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


  • Rhodesian Chrome and the Byrd Amendment

On January 1, it became illegal for the US Government to prohibit imports of Rhodesian chrome. This was the effect of the Byrd Amend[Page 170]ment to the Military Procurement Act.2 When Rhodesian chrome enters the US, we will be in violation of UN mandatory sanctions on Rhodesia. On December 30, the State Department (Tab A) proposed that you take one of three actions to preclude such a violation. Treasury (Tab B), Commerce (Tab C) and OEP (Tab D) all disagreed with State as do Peter Peterson and I.3

(1) Prohibit Soviet Chrome for Six Months.

State’s favored alternative is that you ban Soviet chrome for six months so that we can go on legally prohibiting Rhodesian chrome during this period, which may be long enough to see the British end sanctions. State says you have ample authority to do this under the UN Participation Act. Treasury disagrees, noting that while you have legal authority to enforce UN sanctions, these are against Rhodesia and not against the USSR. Commerce does not argue the legalities but feels that a restriction against the USSR could seriously jeopardize the possibilities of increased trade with the USSR. State on the other hand feels that any damage to relations with the USSR would be limited. If we wanted to circumvent the Byrd Amendment this might be the simplest way. But it would carry some risk for our Soviet relations before your Moscow trip. I therefore would not recommend it.

(2) Remove Chrome From the List of Critical and Strategic Materials.

State suggests you remove chrome from the list of strategic and critical materials—and so make the Byrd Amendment inapplicable to it—based on the fact that chrome is in ample supply. OEP, which has primary responsibility for administering the strategic list objects strongly. General Lincoln of OEP believes that chrome remains a strategic material, and that if we tamper with our standards for identifying such materials, we will jeopardize our whole stockpile policy. This would endanger pending stockpile disposal bills on the Hill which OMB hopes will yield us $600 million. Commerce comments that removing chrome from the list would be an evasion of the Congressional intent. I agree. Such a transparent device to thwart Congress would undoubtedly get us into trouble on the Hill.

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(3) Ask Congress For a Six Month Delay

This appears to be the least objectionable idea, but Congress is out of session and could probably not act quickly, if at all, when they return. Furthermore, the whole sanctions program will probably die this Spring when the UK and Rhodesia finalize their settlement. Even if we wanted to ask the Congress for a delay, we would have to implement the Byrd Amendment in the meantime.

I think we should simply implement the Byrd Amendment as Congress intended to allow imports of Rhodesian chrome. This is obviously not the time to restrict our trade with the USSR, nor can I see jeopardizing our stockpile program or raising an unnecessary storm on the Hill for acting against Byrd’s Amendment.

Following this course of action will require changes in Executive regulations.


That we comply with the spirit and sense of the Byrd Amendment and instruct Treasury to draw up the necessary regulations to allow the importation of chrome. Pete Peterson concurs.

Approve _____________ Disapprove ______________.4

Alternatively, you may wish to follow one of the courses recommended by State:

Prohibit Soviet chrome imports for six months No _____ Yes _____.

Remove chrome from the strategic and critical list. No _____Yes _____.

Seek a six-month delay from Congress No _____Yes _____.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 743, Country Files, Africa, Rhodesia, Vol. II. Secret. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the first page indicates the President saw it.
  2. See Document 55.
  3. Tabs A–D are attached but not printed. Tab A, Department of State proposal, December 30, 1971; Tab B, Department of the Treasury paper, “Implementation of the Byrd Amendment—Rhodesia Chromite,” January 4; Tab C, Department of Commerce paper, “Implementation of Byrd Amendment,” December 30, 1971; Tab D, Office of Emergency Preparedness paper, “Implementation of the Byrd Amendment on Rhodesian Chromite,” January 4.
  4. The President initialed his approval of this option. On January 21, Kissinger informed Rogers, Connally, Stans, and Lincoln of the President’s decision. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 743, Country Files, Africa, Rhodesia, Vol. II)