221. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Yugoslav Side:
    • 1. Josef Broz Tito, President of the Republic
    • 2. Mitja Ribicic, President of the Federal Executive Council
    • 3. Toma Granfil, Member of the Federal Executive Council
    • 4. Marko Bulc, Member of the Federal Executive Council
    • 5. Mirko Tepavac, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
    • 6. Bogdan Crnobrnja, Yugoslav Ambassador to Washington
    • 7. Ante Drndic, Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
    • 8. Miroslav Kreacic, Director of the Office of American Affairs, Secretariat of State for Foreign Affairs
    • 9. Marko Vrhunec, Counselor to the President of the Republic for Economic Questions
    • 10. Milos Melovski, Counselor to the President of the Republic for Foreign Policy Questions
    • 11. Lela Tambacca, Interpreter
  • American Side:
    • 1. Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States
    • 2. William Rogers, Secretary of State
    • 3. Ambassador William Leonhart
    • 4. Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • 5. Ronald Ziegler, White House Press Secretary
    • 6. Martin J. Hillenbrand, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
    • 7. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, National Security Council Staff
    • 8. Robert C. Mudd, Counselor of Embassy for Political Affairs
    • 9. Alexander Akalovsky, Interpreter

On October 1, 1970 (0945–1130) President Nixon and President Tito met for substantive talks in the latterʼs office at the Federal Executive Council Building. The advisors listed above remained with the Presidents throughout the talks. The main topics covered were: 1) bilateral relations; 2) the ME; 3) Black Africa; 4) Algeria; and 5) Viet-Nam. Following are the highlights of that conversation:

Bilateral Relations. President Tito began by warmly welcoming President Nixon and the members of his party. He said he had looked forward to the opportunity to exchange views with President Nixon on bilateral relations and the international situation. He noted that President Nixon and he had already had one private conversation the preceding day2 and would be having others later on. This morning they [Page 543] would start with the advisors present. Time was short so perhaps they should begin. It was the custom in Yugoslavia that the guest should have the opportunity to speak first. Was this procedure agreeable to President Nixon?

The President responded appreciatively. He said that yesterdayʼs talks with President Tito had been very useful in that they had agreed on expediting broader economic, technical, and scientific cooperation between the US and Yugoslavia. He thought these talks had struck the proper note because they illustrated the unique role Yugoslavia had played under Titoʼs leadership in bridging the gap between the two blocs as well as the continuing US interest in good economic and political relations with Yugoslavia. He did not wish to go into technical matters in the talks this morning but did wish to say that if exchanges, such as a visit to Yugoslavia by the Secretary of Agriculture, would be useful, he would be glad to see that such visits were made. The US is willing to assist the GOY on financing through the Exim Bank and other financial institutions and instructions had been issued to the USG to explore sympathetically all possible areas of US-Yugoslav cooperation. Secretary Rogers and Dr. Kissinger would be following this up.3

The President noted that US-Yugoslav trade so far this year was about $100 million each way. However, the US was still only fourth on the list of Yugoslaviaʼs trading partners. The US wishes to develop patterns of trade with EE countries because of its interest in all forms of communication with Yugoslavia and other EE countries. The US believes that the more trade there is with EE countries, the less tension there will be between these countries and the US. Trade thus can make a contribution to peace. Yugoslavia has shown the US the way in which the US can have profitable trading relations with socialist states despite the difference in social systems. US trade with other EE countries is not flourishing, primarily because of the set ways of doing business in the EE countries.

The GOY, however, has demonstrated flexibility and willingness to experiment and thus has been a pioneer in East-West trade. The US would like to go forward on a more imaginative basis and is now prepared to explore further possibilities which it believes will be significant for other countries as well.

President Tito remarked that on his side there would be no obstacles to expansion of cooperation between Yugoslavia and the US in the economic, scientific, and technical fields. The Presidents agreed that [Page 544] their advisors should develop these bilateral forms of cooperation further in separate meetings.

