228. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

K: Mr. President.

P: Well, whatʼs the news today on our various adventures.

K: Right, Mr. President. Well, that backgrounder of Siscoʼs which we finally beat out of them.

P: Yeah.

K: Played very well. I donʼt know whether you have seen it.

P: No, I didnʼt look at the stuff; you see, I donʼt have a news summary down here.

K: It was one of the key items on every television program.

P: Maybe Sisco and RogersRogers probably wished he had done it, didnʼt he?

K: Well—

P: Tell me this, are they pleased now they did it?

K: Oh, yeah.

[Page 636]

P: State is, good.

K: Oh, yes.

P: And how does it play, it plays good?

K: On front page in the New York Times and Washington Post.

P: And what line did they take it?

K: That India is largely to blame for the outbreak of hostilities and it lists all the things the Indians have rejected.

P: Good.

K: And itʼs just what you wanted.

P: It got across though that whoʼs to blame?

K: Oh, yeah.

P: And heavily played?

K: And heavily played.

P: Ziegler got his statement out too?

K: Well, Zieglerʼs statement triggered this one because without—until Ziegler put out his statement—

P: They wouldnʼt say anything.

K: They refused to say anything.

P: Yeah, yeah. Thatʼs great, thatʼs great.

K: Where we are now, Mr. President, we had a Security Council meeting.

P: What happened there? I heard something on the radio that the Russians want to blame the Pakistanis.

K: Well, we put in a Resolution of ceasefire and withdrawal.2

P: Right.

K: The Russians put in a Resolution3 which blamed everything on Pakistan and just called for a political accommodation in East Pakistan.

P: Yeah.

K: At any rate, it wound up with an 11 to 2 vote for us with the Russians vetoing it. Only the Soviet Union and Poland voted for the Russian Resolution.

P: Right.

K: Even Syria, Somalia, and so forth.

P: Huh.

K: The Chinese voted with us, for our Resolution.

P: You know, thatʼs pretty good, Henry, to have the Russians get that few votes.

[Page 637]

K: Thatʼs right. But so now, of course, there is no Resolution.

P: Right.

K: So they are going back at it again today.

P: To get a Resolution that they can all approve.

K: Right, which will be impossible unless itʼs anti-Pakistan because the Russians will veto it.

P: I see.

K: If itʼs anti-Pakistan, the Chinese will veto it.

P: (Laughter) You know, this, Oh, Boy. But anyway, you feel a little better about what our position is.

K: Right. Now, what the Russians this morning have launched is a blistering attack on Pakistan in TASS and in effect, have warned the Chinese against getting involved. What we are seeing here is a Soviet-Indian power play to humiliate the Chinese and also somewhat us.

P: Yeah, yeah.

K: I think we ought to have a meeting of some of your key advisors tomorrow. I know youʼve got your day pretty full with the television taping. The reason I mention it is because Rogers has been talking about how we are sacrificing; heʼs on this Chinese kick again.

P: Sacrificing what?

K: Well, our position to China and he wants a careful consideration; what good do all these moves do. Of course, the opposite—

P: What move would he make then himself?

K: I asked exactly this question. He says he is just raising questions, heʼs not giving answers; these are questions he wants to have considered.

P: Okay, Iʼll consider them.

K: I think if we donʼt, there will be leakages that we just acted impetuously.

P: Well, letʼs see we could do something around—

K: Youʼve got him on the schedule at 2:30 anyway.

P: We might move it to 2:00 maybe. Well, we would have that; we wouldnʼt have the television in on that—weʼll let them take a picture and then get out.

K: I think thatʼs right.

P: Who would you have?

K: Connally, Rogers, Laird, if he is in town; Helms, and Mitchell if you want it.

P: I wouldnʼt have Mitchell on this one.

K: All right.

P: No, no. I think Connally because it involves some military—I mean economic and so forth.

[Page 638]

K: The basic problem, Mr. President, is itʼs clear that we canʼt do anything directly to change the situation but to set it up on the ground that we are sacrificing our friendship to India; there is no friendship left. There is nothing operational we are sacrificing in India by our present course. All we are—what we are risking is to add the content of the Soviets and the Chinese to a direct challenge in which a country is being dismembered.

P: The point is that I want to see from State what their option is; if theyʼve got a better one, Iʼd like to know what it is. And you know, I have [not] seen any suggestions of any different.

