104. Third Annual Report on U.S. Foreign Policy1

[Omitted here is a table of contents.]


This is the third Report of this kind which I have made to the Congress. It comes after a year of dramatic developments. The earlier Reports set forth fully this Administration’s analysis of the world situation. They expressed the conviction that new conditions required fundamental changes in America’s world role. They expounded our conception of what that role should be.

In short, they foreshadowed a transformation of American foreign relations with both our friends and our adversaries.

For three years, our policies have been designed to move steadily, and with increasing momentum, toward that transformation.

1971 was the watershed year. The foundation laid and the cumulative effect of the actions taken earlier enabled us to achieve, during the past year, changes in our foreign policy of historic scope and significance:

  • —An opening to the People’s Republic of China;
  • —The beginning of a new relationship with the Soviet Union;
  • —The laying of a foundation for a healthier and more sustainable relationship with our European allies and Japan;
  • —The creation of a new environment for the world’s monetary and trade activities.

This Report is addressed to those and other developments. It is, however, a companion piece to the two earlier Reports, for without an understanding of the philosophical conception upon which specific actions were based, the actions themselves can neither be adequately understood nor fairly judged. This account of a year of intense action, therefore, properly begins with a brief review of the intellectual foundation on which those actions rest.

A Changed World

In the first two Reports, I stressed the fact that the postwar period of international relations had ended, and that it was the task of this Administration to shape a new foreign policy to meet the requirements of a new era. I set forth at some length the changes in the world which made a new policy not only desirable, but necessary.

The recovery of economic strength and political vitality by Western Europe and Japan, with the inexorable result that both their role and ours in the world must be adjusted to reflect their regained vigor and self-assurance.
The increasing self-reliance of the states created by the dissolution of the colonial empires, and the growth of both their ability and determination to see to their own security and well-being.
The breakdown in the unity of the Communist Bloc, with all that implies for the shift of energies and resources to purposes other than a single-minded challenge to the United States and its friends, and for a higher priority in at least some Communist countries to the pursuit of national interests rather than their subordination to the requirements of world revolution.
The end of an indisputable U.S. superiority in strategic strength, and its replacement by a strategic balance in which the U.S. and Soviet nuclear forces are comparable.
The growth among the American people of the conviction that the time had come for other nations to share a greater portion of the burden of world leadership; and its corollary that the assured continuity of our long term involvement required a responsible, but more restrained American role.

The Philosophy of a New American Foreign Policy

The earlier Reports also set forth the philosophical convictions upon which this Administration was proceeding to reshape American [Page 357] policies to the requirements of the new realities. The core principles of this philosophy are:

  • —A leading American role in world affairs continues to be indispensable to the kind of world our own well-being requires.
  • —The end of the bipolar postwar world opens to this generation a unique opportunity to create a new and lasting structure of peace.
  • —The end of bipolarity requires that the structure must be built with the resources and concepts of many nations—for only when nations participate in creating an international system do they contribute to its vitality and accept its validity.
  • —Our friendships are constant, but the means by which they are mutually expressed must be adjusted as world conditions change. The continuity and vigor of our alliances require that our friends assume greater responsibilities for our common endeavors.
  • —Our enmities are not immutable, and we must be prepared realistically to recognize and deal with their cause.
  • —This requires mutual self-restraint and a willingness to accommodate conflicting national interests through negotiation rather than confrontation.
  • —Agreements are not, however, an end in themselves. They have permanent significance only when they contribute to a stable structure of peace which all countries wish to preserve because all countries share its benefits.
  • —The unprecedented advances in science and technology have created a new dimension of international life. The global community faces a series of urgent problems and opportunities which transcend all geographic and ideological borders. It is the distinguishing characteristic of these issues that their solution requires international cooperation on the broadest scale.
  • —We must, therefore, be willing to work with all countries—adversaries as well as friends—toward a structure of peace to which all nations contribute and in which all nations have a stake.

[Omitted here are the remainder of Part I, discussing accomplishments, disappointments, and goals, and Parts II-VII.]


I have stated many times that we seek a generation of peace. That is the goal of this Administration, and it is against that standard that the initiatives of 1971 should be judged.

In the last analysis, only the future will tell whether or not the developments of the past year have truly brought us closer to that goal. All we can say with certainty now is that a generation of peace is a more [Page 358] credible goal at the end of 1971 than it appeared to be at its beginning. It may still appear to be distant. It does not, however, still appear fanciful and utopian.

That fact in itself is important. Both this country and the world need a brighter vision than managing crises and aiming only at staving off the ultimate conflagration. The influence which history and our own efforts have given this Nation can—and must—be used for something more than an organization of world affairs which aims merely at keeping international animosities in some sort of tenuous, fragile and constantly endangered balance. The containment of enmity is better than its release. But it is not enough as a permanent goal.

For too long, American policy consisted of reacting to events. We had a sense of mission, but rarely a clear definition of our purpose. We were drawn into situations, responding tactically, without a clear perception of where we would end up. When we were not forced by events, we seldom struck out along new paths because we had no positive conception of where we wanted to go.

Our times demand more. A durable peace is a set of conditions and requires a conscious effort to create those conditions. Peace will not come about by itself, with us passively looking on or striking moralistic poses. Nor will it come about automatically with the ending of a war. How many wars in this century have ended without bringing a lasting peace because statesmen failed to shape a durable peace out of the conditions which emerged from the conflict? This is why it makes a difference how we liquidate the vestiges of an earlier era as we move into the new. The future of peace—in Asia, in the Middle East, in Europe—depends in large measure upon the steadfastness and purposefulness of American policy all around the world.

Today the United States is once again acting with assurance and purpose on the world stage.

Vietnam no longer distracts our attention from the fundamental issues of global diplomacy or diverts our energies from priorities at home.

Our dramatic departures of the past year—the fruits of our planning and policies over three years—reflect the historical conditions we see today and the historic possibilities we see for tomorrow. They were momentous steps, accelerating the very process of change which they addressed. The world—and we ourselves—are still in the process of adjusting to the developments we have set in train. But we know where we are going. We are moving with history, and moving history ourselves.

There will always be conflict in the world, and turbulent change and international rivalries. But we can seek a new structure of global [Page 359] relationships in which all nations, friend and adversary, participate and have a stake. We can seek to build this into a world in which all nations, great and small, can live without fear that their security and survival are in danger, and without fear that every conflict contains for them the potential for Armageddon. In such a structure of peace, habits of moderation and compromise can be nurtured, and peoples and nations will find their fullest opportunities for social progress, justice, and freedom.

This is what we mean by a generation of peace.

  1. Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1972, pp. 195-196, 345-346. The report, as issued by the White House, was entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy for the 1970s: The Emerging Structure of Peace; A Report to the Congress by Richard Nixon, President of the United States, February 9, 1972.” The full text of the report is ibid., pp. 194-346.