The Opening to China

DR. SUSSER: You mentioned risk of war. And again, in your forward you comment here that when you were thinking about the opening to China you had four senior ambassadors--Kennan, Bohlen, Kohler and Thompson--who all warned that an opening to China would run the risk of a war with the Soviet Union. Obviously, you discounted that, but perhaps you could go a little bit into--

DR. KISSINGER: But one had to understand the structure of the State Department at that time. The China hands had been more or less purged in the 1950s so there was really were very few, I would say none, no senior State Department people, that could come to the attention of the President on China. I'm sure there were desk officers, but the emphasis of the State Department as a result of the Cold War had been on Russia. So there were experts like Kennan, Tommy Thompson, Chip Bohlen, Foy Kohler, who had developed very strong views.

Now, we decided in--well, we decided right away, but we decided formally in May of '69 when we became concerned of a possible Soviet attack on China that a successful Soviet attack on China would affect the global equilibrium in such a way that we needed to prevent it even though we had no relations whatsoever with China. So we began to make a series of moves. Secretary Richardson made a speech on China relations and we started doing relatively minor things, like for example lifting the prohibition against buying Chinese goods by permitting Chinese--by permitting American tourists in Hong Kong to buy $100 worth of Chinese goods. And there were a number of other things of a minor nature that which these State Department people that I mentioned--those four--were very sensitive to that. And they realized what--they understood what we were doing, and so they asked for an appointment with President Nixon.

And they warned him that the Soviet Union would not accept this and that it would lead to a breakdown of relations and probably to war. And we decided that the benefits of the course on which we had decided were too great and that we could not exclude that part of the human race by--because of Soviet blackmail. But these were superior Foreign Service officers who had made a great contribution, but that was a strong view in the Department at the time.

There were others, like say Alex Johnson, who was not a China expert but an Asia expert, who once we had made the move proved extremely helpful in helping us implement it.

DR. SCHLESINGER: I need scarcely point out to this audience that the greatest achievement in a way of the Nixon Administration was the breakthrough with China. I am hesitant to sort of suggest that somebody like George Kennan, with all of his wisdom, may have been a bit parochial on that occasion, not to mention Foy Kohler or Chip Bohlen. But there is a tendency to fall in love with one's client, and the reaction of the Russians inevitably, in my judgment, was going to be to be much more attentive to the United States as we quite clearly moved into triangular diplomacy.

DR. KISSINGER: That's exactly what happened.

Using --the Channel-- to Facilitate Jewish Migration out of the Soviet Union

DR. SUSSER: In your opening comments, you remarked that you used the confidential channel to increase Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union from 900 up to 40,000. How did you manage to persuade the Soviets to open up the floodgates, so to speak?

DR. KISSINGER: What we did is to say--that was at a time when the Soviet Union had its own reasons to improve relations with the United States. And the only thing different from the then policy to what later became official policy was this: I told Dobrynin that we were constantly being appealed to about some hardship cases that were on the agenda. There were about 700, I think, hardship cases. And when we came in, about 900 Soviet Jews were permitted to emigrate. I told Dobrynin that among the gestures they could make that we would take as a sign of taking seriously the importance of improving relations would be an increase of Jewish emigration; that we would not take advantage of this by publicly taking credit for it. And we said something that human rights advocates will not like: We said we don't claim that we have a right to say this to you. We say that it's a criterion that we will apply to your international relations.

And as a result, every year the number of emigrants increased and reached, I think, 37,500 in 1972. Then, as a result of the summit that was unsuccessful as far as Egyptian concerns were concerned in '72, Soviet advisors were expelled from Arab countries and the Soviet leaders became nervous about their relations with the Arab world in which they, up to then, had been dominant, and started putting an exit tax on Jewish emigration.

Jackson, Senator Jackson, then came up with the Jackson Amendment, which at first we sort of welcomed, but then the Soviet Union gave in on the exit visa but Jackson continued on his course and a dispute developed between the administration and Jackson, for whom we had very high regard. At any rate, the emigration never reached the level that it had had before. But I don't claim universal applicability to this method. This is how it was done between '69 and '72. It's not the way it can be done today.

DR. SCHLESINGER: I should point out the Jackson-Vanik Amendment is still in the law and is still--what shall I say?--a bothersome element in the U.S.-Russian relationship today.

In the first paragraph of his forward, Henry observes to Dobrynin, "'When we are both out of government service, which will be a lot later for you than for me, I hope you will let me read the reports you send in on me.' This comment was made in the bantering style that Dobrynin and I used in our personal exchanges."

I think that points to the fact that none of us, none of us, expected to see the Soviet Union collapse, that we were going to deal with a more or less perennial state of quasi-hostility, quasi-agreement between the two countries. The ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union, which owed a good deal to the genius of Mr. Gorbachev, came as a surprise to many of us.