273. Telegram From Secretary of State Rogers to the Department of State 1

10. From Ambassador Galbraith. Dept pass Djakarta. Subject: Indonesian Reaction to Presidential Visit.

I saw Suharto prior to leaving for Bali yesterday. I told him it would be some time before the content of his talks with the President on the second occasion would become known to me.2 I did not wish him to disclose to me anything I should not know, but it would be a help if he told me anything he thought I should know. He looked [Page 587]at me thoughtfully for a moment and then gave me the following, in summary:

Viet-Nam. Suharto had said that while Indonesia favored a Viet-Nam free of foreign troops it fully realized that the United States should not pull its troops out of Viet-Nam precipitately; also that the United States could not do this in a month or even within a year but over a period of some time, depending on South Viet-Nam’s SVN) ability to consolidate its strength. In Indonesia’s view this meant finding and inculcating a common ideology and a broadened base for the government so as to increase and strengthen popular support and the national will and capability to resist.

Answering President Nixon’s question about how Indonesia would be prepared to participate in a peacekeeping force in SVN, Suharto said that Indonesia was prepared to send its troops to SVN to monitor the implementation of a settlement on condition that (a) it would be part of a UN sponsored force, (b) its participation would receive the approval of both the U.S. and North Viet-Nam (NVN), and (c) Indonesia would not have to bear the cost. Although Indonesia would be present as a nonaligned power it would have an anti-Communist orientation and, on the basis of Indonesia’s experience, would try to help SVN develop the ability to resist a Communist takeover.

Threat to Indonesia. The President asked Suharto what he saw as the greatest danger to Indonesia, whether it was Communist subversion in the area, a re-emergent Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) Suharto said it was actually none of these things that he feared. The danger lay in possible failure of the five-year development plan. Such failure would provide fertile soil for the comeback of communism in Indonesia by weakening the national will and ability to resist.

Assistance for Indonesian Development. The President asked Suharto whether Indonesia preferred its economic assistance from the U.S. to be on a bilateral or a multilateral basis. Suharto replied that it didn’t matter to Indonesia. But where projects could provide long-term monuments to U.S.-Indonesian friendship and cooperation, Suharto would prefer to see them provided on a bilateral basis. Suharto stressed the importance of continued foreign assistance for the five-year development plan at a level of $600 million a year. Some relief for Indonesia’s indebtedness was also required, possibly along the lines of the Abs Plan.

As a sound basis for the second five-year plan certain key projects should be accomplished as soon as possible. These included (a) the Asahan power complex, (b) the steel plant at Tjiligon, (c) the cement plant at Tjibinong, and (d) the fertilizer plant at Tjirebon. The cost of [Page 588]these projects would be only about $200 million. These are the kind of monumental projects that would enhance U.S.-Indonesian relations over the long haul. By implication, Suharto hopes the U.S. will find it possible to support these projects.


Military Assistance. President Nixon asked Suharto whether he felt assured that he had the loyalty and support of the Indonesian armed forces. Suharto said certain elements earlier had succeeded in infiltrating into and subverting some units of the armed forces, turning them against Suharto. But cleansing operations had been carried out. Most importantly, Suharto, as Minister of Defense and Security and Commander in Chief, maintains control over the military, including the police. He plans to keep this control to help ensure against disruption whether from the left or the right.

Suharto said training in modern weaponry and tactics is also needed. Suharto repeated the desire to obtain conventional aircraft for close support roles (B–25s, B–26s, A–1s, etc.) and for transport aircraft (C–130s). He said these planes are obsolete in the U.S. but still in supply and very useful to Indonesia.

West Irian. Suharto told President Nixon that the act of choice would be completed between August 2–4. The follow-up would be all important. It will be a burden for Indonesia to bring the 700,000 West Irianese, the most primitive of the Indonesian people, to an acceptable level of development. In humanistic terms this effort deserved the support of all, particularly the developed countries. President Nixon said he had not studied the background of the West Irian problem. He would do so when he returned to Washington. Suharto said he hoped President Nixon would publicly note that the act of choice had resulted in a decision to stay with Indonesia and pledge U.S. support for the development of these stone age people who had served the U.S. indirectly during World War II. Such public notice by the President would interest other countries in the task of developing West Irian. Suharto hoped the President’s announcement could come as close as possible after August 4 and before the General Assembly meets.
East-West Relations. Suharto felt it would be unwise for the U.S. to strengthen either Red China or the USSR in relation to the other. He thought Red China should be brought out of its isolation, if possible, and into the UN. He implied that the continuation of the Soviet-Communist Chinese conflict might weaken both and that this would not be unwelcome to him.
Other Subjects. Suharto indicated briefly that they had discussed Japan, and the importance of stable prices and markets for Indonesia’s agricultural and mining products. Indonesia is making strenuous efforts to increase its oil production and continued access to U.S. markets for Indonesia oil is crucial, Suharto said.
Suharto said he would charge his Ambassador in Washington to get in touch with the Department of State upon his return and work for implementation of the Presidential talks. Suharto hoped I too would be of assistance and that the talks beginning in Bali on August 5 would also contribute to the implementation of the general principles he and also President Nixon had agreed upon.
At the conclusion of the review of his talks with the President, I asked Suharto to clarify for me how he saw Indonesia interacting in the future with its neighbors, not only in the economic and cultural fields but in the field of security. Suharto said internal subversion could only be met by the consolidation of the national will and ability to resist, based on the individual nation’s own national ideology and economic strength. Indonesia could serve as a model and source of inspiration and provide advice on how it had accomplished this. Indonesia would consult its own interests in the event of any aggression anywhere in the area and he would expect every country to do the same. Any country under a threat which [garble] not feel it could itself meet could ask Indonesia for help and Indonesia would be prepared to respond. Indonesia had already provided military advisors and training assistance to the Government of Malaysia.
Comment: Suharto carefully asserts Indonesia’s independent policies, foreign and domestic, as well as its primary responsibility for its own development, but he clearly looks to the U.S. as the primary source of foreign assistance. His reference to “monuments” in the form of U.S. financed projects suggests his desire to gradually induce among the Indonesian people recognition of this primary reliance on the U.S. Clearly Suharto would raise the ante on economic aid to include support for $100 million worth of what he regards as key projects, to be begun as soon as possible; also by unspecified amounts of MAP assistance in the form of line items for the military excess to U.S. requirements. This may run in the opposite direction from our own desire to avoid challenging public sensitivity here on any suggestion of a developing neo-colonial relationship and our attempts to continue a low posture.
Both Lydman and I have found Ambassador Sudjatmoko concerned about the inflation of Indonesian expectation, developed since President Nixon’s departure, for additional U.S. Assistance.3 We will need careful guidance on the President’s intentions with respect to [Page 590]fulfilling these inflated expectations and we will need to deal with them urgently, if they require deflating, before they set in concrete.4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US. Secret; Nodis.
  2. President Nixon had private talks with President Suharto from 4 to 5:55 p.m. on July 27 and from 9 to 11:25 a.m. on July 28 at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. In telegram 5596 from Djakarta, August 16, the Embassy cited “heightened expectations and insistent Indonesian requests for increased military assistance” as well as the “excellent rapport established with President Suharto” as some of the results of the “highly successful presidential visit.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, AID (US) 8
  4. Rogers met with Foreign Minister Malik and other Indonesian officials in Bali August 5–7. Their discussions are reported in telegram 5427 from Jakarta, August 8. (Ibid., POL US)