25. Memorandum for the Record1
- Meeting between Henry A. Kissinger, Soviet Minister Vorontsov, and Brigadier General Haig, Tuesday, December 14, 1971, 6:00 p.m.
Dr. Kissinger informed Minister Vorontsov that the President had asked him to meet with the Minister to again reiterate and expand on some of the items that General Haig had discussed with him earlier that day.2 Dr. Kissinger noted that when the crisis in the Subcontinent became acute, the U.S. Government delayed initiating unilateral action or action in concert with other governments with the hope that the U.S. could work jointly with the Soviet Union in the established confidential channel in a search for a constructive and peaceful solution to the dilemma. It was specifically for this reason that the United States held up military moves and other actions which it might otherwise have undertaken in its own interest and in the interest of world peace. Despite this fact, the prolonged time that lapsed between Mr. Vorontsov’s discussions with Dr. Kissinger on Sunday morning (December 12)3 and the receipt of a formal Soviet response early Tuesday morning4 resulted in certain unilateral actions by the U.S. Government. These same delays were experienced following Dr. Kissinger’s earlier discussions with Minister Vorontsov during the outbreak of the fighting.[Page 78]
Dr. Kissinger stated that he noted with satisfaction the Soviet Government’s assurance that the Government of India had absolutely no territorial designs on West Pakistan, and he wanted it clearly understood that he was referring to a return to the status quo ante or the existing dividing lines between India and West Pakistan and that efforts would not be made to modify these dividing lines in the current crisis. Mr. Vorontsov replied that this was precisely the Soviet view and their understanding of the assurance provided to the United States Government; in other words, that there should be a precise return to the status quo ante which existed prior to the current crisis. Dr. Kissinger stated that Mr. Vorontsov may have noted the press reports coming from Air Force One during the return of the Presidential party from the Azores.5 Mr. Vorontsov indicated that he was aware of those remarks. Dr. Kissinger stated that these remarks were somewhat overplayed by the press and they should be interpreted as confirmation of the U.S. view that there was no longer any justification for failing to settle the conflict on the Subcontinent. Further delays of the kind we have been experiencing constitute a temporary irritation in U.S./Soviet relationships and the remarks on the plane were designed to note the U.S.’s concern. Should the situation continue to deteriorate, it must have an impact on future U.S./Soviet relationships. Soviet actions thus far are not consistent with the United States Government’s conception of joint U.S./Soviet action in search of an improved environment for world peace.
Dr. Kissinger noted that the United Kingdom now had a resolution before the United Nations.6 While this resolution appeared to be changing hourly, it is in the general framework of the kind of resolution that the U.S. believes the Soviet Government and the U.S. Government should support. The United States Government is not aware of the view of the People’s Republic of China on this resolution, but if all parties could get behind such a resolution then the situation on the Subcontinent could be settled tomorrow. If this is not the Soviet Government’s view, how should the United States then interpret the communication from the Soviet leaders? Mr. Vorontsov asked why the [Page 79]United States Government would not be willing to go beyond a resolution calling for a simple ceasefire since this was not adequate in the Soviet or the Indian viewpoint. Dr. Kissinger stated that the resolution might be expanded to include withdrawal since Indian forces have penetrated much Pakistani territory. Thus far, Soviet reactions have been slow and characterized by delaying tactics. The U.S. has observed the Soviet bureaucracy move with the greatest speed when it chooses to do so. Minister Vorontsov stated that the complication arose when the United States Government changed on Monday the proposals it had made the previous week to the Soviet Government.7 This was a cause of great concern to the Soviet leaders. Of particular concern was the fact that the United States Government dropped reference to a political solution which was contained in the language given by Dr. Kissinger to Minister Vorontsov earlier. Dr. Kissinger stated that this was true but that the reasons that it was necessary to do so was the failure on the part of the Soviet Government to respond promptly to the U.S. proposal. Minister Vorontsov said the problem is obviously not a question of Soviet or U.S. ill will but one of the complexity of the problem. Dr. Kissinger stated