The Middle East. The President said the ME was very much on our minds these days. The effects of recent events (e.g., civil war in Jordan4 and the death of Nasser) on the US peace proposal could not yet be determined. Very much depended in the near future on the attitudes of the UAR, the USSR, Jordan, and Israel. He and President Tito had already discussed the ME to some extent, but he felt sure that Dr. Kissinger and Secretary Rogers would be interested in President Titoʼs assessment of how these events were likely to affect the prospects for peace in the area. The President wished to emphasize that the US sought to develop a ME policy not detrimental to any state. The US is not for or against any state in the area. It seeks only a just and durable peace in that area of the world. All states should have the right to exist free from pressure, threats, intimidation, and intervention from whatever source. The US believes in a live and let live policy. The US has been criticized in the past for leaning one way or the other. US interests in the ME are the same as those of the GOY, although there might be differences in approaches.

President Tito replied that the death of Nasser was a great blow to prospects for a peaceful settlement in the ME. Nasser was the Arabsʼ outstanding leader. He was a man who thought before he took any decisive action. Yet he was flexible in his approach and eager to avoid confrontation and escalation. No one in the UAR can fully replace him. But, Tito opined, Nasserʼs collaborators were likely to continue his policy of seeking a peaceful solution to Arab problems with Israel. He agreed that further development of the ME situation depended to a large extent on the attitudes of the UAR leadership, Soviet policy and reactions in the Arab world. The main problem, Tito said, is Israelʼs insistence on retaining the occupied territories as compensation. The Israelis must demonstrate a more flexible attitude; if they continued to insist on territorial aggrandizement there was no real prospect for peace. No Arab leader could give up trying to recover territory seized by Israel. This is even more true now that Nasser is gone. Nasser himself had said that if he conceded any captured territory to Israel his prestige in the Arab world would be destroyed and he would be replaced as the UAR leader. In the aftermath of his death the great [Page 545] powers should exercise restraint in the ME in an effort to bring about a peace equitable to both sides.

Tito went on to say that some Arabs, notably in Syria, Iraq and Algeria, favor a radical solution and, together with the younger generation in the UAR, wish to settle the issue with Israel by war, a tendency that has been strengthened by the most recent events. After his meeting with the Secretary earlier this year in Ethiopia5 Tito had talked with Nasser at Aswan. On that occasion Nasser had told him that Israelʼs use of napalm against a factory near Cairo which had resulted in over 100 casualties had put great pressure on him to retaliate. He had resisted this pressure but it had required all his prestige in the Arab world to do so. The bombing of the schools which killed many Egyptian children had so aroused young officers in the army that they too had demanded an Arab counter blow. Nasser had been able to resist this pressure also but the GOY wonders what will happen now if the Israelis repeat such mistakes.

Tito said that the US and the USSR should not hesitate to advance a new and realistic plan for a ME solution. In the GOY view this could open new prospects for solution to a situation which now looks hopeless. Such a plan should include provisions for all of the main problems. It should aim at voluntary agreement by the parties directly concerned through the persuasive powers of both the US and the USSR. An imposed solution would not contribute to stability in the area for sooner or later it would break down. It had been a mistake not to include the Palestinian problem in the Rogers Plan. Failure to do so had resulted in the violent action we have so recently seen.

Any new approach, Tito continued, must take into account the changes that have taken place in the Palestinian movement. It has an entirely different character now than it had earlier. This is a new generation of Palestinians with its own army and military resources, a generation which having lived under conditions of terrible privation for years is prepared to die to the last man to liberate Palestine. During his visits to the ME and Africa recently Tito had met with the leaders of the various Palestinian organizations. They had told him that they had lived peacefully side by side with Jews in the same territory for years and without problems. Todayʼs problems, according to the Palestinians, are the direct result of Zionism. Some time ago when Goldman visited Yugoslavia, he mentioned the need for: a) resettlement of some Palestinian Arabs in the present state of Israel; b) financial compensation to others. Not all Palestinians desire to settle in Israel—perhaps no more than 50,000—but others wish to be together in a more compact [Page 546] territorial unit than they have today scattered as they are all over the Mediterranean basin in Libya, Syria, in Lebanon and Algeria.

