109. Letter From President Nixon to Secretary of State Rogers1

Dear Bill:

I believe we need to give very serious and careful thought to our relation to countries in the developing world. I do not believe we understand very clearly how our aid programs and our policies, in general, actually affect the political and economic development of these countries and their orientation on foreign policy matters of concern to us.

A study of the impact of our aid programs in an effort to develop a clearer understanding of what they can and cannot accomplish is needed and we are issuing terms of reference for this study.2 In the meantime, I wanted you and your colleagues to understand my basic approach on this question.

I do not believe we should put ourselves in the position of being blackmailed by countries which threaten to go Communist, or even to increase their economic ties with Communist countries, if we do not provide them with the level of economic or military assistance that they think they require. I doubt very much that any country will deliberately subordinate itself to the Soviet Union or to Communist China simply because they are dissatisfied with our policy. Moreover, the record of the last decade does not, I believe, lead to the conclusion that greater economic intercourse with the Soviet Union or China leads a developing country necessarily to change either its domestic policies or its foreign policy. Obviously, we must be concerned about Soviet-Chinese actions which may affect our security, but we need to examine each case on its own merits and not permit ourselves to be forced into actions which are undesirable or expensive simply because we are told that otherwise the countries will move into the Soviet or Chinese sphere of influence. It would seem to me axiomatic that we must not be put into [Page 259] the position where a government can pretend that it is worse for us than for it if it goes Communist or pro-Communist.

We need to understand much better than we do what, in fact, increases the appeal of Communism in particular countries and what drives nations closer to the Soviet Union or Communist China.

I am also concerned about the tendency of our aid programs and, indeed, of the activities of our personnel overseas, in general, to draw us into a deep involvement in the domestic politics of developing countries. Our concern, I believe, should be primarily with their foreign policies, insofar as they affect our own interests. We should be concerned with the domestic affairs of other countries only as they may affect their foreign policies in ways of critical importance to us, or as they affect the way in which the recipients are likely to use assistance which we give them.


  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 279, State, Volume II. Secret. Drafted by Morton Halperin of the NSC Staff who forwarded it to Kissinger under cover of a March 26 memorandum to which he also attached a copy of a May 23, 1968, paper on “United States Policy on Internal Defense in Selected Foreign Countries,” which had been approved by the Senior Interdepartmental Group during the Johnson administration. (Ibid.) The letter was forwarded to the President for his signature under cover of an April 11 memorandum from Kissinger. (Ibid.) Copies were sent to the Secretary of Defense, the AID Administrator, the USIA Director, and the Director of Central Intelligence. Notes indicate the letter related to NSSM 3, January 20, regarding “U.S. Military Posture and the Balance of Power.” (Ibid.) The Johnson administration paper is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. X, Document 204.
  2. See Document 111.