165. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State1

1288. Ref: [1 line of source text not declassified].2

Reftels [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] mark first instance of a senior Indonesian Army official asking us specifically for assistance. Sukendro’s approach entails questions which we are still not in a position to answer satisfactorily. For example, does Sukendro represent Nasution-Suharto in this approach? To what extent does he have approval of at least friendly civilian authorities here? To what extent should we grant assistance to the army behind the backs of the civilian authorities? Could such assistance be concealed? Or if it became revealed how damaging would it be to the army and to ourselves?
At same time, we remain in the dark regarding army’s future planning and capabilities on a broad range of issues and until we know more about their intentions and capabilities it would be hazardous to be drawn into any extensive assistance to military. (This problem was subject of Embtel 1271.)3
On one hand, we have to bear in mind army leadership continues to knock US policies and play the same old tired records against NEKOLIMs. Confrontation continues and Indo military evidently feel that any concession in our direction (e.g. our oil properties) would be politically damaging. Hence there seems to be little prospect of break-through on a range of major issues of interest to US at least in near future.
On other hand, we have seen important changes past month that could foreshadow further major gains from our viewpoint. Nasution seems at long last to have been spurred to act on and, in tandem with Suharto and other [tough?] deeply motivated military leaders, is moving relentlessly to exterminate PKI as far as that is possible to do. Military and police here face precarious situation, outcome of which means much to free world and where we clearly have a stake. US, along with other like-minded countries, including Japan, have good reason to lend a helping hand to the extent that that help is really needed and to the extent that that help does not compromise army or detract from our interests.
If this Embassy, through its various channels, can establish fact that Sukendro is acting at behest of Nasution-Suharto, then I believe we should do what we can as soon as we can, to meet request for medical supplies. Cost is not prohibitive and quantity is such that both financing and shipping could probably be handled covertly. In the event that word were to leak out, adverse reaction would be largely mitigated by humanitarian nature of material provided.
As to request for communications equipment, we could tell army that we would give sympathetic consideration to providing certain types of equipment in reasonable quantity but that we would have to have a more explicit statement of army’s needs and of purpose to which equipment is to be put before we can proceed. (Presume we would want to consult with UK and Australians on all of foregoing.)
As to provision of small arms I would be leery about telling army we are in position to provide same, although we should act, not close our minds to this possibility. There is a chance that situation in central Java might take such a turn for the worse that we would wish to move quickly with packages of certain types of arms. Meanwhile, we could explore availability of small arms stocks, preferable of non-US origin, which could be obtained without any overt US Government involvement. We might also examine channels through which we could, if necessary, provide covert assistance to army for purchase of weapons.
As for providing rice, I note that Sukendro does not specifically ask our assistance in this regard. He is merely explaining problem and [Page 347] stating his intentions. Our view on rice question already submitted in Embtels 1164 and 1238.4
Unless you perceive objection we will check through contacts here to determine whether Sukendro’s approach reflects wishes of Nasution-Suharto. Would also appreciate having your comments on foregoing.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON. Secret; Exdis; Immediate. Repeated to Bangkok. Upon receipt at the Department of State, passed to the White House.
  2. These telegrams reported that Sukendro asked for medical supplies, tactical communications equipment, rice, and raised the possibility of obtaining small arms, see Document 168.
  3. In telegram 1271 from Djakarta, October 30, the Embassy suggested establishing informal contact with a key figure in the military, not from the top leadership for reasons of conspicuousness, but someone who was close to the “so-called Army Braintrust” led by General Sukendro. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US)
  4. In telegram 1164 from Djakarta, October 23, the Embassy explored the range of possible economic assistance to Indonesia. (Ibid., POL AID (US) INDON) Regarding telegram 1238 from Djakarta, see footnote 3, Document 163.