have to understand here, is that the greatest miscalculation the North Vietnamese make is that we will pay, on our part, an exorbitant price because of the political situation in the United States. That’s not true.
Because there’s one determination I’ve made: we’re not going to lose out there. I determined that long ago. We wouldn’t have gone into Cambodia; we wouldn’t have gone into Laos, if we had not made that determination. If politics is what was motivating what we were doing, I would have declared, immediately after I took office in January of 1969, that the whole damn thing was the fault of Johnson and Kennedy, it was the “Democrats’ War,” and we’re ending it like Eisenhower ended Korea, and we’re getting the hell out, and let it go down the tube. We didn’t do that. We didn’t do it, because politically, whatever, it would have been wrong for the country, wrong for the world, and so forth and so on, but having come this long way and come to this point, the United States is not going to lose. And that means we will do what is necessary. But we can’t do it in terms of pusillanimous planning and options that are inadequate. So, we want to see what you have. [unclear]
AGNEW: Don’t just write it for the record.
NIXON: No, I know we’re going to write all of this stuff out. We’ll ask for all this, you know, turn down this story that appeared in the New York Times. [unclear] I don’t think anybody else sitting in this chair would have ordered Cambodia or Laos. If we hadn’t had Cambodia or Laos our casualties would be a hundred a week today rather than—
HELMS: At least.
NIXON: —five. So my point is, even with the election facing us, even with the diplomatic initiatives we have, we, we have to win it. We have to be sure we don’t lose here for reasons that affect China. They affect Russia. They affect the Mideast. They affect Europe. That’s what this is all about. Now, having said all that, we—we don’t want to be dumb about it; that’s really what it gets down to, because we have a very delicate public opinion situation in this country. And the—at the moment, it’s a little quieter, but they’ll stir up again.
ROGERS: Mr. President, I’d like, on that score, also, I think if you could impress on President Thieu—he probably knows it, but, as Tom says, this is a critical test. And even if it looks, after this is over with, that we had to come to his rescue, it’s going to cause us trouble getting him additional economic and military aid for him. If he comes out of this looking as if Vietnamization is working, if he is successful, that’s going to help us in our future.
LAIRD: That’s going to help us a lot.
ROGERS: It’s damn important for him to fully understand that—
BUNKER: He understands that. There’s no question—
NIXON: He’s got to win this on his own.
BUNKER: That’s right—
NIXON: That’s right. And, incidentally, as far as our own activities are concerned, do everything. But, fire every goddamn PRO officer in the Defense Department. Don’t talk about it, just do it. You know? Let them in there, but don’t say we had so many sorties and all this thing.
Let the ARVN—if the ARVN pulls this off, let them have the credit. It’s very important that they get the credit. Not our B-52s, not our A-1s, not directly. Let’s do it, but let’s be sure that the ARVN in this instance gets the credit. We’ll get the blame if it fails, but we want them to get the credit. That, also, is very important in terms of your getting the dough for [unclear].
MOORER: At the same time I think we ought to be prepared for Ron Ziegler and the others to—
NIXON: Yeah.
MOORER: —straighten out the record, because—
NIXON: Oh, I know—
MOORER: —I can already see the press is going to try to frame this, you know, pose this as a North Vietnamese victory, no matter how it comes out.
NIXON: I know.
NIXON: Yes. Every, every, every yard of ground that is lost, every hamlet that is captured, every provincial town that may fall will be—that’s part of it. That’s true. And you have the situation, the rather ironic situation—you think of World War I and World War II, and even Korea—remember the Inchon landing—whenever our side won, good God, it was front page and everybody was cheering. It was great. Now, whenever our side wins it’s with the corset ads, and whenever—anytime the enemy does anything good, big, “Wow that’s great.” [unclear] We, we have that situation, you know. We all know. You’re absolutely right about that. But that’s all right. Let me say, the important thing in the long run, though, is to win. The important thing—I’m not going to—the propaganda will hurt for a while and, sure, there’ll be—what Mel has described as spectaculars and the rest, and we don’t want to be Pollyanna-ish about it. Say, “Yeah. This is a hell of a battle. Many battles have been lost.” And just to leave it in the proper context, the—all of you students of military history, I mentioned it before here, remember March 21 [the second battle of the Somme], the period of World War I was the greatest [unclear]. Let’s talk about it. It was supposed to be an enormous defeat. General Joffre was disgraced as a result of it and retired, and, yet, historically, when you look at the fact that in the week, in the two weeks of that battle, they lost four hundred thousand and the Germans lost four hundred thousand. It was the first time they lost so many to the other side. The Germans lost the war because of that battle, because he put everything he had in there and it didn’t break. And so—and so the most important thing here is to remember the headlines may be bad but we will have lost—to hell.
How many times have we lost Cambodia? Good God, I mean, if you look at CBS over the past year—I was looking at it—there have been at least thirty broadcasts that said Phnom Penh’s going to fall. It hasn’t fallen. Maybe it will, but the point is we, we’ve got to face the propaganda. But, we’re talking about just being sure that we’re doing everything we can to see that the ARVN comes through.

“I am simply saying that we expand the definition of protective reaction to mean preventive reaction.”
February 2, 1972, 10:53 a.m.
Richard Nixon, Ellsworth Bunker, and Henry Kissinger

Nixon’s resolve to renew a strong air attack in Vietnam included using the B-52 bomber there for the first time since 1967. America’s brute in the air, a single B-52 could carry over a hundred bombs. The concern, however, was the ability of North Vietnam’s surface-to-air-missile (SAM) installations to shoot down American planes. Before the full force of America’s bombers was exposed, it was crucial to identify the SAM sites and reduce their number, a job that the air force began with dangerous missions to tease out missile launches and then destroy the sites before they could be dismantled and moved. This action, however, and the entire planned air offensive stretched Nixon’s policy of “protective reaction,” which had promised that air strikes would be defensive in nature.

