304. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Dear Henry:

I have long believed that it is important for us to do whatever we possibly could to encourage Asians to become more involved in their own affairs. I deeply share the President’s views—and your views— on this vital issue. Our own problems will be much simpler when Asians speak with a common voice on maters of mutual concern, when their present rudimentary efforts toward regional cooperation and mutual security really take hold. In this connection, I believe also that it [Page 655]is important that Indonesia and the other nations of Southeast Asia assist Cambodia. Their own security is clearly at stake.

At the same time, there are dangers involved in forcing the hand of Indonesia and others too quickly. In the case of Indonesia, for example, too sudden or too deep an involvement in Cambodia could upset fragile internal balances. Nationalist political groups are already concerned that Indonesia is moving too close to the West. Cambodia, if not properly handled, could give them additional ammunition against the Suharto Government.

In addition, the handling of this problem could upset civil-military relationships. Suharto’s instincts on this matter are sound, but this is not true of some of his close advisers. A number of these, including General Alamsjah, are out to get Malik. If we induce Indonesia to move in a way or in a time frame which discredits Malik we will not only be damaging the effectiveness of a man who has been of great assistance to us, but we may well be contributing to a disturbance of the present delicate balance between military and civil leaders in Indonesia.

We can already see in the case of Indonesia that some of the Generals are using the Cambodian issue as a lever to get from us a broad commitment to re-equip their armed forces. It would not only be politically undesirable for us to take on this role but it would also be far beyond our present capabilities. There is also the problem of Indonesia’s limited absorptive capability which we have discussed before.

I am, of course, not averse to a bit of judicious pressure, but if the Nixon Doctrine is to be effective, these countries must themselves recognize the danger and be prepared to act on their own. If they do so largely at our behest, they will expect us to pay the bill.

Your conversation with General Alamsjah, unlike that between the President and Suharto, causes me concern. Given the curious workings of the Indonesian scene, the three references which you made to Malik’s doubts about Indonesia providing military aid to Cambodia could jeopardize his position, although I know this was not your intent. I am concerned in particular by the fact that you signalled to Alamsjah that Malik had on May 26 expressed his misgivings directly to us.

As I mentioned earlier, Alamsjah is [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] a man who has been the target of intense criticism in Indonesia for years. We learned reliably [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] several years ago that he hoped to become Foreign Minister. For this and other reasons he is out to get Malik, and I feel he will use your remarks to further this objective. Frank Galbraith tells me that Malik was very subdued during the trip outside Washington. It may well be that Alamsjah has already scored some points with Suharto against Malik.

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I am also aware that the military team which Suharto plans to send will expect more than we could and should give them. Your remarks that they should bring a “complete proposal with them” may well be taken by the Indonesians as an invitation for another unrealistic Indonesian shopping list. We have had a number of these over the years and have only recently succeeded in getting the Indonesians to sit down with our people and plan realistically regarding their military requirements. As I told you last Wednesday morning, I was in coventry for several months in 1967 (denied access to Suharto by Alamsjah and others) due to frustrations by the Indonesian military who for some reason had been led to expect during Pentagon visits that we would give far more civic action aid than we delivered.

One way out of this difficulty, particularly that affecting Malik’s position, would be for the President to send a message to Suharto. This could be in response to the message of thanks we will likely receive from him or we could use the fact that June 8 is Suharto’s birthday as the peg for a message. In this message, the President might express his appreciation for his useful talks with Suharto and confirm the fine impression which Suharto left here with the Congress, the press, and others. He could also extend warm regards from himself and Mrs. Nixon to Mrs. Suharto, who made so many friends in the U.S. He might then ask that his best regards be conveyed also to Foreign Minister Malik whose astute handling of Indonesian foreign policy has won admiration throughout the world, including the U.S., and who played a particularly helpful role as catalyst in bringing together the eleven nations which recently met in Djakarta to discuss Cambodia.

If this were done, I think Suharto would clearly get the signal that we support the diplomatic efforts initiated by the Djakarta Conference and also Malik’s continued role as Foreign Minister. If you agree, I should be glad to try my hand at such a message.2

Sincerely yours,

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 531, Country Files, Far East, Indonesia, Vol. II. Secret; Nodis; Strictly Personal. In an attached covering memorandum sent to Kissinger for action on June 5, Haig summarized Green’s letter and added: “Underlying all of this, of course, is Green’s basic view that we should be very cautious about changing Indonesia’s non-alignment image and about providing her with greatly increased military assistance.” Haig then asked for Kissinger’s decision on the proposed message to Suharto. Kissinger initialed the approve option on June 8 and noted: “(already approved by telephone. Deal with Jonathan Moore in absence of Marshall Green.)”
  2. Green’s proposed message was drafted and approved by Masters and sent as telegram 88649 to Djakarta, June 8. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 INDON)