208. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.K:
    • James Callaghan, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury
    • Anthony Crosland, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
    • Denis Healey, Chancellor of the Exchequer
    • Michael Foot, Lord President of the Council
    • Lord Elwyn-Jones, Lord Chancellor
    • Sir Antony Duff, Deputy Under Secretary
    • Tom McNally, Political Advisor to the Prime Minister
    • Tom McCaffrey, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister
    • Patrick Laver, Head of Rhodesia Department, FCO
    • Patrick Wright, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • U.S:
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
    • Ambassador Anne Armstrong, U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s
    • William D. Rogers, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
    • Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Deputy Under Secretary for Management and Executive Assistant to the Secretary; Acting Special Assistant to the Secretary for Press Relations and Spokesman of the Department
    • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
    • Ronald I. Spiers, Minister Counselor, American Embassy
    • Frank G. Wisner III, Director, Office of South African Affairs
    • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Southern Africa

[Prime Minister Callaghan greeted Secretary Kissinger outside Number 10. They answered some press questions and posed for photographs before going inside. Tab A]2

Callaghan: You are looking very fresh after your trip. I don’t know how you do it. I do thank you very much for undertaking it.

Kissinger: I told Tony it was a combination of arrogance and ignorance that got me into this.

Callaghan: No, it is because you saw the necessity. I told Elwyn it was a fateful meeting. He said, yes, I have seen it before, on the Tiger and the Fearless. He’s been to many fateful meetings. [Laughter]

Tony, how do you think we should proceed?

Crosland: I think we should ask Dr. Kissinger to sum it up, and to tell us what role he sees for Britain in the weeks ahead.

Kissinger: You are familiar with my talks with Smith. All we have heard indicates he will put forward the five points that I put to him.

I told him he had three choices: acept the five points as I put them to him; put forward new ones—in which case he would be on his own; or to reject them—in which case he would also be on his own. The one thing he could not do was accept them in principle and then haggle.

Fourie and our Ambassadors there tell us he is in fact putting them forward.

He will also say that studies are going forward on the economic side—not sums, because there are none, but the categories.

Assuming he does this . . . I have briefed Nyerere and Kaunda about this, and about the two white ministers. Kaunda made mild noises for about two minutes; Nyerere listened and said “Fine, we have a basis for a conference.”

[Page 579]

Now, there are differences between Kaunda and Nyerere. Kaunda wants the scheme we have worked on, an interim government that then draws up a constitution. Nyerere seems to think the five points are the basis for a Constitutional Conference.

My fear is this will play into the hands of both Smith and the radicals. Because one of the things Smith suggested was—for which we told him he was on his own—was just to call a conference, without any of the safeguards of this Constitutional Conference.

Callaghan: Your approach is the right one. Smith should sit down with them and set up an interim government. They then should get on with a constitution.

Kissinger: Everyone there agreed—indeed volunteered—that the British had to be there in some form. Even Kenyatta. They all agreed there had to be a British role—to answer your question, Tony.

The British role is to provide the intellectual and legal framework for the negotiations. Kaunda said that when Smith speaks, Jim Callaghan should call Nyerere and set it up.

Callaghan: Would Smith himself, having made his declaration, call the Africans in to discuss the framework?

Kissinger: I don’t think they will come to a conference he calls. This is where you may have to play a role.

Callaghan: But Nkomo and Gabella met him on the railway coach.

Duff: Nkomo met him in the railway coach six months ago; earlier he met with Gabella.

Kissinger: Nyerere said he would get in touch with you immediately after Smith speaks—about a constitutional conference. All the blacks asked us. First, we have no legal responsibility; second, the constitutional forms in which this is couched are foreign to us. For an American diplomat to be doing it would be strange.

Callaghan: You are doing all right!

Kissinger: Stealing your ideas.

Third, it would get us in a Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. You have a legal responsibility to create a framework for an interim government.

There are differences among the black Presidents regarding where it should be.

Crosland: And when.