Tito said that the existence of Israel as a state is not in question. Nasser himself considered Israel a political reality. By judicious use of moderate policies Israel had a better opportunity than ever to achieve its goal of Arab recognition of its existence. Instead, however, its intemperate policies militate against its interests. Not only the US, but all other countries with which Israel had diplomatic relations, would never permit Israel to be pushed into the sea. The GOY had broken diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967 but is willing to re-establish them as soon as Israel changes its attitude, renounces its territorial claims and returns to the pre-1967 boundaries. There simply is no point in insisting on territorial compensation for use of force. An international guarantee could be given to its pre-1967 borders in which case Israel would have no cause for concern about its security.

Algeria. The President asked President Tito for his views on the attitudes and ambitions of the present Algerian Government, adding that we do not know these people very well. What did President Tito think of Algeriaʼs role in world affairs? Is Algiers, for instance, interested in a larger role in the Mediterranean and, if so, how did it expect to play such a role?

Tito replied that he had enjoyed good relations with Boumedienne as he had with his predecessor Ben Bella. Algeria is most interested in its economic development. In his extensive talks with both leaders this thread had consistently run through their conversations. The Algerians wished to consolidate their economic and political systems and, as one of the larger powers in the Mediterranean, to play an active and important role in that area. No doubt there has been some friction between Algiers and Cairo. Boumedienne is a strong man but flexible within the possibilities which other Arabs allow. He does not hasten to take positions and is concerned not to lose what prestige he has. He does not favor the Soviet side. Although on occasion he may appear to have adopted rigid positions, Yugoslavs believe he knows how to adjust himself to concrete situations and that he will shift according to the requirements of the situation he faces.

Black Africa. The President said he would be interested in Titoʼs estimate of Sino-Soviet competition in Black Africa since US knows little of state of play between these two super-powers in that area. Tito replied that it was difficult to say. It was his impression that China is presently pursuing a very shrewd and flexible policy in Africa. They were spending a lot of money but were careful to avoid offending local sensibilities. They were constructing a 1000 kilometer railroad from Tanzania to Zambia; their construction workers were living very modestly. It appeared to be PRC policy to give much in way of economic assistance and to ask little in return. The long-term implications of this [Page 547] are large. Although Soviet influence is greater in the Arab world, in Black Africa it is difficult to judge who has the advantage.

The President responded that on the basis of these comments he would conclude Chinese policy more clever and sophisticated than was Soviet. Tito commented Chinese have learned lesson from their own earlier expulsions. They profit from past mistakes and recognize that Africans have had bad experiences at hands former colonial powers and hence want no more of such domination. They want to be masters of their own houses and will not tolerate interference in their internal affairs by anyone. Chinese may also have learned from Yugoslav experience. On a modest scale Yugoslavia has supplied technical assistance to number of African countries but has carefully abstained from any kind of interference in their internal affairs, and their aid people have never been expelled anywhere.

The President asked Tito what he thought Black African attitude was toward US. Do Africans consider US imperialists, or US assistance a form of neo-colonialism?

Tito answered that his impression was that Black Africa is critical of US because most of its assistance goes to Southern Africa and US seems to seek closer relations with South Africa and Portuguese colonies than with Black Africa. They want US assistance but not at expense of interference in their internal affairs. (Secretary Tepavac intervened to say many African countries expect much of US during UN Second Development Decade.6) Tito continued that one shouldnʼt be too impatient about results. Changing attitudes these countries is long-term process. Aid without interference will end well. Country that gives assistance not in egoistic way in long run will have greatest influence. Most of these countries are aware that economic assistance is two-way partnership. Economic development eventually means equal economic relations which promotes trade to benefit of donor nation.

Tito said it is also quite unwise to regard any political change in Black Africa as move towards socialism or communism. These countries are quite far away from communism and socialism. They wish to make revolution in a constructive sense. They will deal with ideologies and systems in their own ways, adapting them to their needs. Kaunda of Zambia thinks that “Humanism” is highest form of progress. Nyerere of Tanzania is gifted and capable man who seeks friendly relations with all countries. Kenyatta of Kenya is another African leader who believes in peaceful coexistence. Experience has shown that interference in internal affairs of these states doesnʼt pay very well and [Page 548] results never last very long. They are determined to be independent, but they require financial assistance. Concept of giving one percent of national income to developing countries has caught on with some European states, and there are better prospects of developing multilateral forms of assistance. Tito noted that USSR has not yet shown any interest in these proposals.