NIXON: One thing we’re hitting on, I think you should know, the—this—don’t say this to anybody—
NIXON: —beyond this meeting.
NIXON: But, we’ve ordered the extra carrier in.
BUNKER: Oh, good.
NIXON: In our briefing. We’ve ordered more B-52s in.
BUNKER: No, I was going to—
NIXON: We’ve ordered A-1—A-1s, and everything. Now, incidentally, I just want to—I think you’ve got to put it toughly. Well, I’ll see Moorer today. I would just double the number of ’52s if necessary, whatever is necessary, so there’s one hell of a show. We’ve got four hundred. I know a lot of them have to be refitted, or whatever we have to do, but get them the hell over there, right now. Let’s have an awesome show of strength. Now, between now and the time we return from China, we cannot hit the North.
NIXON: Nor will I. On the other hand, we can dump everything we’ve got on the South.
NIXON: And I think that—that it seemed to me [unclear] when Moorer came in, from a military standpoint, if they hit in there, our [MR-]3 area, or whatever it’s called, that this saturation bombing over there is bound to kill a hell of a lot of people.
KISSINGER: Well, Mr. President, a lot of this argument about targets is phony, because when they know they have X number of sorties, they gear the targets to the sorties. When they have more planes, they’ll find—they’ll waste a few bombs. If they—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: There’s got to be somewhere in a definable area they’re going to attack.
BUNKER: Yes. Sure.
NIXON: You mean, in other words, having them be—I’d like to see—
KISSINGER: If you have more B-52s—
NIXON: I’d like to see Moorer and Abrams concentrate on just bombing. [unclear] If they’re going to have a battle in a certain area, and they know where the North Vietnamese are, saturate it. Just saturate it. Remember that personnel bomb? Don’t you think so?
KISSINGER: I think so.
NIXON: Instead of screwing around trying to hit a milk truck one time, or, oh, a buffalo the next time, or—you know, some of this bombing is silly. Utterly silly.
BUNKER: Yes, sir. Yes. And the—this B-52 bombing, you know, affects the enemy morale tremendously.
NIXON: Yeah, that’s what I understand.
BUNKER: Yeah, oh yes. And also, Mr. President, as I said yesterday, they’ve done an increasingly good job on this interdiction.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: The trucks they get in, the input—the throughput, it’s a small proportion of the input. They’ve done a fine job on this. This—on this question of bombing with more B-52s, the bombing of these SAM sites becomes important. And one thing that both General Abrams and I—
NIXON: Mm-hmm?
BUNKER: [unclear]
NIXON: Mm-hmm?
BUNKER: —we could get authority to bomb these SAM sites. Now, the authority is for—to bomb them when they fire at aircraft—
NIXON: I saw that.
BUNKER: —when the radar’s locked on. But, the problem is that’s, that’s late to start attacking them.
NIXON: Right.
BUNKER: And the other problem is weather. You’ve got to see them. Now, you’ll sometimes only get an hour a day—
NIXON: Well, my point is, Henry, I think protection and reaction should include the right of the—and Abrams is not going to do something, do something utterly stupid—the right to hit the SAM sites.
BUNKER: Clearly—
NIXON: Nothing—protective—reaction should include preventive reaction.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: I think the way to handle it, Mr. President—I haven’t had a chance to talk to Ellsworth, yet—is that, one, is to give them a blanket authority. That has the disadvantage—
NIXON: It’ll get out.
BUNKER: Definitely.
KISSINGER: —of getting out and also—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —of—it’s doing that, something when we are in China. The other is, right now they can only hit when the radar is locked on—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —and that’s very restrictive because that means that the plane which is in trouble also has to fire. The third possibility is to say that Abrams can hit any SAM site that has locked on, even if it is no longer locked on. In other words, if a—and—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: Would that broaden it up?
KISSINGER: —and use high explosives, too. Right now they can use only Shrikes.
BUNKER: It—this is one thing we would like to do.
[unclear exchange]
BUNKER: Here are these locations of the SAM sites here.
NIXON: Have all of these fired at some time on our planes?
BUNKER: No. Now, but they’ve—but we’ve located it.
NIXON: Yeah?
BUNKER: That mean is their range. So, the B-52s have got to keep out of this.
NIXON: Yeah, I see.
BUNKER: And what, what Abrams would like to have is authority to bomb these SAM sites within the nineteen nautical miles of the border.
BUNKER: You see? [unclear]
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Could he knock it off while we’re in China? And not to hit [unclear]—
BUNKER: Oh, yes. Yes.
NIXON: Could he do it now, though?
BUNKER: He could do it now, and he can stop.
NIXON: I don’t think they should be doing it while we’re in China.
BUNKER: No, no.
NIXON: The only thing in China, it should only be protective reaction—
KISSINGER: But couldn’t—?
NIXON: —in the technical sense, but right now, counteractions are to be stopped—
KISSINGER: But couldn’t we stage it, as long as we in this room agree, and on the grounds that they have fired, rather than—
NIXON: I want him to say—no. No. What he [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Or that they have—
NIXON: He is to say, we—he is to call all of these things “protective reaction.”
NIXON: Just call it “protective reaction.”
BUNKER: That’s what it is, really.
NIXON: Tell that to him, because preventive reaction—
BUNKER: [unclear]
NIXON: I am simply saying that we expand the definition of protective reaction to mean preventive reaction, where a SAM site is concerned. And I think that, but let’s be sure that anything that is done there it’s best to call an ordinary protective reaction. Who the hell’s going to say that they didn’t fire?
KISSINGER: No, but could they stop from blabbing it at every bloody briefing?
