220. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Your Visit to Yugoslavia, September 30–October 2, 1970

During this, your first visit to Yugoslavia, lasting somewhat less than two days, you will have substantial exposure to the populace in both Belgrade and the Croat capital of Zagreb; you will have one extended meeting with Tito plus two meals and a farewell call for conversations with him; your toast, as at Bucharest last year, at the first dayʼs dinner is to be a quite substantial statement of our approach to world affairs.2 Your other public statements will be much briefer. A detailed schedule and the themes for your public statements, as well as a proposed text for your major toast, are a part of your book.3

Purposes, Game Plan, Themes

Before you arrival in Belgrade, most of the emphasis in public and governmental assessments of your trip will have revolved around the visit to the Fleet an its implications for our Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and even worldwide policy.4 Tito, although in effect having enjoyed substantial protection and assistance from us since he broke with the Soviets in 1948–49, nevertheless has been very clear in attempting to preserve a form of diplomatic neutrality as between East and West. He has publicly dissociated himself from our Vietnam policy and has been critical of our Middle Eastern actions and policies. The Yugoslavs, by insisting on delaying by a day the announcement of your visit, attempted to detach themselves from your visit to the Fleet (even though Tito knows its value to his own security).

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Tito personally, and the path he has sought to map for his country, is in many ways full of paradoxes and ambiguities. Thus, he remains firmly a Communist and (despite all his troubles with Moscow has never quite rid himself of the magnetism it still vaguely exerts on Communists of all stripes); yet he is also a fierce nationalist and, though very conscious of Soviet physical proximity, rejects Soviet hegemony in his region. He has, indeed, occasionally nurtured dreams of playing a regional leadership role himself, always raising Soviet objections. Tito has tried to preserve his Communist credentials, yet he has quite consciously relied on Western aid of all kinds. He knows very well that his defiance of Moscow has largely rested on our holding up our end of the basic power balance; yet he has preached non-alignment.5 He has adapted economic, political, administrative and cultural patterns and practices from the West.

In dominating Yugoslav life and policies for 25 years he has frequently sought to give his country a role quite out of proportion with its size, location and potential. In some respects, he succeeded: he successfully broke with Moscow; he managed to make himself something of a model for other Communists (though less so than he hoped and Moscow feared); for a while his non-aligned world and its conference appeared to acquire some coherence and force, but now, apart from the tarnished Nasser, he remains the lone pillar (the likes of Nehru, Sukarno, Nkrumah, etc., having disappeared) and the movement itself lacks momentum, purpose and force. (He has just returned from the Lusaka conference on the non-aligned, which caused hardly a ripple.)6

Historically, one of the greatest question marks that hangs over any assessment of Titoʼs accomplishments is what happens after he is gone. At 78, the time is not far off7 and he has taken measures to provide for an orderly succession by collectivizing the Party leadership and, most recently, announcing a similar approach to the Government. (This effort at collectivization, and playing down his own role, may not be solely related to the succession but to some vague sense on Titoʼs part that the era of the single, all-powerful leader may have run its course generally. Moreover, it would not be inconsistent with his ego for him to suppose that no single individual could replace him, anyway.)

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Beyond this, there remains the question whether the diverse, vigorous and proud nationalities that make up the Federation will hold together once Titoʼs magnetism and unifying role are gone. Titoʼs efforts to create stable governing institutions are undoubtedly in part designed to cope with this problem of cohesion. One aspect of it is the question of whether the Soviets would seek to inject themselves into a succession struggle. (Apart from occasional jitters about possible Soviet military action, as at the time of Czechoslovakia, Tito remains very alert to any Soviet efforts to build up connections among Yugoslav political groups.)

While you will get a warm and friendly popular reception, it is unlikely to expect the dramatic and moving character of last yearʼs demonstration in Bucharest. The occasion will be less emotion-packed for a people that has long since enjoyed extensive contact with the outside world; nor as dramatic an act of emancipation from Soviet over-lordship. Tito, himself, will receive you with dignity and quiet satisfaction that the President of the United States has come to see him. Assured of his towering eminence, he will not, as Ceausescu did last year, regard and use your presence at his side as a means of consolidating his political position at home.

