245. Memorandum of Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and Members of the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees1 2


  • The Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary Ingersoll
  • Linwood Holton
  • Congressman Fraser
  • Senator Cranston
  • Congressman Gibbons
  • Congressman Bingham
  • Congressman Biester
  • Congressman Harrington
  • Congressman Roe
  • Congressman Buchanan
  • Parker Borg (notetaker)


  • Human Rights

The Secretary: I hope we can have several of these meetings as the new Congress begins. I’d like to get your views on a number of subjects. I hope these sessions will not be confrontations. We hope that we will be able to let you know what our problems are and what Congress might be able to do to help us.

Mr. Holton: I think we should address first the confidentiality of this session. How do you want to handle it?

Congressman Fraser: We’ll accept your ground rules.

The Secretary: Since we’d like to discuss a wide variety of matters, I think it would be best to keep all of this off the record.

Congressman Fraser: We appreciate very much the opportunity to meet with you. We know you have a very busy schedule. We also know of the many positive things which have been done recently in the field of human rights; the appointment of human rights officers. We also appreciate very much the assistance which Deputy Secretary Ingersoll has been on the Korean human rights problem. We originally proposed this meeting because of the New York Times article not too long ago about U.S. involvement in Chilean affairs, but that is all past history. We’re interested now in where we go from here. About 13 of us had lunch yesterday and all expressed approximately the same sentiment. Basically we feel [Page 2] it’s very difficult to continue to support foreign assistance programs to governments which oppress their own people. We feel that the United States should be putting stronger emphasis on human rights issues in countries around the world. Don’t be mistaken, we are all internationalists and believe that the United States has an important role to play in the world community. As part of the Foreign Aid Bill, for example, we have provided an additional 20 million for Korea if the President reports to Congress that the government of South Korea is making substantial progress in the observance of internationally recognized standards of human rights.

Senator Cranston: The Aid Bill was decided by one vote in the Senate. Many of us have continuing problems with the Foreign Aid Bill because of the human rights issue.

The Secretary: Let me start by giving you some of my views on the human rights issue—how the United States perceives foreign policy. About one month after I came into office, I spoke at the Pacem In Terris Conference on Gaullism and the greatness of France. I think we have a similar issue in relation to human rights in the U.S. Foreign Policy. The United States stands for something, on that I agree. We have no dispute. I would be prepared to meet with Congressman and Senators to discuss this on any occasion, but there are a number of problems. First there is the issue of tactics. On any given issue, how should we express our views on human rights issues. For example, the current dispute between Senator Jackson and the State Department on the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union. We do not believe in the involvement by the United States in the internal affairs of the Soviet Union. This is not going to be helpful in our relations. When we started talking quietly there were only 400 Jews allowed to depart annually. By quiet discussions we were able to build up the number of 35,000. In our view it is the results that are important, not the publicity. We’d like to use our better relations with the Soviet Union to permit them to solve their problem. Take Chile as another example. I could give you a list of representations we’ve made to the Chilean Government on behalf of human rights. I can cite one specific case where Minister Rabasa at an OAS meeting had asked for the release of 200 people who had taken asylum in various embassies in Santiago. I spoke with the Foreign Minister and our Ambassador said things to the General. We said if you can work out some way to release these people, you’ll get the credit. There will be no mention of American involvement. Rabasa went down subsequently and was able to secure their release. Another example is the case of Kudirka the Lithuanian seaman who tried to jump ship a couple of years ago. President Ford met with Dobrynin shortly after coming into office. Dobrynin asked for a general reaffirmation of all former commitments between the United States and the Soviet Union. The President made a very [Page 3] strong pitch about the release of Kudirka. He said we don’t want a cause celebre. If you can work out a way to release him, we won’t say anything. The Russians released him, we said nothing, but others claimed victory. The Russians were upset and thought we had gone back on our word, which in fact we hadn’t. We had not said anything but others had felt very strongly that they should make something out of it.