ME Again. At this juncture the President invited the Secretaryʼs comments. Secretary said he first wished to express his gratitude to President Tito for his help with Nasser. After their meeting in Addis Ababa, Tito had explained to Nasser our ME proposals and told him that US was sincere in advancing them. This had had significant impact on Nasser and had been helpful. He agreed with Tito that US should continue to keep peace initiative alive. Realistically, however, prospects for immediate talks were not very good given the situation in both the UAR and Jordan. The new UAR leaders will need time to come to grips with their problems and Hussein will also require more time to consolidate his situation. US thinks its peace initiative is just as valid now as the day it was presented. The US will try to extend the standstill cease-fire for another 90 days. The Israelis have indicated their willingness to accept and US sincerely hopes that Tito will use his influence with UAR to help in extending the cease-fire.

Tito said he fully agreed. This is the only way out. Otherwise, there would be a complete deadlock and little hope of ever getting agreement between Arabs and Israelis.

The President added that Titoʼs influence could be very important with the new UAR leaders. Moderate, responsible influence should be exerted on them before the radical elements get to them. Such influence could have great bearing on the final resolution of the ME conflict. Tito responded that Kardelj and the Yugoslav delegation were now in Cairo and hoped to talk with the new UAR leaders. However, the Yugoslavs do not know whether this will be possible or not. If the Kardelj group returns home without having an opportunity for serious talks, the Yugoslavs will be in touch with the new UAR leaders in written form and in other ways.

The President observed that attitude of new UAR leaders will be strongly affected by attitude of Soviets. If UAR leaders continue to move in more missile sites in violation of cease-fire agreement, this could result in Israeli decision to escalate conflict. On other hand, if Soviets discourage such action, this could have great influence.

Tito commented he thought USSR had made its position known to UAR. Soviets are opposed to violation of cease-fire by either side. Tito said Yugoslavia has information UAR does not intend to escalate conflict. Moreover, violations of cease-fire are not at all as Israelis have presented them to US. UAR says alleged new missile sites were already [Page 549] there before agreement but camouflaged by sand. UAR does not deny that there are some new sites but argues that sites under dispute were already there.

Secretary Rogers responded that UAR had clearly violated agreement. We have photographs of sites which we could show them. There is absolutely no doubt about it; evidence is conclusive. This clear-cut violation of cease-fire agreement by UAR raises question of good faith not only of UAR itself but of Soviet Union. This kind of deceit creates problems for US. Both Israelis and our own people ask what is use of an agreement if before ink is dry it is deliberately violated?

Tito replied that whether missiles moved or not is not important. What is important is whether they are offensive or defensive weapons. Clearly they are defensive in nature. All armies take defensive measures during cease-fires. He had been soldier in World Wars I and II and knew that every time shooting stopped, they tried to improve their positions or move them forward inconspicuously. UAR has moved some missiles. But GOI has also been fortifying its positions. On formal point, Secretary Rogers was right but this is not main issue.

The Secretary responded that US does not care whether missiles are offensive or defensive. The main issue is faith of agreements. Under those circumstances, how can we possibly trust any agreement with UAR? What weʼre concerned about is that they lied to us. They broke their word the next day. Why make agreements if people who sign them do not keep their word. Tito asked whether terms of agreement were precise. Was it specifically forbidden in cease-fire agreement to move missiles into prohibited zones? The Secretary replied that the terms were clear and precise: any new missile construction was clearly forbidden in agreement. He could show Tito photographs of at least 30 clear violations of cease-fire agreement.

The Secretary said he also wished to go back to point raised earlier by Tito, namely, that US made mistake in not including Palestine in its peace initiative and that only about 50,000 Palestinian refugees would wish return to Israel. US had included Palestinian problem in its proposal, and Israel could easily accept that number of refugees. But problem is with whom do we negotiate? There are so many different factions we cannot tell who is in charge or who are their spokesmen. Tito thought Arafat is principal leader. There are radical elements of extreme left but Yugoslavs believe Arafat is strongest.

