321. Memorandum for the President’s File1


  • Meeting Between the President, Ambassador Francis J. Galbraith and Brigadier General A. M. Haig, Jr., September 14, 1971 (10:45–11:45 a.m.)

The President opened the meeting by welcoming Ambassador Galbraith and expressing his personal appreciation for the Ambassador’s effective efforts over the past two years. The President recalled his meeting with Ambassador Galbraith at the time of the President’s Asian trip, just after the Ambassador’s arrival in Djakarta.

The President then asked the Ambassador for his view on the effectiveness of President Suharto and the Ambassador’s estimate of the influence that the military had on Suharto’s government. Ambassador Galbraith replied that President Suharto’s demeanor was one of great reserve. Although his accession to power was based on the actions of the professional military in Indonesia he had been careful to insure a proper balance of civilian and military influence. His recent appointments were primarily civilian.

The President inquired about how President Suharto was getting along with Foreign Minister Malik, noting that in the past there had been some friction between the two men. The Ambassador answered that their relationship appeared to have warmed in recent months, especially after Malik played an active role in support of the President in the recent elections.

Ambassador Galbraith stated that the situation in Indonesia was very promising at the present time. In response to a Presidential question on the progress made with respect to U.S. investment in the country, the Ambassador reported that this year foreign investments would amount to $1.1 billion U.S. dollars, of which one-third represented U.S. investment. He noted that Indonesian oil exploitation had increased substantially and that their hardwood production would amount this year to over $100 million, with the possibility of reaching $500 million in the future.

The President asked Ambassador Galbraith whether the atmosphere was favorable for U.S. investment in Indonesia. The Ambassador answered that considerable improvement had been made, although [Page 695]there were still many frustrations which a prospective investor had to overcome. He stated that it would take a considerable period of time to reach an optimum situation but that patience on the part of U.S. investors would generally meet with success.

The President next asked for the Ambassador’s assessment of the Indonesians’ attitude toward his China initiative. Ambassador Galbraith replied that without question the Indonesians were experiencing an underlying nervousness with respect to the U.S. initiative. The President stated that he wished the Ambassador to actively attempt to put U.S. logic in its proper perspective. He noted that many incorrectly had assumed that our initiative was based on a U.S. assessment that the Chinese had changed or, in fact, the Chinese Communists had never been a source of tension. This was patently incorrect. The U.S. had carefully assessed the need to review our posture with respect to China and had concluded that the dangers of the continued isolation of 800 million Chinese were no longer acceptable. We had concluded, therefore, that a very careful deliberate and pragmatic opening towards normalization represented in the long run a strengthening of the security of the countries in the area and reduced the risks that an atmosphere of isolation and confrontation would entail. He emphasized the importance of Ambassador Galbraith’s making clear to the Indonesians that our approaches to the Chinese were deliberate and calculated. They were not based on the naive assumption that fundamental changes in Chinese performance could be expected.

The President then asked Ambassador Galbraith for his assessment of the Indonesian attitude toward the U.S. military presence in Asia. The Ambassador answered that the Indonesians were extremely nervous at the prospect of U.S. withdrawal. He noted that in fact General Habib, the Chief of the Policy Planning Staff, was visiting Washington now with the view towards ascertaining long range U.S. plans with respect to a military presence in Asia. The President stated that the Indonesian view appeared consistent with the view of other Asians and that he had no intention of eliminating our military presence in Asia. At the same time it was obvious that the aftermath of the Vietnam conflict would require some reductions.

The President then asked the Ambassador how the Indonesians view U.S. Vietnam policies. The Ambassador replied that the main concern of the Indonesians was that we would withdraw too quickly from Vietnam. The Ambassador added that the present political turmoil in Saigon did not represent a problem to the Indonesians except to the degree that it might affect our withdrawal rates.

In concluding the meeting, the President noted that there were those high level policy makers in the U.S. Government who felt quite strongly that U.S. assistance to Indonesia and, in fact, other developing [Page 696]nations such as those in Latin America should be channeled primarily through economic assistance and that military assistance tended to retard progress. The President stated that he did not accept this view. He asserted that it was essential that all understand that a developing country such as Indonesia, with thousands of miles of coastline, a strong military influence and an essentially military leadership had to have a substantial military capability if political stability was to be assured.2 He noted that this was true in many Latin American states as well. He cautioned the Ambassador to keep this reality in mind as U.S. assistance efforts are developed. The Ambassador responded that the $25 million military assistance package for Indonesia appeared to be a sound one which maintained the proper balance between military and economic aid.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 532, Country Files, Far East, Indonesia, Vol. III. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted and initialed by Haig.
  2. Nixon signed Presidential Determination No. 72–3, September 7, to provide a program of $25 million in military assistance to Indonesia during FY 1972. An attached August 23 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon contains the former’s recommendations of the program. (Ibid., Box 370, Subject Files, Presidential Determinations, 71–11– 72–09/71) Further recommendation of increased military assistance to Indonesia had been provided by Ambassador David Kennedy in his meeting with President Nixon on April 9. Kennedy noted, according to a memorandum of conversation of that date, that Assistant Secretary Green was against this military assistance, “dominated our policies in Indonesia from his Washington desk,” and had “hand-picked” the top officers at the Embassy in Jakarta. Kennedy added that “he had been very unimpressed with both their attitudes and their ability.” (Ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Boxes 83–87, Memoranda for the President)