11. Editorial Note

Henry Kissinger discussed the Nixon administration’s perception of the linkage between political and strategic issues during a background briefing for the press at the White House on February 6, 1969:

“Q. Can you tell us more about why the President wants to have strategic negotiations and political negotiations going forward on separately different facts [tracks?]?

“Dr. Kissinger. I was lured here because I was told you all could hardly wait to hear me expound on the National Security Council system and my exerted influence on it.

“To take the question of the linkage between the political and the strategic environment. We have come through two phases. In the 1950’s, it used to be said that a political settlement had to precede an arms settlement. It was said that the arms race is the result of political tensions, not the cause of them, and, therefore, the way to deal with the problems of arms was to solve first all the political problems and then the arms would take care of themselves.

“In reaction to that, they developed an arms control school in which you and I participated in various stages as colleagues in which the argument used to be that the arms race portion was essentially autonomous with producing tension and in which the level of political tension was more or less irrelevant to what could be done in the arms field.

“This led to about ten years of negotiations in the arms field which have had some successes, of which the Non-Proliferation Treaty is one, but during which, I think it is fair to say, that the level of arms has increased substantially, both quantitatively and qualitatively and the level of tension has also increased substantially.

“Now, if you review the last 20 years and look at the incidents that significantly increase the dangers of war, I think it would be difficult to [Page 59] think of one that was caused by the general balance of arms. But it is possible to think of very many that were caused by the general balance of political relationships.

“Therefore, the President’s view is not that there must be a settlement of all political issues. He has emphatically rejected that in his press conference before this. His view is, if I understand it correctly, that there is a danger, that if arms control and political issues become too much disassociated that arms control may be used as a safety valve to make political conflict safer rather than eliminate political conflict.

“He has, therefore, suggested that there be enough movement in the political field to indicate that the arms control negotiations do not unwittingly, instead of reducing the danger of war, offer a means by which political conflict can be intensified and yet managed. He is asking for enough movement, not to produce a final settlement, but to indicate that there is enough good faith in the direction of trying to reduce the intensity of political conflict.

“In short, he would like to deal with the problem of peace on the entire front in which peace is challenged and not only on the military one.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 425, Subject File, Background Briefings, Feb-May 1969)

For the record of Nixon’s press conference on February 6, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, pages 66-76.