232. Memorandum for the Presidentʼs File1


  • Meeting between President Nixon and President Tito


  • U.S.
    • The President
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
    • Mr. Alexander Akalovsky, Department of State
  • Yugoslavia
    • President Tito
    • Mr. Vidoje Zarkovic, President of the Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro, and Member of the Presidium of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
    • Miss Lijana Tambaca, Interpreter

President Tito opened the conversation by noting that there had been a number of developments since his last meeting with the President.2 The President commented that at that meeting President Tito and he had discussed some aspects of those developments, for example, China and the need for an even-handed policy towards the USSR and China. President Tito said that he would tell the President about Brezhnevʼs visit to Yugoslavia. He also observed that, while attending the Iranian celebration at Persepolis,3 he had had a chance to talk to a number of heads of state, including Yahya Khan of Pakistan, and that he had visited Cairo.

[Page 579]

Referring to Yahya Khan,4 the President said he thought he was a good man, with good motives. President Tito agreed but thought that Yahya Khan was a somewhat nervous man. The President said that the problem in Pakistan was a very difficult one and that the situation between India and Pakistan could be compared to that in the Middle East. President Tito noted that everyone in Persepolis had regarded the India-Pakistan situation as very serious and that there had been general concern there about the possibility of an outbreak of war. Therefore, everyone had sought to impress upon Yahya Khan the need for preventing such a development. Yahya Khan himself had said that he did not want war, especially since he knew that militarily Pakistan was much weaker than India, but he had also pointed out that Pakistan would defend itself if attacked. Yahya Khan had accused India of interfering in Pakistanʼs internal affairs, especially in East Pakistan, and also of threatening Pakistan. The President asked if President Titoʼs meeting with Mrs. Gandhi had been before or after his meeting with Yahya Khan. Tito replied that it had been after and that it had been very useful for him to have this opportunity of discussing the situation with both of them. He said he had told Yahya Khan that, in his view, the East Pakistani problem was internal and not one between India and Pakistan. He said he believed that the problem was primarily an economic one, and that he was basing this view on what he had seen and heard while visiting East Pakistan two and one half years ago. At that time, he had been told by East Pakistanis that they were dissatisfied with the economic policy of West Pakistan; for example, the jute produced in East Pakistan was shipped to West Pakistan for the benefit of the latterʼs economy. Widespread dissatisfaction also existed because, as in all of Pakistan, the military were in power, and some of the military governors from West Pakistan were very rough. President Tito said he had told Yahya Khan that he should look for a different solution to the problem. Yahya Khan had responded that he had tried to do everything possible and he had even allowed elections in East Pakistan. Those elections, of course, had been won by Mujib Rahman, and Yahya Khan had thought that Rahman should form his government and then seek a solution within the framework of Pakistan. Rahman, on the other hand, had wanted autonomy. Rahman was now under arrest but, according to Yahya Khan, East Pakistani refugees had been amnestied. Also according to Yahya Khan, the number of refugees was two million but the fact was that there were nine million [Page 580] refugees in India. The discrepancy between these figures was due to the fact that Yahya Khan did not count non-Muslim refugees. The refugee situation continued to be very serious, with 40,000 of them coming to India every day and the Indians having difficulty in providing food and care for them. While Yahya Khan maintained that the Indians did not allow the refugees to return, Mrs. Gandhi stated the contrary, pointing out that India was overpopulated as it was. Furthermore, while Yahya Khan said that amnesty had been granted, the Indians said that five million refugees had fled after the amnesty. All this demonstrated the complexity of this problem. President Tito also noted that while Yahya Khan maintained that India did not wish to accept international control, the Indians claimed that Yahya Khan wanted international control only on the Indian side of the border.

President Tito continued that he had told Yahya Khan that a conflict should be avoided; there were too many conflicts in the world already, although some of them were on the way to solution. As regards amnesty, President Tito said he had pointed out to Yahya Khan that the first returnees had been killed, but that Yahya Khan had maintained that this was an Indian lie. President Tito noted that while he had not wished to tell Yahya Khan what to do, he had pointed out to him that Yugoslavia had had an even more difficult problem because of its multinational composition and the disparity in the economic development of the various regions, but that it had managed to solve it. Yahya Khan had listened carefully to these remarks, and one should hope that they had an effect on him. As regards the Indians, President Tito said they had been nervous and tense. He had tried to influence them against war, pointing out that even a military victory would be a serious political loss for India. Mrs. Gandhi had said that she was against war but that there was a pro-war faction that was putting pressure on her. She was greatly interested in obtaining international assistance, including from the UN, that would enable India to take care of the refugees. As things stood now, India would be able to provide for the refugees only until the end of the year, and there also was the fact that troops were massing on both sides of the border. President Tito said that in those talks he had thought of the President and the U.S. generally, and that he believed that the U.S. involvement in this problem should be increased. To illustrate the Indian difficulties, he observed that while the Indians had laid irrigation pipes in order to improve their crops, these pipes were now being used as shelter by the refugees and were thus out of commission. President Tito then noted that he had also discussed the Pakistan situation with Podgorny, and that the latter was also convinced that everything should be done to prevent war. In sum, this was a very neuralgic area of the world and, while he had told neither side what it should be doing, he had told both of them what he would do to solve the problem.