Beyond the issue of tactics, there’s a more fundamental issue. I think the best way to explain this might be by using an example from World War II when we made a decision to support the Soviet Union against the Germans. Some countries in certain circumstances must be supported no matter how unpleasant it might seem. A cut off of aid to Turkey, for example, would create larger problems even if we felt Turkey had acted incorrectly. We must not confuse what is convenience with what is essential. Congress has every right to question when issues of national security are raised. Even in national security issues, we should use what influence we have to promote the basic fundamentals of human rights. In determining values we must first define our terms. American institutions cannot be automatically translated and made meaningful to every country in the world.

I look upon the present as being similar to the period right after 1945. We have all suffered, we lack national self confidence and the resources to do many of the things that we would like to do. We cannot afford internal splits at this time. I will do my best to get policies on human rights which you can support, but foreign aid is very important and you must understand that we are not going to be able to meet this stiff criteria which you are setting for human rights in all instances.

Congressman Gibbons: It is the emphasis on military aid which bothers us. We can see a situation where the United States gets into giving aid to both sides as they did in the Indo-Pakistan situation a couple of years ago.

The Secretary: I think we have to look at the nature of the military governments. The juntas which we find in power in many parts of the world have often imposed themselves on reluctant populations. You can ask the question why do the military take over. Often the military is the only group in the developing society which is open to commoners. An oligarchy is in power and controls everything. The military offers one way that a person can move his way from the bottom to the top. Take the case of Peru. We’re not giving any aid to Peru at the present time, but our inaction is for the wrong reasons. I think it was probably because of the IPC expropriations a couple of years ago. Now the Soviets have sold weapons to Peruvians and the Cubans are offering training to them. Their neighbors are all upset. If we offered training and weapons to countries like Peru, then we have a better control over their policies.

[Page 4]

Take the example of Korea. Korea has a very strong powerful enemy to the north. The Japanese and other countries in the area rely very heavily on Korea for stability. In the Indo-Pakistani situation the continuing need for spare parts provides us with some influence over their military policies.

Congressman Bingham: Could you please address the $20 million supplemental program for aid to Korea which is tied to the improvement in the human rights situation.

The Secretary: I haven’t thought it through. We’ll have to track it down after the meeting. Let me have a chance to think about it. I can say this though, that we won’t chisel you on the aid or we won’t fight you about it.

Congressman Fraser: After being bargained down from a higher figure, we hope the State Department will be able to put this assistance to maximum use.

The Secretary: You and Habib should have a talk about this.

Congressman Fraser: Are you aware of the American missionary who are in Korea for 20 years, who has just been thrown out?

The Secretary: Yes, but we were much more concerned about a crack down on the students.

Congressman Biester: We believe that the application of pressure from Congress can be very beneficial.

The Secretary: The thing that I’m most allergic to is the obligatory statutes. I don’t mind requirements for reports of periodic progress, but I feel very strongly that obligatory requirements are counterproductive. Congress should continue, however, to express its view on human rights.

Congressman Harrington: You made a number of interesting statements about Soviet Jewry, internal involvement in affairs of other countries, and Latin American security. I would like to address the issue of our confidence in ourselves and I would like to use the issue of Chile. My point is were not our actions in Chile the cause of the problem there and which results now in the loss of our self confidence.

The Secretary: I didn’t say that all of our military assistance in Latin America was for security reasons. I think we have to look at the issue of the loss of self confidence and explore the reasons for it. There are many explanations. Let me give you my view and then you should feel free to comment. To discuss the case in Chile you would have to go into much more detail then any [Page 5] of us have time for here. I’d like to look at it from the American perspective. If you look at recent American history you’ll see we haven’t had a normal government since the death of Kennedy. First there was his assassination and then there was Bobby’s. Lyndon Johnson got a landslide victory in 1964 but was bogged down very much by Vietnam. The 1968–1972 victories for Nixon were tarnished by Watergate. I think that we are a society with simple beliefs. We face a situation where our leaders have been in a constant state of losing credibility. That over time is going to have a profound influence on the future of the United States. I think things are going to be alright so to speak during my tenure—but five years from now, are what’s important.

On the issue of Chile I can see two ways that we could be defeated. On the one hand, one could be seeking perfection from all and never satisfied. Everything always seems to require compromise. We take actions on the basis of a series of imperfect conditions. In Chile as in any government there was of course much time pressure. I don’t really agree that your presentation was correct.

