329. Memorandum of Conversation1
- The President
- Prime Minister Heath, of Great Britain
- Sir Burke Trend, British Cabinet Secretary
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
The meeting took place at the end of the President’s European trip on a day which had started in Madrid.2
The President began the conversation by saying that at the outset he wanted to establish a close personal communication. He continued, “If anything comes up, please call it right. We will keep things in confidence. We will forget it has even been suggested. The need for communication has never been greater. We will continue to face major problems in the Middle East. SALT is quite undetermined. Tell us where you disagree. We will feel free to ask your advice. We do not want to be the only country making foreign policy. We want your par[Page 986]ticipation east of Suez so that we are not the only non-Asian power present there. The same is true in East-West relations. We will feel free about your relations with the Soviets, and we will keep you informed about ours.”
Prime Minister Heath replied that he liked this relationship. He believed that human relationships can be quite important. Maybe the world is moving in a more flexible direction; and, certainly, Britain would like to continue to play a world role. In the Far East, Lord Carrington had worked out arrangements with the four Commonwealth countries to keep a composite force in Singapore.3 It was done quietly. The British will talk to Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister Heath added.
The President then turned to Vietnam. He summed up the situation as follows: (1) we will continue our withdrawal program; (2) we will make a new initiative in the negotiations; (3) we did not go into Cambodia to save the government,4 but it worked out that way; (4) the impact on the American character of a defeat in Vietnam would be catastrophic. We need a psychological offensive in the United States to get a united American people to maintain their role in the world.
Prime Minister Heath replied, “The way you are handling Vietnam is crucial for Europe, but it is also crucial for the Soviet attitude towards Europe. If the Soviets feel you are in retreat and humiliated, they will reactivate their policy in Europe.”
Prime Minister Heath said, “One advantage of our presence in the Far East is to keep Australians in Singapore.” The President said he hoped this would be so because he wanted to continue to cooperate. Prime Minister Heath responded, “We are concerned with the Indian Ocean. The Soviets are building up. Our strength from Simonstown5 is not too great. We will help you via communications equipment and personnel for Diego Garcia. The problem that concerns us is a blackmail situation vis-à-vis us and Europe. No one suggests war is likely, but a blackmail capability along the vital routes around the Cape is serious enough.”[Page 987]
Prime Minister Heath therefore said he believes the Simonstown Agreement6 should be maintained. He continued that the U.K. was having a major problem with the black African countries about this agreement, but that its position would not change. The President replied that the U.S. would do nothing to embarrass the U.K.
Prime Minister Heath continued, “The disagreements do not seem to me to be enough for other countries to leave the Commonwealth. We do not ask your support but if your Ambassadors could (1) tell the Africans that Heath is not a racist and (2) that they shouldn’t leave the Commonwealth on this issue, it would be a big help.” The President said the U.S. would do that. Heath said he thought that Apartheid was breaking down for economic reasons.
Prime Minister Heath turned to the Soviet issues and asked, “What are the Soviets up to?”
The President said, “Maybe they are confused and without a plan. What disturbs me is the change in the strategic balance.” He compared the figures between the 1962 missile crisis and now. “The period of nuclear standoff has at last arrived. I think the Soviets want to weaken the alliance.”
The President added that the Soviets did not want a confrontation but if Cienfuegos becomes a nuclear sub installation7 we would stand up and we would have a major crisis.
The group then broke for lunch.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 727, Country Files—Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. IV. Top Secret; Sensitive.↩
- The President arrived in London from Spain at 11:13 a.m., October 3. He took a helicopter from Heathrow Airport to Chequers and met with Heath from 11:50 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. The two men broke off their talks to meet with Queen Elizabeth and attend a luncheon. The talks resumed at approximately 3:25 p.m. The President returned to Heathrow shortly after 4 p.m. and departed for Shannon Airport, Ireland, at 4:29 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)↩
- During the June 19–20 Commonwealth meeting on post-British withdrawal from the Far East, Australia and New Zealand announced they would maintain troops in Singapore and Malaysia. Lee Kuan Yew had criticized these arrangements.↩
- On March 18, General Lon Nol overthrew the government of Prince Sihanouk. On April 29, the United States sent military forces into Cambodia in an effort to destroy North Vietnamese forces and supply lines that enjoyed a sanctuary in that nation.↩
- Reference to the U.K. naval base in South Africa.↩
- Reference to the June 30, 1955, defense agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa. For text, see 248 UNTS 191.↩
- Reference to the confrontation between the United States and Soviet Union over the construction of military support facilities at Cienfuegos, Cuba that began in the fall of 1969 with the discovery of Soviet activities and reached its climax during the fall of 1970. The confrontation was defused by a Soviet pledge not to utilize the area as a submarine base.↩