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

946. Re Djakarta’s 1793, 1802 and 1804;2 Kuala Lumpur’s 787.3 Department is aware that Embassy has in past months kept Sukarno and Subandrio well informed as to our views on where Indo foreign policy and economic problems can lead. Net impact of this regular restatement of our position has been disappointing, although Department believes present situation would be worse in absence of pressures from our side.

Essence of problem seems to be that Sukarno recognizes our refusal to support confrontation, accepts our statements of support for Malaysia although annoyed by them, and is willing to face possible loss of both current and potential U.S. aid. He seems to discount chances that U.S.-Indo relations can deteriorate to breaking point if GOI presses its quarrel with GOM to stage of open hostility, and in general assumes that he can achieve his objectives by methods including continuing guerrilla action without seriously endangering his international position.

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Problem is accentuated by fact, which emerges in above references, that those who are in position to influence Sukarno toward rational foreign and economic policies particularly military, are not doing so.

In case of PKI, it is obviously in commies’ interest to encourage present course toward mounting international tension and domestic economic collapse. Department has noted recent reports that PKI has lured Sukarno into agreement that PKI will not play up current economic troubles if Sukarno will keep up active confrontation, but that PKI is at same time pushing campaign against foreign business interests. PKI undoubtedly wants break with U.S. to permit takeover U.S. investments including oil. PKI is thus ready to profit now from confrontation and be ready with plan based on break with West if economic conditions reach crisis stage.

Indo military on other hand, seems to lack understanding of where Indo policy is leading, and fails to recognize that present combination of confrontation and increasing coldness toward West plays only into hands of PKI and other extremists. Since our efforts influence Sukarno directly and via Subandrio have not succeeded in modifying Indonesian policy, Department believes we should now try to build up pressures on Sukarno from Indonesian military sources in favor of rational settlement with Malaysia and decent relations with free world. In view of attitudes described in references, this would seem to require “educational” program aimed at military leaders. Department would not suggest anything which might get back to Sukarno as U.S. campaign against him, but would expect that if situation is effectively and forcefully described, significant number of Indo military who have some ability effect course of events would understand where present course is leading and would try to change or restrain it.

Department has noted Bell’s suggestion (Kuala Lumpur’s 787) that time has come to draw on relationship we have built up with Indonesian military in effort head off GOI before it too late. This should be done to maximum extent possible in context this “educational” campaign, since our capital with them will be completely expended in any event should Indo actions force us side openly against them.

Appears to Department that Col. Benson and attaches should see Nasution and such other military leaders as they and Ambassador think useful.

Embassy familiar with most appropriate lines to take with each group, i.e., stressing that present situation playing directly into PKI hands, and will be tailoring them to fit individual targets. In addition the obvious points, should try impress upon them the following over-all assessment:

If Indo resumes all-out confrontation result can only be (1) complete breach between Indo and free world, with Indo forced either [Page 66]eke out meager existence in isolation or turn as suppliant to Bloc, which would then respond, if at all, with aid designed to help PKI, or (2) growth of internal pressures within Indo of such magnitude as to threaten both present leadership and internal unity. Which- ever one materializes, Indo’s prestige and status as nation would be shattered.
Indo military must face fact that if they escalate military confrontation they risk war with British, who have capacity knock out Indo offensive ability quickly. Such defeat would end position of control of Indo military leaders.
As far as U.S. concerned, we being driven to point at which we recognize growing possibility parting of ways with Indo. For years U.S. Govt has made sustained effort understand Indo aspirations and help attain them. In West Irian case, we went to length of risking strained relations with old and close allies in order encourage peaceful settlement favorable to Indo. Present case bears no relation to West Irian since it involves Indo campaign not against colonial territory to which it has any sort of claim but against sovereign state which U.S. and most of world value as friend. Despite our inability accept Indo position vis-à-vis Malaysia, however, and in face strongly adverse reaction both from U.S. public and from U.S. allies, U.S. Govt has made continuous effort (culminating in Attorney General’s mission) to encourage peaceful settlement on terms not adverse to Indo’s legitimate interests. Despite this record, we now find U.S. singled out as target by much of Indo press and leadership, and U.S. companies in Indo threatened with seizure or violence. U.S. Govt and people cannot be expected put up with this forever, and must react strongly if our interests damaged by GOI or PKI.
Would be naive for Indos to think there are any differences or conflicts in U.S. and UK policies toward Southeast Asia which they can exploit. U.S. and UK are allies. ANZUS Treaty obligations apply if Australian and New Zealand forces involved.
In considering implications foregoing, Indos should not be so naive as to think they can find useful alternative support among Western Europeans (French, Dutch), Afro-Asians or Bloc. While certain Western Europeans have pursued policy similar to ours in avoiding taking sides, GOI can be sure none will abandon UK and Malaysia if forced make choice. Nor can real support be found among AA’s, most of whom recognize Malaysia, have nothing against British, are preoccupied with own problems and, in any event, have nothing to offer in way tangible support. As far as Bloc concerned, Indos must be aware situation has changed radically since early postwar days of East-West confrontation when foe of one automatically taken up as friend of other.
By drying up sources foreign aid and disrupting trade, confrontation has seriously hurt Indo economy and virtually eliminated hopes for economic development in near future. Quite aside from its impact on population as whole, Indo military must realize this directly affects them: However large and well equipped its forces in being, Indo is not and will not be significant military power—able realistically claim capacity to defend country—so long as industrial-technical base to sustain these forces totally absent. At best will take years or decades create this base, but every day confrontation continues pushes that goal farther in future.

Department realizes carrying out foregoing will be delicate task, but believes that time for such an effort has arrived. Request Embassy reaction.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA, Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Cuthell and Ingraham, cleared by Hilsman, and approved by Harriman.
  2. Regarding telegram 1802, see footnote 2, Document 32. In telegram 1793, February 28, the Embassy alerted the Department to intelligence about Indonesian estimates of British and U.S. intentions toward Malaysia and the aggressiveness of the military officials responsible for Indonesian military operations. In telegram 1804 from Djakarta, February 29, Jones suggested that domestic economic considerations and problems would have very little effect on Sukarno’s attitude towards compromise with Malaysia. (Both National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA)
  3. In telegram 787 from Kuala Lumpur, March 3, the Embassy suggested that Sukarno seemed to have a desire to reach a peaceful settlement with Malaysia, but was being inhibited by the PKI and the Indonesian military. The Embassy suggested that Jones and the Department might consider using its relationship with key army leaders to convince them to support a settlement. (Ibid.)
  4. In telegram 1832 from Djakarta, March 4, the Embassy agreed with the Department’s thinking and reported that Jones had already made an appointment with Nasution and would see Yani and other military figures as appropriate. (Ibid.) In telegram 1854 from Djakarta, March 6, Jones reported on an hour and 10 minute meeting he had with Nasution on the morning of March 6. The discussion suggested to Jones that the Indonesia military were determined to continue confrontation, but not to the point of large scale conflict, were aware of the threat of the PKI, and were unprepared to deal with Indonesia’s economic problems. Jones reported that Nasution, “avoided like the plague any discussion of possible military takeover, even though this hovered in the air throughout the talk, and at no time did he pick up obvious hints of US support in time of crisis.” (Ibid.)