56. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Your Meeting with Mauritanian President Ould Daddah, September 28, 3:00 p.m.

Ould Daddah has informed the press that at his meeting with you today he will make known the Organization of African Unity’s position on “the American debate on Rhodesian chrome purchases”.

This is a reference to the Byrd Bill which passed the Senate last week. Senator Byrd’s amendment is a rider on the Military Procurement Authorization Bill. It amends the UN Participation Act of 1945 so as to preclude any action thereunder to prohibit imports of strategic commodities from any free world country so long as the importation of such commodities from Communist countries are not also prohibited. The effect of the bill is to remove the embargo on Rhodesian chrome.

The argument for the bill is that it is dangerous for the United States to be dependent on the Soviet Union for chrome, and that U.S. manufacturers are at a competitive disadvantage because the price of Russian chrome (the only major producer other than Rhodesia) has almost tripled since the embargo went into effect.2

The ultimate prospects for the Byrd Amendment are now unclear. Despite vigorous opposition by the State Department, it passed the Senate by a 36 to 46 vote. Senator Fulbright now plans to amend the amendment so that you might keep it from going into effect on national security grounds or on the grounds that it violates a treaty obligation. Apparently, some of Byrd’s earlier supporters are attracted to that formula. Both Senators Stennis and Byrd, however, are said to be adamant that the amendment be retained in its present form.

Suggested Response:

  • —If finally passed, the Byrd Amendment would leave the embargo in effect except for chrome.
  • —The Administration made a vigorous effort to defeat the Byrd Amendment but it was nonetheless passed by a ten vote margin. The Congress is hostile to the embargo because although the United States has abided by it scrupulously, other nations have not, and it does not appear to have been effective. Moreover, it makes the U.S. dependent on the Soviet Union for the essential commodity of chrome, and the Soviets have tripled the price of their chrome since the embargo went into effect. Finally, Zambia’s recent decision to import $20 million worth of corn from Rhodesia undermined Congressional support for the embargo.
  • —We are now studying whether it is still possible to get this bill set aside. We will do our best, but the situation is, frankly, not very promising.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 740, Country Files, Africa, Mauritania, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.” Nixon wrote in the margin: “K—I agree with Byrd Amendment. No public statement should be made by the W.H. Let State continue to take the position it needs to for African purposes.” Haig wrote below Nixon’s note: “Wright informed.”
  2. Nixon underlined most of this sentence.