that he was less concerned about the immediate handling of the situation but could not help but blame the Soviet Union for letting the situation develop in the first instance. For example, the provision of massive amounts of modern military equipment to the Government of India, and threats to China which served as a guarantee and cover for Indian action had to be considered as the cause of the difficulty. Minister Vorontsov replied that the Paks had U.S. armament, some Soviet armament and some Chinese armament. The real problem was the result of grievous errors made by Pakistan in the East. Dr. Kissinger stated that we are now dealing with reality which must receive urgent attention. The U.S. is prepared on its part to give up its demand for withdrawal and it has asked that the Soviets on its part give up its demands for a political settlement. This poses an obvious compromise. Minister Vorontsov noted that the U.S. departure from its earlier language is what has caused the problem. Dr. Kissinger reiterated that this was forced on the U.S. side because the Soviet Government gave no answer over a prolonged period. Thus, the U.S. was forced to move based on the principles to which it adhered. There was no Soviet response even after the President’s departure for the Azores. Thus, the United States had no alternative but to adhere to the moral principles associated with the issue. Minister Vorontsov said it should be noted that when the United States dropped the three essential points contained in its initial proposal, Moscow was [Page 80]greatly disturbed. Moscow had originally been very pleased by the U.S. move in Dacca which the President noted in his letter to Mr. Brezhnev but then a sudden departure from the political initiative caused great concern in his capital. The problem now is that it is time to prevent a bloodbath in East Pakistan. It is essential that all parties act now. A viable resolution can only transfer power to the Bangla Desh. Dr. Kissinger said that the U.S. Government cannot go along with this kind of resolution. Mr. Vorontsov replied that the question was now academic since he had seen on the news that the East Pakistan Government had already resigned. Dr. Kissinger stated that he would now like to summarize his understanding. This understanding was that:
- —The Indians would not attack the West.
- —The Indians would not seek to acquire Pakistan territory and would return to the territorial limits that existed prior to the crisis—in other words to a status quo ante.
Minister Vorontsov said that that would also be the Soviet Union’s understanding. Dr. Kissinger stated the issue is now to get a settlement in East Pakistan. Minister Vorontsov agreed noting that a means must be found to prevent the bloodbath which will follow. Dr. Kissinger stated that the original U.S. statement was an objective one not suitable for a U.N. resolution. Minister Vorontsov agreed. Dr. Kissinger stated that continual haggling between parties in the Security Council could only lead to sterile results. If it continues, it cannot sit well with the United States Government. For this reason, something like the U.K. resolution, which the United States side does not like either, appears to offer the best compromise. On the other hand, if the Soviets continue to seek a fait accompli, then the U.S. Government must draw its own conclusions from this reality. Minister Vorontsov asked what Dr. Kissinger considered an ideal solution. Dr. Kissinger stated that the U.S. Government knows that East Pakistan will not go back to the West. On the other hand, the U.S. cannot legally accept an overt change in status at this moment, and efforts within the United Nations to force the U.S. Government to do so must be vetoed. The U.S. considers that a fait accompli has occurred in the East and the problem is to proceed from that point. On the other hand, India seeks not only to break East Pakistan away from the West but to do so under a mantle of legitimacy. This is more than the United States can accept. Just two weeks ago, Madame Gandhi said that the situation in East Pakistan was an internal Pakistani problem. Thus, steps from this point on should be to stop the fighting. Why should the United States struggle with the Soviet Union at costs in its relations with the Soviets on an issue like the Bangla Desh, especially when there are such great issues like the Middle East to be settled between the two sides? Furthermore, the United States is not anti-India as some would infer. Certainly, the Soviets know what the real problem is. Minister Vorontsov stated that the real problem in [Page 81]Moscow is concern that the United States continually airs its complaints in the press. Statements like the Summit statement earlier in the day cause real problems in Moscow. Dr. Kissinger stated that General Haig had advised Minister Vorontsov that we had waited