Tito likes along conversations and he likes to talk a great deal himself.8 At his age and with his background he will not be reluctant to give advice or express criticism (even when, with his sense of power realities, he comprehends that if his advice led to a decline in American power and maneuverability, the security of his own country could suffer).

Ham Armstrong9 talked with Tito in the last few days and believes that you should be prepared for some harsh talk from him, particularly on Vietnam and the Middle East. I have taken account in this memorandum of the points Ham thinks Tito will make.

Your Purposes

  • —establish effective personal contact with Tito;
  • —indicate our continued interest in Yugoslaviaʼs progress while accepting its idiosyncratic position;10
  • —convey the essence of your approach to international relations, including especially, your readiness to negotiate on a basis of reciprocal recognition of interests and your readiness to be tough and, if necessary, use force in circumstances when our interests and commitments are at stake;
  • —stress your non-acceptance of the Brezhnev doctrine or other rigid “spheres-of-influence” concepts but your recognition that nations have special security concerns and interests which cannot be ignored by others;11
  • —convey your interest in an evolution in Eastern Europe (and the USSR) which permits a genuine normalization of East-West relations in Europe.

Points to Avoid

There are no subjects, as such, that you need to avoid in what may be fairly rambling conversations with Tito.

But Tito would be sensitive to and you should avoid

  • —excessive reference to his person;
  • —any questioning of Yugoslaviaʼs professed non-aligned role (even though they know, and we know, that this is in part a luxury that depends on American power);
  • —any references to Yugoslaviaʼs “leadership” in a regional, geographic sense;
  • —references to American aid as distinct from cooperation and joint ventures.

Subjects and Issues for Discussion

Inevitably, the Middle East will be a preoccupying issue. Tito broke with Israel after the June War; he remains friendly with Nasser;12 he probably has even less political sympathy for the Palestinian guerrillas than Moscow, though he probably has some psychological identification with and certainly regards a solution of the Palestinian refugee problem as central to a Middle East solution. He does not like US-Soviet polarization.

Depending on developments in Jordan, you may wish to make the following points:

  • —the fall of the King of Jordan would be disastrous for all concerned;13
  • —we have no desire to intervene; we have urged the Soviets to use their influence toward restraint among their clients;14
  • —anything the Yugoslavs can do along these lines through their connections would be welcome;
  • —Israel regards its vital interests at stake in what happens in Jordan; Tito himself will have an appreciation of what nations do when they believe their survival is at issue;
  • —the issue of survival also dominates Israelʼs policy toward the ceasefire/standstill and the whole diplomacy of the Middle East;
  • —we are far from giving automatic support to Israel and have had many rough passages with its leaders;15
  • —we have a genuine interest in a settlement, or short of that a modus vivendi that avoids periodic war and the danger of great power confrontation;
  • —Soviet policy is disturbing to us both because it has not exerted sufficient influence on the Arabs on diplomatic issues and because it is so clearly designed to promote unilateral Soviet interests in the entire region of the Mediterranean.

(Note: You should give Tito ample opportunity to expound his own view on these matters.)

Southeast Asia. Titoʼs public position has not been in support of us, though criticism has been restrained. Tito recognized Sihanouk because of personal friendship. But Tito understands that American humiliation in Southeast Asia in the end would hurt him too.16

You may wish to:

  • —review your twin approach of Vietnamization and negotiation, citing, as you proceed, the extent to which we have adopted the suggestions of our foreign and domestic critics;
  • —convey to him your determination to bring the war to an honorable close both because we want stability in the region and because the domestic repercussions in the US to a defeat would be damaging, perhaps even to a country like Yugoslavia;17
  • —note that, having inherited the war, you are only too conscious of the burden it represents to you domestically (though far from the only one) and to international affairs (though, again, as the Middle East shows, far from the only one). Many steps may be feasible, especially in East-West relations, when this burden is overcome but many problems are intractable in their own right and even the end of the Vietnam war will not bring the millenium.

East-West Relations. Tito advocates a European security conference and East-West “détente.”18 Partly this stems from his long-standing advocacy of compromise and negotiations; but, as in the case of Romania, [Page 541] he sees some protection from Soviet pressures against himself in a climate of East-West relaxation.