BUNKER: Yes, absolutely—
NIXON: Yeah. Why do we have to put—? You tell him I don’t want it put out anymore.
BUNKER: Right.
NIXON: Tell him—I want you to tell Abrams when you get back, he is to tell the military not to put out extensive briefings with regard to our military activities from now till we get back from China. Do it, but don’t say it.
NIXON: Goddamn it, he can do that.
NIXON: Because, goddamn it, these PRO officers blab.
[unclear exchange]
BUNKER: Yeah, sure, and, you see, Mr. President, there are about—the enemy has about 168 SAM sites. They’ve got some in southern Laos, 3 in southern Laos, now. Now, they’ve got about 28 of them manned, but they can move these anywhere within six hours from one site to another, and that’s what they do.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
BUNKER: [unclear]
NIXON: Henry, we need—
BUNKER: The B-52s are very vulnerable.
NIXON: If we lose a ’52, I’ll never forgive myself for not knocking those sites out. [unclear]
KISSINGER: I have no problem with it.
NIXON: All right. Your problem is you don’t want it done while we’re in China? Is that it?
KISSINGER: I don’t want it done—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —from the seventeenth, from the time you leave—
NIXON: Yeah.
BUNKER: Yup, until you get back.
KISSINGER: —until you get back.
NIXON: All right, between now and the seventeenth—
NIXON: —you work out the authority.
NIXON: He can hit SAM sites, period. Okay?
NIXON: But he is not to build it up publicly for the duration [unclear]. And, if it does get out, to the extent it does, he says it’s a protective reaction strike.
NIXON: He is to describe it as protective reaction, and he doesn’t have to spell out that they’ve struck. After all, it is a SAM site, a protective reaction strike against a SAM site. As you know, when we were hitting the [Mu] Gia Pass and the rest, we’d call that protective reaction—
NIXON: —and then bomb the hell out of a lot of other stuff.
NIXON: Okay?
NIXON: So what we want is protective reaction. Fair enough?
KISSINGER: Fair enough.
NIXON: So he’s got about two weeks—about ten days, now—
NIXON: —to [unclear]. From the seventeenth until the first of March, he’s dead—
NIXON: —as far as North Vietnam is concerned. But then tell him to get those damn bombers and start hitting something in South Vietnam, and hit it good. Yeah?
BUNKER: Yeah, sure. In the B-3 Front, and, of course, in Laos, too.
NIXON: Yeah. In the B-3 Front, and Laos, and don’t forget Cambodia. There’s something to hit there—
BUNKER: Yeah. Yeah.
NIXON: Knock the bejeezus out of it.
BUNKER: Yeah. Right.
NIXON: Now, the other thing, Henry, that we have to remember when we talk to Moorer about the DMZ: we are not going to hit across the DMZ until after we get back from China.
NIXON: [unclear]
NIXON: That’s a silly thing to have—
KISSINGER: No, I think—
NIXON: —we bomb the road [unclear]—
KISSINGER: I have no problem with hitting on the northern side of the DMZ.
NIXON: Will you—
NIXON: Yeah?
KISSINGER: —short of the border.
NIXON: That’s what I meant. I think we should cover the whole DMZ. Now, would you make that in our—in the talk with Moorer this afternoon?
NIXON: And, at least, let’s blunt that offensive a bit. You know? They’ve said, “Well, we can hit the road, but [unclear].” It’s a lot—I agree they can fix the road up quickly, but it’s more difficult if you hit it all the time.
KISSINGER: Well, yeah. It’s—that’s—
NIXON: Also, if the enemy knows you’re only going to hit south of that dividing line, they can all be in a perfect sanctuary north of it. So hit it.
KISSINGER: I don’t think—I don’t know what Ellsworth believes—that they will attack in I Corps before the middle of March.
BUNKER: I think, I think that’s about it, yes. Maybe the first of March on. The weather gets better then.
NIXON: Well, we’re going to be back—
BUNKER: Sometime in March. No, I think that’s—oh, sure. Yeah. Sure. Well, that’ll be fine, I think. It’s great.
NIXON: We will see that the authorities are adequate. I can assure you that the authorities will be adequate. We will see that more planes are put in there, and carriers. Goddamn it, they should have asked for more planes and carriers. Henry, I don’t understand the military.
KISSINGER: Mr. President, if you hadn’t been at the briefing yesterday, that thing was sort of fixed to lead you to the opposite conclusion, but—
NIXON: Oh, I know that we were doing everything we could.
BUNKER: Now, I thought it was great. I got tremendously encouraged from—when you moved in on it, I must say.
NIXON: Well, they have to do it. Now we—but I’m just concerned that we haven’t— well, the one carrier, it’s got to be on its way now, you know. [unclear]
KISSINGER: It will be there before the end of the month.
NIXON: Okay.
BUNKER: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: Which is about as fast as they can get it there—
NIXON: Full speed.
NIXON: Because they go out there and get ready, then boy. And those little naval pilots can hit better than the air force pilots, too, you know. They really know how to target—
BUNKER: They’re good. Yes.
NIXON: They’re fantastic.
KISSINGER: And they discover targets once you—once they’ve got the plane. That’s the question of priorities.
NIXON: Explain that again.
KISSINGER: Right now, they’ll always tell you they’re hitting every target they get. But, they also know that they have certain limitations.
NIXON: Oh, I see.
NIXON: So, if they’ve got more planes, they’ll find more targets?
KISSINGER: That’s my guess—
KISSINGER: —what do you think?
BUNKER: Yeah, that’s for sure.
KISSINGER: And for the next three months, we are better off wasting bombs—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: —than we—
NIXON: Well, I would very much like to have in the B-3 Front—if that’s what it’s called—I’d really like to have some saturation bombing now. I mean, just take—take it off of everything else, and for a couple of nights, just bomb the bejeezus out of where they’d invade. There are two or three divisions there.
NIXON: They’ve pinned them. We ought to be able to just frighten the hell out of them—

