Thursday, April 15, 1971 - 7:31pm - 7:33pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone



President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: Mr. President, Mr. [George] Shultz is en route back to his office and I have Dr. [Henry] Kissinger on for you.1

President Nixon: Yeah.

Operator: Here you are.

Henry Kissinger: Hello.

President Nixon: Hello, Henry?

Kissinger: Yes, Mr. President.

President Nixon: I just wanted to ask you how'd you get along with Newsweek? Are you still there?

Kissinger: No, he's just left, uh, oh I got along, uh -

President Nixon: You shaking?

Kissinger: Oh yeah. [Nixon laughs] Oh, I really gave him hell, and he said, and I believe him, he said when it's in the international section there's almost nothing that can be done because Christopher2 is practically a pacifist, their foreign affairs editor.

President Nixon: Christopher, I see.

Kissinger: While if it's in the national section, then it's more balanced, and that is true because the week before they covered Laos in the national section.

President Nixon: I see.

Kissinger: And so, he said, well, in any event don't worry about it because I have concluded Vietnam has disappeared from the front pages forever.

President Nixon: He said that?

Kissinger: [Chuckles] Yeah.

President Nixon: I'll be damned. They're, of course, overreacting, aren't they?

Kissinger: Yes.

President Nixon: You know, isn't it funny?

Kissinger: But you see -

President Nixon: Henry, you know, we don't realize, I think China more than Moscow is a goddamned, uh, nerve, uh, thing for these people, what do you think? I don't know.

Kissinger: Because it's so new.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And of course there's -

President Nixon: And of course, let's face it, in the long run it's so historic, you know when you stop to think of 800 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 -

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger:—is that it is conceivable, indeed it is very possible, that they know Hanoi is going to make a peace move and they don't want to be left out.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm. Yeah. Well, that'll, that'll take care of itself. Getting back to the Russian thing, I, uh, I was concerned about the Tass thing, I don't know how—how are, are you concerned that much, are we, are, are we, uh, let's, or do we, uh, wait, can you call Vorontsov3 again and, or that would be too far?

Kissinger: No, I think it would make us look too eager, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Well, I don't want them to think though that, you know what I mean, maybe you should call, call Dobrynin.4

Kissinger: No, Mr. President -

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: I've called Dobrynin once.

President Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: I've had, I've had Vorontsov in—

President Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: I've called Vorontsov this morning

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: And I've had Ziegler5 put out a statement -

President Nixon: Right, that's enough, OK.

Kissinger: And I think any more would really be over eager.

President Nixon: Yeah, and now at this point, basically Tass is simply—but Tass, that shows that they must be hysterical about this damn thing, huh?

Kissinger: That's right, that's right.

President Nixon: Because they said this removed the mask of U.S.-China, shit, we don't have any relations with the Chinese.

Kissinger: Well, well they -

President Nixon: They must think we're doing something.

Kissinger: Well they're also using it against the Chinese.

President Nixon: Oh, how is 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.

President Nixon: Ah, I see.

Kissinger: So this is part of their internal problem.

President Nixon: I see, so they're saying that we are the, that here are the Chinese colluding with the capitalists.

Kissinger: That's right, I think this was more directed at them.

President 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, but two weeks -

Kissinger: Oh yeah, but of course at the end of those two weeks we may have something else to tell them.

President Nixon: Yeah. But just, uh, so, Hubbard6 thought this was going to take Vietnam out of the play for a while, huh?

Kissinger: For a year.

President Nixon: Really?

Kissinger: Yes.

President Nixon: He must be quite emotional about it.

Kissinger: Oh, god, and he—well I have to say in his defense he is more intelligent than the Time people.

President Nixon: He's somewhat decent, yeah.

Kissinger: And he's really quite decent, and, uh—

President Nixon: And Fentris7 is a snake.

Kissinger: Yeah, and I said to him, look, that, if, if you want to write an interesting story here don't write it as if Chou En-lai8 woke up one morning and decided -

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger:—he's going to have good relations.

President Nixon: Good god.

Kissinger: Write it in terms of a man who's been thinking along these lines since ‘67 and who carefully, deliberately moved in that direction.

President Nixon: That's right. And incidentally, I hope you've mentioned the fact, no Democrat could have done it.

Kissinger: Oh yes, I told him.

President Nixon: And the fact that, here, I have done it because, frankly, the hawks trust me.

Kissinger: [Unclear]

President Nixon: Have you made that point to a few?

Kissinger: Oh, yes, and I said also, it's a success of your speech and of your general policy. If they thought you were on the verge of collapsing they couldn't do it.

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: And I also, I said, too, he remembered that during the campaign you had talked along this line, too.

President Nixon: That's right, Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: And, uh, oh, I -

President Nixon: Well also to Howard K. Smith9 after the July broadcast, do you recall? When I, when I, that we did in, with the four network commentators in California, afterwards I talked about China a bit.

Kissinger: Well, I had clippings, Mr. President, of all the things you've said at news conferences and so forth since you've come in here.