You may wish to:

  • —give him a special opportunity to set forth his ideas;
  • —note your own efforts to get moving into an era of negotiations with the USSR, particularly on so fundamental an issue as strategic arms limitation;
  • —as regards SALT, you may wish to express cautious hope that the Soviets will arrive at a concept of sufficiency, as we have, that will make at least a limited agreement possible;
  • —say, as regards the European conference, that you are not opposed but are concerned that it succeed and deal with concrete issues; failure or baseless euphoria could leave us all worse off;
  • —note that we are considering the possibility of mutual military reductions in central Europe but that the subject is complex;
  • —note that we support German efforts to normalize relations with the East but hope that this will occur on solid foundations and without excessive fanfare and illusion. (Yugoslavia has had its own problem with the FRG in years past when the latter broke relations after Tito recognized Ulbricht. Nevertheless, for years Tito has let Yugoslav workers work in the FRG—and earn hard currency.)

Other Topics of Interest

You may wish to give Tito an opportunity to expound on the following subjects, on which you may also give your views:

  • —the evolution and prospects in the USSR and in other East European countries. (Tito has a special relationship with Ceausescu and may have either just seen him or plan to see him);
  • —China. He has re-established relations after years of bitter animosity, preceded, in turn, by several years of good relations;
  • —the Lusaka non-aligned conference (dear to his heart but not very significant);
  • —Africa—once an area where Tito hoped to contest Soviet influence;
  • —the Yugoslav road to socialism;
  • —bilateral relations—see Tab A.19

(Note: As an elder statesman Tito may be inclined toward a sweeping review of the world situation. Should this develop you may wish to explain the Nixon Doctrine and your three-pronged policies of strength, negotiation and partnership.)20

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 468, Presidentʼs Trip Files, Visit of Richard Nixon, President of the United States, Briefing Book Yugoslavia. Secret; Nodis.
  2. For text of the Presidentʼs toast and Titoʼs reply at the October 1 dinner, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 788–794.
  3. A copy of the Presidentʼs briefing book is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 468, NSC Files, Presidentʼs Trip Files, Visit of Richard Nixon, President of the United States, Briefing Book Yugoslavia.
  4. On September 29 the President visited the U.S.S. Saratoga in the Mediterranean and delivered an address to the officers and men of the Sixth Fleet. He subsequently toured NATO naval command headquarters at Naples, where he made a statement on September 30. For the texts of his statements, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 782–783, 786–787.
  5. The President underlined most of the previous two sentences.
  6. The Non-Aligned Conference was held September 6–14. The President underlined most of the previous two sentences, beginning with “apart from the tarnished Nasser,…”
  7. In telegram 2014 from Belgrade, July 4, Leonhart wrote: “Basis number of indications, I believe (a) that Tito has now made decision to retire as President of the Republic when his four-year term expires in May 1971, and (b) that he intends to retire about same time as head of the Yugoslav Communist Party.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 733, Country Files—Europe, Yugoslavia, Vol. I through Jul 1970)
  8. The President underlined this sentence.
  9. Hamilton Fish Armstrong, editor of Foreign Affairs.
  10. The President underlined this phrase.
  11. The President underlined this phrase. See footnote 3, Document 72.
  12. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser died on September 28. In a September 30 memorandum to the President, Kissinger analyzed the impact of Nasserʼs death on Titoʼs policy and the reasons for the Yugoslav Presidentʼs decision to receive Nixon rather than attend the funeral. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 733, Country Files—Europe, Yugoslavia, Vol. I through Jul 1970)
  13. The President underlined this point.
  14. The President underlined most of this point and wrote in the margin: “Nasser cooperative.”
  15. The President underlined this point.
  16. The President underlined most of this sentence.
  17. The President wrote in the margin next to this paragraph: “U.S. becomes isolationist—We ask for no world dominance.”
  18. The President underlined most of this sentence.
  19. Attached but not printed.
  20. For text of the Presidentʼs statement, made at Guam, July 25, 1969, in which he enunciated the Nixon Doctrine, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 544–556. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 29.