“It’s going to be psychologically damn impressive.”
February 9, 1972, 11:00 a.m.
Richard Nixon and Alexander Haig

For twenty-four hours, starting at 6:00 a.m. on February 9, American pilots conducted a massive assault in eighty-four sorties, most of them against enemy targets in the hotly contested central highlands of South Vietnam. It was the biggest show of American air power in six months, but as Nixon knew, it was only the precursor to a far bigger air campaign. For that reason, he was especially nervous about it.

NIXON: Al, I wanted to ask you, how about that, the B-3 strike. Is it going to get off? Or do we hear yet, or what?
HAIG: Yes, sir. As of now, it’s on schedule and the weather is favorable, and that would be the only thing that would—
NIXON: Stop it. Right.
HAIG: —cause it to be postponed.
NIXON: And that’d be starting tonight then, or—
HAIG: Yes, sir—
NIXON: Or today?
HAIG: At six o’clock our time.
NIXON: Good. Good. Good. And you’re convinced now that they’re gonna carry that out and do—and, at least, do their—
HAIG: They’re delighted with it—
NIXON: —do their best to concentrate, will they?
HAIG: Yes. They want to do it because they want to first exercise the system completely to a max surge.
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: And to enhance their responsiveness.
NIXON: Are they—?
HAIG: They’re in total agreement with it; they just think it’s great—
NIXON: Have they—Al, have they been, do you think they have really now looked around to see if they’ve got any targets in the damn area?
HAIG: Yes, sir, they do—
NIXON: I mean—
HAIG: —they have fixes—
NIXON: —being there must be if—there must be with all the infiltration. And if they’re expecting a thing, aren’t there—there must be troops, that’s what I mean. I realize those are secondary targets, but goddamn it if you hit enough of ’em they’re not.
HAIG: No, sir. I think they’ve got some good targets. General—I talked to Admiral Moorer last evening. He said they’re very pleased. They have communications fixes on regimental and division headquarters, and they’re just gonna pour it in there for forty-eight hours.
NIXON: Yeah. What is the advantage of doing forty-eight? You know, if you hit them, you mean that they will then try to—wouldn’t they, wouldn’t they move out? I’m just—I’m just figuring, trying to figure out how does it work.
HAIG: Well, what they hope to do, sir, is to put this concentrated load in at max effort.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: They are going to have to, to recycle a little bit—
NIXON: Sure—
HAIG: —and if they wanted to get a read from the communications—
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: —it’ll give them a sharp new communications [unclear]—
NIXON: Yeah, the intelligence. I see—
HAIG: That’s right. And then they can do it again. And then, you know, I think General Abrams—
NIXON: Yeah?
HAIG: —wants to do this.
NIXON: Yeah. Well, that’s good—
HAIG: I think it’s going to be a very effective psychological—if not even, if they miss, it’s going to be psychologically damn impressive.
NIXON: Because why? Because—?
HAIG: Well, the enemy has not seen—they’ve been deceived, because as we’ve drawn down we have held down our sortie levels.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
HAIG: Laird’s done that for economic reasons, but—
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: —Abrams has actually gone along with it.
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: So, I think they have the impression that perhaps we’re a lot weaker than we are. And when they get hit with this kind of a massive firepower demonstration, they’re gonna know—
NIXON: Yeah.
HAIG: —at the outset what price they’re going to have to pay.
NIXON: When they start. I get it.
HAIG: And they have picked up already that there’s a third carrier in the Tonkin Gulf, and a fourth on the way.
HAIG: Now, this is—this is a hell of a [laughs]—
NIXON: The North Vietnamese know this?
HAIG: Yes, sir. I’m sure they do—
NIXON: That’s good.
HAIG: The press has picked it up.
NIXON: The press has? Good.
HAIG: Yes, sir.
NIXON: That’s good. That’s good. That’s more of that psychological bull.
HAIG: That’s right—

“The Beijing move did it.”
February 14, 1972, 1:04 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

One week before Nixon was scheduled to travel to Beijing for his much-anticipated summit, he and Kissinger discussed new overtures that unexpectedly came to the White House from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong negotiators at the Paris Peace Talks. One apparently came from the Viet Cong’s chief negotiator, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Binh, possibly out of concern that the United States and China would strike their own bargain. The president also thought that the increased air war in Vietnam had made a difference in the attitude of the negotiators.