The Secretary said that despite recent setbacks we were not discouraged; would persevere with initiative; and try to get Jarringʼs mission7 activated as soon as possible.

[Page 550]

The President noted one further point in cooperation which could be extremely helpful—that was hijacking problem. Perhaps GOY could help with Palestinian leaders by pointing out to them that their extremist policies are courting disaster. Secretary Tepavac interjected that Yugoslavia had already sent note to Palestinians saying their terrorist and hijacking escapades were damaging their cause before world public opinion. President Nixon suggested also US and Yugoslavia might collaborate in getting international agreement designed to provide stiff penalties for hijackers. Continuation of Palestinian hijacking operations could have most serious implications for entire world, as we had just seen in Jordan. President Tito remarked that such activities should not be permitted to continue because they were criminal acts jeopardizing the lives of innocent people. He mentioned the recent case of a plane hijacked into Dubrovnik by Algerians.8 Said culprits would be tried in Yugoslav courts. After trial would be turned over to Algerian authorities.

The President inquired about Yugoslav views on Soviet ME policies. Does USSR wish to fish in troubled waters or is it seriously interested in cooling down situation? That could be key to entire situation. We would appreciate Titoʼs assessment of Soviet policy.

Tito said he did not think Soviets wish to fish in troubled waters. As example Soviet concern that conflict in ME might escalate, he cited Jordan, and USSR role in Syrian withdrawal and in preventing Iraquis from intervening, even after those states had publicly pledged use their troops to prevent Palestine massacre. USSR interested in peaceful solution in ME crisis. However, Soviets find it difficult to separate themselves from Arab cause because their prestige is so heavily committed.

The President emphasized US would do all in its power to deal honestly with new UAR leaders in effort to improve ME situation. We are trying to be fair and balanced in our approach. Titoʼs influence could be important in cooling down radical elements or those leaning toward radical solutions. If new UAR leaders will rectify situation, all may yet be all right. If it turns in another direction, then all are in danger. But we must trust in deeds, not words. We have saying in US that pictures donʼt lie. That UAR has violated cease-fire agreement by moving in more missile sites is absolutely clear. These are the facts. And we must deal with the facts. But we are not discouraged and will continue to press every opportunity for peaceful solution to problem.

Tito said his country is also devoted to objective of bringing about a more stable peace in ME. It is a confused situation but of serious concern to Yugoslavia, as Mediterranean country and too near center of [Page 551] conflict for comfort. Conflict in ME cannot be confined and would surely affect this part of world.

To which the President responded “and further.”

Viet-Nam. President Tito asked President Nixon for his assessment of situation in Far East, particularly Viet-Nam.

The President replied that there are two fronts in Viet-Nam, one diplomatic, the other military. On diplomatic front, there has been no progress. There had been some reformulation of terms but no real change in substance. On military front, there have been very significant changes. South Viet-Nam military have finally jelled into formidable fighting force. North Vietnam forces have been substantially weakened. Infiltration in the south is down. Ability of Vietcong to assume offensive has been greatly reduced. Casualty rates are lowest in last several years. US withdrawal is assured and will continue. South Vietnam military are now in position to defend against Vietcong or North Vietnam regulars to extent latter wish to continue conflict. US would prefer to end war earlier and on diplomatic front. But US will not compromise right of South Vietnamese people to decide their own future for themselves.

Tito thought there might be a third way. In PRG of South Vietnam, communists are a minority. Democratic elements from GVN and PRG could form a joint provisional government which could work out formula which would permit Vietnamese people decide their own future. Some years ago Tito had told Harriman that a prominent South Vietnam political figure had told him that South Vietnam was interested in such a solution. However, nothing came of it. People of South Vietnam long have been struggling for their independence and prize it highly. An independent South Vietnam Government aligned with none of big powers might provide acceptable solution and act as a kind of buffer between China and other powers. His recent conversations in Lusaka with Madame Binh had led him to believe such a solution could still work. Binh had said she was interested in a peaceful settlement on basis PRG eight points. She was willing form new government with any except three people in present GVN, whose names too hard for Tito to remember. Question of unification of North and South Vietnam could wait until much later.POW problem could be taken up immediately, and withdrawal US troops phased out over longer period.

