135. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1

403. 1. Following is my assessment of where we stand following Sukarno’s August 17 attack on US.

2. There are widely differing interpretations of speech and its implications.

Many, who emphasize what Sukarno might have said or done, consider speech “mild.” Australians, British and Indians here hold view, but my Australian colleague (Shann) showed me his report to Canberra which ends on note that despite “mildness” of speech he “does not take much comfort from it.”
Others view speech as further tightening of inexorable process by which Sukarno, singlehandedly but with support PKI and others, subverts that large, unknowing and basically unwilling part of Indo people and induces them to accept a Communist-oriented state and severance of ties with USG. Subgroup of Indos who share this general view realizes what Sukarno is attempting to do but prefers ignore or downplay his effectiveness in belief they can achieve their own narrow objectives (usually profit) and live until pendulum swings back from extreme left. Latter group includes some of Indo army and many private entrepreneurs.

3. Future events will show which of foregoing closest to truth. We can take some satisfaction from fact Sukarno did not attack President Johnson or mention CIA. However US was only nation singled out for strong attack and I believe we should get across the idea that we are anything but happy about speech and that there are limits to what any nation can take in terms of abuse, damage to property, etc.

4. Process of implementing Aug 17 address will probably be one in which Sukarno’s ministers and others will attempt sense what speech means by offering to Sukarno for approval those actions they believe he wants. Significant so far in this respect is campaign to have US Consul Surabaya declared personna non grata (Embtel 365).2 Press charges August 21 that American missionaries implicated in recent civil unrest in West Irian may be another example.

5. We interpret August 17 speech to mean that USG is in for continued difficulty in trying to do normal business in Indonesia. We [Page 286]believe Sukarno again gave clear signal that he will keep heat on US unless and until we change our policies toward Malaysia, Vietnam and elsewhere to conform to his wishes. If not, he threatens action against US business interests and has, in effect, given green light for further “expressions of peoples’ will” against official US installations.

6. By same token we believe speech indicates Sukarno not now ready for break with USG. Relating future of American business enterprises to Malaysia rather than to Vietnam may mean he still hopes get some mileage from US on Malaysia now that Singapore has withdrawn. Subandrio implied as much during my call August 12 (Embtel 318).3 We may as result have some slack, but probably not much.

7. August 17 speech and other recent events also indicate we probably cannot have much direct impact on Indonesia’s policymaking through normal diplomatic exchange as long as Sukarno is in control. As a result of his own complexes, Marxist political views and suspicions arising from 1958 events and later, Sukarno has clearly identified US as enemy. No Indonesians influential in governing processes are likely to stand up to him even if he should push relations with US to breaking point. We also cannot realistically expect to have decisive influence on other power groups, such as mil although it important we maintain contact with them.

8. Although prospects for short run gloomy, there is very useful role for USG to play in Indonesia. Following are among things we can and should do as long as we can stay here with dignity:

Maintain whatever contact possible with military and other elements in power structure, looking toward post-Sukarno period.
Maintain basic diplomatic and hopefully consular presence here, again looking toward time when we may be able operate more effectively.
Continue do useful political, economic and especially intelligence reporting. While Washington best judge, we believe it important maintain full flow reporting to build basic background in event diplomatic relations broken and also fill gaps created by Indonesia’s drastic reduction in contacts with free world.
Identify Indonesia maneuvers and aspirations to Afro-Asian and Latin American countries and, either directly or through third countries, subject these to cold light of publicity.
Attempt to get some objective news reporting info Indonesia through VOA, Embassy news bulletins, and other means. Effect these efforts likely to be limited, but Indonesians now almost completely cut [Page 287]off from free world news sources and it essential we do what we can to fill gap (Embtel 384).4
Attempt dialogue with Sukarno. Despite fact we basically aiming at post-Sukarno period, I will attempt establish dialogue with Sukarno but I hesitate to reach any conclusions right now on whether Sukarno prepared to continue this kind of relationship, or if he is, how productive such a line of effort would be. Experience over past year suggests it has definite limitations.

9. As I see it, we need, by trial and error, to find correct balance of carrot and stick. Petulance or overreaction by USG would probably drive Sukarno to extremes. Under reaction on our part makes us look foolish to our friends abroad and to some Indonesians. I believe we struck about right balance in August 17 celebration. I attended speech, palace reception, film show on Indonesia’s accomplishments, and opening of development exhibition but stayed away from cultural evening (North Vietnamese performed) and parade. Sending modified Presidential message of congratulations on 20th anniversary was just about right.

10. It difficult now to come up with precise recommendations on size and nature of our mission here. While Dept and Embassy seem to be fully agreed on reduction of mission along lines of para (a) of Embtel 302,5 how far we should go with regard to (b) and re other issues will become more apparent in coming weeks. Indocom is one sensitive problem which could affect our relations in short run. University contracts are another and I am pleased with Dept’s approach para 2 Deptel 196.6 Since we cannot overload the line, I would prefer delay final decision on future university contracts at least until Philco issue decided. For the present I can only urge that we maintain flexibility in order to be in best position cope with situation. I have asked our Consuls in Medan and Surabaya to come to Djakarta for discussions later this week. Following these discussions and probable further developments by Indos we will be in better position make firm recommendations.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Dated August 8. (Ibid., POL 17 US–INDON)
  3. Dated August 13. (Ibid., POL INDON–US)
  4. Dated August 21. (Ibid.)
  5. Dated August 12. (Ibid., PER 4–1 DJAKARTA)
  6. Dated August 20. (Ibid., EDX–31 INDON)