[Page 581]

The President said it was very helpful that President Tito had had discussions with both sides. He pointed out that the impression that the Indians were all right and the Pakistanis were wrong was inaccurate, just as it was not true that the Pakistanis were all right and the Indians all wrong. The problem really went beyond that of the refugees, and it involved other matters that could never be settled. He also believed that every effort should be made to avoid war, especially since a war would not be limited to India and Pakistan. In his view, China, being so close to Pakistan, could not stand by if Pakistan were to be losing the war, as it probably would. At the same time, the Soviets, with their great influence in India, had also a big stake in this situation. As regards the United States, the President pointed out that we had done twice or even three times as much as anybody else to help the refugees. He was not complaining about this and believed that we should do everything we could. In fact, he had asked Congress for $250 million to assist the refugees. He also believed that it would be useful if the UN came in, perhaps to supervise the distribution of food. In general, he thought that two things could be done, things which President Tito was already doing. First, we should do everything we can for the refugees. Unfortunately, a number of other countries, including some in Europe, were more talking than actually doing. Second, we should use our influence to prevent war. If a war were to break out it would be won by India, but it would also spread.

President Tito interjected that from his discussions with Brezhnev he had deduced that the Soviets also did not want a war. The President commented that, without going into Dr. Kissingerʼs talks with the Chinese, he believed that Dr. Kissinger would agree that the Chinese would not stand by because the Pakistanis would be on the losing end. Dr. Kissinger said that he supported this view. President Tito said it would be useful if both the Soviets and the United States were to tell the two sides that they would not be assisted in any military conflict. The President pointed out that the temper in the United States today was such that it would make clear to both sides that we would provide humanitarian help but if they went to war they should simply forget it. In this connection, he observed that the United States had some influence in India too. The U.S. had a $1 billion aid program in India but this would be jeopardized if war were to break out.

President Tito said that in his talks with both Mrs. Gandhi and Brezhnev he had inquired about the Soviet-Indian treaty,5 in particular whether that treaty was a military pact. Both of them had said that it was only a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Since Mrs. Gandhi was coming to Washington next week, she would probably say the [Page 582] same to the President personally. President Tito continued that, in response to a question, Mrs. Gandhi had stated that the treaty was consistent with non-alignment because it was not a military pact. He had told her that if the treaty was indeed not a military pact, it was all right. However, he wished to stress again to the President that there was a strong pro-war faction in India, although not within the government itself.

Turning to Brezhnevʼs visit to Yugoslavia, President Tito noted that there had been a great deal of speculation about Soviet intentions and threats as regards Yugoslavia. He had talked with Brezhnev alone and also with the two delegations present. He wished to point out that the draft declaration Brezhnev had brought with him—and the Yugoslavs had had no draft of their own—it had already clearly reaffirmed Yugoslav independence and sovereignty and stated that the 1955 principles6 remained valid. The final text as it emerged from the talks made clear that the USSR and Yugoslavia were dealing with each other as two sovereign states and that Yugoslavia had the right to develop its own social system.

The President inquired if this applied only to Yugoslavia or went beyond it. He noted in this connection that there had been press reports suggesting that the Brezhnev doctrine had been changed. President Tito replied that the other Eastern European countries were members of the Warsaw Pact. At the same time, he believed that the Soviets were changing their policies. Brezhnevʼs personal position was now much stronger, and he was now less restricted by the collective. Brezhnev had said specifically that the Soviets wanted best possible relations with the United States. He had also said that whether the Soviet Union wanted it or not, the U.S. and the USSR were the main partners in the world who could assure peace. Brezhnev had known that he, President Tito, was going to the United States, and therefore had repeated this several times. While earlier the Soviets would not have been at all happy about his going to the United States, now not only had they raised no objection but Brezhnev had also asked that the Soviet desire for good relations with the U.S. be conveyed to the President. This was also a sign of change in the Soviet policy. Noting that Brezhnev was now in Paris,7 President Tito said that, in his view, the whole situation and constellation was changing, and that the President had contributed a great deal to this development with his initiatives concerning China, the USSR, etc.

