29. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting1

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to national security policy.]

Secretary Kissinger: All right.

Sy [Weiss]—on overseas bases?

Mr. Weiss: You’ve asked from time to time that we try to bring to your attention things that are on a somewhat longer basis—

Secretary Kissinger: Yes.


Mr. Weiss:—and I wasn’t going to repeat Winston’s [Lord] remarks.2 You know, there are essentially three points that we touch on in the paper.3 The first has to do with the growing nature of the quid pro quo, what it might get them. The defense budget might usefully lend itself to this with regard to aid. And the second is the terms and circumstances under which negotiations—

Secretary Kissinger: I made some marginal comments on it when I read it. Now I’ve forgotten.

Mr. Weiss: In any event, the second had to do with the extent to which we may find it necessary—or even in our interests—to build a treaty group with respect to other ways of extending agreements. The third had to do with the special ways of extending Mediterranean bases.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, what I’m interested in, before we get to the technical issues, is to get a look at our base structure today—whether we’re in a position to fight in those areas where we are most likely to fight—and, especially, to analyze what are strategically the most important areas. I would think that the Persian Gulf and the Middle East rate very high now.

Now, is our base structure directed towards involving ourselves in those areas? I would doubt it very seriously.

Mr. Weiss: It is not, and we’ve known this for some time. And we’ve had a difficult time in the past getting people to face up to this fact. Congress has defended their base structure in the past. Wherever we move you’re going to face hell getting it. I’ve talked with a number [Page 134] of the senior people in Defense, and this was a very sobering experience for them. And we are now trying to pursue this with them.

Secretary Kissinger: What bases did they think they could use in the event they couldn’t use some?

Mr. Weiss: Well, even Spain, for example. Of course, the Spaniards did to some extent turn, you know—turn away.

Secretary Kissinger: I know. But any FSO–8 who works on the Spanish Desk could have told them that the Spaniards wouldn’t let them use bases directed against the Arabs.

Mr. Weiss: We know that, and we did tell them. But they resisted.

Secretary Kissinger: Is there such a thing as an FSO–8?

Mr. Brown: Very few!


Secretary Kissinger: You are the Career Minister?

Mr. Brown: That’s right.

Mr. Weiss: We’re doing precisely now what you suggest. I don’t know how soon we’ll have the results, but I think the major difference is that the people in Defense—Bill [Casey] may want to speak to this; he’s involved in various aspects of it—are now becoming more realistic. The alternatives are not the answer; the alternatives are not terribly promising. There are very useful places where one could say, from a political point of view, we very likely could utilize it—and in a particular contingency, in an Arab-Israeli engagement.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, we have two problems. One is an Arab-Israeli engagement; the other is the possibility that we may have to intervene at some time to protect access to raw materials.

And we are now living in a never-never land, I am certain, in which tiny, poor and weak nations can hold up for ransom some of the industrialized world. So once you get a lowering of the living standard of the world, it’s untenable.

This may be five years away. I cannot believe that all nations will permit a situation like this over a period of time. In addition to whether you want to do it, your capability of doing it will affect the assessment that these rulers make as to what they can get away with.

Mr. Weiss: And there is a further interaction because if we do get to that point in time then—

Secretary Kissinger: Excuse me for talking like this!


Mr. Weiss:—the political willingness, of course, of some of these states may change too. For example, if the Europeans reach the same conclusion that it becomes untenable to be squeezed in that way, then [Page 135] their willingness to let us utilize bases would be quite different than in the present circumstances.

Well, these are things that we’re now looking at. It will be a long time.

Secretary Kissinger: If we wanted to intervene in the Persian Gulf today, what would be our capabilities? Is it possible to get an analysis of that question?

Mr. Weiss: Yes; we can get it. I can tell you offhand it depends on the precise circumstances. For example, you have Diego [Garcia]. We have another memo on its way to you.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, with Diego we have trouble flying reconnaissance planes out right now.

Mr. Weiss: Well, there has been some further discussion with the British. Defense has a very large increase in its budget for substantially updating its facilities. They’re including a larger airfield and so forth. We’re going to have some problems with the British on this because, as you know, we treated it as an austere operating facility and now we’re talking about making it into a more updated base. I don’t think it’s unnecessary, undue.

