Wednesday, April 21, 1971 - 7:47pm - 7:54pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone


President Nixon: Yes?
Operator: [National Security Adviser] Dr. [Henry A.] Kissinger, asking for you.
President Nixon: All right.
Operator: Ready, sir.
President Nixon: Hello?
Henry Kissinger: Mr. President.
President Nixon: Hi, Henry.
Kissinger: Sorry to disturb you.
President Nixon: It's all right. No, I'm not doing anything.
Kissinger: Well, two things. One, there's a lengthy article that [the Soviet state-controlled news organization] TASS distributed on this Chinese relation to us, which is very interesting. They're saying that what China is trying to do is to get the United States and the Soviet Union into a war with each other so that they could emerge as the great superpower, but we wouldn't fall for that—but they wouldn't fall for that. And, very hurt.
President Nixon: Very what?
Kissinger: They seem to act very hurt.
President Nixon: Yes? Very interesting, yeah.
Kissinger: And I just thought you might like to know that.
President Nixon: Well, it's—what do you think it means?
Kissinger: Well, I think, I still am fairly optimistic that the Soviets will be fairly forthcoming.
President Nixon: Mm-hmm.
Kissinger: If not that, they're going to go very tough. I mean, they've got to break out one way or the other.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: Also, I've had a letter from—
President Nixon: Just a minute. Just a minute. [aside] Yeah?
Manolo Sanchez: It's raining, sir.
President Nixon: Raining? OK, we skip it. Fine. [to Kissinger] Yeah. Go ahead.
Kissinger: We've had-–I've had a letter from Sir Robert Thompson, [a British guerilla war expert,] which is very optimistic about how things are going.
President Nixon: Oh, good. What does he say?
Kissinger: Well, he says that he doesn't think that the North Vietnamese can launch any major attack through 1972. He considers Laos was a great success, and I have to take him seriously because he said the same thing last year right after Cambodia and I thought he was exaggerating. It turned out he was right. I'm having it summarized for you and sent to you.
President Nixon: Good.
Kissinger: And . . .
President Nixon: Well, he certainly is going give us his best judgment on this.
Kissinger: And I didn't even ask him for it. This is a volun—he volunteered it.
President Nixon: Mm-hmm.
Kissinger: Here it is. He says . . . well, he is very violent about our critics.
President Nixon: Is he?
Kissinger: About our critics.
President Nixon: What's he say about them?
Kissinger: Well, he said, they don't realize . . .
President Nixon: That it was successful?
Kissinger: “So many of the critics in the United States do not yet realize that we are not dealing with the ARVN [Army of the Republic of (South) Vietnam] of four years ago, but with a new breed. There are now good, professional soldiers and in combat command lower down who have the training, experience, and determination to match anything that the North Vietnamese can provide.” Then he said—
President Nixon: Coming from him, that's quite significant.
Kissinger: Exactly. And . . . Well, about Laos, he says, “This brings one to the Laos operation, which has been the scene of some of the toughest fighting and worst reporting that I can remember.”
President Nixon: “And worst reporting.” Isn't that interesting?
Kissinger: “I certainly think that the operation has achieved its shorter-term tactical aim of cutting the trail in addition to destroying [ammunition] dumps already there during what should have been its peak operating period. Publicly, one may have to be a bit cautious, but I would say that there's no possibility of the North Vietnamese mounting or sustaining any offensive against South Vietnam right through 1972, except in the immediate vicinity of the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone]. It's going to be a case, just like Cambodia last year, of not seeing the real effects for several months.”
President Nixon: I see. Well, it's good to get that kind of appraisal.
Kissinger: And [I] repeat, it's unsolicited.
President Nixon: That's right.
Kissinger: And he was there when it all happened.
President Nixon: He sure was. Yeah.
Kissinger: We are having this breakfast, Mr. President, with—
President Nixon: With [Defense Secretary Melvin R.] Laird, yeah.
Kissinger: —and he will hit you about pulling out the Koreans.

NARA Excision
Category: National Security—Intelligence
Duration: 6s

Kissinger: And I also think that that is an unnecessary strain to put on him.1
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: They aren't very good, but they're at least holding some areas.
President Nixon: And they're there, yes, that's right.
Kissinger: Now, Laird has the argument that we can get South Vietnamese more cheaply. But that's a purely theoretical argument. There aren't more South Vietnamese to be drafted. And you don't have to rule on that, but we have a review going on of the whole strategy, and you could just defer your decision until that review is completed.
President Nixon: Sure. I'll do that.
Kissinger: I would just be careful not to say anything that he can use—
President Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: —to pull them out. Because we're pulling things out just about as fast as they go, now.
President Nixon: I'll say we are. Yeah. Yeah. How are the casualties running this week?
Kissinger: This week, they seem to be lower, Mr. President. These are incomplete daily reports, but they seem to be lower this week. They're above 50, actually—going to be announced tomorrow, I think, 56, for the week just concluded, and I think they'll be significantly lower next week. I know—
President Nixon: Fifty-six? Well, that's—why is that? Because of the—
Kissinger: Well, that includes those 11.
President Nixon: Yeah. Be 56, you say?
Kissinger: I've asked [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Thomas H.] Moorer to give me some reason, some feel for why the casualties are running as they are. And of course, there are always some wounded that are left from a military operation.
President Nixon: They run 56, you say, next week. This week.
Kissinger: This week. In the follow—in the week after this, I think they'll be lower.
President Nixon: Well, we're in that week now. That's what I meant, that-–
Kissinger: Oh, in the week in which we are, they'll be much lower than 56, yes.
President Nixon: It would seem so.
Kissinger: Oh, yes. Well, we had—on Sunday, there were none at all. And I just have to look at the daily figures, Mr. President. I don't have them at my fingertips.
President Nixon: Well, we can't tell. Let's see, Thursday . . . we've got three more days yet.
Kissinger: That's right.
President Nixon: Well, the drop may occur next week, then, rather than this. Right. They won't, this week, of course, it won't be reflected, but next week, it might be.
Kissinger: That's right, Mr. President. So it would be announced the day of your press conference, which wouldn't be bad.
President Nixon: That's right. Well, good. Don't worry, we'll handle Laird with a great caution.
Kissinger: [Laughing] Right, Mr. President.
President Nixon: OK.
Kissinger: I'll be there in the morning.
1 According to the National Archives' Finding Aid, this is a reference to South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu. (↑)

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