39. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- A Strategic Overview
Attached is a memorandum written by an acquaintance of mine which provides a rather comprehensive assessment of the United States’ position in the world. Although I do not agree with its every last word, it does define the problem we face—the generally deteriorating strategic position of the United States during the past decade.
Many analysts have written about the problems faced by the Communists. But I do not believe that the world situation, as viewed from Moscow, provides great cause for Communist pessimism.
Andrei Zhdanov’s “two-camp” speech in September 1947 referred only to Bulgaria, Poland and Romania as relatively secure Communist states and allies. He saw no real possibility in the Middle East and no hope in Latin America. He considered China to be imperialist. But Zhdanov’s pessimistic outlook has not been justified by subsequent events—certainly during the last decade.
- —In the Middle East, Russian influence is spreading and moderate Arab governments are under increasing pressure.
- —In Latin America, the potential for guerrilla warfare grows, and the outlook for future Nasser-type (if not Communist), anti-American governments improves.
- —In Europe, NATO is in a state of malaise, accentuated by our shifting policies over the last 10 years. Europeans are increasingly concerned about isolationist currents within the U.S. (particularly within the liberal community).
- —In Asia, as you saw on your trip, leaders are concerned about the future U.S. role there.
You inherited this legacy of the past decade. The lesson one can draw from it is not that we can fight this trend on every issue. But foreign policy depends on an accumulation of nuances, and no opponent [Page 111]of ours can have much reason to believe that we will stick to our position on the issues which divide us. When Hanoi compares our negotiating position on Vietnam now with that of 18 months ago, it must conclude that it can achieve its goals simply by waiting. Moscow must reach the same conclusion.
These are dangerous conclusions for an enemy to draw, and I believe that we therefore face the prospect of major confrontations.
Hence, my concern about the gravity of the situation, of which I thought I should let you know.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 397, Subject Files, A Strategic Overview. Confidential. An attached memorandum to Kissinger from Kenneth Cole, Executive Director of the Domestic Council, is dated October 14. Cole stated that the President was returning Kissinger’s memorandum and its attachment and wanted them sent to Secretaries Rogers and Laird and Attorney General Mitchell for their comments. (Ibid.)↩
- All brackets in the source text.↩
- Nixon underscored this sentence, beginning at “he had no choice.”↩
- Nixon highlighted the first five sentences of paragraph 4 and added the following note in the margin: “K—a deadly accurate analysis.”↩
- The Hickenlooper Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, proposed by Senator Bourke Hickenlooper (R.-Iowa), was adopted by the Congress on August 1, 1962, as one of the amendments that constituted the Foreign Assistance Act of 1962. The Hickenlooper Amendment provided for the suspension of foreign aid to any country that expropriated U.S. property without prompt and adequate compensation. (P.L. 87-565, 76 Stat. 260-261)↩
- Nixon highlighted the final sentence of this paragraph and added the following comment in the margin: “K—note—what does State advise on this”?↩
- Nixon underscored the second sentence of this paragraph, highlighted the final sentence, and wrote the following marginal comment: “K—I agree—We dropped this one.”↩
- Nixon underscored and highlighted the final sentence of this paragraph and added the following marginal comment: “K—I agree—Be sure our Latin speech makes this clear.” The reference is apparently to the speech Nixon delivered to the annual meeting of the Inter-American Press Association on October 31. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, pp. 893-901.↩
- Nixon’s marginal comment at this point reads: “K—who is this”?↩
- An agreement between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany to offset the costs of the U.S. forces stationed in Germany was signed in Washington on July 9. For text of the joint statement announcing the agreement, see Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1969, p. 92. When Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger visited Washington in August, he confirmed the agreement.↩
- Nixon highlighted the final sentence of this paragraph and added the following marginal note: “good analysis.”↩
- Nixon underscored this paragraph and wrote in the margin: “Sad but true!”↩
- Not printed.↩
- Nixon underscored this sentence.↩