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

2164. CINCPAC also for POLAD. Embassy telegram 2154.1 Second point in program I proposed in reference telegram involves closer personal relationship with President Sukarno. I know that he is personally obnoxious to many Americans, that his leftist sympathies make him anathema to some while his moral peccadilloes revolt others. Yet he is in well nigh absolute control of destiny of Indonesia for time being and the man who will challenge him for this role is not yet clearly in sight, even though General Nasution may some day do so.

To ignore, snub, punish or attempt to wish away Sukarno are all equally futile pastimes. Like Nasser and Nehru he is there, and we must learn to live with him as fact of life. Soviets have been able to do so by recognition that what Sukarno craves is acceptance as great Asian leader and also as a man. They have exploited fact that Sukarno sets store by personal relationships in international relations far beyond any concept well understood in West.

Partly as result of persistent refusal President Eisenhower accept repeated invitations, partly because of general coldness our leaders, open hostility US press, including reckless reports of US–Nasution conspiracy to oust Sukarno, President believes we not only do not like him but that we are in fact out to get him.

In last year, Sukarno has made increased progress toward controlling political forces his country. He has harnessed political parties by creation appointed Parliament and Peoples Congress. He has eliminated only two major opposition parties by simple expedient of declaring them hostile to state. This action has also enabled him purge government of members those parties. More recently, he has launched move to substitute Nasakom, symbol for the unity of Moslem, nationalist, and Communist groups, for Pantjasila,2 which in its stress on belief in God has been used effectively by the army for ally [rally?] anti-Communist sentiment.

Domestically, therefore, President has almost attained position of undisputed personal leadership he has aspired to since early days of revolution. One hurdle, only, must yet be surmounted—the army—and [Page 306]reluctance of army chief to face genuine test of strength with Sukarno bodes ill for army position over period of time.

Under present circumstance Sukarno could not visualize either security in status or rise to greater eminence under Western auspices. Apart from his evident conviction that West is against him, he certainly could not foresee any prospect of international leadership aligned to the West. Even under the exigencies of East-West competition, any role beyond that of more or less tractable voter with Western bloc in UN hardly foreseeable. Finally, democratic world not place for man on horseback.

Soviets, however, have much to offer him. Apart from their revolutionary fervor which, however spurious, has real attraction for Sukarno, their concept of leadership appeals to him. Leader most admired by Sukarno is Tito. In current world situation, Sukarno may tend see much more to be gained from tacit alignment with “co-existing” Soviet bloc than with West. Sukarno’s move toward Soviet bloc also consistent with his view of own role as man of destiny. His aspiration for leadership of Asia-African countries antedates first Bandung Conference.3

This aspiration thwarted by obvious preeminence of Nehru and Chou En-lai. Russians appear to have been encouraging Sukarno pretensions in new situation. As Department aware, Sukarno attempted strong bid for leadership neutrals at recent UNGA. His address there has already been made part of the apocrypha of his leadership at home; text being issued in book form.

I do not recommend, of course, that we attempt to pander to vanity of Sukarno in fashion of USSR. However, there much we can do to inject warmth of personal relationship into intercourse between US Government, Sukarno. This involves participation of US President. Sukarno is, after all, a warm, magnetic, responsive human being. A personal relationship between the two Presidents, once established, without question will lead to greater US impact on Sukarno’s thinking and attitudes and could exert considerable influence on course of events in Indonesia.

As practical matter [garble] and good opportunity to get ball rolling since Sukarno planning another of his world junkets in April–June. I am fully conversant with difficult problems involved in arranging official visit of head of state to US however, I do not think this necessary in this case. I believe as effective results can be obtained by invitation from President Kennedy for President Sukarno to come to Washington for an informal visit and exchange of views in connection with his forthcoming trip.

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Invitation, I believe, could be most effective if included in letter from President Kennedy in which latter’s acknowledgement of Sukarno’s congratulations4 is followed up in same spirit of common approach to common problems, which scored hit with Sukarno. It would be most useful at same time to state clearly new administration’s opposition to imperialism and colonialism in any form, our dedication to preservation of independence of nations, President Kennedy’s determination to find peaceful solution to such irritants as the West New Guinea situation which are likely to erupt in such way as to threaten peace of area, his desire for Sukarno help.

If this action could be taken soon, President Kennedy, might well include in such letter expression of hope that Sukarno would not take an irrevocable step in the Congo such as withdrawal of Indonesia troops before two Presidents have had an opportunity to discuss this and other considerations in connection with Africa as well as Asia.

There more than a possibility that such action on President Kennedy’s part could pave way for an early adjustment in US-Indonesian relations favorable to free world. Indonesians of all shades of opinion are looking with fervent hope to President Kennedy to take steps which will enable this country to move closer to us. There is sense of alarm in country which represents, I believe, general fear that current snuggling up to Sino-Soviet bloc will lead Indonesia away from realization of [garble] freedom and democracy for which Indonesians spilled their blood in four years of revolution, culminating just over decade ago. This apprehension, which surfaces only rarely in controlled press, is freely expressed in private conversation by non-Communist Cabinet members, leading figures in armed forces, political party leaders, as well as, of course, by members of banned opposition parties PSI and Masjumi.

In some way we must take positive action to restore relations between the US Executive and Sukarno as one element in coordinated program to keep Indonesia out of Communists’ hands.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.98/1–2561 Secret; Limit Distribution. Also sent to CINCPAC.
  2. Document 143.
  3. The five principles of Pantjasila (Pancasila) are belief in God, humanitarianism, national unity, democracy, and social justice.
  4. The non-aligned Afro-Asian Conference held at Bandung, Indonesia, April 18–24, 1955.
  5. On January 21, Sukarno sent Kennedy a telegram congratulating him on his inauguration. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Indonesia, 1/61–3/61)