Recently declassified 'Documents on South Asia, 1969-1972' contain a wealth of information on what the then American President Richard Nixon and his assistant for NSA Henry Kissinger thought of India, and provide a fascinating insight into how the duo sought to play the Russians and the Chinese in those crucial days of 1971
165. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and Attorney General Mitchell, Washington, December 8, 1971, 4:20-5:01 p.m.
Nixon: But Nelson [Rockefeller], how did he feel about the media on the
Mitchell: Oh, he thinks it’s disgraceful.
Nixon: Incidentally, before I say—I called Newton, while you were there. I called just beforehand because I heard he had a press conference [unclear]. I said you’ve done a hell of a job. And I repeated some of the lines. He said he was sitting there reading your backgrounder—I don’t know whether you got any press out of it. But I said, made this point. I said—and he raised a point of morality. He went through a very interesting exercise. He said Charlie Bartlett was in to see him. The difficulty, he said, was the press is like the Kennedys were because the Kennedys were obsessed with the idea of the Indian mystery and all of the God-like qualities and so forth of the Indians. He said those of us who work with the Indians up here know that they are the [unclear—most?] devious, trickiest sons-of-bitches there are. And he went on to say, I went on to tell him, I said how come we got so many votes. He said, "yeah, we got all the votes except India’s, the Russian satellites." And we even got Rumania. He said, "well first of all, you know a lot of Mid-Eastern votes were with us." [unclear] They were sort of reflecting the Israeli thing. I can see that, you know, on withdrawal, they can’t be against withdrawal. But then he said there are countries like Namibia and a lot jackass places like that [unclear]. He said they also—this idea, you see this is where The New York Times and the rest are wrong, where they said that if aggression is engaged in by a democracy it’s all right. But where it’s engaged in by a dictatorship, it’s wrong. They forget that most of the countries in the world are dictatorships, including all these little countries. Second point, the point that I made to him which I [unclear], now look there’s a totally moral attitude of our critics here. First they say, they make the point that because there’s 600 million Indians and only 60 million in West Pakistan, we’re on the wrong side. We should be with the 600 million Indians. I said since when do we determine the morality of our policy on the basis of how many people a country has? I said the second reason that they’re wrong, then they say but India is a democratic country, and Pakistan is a totalitarian country, a dictatorship, and therefore India—we shouldn’t be on the side of a dictatorship but on the side of the democratic country. I said if aggression is engaged in by any country, it’s wrong. And in a sense it’s even more wrong for a democratic country to engage in it because democratic countries are held in a higher degree of morality. And I said international morality will be finished--the United Nations will be finished—if you adopt the principle that because a country is democratic and big it can do what the hell it pleases. I really think that puts the issue to these sons-of-bitches.
Kissinger: I found something, Mr. President, which you can use against Teddy Kennedy. I knew there was a secret deal that Kennedy made with Pakistan. State denied it. I said—
Nixon: Ayub told me there was one.
Kissinger: I knew there was one.
Nixon: He told me there was one and I didn’t—when I was there. The Ambassador, the Ambassador denied it to me. I said that Ayub told me that. The Ambassador told me no there wasn’t. He knew nothing about it.
Kissinger: [3 seconds not declassified] I said it must have gone backchannel.
Mitchell: Was that when Jackie got the horses?
Nixon: See McConaughy was not Ambassador when I was there. This was a later Ambassador.
Mitchell: Was that when Jackie got the horses?
Nixon: Jesus Christ.
Nixon: Election day 1962.
Mitchell: I heard [unclear].
Nixon: Ayub was [unclear].
Kissinger: [unclear] They even had a legal obligation. But at any rate—
Mitchell: Well what [unclear] the Pakistani Government has?
Nixon: They have.
Kissinger: They have.
Nixon: Not on the basis of that but on the basis of their treaty. [unclear] The treaty I understand—
Kissinger: We have a bilateral treaty.
Nixon: Gives us an out, doesn’t it on India?
Nixon: Well, I mean I understand it could. But this doesn’t. This meant with India. The deal.
Kissinger: The treaty gives us a slight out. But it [unclear—doesn’t cite?] to India by name. And we’ve got the UN defining them as aggressors.
Nixon: So how can we play this Henry?
Kissinger: Well, the next time they say we’re anti-Indian and pro-Pakistani, and that you have a liking for—
[Nixon took a brief phone call unrelated to South Asia.]
Kissinger: I think at the right moment when they say you have a liking for these military dictators. [unclear] You could certainly say that to the contrary you were carrying out a commitment made in two administrations. Both [unclear] and previously in the Eisenhower administration. But that they were general in nature. And that the specific one made by President Kennedy to General Ayub which applies here, particularly to the case of India. What we will maintain—
Nixon: Have you told John about what we’re doing?
Kissinger: Well this is what I want to discuss with you, Mr. President.
Nixon: Incidentally, I don’t want that to go any further.
Kissinger: There’s no way it can be done. I got a message to you from the Shah, in which he says he can send ammunition—he is doing it now. He cannot send—he cannot send airplanes a) because the Pakistanis can’t fly the airplanes anyway because—
Nixon: They cannot read.
Kissinger: But most importantly because the Soviet-Indian treaty makes them vulnerable to the Soviets. He’s proposing that the Jordanians send their planes to Pakistan, because the Pakistanis can fly the Jordanian planes. And then he sends his planes to Jordan with Iranian pilots to cover Jordan while they are engaged in Pakistan.
Nixon: I should think—I could think we could get a commitment from Israel on the Jordanians.
Kissinger: Oh, no problem.
Nixon: The Israelis sure are on our side on this one, aren’t they?
Kissinger: I see Golda Meir on Friday. [December 10]
Nixon: Well when you talk to her, you tell her, Henry, that this is a goddamn Russian ploy. That’s what she’s got to understand.
Kissinger: Well, what we are betting on, Mr. President, [unclear], as long as the war with East Pakistan [unclear]. But the Indian plan is now clear. They’re going to move their forces from East Pakistan to the west. They will then smash the Pakistan land forces and air forces, annex the part of Kashmir that is in Pakistan and then call it off. After that has happened—and then you have another [unclear] message from the Shah saying this section of West Pakistan now would be a mortal threat to the security of Iran. When this has happened, the centrifugal forces in West Pakistan would be liberated. Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier [unclear—Province?] will celebrate. West Pakistan would become a sort of intricate Afghanistan [unclear—of five states?].
Nixon: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kissinger: East Pakistan would become a Bhutan. All of this would have been achieved by Soviet support, Soviet arms, and Indian military force. The impact of this on many countries threatened by the Soviet Union or by Soviet clients [unclear]. I talked to Helms this morning—I wanted to check my judgment; I didn’t have an advisor. He thinks it will have a catastrophic impact on the Middle East. No one could [unclear] guarantee or give up any territory that they have because they won’t believe it. The Arabs will think if they can get the same cover from the Soviets that the Indians got, they could try another round and maybe more. The Chinese, now this part is my judgment, up to a certain point being aggressive [unclear]. But if it turns out that we end up with the complete dismemberment of Pakistan, then they will conclude, "All right. We played it decently but we’re just too weak." And that they have to break their encirclement, not by dealing with us, but by moving either [unclear] or drop the whole idea. So I think this, unfortunately, has turned into a big watershed, which is going to affect our chances in the situation in South Asia. Now I don’t mind our saying publicly [unclear]—
Nixon: Oh, I know.
Kissinger: But the fact of the matter is that unfortunately we are confronted with a tough situation.
Kissinger: And it seems to me what we have to do now, or what I would recommend, is where we went wrong before is not to try to scare off the Indians.
Nixon: But how could we scare them?
Kissinger: If we had designed—if we had understood. I understood it, but I thought I could maneuver it instead of hitting it head on.
Nixon: I don’t know what would have affected them.
Kissinger: Well what would have affected them is if we said, on Mrs. Gandhi’s visit—
Kissinger: We—you did exactly what all your advisors recommended. But if we had recommended to you to be brutal to her rather than to be nice to her, and if you had said, "Now I just want you to know"—
Nixon: Our whole plan was to—
Kissinger: Exactly. I mean you did exactly what we all recommended to you.
Nixon: As a matter of fact, Rogers, if anything, on this was tougher than I was. No, I inferred that it would be—well at dinner I told her that there, any war would be very, very unacceptable. And then Rogers said he told her that the corollary—
Kissinger: Well we didn’t—we told—our feeling was we shouldn’t give her a pretext to come back home—
Kissinger: And then say—
Nixon: And then say she has no friends that she can—
Kissinger: She has no friends [unclear].
Nixon: Well that was a mistake.
Kissinger: The mistake was that we should have understood that she was not looking for pretext—that she was determined to go. And secondly, we should have been much tougher with the Russians.
Nixon: Well, what could we have done? How?
Kissinger: We should have told them what we finally told them last Sunday—that this would mark a watershed in our relationship, that there could be no Middle East negotiations if this thing would grow. We would have had to play it tough. And thirdly, we should have, once the cat was among the pigeons, when they moved on November 22, we had cut off, as you wanted, but we couldn’t get the bureaucracy to do. We could have cut off economic aid the first or second day, plus all of arms instead of waiting ten days and diddling around.
Nixon: We’ve done all that. But I ordered all that as you recall.
Kissinger: I’m not blaming.
Nixon: We just couldn’t get it done, okay.
Kissinger: The mistake was that in every other crisis, Mr. President, what I have done is I’ve—I blame myself. When I have analyzed properly.
Kissinger: In every other crisis, our basic attitude was the hell with the State Department; let them screw around with the little ones. But I forgot that in the other crisis we had all the elements of positioning. Even though it was late when we moved, since nothing could happen until we moved, we didn’t pay for the delay. In this situation, we got in a fast moving situation that we could not hold up, so that the delay accelerated the situation—we were always a little bit too late. We always did the right thing. You ordered it at the right moment. But we maneuvered it wrong. [unclear]
Kissinger: No, we couldn’t touch the Russians.
Nixon: I wonder. I wonder.
Kissinger: At any rate, we’ve got the same problem in the West now.
Nixon: Now what do we do?
Kissinger: We have two choices now. Keating—I told Alex Johnson a few minutes ago that I hope he will [unclear].
Nixon: Well, forget what he’s doing.
Kissinger: Well the trouble is we have to convince the Indians now. We’ve got to scare them off an attack on West Pakistan as much as we possibly can. And therefore we’ve got to get another tough warning to the Russians. I mean—but you pay a price because you are risking the summit. On the other hand, the summit may not be worth a damn if they lose, if they kick you around. We’ve got to warn the Russians about some kind of attack on West Pakistan. I would encourage the Jordanians to move their squadrons into West Pakistan and the Iranians to move their squadrons into—
Nixon: Now tell me, about the moving the squadrons, what effect will that have?
Kissinger: Enough. Militarily in Pakistan we have only one hope now. To convince the Indians that the thing is going to escalate. And to convince the Russians that they’re going to pay an enormous price. It may not work, Mr. President. We’ve gone pretty far and we can’t make up six years of military imbalance.
Nixon: We should have never let it get out of balance. We didn’t.
Kissinger: Again, if they—
Nixon: Frankly, Johnson, to his great discredit—
Kissinger: But again, this is an example where the bureaucracy got us. You promised Yahya on your first visit to send some arms there.
Nixon: We did.
Kissinger: Well, it took us a year to get the bureaucracy to fulfill your promise. And the arms were just starting to move when the Bengalis attacked. [unclear]. So it isn’t—
Nixon: I know.
Kissinger: We are not to blame. We didn’t know there was going to be a war in ’71, but it took a year to get your promise to Yahya worked out.
Nixon: Now let’s see, first with regard to the planes, what’s the purpose of [unclear]?
Kissinger: The purpose of the planes is—I think where we’re in trouble—
Kissinger: I think the best—or we could play tough.
Nixon: I agree.
Kissinger: If we did this, we could give a note to the Chinese and say, "If you are ever going to move this is the time."
Nixon: All right, that’s what we’ll do.
