145. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2


  • “Straws in the Wind”—Changes in Tunisian Foreign Policy

Enclosed for your information is a memorandum prepared for the Acting Secretary by the Bureau of African Affairs.

Theodore Eliot, Jr.
[Page 2]


Information Memorandum Prepared in the Bureau for African Affairs, Department of State


  • “Straws in the Wind”—Changes in Tunisian Foreign Policy

Since Masmoudi’s assumption of the foreign affairs portfolio in June, Tunisia has moved quite quickly to reassert its non-aligned standing and harmonize its foreign policy with prevailing Arab and “third world” attitudes, from which it has kept its distance over much of the past decade.

We need not regard the change as inevitably unfavorable to us. Normalization of relations with Arab and Third World nations could reduce Tunisia’s vulnerability and—conversely—our need to underwrite many of Tunisia’s needs precisely because it has isolated itself from so many of its neighbors and peers.

  • With the Radical Arabs. The Tunisians have pushed for a detente with the radical Arabs. Improved relations with the Libyans have been the personal concern of Prime Minister Ladgham and the Foreign Minister. Diplomatic ties with the UAR have been reestablished at Ambassadorial level and plans are underway to send a Charge to Baghdad.
  • With the Third World. Masmoudi has declared his readiness to attend the Lusaka conference and his intention to take an active stand on non-aligned, particularly African liberation issues.
  • With the Communist World. In a recent conversation with Ambassador Calhoun, the Foreign Minister reported his meeting with a North Korean delegation. While he gave [Page 3] no sign of Tunisian interest in relations with North Korea, he expressed his government’s interest in recognizing North Vietnam (in addition to the Saigon government which Tunisia already recognizes) and East Germany because of the progress made by the FRG with the Soviet Union and the East Germans. In addition, we understand the GOT has authorized the Soviet cultural mission in Tunis to make full distribution of Soviet information and propaganda.

It is not entirely clear whether the GOT really plans to move to recognize the GDR and the DRV, or whether Masmoudi is probing for a US reaction. A clear statement of West German and American interests could suffice to cool Masmoudi’s ardor. We have asked Ambassador Calhoun to discourage Tunisian relations with North Vietnam and East Germany.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 TUN. Confidential. Cleared by Wisner. In Airgram A–155 from Tunis, August 18, the Embassy noted that the “special relationship” that Washington had enjoyed with Tunis was likely to end with the demise or retirement of Bourguiba. (Ibid., POL 15–1 TUN)
  2. Eliot sent an information memorandum prepared in the Bureau of African Affairs, which observed that, under Foreign Minister Masmoudi, Tunisia had reasserted its non-aligned standing and harmonized its foreign policy with that of the Arab and Third World countries.