INT: There must be a tremendous sense of relief. Can you describe that kind of atmosphere when it was finally signed after all these years of war?
JN: Well, that the atmosphere after the signing of the Paris peace agreement was, I think, a mixed one. I think there were those who were relieved and pleased at the outcome and saw it as an opportunity to disengage our forces. there were others who had a sense of foreboding about what the agreement implied and what it meant for the future of South Vietnam. So the atmosphere and the... the reaction was mixed.
INT: What did you think?
JN: I had a sense of foreboding for the South and was concerned, very concerned.
INT: I'm going to go slightly back in time to the major invasion of the South by the North in the spring of 1972, which threatened the Moscow Summit. I think you were in there when the decision was taken to go ahead, can you describe that sequence of events?
JN: Well, the invasion of South Vietnam by the North at the end of March of 1972 was an absolutely key development in the course of the war, because it happened a couple of months before the planned summit in Moscow between President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev. And President Nixon was determined not to let Russia, or the Soviet Union, be over-running... or an ally of the Soviet Union be over-running one of our allies while he was in Moscow meeting with the Soviet leadership. And so he decided on the eighth of May 1972 to mine Haiphong harbor and bomb Hanoi, both military steps that in the past we had avoided taking, but he felt that that kind of strong reaction was called for and it was one of the steps that led to the reversal of the North Vietnamese invasion. interestingly, despite conjecture by some, prior to the President's decision, the Soviets did not cancel the summit and Vietnam was not a dominant theme at the US-Soviet summit in May of '72, although of course the subject was discussed.
INT: Were you yourself concerned that the summit might be cancelled?
JN: Well, I sat in on a couple of meetings where the question of whether or not the Soviets might cancel the summit if we bomber Hanoi and mined Haiphong, where that subject was discussed and I was not an expert and am not an expert on either Soviet affairs or Chinese or the People's Republic of China and the question of the reaction of both of those countries was discussed at those meetings. And the preponderous of opinion of the experts that was expressed at those meetings was that no, the Soviets would not cancel the summit and the judgement turned out to be correct.
INT: You went to the summit yourself in May of 1972. Was that where the Soviet attitude was revealed that although it was important, what was going on in Vietnam was not going to be allowed to upset greater considerations and détente?
JN: We... at the summit between President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev in May of 1972, the issue of Vietnam was discussed once at great length at General Secretary Brezhnev's dacha and I happened to have attended that meeting. There were only about four people on each side and the meeting lasted for some four hours, followed by a rather sumptuous dinner and I can recall that each of the Soviet leaders, Brezhnev, Kosygin and Potgorny, they were all there, each spoke for about three quarters of an hour or even an hour perhaps, a total of about three hours of sort of monologues on the subject of Vietnam, but it was clear to us that each of them were sort of speaking for the record. There wasn't any particular proposal that was being put forward, any specific solution that was being advanced. it seemed to me at least, and I think the others had the same view, that they were just making their statements for the record. And I concluded from that that within certain bounds at least, we were reasonably free to do what we wished in Vietnam.
INT: Can you describe the atmosphere at the dinner, because it seems a sort of complete change of mood when after the long session, you're finally allowed to eat and drink?
JN: Well, we met for four hours on the subject of Vietnam at General Secretary Brezhnev's dacha which was characterized principally by monologues by each of the Soviet leaders and it was clear to me after about two hours that President Nixon was rather anxious to leave the meeting, but he bore with it and then after that, the Soviets invited us up to a dinner upstairs, a rather sumptuous one, very late in the night, where they really tried to get us to drink too much and the atmosphere changed completely and was rather jovial and pleasant.
INT: Did they succeed?
JN: Well, not in my case.
INT: I think it's the overall question of your assessment of the major achievements of Nixon and Kissinger's foreign policy.
JN: I think you'd have to list at least three important achievements of the Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy. Extricating us from Vietnam is obviously an important element and something for which they will not be forgotten. And then of course the opening to China and to the Soviet Union. We had really isolated ourselves from those two other major powers during the course of the Cold War. The dialogue had not been as extensive as it should have been and I think that in the end, President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger will be very, very well remembered for the major openings that they made to both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.
INT: Once they leave office, the resignation and Kissinger goes back to academia, how much do you think that détente becomes unsustainable, because its main proponents have left the scene?
JN: I think that once détente was begun by President Nixon, that in many respects it was irreversible and as we saw in the case of China, the initial steps taken by President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger led eventually to succeeding presidents establishing relations with China and so forth. So, I think that they set the course.
INT: Thank you, I'll just stop you there...
INT: Tell me a little bit about...
JN: [Interrupts] Right. I attended several meetings, both in April of 1972 and then in May of '72, between Dr. Kissinger and General Secretary Brezhnev. I'm certainly not an expert on his personality, but he struck me as certainly ... he was definitely in charge, there was no question about that. He had a forceful personality. He was humorous. He was gregarious. He had a problem with his smoking. I remember he couldn't control smoking either, he had a little machine, little cigarette box, with a timer on it that was only allowed to open every so many minutes, so that he wouldn't smoke to many cigarettes. he was an engaging, definitely an engaging person, but... I don't think beyond that I have... I can really comment very much about him.
INT: Did you get the impression he was as keen to push détente as the American side?
JN: Yes. I think General Secretary Brezhnev was interested in pushing détente. certainly was... But for what his motives were is something that is just not entirely clear to me, whether it was because of some profound analysis of Soviet foreign policy needs or whether it was for some internal political motivation I simply don't know, I'm junot qualified.
INT: Thank you very much.
END OF INTERVIEW