85. Memorandum From the President’s Military Assistant (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Continuing Problems with State Department


In recent weeks, the momentum of deteriorating relationships with the Department of State has continued to grow. From the outset of the Administration, our problems have been characterized by a failure of the Department of State, and in particular the Secretary, to cooperate with this office, to adhere to broad policy lines approved by the President and to abide by established ground rules for minimum coordination of policy matters across a broad spectrum of foreign policy issues:


  • —The history of our relationships with State and, in turn, U.S. Government’s relationships with the Soviet Union on Strategic Arms [Page 178] Limitation negotiations is replete with examples of the consistent failure of the Secretary of State, the Department of State and ACDA to adhere to the minimum policy guidelines promulgated by the President or Assistant to the President in the President’s behalf.
  • —At enclosure 1 is a detailed chronology of the earlier problems experienced with State in the evolution of the SALT issue.2 Subsequent to that chronology, in recent weeks, the following problems have arisen:
    In contrast to the President’s desire to maintain a cool and aloof relationship with the Soviets, at least until his November 3d speech, State moved with excessive eagerness to accept the long overdue Soviet response on SALT talks.
    Despite a firm Presidential directive to the effect that the talks should not be held in Helsinki, Secretary Rogers in effect agreed to this site in his discussions with Dobrynin in New York and subsequently after having been instructed to the contrary, continued to acquiesce in Helsinki as the location, for preliminary talks.
    Despite obvious desire on the part of the White House to achieve maximum credit for the President on the SALT issue, it appears that State moved, through press contacts, to insure that the Secretary of State received maximum credit for the favorable Soviet response.
    On October 24, the Secretary of State sent a memorandum to the President, designed to give State and ACDA almost autonomous control of SALT negotiations, despite the existence of White House memoranda designed to retain control here.
    State has not yet responded to a request for copies of memcons covering the Rogers–Dobrynin conversations on Wednesday, October 22, 1969.
    Despite an urgent requirement suggested from the White House that careful coordination be effected with our European Allies on the SALT announcement, the State Department did not execute such coordination until late Friday afternoon, just a few hours before the announcement was to be made and well after serious leaks were already reflected in the press. (Except for the fact that we utilized White House channels to notify the Big Three confidentially on Thursday, October 23, this could have been a serious affront to our Allies.)
    Despite the full realization in the Department of State of the President’s interest in any contacts with the Soviets, State, without consulting with or notifying the White House, arranged a meeting between [Page 179] Gerard Smith and Ambassador Dobrynin to discuss the “mechanics” of the forthcoming SALT talks for October 29. Concurrently, a new flurry of speculative press articles apparently emanating from ACDA sources have started to appear in the media, the most significant being today’s Marquis Child’s article indicating that Gerard Smith will move rapidly to initiate talks on the MIRV ban with the Soviets once the talks start.3
    In sum, State’s handling of the Soviet SALT reply was contrary to the tactics desired by the President. It clearly damaged the atmosphere that we were attempting to maintain vis-à-vis the Soviets. It is apparent that unless the Department of State and its subordinate agency, ACDA, are immediately brought under firm control that the freewheeling, undisciplined and frequently disloyal style of operating which has characterized the SALT issue will continue unabated. These discrepancies can continue only at the greatest risk to the national security now that substantive talks are about to get underway.

Colorado Springs Directive

  • —On 1 September (enclosure 2), the President sent a directive to the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Director of CIA,4 reiterating his desire that all communications with policy implications be cleared with the White House, adding that in cases of doubt the rule would be to seek clearance. It is obvious that this directive has not been disseminated to the appropriate bureaus in the Department of State. In fact, contrary to this directive, we have received several indications that guidance has been issued to at least some bureaus and members of the State Department staff that they should strictly limit coordination and collaboration with members of the NSC staff.
  • —For example, our African staff man was informed by the Chief of the African Bureau that the African Bureau has received a directive from the 7th Floor that it is not to coordinate its actions with him.
  • —As a further manifestation of this problem, State dispatched a cable to Bonn dealing with the future of the Berlin issue, containing strong policy implications, without obtaining necessary clearance from the White House.5 Despite continued efforts by the NSC staff, State adamantly refused to accept White House guidance until the issue was finally resolved between Dr. Kissinger and the Under Secretary of State.
  • —One of the most serious breaches of the President’s directive occurred on October 8 when the Department of State, unilaterally and without White House approval, passed to a French Embassy officer for relay to the North Vietnamese, U.S. medical journals containing articles on the treatment of hemorrhagic fever, reportedly rampant in North Vietnam. This is an incredible act which may have been motivated by humanitarian concerns but which represented a fundamental policy decision which was not even cleared with Ambassador Lodge, who registered a strong complaint upon learning that it was done. Background material at enclosure 3.6
  • —On October 8, Department of State dispatched a message to Moscow, Paris and Saigon, without White House clearance, which reported a meeting between Ambassador Sullivan and the Soviet Minister Tcherniakov which established a totally unauthorized new communication link between Sullivan and the Soviets and Habib and the Soviet representative Oberemko in Paris, designed to deal actively with the Vietnam problem. (Cable at enclosure 4).7 It took energetic action by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs with the President himself to rectify this situation.

