218. Telegram From the Mission in Geneva to the Department of State1

8428. For Schaufele from Wisner. Subj: Rhodesian Conference: Discussion with Smith. Ref: State 264172.2

Ian Smith, accompanied only by his private secretary, received me at 12:30 local time and read slowly and carefully the written mes[Page 610]sage which I delivered. He took immediate issue with the sentence which reads “subsequently after consultations with the UK and the African presidents, you were informed that these two issues would be difficult but perhaps manageable and could be included as modifications of the original five points.”
While he did not want to pick a fight with the United States, Smith argued forcefully and returned to the point frequently during our meeting that the message of assurance he had received through our Ambassador and his representative in Pretoria was quite categorical and did not have the same meaning. Without our message of assurance that the Africans had accepted the five points, he would not have attempted to sell his acceptance to the Cabinet or his people. During the conversation he repeated several times that this exercise would never have begun without Secretary Kissinger’s assurances as contained in the message from Pretoria.
Smith said that he had the message with him in Geneva and could “substantiate” his point if necessary. He did not say or give the impression that he planned to take the extreme step of making it public. (John Snell told me after the meeting he wanted to send to me the text of the message as Smith received it from Pretoria). Smith stated that “we must try to clear this up” and that he would be most upset if it were thought that he had misrepresented Dr. Kissinger.
I then asked Smith’s permission to complete my oral instructions which he accepted calmly and stonefaced. He regretted the public discussion of Annex C but felt he had been driven to mention it because Richard had referred to Annex C so frequently in his meeting of Oct 23 and had made clear to Smith that he regarded it and not the five points as the document under negotiation.3 Smith said that in their first meeting Richard “had almost pooh-poohed the five points” and had said “we are working to Annex C”. By the second meeting, Smith said Richard had “changed his tune” somewhat and had said that the British would try to work with the “five principles”. He had also been forced to mention Annex C because he understood from his press officers that the British had leaked the fact of its existence to the press. His delegation had received inquiries from reporters who said the British had done so. In short he had been forced into his position by the “antics of the British.”
Smith’s defense was not logical. I told him that the first we had heard about the press interest in Annex C was after his press conference. I also told him that while I could not speak for the British I understood the British were giving the five points a hard run with the Africans and would wish at an appropriate time in the negotiations to work for the best outcome possible drawing from everything available including Annex C. I reiterated that we view the difference between the two documents as his margin of safety which he must do all necessary to defend.
His only other comment on the instructed oral points was his defense of his speaking out in public and to the press. He had to reassure his people on the issues of the conference. He laid great emphasis on the need to not lose his support at home. If the people feel he had lied to them, he’d be laughed out of office. “If I don’t reply when the British claim I misrepresent the understandings, then I had better get out of my present job.” If white Rhodesians become upset, “we will lose them”. “Our lives are at stake; we must be careful.” I told Smith we did not question legitimate self-defense but saw no reason in his discussing detailed negotiating positions and issues in public. I urged specifically to make no further reference to Annex C.
Smith returned to the categorical nature of the Secretary’s assurances which he described as a “firm contract” and said only our word had convinced the Rhodesian people that the presidents would stand by the agreement as they promised. He said “I could only convince my colleagues by assuring them of Dr. Kissinger’s prestige and power and the power of the United States as the greatest nation.” I told Smith, as a personal observation, that as a man with long African negotiating experience he must accept the fact that the five points are a political and not a legal document. He said he appreciated this point but feared the negotiations were heading for the same fate as those which took place at Victoria Falls where the African nationalists went back on “categorical” agreements that had been reached between Vorster and the African Presidents. He said “I hope I am wrong but we may be heading in that direction.” I urged steadiness and repeated the Secretary’s appreciation for his difficult position and our willingness to work with him. Smith reciprocated and urged I transmit his sincere regrets for the misunderstandings.
Smith was off balance and defensive throughout the meeting. His justification for mentioning Annex C was not convincing.
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 13, Switzerland—State Department Telegrams, To SecState—Nodis (9). Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. Document 216.
  3. In telegram 8348 from Geneva, October 25, the Mission reported on the meeting between Richard and Smith. Richard stated the British “regarded Annex C as a reasonable basis and would do what we could to achieve it.” He noted that “the British Government could not however be committed to all details without negotiations.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 13, Switzerland—State Department Telegrams, To SecState—Nodis (9))