227. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Rogers and the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

R: Hello.

K: Bill.

R: Yeah, Henry.

K: How are you?

R: Fine, thank you.

K: I wanted to bring you up-to-date on just one item that happened late yesterday afternoon, and I called you earlier. We had suggested to the Chinese a while ago that maybe we should establish direct contact in New York.

R: U-humm.

K: They have now come back and said they donʼt want that.

R: U-humm.

K: And that anything can be done through the Pakistanis or other friends.

R: Thatʼs the way George [H.W. Bush] has been working.

K: Right. Itʼs nothing, I just wanted you to be aware of that.

R: U-humm.

K: Otherwise, I donʼt have anything. I called you earlier just to find out how things—

R: Yeah. I think the fighting is exaggerated in the press. Cause there seems to be a lot less in the—

K: In the West.

R: No, in the press I say there is—

K: No, no, I think—but you mean in the West or in the East?

R: Well, both. In other words, although I am not talking about the movement of forces now but I am talking about casualties and losses and so forth. My military people say that plane losses, for example, so far we havenʼt had too many confirmations. We are inclined to think it is roughly 15 on either side in that area. The Indians have admitted 11 [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

K: Yeah.

[Page 633]

R: Well, Iʼll be in touch with you in a little while. Weʼre going over the fix now as we see it and then we will want to talk a little later about the Security Council. I thought it went very well yesterday.

K: I think actually itʼs come out—well, I think the backgrounder played very well.

R: Yeah, it did. You know, itʼs just really a question in the long run. We didnʼt accomplish really what we wanted to do and that is to convince everybody that we have taken all the right moves. But we performed the other task the President wanted performed, that is to condemn India.

K: No, and I think it lays the basis for establishing the fact that we have taken the right moves. You know, you donʼt expect the New York Times ever to like anything we did.

R: Yeah. Well, I think we have got a major decision if this thing continues to grow and that is whether we want to burn our bridges behind us or not with India.

K: Well, the other question is what do we gain by tacking towards them now?

R: Well, it isnʼt really tacking towards them now. Itʼs just a question of how much do we want to get involved in the public mind with the war itself and itʼs something we want to ask ourselves thoughtfully it seems to me now.

K: Well, no one is against discussing anything thoughtful.

R: Thatʼs all I am saying. In the long run do we want to go all out and take the exact Chinese position or do we want to be somewhere in between. At the moment we are somewhere in between—between the Soviet Union and China.

K: Well, our present position is to try to be say two-thirds of the way towards China but not all the way but above all what we have here is a Soviet-Indian naked power play to dismember a country.

R: Yeah.

K: Which must have profound consequences in other parts of international areas.

R: Iʼm not challenging that. Iʼm just saying that I think the President should think through very carefully each step from now on; particularly because it is the kind of thing that if it continues to grow sort of shadows our position of a more peaceful world and maybe thatʼs the only course. Maybe there is nothing we can do about it.

K: Well, what do you think we can do about it?

R: At least we can talk about it. In other words, I think the President should get involved now. I think we should have the Security Council discuss it and I think he should—

K: There is no question about that.

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R: Yeah, thatʼs all Iʼm saying. It has, as you said, it has profound repercussions and it may blow over or it may be that—

K: It wonʼt blow over.

R: I donʼt think so, I never have thought so. As you know, I—

K: Thereʼs no conceivable way it can blow over.

R: I donʼt think so. Well, itʼs conceivable, it can blow over the way it did the last time although, even the last time it lasted quite a while.

K: Well, thereʼs no way it can blow over without East Pakistan being separated from Pakistan.

R: No, I donʼt think so either.

K: I mean thatʼs going to be the outcome and the question is in part, what we have here is an Indian-Soviet—I mean however this issue started and whatever the pros and cons of the local situation were, itʼs gone far beyond that.

R: I see. Which is what we thought all along and I think we have to ask ourselves where we want to be a year from now, at least at the time of the election and two years from now, three years from now and whether there is much we can do to affect the course of events.

K: Yeah, but there are always two problems, one is do we affect the immediate course of events and secondly, how do we position ourselves even if we canʼt affect the course of events.

R: I agree.

K: Because if you say we affect—that anybody who can create a fait accompli, we then say we canʼt affect the course of events and weʼll not challenge it.

R: Oh, I donʼt … [you?] seem to be suggesting, Henry, that I am drawing a conclusion from my questions. Iʼm asking the same questions you are asking—

K: No, I think there should be a National Security—I donʼt know whether it should be a whole National Security Council meeting or a meeting of some of the close advisors.

R: Well, I think that maybe thatʼs better but I think we should and as I say, because I asked the questions Iʼm not drawing the conclusions, Iʼm asking the questions and I think the President should ask the questions.

K: Absolutely.

R: I think we shouldnʼt act just in petulance. Christ, obviously itʼs annoying and obviously sheʼs been a bitch.

K: Well, so far he hasnʼt acted in petulance.

R: No, no; but I say itʼs one of those things where we ought to think about it and talk about it and get the other fellowʼs point of view. My own view would be that we ought [to meet] tomorrow.

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K: Yeah, the trouble tomorrow is that heʼs got that whole goddamn day scheduled with that television thing.2

R: Well, I think we ought to be careful about that. In other words, I think thatʼs one of the reasons I think we ought to have a meeting. If major war is broken out and he spends the whole day taping a television show, Iʼm not sure thatʼs the best posture for him.

K: No, I think we have to have a meeting tomorrow.

R: Yeah, I think so. Okay, Henry, Iʼll be back in touch.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 397, Telephone Conversations, Home File, Dec 1971. No classification marking. The conversation was tape-recorded at Kissingerʼs residence and subsequently transcribed at the White House. No time appears on the transcript.
  2. The American Broadcasting Company was scheduled to film “A Day in the Life of the President” on December 6.