The President said the two basic Viet Cong demands—unilateral US troop withdrawal and ouster of South Vietnam leadership—were unacceptable. Tito was realist and knew you just cannot say to one side get rid of your three principal government figures and get out, and then we will undertake to talk with you about withdrawal, POWs, etc. Secretary Rogers intervened to emphasize that Madame Binh was offering to negotiate with South Vietnam Government, but on condition [Page 552] that its President, Vice President and Prime Minister resign. We might just as well demand that Madame Binh get out or the North Vietnamese get out before we talk.

The President said he wished to be very direct. This had been long and difficult war for US. US had no ambitions in Viet-Nam, no intention to stay in the country or to dominate it in any way. Realities of power are that you can only negotiate what you have won on the battlefield. South Vietnam is very much part of this war and has been for a long time. It insists on a major voice in any peace settlement. It will soon be able to carry its own defense and will be in even better shape a few months further on. North Vietnam position is going to deteriorate in comparison to the increasing strength of South Vietnam.GVN will be in future much more difficult to negotiate with. We are trying to be realistic. If North Vietnamese and Viet Cong will negotiate seriously as they said they would, then we could make progress at Paris. But if they will not, our course is set. We would prefer to have war end sooner and by negotiation. But if we cannot, then we will continue to withdraw our forces and GVN will assume responsibility for its own defense as long as Hanoi wishes maintain the war. There will be absolutely no change in our policy. We will see it through to the end.

The President continued that we fully realize Yugoslav position is different. We respect its position. We have no monopoly on wisdom, knowledge, or right. Forty thousand Americans are dead in this war which has lasted over five years. We wish to devote our energies and resources to other matters. But if US were to accept unconditional surrender in Viet-Nam it would not be helpful around world. We have a limited goal in Viet-Nam—to protect its right to select its own government. It we were to fail in this or surrender, American people would not then be very interested in playing role in the world that they should. Our friends would regard our capitulation as disaster and would wonder what help US prepared to give in their time of trouble. We are not in VietNam to win war but to secure peace and to assure that the principle that all small nations have a right to decide their own fate is protected. Issues involved are much bigger than just what happens in Viet-Nam itself.

Tito replied that he fully understood US position. But he was deeply convinced that Viet-Nam war cannot be settled with victory for either side. He cited Algeria where France had had half-million troops for so many years. Because De Gaulle had courage to put end to conflict he was regarded as outstanding statesman even by those who opposed French withdrawal. Yugoslavia entirely understands both difficult position of President Nixon in his efforts to gain peace in Viet-Nam and reasons why capitulation out of question. He was grateful for Presidentʼs frank exposé of US policies and problems, and their implications in this difficult situation.

Meeting adjourned at 1145 hours.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Yugoslav Desk Files: Lot 79 D 230, POL 7 Nixon VISIT. Secret. Drafted by Mudd. The meeting took place in Titoʼs office in the Federal Executive Council building.
  2. No record of this discussion was found.
  3. An October 9 report by the President of the Export-Import Bank on efforts to follow up on these issues is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 733, Country Files—Europe, Yugoslavia, Vol. II Aug 70–Aug 71.
  4. Military clashes erupted in Jordan in August 1970 between Palestinian and Jordanian forces. Subsequently, a coordinated series of airline hijackings by Palestinian terrorists and the landing of these aircraft with hostages in Jordan led to an escalation of the confrontation between the government of King Hussein and Palestinian and Syrian forces. By the end of September the Jordanian Army had forced the withdrawal of Syrian forces and imposed a settlement on the Palestinians.
  5. See Document 217.
  6. The years 1971–1980 were officially proclaimed Second UN Development Decade by the General Assembly, October 24, as part of the ceremonies to honor the 25th anniversary of the United Nations. For text of the proclamation, see GA Res. 2626 (XXV).
  7. The reactivation of UN Special Representative Jarringʼs mission to the Middle East at the request of the United States was announced on June 25.
  8. On August 30 three Algerians seized the aircraft, which landed in Yugoslavia after Albanian authorities refused to grant it landing permission.