312. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Indonesian Request for U.S. Assistance in Furthering Southeast Asian Regional Military Cooperation

At Tab B2 is a message to you from General Sumitro requesting U.S. assistance to Indonesia in furthering Southeast Asian regional military cooperation. He proposes that Indonesia take the initiative in arranging for: (1) exchanges of personnel for training; (2) strategic intelligence operations; (3) holding seminars of senior commanders on defense, intelligence and territorial warfare operations; and (4) ultimately, participation in joint military operations in border areas.

General Sumitro’s thesis is that the British “East of Suez” policy and the Nixon Doctrine create a military vacuum into which the Communists (particularly Communist China) will try to move via protracted wars of national liberation, and that the free nations of the region thus have enough in common to be able to coordinate on foreign policy and defense matters if someone shows the way. This could lead to a military “gentleman’s agreement,” and not necessarily to a formal military pact.

The initial costs to the U.S., as laid out by General Sumitro, would amount to a rounded-off figure of $1 million spent between 1970 and 1972 on conducting an educational program in joint strategic intelligence, a senior seminar, an Indonesian advisory and military training program in Cambodia, and a language training program. To provide for transportation of the personnel involved, Indonesia would like the loan of six C–130s, or if this is not possible, the use of U.S. aircraft as needed on an “on-call” basis. Typically, General Sumitro insists that there be no impairment of Indonesia’s five-year plan by diverting funds from it.

As a final pitch, General Sumitro strongly urges that the U.S. set up an M–16 factory in Indonesia to bring about the standardization of weapons among all the free Southeast Asian nations. He suggests that [Page 678]the ammunition which Indonesia has sent to Cambodia be applied as a partial payment for the M–16 plant.

Comment

General Sumitro’s proposal contains some intriguing aspects. We are interested in the development of regional security undertakings, and the Indonesians might well be the best ones to take the lead in this. The rather modest nature of their initial program would probably assure a good response, since there would be no implications of a formal security organization. The proposal might also be a means for getting Indonesia to move toward a security role of its own in troubled areas of Southeast Asia. The costs involved are also relatively modest.

On the other hand, we should recognize that Indonesia is not acting out of sheer altruism. A bid for six C–130s has been made to us earlier in connection with the shipment of ammunition to Cambodia, which we deflected by using U.S. aircraft, while a request for an M–16 factory has been made on several occasions, most recently during General Sumitro’s conversation with you in July. It has been reiterated through regular State channels, also as part of a deal on the ammunition which they sent to Cambodia, and will probably come up again when Suharto sees the President. It is clear that they want the airplanes and the plant very badly, and may have used their regional cooperation proposal in part as the means to this particular end (or ends). They are also working their aid to Cambodia into the regional security framework, of course at our expense.

Nevertheless, as Mao Tse-tung put it, a single spark can start a prairie fire. As of now there is no movement at all toward a regional security arrangement in Southeast Asia, and the Indonesians might just be able to get things going. At Tab A is a draft reply from you to General Sumitro, which while not assuming any commitment expresses interest in his proposal and suggests that he should submit it through Ambassador Galbraith so as to assure that it will receive full staffing.3 4

Recommendation

That you approve the message at Tab A to General Sumitro.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 101, Backchannel Messages 1970, Indonesia, HAK/Sumitro 1970 [1 of 2].
  2. The September 25 message is attached but not printed.
  3. The draft was attached but not printed.
  4. Tab C was not attached.
  5. Kissinger initialed the approve option.