[Page 583]

The President inquired if, in President Titoʼs view, the Soviets were interested in good relations with the United States for pragmatic reasons. In other words, did they believe that the two superpowers have no choice but to talk and try to agree where they can, or, where agreement is not possible, at least to talk. President Tito replied in the affirmative, adding that the Soviets were also greatly interested in reducing arms expenditures and other commitments so as to be able to develop their economy. In general, his impression from his talks with Brezhnev was very good. This was not the first time he had met with Brezhnev, but never before had Brezhnev talked so openly as during this last meeting. Recalling Soviet maneuvers in Eastern Europe,8 President Tito said that he had told Brezhnev that the Yugoslavs were not afraid of them. He had said to him that since there were troops there they had to have exercises, but he had also pointed out that Yugoslavia would also conduct maneuvers, something it had not done for a long time. Yugoslav maneuvers had been very successful, especially because they had tested for the first time the new Yugoslav doctrine of combined operations by both regular troops and territorial defense units. To avoid any misunderstanding, the maneuvers had been conducted along a vertical line across the country so that no one could say they were against the East or the West.

The President asked about the Soviet reaction to Yugoslav relations with China. President Tito replied that when Yugoslavia had first exchanged ambassadors with Peking,9 the Soviets had not liked it because they had believed that it was directed against them. However, Yugoslavia had told the Soviets that it wished good relations with everyone and that its relations with China were not aimed against anyone. The President commented that the same applied to the United States. While some believed that the forthcoming visit to Peking was a move against Moscow and that the planned trip to Moscow was a move against Peking, this was not so. As a Pacific power, the United States had to regard its relations with China as a very important factor. As an Atlantic power, we were interested in our relations with the Soviet Union. At the same time, it was obvious that the Soviets and the Chinese had differences between themselves and we should therefore be careful. The President said that both in his conversations with Gromyko in preparation for his trip to Moscow, and in Dr. Kissingerʼs discussions with the Chinese about the visit to Peking, it had been made clear to the parties that while we wanted good relations with them we did not want any condominium. In this connection, the President said [Page 584] he wanted to stress that U.S. relations with the Soviet Union would not be developed at the expense of any smaller nation. As President Tito had said in one of his recent speeches,10 smaller nations were fully entitled to independence and sovereignty. The United States also deeply believed in this, so that in the discussions in Peking and Moscow we would cover bilateral subjects, arms control and other matters, but not at the expense of any nation. President Tito observed that in his conversations with Brezhnev, not one word had been said about China, with neither Brezhnev nor himself raising this issue.

Turning to his recent visit to Cairo, President Tito said that it had been very brief. Sadat had just been to Moscow,11 and he could tell the President that Sadat continued to support the search for a political solution. As regards the Suez Canal, Sadat accepted the proposal for the reopening of the Canal after the Israelis withdraw 60 kilometers from the Canal. Concerning Sadatʼs recent statement that the UAR must now use other means to achieve its objectives,12 Sadat had said that this statement had been misinterpreted in the international press. He would therefore make another statement after the end of the year. That statement would also say that the UAR would have to search for other means but, although Sadat had not specified those means, it was quite clear that he did not mean war. President Tito also observed that, according to Sadat, the US had failed to respond to some of his messages, although he had not identified them. Personally, President Tito said, he believed the United States should continue its efforts in the Middle East, but that the dialogue should involve not only the US and the UAR but also the USSR. Asked by the President if he had discussed the Middle East with Brezhnev, President Tito replied that he had and that the Soviets also did not want a resumption of hostilities. Referring to accusations that the Soviets wanted to stay permanently in the Middle East, Brezhnev had stated that the Soviets had too many expenses anyway and that they would withdraw all their experts and advisers as soon as a settlement was reached. President Tito said that this further strengthened his impression that the Soviets were seeking a relationship of greater trust with the United States.

The President commented that the Middle East situation had not changed since President Tito and he had discussed it last year. He agreed that the Soviet role in the Middle East could be constructive. As regards the US, we were continuing our efforts, including to maintain [Page 585] the truce. The Middle East situation was even more serious than that between Pakistan and India, since it involved the great powers in a more immediate way. However, he would be less than candid if he did not add that while our objectives were the same, namely to maintain peace in the area and to seek a temporary solution concerning Suez as a step towards a settlement, there was some very rough sledding ahead. What was required was more than talking; some major decisions on the part of the two governments and those beyond them were needed. The US would do everything to maintain the momentum and continue the dialogue with Sadat. The President said that he wanted to be completely frank: while he did not regard the situation as hopeless it was clearly very difficult.

