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

K: Mr. President.

P: Yeah, Henry.

K: Sorry to disturb you.

P: Thatʼs all right.

[Page 772]

K: We havenʼt heard from the Russians yet but Iʼve had a call from Bhutto 2 who insisted on seeing you tonight anywhere.

P: Me?

K: Yeah, but Iʼve turned that off. Iʼve turned that off already but that isnʼt—and I made him tell me what he wanted.

P: Yeah.

K: He said that he had talked with the Chinese. The Chinese had said to him that they were willing to do something and in fact I think that they are going to do something but they said that they had their doubts about us—that we started out by saying aggression; then we pulled off from the word aggression; then we said it wasnʼt justified; then we pulled off from that and declared strict neutrality. They just donʼt think that we are firm and they want some word from us what weʼre going to do if the Russians press them. Of course, you know, I couldnʼt help Bhutto.

P: Yeah.

K: And, a … of course, there is a lot in what theyʼre saying. It isnʼt that you put ideas before anyone else and we are caught by a domestic public opinion and the Senate and the bureaucracy that creates a tough situation. What we are facing now tomorrow is: if we can hear from the Russians and can go with that game plan we are all right, but if we donʼt hear by tomorrow morning what weʼll have to decide is whether to issue a statement along the lines of what we put in the letter to Brezhnev 3 saying, “If this continues it will be naked aggression against the country toward which we have obligations.” According to Bhutto, they said the Russians are the biggest brutes and cowards in the world and the only reason this is going on is because everyone knows the United States is weak. Iʼm just quoting you what he said, Iʼm not making a judgment.

P: Yes, okay.

K: There is something in it. Itʼs not that the President is weak, itʼs …

P: Well, what do we have to do at this point?

K: Well, at this point, there is nothing we need to do tonight. We have to decide that when we go to the Security Council tomorrow, we do it with some real pizazz.

[Page 773]

P: Yes, I think, well I think that is quite clear and we have to use the word aggression—naked aggression.

K: And what we could do is announce that the President has asked Bush to take it back to the Security Council.

P: Yes.

K: And if this continues, now that East Pakistan has practically fallen there can no longer be any doubt that we are dealing with naked aggression supported by Soviet power.

P: Yeah, well it would be my inclination to go in that direction.

K: And if we do that we might consider telling the Russians tonight that that is what we are going to do.

P: Ahmmm, telling the Russians before we hear from them.

K: Well, if we donʼt hear from them by noon tomorrow we will have to state our position publicly and discuss their involvement.

P: Well, it would seem that thatʼs probably what weʼll have to do in terms of the words to inform the Russians that … thatʼs how we should do it, you will inform Vorontsov tonight that weʼre going to take it to the Security Council tomorrow or how would we go about it?

K: That we will then take public steps, including Security Council steps, in which we will publicly have to say what their role is.

P: Well, I would rather it be stated in which it will be clear what their role is—that the steps would inevitably show what their role is unless they cooperate in a policy of stopping the aggression at this point.

K: Well, stopping the war, they donʼt even have to agree to stopping the aggression.

P: Stopping the war, or bring about a ceasefire.

K: Yah.

P: That seems to be reasonable. I have my doubts that the Chinese will do anything.

K: I think that they will do something now.

P: You do, huh.

K: Yah. Haig does too.

P: Well, that they will do something, you mean where?

K: I do not believe that they will let—they will do what they did in Korea—I do not think they will let these people get at their borders.

P: Thatʼs what it gets to isnʼt it, yeh.

K: Yeh.

P: Let the Indians get at their borders.

K: Well, Haig says he saw movies tonight, a TV film, and he said that the amount of Russian equipment is just massive.

[Page 774]

P: Yeh.

K: Of course, no one has brought that out.

P: Pause…. Well, I think that you had better let the word go to the Russians then. I think that has to be done tonight, right.

K: Okay, Mr. President.

P: I see no other course for you.

K: No, unfortunately not, Mr. President. This is heartbreaking, but weʼve got to get on top of it and I think weʼve got to get out the story better. I mean we shilly-shallied, I mean not we, there have been too many conflicting signals coming out and I saw the Agronsky show tonight and these bleeding hearts are saying that we are driving India away and that no one mentions what the Russians are doing.

P: Right, ahmmm.

K: [omission in the source text]

P: I know, I know what your point [is] though. Your point then is to inform the Russians that we are going to go to their support in the Security Council.

K: But, to say if we donʼt get from them by tomorrow morning an answer on how to proceed, we will have to take public actions in which we will have—in which their own involvement will become clear.

P: Their own involvement is abetting aggression and in failing to participate in a cooperative action to stop the war.

K: Thatʼs right.

P: Ahmm. All right, letʼs do it on that basis. Tomorrow we will take a look.

K: Right Mr. President.

P: We may hear from them. We donʼt know.

K: I think so.

P: But it will take some time for them to do it. Well, it will be interesting to see what will happen tomorrow. Too bad we have to be going to the Azores, isnʼt it?

K: Itʼs not a good time. But maybe it is a good time if we can get Pompidou to come along with something there.

P: Thatʼs very, very unlikely but on the other hand I think the thing to do in terms of our American opinion is just to go right ahead with our public (K interrupts).

K: Well you know what the line now is Mr. President, they are all attacking you on personal pique and we have to get out that goddammit you are defending as always the national interest. And for that we have to make clear what the Russians have been doing.

P: Ahmm.

[Page 775]

K: And there was no personal pique involved there.

P: Of course not, you mean in terms of our decisions here—not at all—it had nothing to do with that.

K: And we may have to let out the Kennedy commitment to Pakistan, if worse comes to worse.

P: Yes. Bhutto knows about that doesnʼt he?

K: Well, I havenʼt told him. We may, you know as we say we have obligations. Some people say what are the obligations—weʼll put out the Kennedy thing.

P: The purpose of that being to what?

K: The purpose of that being to make clear that you havenʼt acted out of personal feelings, but to protect the … but to keep the word of an American President and also to warn the Russians that this isnʼt a free shot.

P: Yup, that makes sense, makes sense. All right, let the message go to the Russians. See what happens tomorrow on it.

K: Good night.

P: Okay, call me if you hear from them.

K: Right.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 370, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking. The President was at Camp David, Maryland; Kissinger was in Washington.
  2. The conversation that Kissinger summarizes between himself in Washington and Bhutto and Raza in New York was held immediately prior to the call he placed to the President. A transcript of that conversation is ibid., and published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 175.
  3. Document 269.