Mitchell: All they have to do is put their forces on the border.
Kissinger: Yeah but the Russians I am afraid—but I must warn you, Mr. President, if our bluff is called, we’ll be in trouble.
Kissinger: Well, we’ll lose. But if our bluff isn’t, if we don’t move,
we’ll certainly lose.
Mitchell: You think we’ll lose the [unclear] with the Russians?
Kissinger: But they will lose [unclear].
Nixon: What we have to do, Henry, is to get it out, calmly and cold-bloodedly make the decision. That’s all there is to it.
Kissinger: But we’ve got to make it within 36 hours.
Nixon: Oh, I know. That’s what I mean. No, I think what we need to see here, and I’ve got, I’m not going to have a meeting. No more goddamn meetings to decide this.
Kissinger: Well I’ve got a WSAG scheduled for tomorrow morning.
Nixon: I’m not going to have a meeting.
Kissinger: While Rogers is out of town.
Nixon: What the hell good is Irwin going to be if there’s a meeting? Or do you want a meeting?
Kissinger: It wouldn’t work—let me do this. We’ll have a WSAG meeting in the morning. I will then present you what your choices are.
Nixon: What I would rather do, I think the WSAG meeting is fine, why don’t you figure out now what these two choices are. In other words, I see the choices—in other words, take the line. Do one of two things. First, we can let the goddamn thing just deteriorate.
Kissinger: Which is to say, it’s not our war.
Nixon: It’s not our war. Which is basically the State line.
Nixon: Or has been the State line.
Nixon: He already has, John.
Mitchell: He has? The Shah?
Nixon: No, Yahya. He’s already asked for help.
Kissinger: He’s already asked for help.
Mitchell: What’s he going to say about it?
Nixon: He won’t say that. He won’t embarrass the Chinese. But, what I’m getting at Henry is we’ve got to look at our options here. All right, now if we let it go, your fear is that it will certainly screw up the South Asian area. All right, that’s screwed up. The other—your greater fear, however, is that it will, it will encourage—it will, may get the Chinese stirred up so that they do something else.
Kissinger: No, I would—
Nixon: And they’ll move towards India, or towards Russia, or both. And it will encourage the Russians to do the same thing someplace else. That’s the dangers on the one side.
Kissinger: In the Middle East. And because, it will affect countries like Iran and Indonesia. Confronted either with a Soviet threat or a Soviet client threat. If Iran were to be confronted by both, with deciding that we’re just not steady enough. I mean—with all our good intentions, we have just too many [unclear].
Nixon: Yeah. All right, fine. That’s one side. Then we go on, we’ll go through with the summit and all that crap. The other possibility is to do these things. You understand? I’m for doing anything if there’s a chance that we’re—
Kissinger: Let me play this scenario a little further. If the Chinese should draw the conclusion—up to now we’ve improved our situation with the Chinese.
Kissinger: Well, we’ve played a tough line at the UN.
Nixon: Have they gotten anything for that?
Nixon: Do they think the UN is worth shit?
Kissinger: No, no. But they thought that we might be in collusion with the Indians and the Russians to sucker them into war.
Nixon: They thought so?
Kissinger: I think so.
Nixon: Jesus Christ.
Kissinger: So I think up to now we’ve helped ourselves. But the second problem is our people say we haven’t—the Chinese haven’t done any more than we. That’s true. But their problem is they haven’t got the forces to do a hell of a lot more.
Mitchell: They also have a problem with their military.
Kissinger: And they have a massive problem with their military. But they made them decide on—
Mitchell: [unclear] in the leadership of their military.
Nixon: They’re afraid of them.
Kissinger: They may decide we’ve done the right thing. But we haven’t got the punch to make it effective.
Nixon: Yeah, but you know we can’t do this without the Chinese helping us. As I look at this thing, the Chinese have got to move to that damn border. The Indians have got to get a little scared.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: All right. Now I wonder—
Mitchell: The other side, the other side—
Nixon: I wonder if there’s a way, do you—we’ll get a message to the Chinese.
Kissinger: They won’t give us a prior commitment. The problem with the Jordanian planes—actually, Mr. President, I think we won’t have any real choice because the Jordanians, in my view, are going to send their planes anyway. [unclear exchange]
Nixon: Let me say this, in view of the, in view of this—so do we have to make, we don’t make any announcement about the Jordanian letter or anything like that. What do we have to do in order to get the Jordanian thing? A prior commitment from the Shah?
Kissinger: No, we just had—
Nixon: I’ve already done that.
Kissinger: All you have to do is tell the Jordanians—
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: —that we don’t accept it.
Nixon: All right. But you—they have to be told that immediately. That’s the least we can do.
Kissinger: Right. I think, Mr. President, we can wait 24 hours to—
Kissinger: Well, because I think I should present you calmly what everyone else says—our military—
Nixon: Henry, if you raise this thing at the WSAG meeting—
Kissinger: It isn’t a WSAG meeting because—
Nixon: About the Jordanians?
Kissinger: Yes, because—
Nixon: Then the whole damn thing will get out in the papers.
Kissinger: Because it came in the open channels, there was no way I could hold it.
Nixon: Then it will be out in the papers.
Kissinger: Well, if you move two squadrons of planes it will be in the papers.
Nixon: I know, but they moved them. But my point is—
Kissinger: Well it’s illegal for them to move them without [unclear].
Kissinger: No, we can get it done.
Nixon: And try, Henry, to see what we, what really we can do to affect the outcome.
Kissinger: There are two things to consider. One is, the Jordanian move without our support, which we can probably engineer, is possible, but won’t be a deterrent on the Indians unless the Indians feel we are behind it.
Nixon: I’d like to make sure that the Indians know we are behind it one way or another.
Kissinger: I believe—
Nixon: I think it will be in the papers.
Kissinger: [unclear] No we can—I got a message to the Jordanians today—
Kissinger: —[2 seconds not declassified]. They had to press these goddamn [unclear] for two days—well they told us there was a message, but they also said the King was hoping that we wouldn’t answer it because he didn’t want to give his [unclear] for the opposite to be true. I got a message [3 seconds not declassified] to the King today telling him we were not yet ready to give the permission but we understood the problem, and that he shouldn’t construe our silence as a lack of [unclear]. He knows [unclear]. He didn’t commit us to anything. I mean, it isn’t any one move we’ve got to make, Mr. President. If we do it, we’ve got to go all out or we shouldn’t do it at all. We should then—the thing that worked so well in the Middle East was—
Kissinger: In Jordan we suddenly just started pouring things in there. Now I have a little task force working on all the measures you could take if you wanted to go tough.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: Well that’s what I’m working on. [unclear] we’ll take an aircraft carrier from Vietnam into the Bay of Bengal for the evacuation of American civilians that are in the area. We don’t say they’re there to—it would be a mistake. We just say we’re moving them in, in order to evacuate American civilians. That shouldn’t [unclear].
Nixon: We certainly used that as a pretext, a pretext in the Jordan crisis.
Kissinger: That’s right. Now all—I’m sure all hell will break loose here, but they will pay us off on success.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: I mean after all [unclear]—
Nixon: Would you, John, move the aircraft carrier? I’d do it immediately. I wouldn’t wait 24 hours.
Mitchell: The goddamn Indians have [unclear].
Kissinger: We’ve had arrangements made to get airplanes into Dacca.
Mitchell: The only way we can get the [unclear] is by helicopter.
Nixon: The aircraft carrier is easy. Now what else?
Kissinger: Well the aircraft carrier, according to the Indians, would have to be delivered here because Keating will have a heart attack—
Nixon: What the Christ is Keating doing? Fucking around again?
Kissinger: Sort of. Keating has—
Nixon: Did you tell Rockefeller?
Kissinger: No, no.
Nixon: You want to put Keating on the goddamn [unclear].
Kissinger: I told, I told Alex Johnson. Keating—the Indians had the nerve to call in Keating, and said that their recognition of Bangladesh proves their peaceful intent because it meant that they had no annexationist desires, it meant that they were going to leave Bangladesh on its own for a period. And Keating said he agreed with them. So they feed him this line that—the Indian foreign minister said—
Kissinger: —"You shouldn’t call me an aggressor" he said. "I wouldn’t have used this term. I would have said what you were doing was an offensive-defense." You know [unclear]—
Nixon: Now there’s one thing, there’s one other thing, Henry, that, you know, [unclear] Bush has done at the UN [unclear] and it plays balls out. I may just have to go on in a press conference, to [meet] the press on this subject, and say they are aggressors. And, you see what I mean? Now that’s another—it brings the whole right—
Kissinger: I think if we’re going to play it at all, we’ve got to do it fast and hard. The worst thing could be to wait for every little thing to develop as we have done on the East Pakistan crisis.
Nixon: Now, what about Indian aid? Is there anything more that we can do there?
Kissinger: We can assess—the only other—
Nixon: Remember, on this I was for doing it more openly.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: And all we’ve done—remember the whole line was, "Well let’s do it but not say anything." Well, we’ve done that and it hasn’t worked. Right?
Kissinger: God no. We did all—
Nixon: On the economic side, you know—
Kissinger: On the economic side—
Nixon: Do you remember two weeks ago I got Connally in before he left and he said, "Now you cut off everything that you can." We told him everything, Henry, here.
Kissinger: Yeah, but Connally—the difference was you told both Connally and Rogers. Connally moved the same afternoon to cut off Ex-Im—
Kissinger: —and he’s been holding up loans at the World Bank. State blew 2 weeks to prepare position papers. The day we announced our munitions cutoff, partial munitions cutoff, they did it in the form of a release that said what we would continue to ship. So we didn’t give the Indians the real shock effect when they still were only—when they—at first the Indians were not claiming they were invading. First they said they were Bengalis.
Kissinger: But that is water over the dam.
Mitchell: What were the Russians going to do about [unclear—Bangladesh?]
Kissinger: They haven’t decided yet.
Mitchell: Are they going to?
Nixon: Well, we won’t—ever.
Kissinger: But what we should do, Mr. President, and we have another 24 hours to make the decision, I don’t want to talk you into it now, because we should do all these things simultaneously.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: We should get a note to the Chinese.
Kissinger: We should move the carrier to the Bay of Bengal.
Nixon: I agree with that. Go ahead.
Kissinger: We should—
Nixon: Let’s, let’s talk about the things I mean. One, I’d agree with him. Second, with regard to an announcement, with regard to the aid thing, I mean just cut it off. All aid to India, period.
Kissinger: Well, it’s practically all cut off now.
Kissinger: Except for the $124 million worth of goods that—
Nixon: Well, how about saying it will not be included in our next budget. We can announce the budget, see. Aid to India will not be included.
Kissinger: That we can do. And I’d let the—I’d let the Jordanians move—
Nixon: Put that to them [unclear exchange].
Kissinger: —another squadron to Pakistan simply to show them some exclamation and let the Iranians move their two squadrons to Jordan if they want to.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: Thirdly, I will get a stem-winder of a note to the Russians to tell them that it will shoot everything, it will clearly jeopardize everything we have—
Nixon: One of the real problems we have here is that Dobrynin is not here. You can fill him in. I can bring him in and tell him; it would have a hell of a lot more effect.
Kissinger: And you could tell the Chinese what you’re doing and tell them of the advantage for them to move some troops to the frontier. Now, some of these things I defend. Pakistan [sic.—India] is, in my view, going to move East. The Jordanians are going to move their two squadrons anyways. There are already Pakistani pilots. That is hardly [really?] necessary, so that countries like Iran don’t forget to [unclear—be impressed?]—what in God’s name did Yahya do for us? When we get in trouble, this is what all these countries are going to do for us.
Nixon: You say it’s illegal for us to do, also for the Jordanians.
Kissinger: Well, the way we can make it legal is to resume arms sales through—if we, if you announce that Pakistan is now eligible for the purchase of arms. See, one thing these guys never told us when they cut off licenses to Pakistan—
Nixon: That would be tough, Henry, to go that way. Did they say that Pakistan now can get arms? You’d have one hell of a—
Kissinger: I’m getting to the legal provision.
