121. Report From Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker to President Johnson 1
Part I: General Conclusions
- Because of the factors mentioned below Indonesian-American relations are unlikely to improve in the near future.
- Ostensible reasons advanced by Sukarno for the deterioration of Indo-U.S. relations
- U.S. recognition and support of Malaysia, as evidenced by the Johnson-Tunku communique2 and arms assistance (“a slap in the face”);
- Our “intervention” in South Vietnam and support of the government which he held not representative of the people;
- U.S. presence and bases in that part of the world.
- Other and more fundamental reasons for the present state of
Indo-U.S. relations which will continue to affect them adversely
- Sukarno’s ambition to solidify the Afro-Asian nations in a struggle of the NEFOS (New Emerging Forces) against the OLDEFOS (Old Established Forces) and to occupy himself a dominant position in the struggle;
- Characterization of the West as representative of neo-colonialism and imperialism (NEKOLIM), therefore as the enemy of the newly independent countries. The U.S. as the most powerful leader of the developed countries is identified as enemy No. 1;
- The influence of the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia), which looks to Peking for inspiration and whose avowed purpose is to drive the U.S. out of Indonesia;
- Sukarno’s proclaimed Marxism and his avowed intention of doing away with capitalism in the process of socializing Indonesia;
- Sukarno’s view that creation of national unity and a sense of national identity are more important than economic development; hence his emphasis on the “romanticism of revolution”, and external issues to involve the emotional response of his people;
- Sukarno’s confidence that he can bend the PKI to his will; hence his emphasis on NASOKOM, the unification of the national, the religious and the communist elements into a national consensus;
- Sukarno’s mystical belief in his own destiny, hence his conviction that it is his mission to lead his country to unity and power; and because of doubts about his health, to accelerate the process. 4. While the settlement of the Malaysia problem directly, and that of Southeast Asia indirectly, might remove some tension in Indo-U.S. relations, it is probable that these will be under strain for a considerable period because of the factors enumerated above.
There are, however, elements of strength in the situation, but which at present find it expedient not to oppose the party line. These, which numerically outnumber the PKI, are:
- The military, especially the army;
- Moderate moslem political organizations;
- Other moderate political elements now inactive. 6. The military, because of the widespread emotional popular support for Sukarno’s policy of confrontation with Malaysia, and because of their adherence to constitutionality, support the confrontation policy.
It is believed, however, that the military understands that:
- It cannot win a war with Malaysia as long as the latter has British backing;
- A defeat would seriously damage its prestige domestically, hence increase relatively the strength of the PKI;
- Would therefore prefer a settlement which would permit troops to return to Indonesia to be prepared for a future confrontation with the PKI and other extremists.
- In terms of internal political power it is not in the U.S. interest to see the military defeated. Such a result, however, would not be unwelcome to the PKI which would like to discredit the present military leadership.
- Sectors of the moslem population are increasingly restive over the growing power of the PKI. Clashes between these elements have already taken place in east and central Java and Sumatra.
A large and widespread U.S. presence provides the PKI and other extremist elements targets for attack.
A defense of the U.S. presence, even by the forces of law and order, is embarrassing to them and to those friendly to the U.S. since it subjects them to attack as defenders or stooges of the imperialists.
- U.S. visibility should be reduced so that those opposed to the communists and extremists may be free to handle a confrontation, [Page 257] which they believe will come, without the incubus of being attacked as defenders of the neo-colonialists and imperialists.
- Within the limitations imposed by the preceding paragraph the U.S. should maintain contact with the constructive elements of strength in Indonesia.
- Indonesia essentially will have to save itself. U.S. policy should be directed toward creating conditions which will give the elements of potential strength the most favorable conditions for confrontation.
- The struggle for succession has already begun. First Deputy Prime Minister Subandrio, devious and untrustworthy, is in the lead, following the communist line in an endeavor to use the PKI as a political base.
- If Subandrio were to succeed Sukarno in the near future there is a probability that the military would try to force his retirement.
- Sukarno is still the symbol of Indonesian unity and independence, believes in himself and his destiny, and is able and shrewd. There is little question of his continued hold on the loyalty of the Indonesian people, who in large measure look to him for leadership, trust his leadership, and are willing to follow him. No force in the country can attack him nor is there evidence that any significant group would want to do so.
- Sukarno has, however, increasingly shown a tendency to take positions consistently favoring the pro-communist forces. Unless he moves to restore the balance, the drift toward communist domination of the country will continue.