Kissinger: All of them want it rapidly.

Nkomo and Kaunda prefer to have it in Livingstone. Nyerere wants a Constitutional Conference in London.

I told him I tried it on Smith and it is inconceivable Smith would go to London. He said, “Then any other place they agree on.”

[Page 580]

There seems to be some jockeying among the nationalist groups.

I think if you called Nyerere and Kaunda, or just Nyerere, and told him it is up to them—not you—to field a black team and that when they notify you of the team, you could supply a diplomat to facilitate the negotiations. This is the most helpful thing you could do. Otherwise, there will be a host of black rivalries and super power problems.

We would back you up.

This is what is needed, as soon as possible after Smith speaks.

Crosland: I see no reason for us to be far apart on this. There is no reason for us to be involved with a Governor or whatever. They don’t want it.

Kissinger: There is no disagreement.

Smith tried with me the idea that they just go back to the 1961 Constitution. I said: “You can try it on the British, but the British would just get rid of it and you could be back in the same position.”

Crosland: We could send out a British diplomat once there is a black negotiating team. [To Callaghan:] This is implied in your statement of 22 March.3

Callaghan: I said we would be prepared to play a helpful role. You see it as a two-stage thing? You think, once the blacks field a team and Smith fields his team, then we say “you get together and form your government.” Then when the second stage is completed, there is a formal Constitutional Conference.

Kissinger: That is what I think would work effectively.

I think the radicals want to prolong the process; the moderates want a conclusion fairly rapidly. Nyerere can be brought to that point.

They want you in as soon as possible after Smith speaks because that marks the formal end to Rhodesia’s independence, and it’s the way all of them achieved formal independence.

You could call Kaunda and Nyerere and say you are ready to facilitate the process and they should tell you who are the black negotiators. You could then call a conference for wherever they can agree on.

It is not reticence on our part. We will help you wherever we can. But if the United States starts putting it together, it has a completely different cast in African eyes, in Soviet eyes. It is perfectly natural for the British to do it. You have done it in several places. All the Africans take it for granted.

Callaghan: It is important that you say you will put full weight behind it.

[Page 581]

Kissinger: You can count on it.

Callaghan: We have some skepticism, perhaps because, as you say, we are prejudiced.

Kissinger: With respect to the Europeans [in Rhodesia], we will use the mechanism of Vorster and hold him responsible for European performance. We have been fairly brutal with him. We can also work with the blacks.

Callaghan: You can work with Kenneth and also Nyerere.

Kissinger: But it is a lot easier for them to work with the British, and it avoids problems. Because for us to get actively involved would work against all our theories that superpowers shouldn’t be in Africa. It’s not an attempt to evade.

As we discussed, the objective should be to create as close to a Kenya situation as possible. You are in the best position to do it.

Callaghan: I hope to speak with you in all candor. Henry. In our Cabinet, there is marked reluctance to get involved, because we have been caught before. For us, the Rhodesian problem is a debt of honor. There is no interest for us except to settle the issue.

You can imagine, in our present economic situation and lots of other problems, there is no great rush in the Cabinet to get into the process again. The great difference now is Smith will have made a declaration, and you will be willing to help. On that basis I will be glad to recommend to the Cabinet to go along.

Kissinger: There is no overwhelming demand in America either. [Laughter]

I told Tony that after my Lusaka speech, I received 1,800 letters, of which only 23 were favorable. Then I gave my Philadelphia speech and the favorable letters went up to 30%.

We did this because we foresaw an increasing prospect of foreign intervention.

Callahan: This is where we started.

Kissinger: Yes.

Callahan: May I ask about the guerrillas? Last time, they called it off, and they complain that Smith took advantage of it.

Kissinger: We have not asked them to call off anything until an interim government is formed. They have not agreed to call off anything. Once there is a black Prime Minister, the whites—even the white Ministers—have no white structure to defend. There is nothing Smith can take advantage of.

When I talked to Smith, he understood that their interest is in rapid creation of a moderate government.