Nixon: Oh yeah.
Kissinger: If we had not closed the pipeline to Pakistan then Jordan could transfer its arms to Pakistan legally. Because the law says that any country which is receiving or eligible for American arms aid can receive American arms from other countries.
Mitchell: Well, that’s all [unclear]
Kissinger: But the way you get the Jordanian planes in there is to tell the King we cannot give you legal permission. On the other hand, we’d have to figure out a message, which says, "We’ll just close our eyes. Get the goddamned planes in there."
Nixon: Can we send a special emissary to him?
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: We’d have to do it that way. We cannot authorize it.
Nixon: How would we do it? Through some embassy or is that?
Kissinger: No, no, no. We’d have to use either, we’d have to use—
Nixon: Helms? Helms could do it, couldn’t he?
Nixon: All right. Let’s get that one down.
Kissinger: We might even be able to get the Israelis to get someone in there.
Nixon: Talk to the Israelis and see if you can do something on that, will you?
Nixon: Well, at least tell the Jordanians, too. We’ll hold them harmless against the Israelis. See? I mean, we—If they found out that we’re talking with the Israelis, I think that’s something we could leak—
Kissinger: We cannot leak it. Legally it is not possible for Jordan to get our [unclear-permission?]. The way to do it is the way we’ve had to deal with Iran. But the Shah of Iran doesn’t dare do it anymore unless he gets a formal commitment from us, not because of the Congress but because of the Russians. This is the same. If the situation is—
Nixon: Now, what’s the formal position? [unclear]
Kissinger: Well, either way, unless we make a formal declaration, the Russians may jump ship.
Nixon: Can we do that through a private communication? Do we have to do it in public?
Kissinger: Well, his planes have an additional problem, Mr. President. That they would have to be flown by Iranian pilots.
Nixon: Oh, I know.
Kissinger: The better arrangement is for the Iranian planes to go to Jordan, and the Jordanian—
Nixon: Yeah, I know. I know. All right. We can work that proposition out. But it’s difficult for the Russians. I don’t know what we can say that you have not already said.
Kissinger: A stiff note. Right now, I haven’t replied to the note they gave us on Monday. And I think we should just say nothing until we’ve done something because we’ve got nothing left to say.
Mitchell: By the time your note gets through that Russian bureaucracy they’ll be so far down the line.
Kissinger: No, we’d give [unclear]—
Nixon: To Brezhnev.
Kissinger: It goes directly to Brezhnev.
Nixon: Yeah, we have a way.
Kissinger: If State did it, they would just sit on it.
Kissinger: After you’ve—because we haven’t got enough to tell them yet. After you’ve made the final decision on the Jordan thing. And after we’ve moved—we shouldn’t move the carrier until you’ve decided on the—I think if we do anything we should do it all together.
Nixon: Well, it seems to me that [unclear] very much. But we move the carrier, the Jordanians move their planes—
Kissinger: [unclear exchange] The Chinese move their forces.
Nixon: Well, the way we do that is you get a message through Walters?
Nixon: Just go to New York and say, I have a message from the President to Chou En-lai. Put it on that basis. I wouldn’t fool around.
Mitchell: What’s the prospect of the Chinese moving?
Nixon: None. Well, that’s what I mean. If there’s a chance, you told me none, Henry, yesterday. Remember?
Kissinger: No, but that was when they thought they were completely wrong. I’m not so sure there’s none, Mr. President. Because they know that this is a dress rehearsal of what may happen to them.
Nixon: What I would like to do in the note to the Chinese is to state exactly that, that I consider this to be a dress rehearsal and I think their move, some move toward the border would restrain India. And that as far as we’re concerned we hold them harmless. The Russians aren’t going to dump the Chinese. Not now.
Kissinger: My feeling, Mr. President, is that the Russians are not likely going to give up the trade, the Middle East negotiations, and the SALT negotiations—
Nixon: Incidentally, a small thing, but did Haig work out something for Stans? [unclear] I told him, don’t give anything away. But don’t worry about it. Stans got his message. Let Haig handle it.
Kissinger: They are still afraid that you’re too bright. [unclear] And I think that their whole governmental system was geared towards relaxation with us.
Nixon: I know.
Kissinger: This is a godsend that President Nixon comes their way, [unclear] and therefore I don’t think [unclear].
Nixon: What is it then?
Kissinger: Well, then the Pakistanis are going to lose. But even then we are not that directly, that much involved. The carrier—
Nixon: Well, my point is they’re going to lose anyway. At least we make an effort, and there is a chance to save it. If they lose anyway, we’re no worse off than if we didn’t try. That’s the way I look at it. Don’t you agree, John?
Mitchell: Yes, and I know there are time factors here that people aren’t taking into consideration. That the Pakistanis in East Pakistan are going to keep the Indians busy for quite a while before they can move west.
Kissinger: I think, if I had a guess, I think that it is not inconceivable to me that the Chinese will start a little diversion—not a huge one—but enough to keep the Indians from moving too many troops west.
Nixon: [unclear]. But do you think we could encourage them that way?
Kissinger: Well, it would certainly take a load off their minds. But the advantage is if we communicate all this stuff with Haig to the Chinese, and they see that we meant business. Secondly, we told the Shah of Iran, and the Jordanians, and other friends that you do everything you can. And you would do more if it were not for this goddamn Senate. I think it’s better [unclear]. They were sending cables to the King of Jordan lecturing him about the immorality of getting involved in a war 500 miles away.
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia]
Kissinger: Mr. President, if anyone had predicted five years ago that Pakistan could be dismembered with Russian assistance, without anyone doing something, they would have thought that was insane.
Nixon: I think we’re setting this up as a public relations campaign, both at the UN and [unclear]. It’s very helpful. That’s one of the few good things that’s happened.
Nixon: I’m not concerned about the Teddy Kennedy [unclear]. Are you?
Mitchell: Not at all.
Kissinger: I think they’re all on the wrong side of the issue, because in 6 months it will be apparent that Indian oppression of Bengal is much worse than Pakistani oppression.
Mitchell: That stupid Kennedy. At the same time that he’s got India on the table, he’s attacking the British. [unclear]
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Nixon: In what you discuss at your meeting, I just strongly urge—don’t let, keep as much of it under the hat as you can. What I mean is let’s do the carrier thing. Let’s get assurances to the Jordanians. Let’s send a message to the Chinese. Let’s send a message to the Russians. And I would tell the people in the State Department not a goddamn thing they don’t need to know. Right, John?
Mitchell: I would hope so.
Kissinger: Except that they have to know of the movement of the Jordanian planes. And I would rather—
Mitchell: Well, you’ve got to give them the party line on that or all a sudden the Secretary of State will say that’s illegal.
Kissinger: I’d rather just have—
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: Let Johnson in on it now.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: To say that if they move them against our law, they are not to have [unclear—sanctions?].
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: I mean, I’ve got to tell them that much.
Nixon: All right, that’s an order. You’re goddamn right.
Nixon: Is it really so much against our law?
Kissinger: What’s against our law is not what they do, but our giving them permission.
Nixon: Henry, we give the permission privately.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: Hell, we’ve done worse.
166. Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, December 8, 1971, 8:03-8:12 p.m.
Nixon: What I was thinking of with regard to the options, and I want you to
know that I’m supposed to be working on them now—
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: Maybe we have to really put it to the Russians and say that we feel that under the circumstances that we have to cancel the summit.
Kissinger: No, I wouldn’t do that yet.
Kissinger: That’s too drastic.
Kissinger: I think, Mr. President—
Nixon: I want you to know that I’m prepared.
Kissinger: Well, I know—
Nixon: Because if these people are—we’ve got to look at down the road. You got a minute now?
Nixon: The things that we’ve got to consider are these: 1) the cost of letting this go down the drain. All right, that will be great. And then doing the other things. Then, on the other hand, we’ve got to figure if we play this out the fact [is] that we may not be around after the election. We have to just figure as simply as that. And it’s a tough goddamn decision. Yet on the other hand, being around after the election, if everything is down the drain, [it] doesn’t make any difference.
Kissinger: Exactly. Mr. President, if we play it out toughly it’s my conviction—this may go down the drain, but if we play it out toughly we will get some compensation somewhere, and you can go to Moscow with your head up. If you just let it go down the drain, the Moscow summit may not be worth having. That’s the reluctant view. I mean, after all the anguish we’ve gone through setting this thing up, nobody wants to jeopardize it either.
Nixon: We might say this, for example, and I’m going to—I’ll do the note taking and refresh myself; my thought is to say I was very pleased with Secretary Stans’ conversations. I was very pleased with the conversations we’ve had with regard to the Mid-East; I’m pleased with the progress on SALT. It’s hard for me to understand that all of this could be jeopardized by this area of the world, but it is being jeopardized. And that under the circumstances, I think we have to take a look at it—we have to choose as to what we can do here.
Kissinger: That’s what we’ve already set reservations on.
Nixon: I know.
Kissinger: I don’t believe, Mr. President—the major problem now is that the Russians retain their respect for you. If they’re going to play it into an absolute showdown then the summit wasn’t worth having anyway.
Kissinger: If they want a relaxation with us, we can give them plenty of ways out.
Nixon: Now, with regard to the ways out, though, the missing thing here is what we want as a way out. In other words, what do we say to them—what is the method of settlement? We can’t say go back to the status quo ante. We can say, "Well, get the hell out of West Pakistan. Leave it alone, etc., etc., etc."
Kissinger: At this stage we have to prevent an Indian attack on West Pakistan.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: That is the matrix.
Kissinger: We have to maintain the position of withdrawal from all of Pakistan, but that’s something that will get watered down as they [unclear] at the conference.
Kissinger: But we have to prevent West Pakistan from getting [unclear].
Nixon: We’ve got to say that that is—we have a treaty, wouldn’t you say?
Kissinger: It’s a little premature yet to make a move towards the Russians. They still owe you an answer to your previous note.
Kissinger: And therefore we have to hold it up a bit. But I think—I believe, Mr. President, we can come out of this with—if they maintain their respect for us even if you lose, we still will come out all right.
Nixon: You mean, moving the carrier and letting the few planes go in and that sort of thing. Well, maybe.
Nixon: That helps, I give you.
Kissinger: It’s not a good hand, Mr. President. But doing absolutely nothing—right now we’re in the position where we are telling allies not to assist another ally that is in mortal danger and to which we have a legal obligation.
Kissinger: We’re in the position where a Soviet stooge, supported with Soviet arms, is overrunning a country that is an American ally of the United States—
Kissinger: Keep it to a minimum.
Nixon: Hmm, hmm.
Kissinger: And I think we will preserve a little bit of our honor.
Nixon: Yeah. The Chinese thing I still think is a card in the hole there. That, goddamn, if they’d just move a little—I just think they might move a little if they thought we were going to play.
Kissinger: But I think if we do absolutely nothing it will trigger the Soviets into really a tough attitude.
Kissinger: And if we can, if we can still scare somebody else, which is not excluded, I give it less than fifty-fifty, it may open the Middle East solution.
Nixon: Hmm, hmm.
Kissinger: If this thing blows, the Middle East—we won’t—
Kissinger: —be able to talk to anybody.
Nixon: Well, don’t underestimate the fact that if, by good chance, the Congress gets out this week and, if we smack North Vietnam pretty strongly, that’ll be somewhat of a message to these people.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Kissinger: That’s right. Although, we ought to time it—if we send a message to the Chinese to leave a little integral between the message and package it so that they don’t think we used it as a pretext to get at Vietnam.
Nixon: Yeah. I think the message to the Soviets—
Kissinger: Is more important now.
Nixon: At the moment isn’t it?
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: It’s a little risky [unclear].
Kissinger: That’s right. Absolutely.
Nixon: We can’t assume [unclear]. Although, they must be agonizing over this now.
Kissinger: But they’re so weak. Their trouble is that they’ve just had a semi-revolt in the military.
Nixon: Have they really?
Kissinger: Yeah. And they’ve had a million people—they have a million Russians on their border [unclear].