- The Indonesian economy:
- Has not been effectively exploited since the country proclaimed its independence in 1945;
- Development planning has been inept, and is today virtually non-existent;
- Over half the population live outside the monetized sector of the economy as self-sufficient farmers, a fact which accounts for the resilience to economic adversity demonstrated by Indonesia over the last two decades;
- Inflation has been widespread and inflationary forces continue to exert an upward pressure on prices;
- The government occupies a dominant position in basic industry, public utilities, internal transportation and communication;
- Sukarno emphasized in his speech on April 11 that his concept of “guided economy” includes a speeding-up of the process of socializing the country;
- It is probable that foreign private ownership will disappear and may be succeeded by some form of production-profit-sharing contract arrangements to be applied to all foreign investment;
- The avowed Indonesian objective is “to stand on their own feet” in developing their economy, free from foreign, especially Western, influence.
- Since Sukarno occupies a dominant and virtually unchallenged position of leadership, Indo-U.S. relations will be largely what he wishes them to be, while he remains in power.
- There are, as noted above, moderate elements which are in contention to succeed Sukarno. Whether they will be able to do so will depend on their own strength and unity, and to some extent on our relations with them and with Indonesia during the remainder of Sukarno’s regime.
Part 2: Recommendations
- Because of Indonesia’s importance and potential strength, we should seek to retain a continued presence in Indonesia.
- Where aspects of our presence in Indonesia provide targets easily exploitable by the PKI, they should be quietly removed.
- Our major effort should be directed toward influencing long-range developments in Indonesia.
- In dealing with the present regime we should continue to emphasize our desire for friendly relations while recognizing the fact that the nature of our relations depends primarily on what the Government of Indonesia wishes them to be. Accepting the fact that our bilateral relations are presently unsatisfactory we should, to the extent possible, continue the effort to work with Sukarno and maintain a dialogue between him and the President.
- We should try to maintain as much contact with as many other elements in Indonesia, both of current and potential importance, as circumstances permit.
- We should avoid taking actions which appear to be punitive. We should also recognize the fact that public castigation of the Sukarno regime produces no restraining effect in Indonesia, but on the contrary tends to intensify our problems there.
- We should quietly but effectively, using wherever possible the agency of third countries, oppose Indonesia’s efforts to turn the Afro-Asian-Latin American countries into an anti-American bloc.
- Because the ideal of national unity is an overriding obsession with practically all Indonesians, stronger by far than any real divisive regional feeling, we should avoid becoming involved in efforts to split off Sumatra or other areas from Indonesia.
- We should continue to avoid direct involvement in both the military and diplomatic aspects of the Malaysian problem.
- The security situation as it affects dependents of American personnel should be kept under constant review. An unpublicized and [Page 259] temporary freeze should be put on the travel of dependents of newly assigned personnel going to Djakarta until at least May 15, the situation to be re-assessed at that time. We should also establish Indonesia as in Phase I of Emergency and Evacuation planning without, however, any general circulation of this fact beyond a need-to-know basis.
- The U.S. has an unfulfilled commitment to the Indonesian Army, involving the personal position of Army Chief General Yani, to complete the fixed communications project on which the Indonesian Army has expended some $10 million. If this project is not completed General Yani will be placed in a very vulnerable position which, in turn, will have an adverse effect on the Army’s attitude toward the U.S. and its ability to resist the Communist Party. Unless an acceptable proposal for the Indonesian Army’s acquisition of the equipment through commercial channels can be made to General Yani, the U.S. should complete the now reduced project under the Military Assistance Program.
- Other than completing the foregoing project, we should not contemplate further deliveries under the Military Assistance Program. In order to keep maximum contact with the Indonesian military we should retain a few selected officers of the military assistance training group, either as a part of the attache staff or as a separate unit within the Embassy.
- Although new money should not be sought from Congress for FY 1966, a skeleton AID staff should be maintained at least as long as AID-administered activities continue. If all such activities are terminated, the question of maintenance of a skeleton staff should be reviewed.
- The University contracts should be continued so long as there is not a marked increase in the general security threat to Americans and so long as they are able to operate.
- The Harbor Construction Project, a development loan granted well before Indonesia began its military confrontation against Malaysia, is well along, and involves a commitment by the U.S. Government both to the Government of Indonesia and to the company which has the contract. Defaulting on this commitment, a punitive action on our part, would not only reflect unfavorably on the U.S. but would put in jeopardy some $500,000 worth of equipment owned by the American company. We should try to complete this project.
- An information program under the aegis of the Embassy should be pursued and, if possible, expanded with the objective of keeping a window open for U.S. influence with Indonesian leaders, particularly those among the youth. The recent proposal by USIA involving the assignment of two officers and 16 locals to the Embassy and the two Consulates seems a reasonable beginning.
