368. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1 2


  • Impending Canadian Unilateral Action in the Arctic—Secretary Rogers Wishes You to Telephone Trudeau

On March 11, the Canadians officially informed Under Secretary Johnson that Canada is considering taking certain unilateral actions relating to the Arctic and law of the sea issues, designed to protect the Arctic environment. By legislative action, the Canadians would deal with issues of sovereignty, pollution control and exclusive fishing zones. The Canadian demarche of March 11 was in effect notification of Canadian intent to act unilaterally.

Secretary Rogers in the attached package urges you to telephone Trudeau to express our grave concern and to back up an oral presentation which the Secretary would shortly thereafter make to the Canadian Ambassador.

Deputy Defense Secretary Packard has certain reservations concerning the proposed presentation by Secretary Rogers, particularly to a passage in which he would state that “The United States thus would be required to take lawful and appropriate steps to protect the integrity of its position in these matters.” Although Secretary Rogers would not go beyond this sentence the actions contemplated by the State Department would include continuation of passage and overflight through the waters and the airspace in question by US public vessels and aircraft at present levels. As I understand it, Secretary Packard would prefer to have a high-level US team go to Ottawa to discuss the Canadian moves and their implications before such a far-reaching threat is made.

At the same time, I understand that Trudeau would be receptive to intervention by you since it would help him to meet the very considerable pressures to which he has been subjected on the question of the Arctic and which have precipitated the Canadian decision to act.

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Your Talking Points

That you are gravely disturbed by the presentation Ambassador Cadieux made to Alexis Johnson on March 11 concerning Canada’s intention to take unilateral actions with regard to the Arctic and other areas of the high seas;
The contemplated Canadian legislation would, in your view, present serious security and economic problems to the United States, which the Secretary of State intends to discuss at greater length in an interview with. Ambassador Cadieux;
That you share Trudeau’s concern for the preservation of the Arctic environment;
But that instead of unilateral actions by Canada, you hope we can work together on a cooperative international basis; and
That you would be prepared at once to send a high-level US team to discuss these matters with appropriate Canadian officials and to consider various options including the possibility of international cooperative efforts.

If you approve, I will inform Secretary Rogers of the foregoing and suggest that for the time being the more threatening elements of his presentation be withheld, pending the proposed trip to Ottawa by a high-level US group which would include Deputy Secretary Packard. This step would enable us to examine more fully the implications of possible retaliatory measures.



See me

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 670, Country Files, Europe, Canada, March 1969-August 1970 (1 of 2). Secret. Sent for action. Next to the approval line, Nixon wrote: “I called Trudeau. He agreed to hold up until he talked to team-I informed Alex of the call-I have one reservation-perhaps appointing Packard puts too much military emphasis.” According to Document 369, Nixon called Trudeau on March 17. In the attached March 16 memorandum to Nixon, Rogers also explained the dangers posed to U.S. interests by unilateral Canadian action and outlined in detail the points he would convey to Ambassador Cadieux immediately after Nixon spoke to Trudeau.
  2. Kissinger informed Nixon that proposed Canadian legislation to protect Arctic waters and fisheries would prejudice U.S. interests and recommended that the President telephone Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Nixon called Trudeau and arranged for a team of U.S. representatives to travel to Ottawa to discuss concerns.