President Nixon: Oh?

Kissinger: And also of what you've said at toasts, to Ceausescu10 and Tito.11

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: And I sort of said, you know, you can assume that he probably said more privately than he said at the toasts.

President Nixon: Right [chuckles].

Kissinger: And—which is putting it mildly.

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: And, uh, oh, he is, uh, he is, uh -

President Nixon: Do you think he wants us to lose?

Kissinger: No, no Hubbard wants us to win.

President Nixon: Really?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: But he's changed then, he didn't want us to win at the beginning, maybe he's one convert then. Why does he want us to win? Because he was really against us a year ago.

Kissinger: Yeah, but I think he's really developed a lot of respect for us.

President Nixon: Do you really?

Kissinger: Absolutely, I don't say this about Fentris.

President Nixon: No, no, well Fentris is a snake, and I know, he's always been a snake.

Kissinger: But I'd say it about him.

President Nixon: Very interesting.

Kissinger: And -

President Nixon: Why does he want us to win?

Kissinger: Well, I think he, he likes the fact that you've stuck to your guns and, uh, he's developed a grudging respect. You're an acquired taste for him, but, uh, that's my impression of him. He's been very positive, and he sees the danger of the right wing. I sort of, I hinted at some, I said look, if Vietnam ever breaks, and I'm not saying it will, it will break as suddenly as this one did, and so don't put yourself in a position -

President Nixon: Do you really believe that?

Kissinger: I happen to believe that, Mr. President, yes. I will say, though -

President Nixon: What makes you think that Vietnam would break suddenly? I just don't see that it will.

Kissinger: Because this is the Asian way of negotiating. We negotiate after there's an agreement that we should move and then we gradually compromise along the way. Uh, the Vietnamese act [unclear] the major negotiation is before the negotiation starts. That is, they want to be sure they've squeezed the maximum out of the situation that they can unilaterally.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm, Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: Once they're sure of that, then they will move to their new position.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: But they don't see any sense in approaching their position in stages.

President Nixon: I see.

Kissinger: If I had to predict, Mr. President, I would think there is a better than even chance now that in the next three months something will break in Paris.

President Nixon: Even in Paris, huh?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Well, if it does, we'll be ready. The main thing, I think, your fear is well-justified, I wish we, you could see them before they move, in other words, make our move. I almost think your trip -

Kissinger: I would, I think we should finish a message to them by the end of next week no matter what we hear from Dobrynin.

President Nixon: Oh, hell, yes, yes — yeah, look, whatever Dobrynin does, you've got to move on this front.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: Yeah, because the Chinese worry them, too.

Kissinger: That's right. No, no, I will propose a meeting to them probably next Wednesday -

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger:—for two weeks from now. They need two weeks to get ready for it.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm. Well, [I'll] say one thing, we really got the liberals worried.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President -

President Nixon: They are worried.

Kissinger:—if you hadn't stuck to your guns you wouldn't be worth dealing with.

President Nixon: Yeah, if, you know, it's a funny thing, they don't, they—none of them will admit it, but the April 7 speech was the key to this whole thing, wasn't it? Or was it? I don't know. I think the April 7 -

Kissinger: Mr. President, if you had given a deadline, if you had acted like a man on the verge of backing out of Vietnam, you would literally not have been worth dealing with for them.

President Nixon: But on April 7 they watched that speech, I'm sure, and they saw—

Kissinger: They saw you were tough nut to crack and they've got two more years of war.

President Nixon: And I said, all right, I'm going to stick it out, and I don't give a damn what anybody says.

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon: And that has some effect.

Kissinger: They knew they'd be in it until ‘73, and that's too late for them vis-a-vis the Russians.

President Nixon: Well. The Murphy12 thing you worked out, you talked to him a little bit more?

Kissinger: Right, and I'm giving him some papers tomorrow, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Right, well, he's just the right man. He'll do a good job.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: He'll protect us with state, and let him tell Green13 that he's going, but, you know, all that sort of thing.

Kissinger: No, we've got it all set.

President Nixon: Good, OK.

Kissinger: Good, Mr. President.


1 George P. Shultz was director of the office of management and budget. Henry A. Kissinger was national security adviser. (↑)

2 Robert C. Christopher was a contributing editor for Newsweek. (↑)

3 Yuli M. Vorontsov, minister of Soviet embassy. (↑)

4 Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet ambassador to the U.S. (↑)

5 Ronald L. Ziegler, White House press secretary. (↑)

6 Henry Hubbard was a reporter for Newsweek. (↑)

7 Unidentified. (↑)

8 Chou En-lai, also spelled Zhou Enlai, was premier of People's Republic of China. (↑)

9 Howard K. Smith was an ABC News anchorman. (↑)

10 Nicolae Ceausescu was president of Romania. (↑)

11 Josip Broz Tito was president of Yugoslavia. (↑)

12 Robert D. Murphy was an ambassador and presidential adviser. (↑)

13 Marshall Green was assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. (↑)

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.