Part 3: Discussions with President Sukarno and Other Principal Indonesian Figures3
In the course of my visit to Indonesia—a stay of one day more than two weeks—I had four meetings with President Sukarno, two other meetings with First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Subandrio, and I also called on a number of other ministers in influential positions. Additionally, I lunched once with President Sukarno at the Palace in Djakarta and in turn entertained him once at a luncheon at the Embassy Residence in Djakarta. At his request I also went to Bandung to hear his speech at the opening session of the Consultative Assembly. In addition, I obtained the views of a number of ambassadors accredited to Djakarta.
In the talks with President Sukarno and members of his government I endeavored consistently to make a number of points about our general concept of United States relations with Indonesia and in turn to elicit from Indonesians their views of present and future relations with the United States. I avoided to the extent possible becoming involved in operational questions which I felt would be more appropriately handled by the Embassy.
The following are the aspects of United States policy toward Indonesia which I particularly stressed in my talks with Indonesian leaders:
- I said that I had come to Indonesia at the request of President Johnson who had become concerned by the recent deterioration of relations between Indonesia and the United States, and who had expressed to me his wish to enter into a closer dialogue with President Sukarno in which American attitudes and Indonesian views might better be understood by both sides. I emphasized that neither the President nor I considered my visit to be a “last ditch” effort, but rather an aspect of continuing communication between the two countries.
- I made clear that the United States seeks a friendly and constructive relationship with Indonesia to the extent that this kind of relationship also is desired and would be supported by the Indonesian Government. I stressed that the United States has no territorial or other ambitions in the Far Eastern region. When talking to President Sukarno, I assured him most clearly that the United States Government is not working against him personally and does not seek his removal from power.
- I pointed out to the Indonesian leadership that, contrary to what some of them may believe, the United States very well understands the dynamics and objectives of revolution, including that of Indonesia. [Page 261] The American revolution has continued and its present manifestation in which the equal rights of citizens are being sought has even strengthened our understanding and sympathy for such legitimate aspirations. We understand that to be strong a nation must be given a sense of unity, self-identification, and self-reliance.
- We believe it natural that Indonesia should play an important role in international affairs, I pointed out to President Sukarno, and I added that we could see no reason why this should bring the United States and Indonesia into opposition. I expressed the thought in this connection that Indonesia’s ability to exert external influence on events would be enhanced by peaceful settlement of Indonesia’s differences with its neighbors.
- I told the Indonesians that since we share many basic objectives, we should be able to live in mutual friendship and respect. This is the desire of the United States and we hope also of Indonesia. However, it is evident that our bilateral relations have been disturbed and allowed to deteriorate because of our differing views on a broad range of other issues in the world. The United States, I said, does not wish that these other issues should control our relationship, but it seems to us that the Indonesian Government has deliberately allowed this to happen. Moreover, the campaign of anti-Americanism which has been taking place in Indonesia in recent months seems designed to identify the United States as the principal enemy of Indonesia. We understand that the Indonesian Communist Party wishes to disrupt relations between the two countries, but we do not assume that this also is the objective of President Sukarno and other Indonesian leaders. I told President Sukarno that I would like to be able to report to President Johnson his estimate of the direction and nature of Indonesian relations with the United States. U.S. programs in Indonesia, such as USIS, AID and the Peace Corps, I pointed out, had been designed to promote friendship and understanding between us. However, since it appeared that they had instead become irritants in our relations, we believe that they should be removed unless the Indonesian Government wished them to remain and would support them.
- I told President Sukarno that we considered him to be the leader of the Indonesian people and the principal formulator of Indonesian policies. We believed the Indonesian people would follow his guidance. Therefore, the nature of future United States-Indonesian relations would be up to him. We should be prepared for a constructive, friendly relationship.
President Sukarno and Foreign Minister Subandrio pushed very hard to obtain United States support in their “confrontation” with Malaysia, both constantly reiterating that what they termed as American support of Malaysia could not but constitute a serious obstacle to the improvement of relations between us. President Sukarno described [Page 262] the communique between President Johnson and Tunku Abdul Rahman and U.S. military aid to Malaysia as evidence of United States support of Malaysia and opposition to Indonesia. Sukarno asserted that he regards Malaysia as a puppet of “British imperialism” and had evidence it had been set up to “contain” Indonesia. Sukarno sought to obtain from me United States endorsement of his proposal that the Malaysian issue be settled along the lines of the Manila agreement or Tokyo declaration, and asserted that United States support in this respect would permit the Indonesian Government to support and promote improved bilateral relations.
In addition to the subject of Malaysia, Sukarno also mentioned North Vietnam, North Korea, and the Congo as examples matters of matters in which our differing approaches have an effect on our bilateral relations. Sukarno described to me his concept of the Afro-Asian area as an “integrated political whole” and sought to obtain from me agreement, which I did not give, that this concept is accepted by the United States.