[Page 582]

Crosland: The moment to ask formally that the guerrilla war be called off is when the interim government is formed. It would be an irritant certainly if whites were being killed on the TV screens. So some de-escalation perhaps.

Kissinger: We—and you—were asked by the Rhodesians. But we should work together on this.

Callaghan: There are reports that Smith asked for more than two years.

Kissinger: He asked, but we rejected it. When the press asked, I didn’t answer. So they concluded . . .

Callaghan: The Africans never questioned it?

Kissinger: No, the only question raised was about the two ministries. But Nkomo rather liked the idea that a black Prime Minister would have these resources at his disposal. He didn’t object on moral grounds but on how he could sell Machel on these aspects.

Callaghan: What about Machel?

Kissinger: When Schaufele was there, Machel expressed an interest in getting the war ended. Then he, like Nyerere, asked about the mechanics.

Until I saw today his Vice President said something in Lusaka.

Duff: Yes.

Kissinger: But our intelligence said he wanted a peaceful solution, and Kaunda and Nyerere thought Machel was manageable.

Healey: I have one or two questions. This two years—what are the termini?

Does it start from Smith’s speech, or when an interim government is formed?

Kissinger: A good question. I haven’t thought about it. One could make a good case either way. An interim government might be set up in four to six weeks.

Healey: Yes.

Kissinger: I have the impression Smith’s ministers want to do it fast.

Healey: Because the war ends.

Kissinger: And sanctions are lifted.

Elwyn-Jones: You see the setting up of an interim government is the key moment. When Smith was on Tiger and Fearless, he talked about a Constitutional Conference but absolutely refused to deal with the active fact of talking with the Africans. So I notice in your five statements, the initial point—which I very much agree with—is the active participation, indeed the initiative, of the black Africans.

[Page 583]

Kissinger: The moment when it becomes irreversible is when an interim government is formed. The constitution is suspended and the white structure is dismantled.

My worry about a protracted negotiation on a Constitutional Conference before an interim government is that it plays into the hands of both Smith and the black radicals.

Elwyn-Jones: I agree completely.

Kissinger: Nkomo and Kaunda want it. Nyerere wants to keep his options open.

Healey: Would a Kenyan meeting place be possible?

Kissinger: I didn’t try it. I think no African country could afford to have Smith’s representative there.

Callaghan: I think Livingstone is it.

Kissinger: The Foreign Secretary would enjoy it.

Crosland: What country is it in? [Laughter]

Kissinger: Zambia!

Foot: At what point do you see the British response?

Kissinger: I think there will be a vaccum when Smith speaks. So, some approach by the Prime Minister to Kaunda and Nyerere.

Callaghan: And perhaps Seretse [Khama, of Botswana].

Kissinger: Yes, if just for his ego. They will all be in Gaborone Tuesday for his celebration. Tony could follow it up, and the Government could make a formal declaration Monday,4 just so they know what the terms of reference are.

I repeat, we are in a more awkward position than you.

Callaghan: I agree. The Soviets would be unhappy, and some of the people in Dar es Salaam.

Kissinger: And some of the people in Dar es Salaam. This would be clearer that we were trying to install our government in an area where we have no traditional responsibility.

Elwyn-Jones: One of the problems is we have a legal responsibility but no political power. This has been our agony.

Kissinger: Insofar as we have political power, we will back you up. It would be a defeat for us if either Smith used it or it became chaos.

Crosland: What if there is a change of Administration?

Kissinger: I would like to talk about this in a smaller group, because I have been taking some precautions. But if there are further disquisitions on sexual habits . . . [Laughter].

[Page 584]

Callaghan: Are there any other points?

Crosland: Many of them.

Healey: If Smith announces this . . . Incidentally, is the matter of the brackets cleared up [i.e., the bracketed phrase about a white chairman with no special vote, on the Council of State]?

Kissinger: Yes, we told them they could include it because no one raised the slightest objection.