Nixon: Boy, I tell you a movement of even some Chinese toward that border could scare those goddamn Indians to death.
Kissinger: No question about it. As soon as we have made the decision here, we can then talk to the Chinese. I would rather do that on Friday. [unclear]
Nixon: Yeah. Well, if we could enlist them some way that’d be something.
168. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, December 9, 1971, 12:44-1:27 p.m.
Kissinger: Muskie came mumbling up to me about India-Pakistan.
Nixon: What did you do?
Kissinger: I said—
Kissinger: Actually, what he said wasn’t all that bad. He said he’s for ceasefire-withdrawal and what he said publicly. I said, "Look Senator, we will be able to demonstrate that the Indians deliberately provoked this war. In the 10 minutes we’ve got here I can’t go into any details but I just want to tell you that we will be able to demonstrate this."
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Kissinger: Now, to get back to the Pakistan issue. We have this letter from Brezhnev. It’s a pretty rough deal for us. What he’s proposing is a ceasefire in return for negotiations between Yahya and the Awami League.
Nixon: Which means?
Kissinger: Which means—
Kissinger: I suppose—well, if they don’t spell it out. Our problem is 1) to prevent an attack by the Indians on West Pakistan.
Nixon: They are already attacking.
Kissinger: Well not at full force yet. Right now the West Pakistanis are still attacking them more than the other way around. The danger is that if nothing happens between now—if the war continues India will wind up with a Bhutan in the east and Nepal in the west. And the consequences of this, the rape of the sovereign country and one that has an alliance with the United States, including a secret commitment, particularly applicable to this situation, I think would be severe in Iran, in Indonesia and in the Middle East, at least. And Dick Helms agrees with this. I had him make an independent assessment. Now, there is no good deal possible anymore at this stage. And if the Russians want to press it to a brutal conclusion, we’re going to lose. On the other hand, the letter is in a very conciliatory form and we have a number of answers: One, they want the Middle East—
Nixon: Has the letter from the Agricultural Minister arrived?
Kissinger: No. The letter is a reply to the letter we sent him on Monday, which was very tough. One, they want a Middle East settlement. Two—
Nixon: They put that in the letter?
Kissinger: No. But we know it. Two, they want a European Security conference.
Nixon: Three, they want trade.
Kissinger: They want trade. And four, they want you there, and they’re afraid they’ll drive you completely towards Peking. So we have, we are not without assets. The State Department position, as I understand it, is to do nothing—is to say we shouldn’t get involved and at the right moment urge Yahya to vacate that part of Kashmir that his forces have occupied in return for a ceasefire and forget about East Pakistan. Now the Russians have made us a better offer than that. The Russians—now one advantage of accepting—
Nixon: Of course the Russians have indicated that they’re interested in negotiations.
Kissinger: Between West and East Pakistan.
Nixon: But when will the Russians believe [unclear]?
Kissinger: Well, what this would do is keep the Russians from recognizing Bangladesh.
Kissinger: Yes. But they might. My recommendation would be this: First, to warn the Russians and the Indians if this continues, we could leak out or in some way make clear that Kennedy made a commitment to Pakistan against aggression from India. This will shut up some of the liberals.
Kissinger: I told them—
Nixon: [unclear] know that commitment?
Kissinger: Yeah. Yeah. That sure doesn’t mean anything.
Nixon: Oh, it doesn’t?
Nixon: Why not?
Kissinger: Because it was just a note from the Ambassador.
Nixon: Let’s put it out.
Nixon: Let’s put it out. What do you think?
Kissinger: We should put it out as part of a general plan.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: Secondly, we should move the helicopter ship. I’m not so much in favor of moving the carrier. We’d have to do a helicopter ship and some escorts into the Bay of Bengal. And claim that they’re for evacuation. Thirdly, on the Jordanian—
Kissinger: Well, it shows we are—not on the Indians but on the Russians—
Nixon: Why the carrier?
Kissinger: Well because I think once the news of that hits there’ll be so many people screaming we’re [there] for intervention. And then we have to explain what we will never do.
Nixon: [unclear] we did—you know that we did the whole damn Turkey thing [unclear] for the purposes of being able to evacuate Americans. You remember?
Kissinger: Yeah, but in—
Nixon: Can’t play this game here. Is that correct?
Kissinger: I would be reluctant—you know you should [unclear—consider?] both courses. From the Chinese angle I’d like to move the carrier. From the public opinion angle, what the press and television would do to us if an American carrier showed up there I—
Nixon: What, why—can’t the carrier be there for the purpose of evacuation?
Kissinger: Yeah, but against whom are we going to use the planes? Against whom are we going to use the planes? Are we going to shoot our way in?
Nixon: So what do we move? Move a little helicopter ship in there? What good does that do? And why do it?
Kissinger: Well it’s a token that something else will come afterward. Gets our presence established there.
Nixon: All right. That way—
Kissinger: And the Jordanians—
Kissinger: I’d let the Jordanians move some of their planes in. And I’d get the Indian Ambassador in and demand assurances that India doesn’t want to annex territory.
Nixon: Now what part of this does State take action?
Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, I know it—it is embarrassing to hear India complaining constantly about the bureaucracy.
Nixon: All right. [unclear]
Kissinger: You have—
Nixon: I just want to know what we have to get across.
Kissinger: Well, State objects. Every time we ask State "what do you do now," they have a telegram to Yahya asking him to do something. The choice is between adopting a generally threatening posture and indicating State’s policy is noninvolvement—don’t get any arms in, don’t move anything.
Nixon: Non-involved? Meaning?
Kissinger: Rape of Pakistan.
Kissinger: That’s right. And they would propose a ceasefire in the west in return for in effect our recognition of Bangladesh, which is a total collapse, it would hurt us with the Chinese.
Kissinger: No. But he may not feel—
Nixon: Now let’s look at this from the standpoint, really look at what the realities are. You know you can handle these people [unclear]. When you look at the realities there—
Kissinger: The realities—
Nixon: The partition of Pakistan is a fact.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: We know that.
Kissinger: Of course.
Nixon: You see those people welcoming the Indian troops when they come in. [unclear]. Now the point is, why is then, Henry, are we going through all this agony?
Kissinger: We’re going through this agony to prevent the West Pakistan army from being destroyed. Secondly, to maintain our Chinese arm. Thirdly, to prevent a complete collapse of the world’s psychological balance of power, which will be produced if a combination of the Soviet Union and the Soviet armed client state can tackle a not so insignificant country without anybody doing anything. Now the purpose of the [unclear—course?] that I’m suggesting is whether we can put enough chips into the pot to get the Russians for their own reasons, for the other considerations, to call a halt to it. It may not work, after which—
Nixon: What are we going to ask the Russians to do?
Kissinger: Ceasefire, negotiation, and subsequent withdrawal. But we’d have to clear it with Yahya first before we did it. But before we ask the Russians—
Nixon: Ceasefire and negotiation on what basis?
Kissinger: Between East, between—
Kissinger: No, between the Awami League. The word Bangladesh wouldn’t be mentioned. Between the Awami League and Islamabad on the basis of the December 1970 election, which is what they’ve proposed here, which is, but within the framework of a united Pakistan. So the West Pakistanis would give by recognizing the Awami League, and the Awami League would give by not insisting on it as a precondition on Bangladesh. And the Russians would disassociate themselves from India on Bangladesh.
Nixon: And then we’d have a ceasefire and withdrawal would not occur though?
Kissinger: Withdrawal would occur after the settlement.
Nixon: Yeah. After the settlement? But there will be no settlement though?
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: Then what happens? There’s no withdrawal? Correct?
Kissinger: But then West Pakistan would be preserved.
Nixon: Why? Because there’s not enough Indians there yet for withdrawal to matter?
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: [unclear] to see what’s at the end of the road.
Kissinger: No, because right now the Indians do not yet hold much of West Pakistan and the West Pakistanis hold a little bit of Indian territory, so that comes out a wash. The major problem there is that the Pakistan army is not yet defeated in the west. They’ll run out in ammunition and POL in two weeks.
Nixon: So they’re going to [unclear] including the Russians?
Kissinger: I’m not sure. But at least then we’ll have separated them.
Nixon: What can we do down the road about the Indians?
Kissinger: I’d cut—
Nixon: We could call in the Ambassador and tell him why.
Kissinger: Demanding assurances. I would keep open the possibility that we’ll pour in arms into Pakistan. I don’t understand the psychology by which the Russians can pour arms into India but we cannot give arms to Pakistan. I don’t understand the theory of non-involvement. I don’t see where we will be as a country. I have to tell you honestly, I consider this our Rhineland. But politically it won’t affect us through next year because our opponents are so far to the left—
Nixon: Yeah, of course, we will be all right. [unclear]
Kissinger: Well but—
Nixon: I guess you have to determine, Henry, now what is the political [unclear]—
Kissinger: Well but—
Nixon: The Jordanians—
Kissinger: It will make both your trips to—
Nixon: It may well be that we just have to say that [unclear—we’ve done?] the best we can. We will lose public opinion [unclear] Chou En-lai, but that’s all right. We lose public opinion. [unclear] Understand we’re not risking—
Kissinger: Yeah, but we could come out with a settlement too.
Kissinger: On our present course we’ll come out with a rape.
Nixon: Yeah, yeah. I understand. I’ve tried to put, though—we’ve got to look at the options in their worse form. It’s very possible that we come out without a settlement. It will appear that we intervened and failed. The Russians—the American public opinion, [unclear] you see by becoming involved then you get into the whole dialogue about defeat or victory. You see? We’re not in that now. We’re not at all. It isn’t quite [unclear]. We know, you and I—
Kissinger: And it will be obvious after—
Nixon: We know. And it will be obvious after time. I hear you, I hear you. I agree. We, but I’m speaking now—
Kissinger: But other things—
Nixon: Now on this point we have to bear in mind that—and that’s why actually we have to look clear down the road. We probably ought to risk, if we’re going to go we ought to risk the summit with the Russians.
Kissinger: Yeah, but we’re risking it either way because if the Russians come out of it totally cocky, we may have a Middle East war in the spring. And which is—and Peking may be a problem because what the hell is Peking getting out of us then? We’re not going to give them Formosa; we’re not strong enough to give them any other assurances. But you are right, that is the other side of the story.
Nixon: What should we tell the Russians?
Kissinger: I would tell the Russians if, I’d say you recognize that good relations with the Soviet Union you’ve always believed are the cornerstone of peace that presupposes that neither side will take unilateral advantage of situations. Now, just when we were getting a settlement, just when we were beginning to move on the Middle East, the Soviet Union is encouraging a total change in the situation and the Indians have counted on them. You have to tell them that this will affect our relationship. And it’s bound to affect our relationship if they don’t cooperate in bringing it to a close.
Nixon: We told them that already in a letter. You think telling them in person is also a good idea.
Kissinger: Yeah, because then he’d have heard it from you. We’ve got Butz saying something like that in his toast today at lunch. I think we are better—well, but that’s what I always think, so it’s my advice that doing nothing is the State Department’s advice.
Nixon: Well I’m all for doing something, but just—
Kissinger: You are jeopardizing—
Nixon: We have to know what we’re jeopardizing and know that once we go balls out we never look back.
Kissinger: That’s right. You are jeopardizing your relationship with the Soviets but that’s also your card, your willingness to jeopardize it. If you don’t do it, they come out of this completely ahead. Now I don’t know—
Nixon: I suppose State’s objections and those who would oppose this [unclear]. Deep down they don’t want to jeopardize their relations with India.
Kissinger: That’s their principal objection.
Nixon: Second, they do not want to jeopardize our relations with the Congress in terms of non-involvement because Congress is for non-involvement around the world. And third, State [unclear].
Kissinger: But they know [unclear—the end?] That’s right.
Nixon: Is that about the way [unclear]?
Kissinger: That is right. That is right.
Nixon: So they say, "Why try?" They always say that things aren’t going to work. And that, of course, is always, sometimes, an excuse—
Kissinger: That is right. That is right. Now, of course, in our relations with the Indians we, no matter what happens—
Nixon: But just think, I am going to raise [unclear—the ante?] in the goddamn thing, except for [unclear].