Congressman Fraser: There’s one thought that seems to be shared by all of us and that is we find it difficult to define what’s vital with respect to 3rd world countries. Chile for example is further away than Moscow. I can’t really associate it with a landing in any time in the future on the beaches of California. In the conduct of our foreign relations, it seems there must be a certain kind of decency.

The Secretary: When we got ourselves involved in Chile, it was perhaps because of an over estimation of the importance of the problem and the effectiveness of our effort. Some countries are important to us and others are not. This is one of the things leaders must determine. Some of the events in the world are important to us and others are not at all in our interest. I agree that a landing on the shores of the United States is not likely in the next 30 years. I see that our danger is a world that will become increasingly radicalized. This in historic terms, I believe, is the biggest threat.

Congressman Fraser: Mr. Secretary, I believe that we need to take a bigger stand—a stronger stand for decency in our foreign relations, not just try to provide military assistance to every country which asks.

The Secretary: We try to take human rights issues into consideration as long as they do not interfere with our national security.

[Page 6]

Senator Cranston: We have recently completed a study showing that we’re giving aid to 58 countries which were dictatorships. Many of these dictatorships are quire repressive. Our question is: …“Is aid to all of these countries necessary?”

The Secretary: I would have to admit that once a program is begun it is sometimes hard to turn off. There are many problems which have to be dealt with. Let me give an example. Sadat, last October, asked me if I was aware of what was happening in Ethiopia. He pointed out that the Soviet Union was providing military assistance to Somalia, but the United States was no longer giving aid to Ethiopia. He said that we should give Ethiopia more aid. I checked into it and I found that there was a $40 million ceiling for all of Africa. Of that $8 million was going to Ethiopia. I asked for an increase, but it was too late. Look, Sadat’s concern was about a stable regime in Africa, but I just wasn’t on the issue as fast as I perhaps should have been. Regarding the 58 countries which you say are dictatorships, we’d be glad to look into it. Bob Ingersoll why don’t you look into it.

Congressman Roe: Mr. Secretary, my constituents and the American people, I believe, are losing faith in foreign aid.

The Secretary: I’m convinced that the biggest problem we face now is possible economic collapse: fall of the western world. One reason for this is that no country in the world now has a government which is strong enough that it can make difficult decisions. On energy we are witnessing a massive transfer of wealth for the oil producing world. The American people begin to realize this, it will not just be this administration which will be called to question, but our whole system of government. Look what happened at the Food Conference. We publicly stated that we would give a certain amount of food but we actually gave a much higher amount. However, we were identified at the low level, while we were actually giving at a higher level—the highest level of good aid in our history.

Senator Cranston: I think it is a basic awareness of some of these things that you raised which got the aid bill through the Senate this year. I see three particular problems with aid as it is being administered at the present time. First, our foreign aid frequently becomes military aid. Second, aid is given to countries for political reasons. And third, the aid seems to serve the people who are already powerful.

The Secretary: This has been a very interesting session. Could we perhaps arrange a meeting again in late January?

[Page 7]

Congressman Fraser: That sounds like a good idea. The Rhodesia chrome debate is tomorrow. That should be of interest to the Department of State.

Congressman Buchanan: The Bill is scheduled to come up tomorrow. We are not sure of the votes. But we are getting much pressure for the repeal of the Byrd Amendment from nongovernmental associations, such as the United States Association, the World Federalists, the National Council of Churches. They are all urging us to bring it to a vote tomorrow and not to postpone it any further.

Congressman Biester: What we need is a letter from the President. This was promised to us but it seems to have gotten sidetracked.

The Secretary: I have supported the repeal of the Byrd Amendment as you know in the Finance Committee and in several letters to Senators and Congressmen. I’ll talk to the President tonight about it.

Mr. Holton: I’m not speaking for the President but as you will recall, we have already met with the House leadership on this. Tip O’Neil says we are going to be clobbered on the Rhodesian chrome issue. I don’t think we want the President to lose any credits on this one.

The Secretary: I’m firmly in support of your position on Rhodesian chrome but I know nothing of the President’s letter. I will check with him tonight.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P750069–1050. Confidential.
  2. Kissinger discussed the relationship of human rights policy to foreign aid and overall U.S. foreign policy with a Congressional delegation.