Healey: We would send a representative to help structure the negotiations toward an interim government.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Healey: Then—you are right—there is a whole different ball game, and you get into a dicey situation.

Kissinger: Definitely.

Healey: Then the inducements to the white community could become crucial. It could take a long time, especially in your country, even two years.

Kissinger: I think a new President, if he put himself behind it, could do it in his honeymoon period, perhaps in the first months. I know President Ford would do it immediately when Congress reassembles.

Healey: Would you give it priority over the support fund?

Kissinger: I haven’t thought about it in those terms. We could perhaps do both. We got our Middle East money in a few months when we could demonstrate that peace there depended on it. And I have some assurance from the Democrats so I am not just speculating.

Healey: You might get an even more irresponsible Congress.

Kissinger: You can’t get assurances from the Congress, but from the candidates. We have had a very chaotic situation in the last 18 months.

Healey: But it could be the same result as before.

Kissinger: But an elected President would have, first of all, a more disciplined Administration, unlike the recent time when the President had to worry about the Republican structure.

Callaghan: But this is an area where you have no responsibility.

Kissinger: We can’t afford to let it happen. Paradoxically it is easier for us if you are in charge, than if we have to explain why we are butting in in an area . . .

We have suffered setbacks before.

I briefed forty-seven Senators before I left. Mike Mansfield announced, on the day before Congress left, that I would be available. He expected ten to show up; 47 came and I received the most unanimous backing I have received since 1974.

[Page 585]

I didn’t give magnitudes but I told them exactly what they would be expected to do. No one said: “Wait a minute; this won’t fly here.” Bill was there.

Rogers: And your breakfast too.

Kissinger: Of course, I also told them the odds were against it then. So it was easier to approve. [Laughter]

Healey: My concern is should we accept some form of responsibility—that the position between UDI and independence is a British responsibility—and it goes sour in that period. Either the money isn’t available, or the blacks break up, or radicals challenge it. Then it is the hardest time. I must say it is most imaginative attempt to break the deadlock yet, but if it breaks down, we need some assurance we are not just landed high and dry. And we have other commitments in Northern Ireland.

The money to the whites is to persuade them to stay; before, when we thought about money it was to get them to go. As you know, half of them came there since UDI—and most are Southern Europeans, South Africans.

But the rationale is perfectly sensible. But we must have your absolute firm backing.

Kissinger: The rationale is the trust fund produces funds for investment, and the increase is available for the whites. If it works perfectly, there is no problem.

Healey: If it breaks down . . . it looks like an incentive for the black government to nationalize.

Kissinger: Except then they won’t get the investment.

Healey: But they don’t always think like economic men.

Kissinger: I think President Ford will make this a high priority and we can get the Democratic candidate to take the same position. And Congress I can’t believe will take on a new President on a foreign policy issue.

Healey: What reaction have you got from the other contributors?

Kissinger: Giscard said they would, but he gave no percentages. Helmut . . .

Healey: Quoted some provision of the Bundesbank.

Kissinger: Article 134(a) of the Constitution. [Laughter] He never said no. They’d be willing to do more in Namibia.

Healey: We have decided we had to limit ours to 20 percent, or 15 million5 a year over five years.

[Page 586]

Kissinger: We haven’t studied it.

Callaghan: We have other things we have cut.

Healey: I shall resign and seek refuge in Washington if the contingency reserve is cut.

If there is any shortfall anywhere else, we would go down pro tanto; we wouldn’t make it up.

Kissinger: I understand that any figure you give is your total contribution, that you can’t make it up.

Callaghan: I spoke to Trudeau, and he said he would recommend it favorably to his Cabinet. But again I have no idea how much.

Kissinger: Smith said he wasn’t too anxious for too much money to be available in the first two years, because he was interested in keeping people there.

Callaghan: Did he feel confident?

Kissinger: He said it would depend on whether he could retain those two ministries.

Callaghan: In full independence?

Kissinger: No, he recognizes that in full independence most ministries—in fact all the ministries—would be black.