K: Their suggestion is always to release Mujibur; thatʼs in effect the Russian position.

P: Yeah. Well, but Pakistan wonʼt do that will it?

K: No. Well, now itʼs outdated; itʼs too late for that anyway. But it would have been—the Indians were determined, Mr. President, they attacked at the earliest possible moment they could. There was a rainy season from May to the end of September. Then they had to get their troops into position; then they had to train the Bengali. All this talk about Russian restraint that we heard all summer was complete poppycock.

P: Um-humm. I donʼt know; in everything weʼve done, everything weʼve said to the Russians and Indians had no effect, is that really what weʼre saying?

K: Our trouble was that we have been caught—maybe if we had been much tougher but for that we had no domestic position but certainly everything we have said has been without effect and they have geared it towards a humiliation—towards a dismemberment of Pakistan.

P: Yeah.

K: And the effect of that will be on all other countries watching it is that the friends of China and the United States have been clobbered by India and the Soviet Union. And I donʼt see how we escape that by tacking towards India now.

P: Nope. Well, are they now with the Mujib thing out of the way, what is State suggesting that we do?

K: Theyʼre not; they are refusing to make a suggestion.

P: What?

K: They are not making a suggestion.

P: They are just saying we ought to review our situation, huh?

K: Right. And that we shouldnʼt act impetuously.

P: What the Christ are we impetuous about, I donʼt know of anything impetuous.

K: I asked the same question.

P: Like what, cutting off the arms? A little prinking thing like that, why what about the cutting off of arms to Pakistan, that was impetuous [Page 639] too, huh? You know, itʼs ridiculous; thereʼs nothing impetuous about any of this stuff.

K: I think itʼs a carefully considered policy, Mr. President.

P: What we are doing?

K: If we collapse now, I admit itʼs not a brilliant position but if we collapse now, the Soviets wonʼt respect us for it; the Chinese will despise us and the other countries will draw their conclusions.

P: Well, what about the British position and how theyʼre playing it?

K: Well, they abstained.4

P: They abstained on this?

K: Yeah.

P: That sort of figures doesnʼt it?

K: Yeah.

P: French?

K: They abstained.

P: Humph. The French abstained too, huh?

K: Yeah.

P: What do you think the real game there on the British and the French—afraid to make Russia mad, isnʼt that it?

K: Thatʼs right; they are trying to position themselves between us and the Russians.

P: Um-humm.

K: No, I am beginning to think one of the worst mistakes we made was to push Britain onto the Common Market.

P: Yeah, yeah.

K: I mean that wasnʼt our Administration, we—

P: I know that. That decision was made long before we got here but we continued to push it, thatʼs for sure.

K: Well, we couldnʼt have stopped it by then.

P: No.

K: We acquiesced in it.

P: Yeah, sure. Heath—And, of course, and that was Heathʼs position long before … became …

K: No, no; the mistakes of that were made in the Kennedy Administration.

P: Itʼs done now.

[Page 640]

K: Thatʼs where it could have been stopped easily.

P: You got a little cold?

K: No, maybe Iʼve been talking a lot on the telephone.

P: You have, huh? (laughter)

K: Yeah.

P: Well, on this thing my view is to play this—Iʼll get them in and have a little meeting. Thatʼs a pretty good idea. But this idea of itʼs the same old story, Henry, that we have such things as troop withdrawals, Cambodia, Laos or virtually everything we have done, everybody comes in and raises questions.

K: And itʼs this—

P: Well, goddammit; if theyʼve got a better answer, fine but I donʼt see—They raise the questions and that makes a good historical record, doesnʼt it?

K: Thatʼs right and itʼs this phony wisdom; we ought to consider things carefully. Of course, we ought to consider things carefully.

P: Thatʼs right, thatʼs right.

K: What good does our action do? On that basis, we just have to roll over every time a superior country moves. What is the long-term effect? Of course, we have to consider the long-term effect.

P: Yeah.

K: The proper [omission in the source text].

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 397, Telephone Conversations, Home File, Dec 1971. No classification marking. The President was in Key Biscayne, Florida; Kissinger was in Washington. The conversation was tape-recorded at Kissingerʼs residence and subsequently transcribed at the White House. No time appears on the transcript.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 224.
  3. UN doc. S/10418.
  4. Britain and France abstained on the vote in the Security Council on the United States draft resolution; See footnote 11, Document 224.