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

1326. Ref Embtel 1271.2

DCM saw contact mentioned reftel in informal, easy-to-talk setting and achieved some clarification on army’s thinking about current problems as well as being able plant idea that dialogue between this Embassy and someone close to Nasution and Suharto on future political, economic and foreign problems and policies of Indonesia would be useful to both sides. Emerging from discussion were following salient points:
Suharto, not Nasution, is one who gives orders, conceives his own strategy and faces Sukarno directly. But he and Nasution are close, Nasution advises him, and there is general understanding that they will not permit wedge to be driven between them as happened in case Nasution and Yani. Source said, “We are saving Nasution for later.”
DCM probed at some length to discover whether there any civilian political figures especially close to army with whom it would be useful to discuss future. If there are any civilian political figures working closely with army now, other than some of Cabinet ministers in their respective fields, it is being carefully concealed. Only name source proposed as civilian spokesman close to army was Suwito. He said Suwito had been completely disillusioned about Subandrio. DCM said his experience with Suwito had not shown latter to have very friendly or cooperative attitude towards Americans but we of course glad to talk to anyone army felt they could trust.
In Central Java army (RPKAD) is training Moslem youth and supplying them with weapons and will keep them out in front against PKI. Army will try to avoid as much as it can safely do so direct confrontation with PKI.
With top PKI leadership most of whom are in Djakarta, army is avoiding frontal attack. While carefully limiting their freedom of action and movement, army is letting groups other than army discredit them and demand their punishment, and awaiting developments. Smaller fry being systematically arrested and jailed or executed.
Similarly indirect tactic being used with Subandrio. Army discussed removing him but decided against frontal attack, instead is keeping in background and letting other groups attack and slowly demolish Subandrio’s image. It requires more time to do it this way but it runs less risk of alienating Sukarno from army.
Suharto recently had a three hour discussion with Sukarno trying to convince Sukarno that firm measures army taking against PKI correct and necessary. Sukarno appears to have been convinced (another well-informed source told DCM same thing evening of Nov. 3) that Suharto should have his support. Both these sources believe that Sukarno now accepts Suharto, mainly however in sense of force majeure. DCM asked source whether Sukarno had really accepted Suharto’s approach or was merely pretending to do so. Source said he wasn’t sure.
With reference to solicitation of aid, Sukendro and Sukendro alone speaks for Nasution-Suharto now. Procurement of rice particularly is exclusively concern of Sukendro. Rice is not to be procured by private entrepreneurs.
Although Suharto is moving slowly and as much as possible through parties and mass movements in Djakarta and much of Java, [Page 355] in outer islands local military commanders have free hand to take direct action against PKI and they are doing so.
Army confident it can break back of PKI attempted insurgency before it get[s] too serious.
Army is not thinking purely in military terms or intending turn political future of Indonesia over to civilian elements. Army is moving its people into all aspects of government and organizational framework with view keeping control on political trends and events.
Atmosphere of sloganeering aimed at West generally and US particularly would be subject to gradual change but it could not be done all at once. (DCM has made strong point that there would have to be drastic change in this atmosphere before it would be possible for US representatives to work effectively with army or other Indonesians.)
DCM made clear that Embassy and USG generally sympathetic with and admiring of what army doing. We felt it essential that we not get involved in any way in present struggle fearing to do [so] would handicap effort army making. We thought it would be well, however, if we could find some way to carry on dialogue with someone or preferable more than one, including civilians, as close as possible to thinking of Nasution and Suharto. Objective would be to lay foundation of understanding between us. This would involve no commitment by either side but would make it easier for us to act effectively if at some future date army should want help from US. There were problems between US and Indonesia which, if not handled in context good understanding between us could grow to proportions which would make it harder rather than easier for us to help Indonesia if in future assistance of any kind desired. One such problem was position American oil companies. Source, who is among most articulate and comprehending of Indonesian Army officers in English, indicated understanding and said he would think it over, consult with his colleagues and be in touch with DCM later.
DCM makes following conclusions:
On basis this conversation Suharto is much more important political as well as military figure in fact as well as in minds of those around him than DCM, at least previously thought. It is also reflected in other evidence that at least in minds public Suharto is more and more emerging as strong man in Indonesia.
Although this is highly speculative, it seemed implied that there is longer term as well as short term army strategy (army, probably wisely, is saying as little about that as possible) which involves plan to make Nasution candidate for the top position after Sukarno.
Implication of saving Nasution for later (para 2 above) seems to mean that Suharto will assert carefully applied army pressure and [Page 356] control government but will not, if he can avoid it, take over in name so long as Sukarno is alive.
DCM speculates that Nasution-Suharto strategy is for Suharto to activate and instill confidence in Moslem elements. But not to bring Moslem leaders into limelight now. In the post-Sukarno era, Nasution may well play leading political role with Moslem support. People like Hatta, Adam Malik and others, whom we know CAS and other reports are in contact with army leaders, also probably being saved for post Sukarno era.
In typically Indonesian, if not Javanese fashion Suharto strategy calls for extreme patience and slow moving time framework. It will require an equally patient approach on part of US if at any point we are to mesh our efforts with army’s. Army being very careful not to move too fast, probably out of concern for Sukarno but also because it is Indonesian way.
Not much thought has apparently been given yet to what army’s conception of future relations with US are to be, or army is for moment keeping that carefully concealed.
We believe we have planted seed that may lead to useful political dialogue with army and we think we should continue to cultivate this garden being careful, however, not to overwork soil around still delicate plant constructive potential for us in Indonesia.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. Upon receipt, passed to the White House, CIA, NSA, and USIA.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 165.