8. Memorandum From Roger Morris of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Chrome Imports and Rhodesian Sanctions

At Tab A is a memo from Bob Haldeman telling you that the President has made a policy decision on imports of Rhodesian chrome on the strength of a recommendation from Pat Buchanan.2 (Buchanan’s piece is at Tab B.)3 Haldeman is asking you to implement the decision.

This is the first I have heard of this process. The major U.S. chrome companies in Rhodesia—Union Carbide and Foote Mineral—are always lobbying hard to obtain relief from sanctions. And OEP is taking up their case (for its impact on our stockpiles) in the context of the [Page 12] ongoing NSC review of Southern African policy.4 Buchanan’s memo is clearly an end-run around the NSC channel. The problem is that there are several issues here in honest dispute within the Government, and the President should certainly see all sides of the question before making a final decision. Here is a brief run-down:

The first UN Security Council Resolution on mandatory Rhodesian sanctions in December 1966—which the U.S. implemented by Presidential Executive Order still in force—specifically prohibits UN members from importing chrome from Rhodesia.5
There was provision accompanying our Executive Order to issue licenses for chrome imports from Rhodesia in certain “hardship cases.” This was generally interpreted to cover imports of chrome which had left Rhodesia prior to the adoption of the Security Council Resolution but were still in transit after its adoption.

Union Carbide and Foote Mineral are now asking for an import license for some 200,000 tons of chrome which had not left Rhodesia prior to December 1966. Buchanan argues that both companies should be given the licenses because they paid for this ore prior to the sanctions.

In fact, Foote’s 57,000 tons of this total was not even mined until 1967–68—and even then with money which was licensed by the U.S. on the clear understanding that (a) the mining would only serve to keep the Foote mine operating as a salvageable U.S. property in Rhodesia, and (b) none of the ore so mined would be licensed for import to the U.S. in violation of the sanctions. Union Carbide’s 150,000 tons was paid for after the Security Council Resolution, yet just before the formal U.S. Executive Order. Thus, in both cases the legal point here about when the ore was paid for is by no means clear cut.

The merits of the chrome sanctions—as for all sanctions—are certainly arguable. Honest men will disagree about the general impact of sanctions on the Smith regime, the hardship to U.S. industry, the market benefits to other chrome suppliers like the Soviet Union, etc. All these points bear on the license for this deal.
Buchanan argues, for example, that the sanctions have brought “serious pressures” on the domestic chrome industry. Yet there is a 1-to 2-year supply of chrome presently available in the U.S. There are significant quantities of chrome purchased from our stockpile but still unused by the purchaser. And chrome ore is available on the world market, albeit at higher prices.
Buchanan argues that importing this chrome will actually hurt the Rhodesians by depriving them of a valuable asset which they might sell on the black market. The fact is that Ian Smith has not been able to sell all the chrome he’s got, let alone these 200,000 U.S. tons. Most important, however, neither the Rhodesians, nor the Africans, nor our own Congress would see this as a simple economic deal. Sanctions are nothing if not a political instrument. Ian Smith and his supporters will jump on this licensing and play it for all it’s worth as a softening of U.S. pressure, a lessening of our support for the UN, and a signal to other countries to throw in the towel. The President may wish to do that, but that is a decision that has to be taken after the most careful review of all the consequences and in the framework of our general policy objectives in Southern Africa. This is not only an economic benefit to U.S. firms, but a clear political windfall for Rhodesia. We could reasonably extract some quid for the chromium quo.

Buchanan says a license would win us some friends in the business community and encounter only “short-lived . . . flak from the Left.” I must say this seems to me the most dubious proposition of all, when Senator Kennedy6 et al. are looking for every chance to embarrass the Administration on racially loaded issues such as Southern Africa. As for our business friends, other users and importers of chrome might well frown on a deal which gave Foote and Union Carbide special access to captive chrome supplies. Then too, we can expect the nickel, asbestos and lithium people to seek similar relief. The door would be open on sanctions, or we would indeed lose some business friends.

Again, a case can be made for the President taking that heat as the cost of a conscious policy calculated to be in the national interest. But that only argues further for the most rigorous and comprehensive look at all sides of the problem.

Chrome companies, Southern Africa and the Congress aside, our British allies are in Rhodesian sanctions up to their necks. If nothing else, the President’s relationship with Harold Wilson demands that we look at Rhodesian chrome as a decidedly political commodity.
Finally, if this is to be, as Buchanan presents it, a “one-shot” deal, it solves neither the long-range problem of chrome supply which is allegedly hurting the industry nor OEP’s desire for U.S. industry to be freed from greater dependence on the world market (read the USSR).


That you reply to Haldeman that this decision has wide implications for Southern African policy, and we should hold implementation [Page 14] a few weeks pending the current NSC study (a note to that effect is at Tab C).7
That I introduce the chrome problem as a specific issue for decision in the NSC paper.



Speak to me

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 743, Country Files, Africa, Rhodesia, Vol. I. Confidential; Sensitive. Sent for action.
  2. Tab A, dated May 1, is attached but not printed.
  3. Tab B, undated and unsigned, is attached but not printed.
  4. See Document 6.
  5. Resolution 232, adopted December 16, 1966, prohibited the importation of chrome and other products from Rhodesia. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1966, pp. 116–117) Executive Order 11322 was signed on January 5, 1967.
  6. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D–MA).
  7. Tab C is not attached.
  8. Kissinger initialed his approval and wrote: “Do memo for Haldeman. Also point out that Pat shouldn’t by-pass chrome channel.” A May 16 memorandum from Kissinger to Haldeman emphasized the need to address the issue as part of the administration’s policy review of southern Africa. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 743, Country Files, Africa, Rhodesia, Vol. I)