309. Editorial Note

President Nixon met with Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office of the White House the morning of December 15, 1971, to discuss the latest developments in the crisis in South Asia. Kissinger reported that “the Russians came in yesterday giving us their own guarantee that there would be no attack on West Pakistan.” (See Document 305.) Kissinger continued: “Now itʼs done. Itʼs just a question of what legal way we choose.” Nixon said: “Well, what the UN does is really irrelevant.” Kissinger felt that a solution to the crisis might be formalized in an exchange of letters between Nixon and Brezhnev that would be made public. Nixon asked how the Chinese would react to a public accommodation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Kissinger responded: “Oh, the Chinese would be thrilled if West Pakistan were guaranteed.”

Kissinger drew on his conversation with Vorontsov the previous evening to expand upon the Soviet guarantee: “He said well, I just had a cable to tell the President we give him, that this letter means that the Soviet Government gives him the guarantee that there will be no attack on West Pakistan, no annexation of West Pakistan.” Nixon asked: “Vorontsov talking now?” Kissinger replied: “Yeah. He said no annexation of West Pakistan territory as of now. Donʼt play any legalistic games with me. We consider the existing dividing line, and also that disputed territory cannot be taken. He said yes, thatʼs the guarantee. So now itʼs just a question of how to formalize it.” Kissinger considered the anticipated outcome to be “an absolute miracle.” He said: “I have this whole file of intelligence reports which makes it unmistakably clear that the Indian strategy was to knock over West Pakistan.”

Nixon and Kissinger were concerned about efforts made by Ambassador Jha to influence public opinion in the United States during the crisis. Kissinger said: “After this is over we ought to do something about that goddamned Indian Ambassador here going on television every day and attacking American policy. Nixon asked: “Why havenʼt we done something already?” Kissinger responded: “Iʼd like to call State to call him in. He says he has unmistakable proof that we are planning a landing on the Bay of Bengal. Well thatʼs OK with me.” Nixon agreed: “Yeah, that scares them.” Kissinger added: “That carrier move is good.” Nixon said: “Why hell yes … the point about the carrier move, we just say … we got to be there for the purpose of their moving there. Look these people are savages.” He added: “I want a word—put a word in for Scali to use … that the United Nations cannot survive and we cannot have a stable world if we allow one member of the United Nations to cannibalize another. Cannibalize, thatʼs the word, I should have thought of it earlier. You see that really puts [Page 825] it to the Indians. It has, the connotation is savages. To cannibalize, and thatʼs what the sons-of-bitches are up to.” Kissinger interjected: “One thing we have done, if I may say so, rather well. Weʼve put the Chinese into position where theyʼre more eager to yield than we are.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, December 15, 1971, 9:05–9:11 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 638–4)

Kissinger returned to the Oval Office later in the morning to ask for Nixonʼs approval of the line he intended to take in a meeting he had scheduled within the hour with Vorontsov. Kissinger began: “And now Mr. President what I wanted to check with you just to make sure you approved. I am having Vorontsov in at 11:30. And I propose to tell him the following: Look, the Security Council thing can go on forever.” Nixon concurred: “Thatʼs right.” Kissinger continued: “What you and we have in mind, what you and we can do is—the President was very impressed by [unclear].” Nixon said: “By the letter of Brezhnev.” Kissinger went on: “Well, that I told him already we werenʼt impressed with Mr. President. I told him that was just words, what we need is something complete.” Nixon agreed: “Yeah, fine.” Kissinger said: “He was very impressed with these assurances. That we could make peace formal. That the President writes you a letter and you respond. Or that you write us a letter and we respond. It doesnʼt make much difference who takes the first step, in which youʼd say that you know that no military action [is] planned against West Pakistan.” Nixon instructed: “Just put it in the letter.” Kissinger said that the letters would then be published to “symbolize Soviet-American concern for peace.” Nixon said: “Good, good.” He added: “But tell him … it would only be beautiful if we do it fast.” One of two things were going to happen, Kissinger predicted: “Either they will both vote for the British resolution in the Security Council, in which case they will take credit for it, or they will not vote for the British resolution and exchange these letters.” Nixon felt that an exchange of letters would be good in any event and he instructed Kissinger to tell Vorontsov that. (Ibid., 11–11:03 a.m., Conversation No. 638–4) The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. A transcript of the conversation is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 189.