96. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Finland1

157690. Subj: Secretaryʼs Conversation with Finnish Foreign Minister Sept 12. Ref: Helsinki 946.2 Following summary FYI only and Noforn. It is uncleared and subject to revision upon review.

After Finnish Ambassadorʼs dinner Sept 12 honoring Secretary and Foreign Minister Karjalainen, they retired to library for informal conversation. Ambassador and small group of Foreign Ministry and Dept officers also present.
Main topics discussed were:
SALT: Secretary said we are thinking of proposing Helsinki as one of possible places for talks. Karjalainen replied Finland hopes for successful SALT talks and would be pleased if Helsinki is site, provided US and USSR want this. In response question, Karjalainen said Soviets “probably” really desire arms limitations, partly for economic reasons.
Sino-Soviet Split: In response question, Karjalainen said Finland had good contacts with both parties. He said China does not seem to expect war and situation is not bothering USSR leaders much either. The latter think China will be an “actual” problem in 10 or 20 years.
European Security Conference: Karjalainen reported that USSR leaders sincerely want an ESC. Finlandʼs May suggestion of bilateral discussions leading to preliminary conference and ESC in Helsinki was entirely its own initiative in attempt get some movement, according to Karjalainen. The Secretary said US interested in any kind of discussion with USSR, especially about Europe. While US favors ESC, in principle, we have reservations about intentions of USSR in conference. A conference, with many people dealing with complex problems, could exacerbate East-West relations. We want to find out what the USSR has in mind. We think USSR may want mainly to distract world attention from its actions in Czechoslovakia. When US knows what Soviets have in mind, and after NATO and bilateral discussions, we will consider participation in ESC. If conference agreed on, Helsinki would be acceptable to us as site.
Viet-Nam: Secretary emphasized that US position is reasonable; American people support Nixon administration 2 to 1 on conduct of war; US is open to any proposal which will allow South Viet-Nam choose own future except proposal that US unilaterally withdraw. If North Viet-Nam continues to refuse to negotiate seriously in Paris, we will gradually withdraw and turn over responsibility for defense to South Viet-Nam as soon as they are ready with trained manpower and equipment and weapons provided by US to assume self-defense burden. We hope that perhaps USSR will decide it is to its advantage to pressure NVN to negotiate, particularly in view of USSR difficulties with China. The US has no interest in invading NVN but will not leave SVN until the South can determine its own future. In response to question, the Secretary said that in short range Ho Chi Minhʼs death3 would probably not change situation, but in longer run it would have effect. For one thing, there is no other NVN leader who has Hoʼs charismatic appeal in South.
Middle East: Secretary said we neither pro-Israel nor anti-Arab; present situation is discouraging because neither side interested in settlement now; US is still ready to talk to anyone about ME. UN discussion sometimes is useful as damper on activity in ME. The US willing to go on talking with USSR, UK and France but not optimistic of results at present. Foreign Minister said Finland considers ME problem serious one, especially as people of area are so demonstrative that there is danger of escalation of conflict.
Karjalainen thanked Secretary for opportunity, already almost a tradition, to discuss informally matters of mutual interest just prior to UNGA session. He expressed hope that contact between himself and Secretary might be maintained and expressed Finlandʼs willingness to be helpful in any way it can. The Secretary expressed pleasure at meeting with Foreign Minister and remarked that we consider Finland a neutral in the best sense. There are neutrals and neutrals. The US understands Finlandʼs position and approves of it. It is harder to understand Swedish sort of neutrality.
Cleared Memorandum will be air-pouched.4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL FIN–US. Confidential; Noforn; Limdis. Drafted by Paul Hughes (EUR/SCAN) on September 16; cleared by Ingram (EUR/SCAN), McGuire (EUR/RPM), Okun (S), Harbin (EA/VN), and Gleysteen (S/S); and approved by Hillenbrand.
  2. Dated September 16, 1969. Ibid.
  3. The North Vietnamese President died on September 3.
  4. Memoranda of this conversation are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL FIN–US.