President Tito said he had been told by Brezhnev that the first step would be to reopen the Canal after the Israelis withdrew so many kilometers. Then, following Israeli withdrawal to the June 5 borders, a four-power guarantee of Israelʼs borders should be given. That guarantee would not involve stationing any foreign troops but would have to be so strong that no one would dare even to spit across the border. Asked by the President if this meant that no Soviet troops would remain in the UAR, President Tito said that it did and that the Soviets would withdraw everything. He also pointed out that he was not trying to be a mediator but was merely conveying what he had heard. The President said this was very useful and that he fully understood Yugoslav interest in the Middle Eastern situation since Yugoslavia was a Mediterranean power. President Tito commented that Yugoslavia was interested in the Middle East not only from the standpoint of preserving peace but also economically. While his meeting in Cairo had been very short, it was clear that Egypt was not interested in a military solution, although the Egyptian leaders did not know what their people would say if no solution was reached by the end of the year.

The President asked about Sadat as a man. President Tito said that Sadat was somehow faster and more dynamic than Nasser. The latter, however, had been more reflective and perhaps also more profound. Sadat had risen to the situation, but he was also under considerable pressure. Asked by the President if Sadat could lead his people, Tito replied that he could and that his popularity was increasing. However, no one knew how long this would last if nothing changed; Nasser could have withstood pressures longer. President Tito said he agreed that the Middle East situation was one of the more delicate problems. The two main international problems he had been discussing lately were the India-Pakistan situation and the Middle East. Yugoslavia had always had good relations with Pakistan but he had had to be very frank with Yahya Khan. The same, of course, applied to India. He had told the Indians that East Pakistan was an internal problem India should not [Page 586] interfere in, but that the Pakistanis needed assistance and encouragement in searching for a solution. Yahya Khan had said that he would have new elections, but those elections would be under Army control and obviously Yahya Khan could not find leaders in East Pakistan who would be pro-West Pakistan. The worst thing that could happen would be a death sentence for Rahman because that would provoke civil war. Dr. Kissinger interjected that the Pakistanis had promised that this would not happen.

Noting that President Tito had to go to lunch, the President said that as regards bilateral matters, he had instructed Secretary Rogers and Mr. Peterson to be as forthcoming as possible on questions President Tito and he had discussed last year. The same applied to questions concerning military cooperation. If after these meetings President Tito were to hear from his associates that there were still some difficulties, he should be free to raise them with the President personally during the next meeting on October 30. As regards other international questions, the President said he would talk with President Tito on October 30th, or perhaps during dinner tonight,13 about Vietnam—a problem he knew President Tito was interested in. He would also discuss SALT, which indirectly involved all European countries, including Yugoslavia, and the situation in Europe, in particular European security.

The meeting ended at 12:45 p.m.

Note: Early in the conversation, the President said that he wanted to assure that the conversation be completely open and that, therefore, a copy of our record of the conversation would be provided to the Yugoslav side. The record would be only for the two Presidents and, as far as we were concerned, would not receive further distribution.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1025, Presidential/HAK MemCons, The President and President Tito. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. A notation on the memorandum, which was drafted on November 1, reads “unsanitized.” The White House prepared two versions of the records of the conversations with Tito. According to an undated memorandum from Haig to Kissinger, attached to the source text, the “sanitized” version would be provided to the State Department and “relevant NSC staff members” on a “close hold basis.” The unsanitized version was sent to the Presidentʼs File. Kissinger approved distribution of the sanitized version to the Yugoslav Embassy. (Memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger, November 16; ibid., Box 944, VIP Visits, Yugoslavia–Visit of Pres. Tito) Tito visited Washington October 28–30.
  2. See Document 221.
  3. The celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian monarchy, October 12–18.
  4. General Yahya Khan assumed power on March 31, 1969, as martial law administrator and subsequently assumed the office of President of Pakistan. His efforts to control secessionist sentiment in East Pakistan set the stage for the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. Following Pakistanʼs defeat, President Yahya Khan was forced from office on December 20.
  5. Apparent reference to their August 2 Treaty of Amity.
  6. For text of the June 2, 1955, declaration, see Keesingʼs Contemporary Archives, 1955–1956, pp. 14256–14257.
  7. October 25–30. Brezhnev held meetings with French President Pompidou and other French officials.
  8. Regarding the U.S. response to the August Soviet maneuvers, see Document 206.
  9. On April 16, 1970, Yugoslavia named a new Ambassador after a 12-year hiatus in its representation at Beijing.
  10. Apparent reference to Titoʼs comments made as a toast at a reception honoring Brezhnev during his September 22–25 Yugoslav visit.
  11. October 11–13.
  12. Extracts from Sadatʼs July 26 speech are in Keesingʼs Contemporary Archives, 1971–1972, p. 25031.
  13. No record of their dinner conversation was found.