Middle East

—On October 25, we received notification by information memorandum from the Secretary of State that he intended to launch a major Middle East initiative on Wednesday, October 29.8 The memorandum indicated that Joe Sisco would launch talks with the Soviets in an effort to seek Soviet agreement with a proposal that would have the Israelis return to their pre-war borders, with some exceptions, in return for guarantees for the future of Israel. When State was informed that such an initiative at this time would be contrary to the U.S.-Soviet atmospherics sought in conjunction with the Vietnam speech, we were informed that Secretary Rogers had already made a commitment to Dobrynin on October 22 to launch these talks and that it would be embarrassing, if not impossible, to draw back now. The White House had not been informed of this commitment. In view of the President’s preoccupation with his weekend speeches, the Assistant to the President acceded to the State initiative rather than bother the President whose personal intercession would be required to modify what was presented to the White House as a course of action approved by the Secretary of State.

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Latin America

  • —After a copy of the President’s draft speech on Latin America was provided to State, we noted indications that it was immediately taken over by the Secretary, who initiated a series of coordinating actions which would risk the security of its contents—but which could then gain maximum credit for State for whatever initiative the President would ultimately include.
  • —The President had approved and directed the upgrading of the State bureau responsible for Latin American Affairs, from Assistant Secretary to Under Secretary level, to be included as one of the initiatives reported in the October 31 speech.9 Rather than accepting this directive, Secretary Rogers called Dr. Kissinger and insisted that if he were to so reorganize State it would be necessary for Dr. Kissinger similarly to reorganize the NSC staff, upgrading his Latin American specialist. Dr. Kissinger agreed, despite the meaningless nature of such an exercise. (NSC staff members do not have clearly defined titles in any case.)
  • —Immediately after the draft of the President’s speech was furnished to the Department of State, press speculation began to build concerning its contents. The most flagrant of these was an article in today’s New York Times by Tad Szulc, obviously leaked by State, which intimated that the President’s speech would be in large measure a recitation of Governor Rockefeller’s recommendations for Latin America.10
  • —Although each of the most recent drafts have been furnished to State, they have initiated a process of nitpicking, seeking both substantive and stylistic changes, despite the fact that the broad outlines of the proposals contained in the speech were approved by the President and promulgated as Presidential directives, following NSC consideration of our Latin American policies. Furthermore, the Secretary called the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs on Tuesday, October 28, and informed him that he intended to take over the substance of the speech on Thursday and Friday of this week and insure that it was consistent with his views.


  • —On October 16, State slipped a new option into the discussion of Southern Africa at the Review Group meeting on that subject without prior consultation with the NSC staff, in a clear effort to circumvent the usual channels of preparation for Review Group meetings.
  • —More serious was the testimony of State’s Assistant Secretary for African Affairs before the House Subcommittee on Africa. His confidential testimony revealed State’s recommendations on closing our Consulate in Southern Rhodesia and on importing Rhodesian chrome, issues under NSC consideration. Both of these recommendations were (as State knew) consistent with the views of the Subcommittee Chairman, Congressman Diggs. The effect of this can only be that, if the President chooses a different course from that recommended by State, Congressman Diggs and his colleagues will know that their friends in State fought the good fight against the “wrong-headed” White House.

State under-cut the President’s position in this manner, despite specific instructions from BOB that its testimony before Congressman Diggs should avoid all statements implying what our policy is or should be. Commerce and Treasury received similar instructions and followed them in their testimony.


In sum, it has become increasingly apparent that State-White House relationships have deteriorated to the point that the most serious damage to the national interest cannot but result. The situation today differs only in degree from the problems that have been experienced since January 21st. At enclosure 5 is a summary of major problems up to July 12, included in a memorandum prepared by the Assistant to the President by Colonel Haig.11 At enclosure 6 is a memorandum which was prepared in August at San Clemente, summarizing the problems that had occurred over the summer weeks.12 The impression gained from review of the history of our problems with State suggest that their continuation can no longer be tolerated.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, John Ehrlichman, Box 26, State Department—White House Relations, 1969. Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum is an updated version of Haig’s October 27 memorandum to Kissinger on the same subject. (Ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 148, State/WH Relationship, Vol. 1)
  2. The attached April 30 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon is not printed.
  3. Marquis Childs, “SALT Talks Offer Chance to Curb Spiraling Arms Race,” The Washington Post, October 29, 1969, p. A25.
  4. Document 70.
  5. Telegram 174682 to Bonn, October 15. For text see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972.
  6. Attached but not printed.
  7. Telegram 170777 to Moscow, October 8; attached but not printed.
  8. Not found.
  9. See Document 80.
  10. Tad Szulc, “Rockefeller Seeks Latin-Policy Shift,” The New York Times, October 29, 1969, p. 1.
  11. Document 63.
  12. See footnote 2, Document 70.