I spelled out for Sukarno, in precise terms, our policy toward Malaysia and the nature of and reasons for our commitment to South Vietnam, and the fact that we had no territorial or other ambitions in Southeast Asia.
Nevertheless Sukarno and Subandrio clearly and repeatedly inserted third country issues into our bilateral relationship and gave every indication that Indonesia would continue to let the relationship be dominated by such issues. I consistently declined to be drawn into debate of the substance of these various other matters, explaining that President Johnson had asked me to come to Indonesia to discuss with Sukarno the United States-Indonesian bilateral relationship and reiterated that it seemed to me this should not be influenced unduly by third country relationships; that where our policies diverged we could at least agree to disagree amicably. Apparently it became clear to Sukarno that I would not make a substantive concession to his views regarding Malaysia, and he settled for language in a communique that was much less than fully satisfactory to him but nonetheless did permit him, as well as me, to conclude the conversation gracefully.
President Sukarno asserted that he also wished good relationships with the United States and he requested that his views, as described above, be fully reported to President Johnson. Sukarno acquiesced in the removal, strongly recommended by First Deputy Prime Minister Subandrio, Minister of Defense Nasution and Army Chief of Staff Yani in their remarks to me, of the Peace Corps from Indonesia. He also, in the communique, publicly affirmed his desire that AID-financed university contract teams be continued. Sukarno made no specific response to most of the points I had made to him concerning our concept of and desire for friendly and constructive bilateral relations.[Page 263]
Other Indonesian officials with whom I talked, including most importantly the Minister of Defense, General Nasution, strongly advocated and advised that American programs in Indonesia be removed for the time being. Arguments in support of this advice pointed out that the Indonesian Communist Party is targeting its harassment tactics on these programs. Indonesian officialdom, led by Sukarno, has taken an anti-American line publicly, and this makes it virtually impossible for the military and police to support or even to protect these programs adequately. Therefore, the programs would best be removed because their security could not be assured, because they could not be fully effective, and because they divert attention from the main aspects of the sharpening internal power struggle between the communists and non-communists. General Nasution predicted a one to two-year period of tense relations with the United States resulting from this internal political struggle. He observed that these political phenomena have their own momentum and direction, and therefore are unlikely to be influenced by external pressures. General Nasution, principal leader of the anti-communist military forces, in effect advised that the United States prepare to keep its head down and patiently ride out a period of political turbulence, and he said that he also wished the Indonesian Army to follow this same course. A minority view, most prominently expressed by Adam Malik, who was recently promoted out of the Ministry of Trade, was that the United States should avoid reducing its presence or its programs in Indonesia on the grounds that removal of U.S. programs would encourage the Indonesian communists and make them appear stronger than they actually are.
Conversations with Indonesians generally followed this pattern of conversation with President Sukarno and with General Nasution: Those of the Sukarno persuasion taking the position that improvement in United States-Indonesian relations would be contingent on United States support of Indonesia for the Malaysia issue, while other elements, those traditionally more friendly to the United States, advising that a period of disturbed relations lies ahead, that the United States should lower its profile in order to remove targets from communists’ harassment, retain only those programs for which President Sukarno’s public support and protection could be obtained, and maintain a posture that will permit a renewal of good relationships when conditions in Indonesia change.
[Here follows part 4, “Background,” 9 pages including sections on, “Indonesia’s Position in Asia,” “The Colonial Heritage,” “Progress Since Independence,” “The Political Structure,” “Political Forces,” “The Current Picture” and “Prospects for Indonesia.”]
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. IV, Memos, 3/65–9/65. Confidential. Bunker sent this memorandum to the President under cover of an April 23 transmittal letter. (Ibid.) According to a memorandum from Thomson to McGeorge Bundy, April 19, Bunker wanted to see the President briefly on April 21 to give him an oral summary of his findings. According to Thomson, Bunker’s “most urgent piece of business with the President is the recommendation of a replacement for Howard Jones. He is for the open door (versus the deep freeze) and will propose Hank Byroade; State heartily concurs. (So do I!)” (Ibid.)Bunker met with the President on April 26 from 7 to 7:32 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) According to a memorandum from Thomson to McGeorge Bundy, April 30, the President approved Bunker’s recommendations during that meeting. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Memos, 3/65–9/65) See also Document 122.↩
- For text of the joint communique, July 23, 1964, see American Foreign Policy, Current Documents, 1964, pp. 899–900.↩
- Memoranda of conversation between Bunker and Indonesian officials with the exception of Sukarno, Nasution, and Subandrio are in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US. Additional reports are ibid., POL 7 US/BUNKER and POL 15–1 INDON.↩