KISSINGER: Well, you remember, Mr. President, before this—before this move, I said that I figured that they would make a move between the Beijing, and the Moscow summit, that they didn’t want to settle this before the Beijing summit, which would have given the impression that the Beijing, that the Beijing move did it for her.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: And they probably don’t want to be in the position at Moscow—in the Moscow summit where you and Brezhnev conceivably pressure them. That Brezhnev letter to you last week was extraordinarily mild.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: In fact, it didn’t give them any support. It just quoted what the North Vietnamese were saying but it didn’t say that the Soviets endorsed it. You remember, I said that before this. And therefore my calculation has always been: one, that they’d make a move between the two summits. Secondly, that there was something like a fifty–fifty chance that they’d settle before the election. In fact the way I put it to myself was if it looked as if you would probably win or possibly win, they’ll settle before November. If it looked as if the other side would probably or possibly win, they’d certainly not settle before November. If it was a stalemate, then I would guess they’d still try to settle before November because it’s too risky to have you back in office unconstrained. But what you’ve done in the last few weeks is strip away the secret negotiations, to attack your domestic problems. In this respect, what Bob [Haldeman] did was tremendously helpful with Hanoi because it showed that we are going for broke at home. That we are not just going to sit there and let ourselves be chopped—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: —and this massive movement of air power.
NIXON: Yes, and that helped. I know.
KISSINGER: We’ve moved thirty-five B-52s to Guam. We’ve taken—
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Yep. Yep, we’ve put two more aircraft carriers on station. We only moved one out there, but they’ve always had one on leave. We’ve canceled all leave. That’s how the news hit about the one coming back from Hong Kong.
NIXON: We’ve only had one out there?
KISSINGER: Well we had—actually, we had one on stage, one being repaired, and one on leave.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: And there will be another one in San Diego. Now we have four on station.
NIXON: Well not yet.
KISSINGER: Well we will have on March 1. But we have three on station within another week. So I think this whole combination of events—their fear of the pressure. It isn’t just that for the first time our dealings with them, in two administrations, that they have asked for a meeting. All previous meetings we’ve asked for. But also that they have asked for lunch. I mean, I know, Mr. President—I’m not saying they’re going to settle. I’m saying if nothing else happens except that they’ve invited me to lunch, it means we have a month of no offensive, almost certainly. It means that they—
NIXON: You’ll get a hell of a tip against—
KISSINGER: The probability is, Mr. President, that this is not going to be the only meeting. We have never had just one meeting with them.
NIXON: But the thing I’m thinking, though, Henry, is that they may be willing for other reasons—
[unclear exchange]
NIXON: —with the hope that we will lay off our preemptive air strikes.
KISSINGER: They think you are getting ready to club the North Vietnamese. There’s no question about that.
NIXON: That’s right. But now I’m not sure we want to wait.
KISSINGER: Oh, I wouldn’t—we can wait till the eighth.
NIXON: Well I—you can’t wait too late because then you’ll have it just before the Russian [unclear]—
KISSINGER: Mr. President, you’re coming back on March 1. Presumably you’ll report to the nation on the second or third.
NIXON: Is that right? I don’t know.
KISSINGER: I don’t know what the date is. But you wouldn’t want to divert everybody that week anyway.
KISSINGER: So we’re talking about a week or two.
NIXON: Right.
NIXON: All right. Understand, I’m just trying to see what would go through their minds if they’re trying to screw us.
KISSINGER: Well I think, Mr. President—
NIXON: [unclear] The second thing it made me think of was that—they must, in other words, you’ve got to assume that their purpose is not to invite you to talk. Their purpose is to keep us from doing something else. One is that they’re afraid that we’re going to hit the North. Fine, they’ve accomplished that purpose.
KISSINGER: Yeah, but we won’t do more than twenty-four or forty-eight hours anyway.
NIXON: What? I know that. But what I mean is, what I mean is if that occurs—now that’s interesting. The other thing is, if you put it to them on this offensive thing—I can’t believe that they would tell you on the other side of the coin, now I might be wrong, but they would have you for a private meeting and then proceed to kick the hell out of us.
KISSINGER: It’s almost inconceivable.
NIXON: How could they? Because that’s why [unclear].
KISSINGER: Absolutely.
NIXON: Because if, for example, let’s put it another way. If you accepted the meeting and then they kicked the hell out of us and then we canceled we’re in a [unclear] if you warn them in advance. Right?
KISSINGER: That’s right. Mr. President, you’ve been very tough with them. You know, we canceled this Thursday’s meeting because of the Versailles conference. I mean, we’re just—we have to look at it through their eyes. They must think we are looking for an excuse to kill them in the North.
NIXON: You think so?
KISSINGER: Oh, yeah. The last few times we canceled meetings we’ve then hit them for five days. I believe that our December strikes did a hell of a lot more damage to them than our idiotic air force will admit.
NIXON: [laughs]
KISSINGER: Because if they hadn’t they would have had people there looking at their holes.
NIXON: Yeah. That they didn’t amount to anything?
KISSINGER: That they didn’t amount to anything. That they hit the open fields. That they hit peasant houses. That they wanted the French to protect them and the French said let’s look at where the damage is, they refused to show them. And we’ve had another report that has been particularly—they inflicted enormous casualties on some troop barracks. Now, I wouldn’t place this report in the absolute context that it is, I didn’t put it in here—
NIXON: Sure.
KISSINGER: —because you don’t want to bother with these things.
NIXON: I know.
KISSINGER: So they are worried that you may go for broke against them in the North.
NIXON: Mm-hmm.
KISSINGER: And that they want to stop. On the other hand, you and I know that you were going to go for broke against the North. So that what they’re going to stop is not something we wanted to do.
NIXON: That’s right.
KISSINGER: Secondly, they are terrified that when all is said and done, Beijing and Moscow are not going to let them screw up the whole détente.
NIXON: You think so?
KISSINGER: Yeah. After all—
NIXON: I must say, when you read though, totally all the records of Zhou Enlai’s comments and so forth [unclear], it’s a hard-line goddamn thing.
KISSINGER: Well it’s hard-line. But in practice—
NIXON: On the other hand, they show that they are susceptible to [unclear]. They always show that we make big promises that we can’t keep, and we never do this. And yet, their behavior in the India-Pakistan thing was goddamn timid.
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: They talked about the Russians being timid. They were timid. Zhou Enlai told you in July that they would not stand idly by. And then he went on and [unclear]. And then afterwards admitted Bhutto let you down. Now they know what the hell they did.
KISSINGER: Oh, exactly. So—but also the North, actually with respect to the North Vietnamese, you’d have to read the whole record. What they do is they’re asking for [unclear] the things we are going to do anyway. Like troop withdrawal.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: They’ve never done much about the political conditions.
NIXON: Yeah, I noticed that. I noticed that.
KISSINGER: So the Chinese are building up a fierce record on those issues, which are not contested, and they have been no help to the North Vietnamese. They killed their seven points by having the announcement of your July—of your visit of July 15. So that the North Vietnamese will not forgive. I believe that they did make an effort to get them to negotiate because for about six weeks after you were there—after your announcement of July 15, the North Vietnamese press were beside themselves. Then in November after I was there for another six weeks the North Vietnamese press was yelling at them.
Then Pham Van Dong went to Beijing and in public speeches never declared complete identity of interest between the two countries. It’s only in the last few weeks as we are going there that Beijing has been making some noises. But even so when I proposed that if Le Duc Tho was in Beijing that I was prepared to meet with him there, they sent back a very mild reply saying we are not going to meddle in the Vietnamese war but you could read it both ways. And the reason I sent that message was so that if the Russians came through with an invitation to meet in Moscow, we could then go to Beijing and say we offered it to you first. On the other hand, I believe the more we can get the Russians to press for a meeting in Moscow, which they want for their reasons, the more eager Hanoi will be to have the meeting in Paris because Hanoi will under no circumstances in my view settle in either of the other Communist capitals.
NIXON: I see.
KISSINGER: So the reason I’m going—I’m going to see Dobrynin tomorrow and I’m going to put it to him again that I’m eager to meet them in Moscow. And I’ll bet it’s a poker game. It’s a way of—I already know they proposed a meeting in Paris.
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: There isn’t a chance of a snowball in hell that they will accept a meeting in Moscow. They’ve already objected in October so they—
NIXON: Did it work?
KISSINGER: But if Moscow proposes a meeting, it’s to them a sign that Moscow is eager to settle. I’m certain that Moscow is playing such a big game that they are not going to let Hanoi screw it up in May. So they’re up against a whole series of deadlines. Then they see you—if you look at the press, say look at Time and Newsweek this week, it’s a little play on the State of the World report, which is on the whole positive. But above all it’s China. So they know for the next three weeks.