Kissinger: Again you could argue that it will help us in the long-term with the Indians.
Nixon: I don’t give a damn about the Indians. I don’t think it makes a damn bit of difference whether what the relations—
Kissinger: But you see we don’t have to do a hell of overt things. You know the Jordanian airplanes; we’re talking only about less than twenty. It’s only a symbol that things are getting out of hand. Once the Indians have launched their attack I would oppose—
Nixon: The Jordanian airplane thing—I mean did you raise that in your Russian meetings?
Kissinger: Uh, yeah, but they’re so opposed to it. What they’d say if we—
Nixon: Why have they [unclear]? I don’t, I don’t believe—I don’t want them to be able to know. We need a news conference for it. They went out having a luncheon meeting there and I don’t know who that [unclear] probably put out that story to that effect. Who else there could have put out the story to the effect that I directly ordered it, or any of us were involved? Huh?
Kissinger: I have no idea. I don’t know.
Nixon: Who could do it?
Kissinger: I have no idea. I really don’t know. [At] the UN, they sit in these meetings, Mr. President, on total sabotage without guts. They’re sitting there. They never volunteer anything, sullenly dragging things out of them. They procrastinate on everything. I can’t run in to you three times a day. We’ve gone through hell for three weeks. But, that’s my job so I can’t do anything but bitching about the—but this is the first time we haven’t succeeded in getting done what needed to be done, because on Cambodia and Laos, on all these things, we held the cards. And even if we waited a week or two longer than we needed to, nothing wrong was being done. This one, they’ve just screwed it up 10 percent each day.
Nixon: What’s Packard think?
Kissinger: He’s on your side, but again none of them have the real strategic conception.
Nixon: But at least he’s on our side, though.
Kissinger: No, no. Packard, Helms and the others are.
Nixon: They’re [unclear].
Kissinger: I explained. I discussed the situation with Connally. I mean, not the bureaucratic one, I didn’t.
Nixon: What’s Connally feel? Or has [unclear] put it off again?
Kissinger: No, I gave him the pros and cons but probably in an unfair way.
Nixon: All right. What did he say?
Kissinger: He would do everything that I recommend, except moving the carrier because he thinks it might be a political liability. He’d move the helicopters there.
Nixon: Why does he think the carrier is a political liability?
Kissinger: Because he thinks people will then ask, "Are we going to intervene militarily?" And that, he thinks, is not feasible.
Nixon: I know, but we’re not going to intervene. What does it mean?
Kissinger: And then you’ll have—
Nixon: We cannot have stories about how we [unclear], but on the other hand, I happen to know damn well they’re lying.
Kissinger: It’s a close decision. I go back and forth on it myself.
Nixon: Are there a lot of Americans in that area? Are there?
Kissinger: There are 300 in West Pakistan and 200 in East Pakistan, something like that. It’s on the order of 500. I don’t know how many there are.
Nixon: Could we put the carrier in safely?
Kissinger: I told them all to give me their views by two o’clock.
Nixon: What did they say?
Kissinger: I haven’t let—I didn’t let them express any of it.
Nixon: You asked for clearance moving carriers mainly for the purpose of evacuation?
Kissinger: Oh yeah.
Nixon: Don’t, don’t tell them. We’ll let them know when they’re engaged.
Kissinger: Oh, no.
Nixon: Don’t let them in on the [unclear], on all our [unclear]. You understand? Just lie low.
Kissinger: Right. But if you want to be—
Nixon: On Jordan, let me say, on Jordan, I’m just thinking of this thing. Listen, I really think we need more carriers involved in this thing. I think moving the carrier [unclear] why would that pose a problem? Goddamn it, I’ve got a responsibility to protect American lives. I’m going to do it. I’ll just phrase it right out. Now, what’s the argument against it?
Nixon: Why is that [unclear]?
Kissinger: Nobody will believe it.
Kissinger: The Indians will scream we’re threatening them.
Nixon: Why are we doing it anyway? Aren’t we going in for the purpose of strength? Well, what do we want them [unclear] for?
Kissinger: Well I—hell, I’d move the carriers so that we can tell the Chinese tomorrow to move their forces to the frontier, and then if the Russians intervene—
Nixon: Well, all right. Now, will the Chinese intervene if we don’t move the carriers? We may just move the helicopters in.
Kissinger: It’d be better to have the carrier. But we’d have to do a lot of things, and we’d have to do them toughly.
Nixon: I understand. I think we ought to get started on it—
Kissinger: I mean we’d have to get the Indian Ambassador called in and demand assurances against annexation. We’d have to leak at that moment that secret understanding to protect the Indians [Pakistanis] against aggression.
Nixon: I understand. I get the whole plan. We’ll get the whole thing together. Quite to, with regard to the, with regard to the Jordanians, how do we wield that now?
Kissinger: The way we would do that is to [2 seconds not declassified] tell the King to move his planes and inform us that he’s done it.
Kissinger: And then we would tell State to shut up.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: If he—we would have to tell him it’s illegal, but if he does it we’ll keep things under control.
Nixon: That’s right. That’s right. All right, that’s the way we play that. And then State, the only thing they’ve ever done—well, we need Congress to be gone for the weekend any way. That’s another good thing, though. You realize that it’s coming at a good time.
Kissinger: What we should do, though, is tell—the reason I suggested getting these guys together, Mr. President—
Nixon: I know it.
Kissinger: —is to stop their [unclear], to tell them you want to overawe—
Nixon: I understand. When do we do it?
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Nixon: And then we go to the line. And tell him that we’re going to move the carrier. Do I tell him that? I don’t know. I’m perfectly willing to tell him everything. [unclear]. Are we going to tell them that I’m going to approve the Jordanian thing, or not? [unclear] tell them to sit down—
Kissinger: Let me—
Kissinger: Let me think about it—
Nixon: [unclear] so don’t worry. I’ll, I’ll—
Kissinger: I think—
Nixon: I’ll put it to him Monday—
Kissinger: —for our game plan—If you’ve decided to do this game plan, I think it’s more important that you see the Russian today because his cable would go back.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: And we could get the others in first thing in the morning because they can’t, won’t do a damn thing about it anyway.
Nixon: See the Russian? Hmm. I think they do. [unclear] Let me ask you this: Why didn’t we decide on a game plan now?
Kissinger: I didn’t find it—
Nixon: We decide the plan now. Figure it out.
Kissinger: Right, but I—
Nixon: Ok? Now the way I look at the plan it leads on to the question of the carrier. Doesn’t that bother you that much?
Kissinger: It won’t get there for 6 days anyway. Congress will be out of session.
Nixon: And Congress is going to be out, so people will say "The carrier’s there." And I’ll say it’s for the purpose of getting our people out.
Nixon: In case something happens. But when it starts to move, is that, will that get out? You get that? See, I don’t want [unclear].
Kissinger: The carrier movement may get out.
Nixon: The carrier will arrive.
Kissinger: Uh, yeah. I’d like to talk to Moorer to see whether we can keep the carrier back of the Bay of Bengal.
Nixon: All right. And then can we move the other helicopter thing in on the other hand?
Nixon: Fine. Ok, we’ll move on that. Second, with regard to the Jordanians, no sweat. That should be on your [unclear].
Nixon: And [1 second not declassified] will inform them.
Kissinger: All right.
Nixon: We’ll get him going on that. Third, with regard to the talk with the Russian, I’ll make it today. Fourth, I [want to] know that the Chinese know we’re going to do that.
Kissinger: I’ll deliver that tomorrow.
Nixon: Fifth, leak out the Kennedy thing. That ought to be done. So they know that we are concerned about the fact that we do have a deal with Pakistan.
Kissinger: We’ll let State do that. When they call Jha in they will inform him of the commitment.
Nixon: You’re going to have them call Jha in, or should I do it?
Kissinger: No, No. That’s their baby. Let them have it for assurances there’s no annexations. And while they’re there inform them that we have these commitments. [unclear] And that the Indians [unclear—understand?] that there were commitments by Kennedy. Let them put it out.
Nixon: All right. That’s what I told [unclear].
Kissinger: If you could give them advance guidance. What you need—within 10 minutes say gentlemen it’s my decision to over—to try to deter an Indian attack on West Pakistan. I want the Indians warned. I want [unclear] movement supported. And I want the bureaucracies’ [support] for evacuation purposes. I wouldn’t say anything about Jordan.
Kissinger: And I want—it is your responsibility to line up your bureaucracies to perform this with enthusiasm. And to stop the leaking. And to come up with ideas now how we can get this accomplished. Ten minutes and I’d walk out. I wouldn’t have a discussion with them.
Kissinger: We have Irwin, and Johnson, and Packard, and Moorer, and Helms. Everyone will be on your side except Irwin and Johnson.
Kissinger: I’ll get a talking paper for both the Russian—
Nixon: Now, [unclear] on the issue of the Russian.
[Nixon and Kissinger closed the conversation by discussing when to schedule a meeting with the Soviet Minister of Agriculture and another with the officials from State, Defense, the JCS, and the CIA.]
169. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), the Soviet Minister of Agriculture (Matskevich), and the Soviet Chargé d’ Affaires (Vorontsov), Washington, December 9, 1971, 4:00-4:41 p.m.
Nixon: I look forward, of course, to my meeting with the Chairman. And, of
course, meeting him when I am there. I believe that this meeting could
be—could be—the most important meeting to take place between heads of
representatives of major governments in this century. First, speaking in
personal terms, you can assure the Chairman that I approach the meeting with the
same feeling in the heart that he has. As the head of, each of us leading the
two most powerful countries in the world, we hold in our hands the future of all
the world. If we fail, it will be damaging to our people, to the Russian people,
but to the people of the whole world. We approach this in a positive spirit. One
problem, however, that is a current problem, I would like to discuss very
frankly with the Minister and our friend Mr. Vorontsov is the—it is a problem
that greatly concerns us as it concerns, I’m sure, Chairman Brezhnev—the
problem of India-Pakistan. I don’t want the, or expect the Secretary for
Agriculture—Minister for Agriculture—to comment or, because, as you know, we
are in correspondence with Mr. Brezhnev. But I believe that you as one who is
very close to the Chairman, and, of course, you as our top ranking
representative of the Embassy at this time in Washington, I want you to know how
strongly I feel personally about this issue. And it may be that as a result of
this conversation you could convey to Chairman Brezhnev a sense of urgency that
may lead to a settlement.
Let me begin first with the positive side. In the past 3 years since I have been in this office, great progress has been made. And I don’t think that 3 years ago that anybody would have predicted that Soviet-American relations would have made as much progress as they’ve made. Speaking quite candidly, most people said, "Nixon is a strong anti-communist. The Russian leaders don’t like Nixon. They can’t get along with him." But on the other hand, I am a very direct man. And I believe in negotiation. But as I said to Mr. Gromyko when he was here that when you have two powers each—we are equal today; we were not when we met before when that picture was taken. Then the secret for success for relations between those powers is total respect between the two. I respect the Soviet leaders, and consequently it’s in that spirit that I want to convey my views on our relations at this point. First, we have made progress on SALT. We have made progress on a historic Berlin agreement, in our view. We have agreed to a meeting of the highest level [unclear—in Moscow?]. We also have discussed the possibility of working out in the future a European Security conference, and of very, very great importance to both sides, we have begun through our special channel—between Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Dobrynin—at Mr. Brezhnev’s suggestion discussions on the Mid-East. As I see it right now, we have an opportunity for a totally new relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. We won’t agree on everything, but if we can agree on Berlin, on limitation of armaments, on the Mid-East, on a European security conference, and then finally, as I say, if we can make progress in the field of trade—where Secretary Stans received a very warm welcome and I’m most grateful for it—this will mean that the United States and the Soviet Union will be as close together as we were during the great war. That’s what we want. I believe it’s possible for two nations with differences between governments—two nations with different, which we must recognize, different objectives in the world; your objective in the Mid-East is different than ours. But I think it’s possible for us to live in peace and to find areas of cooperation. And that’s what I think our meeting in May is going to accomplish.
