42. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Dr. Kissinger
  • Bill Timmons
  • Ron Ziegler
  • C. Fred Bergsten
  • Senator Mansfield
  • Senator Scott
  • Senator Russell

SUBJECT

  • Foreign Aid Supplemental Request

The President began the meeting by noting that the house leadership, who had also been invited to this meeting, were unable to attend because of the floor debate on the Trade Bill.2 He hoped to see them at a different time to discuss the Foreign Aid Supplemental which he was submitting to the Congress later in the afternoon.3

The President noted that he was asking about $1 billion in supplementary aid funds for FY 1971, and listed the countries included in the request. In the Middle East, the additional aid to Israel, Jordan and [Page 99]Lebanon was necessary to make viable the present ceasefire arrangement. In Asia, the funds were necessary to implement the Nixon Doctrine, both in Korea and to guarantee complete US withdrawal from Vietnam.

Senator Mansfield asked whether the quid for the aid was a reduction in US forces. The President responded that this was correct. In the Middle East of course it would enable us to stay out. In Asia, we wanted to continue our withdrawals in Korea and to continue our Vietnamization program.

At the President’s request, Secretary Rogers elaborated on the proposal. He noted that US foreign policy was now highly esteemed around the world. For the first time, hopeful signs had developed in the Middle East where there had been no fighting for over 100 days. The UAR was thinking of its own problems for a change. Jordan and King Hussein are now stronger, and we had told him that we would help. We had also told Lebanon that we would help it control its guerrilla problem.

The President interjected that the Congress would no doubt provide support for Israel. If Jordan and Lebanon came apart, however, the possibility of a flare-up in the Middle East would increase greatly. Secretary Rogers added that the request for Israel would not itself cause any flare-up, since the amounts were already known.

The President made clear that domestic US politics were not the justification for seeking new aid to Israel.4 The aid was essential to maintain Israel’s confidence, so that Israel would be willing and able to negotiate. The aid will thus help induce Israel to talk, which would be impossible without such help. The $500 million is necessary to assure ratification of the ceasefire violations—there will not be a rollback on the Egyptian side.

Secretary Laird added that DOD had been financing the military sales to Israel through its normal 180-day credit mechanism. These had been rolled over to the maximum permitted by law, so Israel now must pay the bill. Secretary Rogers concluded by expressing optimism that the negotiations could get started again, and indicated that he would be seeing Eban on the subject shortly.

[Page 100]

On Korea, Secretary Rogers indicated that here we were implementing the Nixon Doctrine. Secretary Laird said that we were saving $185 million in the FY 1971 budget already on direct US troop costs there. Even with the additional $150 million of assistance, there would be a net saving of $35 million already in the FY 1971 budget due to the Nixon Doctrine. The savings would be much greater over the course of the five-year plan for modernizing Korea’s forces.

Secretary Rogers then indicated that new aid for Vietnam and Cambodia were all part of Vietnamization and necessary to continue that program, which was working well. In addition, we wanted $13 million for Indonesia. Secretary Laird added the detailed figures that we were seeking for Southeast Asia and noted that the diversion of North Vietnamese troops to Cambodia is much cheaper for us to handle than if they remained in South Vietnam.

Senator Russell interjected that he would certainly support such a request if it enabled other countries to take on the burden of their defense themselves.

The President replied that, in the Indonesian case, the issue was internal security. Suharto was thinking of Indonesian needs, and rejected any notions of foreign adventures. In response to the President’s question whether the Indonesian aid was in line with Indonesia’s request, Secretaries Rogers and Laird answered affirmatively.

The President then noted that Cambodia was the part of the package that would trouble some people. There will be fears of new US involvement, that we are trying to bail out of a situation which we should not have entered in the first place. Our Cambodian action, however, now appears to be enormously in the US interests. For example, it has choked off the enormous supply of equipment through Sihanoukville which had been the mainstay of the North Vietnamese supplies in South Vietnam.

The President continued that the Southeast Asian/Korean package is part of the Nixon Doctrine. We wanted to let others do the job themselves; we wanted to get out ourselves. But we must remember the assistance part of the Doctrine. These countries are not going to be building up military machines of their own. We hope that Vietnam and Cambodia will become lesser burdens over time to us. We now see this as the best road in that area.

Senator Scott asked whether Cambodia was not developing a war machine. The President replied that in fact Cambodia’s military operation was rather lean. Secretary Laird concurred, and added that we were proposing a reasonable investment in Cambodia’s military. They were making an all-out effort, and had done well so far. The aid will go for ammunition, small arms, trucks, and the like. It will provide no aircraft, helicopters, or other heavy equipment.