The American role in Asia
February 14, 1972, 4:09 p.m.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

In preparation for the trip to China on February 21, Nixon and Kissinger discussed aspects of the diplomacy, from major issues to strategic details to basic agreements on wording. It was a seminal conversation in which they described the interlocking policies related to nations across Asia. Nixon had just finished a meeting with André Malraux, a French writer who had served as the French minister of culture during the 1960s. Known as much for mendacity as for eloquence, Malraux had a checkered reputation.

NIXON: When he [Malraux] said, you know, he said, “You will meet a colossus, but he’s [Mao] a colossus facing death.” And then he said, “You know what will impress him most about you? That you are so young!” [laughter] Isn’t that something! God almighty, that’s a commentary on the leadership of the world these days. It’s all too damn old. But—
KISSINGER: You will find, Mr. President, that these people are the—
NIXON: What would he think if he could see Kennedy?
KISSINGER: He would have thought Kennedy was a lightweight.
NIXON: You think so?
KISSINGER: Mao would have had total disdain for Kennedy. He would have felt about him the way De Gaulle did. De Gaulle had absolutely no use for Kennedy.
NIXON: Oh, I found him very interesting.
KISSINGER: These historical figures can’t be bluffed, and they won’t fall for pretty phrases. And these Chinese, I mean the only security they have at this moment is our understanding of the international situation. The tactical details are relatively unimportant. And you will find that even Zhou, of course, I’ve never met Mao, will always begin with a general discussion—
NIXON: You know, it’s a very strong speech—
KISSINGER: And, but not—
NIXON: One thing to note that is very important, though I even felt that Malraux who is basically, you know, has raised hell about Vietnam and not to mention anything else, and I know all that. But also, everybody is ready to say the United States should get the hell out here, and everybody says—but I think you’ve got to always try to stand very firmly on the point, do you want the United States as an island with no—
KISSINGER: No foreigner wanted us to get out anywhere. It’s our domestic—
NIXON: He didn’t want us to get out of Japan. He didn’t want us to get out of Europe. He wants the United States to play a role, a role in the world. He only says let it be an intelligent role.
KISSINGER: It’s our domestic critics who don’t understand anything, who want us to get out—
NIXON: I don’t believe it; it’s a matter of fact. I believe, I believe, well, the Chinese I noticed there throughout the thing, the United States should withdraw from all nations. They don’t really believe that. They can’t really believe that.
KISSINGER: Well you—Zhou said to me, we need a general principle, but the troops we are worried about are the million troops on our northern frontier. While we’re there, Mr. President, I should seek an occasion to give them some information about the disposition of Soviet forces on their frontier.
NIXON: They’re worried; I should say so.
KISSINGER: You shouldn’t do it. But I’m going to get from Helms—
NIXON: I think that what I would like to do though, the way I would do it, is to say—
KISSINGER: You ordered it.
NIXON: I ordered this for our trip and I would like for Dr. Kissinger to give it to [unclear] or whoever you want.
KISSINGER: Yes, but only at a private meeting.
NIXON: Oh yes, at a private, well, I’ll say it.
KISSINGER: No, you should say it at a private meeting, not in a plenary session.
NIXON: Well, I hope it wasn’t too painful for you. It is hard when a man has a—I mean, you feel for the poor guy, he’s got such a [unclear] fighting it all the time.
KISSINGER: I found it—
NIXON: I admire a guy who goes over physical disability. You know, it’s painful for him to talk?
KISSINGER: I found it fascinating; I didn’t find it at all painful. First of all, I completely agree with him in his analysis of these people. Now, you have a tendency, if I may say so, Mr. President, to lump them and the Russians. They’re a different phenomenon—
NIXON: No, I know.
KISSINGER: They’re just as dangerous. In fact, they’re more dangerous over a historical period. But the Russians don’t think they’re lovable, and the Russians don’t have inward security. The Russians are physical, and they want to dominate physically. What they can’t dominate, they don’t really know how to handle. The Chinese are much surer of themselves, because they’ve been a great power all their history. And, being Confucians, they really believe that virtue is power.
NIXON: [unclear]
KISSINGER: Now, their present philosophy is different from Confucianism, but the basic principles, that if you have the correct principles, you can dominate the world. It’s still inbred in their civilization.
NIXON: I realize that. I think—
KISSINGER: No, as far as he’s concerned, that’s correct, but I just, I’m just taking the liberty of saying this for the action when you deal with them. I think, in a historical period, they are more formidable than the Russians. And I think in twenty years your successor, if he’s as wise as you, will wind up leaning towards the Russians against the Chinese. For the next fifteen years we have to lean towards the Chinese against the Russians. We have to play this balance-of-power game totally unemotionally. Right now, we need the Chinese to correct the Russians and to discipline the Russians.
NIXON: You know, looking at the situation in Vietnam, I suppose if we had only known the way the war would’ve, was going to be conducted, that we would have to say that it was a mistake to get into it. The way—
KISSINGER: Yeah. Oh, yeah—
NIXON: The way it was conducted, correct?
KISSINGER: That’s right.
NIXON: Because the way it’s been conducted has cost us too much, compared to what it would cost to let it go. However, having taken it where we found it, we had no other choice. You know, you wonder, after you read Malraux and, of course, you remember De Gaulle saying, and we were there at the palace—
KISSINGER: Mr. President—
NIXON: —he said you should get out; you should wipe your hands of it and so forth.
KISSINGER: I am sure that historians—you wouldn’t have had the China initiative without it. It’s the demonstration of strength. The Chinese are torn about us. The reason we had to be so tough in India-Pakistan, for example, is to prove to them that we could be relevant in Asia. On the one hand, they want us out of Asia as a threat. On the other, they need us close enough so that they know we can do something. They don’t want us back on the West Coast, because if we’re back on the West Coast we’re just a nice, fat, rich country of no concern to them. And I am convinced that the history books, if we don’t collapse now this year, if the whole thing doesn’t fall apart, is going to record the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam on the same caliber, at least, of De Gaulle’s behavior in Algeria. It took him five years to get out of there. And after all, I think that game isn’t, isn’t over. I think we’ve, they’ve come to us now, that’s a fact. That’s a significant fact—
