295. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 0

1861. Department pass CNO for DNI. CINCPAC also for POLAD. Reference: (A) Deptel 722;1 (B) Deptel 789;2 (C) Embtel 1699;3 (D) Deptel 938.4 It has become perfectly clear that USSR reached conclusion at time of Khrushchev visit last February there was real chance of Communist success in Indonesia provided sufficient price were paid. It equally apparent that Soviets prepared give Indos anything they ask for, respective of its economic or military soundness so long as position of Sukarno and PKI strengthened vis-à-vis other Indo elements and GOI is made increasingly dependent on Soviet bloc thereby.

Admiral Felt replied in telegram 160337Z from CINCPAC to CNO, December 15, that the considerations advanced in favor of supporting ALRI’s proposal for U.S. support of its base development program at Ratai were essentially political in nature. (Department of State, WE Files: Lot 63 D 106, Indonesia) See Supplement.

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This policy implemented first in economic field; it is now turn of military, and there is no way in which we can prevent Soviets offering massive assistance without concern as to whether offensive capabilities, sensitivities of NATO or peace of area might be involved.

This new policy of Soviet Union has left us, broadly speaking, only three main alternatives:

To match or surpass Soviet offers, thus enabling Sukarno to play one of power blocs off against the other and entering into a race which would involve monumental expenditure over an indefinite period of time.
To decide Indo was not worth saving for the free world or could not in any event be saved, abandoning Indo to the Communist bloc.
To continue a moderate program of economic and military assistance sufficient to bolster the political position of our friends within Indonesia and to enable those who are willing to stand on principle to do so without being submerged by the overwhelming temptation of and pressures engendered by Soviet offers.

To Embassy it is obvious that only third alternative is practicable and offers any hope of protecting US national interest in Southeast Asia.

Embassy has sought to point out at every opportunity that the problem confronting the US is not whether Indonesia will some day have an army, navy and air force befitting the great power it intends to become, but only the direction from which help will be derived in achieving this military strength.

It is unrealistic to expect Indos to reject offers of bombers, long-range artillery, paratroop equip, capital ships and other offensive weapons merely because these come from a Communist country. Certainly the army, navy and perhaps even air force would prefer to avoid contagion of communism if there were free world alternatives. There are none at present.

In this situation all we can hope to do is prevent the Soviet drive from destroying the influence of our friends utterly. This means that we must be prepared to offer positive program contributing to goals Indos seek without being led into excessive support of those things we regard as unnecessary frills or purely offensive in character. At same time, if we insist upon being too squeamish on either ground, we invite still further Soviet offers.

Since navy is most critical immediate problem, Embassy has given most attention to countering Soviet effort in this field.

Embassy, MILTAG and Attachés have considered what means might serve counter Soviet program and remain within limitations established reference B. In connection this objective, timely arrival information [Page 588] re FY 1961 program (Deptel 920)5 was helpful and it has been transmitted to officials concerned. In addition I have of course taken every opportunity point out to Indos danger of reliance on bloc military aid, but difficult impress them when US unwilling provide what they want. Case in point is Ratai Bay (Embtel 1699).

There is no likelihood entirely heading off acceptance Soviet’s offer to navy in view Sukarno’s desire preserve balance he considers essential to his active independent foreign policy and his desire for prestige ships. Furthermore, Indonesian naval leaders are determined to get on with their program of building a navy suitable to their archipelago nation. However, it is noteworthy that they have (as have army and initially AURI) consistently turned first to US for their needs and have accepted Soviet offer only as second alternative.

Embassy believes naval leaders would respond favorably to reasonable proposal which would serve as alternative to acceptance all vessels Soviet Union has offered. Such proposal would have to be designed assist them in beginning to develop a navy adequate to achievable national objectives, which include not only coast guard and inter-island shipping, but also internal security and self defense. In Indonesia US cannot, as it may be able do in some countries heavily dependent upon US assistance, establish mission for navy, but can perhaps lead ALRI in direction consistent with US objectives.

One positive way of doing this would be offer to assist ALRI by: (1) designing around surplus US navy electronics patrol/escort vessel particularly suited to ALRI maritime problems, (2) continuing to supply ships and equipment under grant aid, (3) assisting in mutual security military sales thru extension modest line of credit, (4) planning and supporting patrol operation base development program which would most effectively support ALRI operation and growth. Support this program with material and equipment not locally available under both sale and grant aid, (5) training ALRI personnel in both fleet operation and in logistical support activities. In this connection equipment for fleet training schools and assistance in supply and logistics essential for development of sound navy. Greater use of MTTS will not only serve military purposes but also materially aid US in gaining sympathy ALRI personnel. Indonesians could purchase patrol/escort vessel described above in sufficient numbers from Japan or elsewhere for far less than outlay for Soviet equipment. Time required to carry out such program, which would take several years, would afford time for experience to temper exaggerated expectations this youthful navy. If so, in spite of Sukarno, possibility exists not all ships offered by USSR would actually be purchased, [Page 589] although he will undoubtedly see that cruiser and submarines are accepted.

In absence more positive approach as outlined above we will be left with alternative of providing as much training as possible to ALRI, in order offset to some extent Soviet training and indoctrination efforts. I am not sanguine about effect of such effort as emphasis on training officers for Soviet vessels will inevitably reduce numbers available for US training. Furthermore, content US training does not compare with intensive POL indoctrination naval trainees will receive in Soviet Union.

As for relationship to other armed forces of any program we may propose to ALRI, army is most important element there and we must therefore continue allot to it major share aid program so long as required. Any significant change in level aid to ALRI or AURI must not be at expense army program. Re AURI, indications are it beginning come our way to some extent (Embtel 1812)6 and if we continue to be responsive we may eventually be able gradually reduce its previous heavy reliance upon bloc equipment.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 798.5–MSP/12–2760. Secret. Transmitted in two sections and also sent to CINCPAC.
  2. Document 290.
  3. Telegram 789, November 23, indicated that although the Department doubted it could bring any leverage to bear in countering the current Soviet loan offer for naval equipment, it would appreciate detailed recommendations from the Embassy regarding steps the United States might take to counter the Soviet program. (Department of State, Central Files, 798.5/9–3060) See Supplement.
  4. Telegram 1699, December 12 (also sent to CINCPAC for Admiral Felt), reported Jones’ concern that U.S. unwillingness to support ALRI base development at Ratai Bay might be an invitation for the Soviets to provide the support required. (Department of State, Central Files, 798.5–MSP/12–1260) See Supplement.
  5. In telegram 938, December 27, the Department requested any comments that the Embassy might have on Department telegrams 722 and 789 in “view of imminent departure high-level GOI team for Soviet Union in connection new Soviet assistance program for ALRI and AURI.” (Department of State, Central Files, 798.5–MSP/12–2760)
  6. See footnote 2, Document 294.
  7. Reference to telegram 1812 is apparently incorrect, since it deals with another subject.
  8. In telegram 1874 from Djakarta, December 28, Ambassador Jones referred to CINCPAC telegram 160337Z (see footnote 3 above). He indicated his agreement with Felt’s view that the wisdom of assistance to the Indonesian Navy could not be measured entirely by ordinary military standards. (Department of State, Central Files, 798.5–MSP/12–2860) See Supplement.