13. Memorandum for the President’s File by William J. Jorden of the National Security Council Staff1


  • Meeting with Board of Trustees of the Council of the Americas on Thursday, June 7, 1973 at 11:35 a.m to 12:30 p.m.


  • The President
  • Secretary of State Rogers
  • Brent Scowcroft (NSC)
  • William J. Jorden (NSC)
  • Board of Trustees of the Council of the Americas (list attached)

[Omitted here are Rogers’s remarks concerning his Latin American mission, Council of the Americas Chairman Jose de Cubas’s introductory points, and Nixon’s comments on foreign investment.]

The President said a new wave of isolationism had surfaced—in Congress, in labor, and even in some business circles. You men, with an international mission, have to counteract this trend to isolationism. Otherwise our hopes for a more open world will go down the drain. He agreed that we need more flexibility in legislation on expropriation, flexibility for the President and the Administration. But he noted that there were Congressional problems that result from both domestic pressures and from public attitudes in Latin America. The President said that the attitude of some countries in Latin America is to play to the radical groups and to believe that the way to success is to kick the U.S. around publicly. He quoted a politician in the Philippines who once said: “Give the Americans hell—but don’t drive them away.” It is important for Latin American leaders to understand that they can only go so far before they drive us away. The Congress reacts to these things. Many Americans are tired of being kicked around.

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(He cited the example of Echeverria of Mexico who “goes around attacking us but privately is friendly.”2 But the real questions are: what do we do about Mexican tomatoes, what do we do about salinity?)

A serious problem is those politicians who exploit the radical activists. We must fight this to the extent we can. We must get our friends—in government, in business—to know that this is a dangerous game.

(He quoted Henry Cabot Lodge as saying that Latin America was important in the UN and that without them the U.S. position would be weak.) We realize that Latin America is important. But the truth is that they need us more than we need them. He noted that government aid was a small proportion of our total involvement ($16 billion invested). But when you go to Congress to try to get more done, it is rough. And it is getting rougher.

The President then reminisced about how much different the situation was today than when he last met with the Council of the Americas Trustees in November 1969. Then, he said, there were 300,000 demonstrators around the White House. We were losing 300 men a week in Vietnam. We were in confrontation with the Russians. We had no contact with China. The situation in Latin America was about the same, maybe a little better. When we see the changes that have taken place, there is no reason for euphoria but there is reason for hope. However, we live in a potentially dangerous world. A basic fact is that with the advent of nuclear weapons, there will be no conventional wars between major powers. Now it will all be done in 30 minutes.

It is important that we realize what we have done in the world despite the threat of war. The people are pleased with the end of the Vietnam War. Far more important is what we have done to change the world. That is what the China initiative was all about. It was not just handshaking. As President, I could not let one-fourth of the people of the world—with a future as a nuclear power—not have relations with us. We must look down the road 15 to 20 years in terms of our commu[Page 65]nications with them. Interestingly enough, the U.S. is China’s best friend.

Another thing—the meetings with the Soviet Union in Moscow3 were important. A number of agreements were signed. Overriding all of them was the first step in limiting nuclear arms. Far more important is the fact that the U.S. and the Soviet Union are in a position where we are negotiating. We have to find a way to avoid a nuclear explosion. The important thing is the fact that there is communication. The reason for that communication: the U.S. and Soviets are equal (in power) and China will be equal in 15 years. If a President of the U.S. decides he has to react, it means the death of 70 million Russians and 70 million Americans. “Anyone who sits in this chair has to avoid that happening,” he said.

There is a tendency in Congress toward increasing isolationism. They see the end of the war in Vietnam and say “isn’t that nice—let’s cut $10 billion from the Defense budget.” We should not cut the Defense budget at this time because it means changing the game plan which is working. But that is what Congress is doing when it says “regardless of what you do, we are going to cut.” We have to recognize that nothing is done in this field (détente) from love. It is done from respect, even fear. There must be mutual cuts. Otherwise our bargaining position is incredibly weaker. Our allies will lose trust. The Soviets will lose respect. And China will no longer feel that agreements with us are important.

We face the stark fact that in a nuclear world we are the only free country that counts. The British and French don’t have the power; the Germans are not allowed to develop nuclear weapons; Japan must not be allowed to develop them. In terms of security of our alliances the power is all right here. Japan is keenly aware that without us, they will (1) have to make a deal with the Soviets or (2) go nuclear.

As for Latin America, we care about our closest friends there. Our actions (on other problems) should not be read as meaning we don’t care.

This is not true. What we are talking about has great importance for our close friends and neighbors. They have a stake in a peaceful world. Latin America is most important to us. Vitally important in terms of economics. We must do everything we can to reinforce our interest. But we must also let them know that it is to their advantage to work with us. However, we should not infringe on their sensitivities.

The major danger spot is the Middle East. There are no easy answers. But we are working on it. It is the most likely area of big power [Page 66] conflict. The Vietnam war was not that important to Soviet interests. The Middle East is that important. Europe gets 90% of its fuel from the Middle East. Japan gets 80% of its fuel from there.

I raise these other parts of the world—not to downgrade Latin America, but to put things in perspective. We must get along with the Soviet Union and with China. We must get along with Europe. Latin America is still important to us, even more important than it was. Your concerns will get our deepest consideration. We need your support, in defense and in total policy. For our friendship with Latin America will not be important if we become the second most powerful nation.

Mr. David Rockefeller said he agreed with everything the President had said. He said that Latin Americans note that we talk of the Five Major Power centers (the U.S., Europe, the Soviet Union, China and Japan). They ask: where are we in that scheme? It is important for us to find ways to assure them of our esteem.

Regarding investment, it is big—$16 billion is already at stake. However, private enterprise is under fire there (in Latin America) and in our own Congress. We have a defensive battle of our own. It is all the more important for us to find ways for our role to be constructive. We need a more organized role with the U.S. Government and Latin governments. The Council’s proposed idea of an advisory council could contribute toward this.

The President said he did not want to end the meeting on a downbeat note. There are always many danger spots. The world, in terms of the long view, is a safer place than it was four years ago. It is not in the nature of men to love one another; but that doesn’t mean they need to fight one another. My greatest goal in the next four years is to make the world even more safe than it is now.

Toasts and speeches are all froth. “We need to get more body to this beer.” We cannot bug out on our responsibilities.

The President concluded the meeting by thanking the members of the Council for their advice and their time. He walked around the Cabinet table and shook hands personally with each of the Trustees. The meeting concluded at 12:30 p.m.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Staff Member and Office Files, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, President’s Meeting File, 1969–1974, Box 92, Memoranda for the President—Beginning June 3 [1973]. Confidential. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place in the White House Cabinet Room from 11:33 a.m. until 12:31 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) A list of attendees is attached but not printed. The Council of the Americas is a business organization founded by financier David Rockefeller to promote hemispheric free trade and open markets.
  2. On March 26 Kissinger, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy in Mexico City Robert Dean, and NSC Staff member Jonathan Howe met with Echeverría at the Presidential residence at Las Pinos. According to a memorandum of conversation, Kissinger commented: “We have difficulty with Latin America because it is imperative for leaders to make anti-U.S. statements in order to take pro-U.S. measures (Echeverria laughs deeply). So, I understand. But if it goes beyond a certain point, then it turns into a contest between the developed United States and the underdeveloped world. It faces us with a dilemma. It helps create a political structure which freezes a country into a posture against us. And, as I say, this does create a real dilemma. We want independence but also a structure in which we can get along together.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 788, Country Files—Latin America, Mexico, Vol. IV, 1973 [1 of 3]) The full memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–11, Documents on American Republics, 1973–1976.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 7.