303. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Meeting with Minister Vorontsov on Tuesday, December 14, 1971

At 12:22 p.m., I summoned Minister Vorontsov to the White House in connection with the crisis in South Asia. He arrived at 12:40 p.m., and I covered the following points:

  • —I noted that Dr. Kissinger and the President had received and carefully considered the message2 delivered by Minister Vorontsov from the Soviet leadership which was delivered by Mr. Vorontsov at 3:00 a.m. this morning.
  • —Dr. Kissinger and the President were somewhat concerned that the Soviet note was vague and imprecise in several major respects. The most important of these was the reference to Indiaʼs plans not to seize West Pakistani territory. I stated that this issue was one of the utmost importance to the United States Government and that it was our assumption that the message meant precisely what it said; i.e., that there would be absolutely no change in the existing territorial lines between Pakistan and India—in other words, that there would be a precise return to the status quo ante with respect to Pakistanʼs and Indiaʼs territories. Mr. Vorontsov stated that it was his personal understanding that this represented precisely the Soviet view.
  • —I pointed out that I would be less than frank were I not to emphasize the fact that the U.S. side was greatly concerned by the amount of time it took the Soviet Union to respond in detail on this issue following Mr. Vorontsovʼs initial message3 of Sunday morning (December 12). I made the point that delays of this kind in times of crisis can only contribute to misunderstanding and a breakdown in confidence between the two governments. It can also result in the initiation of unilateral action by one party or the other which could further aggravate the situation.
  • —In this instance, it was hard for the United States side to understand, especially after reading the contents of the Soviet reply, what the cause might have been for the extensive delay, other than a Soviet [Page 815] desire to permit the situation on the ground rather than mutual consultation decide the issue.
  • —I emphasized that Mr. Vorontsov knew that conflicting interests involved in this situation were such that any acceptable formula which would promptly bring the fighting to a halt must be sufficiently vague so that all interested parties could support the formula. This would mean that the United States for its part would seek to insure that reference to political settlement be purposely vague and at the same time the United States Government would wish to urge good faith on the part of the Soviets that we had every intention of abiding by the principles outlined in the messages from President Nixon to the Soviet leadership as well as the discussions between Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Vorontsov.
  • —For our part, we intend to seek a formula for negotiation under the assumption that the assurances given by the Soviet leadership will be strictly adhered to by the Soviet Union.
  • —At this juncture and on the eve of most important discussions between the two Governments, it is the U.S. view that the Soviet Union must now move promptly to bring a halt to the fighting. If we are to experience the kind of delays from the Soviet side which have characterized their performance since the start of this crisis, it cannot have but the most serious impact on the relationships between the Government of the Soviet Union and the United States on the full range of issues which we are now discussing in other forums, both bilateral and multilateral.

After making the above points, Mr. Vorontsov asked if General Haigʼs statements represented the views of the President, Dr. Kissinger or General Haig. General Haig stated that these views were conveyed to him by Dr. Kissinger and that they are totally consistent with the Presidentʼs personal views on the situation.

Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
Brigadier General, U.S. Army
Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, Presidentʼs Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Document 295.
  3. Document 284.