But now speaking very frankly, a great cloud hangs over it. It’s the problem in the subcontinent. In the United Nations we have disagreements. The Soviet Union on one side; the United States on another side. As far as the outcome of the present conflict is concerned, the Soviet Union is going to win. The client of the Soviet Union is India. India has 600 million people, and 600 million people are going to win over 60 million people. And if events go forward as they seem to be moving at the present time Pakistan, which lined up with China, will be cut in half. And, so consequently, looking at it in the short-range, this whole series of events on the subcontinent is dangerous for the Soviet Union; it’s a game for India; it’s a tragedy for Pakistan; and it’s been interpreted, of course, as being a setback for China because they back Pakistan, the loser. What concerns me, Mr. Minister, is that it is certain that what is happening on the subcontinent will be a tragedy for Pakistan. But what would be far worse from the standpoint of the future of the world is that if we continue on a different course—the Soviet Union going one way, the United States going another way on the subcontinent—it could poison this whole new relationship, which has so much promise. It could be a disaster for it. So what I would like to suggest is that I do not believe that the gains that the Soviet Union may get from India winning or the dismemberment of Pakistan, gains which are probably certain, are worth jeopardizing the relationship with the United States. I do not say this to make trouble in any sense. But I think there is a better way.
A better way is for the Soviet Union and the United States to find a method where we can work together for peace in that area. Now the first requirement is that there be a ceasefire. The second requirement is that, and this is imperative, that the Indians, who already have pretty much overcome the resistance in East Pakistan, the Indians desist in their attacks on West Pakistan. If they do not, the Indians after wiping out East Pakistan, if they then move their forces against West Pakistan, then the United States cannot stand by. Now—so the best way is the ceasefire and then maybe since the Soviet Union is open to the idea of withdrawal—the Chairman has suggested that there be political negotiations—I would say a ceasefire and then negotiations within a Pakistan framework in which Yahya will negotiate with the Awami League. And then bring [unclear] negotiations to withdrawal. Now this we think is a fair settlement, recognizing the interests of everybody concerned. The key to the settlement, however, is in the hands of the Soviet Union. They can restrain the Indians. If the Soviet Union does not restrain the Indians, the United States will not be able to exert any influence with Yahya to negotiate a political settlement with the Awami League.
Now having said all these things, right now is the critical point. The critical point is that if the Indians continue to wipe out resistance in East Pakistan and then move against West Pakistan, we then, inevitably, look to a confrontation. Because you see the Soviet Union has a treaty with India; we have one with Pakistan. And in summary, it seems to me that it’s very shortsighted for either of us to allow what happens in South Asia to interfere with these great new relations that now have so much promise.
What I would like to simply to suggest to—that you convey to the Chairman my concern—my very reasonable—but it is important that he recognize the urgency of restraining the Indians at this point and moving toward a ceasefire and a political settlement. Having said that, may I say that I know there are lots of arguments that can be made—at the United Nations Mr. [unclear] has suggested it, Mr. Brezhnev covered some of these. But my purpose is not to argue those, make debating points. My purpose is to say, look, we have a difference here, but we must not allow the differences there and the opportunity for one or the other to gain, to endanger and jeopardize the relations that are far more important. In the view of Arms Control, the Mid-East, which is far more dangerous to each of us than anything that happens in India-Pakistan, and not to mention what I think it also terribly important over the long haul, trade and the future of Europe. So there’s the message I would like to [unclear—convey?]. I’m sorry that on a visit that I know is in another field that we have this current crisis. But I know my Russian friends always like candor, and I speak that way in that spirit.
Matskevich: I am grateful for your very candid approach. Unfortunately, I was with Mr. Brezhnev [unclear] so that’s why I didn’t talk to it. We talked now with Brezhnev about four problems: the Middle East, Europe, SALT talks, and we talk trade. And I have [unclear] three proposals [unclear] and I’m looking forward to meeting you. [unclear] appeal to you and Mr. Brezhnev to have some kind of agreement on agricultural matters when you meet in Moscow. And, of course, for you to decide on what night we are going to sign that kind of agreement on agricultural matters. This is why when I talk with Brezhnev [unclear] and I was not prepared—
Nixon: Oh, I know. No, I wouldn’t want the Minister to comment on it, and I wouldn’t want you, Mr. Chargé, to comment on it, because you haven’t had a chance to get instructions from your government. But this is moving so fast that I want particularly the Chairman’s good friend and you to know that we see it as a crucial test of our relations. And so we feel that now is the time to move, to settle this thing before it blows up into a major confrontation.
Matskevich: When I see Brezhnev, I’ll convey the spirit and letter of what you said.
[unclear] in the preliminary discussion, that the main thrust of the talk [unclear]. And actually I know that the President personally took many steps to avert the war between India and Pakistan, and appeal to them. Now as he [Brezhnev] understands the situation, of course, the war on the [unclear] and the root of the problem should be eliminated, which gave rise to [unclear]. He says the Pakistan leaders should be more flexible.
Kissinger: We will have a formal reply for you tomorrow.
Nixon: In the meantime—I wish—I would like the Minister to convey, before he returns to Moscow, our feeling about this.
Vorontsov: Mr. President, I’ll—
Nixon: Because you see, Mr. Chargé, it’s so critical. I want him to read my reply in the context of what I said to his good friend, the Minister.
Vorontsov: I will report it today, and Secretary Brezhnev will have it today.
Nixon: Well, I look forward—I hope we meet again in May.
[At this point in the conversation, Matskevich and Vorontsov left the Oval Office. Nixon and Kissinger continued with their conversation].
Kissinger: I think, Mr. President, that—
Nixon: I think it will help.
Kissinger: It will help. They’re not serious. That will help. Now I’m going to send that over to State. [unclear]. I’m going to say this is what you said to the Russian Minister [unclear]. I thought—
Nixon: See, I really stuck it to him.
Kissinger: Well, but you did it so beautifully.
Nixon: When I said, "What happens to Pakistan would be tragic, but what happens to Russian-American relations could be disastrous to the world." And you know I said, "You go in. You’re going to win. India’s going to win. You’re going to embarrass the Chinese. But you’re going to poison relations with the United States. [unclear]. But the point is, what can we do—
Kissinger: I think—
Nixon: What do we have to do?
Kissinger: Well, you told him what they should do. I’ll have the Pakistan Ambassador in, because we don’t want to do it behind their backs.
Nixon: What is he—is he willing to do anything?
Kissinger: I think what you outlined—ceasefire, promise of withdrawal—
Nixon: [Speaking to Alexander Butterfield] Send that Ambassador, send this to Vorontsov, pictures [unclear].
Kissinger: I think our friend, in fact, our friend isn’t the right word. This is one of the—I think we will lose 70 percent of this enterprise. The question is if we can save 30 percent; that’s 30 percent more than the situation permits. And we will come out with some dignity. And—
Nixon: Well, what did you tell the Pakistani Ambassador?
Kissinger: Well, I told the Pak Ambassador—I read him a few paragraphs from the Brezhnev letter. I said, here we are. And then I said my personal view, as a friend is, and then gave him, more or less, your program.
Kissinger: I said it will give you time. It will stop the Indians. It will change world opinion. If there is another war, it will be a clear war of aggression. It’s—
Nixon: An agreement. All that you’re asking them to do is to agree to negotiate with the Awami League, is that it?
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: They have no choice, hell.
Kissinger: Well, they could totally be obstinate and say it’s their country and they’re not going to discuss it. But—
Kissinger: [Speaking to Alexander Butterfield] Listen, get Haig to bring the paper in. I think, Mr. President, it’s one of these situations again. I think we’re going to have, if Yahya gives us a positive reply.
Nixon: He won’t.
Kissinger: Well, then we may have to do it without him. I just hate to do it without him because of the Chinese. That’s the big problem. But then we may have to let him get raped. See then we can just, you know—
Nixon: Throw up our hands.
Kissinger: Then we can just say, "All right, we did what we could." And then he’s just going to lose.
Nixon: You know, I used the word complication with us in this thing. I said, "We have a treaty with Pakistan; you’ve got one with India." There’s a lot of hard language in this.
Kissinger: It will end now. It will end. We’ll lose 70 percent. But that’s a hell of a lot better. We were losing 110 percent yesterday.
Nixon: I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do. But at least they’ll stop the goddamn Indians from going to the west. Do you think they will or not?
Nixon: You think they would?
Kissinger: Yep. That’s my judgment.
Nixon: Will you have another talk with Vorontsov—he says, of course he’ll convey this message right away, won’t he?
Kissinger: Mr. President, the thing—the things I have learned in my association, that if you push chips into the pot, you might as well push a lot in. You’re not going to lose—
Nixon: Yeah. I agree.
Kissinger: I think this will end.
171. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, December 9, 1971, 5:57-6:34 p.m.
Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, this thing is beginning to shape up. [5
seconds not declassified] Bhutto is coming over here. The Pakistan Ambassador.
Not the Ambassador, the Pakistan Representative at the UN.
Nixon: That son-of-bitch?
Kissinger: Yeah. But we understand that his instructions are to offer a settlement very close to what we have. What we are putting to them.
Nixon: I noticed, I read that in the news summary, I mean in this morning’s briefing.
Kissinger: That he’s coming?
Nixon: Yeah, that he’s coming, and that Yahya may be setting him up to make a sell out in order to [unclear]. He’s a bad man. Bhutto’s a terrible bastard.
Kissinger: But the point is if we get this, you see, if we get this offer, if we get Yahya to agree with this proposition, then we can go back to the Russians and settle this thing. And we’ll be in good graces with the Chinese because we’ve got the summit with Yahya’s concurrence. We’ll have squared the circle. Then after we settle it, we put the bastards here to the torch by saying that we were playing this game [unclear]. I think we’re going to pull it off.
Kissinger: Well, they will lose East Pakistan. There’s nothing to be done about that.
Nixon: We all know that.
Kissinger: But the question is how they lose it.
Nixon: And West Pakistan, they think they’re going to lose it anyway, don’t you think so?
Kissinger: Well, they may be so demented that, well, yes by now they have to think it.
Nixon: Well, for Christ sakes. Well, how will it be done then? It’ll be done through, they’ll make an offer for a political settlement with East Pakistan? But that’s, beyond that point, the Indians will never accept that. Neither will the Russians.
Kissinger: No, but that wouldn’t be, no, the Russians will. That’s the interesting thing in the Brezhnev letter. The Brezhnev letter says the negotiations should start at the point at which they were interrupted on March 25, 1970. At that point, East Pakistan was part of Pakistan. And if we could get the Soviets to state that as their idea of a settlement. If we make a choice—
Nixon: They have. They have stated that.
Nixon: In the letters.
Kissinger: In the letter. Now if we, if you and Brezhnev, could make a joint declaration. The way I see this thing evolving, if we get Yahya aboard by tomorrow morning, and the time factor works for us—
Kissinger: It could be a joint appeal by you and Brezhnev along these three lines. If the Indians reject it, then we go to the United Nations Security Council and get—this time the Soviets have to support us in the Security Council because it’s a joint—
Kissinger: So then we’ve got the Indians at a disadvantage. And we’ll have separated the Soviets from the Indians to some extent.
Nixon: Um, hmh.
Kissinger: If the Indians accept it, then what will happen, first of all, it will then save West Pakistan—
Kissinger: —for the time being. And if the Indians—
Nixon: The Indians will stop, and there’ll be a cease-fire. But the Indians will stay in East Pakistan.
Kissinger: Well, what will happen then is a negotiation between the East Pakistan leaders and the West Pakistan leaders, which if one, which will probably lead to the independence of Bangladesh anyway. But it will then be done not by us selling out but by Yahya agreeing to it.
Nixon: All right. Now—
Kissinger: You know, it’s a lousy outcome, but we are now talking, Mr. President, of—
Nixon: Well, it was sort of inevitable. East Pakistan in my opinion could never be saved. In my opinion it could never be saved with the way it was going.