NIXON: Damn right. Well, whatever it is you said this morning, you saw much more through it than I did, and Bob [Haldeman] saw it too, that regardless of how it comes out, it gives us a two-edged sword for our enemies at home. My God, the fact that they asked for this meeting—
KISSINGER: And it won’t break up right away. They cannot possibly want me at a meeting, unless they have something to say. It’s not their style. So, what we’re going to get out of this is another series of meetings.
NIXON: Of course, you say another series of meetings. We have to remember that now time is running out. There isn’t a hell of a lot we can do about it, is there?
KISSINGER: Well, but they must know that, too. I mean, we’re coming now to the—
NIXON: Yeah.
KISSINGER: We’re going to get it to a point where you’ll have to say yes or no to some difficult [unclear]—
NIXON: Yeah, that’s right. We do want to remember that the meetings are enormously important to us in terms of the POWs. And they’ve got to know that.
KISSINGER: Well, we, Mr. President, you always correctly express concern, are they stringing us along? If we have to draw up a balance sheet of the meeting, I think we gained a hell of a lot more from the secret meetings than they did. In fact, I don’t see what they gained out of the secret meetings. They didn’t prevent Cambodia. They didn’t prevent Laos. They didn’t prevent anything we really wanted to do. They gave us a tremendous coup in public opinion, which is an important weapon in this war. And they settled six of eight points. I think we’re not too far [apart]. If they are willing to maintain a non-Communist structure in the South for a while, I think we can find a solution.
NIXON: He [Malraux] obviously feels that China is inevitably going to dominate Southeast Asia. Do you agree?
KISSINGER: I think that’s true.
NIXON: You think so? Maybe they’re just going to gobble them up?
KISSINGER: No, but I think eight hundred million people confronting thirty million people—
NIXON: No, but I meant how? By subversion?
KISSINGER: By subversion, by cultural example.
NIXON: So they’ll go Communist? You also ought to remember that there’s a strong pull the other way. One system works a little bit better than the other one [laughs].
KISSINGER: Yeah, but it’s a—
NIXON: That, of course, is the big argument.
KISSINGER: But we’ll be so weak—
NIXON: The reason Japan will not go the other way is the Japanese are going to like their living too damn well to turn toward the Communist system. Don’t you agree?
KISSINGER: I think the Japanese could do surprising things. I don’t think they’ll do it. They’ll begin competing with the Chinese. But I think our immediate problem is we can get out of it with an interim period where we are not the ones that have thrown our friends to the wolves.
NIXON: I agree.
KISSINGER: There is a possibility—I don’t think the Chinese are in a condition for five years to put real pressure on Southeast Asia, and even then—
NIXON: What do you think of his argument to the effect that the Chinese foreign policy is all posture?
KISSINGER: There’s a lot to that, but—
NIXON: I brought up, you know, that deal of his, which I thought was a nice little point. Where he said they had two thousand dancers and three hundred thousand people in the street for the king, for the president of Somalia. [During their conversation, Nixon and Malraux discussed a passage in the latter’s book that concerned a visit by the prime minister of Somalia to the People’s Republic of China. Malraux observed that this was “nothing but speeches and receptions for small chiefs of state.”]
KISSINGER: Our concern with China right now, in my view, Mr. President, is to use it as a counterweight to Russia, not for its local policy.
NIXON: I agree.
KISSINGER: As a counterweight, to keep it in play in the subcontinent for the time being. But above all as a counterweight to Russia. And, the fact that it doesn’t have a global policy is an asset to us, that it doesn’t have global strength yet. And to prevent Russia from gobbling it up. If Russia dominates China, that would be a fact of such tremendous significance.
NIXON: Well, quite frankly, Henry, if Russia or China dominated Japan that would have to be a factor and have enormous significance to us.
KISSINGER: That’s right. I think, Mr. President—
NIXON: It would be in our interests; it is important to us to maintain the Japanese alliance.
KISSINGER: The decision you made that Sunday morning, when we asked you what you would do in case China came in, and you in effect said we’d back it. That is the decision some future president may have to make, or it may be you in your second term. And I think it’s gonna be a tough one, but we may be able to bring it off without the decision having to be made.
NIXON: Yeah. Malraux, of course, has seen every top leader in the world. I suppose going over back to 1918. He’s seventy years old. He started to write, when he was twenty, in 19[unclear]. You know he spent three years in prison in Cambodia for stealing sacred art, trying to take a sacred art object out of the country when he was twenty-two years old. But you know it’s really a nice thing, in a way, for this old man. Any—I say “old man,” but this man who has seen so much, who is out, you know, on the shelf, to be invited over here, to—
KISSINGER: I thought your questions were very intelligent.
NIXON: I was trying to keep him going, because—
KISSINGER: Well, you did it very beautifully.
NIXON: —I know he was having a hard time talking.
KISSINGER: That, incidentally, is a good method to use with Zhou too, because that’s not too strong, understated.
NIXON: We’ll try to be a little more subtle about it.
KISSINGER: No, no, well, maybe a little more—
NIXON: Except that we cannot, we cannot be too apologetic about America’s world role. We cannot, either in the past, or in the present, or in the future. We cannot be too forthcoming in terms of what America will do. Well, in other words, beat our breasts, wear a hair shirt, and well, we’ll withdraw, and we’ll do this, and that, and the other thing. Because I think we have to say that, well, “who does America threaten? Who would you rather have playing this role?” I mean there’s a lot of people that could look at their hole cards here. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to consider about the American role that they—

