162. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, December 6, 1971, 6:14–6:38 p.m.12
Nixon: I had a thought or two on India-Pakistan. First, Stans wants to report to me.
Nixon: I thought we’d have him report to the Cabinet. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I’ll tell you what I had in mind. I think he should report to you, Henry, I’ll tell you why. I think we ought to cool it with the Russians.
Kissinger: I couldn’t, Mr. President—
Nixon: [unclear] Stans will want to have a press conference and tell them about all the progress he’s made on this thing. And we have got to cool it. And I’d just simply tell him [unclear] let’s get a damn signal across on that. Now Maury’s going to be hard to handle. Maybe you could get it a little reversed.
Kissinger: I’ll get a hold of it. I’ll do it.
Kissinger: No, I’ll do it. Maury will be hard to handle, but he’s a great team player. And he sees now that we deliver. This is the sort of signal the Russians understand.
Nixon: If there’s anything that’s outstanding now, in the way of, let me tell you, in the way of licenses, or anything with the Russians, just drag our feet.
Kissinger: You’ll be better off, Mr. President, 6 months from now. If they lose respect for US now, they’ll put it to US the way it’s never been—
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South Asia]
Nixon: What I was going to say, Henry, what I’m concerned about, I really worry about, is whether or not I was too easy on the goddamn woman when she was here.
Nixon: Think I was? Maybe I was. Now I don’t know, maybe it wouldn’t have helped.
Nixon: I think, I think she was out on a course to do this without any–
Kissinger: I have sought out–
Nixon: [unclear] She suckered US at that. Suckered us.
Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, I wonder now in retrospect—
Kissinger: —now that you put the question—well, you followed your recommendations we all made to you.
Kissinger: So if anyone is to blame—
Nixon: If anything, if anything, I was a little tougher on her than the talking paper, you know what I mean?
Kissinger: Oh, yes.
Nixon: I was not soft on her on this thing. I told her that—
Kissinger: No, but our advice to you was not to give her a pretext.
Nixon: That’s right. That’s right.
Kissinger: And you even said to me—I remember when you went out—
Nixon: Gracious remarks, I went "boom!"
Kissinger: But on the other hand, well, the public thing had to be gracious. But when I look back on it now could we have recommended to you to brutalize her privately? To say now I want you to know—
Nixon: I should have. I should have.
Kissinger: —You do this and you will wreck your relations with US for 5 years and we will look for every opportunity to damage you.
Nixon: That’s right. That’s right.
Kissinger: I just want you to know that. That’s probably what we should have done.
Nixon: Yeah. And another weakness we’ve got is Keating there as Ambassador.
Kissinger: Oh, he’s a bastard.
Kissinger: Of course, we don’t—
Nixon: [unclear], soft, son-of-a-bitch.
Kissinger: But she was playing us.
Nixon: She was playing us. And you know the cold way she was the next day—she didn’t [unclear]. And this woman suckered us. But let me tell you, she’s going to pay. She’s going to pay. Now I mean on this AID side, I am not—
Kissinger: And let’s fight it in the campaign. The Democrats will make issue—
Nixon: They’ll probably say we’re losing India forever. All right, who’s going to care about losing India forever?
Kissinger: I think, Mr. President, if we go to the American public and say what we’ve done and what they did, by that time there will have been a massacre in East Pakistan under their aegis. We’ve got to keep the heat on them now. They have to know they paid a price. Hell, if we could reestablish relations with Communist China, we can always get the Indians back whenever we want to later—a year or two from now.
Nixon: Would you check to see what the hell that letter from Suharto was that his ambassador brought in. I want to be sure to follow up with Suharto [unclear]. The Indians are following up.
Kissinger: But it’s precisely with people like him that we have to show that we’re going to be tough.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: So that he doesn’t get swallowed—get ideas—
Nixon: Now, I want—we’ll sleep, Henry, on my proposition with regard to the Chinese–
Kissinger: I haven’t done anything yet—
Nixon: But I feel strongly that we should do it. I think we’ve got to tell them that some movement on their part we think toward the Indian border could be very significant. And that as far as we’re concerned that we have sent—just say that we have sent a very tough note to the Russians and that we are cooling our relations. That is anything you can—I don’t know how to put that. But the President is [unclear]—you know what I mean?
Kissinger: We’ve gotten—the way we could put it, Mr. President, is to say—we shouldn’t urge them to do it because they’ll get too suspicious. If we could say, we have, if you consider it necessary to take certain actions we want you to know that you should not be deterred by the fear of standing alone against the powers that may intervene.
Nixon: Right. Right. That’s right. And then say, "We have done this and this and this ourselves and we have done it first.” And then say, "It is apparent that it appears frankly now that the only thing that on the briefing, the confidential briefing that we have had, it appears the only thing the Indians fear is the possibility of [unclear–sanctions?].” You know? I don’t know if you want to be that specific or not. I don’t know. But damnit, I am convinced that if the Chinese start moving the Indians will be petrified. They will be petrified.
Kissinger: Except the weather is against them.
Nixon: I don’t give a damn. That’s more incentive if they can get through that pass.
Kissinger: I’ll look into it.
Nixon: Henry, be sure—be sure to move on that point. You know what I mean? The Chinese, you know, when they came across the Yalu, we thought they were a bunch of goddamn fools in the heart of the winter, but they did it.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: I’m not so sure. We know what the Paks can do.