Kissinger: I mean, when it’s all done it will—
Nixon: They were too clumsy, the West Paks, to have saved the damned thing.
Kissinger: When it’s all, if we come out of it that way, Mr. President—
Nixon: If we can save a strong West Pakistan we’ll have accomplished a lot.
Kissinger: We’ll have accomplished a lot, and all the bleeders about India will again have been proved wrong, because after that—
Nixon: Well, if we ever get the Russians to go with us on this, that could be a watershed in the relations between the two countries. That’s why I wish Dobrynin was here so you could tell him exactly that.
Kissinger: I know. But it’s better with this guy because he’s got to report it. Dobrynin would have argued with you and tried to pitch.
Nixon: Did you notice we stopped him? We didn’t have arguments.
Kissinger: Yeah, well it would have been harder for Dobrynin, to stop Dobrynin. So actually I think, I told Haig I thought this was one of your finest hours here because anybody else that I know would have said the hell with it. We have no chance. It’s a long shot. Why jeopardize the summit? And I think you’ll have strengthened the summit when it’s all over.
Nixon: The Russians could come back with a hard-nosed message.
Nixon: I don’t see how they can.
Nixon: You know, when you really put it in terms of basically a lawyer arguing a case, I made such a strong case of how much was on the plate, how much they were going to risk at such a cheap small game that they just can’t. I don’t see how they could possibly turn it down. If they do, they aren’t worth dealing with. Huh?
Kissinger: Every instinct I have tells me they won’t turn it down.
Nixon: Well, Vorontsov, you know, made notes for [unclear].
Kissinger: Every instinct—because basically it accepts their framework. We should get a letter to them tomorrow sort of summarizing what you said as a formal reply.
Nixon: Well, could you get something done, prepared?
Kissinger: Yeah, I’ll have it for you first thing tomorrow.
Nixon: I think we ought to get it off right away to Brezhnev.
Kissinger: Tomorrow morning. Now because—
Nixon: You know, it’s an interesting thing how these people are the same. This fellow here, who is incidentally, he is a nice guy, and he hasn’t changed. Just think 12 years ago. He comes in and says I haven’t changed, but boy you should see him. He hasn’t changed one bit. Still got the [unclear]. But this fellow went through the same line that Gromyko did about how Brezhnev was a warmhearted man, a good man, and so forth and so on.
Kissinger: Brezhnev has a hell of a lot at stake in this meeting with you, Mr. President.
Nixon: He wants it to succeed, you think?
Kissinger: Yeah. The sons-of-bitches in this country can piss on you as much as they want.
Nixon: They do.
Kissinger: Outside this country you are the world leader right now. I mean, why the hell would Trudeau, who dislikes everything you stand for, who in his style, in his baggy style, is as different from you as two human beings can be.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: How, why does he say it was a fantastic revolutionary concept? First, because it was, of course, well put. But also because he feels he wants to be identified with the leader of the, at least the non-communist world.
Nixon: He was hurting with his identification with Kosygin, and he wanted to be identified as American.
Kissinger: Yeah, but he didn’t say this about Kosygin. And he couldn’t have because his domestic opinion wouldn’t—
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: If he had said Kosygin made a revolutionary—
Nixon: Well, that vote at the UN wasn’t too bad too. That had some reflection of this.
Kissinger: That’s right. I mean, our liberal establishment is intellectually, it’s morally corrupt, but it’s also intellectually so totally corrupt. What they’re telling you is, in effect, to preside over the rape of an ally, to which Kennedy has a commitment. What you are almost certainly going to achieve is the preservation of West Pakistan which is, it’s a tragedy but—
Nixon: Well, it was done before.
Kissinger: But we didn’t urge him to go into East Pakistan the way he did.
Nixon: I know.
Kissinger: And we can’t be given the impossible.
Nixon: One thing I want you to do, Connally mentioned to staff. I want you to take, this is an order, $25 million, take it out of the Indian money and go to the Indonesians in need of it. Now by God that is to be done. I want the Indonesians to be, a Muslim country to know that we’re their friends. I think that will have repercussions right away.
Nixon: All right. Can you issue that order?
Kissinger: I’ll get it done this minute.
Nixon: Put it out. What I meant is, Henry, put it under my name if necessary.
Kissinger: Oh, no, no, no.
Nixon: I’m not going to have any screwing around.
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Nixon: You think State will call in the Indian Ambassador and tell him that?
Kissinger: Well, Irwin was so shaken he hardly knew what to say.
Nixon: Well, give him instructions. Give him a talking paper and the rest. Will he do that? Or what? What are you going to do? I don’t know what the hell they’re—
Kissinger: Oh no, no. He’ll now carry it out.
Nixon: Well goddamnit, it must be, it would be very easy for me, for anybody to tell the Indian Ambassador we will not tolerate acquisition of territory, right? Well, for Christ sakes, you’ve got to say that much.
Kissinger: No, no. We’re in.
Nixon: What else they do, I don’t know.
Kissinger: We’re getting it.
Nixon: I’ll tell you one thing, the—
Kissinger: I think we’ll be over it by this time next week.
Nixon: [unclear] He’s going to feel, they’re going to think twice over there before they allow any inspired leaks, piss on the White House for a couple of days. Oh, they’ll still come, but they can’t help but know, that whole establishment over there, how I feel about it. I mean, I know what they’re doing. I read the damn papers.
Kissinger: I think we’re over the hump. My instinct tells me that this is not going to build into a confrontation. These Russians are slobbering all over you.
Nixon: You think we’ve got the bureaucracy lined up [unclear]?
Kissinger: I thought it was essential. We’ll have a well-behaved WSAG meeting tomorrow, I hope. First time in 4 weeks.
Nixon: For the first time in 4 weeks you say?
Kissinger: Yeah. The others aren’t so bad, I mean, Packard is fine. Moorer is fine, Packard is fine, Helms is fine.
Nixon: Well, they got that Moorer knows about moving that ship.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah. Oh, no, we’re doing everything that can be done now.
Nixon: We’re right to move the carrier. If you’re going to make a move, Christ, move the carrier.
Kissinger: In fact, even if there is a settlement, we should move the force in there just to show we can do it and take it out again.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: Then no one can accuse us of anything.
Nixon: That’s right. We move the carrier. Get the planes over. Call in the Indian Ambassador. I thought it was good to report to this group that I’ve just told the Russian minister, and you’re going to tell him anyway.
Kissinger: No, but this way I don’t have to tell him.
Kissinger: This is even better. This way I don’t—
Nixon: [unclear] told the Russian.
Kissinger: This way I don’t have to do—
Nixon: Without poisoning our relations. Also, I thought it was, nobody that was there was taking it down, but, you know, it’s too bad—
Kissinger: No, Haig was taking it down.
Nixon: The point that I made that, I said I know the usual line here is the same as what’s—
Kissinger: I know.
Nixon: The diplomatic line is to let the dust settle until you no longer see the grave. And I said that’s not my policy.
Kissinger: I thought that was powerful. Haig said this was the most powerful statement he’s heard you make in WSAG. It was really strong. You know, if it works it will look inevitable.
[Omitted here is discussion of the President’s schedule.]
Nixon: I’ll bet you that wire to Moscow is humming right at this moment.
Kissinger: We’ll have an answer to that tomorrow. Saturday morning at the latest.
Nixon: Well, I was conciliatory though, Henry. I did say, I said as far as this deal is concerned, all that we ask is restrain the Indians, let’s have a ceasefire, they must have a political settlement. As a matter of fact, it was his deal that we were talking about.
Kissinger: Well, there were a few hookers in there the way you put it. You said, "Talk to the Awami League."
Kissinger: And the way they put it was, it has to start where it stopped on March 25, which really means freeing Mujib.
Nixon: I see.
Kissinger: On the other, but—
Nixon: That’s negotiable too.
Kissinger: But I would figure, Mr. President, that’s not what we get into in the first phase. In the first phase, we should state a few general principles. The major thing is to defang the Indians now. The Pakistanis have lost 80 percent of their POL. They bombed Karachi completely. The Pakistanis are going to collapse in 2 weeks, incidentally. If we can save West Pakistan it will be—
Nixon: Thirty percent?
Kissinger: An extraordinary achievement, which is not warranted by the situation.
Nixon: Because the Indians are ready to gobble it up?
Kissinger: Because if State played its usual game, it will send a message to [New] Delhi, it will send a message to Islamabad, all of which plays into the Indian hands just as our strategy the first week of the operation did. They then take 5 days to reply. The reply will be inconclusive.
Nixon: You know another point that State needs to get pounded into its goddamned head is that we do not determine our policy around here solely on the basis of how many people are on one side.
Kissinger: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you made that point.
Nixon: And how many, and whether a country is a democracy or whether it is not a democracy.
Kissinger: That’s another point you made.
Nixon: By God, we just don’t do it that way. I mean, it doesn’t make, an evil deed is not made good by the form of government that executes the deed, Henry. I mean, as I’ve often said, the most horrible wars in history have been fought between the Christian nations of Western Europe.
Nixon: Right? Does that make them right?
Nixon: No, sir. No, sir.
Kissinger: And between, the governments prior to World War I were all more or less the same, with the exception of the Czar. I mean, that German emperor wasn’t all that powerful.
Nixon: Well, he was a Christian monarch.
Kissinger: I mean, they had a pretty democratic government. He sort of strutted around and made it look as if he were powerful.
Nixon: Well, I don’t know. I hope it works. I hope it works from the Russian standpoint. I just can’t believe Brezhnev can hear this being said. And I must, I think your hunch is right, saying it to this guy was, it was just an accident. But saying it to him was very important. He could see that I was fair, I was conciliatory, but tough as hell.
Nixon: And he saw that too. And I said there’d be a confrontation.
Kissinger: And you listed all the things you were willing to do. It was a masterpiece. It was the subtlety, and then you were expecting—you want to jeopardize European Security, Middle East, SALT, all of that, for what? And you said there’d be a confrontation.
Nixon: Also pointing out that we had a treaty with Pakistan, just as they had one with India. [unclear] And he just assumes we might do something.
Kissinger: Mr. President, if this were a key country to them they might challenge you. But why should they run this risk to back you down? First of all, no one knows you’ve threatened.
Nixon: No. I told him, you know. I said, "I am not threatening anything."
Kissinger: And besides, you can do a lot of things. I mean, if the principle gets established that the stronger country can prevail with the backing of another country, we could unleash the Israelis and kill the Egyptians.
Nixon: We might do that.
Kissinger: I mean we won’t do it but—
Nixon: Who knows?
Kissinger: But I mean, just looking at it from their point of view.
Nixon: Who knows? Who knows?
Kissinger: Every time we’ve played them this way it’s come out all right. And they know, they said you’ve just done too many unpredictable things. No, I think this was a great day.
Nixon: We shall see. We shall see.
Kissinger: We may lose on it. We were certain—
Nixon: Well at least we tried.
Kissinger: We were certain to lose the other way. We may win this way.
Nixon: Well, we tried. Some people, the Russians cannot ignore this. They just can’t let the—
Kissinger: Oh, no. Oh, no. You’ll get an answer within, by Sunday morning.
Nixon: The Russians, I think, the real question is whether they will just lean on the Indians now.
Kissinger: That’s what it amounts to. And anything we get in this connection is money in the bank a) in the sense of defeating, of protecting Pakistan. But even more importantly, it will teach the Indians that there are bigger games than, the Indians know they’ve got the Pakistanis where they’ve wanted them.
Kissinger: So if we can stop an Indian onslaught on West Pakistan now, the Indians will consider that being thwarted.
Nixon: You think so?
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: Well, they’re going to be thwarted in another way. Now, I will not listen to any suggestions that that aid be restored.
Kissinger: No matter what happens, Mr. President.
Nixon: No, sir.
Kissinger: That is what we have to be—
Nixon: I will not listen to it. Now these bastards have asked for it, and they’re not going to get it. Now I think we’re going to have to play that game. They chose Russia. Let Russia aid them. Correct?