[Page 101]

Concerning the restoration of funds to programs from which money was borrowed for urgent need in Cambodia and elsewhere, Secretary Laird noted that we should honor our commitments. We had told the recipient countries about the size of their programs, and thus needed to restore funds to implement them. Senator Scott added that this also was a Congressional commitment, because Congress had voted the country funds too.

Secretary Laird then suggested that Korea would not be as controversial. There we would have to anticipate Korean military needs to permit US withdrawals. The Koreans had asked for $350 million of additional assistance, but the $150 million request is as far as we should go.

Secretary Rogers added that some would ask why we did not wait to submit our request. One answer was that the South Koreans were very jittery about North Korea and that it was psychologically important for them that we move quickly. Secretary Laird said we should supply the assistance as we withdraw; Secretary Rogers commented that the withdrawals and assistance go hand in hand. The Koreans are terribly upset by our withdrawals. Secretary Laird noted that this was our first cutback there in at least 10 years, and that a 20,000 man reduction is a pretty good cut from a ceiling of 65,000.

Secretary Laird then noted that no authorization was needed for Israel; it had been obtained in the Defense Procurement Act. However, we should keep both parts of the appropriation in the same bill. This would be easier to handle than two separate supplemental appropriations. We would, however, need authorization for the other parts of the package. Senator Scott agreed that it would be easier to hold the package together in view of the time pressure of the present session. Senator Mansfield also appeared to agree.

Senator Mansfield then asked about the total cost of the package. Secretary Laird replied that it was $1,035 million. It included $195 million for economic assistance, $340 million for military assistance, and a $500 million credit for Israel. The objectives were to keep us out of the Middle East and compensate for our withdrawals in Asia. The President added that it was to assure the withdrawals. Senator Mansfield responded “just so long as there is a quid”.

Secretary Laird noted that military assistance to Vietnam could be handled in the DOD budget. However, we could not handle Cambodia there. Senator Mansfield asked whether the request would to the Armed Services Committee. Secretary Laird said he was afraid not; it would go to the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Russell then twitted Senator Mansfield about moving it to the Foreign Relations [Page 102]Committee after he (Russell) had left the Armed Services Committee. Secretary Laird said that the Armed Services Committee had taken jurisdiction on Israel, and could take this although he assumed it would not.

The President then said that he did not like to bring up such a request at the end of a Congressional session. He had found it was necessary to do so, however, so was now bringing it to the leadership. He would do the same with the House leadership, when they were out of the Trade Bill discussion. The package was essential. He was not seeking a Congressional fight.

Secretary Laird said that the shopping lists for the countries were well worked out. However, they were too detailed to go into now. The President noted that three or four Senators probably would want to look at them.

Secretary Rogers injected that the foreign policy of this Government was now extremely well regarded. He hoped this request would not disturb that regard. We were getting praise everywhere for our approach in the Middle East

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 195, AID 10/7/70-12/31/70. Confidential. There is no drafting information on the memorandum, which was transmitted to Kissinger under cover of a November 20 memorandum from Bergsten, along with two other memoranda of conversation covering the discussion of “US/Soviet Military Capabilities and their Political Consequences” and “The Cuba Situation.” According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting lasted until 4:33 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. The President had, however, met earlier in the day with Representative Otto Passman regarding the Supplemental. (Ibid.) An undated briefing memorandum from Timmons to the President for his meeting with Passman is ibid., NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 195, AID 10/7/70-12/31/70.
  3. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard M. Nixon, 1970, pp. 1074-1079. A November 10 memorandum to the President from Under Secretary of State Irwin indicates that the request for a supplemental was the outgrowth of the October 14 memorandum from Rogers and Laird ( Document 39) to which the President had indicated agreement in principle. Irwin attached to his memorandum a November 5 Department of State paper for the Under Secretaries Committee on the Congressional Presentation Scenario and a draft message to Congress. (National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 81 D 309, NSC-U/SM 85A) The supplemental legislation was enacted by Congress on January 5, 1971. For text of the President’s January 6 statement commending the Congress for its prompt action, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1971, p. 26.
  4. On February 22, 1969, President Nixon had initialed a memorandum to Rogers and Kissinger, which read in part: “Under no circumstances will domestic political considerations have any bearing on the decisions I make with regard to the Mideast. The only considerations which will affect my decisions on this policy will be the security interests of the United States. In the future, I want no reference to domestic political considerations to be included in any papers and I do not want the subject of domestic political considerations to be brought up in discussions of this subject.” (National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 73 D 288, Box 835, NSC Review Group)