278. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State0

834. Embassy telegram 801.1 In considering recommendations referenced telegram may be helpful for Department have Embassy views assessment of possible alternative methods handling Sukarno visit and estimated impact thereof.

Sukarno trip looming as major event in both internal and external scene here. President obviously jolted by recent Army challenge to authority, running scared. As result, is pulling out all stops to focus nationwide Communist-Moslem unity, muffle Army-PKI confrontation, divert populace from ever-increasing woes, recreate image national and world leader, and not least flatter own ego. Obviously views trip as combination happy climax to less happy developments past six months, panacea for national ills and personal frustrations. May even see his future closely tied to it. There is, of course, unreality in all this, but is very real to him.

As Department aware, Sukarno has moved away from US in past six months, harbors fixation based on what he considers ample evidence that US out to get him. This, carefully nurtured by PKI propaganda and large-scale and effective Soviet blandishments, has been further reinforced by obvious fact his chief internal foes clearly lean towards West. If this fixation confirmed by cold shoulder in US on UN visit (and his definition cold shoulder will be particularly sensitive in present frame of mind), we may well face his open hostility for long time to come.

There might conceivably be advantages to cold shoulder treatment if we conclude time has arrived write off Sukarno. Little doubt that his star has declined in past year; his unending intrigues have kept country in state constant turmoil, have been major factor in preventing progress toward reasonable politico-economic posture; his guided democracy increasingly shaping up as open totalitarian system. These facts recognized by growing number other leaders who, if not yet ready abandon him, are at least deeply disturbed.

This particularly significant in case of Army, which Embassy continues believe is only force now in sight with capabilities reversing present deterioration. Recent events—Army drive against PKI, Nasution moderating influence in question nationalization foreign oil companies, [Page 538] even apparently inconclusive outcome September 12 conference—encouraging in this respect, but Army still long way from mastery situation. Army has moved hesitantly in past, as conference compromise shows, still cannot be fully counted on move resolutely against Sukarno unless direct conflict over PKI develops.

In this extremely delicate contest, conceivable that expression US coldness toward Sukarno would tip balance/bring about Nasution–Sukarno conflict, provide final push to dislodge President or neutralize him.

Element of risk, however, is very great. Should move fail bring prompt results, should Sukarno subsequently remain in power for even relatively short time, he might well lash out in fear and anger and succeed in pulling country so far toward Soviet bloc that it would be impossible retrieve short of military means. Concurrently, he might erect impenetrable barrier against further cooperation from West, either deliberately or in rage, by seizure foreign oil companies, estates, et cetera. His attempts implement these possible moves might themselves trigger Army reaction, thereto realizing postulated goal. On other hand, Army would be at severe disadvantage in any dispute involving apparent defense foreign interests, particularly with spellbinder Sukarno in opposition. (Viz., Army passivity when Sukarno brought country to verge break in relations with Japan over Karel Doorman visit.) Should Army fail at this stage, US would virtually have lost Indonesia.

On balance, risk involved in foregoing course seems too extreme, chances of success too slim and adverse impact of failure disastrous. By entirely cutting off US from Sukarno, pinning all hopes on Army, we would surrender virtually all opportunities maintain our influence in likely even Army–Sukarno contest continues indecisive series skirmishes for prolonged period. Even more dangerous, we would be placing selves in all but hopeless position should (as is not impossible) Sukarno succeed in bringing Army at least temporarily to heel.

Alternative course, that of giving Sukarno welcome in Washington, also raises possible disadvantages. As long as President follows present policies, it clearly not in our interest support any action likely improve their chances. In this sense, special treatment might give appearance of endorsement Sukarno’s recent actions, enhance his prestige, might even spur him into stepping up pace in belief nothing to worry about from US. Also Army, other foes Sukarno extremism might be disillusioned by spectacle US friendly hand for Sukarno, lose heart in struggle. Unfortunate impact on Southeast Asia SEATO allies, other Western-oriented neighbors, who no friend SukarnoNATO associates also a consideration.

Embassy doubts that possible unfavorable side-effects US friendly reception Sukarno would be of major nature. Sukarno always creature [Page 539] of emotions, operating on basis impulse; signs US friendliness far less likely produce rigidity in present course than impulsive softening or even deviation from course. Much of which Embassy convinced motivated not by true ideology but by suspicion of West and Soviet cultivation his ego. His susceptibility such gesture probably particularly great at this time; all indications point to his having feeling somewhat akin desperation in wake buffeting recently experienced at hands Army (Embassy telegram 778).2 Re possible reaction his internal opponents to warm treatment in US, fact must be recognized that even opponents here hold ambivalent view toward President, seeing him not only as current menace but (to perhaps dwindling but still appreciable extent) as major symbol nation and revolution. Thus Sukarno’s reception in Washington more likely be taken as homage Indonesia rather than person of President. Perhaps more important, any moderation anti-Western bias in Sukarno make up would make easier their task of changing his policies (which, even to most vociferous of opponents) save rebels (does not necessarily imply his physical removal from Palace).

Further element for consideration is probable content Sukarno speech at UNGA which certain to be unpalatable at many points to Western positions and may give unfortunate impression Indonesian identity with bloc. As Sukarno not accustomed freezing text speeches until last minute, content unlikely be fixed until just before delivery. Accordingly, may be deeply influenced by advanced indications nature reception in US.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 798.11/9–1760. Secret; Priority. Transmitted in two sections. Also sent to USUN and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 277.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 277.
  4. In telegrams 872 (September 21) and 911 (September 23) from Djakarta, Jones again urged the Department to offer an official invitation to Sukarno to visit Washington. (Department of State, Central Files, 798.11/9–2160 and 798.11/9–2360) The Department responded in telegrams 460 (September 22) and 468 to Djakarta (September 23) that President Eisenhower could not yet make any commitment to see Sukarno. (Ibid., 798.11/9–2160 and 798.11/9–2360)