103. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger1
P: Hello, Henry.
K: Mr. President.
P: Apparently the battle is started, huh?
K: Yeah. They are apparently bombing Nicosia and firing on another town and we haven’t had a Greek reaction yet. I’ve got Sisco going to Athens under protest because he thinks it might be a little dangerous for him there.
K: But I figure if Tasca can stand it, he must be able to stand it.
P: Dangerous in the sense of anti-Americanism?
K: Yeah. That’s all right, Mr. President, that’s what they pay under-secretaries for.
P: God almighty, that’s what they pay us all for.
K: That’s right.
P: And with Tasca there I should think he could have some—if anybody could have any influence with the people. Thank God he’s there; he’s a tough guy.
K: He’s a good fellow.
P: What does he report?
K: We haven’t had anything from Athens yet—not one word.
P: You think this is the kind of a thing that requires—that they feel my presence in Washington—that I have to get the hell back there for this thing?
K: Not yet, but if the Greeks attack the Turks, Mr. President, then I think you should go back to Washington. If it leads to a major war.
P: Yeah, and then what do we do there?
K: Not much but I think…
P: I have to be there.
N: That is all that matters is that you know we can do everything—I can do everything here that I could do in Washington.[Page 337]
K: You remember we had the same problem when the Mid East war started—you were in Key Biscayne and we advised strongly not to move.
N: In the Mid East we had basically interests that were—well—
K: We didn’t want to exacerbate the situation and there wasn’t anything you could do in Washington that you couldn’t do in Key Biscayne—But let’s see how the Greeks react, Mr. President. There is still a 10% chance that this thing will be settled by Monday.2
K: Well, if the Greeks accept Clerides as a solution and if they—and if the Greeks and Turks then meet in London, I think we could get a ceasefire.
N: And you don’t want to go to the UN because that’ll get the Russians in it.
K: Well we can go to the UN in a few hours—it’s the middle of the night.
N: Oh, I know, I know.
K: But it won’t contribute much—we can do it tomorrow morning.
N: Well as you know Henry, there is always a damn symbolism in the UN—you and I both know what a mine field it is, but I don’t know.
K: The UN is going to meet again tomorrow morning, Mr. President. They met on Cyprus today.
N: Yep. Security Council.
K: Yeh. I think to call them in the middle of the night when neither of the parties involved—
N: No, no, no. That’s the point, I just—it is—
K: I would wait until tomorrow morning on the UN.
N: Just so we can avoid the appearance that we are not completely on top of it and I think we certainly are—now you are planning to go back tomorrow afternoon?
K: That is right, Mr. President. That’s night out there and that gives me a chance to get on top of it.
N: Hell, you are on top of it here too.
K: What I mean is I’ll be travelling while people are sleeping out there—in the Middle East.
N: True, true. Thank God it isn’t Syria and Israel or something like that—that’d be worse wouldn’t it?
K: Well before your term is over Mr. President, we’ll have that privilege too.[Page 338]
N: I hope not.
K: I hope not, but I wouldn’t lay odds on it.
N: That depends on our Israeli friends to a great extent—we are going to keep a very strong line there—anybody who gets arms from the US by golly to use it—this of course is the Cyprus thing—an…
K: [1 line not declassified]
N: [1 line not declassified]
K: [1½ lines not declassified]
N: Yeah, yeah. It is really what we have here as far as the Turks are concerned as you pointed out is just one of the problems you have when you have a weak government and they want a foreign adventure to prove their toughness.
K: And a great opportunity—the Greek government … and the—and isolated itself; the Cypriot government can get no international support being headed by a professional gunman and so the Turks did what they have been wanting to do for 15 years—establish a predominant position on Cyprus.
N: And the Greeks will never let them do that.
K: No, but the only place the Greeks can fight them is not in Cyprus but some other place.
N: Now tell me just in that connection, Henry, what is the alignment of forces there—the Greeks don’t have enough forces there, I mean if they control the Cypriot government, I would assume that—
K: The Greeks have only about 9,000 men on the island and the Turks and the Turks have probably … over about 3,000 or 4,000, 2,000 seaborne and about 2,000 airborne, but the Turks are much better equipped and they can reinforce much faster.
N: They can, huh.
N: So what would the Greeks do—I’m just trying to—
K: Well, the Greeks will either negotiate or they will attack the Turks in Thrace.
K: I don’t exclude that they’ll negotiate Mr. President. If Sisco hasn’t lost his nerve completely, I think they can be gotten to negotiate.
N: God Sisco may lose his nerve, but Tasca won’t. Don’t underestimate what he can do. He will put the arm on him now.
K: No, no, I have already gotten instruction to him, Mr. President.3 And he has—he is already working.[Page 339]
N: And they know too the penalty of failing to negotiate is a—they just rupture their situation with us—they break it right, don’t they?
K: That is right. First.
N: That of course isn’t much of an option for us—consider what it does to NATO.
K: Exactly. No, it is a mess. It is two totally irresponsible governments going at each other.
N: We got to posture needless to say in a way that we are not—that we aren’t responsible for the damn thing. I don’t think—except for a few nuts—that what, that we could have saved this fellow—how could we have saved him.
K: Who Makarios?
K: There was no way we could have saved Makarios—the question was could we have brought him back faster. The answer was he didn’t even show up in London till Wednesday4—that night we sent Sisco there—Mr. President, I have Callaghan calling me5—should I take that call and then call you back.
N: You could do it and then call me. Right.6
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 384, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking.↩
- July 22.↩
- Instructions were relayed in telegrams 156801 and 157127 to Ankara, both dated July 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974)↩
- July 17.↩
- Kissinger spoke to Callaghan at 10:15 p.m. PDT. Callaghan suggested that if Sisco could persuade the Greeks to replace Sampson with Clerides, then the Turks might motivate the Turkish Cypriots to support a cease-fire. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 384, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)↩
- No record of this conversation has been found.↩