Kissinger: Absolutely. What I would do with the Indians, Mr. President, is keep them in the deep freeze until after your election. After you’re elected they’ll come to you hat in hand.
Nixon: Well, we don’t want—
Kissinger: No, no. But then, I don’t think Indian animosity can hurt you if there’s no war. I don’t know which American likes India.
Kissinger: Except those intellectuals who are against you.
Kissinger: Yeah, but they’re against you anyway.
[The brief conclusion of the conversation is unclear.]
172. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, December 10, 1971, 10:51-11:12 a.m.
Kissinger: Today, I want to tell you what I have done, tentatively, subject
to your approval.
Nixon: Let’s go ahead.
Kissinger: They’ve got this East Pakistan—they’ve got the offer of the commander of the Pakistan forces in East Pakistan to get a ceasefire and so forth. They were going to run to the Security Council and get that done. We don’t want to be in a position where we push the Pakistanis over the cliff.
Kissinger: So I told them to link the ceasefire in the east with the ceasefire in the west.
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Kissinger: The ceasefire in the west is down the drain.
Kissinger: I mean the east is down the drain. The major problem now has to be to protect the west.
Kissinger: So I’ve told them that they should link any discussion of ceasefire in the east with ceasefire in the west. And to use this to wrap the whole business up. I’ve got Vorontsov coming in at 11:30 and I’m going to tell him what the Pakistanis did in the east—
Nixon: was a result of our—
Kissinger: —was as a result of what we did. Which is true. I’m going to show him the Kennedy understanding. I’m going to hand him a very tough note to Brezhnev and say, "this is it now, let’s settle the—let’s get a cease fire now." That’s the best that can be done now. They’ll lose half of their country, but at least they preserve the other half. The east is gone.
Nixon: What is it the east in effect offered?
Kissinger: Well, the east—the commander in the east has offered—it’s a little bit confused. He’s asked the United Nations to arrange an immediate, honorable repatriation of his forces. In other words, turn over to civilian authority.
Nixon: Right. And?
Kissinger: And that’s, in effect, all. And a promise that the Indians would eventually withdraw too. But that’s going to happen anyway. I mean, to participate in that is a nice humanitarian effort, but it does not solve the overwhelming problem of the war in the west.
Nixon: Does State understand that?
Kissinger: No. Well they understand it now, believe me.
Nixon: Yeah. See the point is, our desire is to save West Pakistan. That’s all.
Kissinger: That’s right. That is exactly right.
Nixon: All right. Fine. What is State up to now? We’re still getting, you’re still getting those—keep those carriers moving now.
Kissinger: The carriers—everything is moving. Four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, 22 more are coming. We’re talking to the Saudis, the Turks we’ve now found are willing to give five. So we’re going to keep that moving until there’s a settlement.
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Nixon: When are you going to see the Chinese? This afternoon?
Nixon: What are you going to tell them?
Kissinger: I’m going to tell them everything we did, and I’m going to tell them that we, I’m going to tell them what forces we’re moving.
Nixon: Could you say that it would be very helpful if they could move some forces or threaten to move some forces?
Nixon: They’ve got to threaten or they’ve got to move, one of the two. You know what I mean?
Nixon: Threaten to move forces or move them, Henry, that’s what they must do. Now goddamn it, we’re playing our role and that will restrain India. And also tell them that this will help us get the ceasefire. We don’t want to make a deal with the Russians [that] the Chinese will piss on.
Kissinger: Absolutely. Oh, God. That’s why—
Nixon: The Chinese at the present time are kicking the hell out of the Russians about this, you know. The Russians are kicking the Chinese saying that the Chinese are playing with the Paks and the Paks—you know what I mean? This is a Russian-Chinese conflict.
Kissinger: Mr. President, if we stay strong, even if it comes out badly, we’ll have come out well with the Chinese, which is important.
Nixon: How about getting the French to sell some planes to the Paks?
Kissinger: Yeah. They’re already doing it.
Nixon: All right, why not? I mean, if they need some supplies, why not the French?
Nixon: Now the French are just—they’ll sell to anybody.
Kissinger: Yeah, they are selling them now.
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to Pakistan.]
Nixon: Let me say this on the French thing, can you talk with the French? And, is there any way we can get them—I mean we talk about the United States helping, furnishing arms to Pakistan, how about getting the French to sell them in some instances?
Nixon: It’s a question of sales, isn’t it really?
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Nixon: Now coming back to this India-Pakistan thing, have we got anything else we can do?
Kissinger: No. I think we’re going to crack it now.
Nixon: Then I hope that the Indians will be warned by the Chinese, right?
Kissinger: Well, I’ll have to find out tonight.
Nixon: You do your best, Henry.
Nixon: This should have been done long ago. The Chinese have not warned the Indians.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: They haven’t warned them that they’re going to come in. And that’s the point. They’ve got to warn them—it’s just—
Kissinger: Uh, huh.
Nixon: All they’ve got to do is move something . Move their, move a division. You know, move some trucks. Fly some planes. You know, some symbolic act. We’re not doing a goddamn thing, Henry, you know that. We’re just moving things around, aren’t we?
Nixon: But these Indians are cowards. Right?
Kissinger: Right. But with Russian backing. You see, the Russians have sent notes to Iran, Turkey, to a lot of countries threatening them. The Russians have played a miserable game.
Nixon: So we’ll do the same thing, right?
Nixon: Threatening them with what? If they come in and what?
Kissinger: They’ll do something. They haven’t said what they’ll do. But they’ll settle now. After your conversation with Matskevich yesterday, they’re going to settle.
Nixon: What basis [unclear]?
Kissinger: The ceasefire in the west is all that’s left.
Nixon: The ceasefire in the west. And what, though, on East Pakistan? What do we do about that? Are we going to just say that—
Kissinger: No, we—
Nixon: Indian occupation or Bangladesh? Or what?
Kissinger: What we—
Nixon: Are we going to oppose Bangladesh recognition? What’s our position?
Kissinger: The best would be—
Nixon: Is anybody involved on these things?
Kissinger: Yes, yes. The best not [unclear], but the best would be if—
Nixon: See, how are we, if we cannot tell those people how we want it to come out, we can’t have a decent plan. That’s what we haven’t had at this point.
Kissinger: That’s right. Well, we’ve had—after the Brezhnev letter came yesterday we sent a copy of it to Yahya.
Kissinger: We’ve told him the pros and cons of accepting it.
Kissinger: And now Yahya has come back with a proposal saying ceasefire, negotiations for mutual withdrawal, and negotiations to settle the political future of—
Kissinger: And then what will happen on the Bangladesh, Mr. President, is that whatever West Pakistan and these people work out, we will accept. But we will not be in the fore—in the front. If we can get—
Nixon: Whatever West Pakistan works out with whom?
Kissinger: With—the negotiations on East Pakistan.
Nixon: India has not even—but India will not agree to negotiations on East Pakistan.
Kissinger: Yeah, but the Russians have already agreed to it. So what will happen, let’s be realistic, what will happen is that the representatives of East Pakistan will demand independence. And in practice I think that is what West Pakistan will then agree to. But then it won’t be us who’ve done it. This will solve the problem of do we recognize Bangladesh against the wishes of the Pakistan Government.
Nixon: That’s right. We must never recognize Bangladesh. That’s why no answer’s the right thing, until West Pakistan—
Kissinger: Well, that’s the point.
Nixon: Gives us the go-ahead. Bhutto will do it. Now, I want a program of aid to West Pakistan formulated immediately. Have some sort of a program, you know, after they’re there. We cannot let them hang out there by themselves. I don’t think we can do much from a military standpoint, but let’s find a way to let others do it. That’s one suggestion. On the French thing, I want you to talk to the French cold turkey. We’d like to find a way to help to work with the French, can we? You got any arms in there?
Kissinger: I will do my best.
Nixon: Can you think of anything else?
Kissinger: No, I think—
Nixon: I don’t think we can get—frankly Henry, I don’t think we can get through the Congress arms sales to West Pakistan. That’s what I mean. Do you?
Nixon: All right. Then what was our answer? Give them a hell of a lot of economic assistance, correct?
Kissinger: I can let them convert it into—
Nixon: And let them convert into—well that’s their, that’s their, we don’t ask the Indians, we’ve given the Indians all this economic assistance, and we didn’t ask any questions when they made a treaty with the Russians and bought Russians arms. Did we raise any questions about that?
Kissinger: And the point you made yesterday, we have to continue to squeeze the Indians even when this thing is settled. They can’t get—these 84 million dollars are down the drain.
Nixon: That’s right. That’s gone. And incidentally we’ve already spent 25 million of it on the crap that—take another 25 million and give it to the Paks.
Nixon: We’ve got to for rehabilitation. I mean, Jesus Christ, they’ve bombed—I want all the war damage; I want to help Pakistan on the war damage in Karachi and other areas, see?
Kissinger: See the reason—I’m getting Vorontsov in, Mr. President, at 11:30—
Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: I’m going to put before him, I’m going to show him that Kennedy—
Nixon: Yeah. And say, "This is what the President’s talking about."
Nixon: Now, and say now listen, we didn’t [unclear] and we just want to say we’re not—don’t get, just say the President is, as you know, you must never misjudge this man. He doesn’t pound on the table, and he doesn’t shout. But when he talks the way he does—I’ve walked with him for 3 years, this is the way he means it. It’s just cold fact. I’d put it that way. I think you’ve got to be [unclear—personable?]
Kissinger: Mr. President, I don’t have, this was, if this thing comes up, between you and me we know that West Pakistan is lost. If you can save West Pakistan it will be an unbelievable achievement because West Pakistan has had all its oil supplies destroyed.
Kissinger: They’ve had no spare parts from us for months. Their army is ground down. And 2 more weeks of war and they’re finished in the west as much as they are in the east. So if we can save West Pakistan, it would still be a defeat, but we would have done it. And the Chinese will know that. And the Russians will know it. And the Indians will not be happy with it.
Nixon: I don’t want the Indians to be happy. I want the Indians—I want also, put this down, and get Scali in. Use him more. I want a public relations program developed to piss on the Indians. I mean, that atrocity of the [unclear], for example.
Nixon: I want to piss on them for their responsibility. Get a white paper out. Put down, White paper. White paper. Understand that?
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: I don’t mean for just your reading. But a white paper on this—
Kissinger: No, no. I know.
Nixon: I want the Indians blamed for this, you know what I mean? We can’t let these goddamn, sanctimonious Indians get away with this. They’ve pissed on us on Vietnam for 5 years, Henry.
Nixon: And what do we do? Here they are raping and murdering, and they talk about West Pakistan, these Indians are pretty vicious in there, aren’t they?
Nixon: Aren’t they killing a lot of these people?
Kissinger: Well, we don’t know the facts yet. But I’m sure [unclear] that they’re not as stupid as the West Pakistanis—they don’t let the press in. The idiot Paks have the press all over their place.
Nixon: Well, the Indians did, oh yes. They brought them in, had pictures of spare tanks and all the rest. Brilliant. Brilliant public relations.
Kissinger: Yeah, but they don’t let them in where the civilians are.
Nixon: Oh, I know. But they let them in to take the good shots. The poor, damn Paks don’t let them in at all.
Kissinger: Or into the wrong places.
Kissinger: The Paks just don’t have the subtlety of the Indians.
Nixon: Well, they don’t lie. The Indians lie. Incidentally, did Irwin carry out my order to call in the Indian Ambassador?
Kissinger: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Nixon: He did?
Kissinger: Within an hour.
Nixon: And he told him he would not accept a—what they, well it came out fortuitously, didn’t it? The right thing to say at this time.
Kissinger: It could not have worked better. It’s all working together.
Nixon: Because we said to them that the acquisition of territory will not be accepted, correct?
Nixon: And that we had to have their assurance. What did the Ambassador say on [to] these instructions?
Kissinger: Well, he said, "How can you even suspect this?" and "What gave you this idea?"
Nixon: That’s what you expected him to say.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
For more declassified documents and originals of telegrams and background papers, please visit the Office of the Historian, the US Department of State.