Mr. Casey: Is one of the problems the long-term lease of one of those facilities?

Mr. Weiss: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: They collect more!


Mr. Rush: What page is he on in that book, do you know?

Secretary Kissinger: At least a hundred pages worth of cables to me!


Mr. Weiss: But there are other possibilities out there. As I’m sure you’re aware, Defense is thinking about Ethiopia—the air capability there. Now, how durable these things are there—I think we’re a long way—

Secretary Kissinger: After pushing us away.

Mr. Newsom: Can I make a comment on this paper,4 Mr. Secretary? I think the discussion of possible defense funding doesn’t really highlight enough two aspects of quid pro quos for bases. One is the volume of money—the amount of money—that would be required. It would be very difficult to get out of the usual defense budget. And the second is the fact that many of the developing countries which may be [Page 136] prepared to offer us bases do not want to receive money which looks like rent. They want to receive assistance which they can use for their own political advantages. And I think any study of this kind should highlight the fact that the real resources that we can use for quid pro quo—military—and, to a lesser extent, economic assistance—are declining, and declining substantially, so that we can’t really begin to talk.

The Ethiopians are a perfect case. If we go back into Ethiopia with any substantial activity, we’re going to have to talk to them in terms of military assistance of a volume quite beyond anything that is feasible at the present time. And just defense fund rent is not going to meet either the political or the financial requirements of the situation.

Mr. Weiss: I agree with Dave [Newsom], but all this really points up is the kind of dilemma that we have—because, on the one hand, is our desire to have a capacity, flexibility, to involve ourselves, if it’s in our national interest to do so. On the other hand, the two sources that anybody has thought about—neither seems to be readily available or necessarily suitable in all respects.

Secretary Kissinger: Tom [Pickering], would you ask Scowcroft to get an NSC study of this problem?

Mr. Pickering: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t think we can do it entirely in State—to get a NSSM out on, first, the strategic implications of base structure—and, second, raising the legal and funding problems that Sy has raised—and give it a fairly short deadline—say, six weeks.

Mr. Pickering: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: And it should be related to foreseeable threats and foreseeable diplomacy.

You know, Defense has an idea to use Portuguese bases.

Mr. Porter: That’s right. Extension bases. But they’re getting pretty hot about it.

Secretary Kissinger: I know. I think that’s an expensive thing.

Mr. Weiss: May I ask one question in this regard? You would like this, in effect, worldwide and not just limited to the Persian Gulf?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, worldwide. And then I want to identify possible areas in which the United States might have to operate over the next 15 years—or, if it does not have to operate, they may want to project military or economic influence—because if you have no plausible capability of intervening, then you can’t even use your military power.

I’d like to do that on a worldwide basis and then see what types of bases and where we should strive for. Then we should look at the funding problems in that context.

[Page 137]

Mr. Ingersoll: May I raise a point on the funding? The recommendation of rentals being offered would set a bad precedent for Japan and the Philippines, where we paid our rentals.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes.

Mr. Ingersoll: This would increase the bill. Whenever you do it someplace, then you have to look at it elsewhere.

Secretary Kissinger: In those cases where we are familiar with the bases—such as Japan or Spain—I think the pressures are to move in the direction of more political things.

Mr. Weiss: Absolutely; that’s what they really want.

Secretary Kissinger: And, therefore, I don’t think that the defense rule is going to be politically the most accepted.

Mr. Weiss: I agree with that. This is one of the things that we’re looking at in this study that we looked at earlier—namely, the aid program. We may have to put increased emphasis on that. But, at this point, it’s going to be hard to be optimistic to persuade Mr. Fulbright that you should get more money for extension of AID programs overseas.

Mr. Ingersoll: But we want to get AID to pay more of the cost rather than for us to pay them.

Mr. Weiss: But a similar situation.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I think the honeymoon with Fulbright is going to end on that issue.


[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to national security policy.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Lot File 78D443, Box 2, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret. Kissinger chaired the meeting, attended by all of the Department’s principal officers or their designated alternates.
  2. Lord began the meeting by discussing Japanese-American relations.
  3. Not further identified and not found.
  4. The referenced paper is not further identified.