for an extended period for a Soviet response but none was forthcoming. The U.S. had informed the Soviet Government that we were prepared to take parallel action and was confident that the Soviets would join with us. There is no way that the U.S. could permit Pakistan to be dismembered officially in the United Nations framework. It was the U.S. view that an agreement could be worked out between the two governments quietly in the confidential channel. Certainly, the Chinese would oppose such a solution in the United Nations. President Nixon interpreted the Soviet response as a delaying action. Minister Vorontsov noted that the U.S. neglected to reiterate the West Pakistan concession made in Dacca. Dr. Kissinger stated that the President did not focus specifically on that issue. For that matter, Dr. Kissinger himself did not. The U.S. now appreciates this and therefore both sides could wind up the matter without further delay. Minister Vorontsov said that the Soviets would need some help with respect to the Summit statement as soon as possible that would tend to limit the damage in Moscow. Dr. Kissinger stated that that the U.S. side would calm public speculation on the issue. Dr. Kissinger directed General Haig to insure that Press Secretary Ziegler modify the exaggerated play that was given to the statement on Air Force One. Dr. Kissinger continued that since Friday, President Nixon had been concerned that the Soviet leaders were not doing all possible to arrive at a settlement. On the way to the Azores, he commented that it would have been most helpful if he could tell the French that the U.S. and the Soviets had concerted to arrive at a settlement. In the face of continued delays, however, the President began to believe that the Soviet Government was providing words only with the view towards letting events on the ground dictate the ultimate outcome. It is not President Nixon’s style to threaten. Certainly he hopes that the U.S./Soviet Summit will work but in this context, President Nixon has long sought a genuine change in U.S./Soviet relations. Despite his desires, however, the Soviets proceed to equip India with great amounts of sophisticated armaments. If the Soviet Government were to support or to pressure other foreign leaders to dismember or to divide an ally of the United States, how can the Soviet leaders expect progress in our mutual relationships? This is the source of the President’s concern. He has never questioned mere atmospherics but intends to make major progress in U.S./Soviet relations.
The meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. No drafting information appears on the memorandum.↩
- Haig’s memorandum for the record of his conversation with Vorontsov at 12:40 p.m. on December 14 is ibid. and printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971, Document 303.↩
- Regarding the Kissinger–Vorontsov telephone conversations on the morning of December 12, see Document 24.↩
- At 3 a.m. on December 14, Vorontsov delivered to Haig a message from the Soviet leadership to President Nixon. The Soviet leaders called for a “calm, weighed approach” to the crisis. The leaders stated: “We are in constant contact with the Indian side…. We have firm assurances by the Indian leadership that India has no plans of seizing West Pakistani territory. Thus as far as intentions of India are concerned there is no lack of clarity to which you have referred. In the course of consultations the Indian side has expressed willingness to cease fire and withdraw its forces if Pakistani Government withdraws its forces from East Pakistan and peaceful settlement is reached there with the lawful representatives of East Pakistani population, to whom power will be transferred and conditions will be created for return from India of all East Pakistani refugees. At the same time the Indians have no intentions to impose their will on the East Pakistani people who themselves will determine their lot.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8)↩
- Apparent reference to Kissinger’s remarks on December 13, as reported in The New York Times, that President Nixon regarded the Soviet Union as capable of restraining India and if it did not do so, the President would reassess the US–USSR relationship including his decision to attend the Moscow summit.↩
- In a December 15 memorandum to Kissinger, Harold Saunders of the NSC staff summarized the British resolution as a “simple ceasefire on all fronts,” with “enough said about a political settlement to hint that it could be what India wants,” and a mechanism whereby “a UN special representative sorts out political and humanitarian problems.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 573, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, 12/14/71–12/16/71)↩
- Apparent reference to the message sent by Nixon to Brezhnev on Sunday, December 12; see Document 24.↩