Callaghan: Did you discuss the integration of the security forces and black forces?

Kissinger: We didn’t discuss it.

Crosland: What do you think made Smith make this quantum jump? South African pressure, the guerrilla warfare?

Kissinger: All of those factors. I think the guerrilla war is pinching more than I had thought; economic sanctions are biting, especially the port of Maputo. And I told him he could not count on any contingency where he could count on American support. And the morale problem among his young people, who wonder why they should die indefinitely . . .

Callaghan: How did he strike you?

Kissinger: I had heard all your accounts, but frankly he behaved with dignity. They had to convince themselves they had no alternative—but frankly they behaved like men.

Elwyn-Jones: That is our experience—until the point of final agreement. I remember on HMS Tiger, we had him agreed to sign a document, and we were all about to dine together with the Admiral. We waited for him to come and we asked: Any news from Smith? The answer was: He’s taking a tour of the boat; he has decided not to sign.

Kissinger: Any explanation?

Elwyn-Jones: He had to go back to the Cabinet and caucus.

[Page 587]

Kissinger: We had the same situation on Sunday: We had told him we wouldn’t negotiate—and we had the presence of the South African Prime Minister, who we said we would hold responsible.

Lord: Plus his Cabinet.

Kissinger: You had only Smith.

Callaghan: Yes.

Kissinger: We had three other Cabinet members.

Elwyn-Jones: Plus you gave a new framework.

Kissinger: That is a big difference.

Healey: What future is there for him?

Kissinger: Maybe he could ask for a ministry, but I doubt the Rhodesians would put him forward. But I deliberately stayed away from personalities.

Callaghan: Yes. When they agree on formation of an interim government, could they also agree on a date for majority rule?

Kissinger: We wouldn’t object to that.

Callaghan: It would look different if it’s the 25th of December 19 . . . whatever.

What about Machel?

Kissinger: We would be glad to get in touch with him.

Crosland: I think you should.

Callaghan: There should be some coordination of what should be said.

Kissinger: We won’t drop out of this. We didn’t do it just to have a [study?].6 I agree with Denis it could blow up in a lot of ways, but it is mathematically certain to blow up if we don’t take this step. The flight of the whites, civil war among the blacks.

Crosland: [To Callaghan:] Tomorrow morning his officials and mine could prepare a draft statement of what is to be said if the answer is yes, and a program of communications.

Healey: Is Smith going to tell anybody before he tells the Rhodesian people, after the caucus?

Kissinger: We are on the same communication channel as you. We sort of assumed he would tell the South Africans, who would tell us. For all we know he might go on television and read the weather report. [Laughter]

Having come this far, I think it is irreversible. We hear he’s already briefed his military people. If he reversed himself, he would have to [Page 588] face the same situation in six weeks, and we would have nothing to do with him.

Healey [looking around]: We have four separate notetakers.

Crosland: It shows great trust!

Kissinger: And all reporting to different places. [Referring to Rodman]: He’s reporting to the White House . . . [Laughter]

Callaghan: You remember last year in Brussels when you and I sat down with a map of Africa and planned a tour?

[The large meeting ended at 11:10 a.m. Secretary Kissinger and Prime Minister Callaghan conferred alone upstairs until 11:20 a.m.]

(The Secretary and Prime Minister spoke briefly to the press outside. See Tab B)7

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 345, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, September 20–23, 1976. Secret; Nodis. Initialed by Rodman. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at Number 10 Downing Street. All brackets, except those noted in footnote 6 below, are in the original.
  2. Tab A is attached but not printed.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 196.
  4. September 27.
  5. Duff confirmed afterwards that this was Pounds Sterling. [Footnote is in the original.]
  6. Bracketed insertion by the editor. The original is illegible.
  7. Tab B is not attached. On the following day, September 24, Kissinger and Crosland held a news conference in London to discuss proposals for a Rhodesian settlement. See Department of State Bulletin, October 25, 1976, pp. 521–527.