Kissinger Conspired with Soviet Ambassador to Keep Secretary of State in the Dark

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Then-national security adviser Henry A. Kissinger colluded with Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to keep the U.S. Secretary of State in the dark about ongoing secret discussions between the Soviets and the Nixon White House, according to newly released Soviet-era documents, published this week by the Department of State.

In February 1972, with the Moscow summit approaching, Kissinger met with Soviet ambassador Dobrynin, who was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State William Rogers, to talk about what the Secretary knew and did not know about "the state of U.S.-Soviet relations." Commenting on the meeting in his memorandum of conversation forwarded to Moscow, Dobrynin observed that it was a "unique situation when the Special Assistant to the President secretly informs a foreign ambassador about what the Secretary of State knows and does not know." This memorandum appears for the first time in an extraordinary State Department collection of U.S. and Soviet documents on the Dobrynin-Kissinger meetings, produced through a U.S.-Russian cooperative effort, with selections posted on-line today by the National Security Archive.

On October 22, 2007, the State Department's Office of the Historian released 'Soviet-American Relations: the Detente Years, 1969-1972,' edited by David C. Geyer and Douglas E. Selvage. Over a thousand pages long with 380 documents and introductions by Dobrynin and Kissinger, this volume (initially released in CD form by the office of the historian) includes the most secret and sensitive U.S.-Soviet exchanges of the superpower detente, the so-called "back channel" or "confidential channel" Dobrynin-Kissinger meetings. Besides Kissinger's records of his meetings with Dobrynin, which had already been declassified, this extraordinary volume includes translations of previously secret cables and memoranda of conversations reporting on Dobrynin's meetings with Kissinger as well as President Richard Nixon.

Simultaneously, the Russian Foreign Ministry's History and Records Department is publishing a Russian language edition of the documents under the title, 'Sovetsko-Amerikanskie Otnosheniia: Gody Razriadki, 1969-1976, Tom I, 1969-Mai 1972.' The Foreign Ministry will release this volume in a few weeks, during a conference in Moscow. A successor U.S.-Russian volume, covering 1972-1976, is now in the planning stages.

'Soviet-American Relations: the Detente Years, 1969-1972' is not yet available in print form yet or on-line, but the Office of the Historian released a special CD with the volume on it. To give interested readers a flavor of the material, the National Security Archive is publishing on its Web site some illuminating examples of the new documents. This sampling includes:

* a unique record of Dobrynin's first "one-on-one" back-channel meeting with Kissinger,

* accounts of Kissinger's September 1970 demarche to Kissinger on the Soviet submarine base at Cienfuegos, Cuba,

* Nixon's unsuccessful attempt to discourage the Soviet leadership from meeting with Democratic presidential aspirant Senator Edmund Muskie (D-Me) to preserve the White House's political advantages,

* Dobrynin's initial reactions--from the notion that Beijing and Washington would exploit the "factor of U.S.-Chinese relations in order to exert pressure on us," to the disclosure of Henry Kissinger's secret trip to China in July 1971,

* Kissinger's briefing to Dobrynin on what he should and should not tell Secretary of State Rogers about more sensitive issues that only Nixon and Kissinger had discussed with the Soviets,

* initial White House and Soviet reactions to the North Vietnamese 1972 Spring Offensive,

* and Dobrynin's mistaken estimate that the pressures for a successful summit would hold Nixon back from approving major military action against Hanoi during the spring of 1972.

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