In This Review

The Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks With Beijing and Moscow
The Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks With Beijing and Moscow
Edited by William Burr
New Press, 1999, 515 pp

A handy compilation for readers wanting to see Henry Kissinger's negotiating style for themselves, with extensive and indispensable introductions for each chapter. Drawn mostly from 1973 to 1976, the selected excerpts from memoranda of conversations ("memcons") focus more on the Chinese than the Soviets. Readers should not be misled: the book includes no transcripts from the Nixon or the Kissinger tapes of meetings and phone calls. Unfortunately, Burr's zeal for sniping against Kissinger sometimes compromises his editorial role. The symbolism of the initial opening of China aside, the transcripts suggest there was little substance in the U.S.-Chinese relationship, which does seem more like a pantomime to impress the Soviets than a real partnership. Indeed, only when Kissinger and Mao talk about the villainous Soviets can they find a truly engaging subject -- if only for a few minutes. In the end, the transcripts are more interesting for what they reveal about the Chinese and the Soviets than about the better-known Dr. Kissinger.