KISSINGER: No. I don’t think he [Connally] can even deal well with the Europeans. I think he’s the best man in your cabinet, and I like him personally, but foreign relations is not, quite honestly, in my judgment—
NIXON: He picks it up as he goes along.
KISSINGER: He’s very pugnacious. It, uh, the phrase we have in there is that the United States retains its abiding interest in a peaceful settlement.
NIXON: Yes, that’s fine.
NIXON: Then, tell me—could I ask you one other thing? What have you done with regards to Rogers in terms of the communiqué?
KISSINGER: I’ve just shown him the Formosa section.
NIXON: What’s he say he wants to do with it? Is he trying to rewrite it?
NIXON: Has he offered you anything?
KISSINGER: Yeah, but it’s totally, I mean, it’s ridiculous. They’ll never accept it. We can take part of it.
NIXON: What, I’m sorry you offered it to him. I was going to, I should have gotten it sooner. I would not have shown him the sections that you have. You’ve shown him the ones that Haig has worked on?
KISSINGER: No, no, that I haven’t shown him. I’ve shown him the first draft of theirs [the PRC’s]. So, if they accept the Haig, the one we’ve sent through Haig [in his early January trip to the PRC], that will be a big improvement over what he’s seen. And he [Rogers] hasn’t seen that.
NIXON: Well, what’s he want to put in, has he said?
KISSINGER: Well, what he wants to put in is to get a Chinese commitment that they will not use force in the settlement of the dispute, and that’s almost inconceivable. I mean it’s not that they—
NIXON: On the other hand, after it’s over, and after we get out of there, we could certainly agree to the effect that, well, if they do use force, then we have a treaty with Formosa.
NIXON: I mean, we’re not giving up on our treaty.

A visit from the Taiwanese ambassador
March 6, 1972, 4:00 p.m.
Richard Nixon, James Shen, and Henry Kissinger

James Shen, the Taiwanese ambassador, had received a degree in journalism at the University of Missouri in 1936. He understood both the United States and the tenuous position that his own nation occupied in the new era of rapprochement between the United States and China. In his first visit to the White House since Nixon’s trip to Beijing, Shen was looking for assurances of continued U.S. loyalty. Nixon and Kissinger responded nervously, knowing that they had said things in private during the trip which gave Zhou Enlai reason to believe that the loyalties of the United States were already tilting away from Taiwan. Shen, for his part, was always polite but rarely fooled. He subtitled his memoir How the U.S. Sold Out Its Ally.

KISSINGER: Before you see him [Shen], I didn’t want to bother you, but I should tell you that the Chinese [PRC] have called us, that they have an urgent message to give us, which can only be delivered by their ambassador [to the UN, Huang Hua]. So I have to send somebody else up there [to New York]. And the North Vietnamese have asked to see us, almost concurrently. I’m really very worried that this public linking of Taiwan to Vietnam, which we promised them we wouldn’t do, which State did on Thursday [March 2].
NIXON: Which what? State did?
KISSINGER: You know, the State Department spokesman said that the six thousand troops [on Taiwan] would be unrelated. You hinted at it.
NIXON: Yeah, I hinted at it, I did. I take some responsibility on it.