Kissinger: Because what’s going to happen is after this is over, the fact is they have to get a friendly government over into West Pakistan. This has been a great operation for the Indians. Because this is—it’s going to lead to the overthrow of YAHYA, for sure. And to—but—
Nixon: It’s such a shame. So sad. So sad. Tomorrow we’re going to have a meeting on Vietnam.
[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam]
Nixon: Coming back to this summit—I mean this India-Pakistan—
Kissinger: One mistake we made—it wasn’t your mistake but it was—it took US 2 weeks to get the bureaucracy. If we could have got the bureaucracy on the first day of the Indian attack on East Pakistan to do the things they finally did today, that might have given them enough of a shot to blow them up. That might have given the Russians enough of a shot.
Nixon: You know, Mrs. Gandhi she’s in her parliament and they’re thumping their desks with their fists [unclear]—
Kissinger: But she would have snubbed them [unclear]. By that time she had crossed the rubicon. The time to [unclear]—
Nixon: [unclear] She attacks us, so forth and so on.
Kissinger: But she’s been pretty cautious about attacking us. And she’s not the only one. She’s never mentioned US by name.
Nixon: We’re not—that’s one of the reasons why I shouldn’t get out on a press conference. Because I’ll have to take her on and I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to be in a position of attacking. I’ve got to stay out of that.
Kissinger: I think so.
Nixon: Or do you—you agree?
Kissinger: No, I think you ought to stay out of it. You definitely ought to stay out of it. You don’t want to get into an argument with her, particularly as for a brief period it will look as if she’s winning. No. Absolutely not.
Nixon: The main thing is we must not lose or be blamed for this goddamned thing. We’ll get blamed.
Kissinger: No, no.
Nixon: Church. Teddy Kennedy.
Kissinger: No, I went to Joe Alsop’s house the other night and Teddy Kennedy was there. Of course, he’s such a jerk. He started mumbling that we didn’t do enough. And I just jumped all over him. I said, "We did this and this and this. What would you have done, Teddy? What more would you have done?" He said, "I would have shown more sympathy.” I said, "We gave them 250 million dollars. Do you really think sympathy—” Well, he pulled way off. He said he’d like to meet me and talk about it a little more.
Nixon: Yeah. Incidentally, that Helms report [3 seconds not declassified]
Nixon: Give me a copy of that.
Nixon: I’m going to put it out to the press. Put the whole goddamn thing out. Now who would be a good one who would like to have such a nice week?
Kissinger: I think that Scali and Colson would be better judges of that.
Nixon: Oh, I [unclear]. But I’ve got to—
Kissinger: Joe Alsop would [unclear] it up.
Nixon: Well, would Joe use it? I don’t know. What side is he on in this?
Kissinger: Oh, he’s on ours. Oh, God.
Nixon: Okay. Let me ask you to do this. Is there a way—can you get it into Joe’s hands? I want that report of Helms put into the hands of a columnist who will print the whole thing. Now I want you to get it out. Now this is a smart thing to do, Henry. I know. You know what I mean? You just happened to get a [2 seconds not declassified] report [3 seconds not declassified]; it will make her look bad. I know that’s their tragedy. Now that’s the way they play it. That’s the way we got to play it. You don’t agree?
Kissinger: Yes, I do agree.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: Another thing—
Nixon: Who would you give it to? Would you give it to—
Kissinger: I, my—I shouldn’t do it. I’ve never played—
Nixon: Give it to Scali.
Kissinger: I’d give it to Scali and let him.
Nixon: And tell him to get it out?
Nixon: Tell him that this is gospel. You can give it to anyone you want, but don’t get caught. Don’t give it to Colson ‘cause he’s—
Kissinger: He’d disrupt this.
Nixon: Scali will know how. Okay?
Kissinger: I’ll do that.
Nixon: Just say that this report came out. And, but just be sure to get it yards away from the White House.
Kissinger: Right. I’ll get that done today.
Nixon: Okay. Boy-oh-boy. It’s interesting. We’re done with the Russians.
Kissinger: Well, we couldn’t—Brezhnev is in Warsaw. And we only sent a message last night. Today we sent a letter.
Nixon: The Russians, they’ve just said hands-off to us.
Kissinger: Well, we wrote them a pretty tough one.
Nixon: What did we say?
Kissinger: Well, we said this threatens the whole climate of confidence we’ve tried so hard to establish. I told him yesterday that [unclear]it’s exactly the opposite of what they should want. They’re driving US into aligning ourselves with countries that we have no particular parallel interest in on the sub-continent. And I said, "How can you talk to US about Security Council guarantees if you thwart the Security Council?" And I threatened them that we would not carry out the Middle East negotiations. And they seem—I haven’t talked to you about this—and we can’t do it. But they have been bugging me to come to Moscow. I don’t want to [do?] it. I’ve just tried to use it because of the Rogers problem. But they’ve sent me a formal invitation now. I don’t want to do it, but he raised it again yesterday. And I said, "under these conditions there’d be no chance at all talking about it.”
Nixon: That’s correct.
Kissinger: To put it on the basis because they have turned it off. We can just cancel this visit, which I never had any intention of [unclear-going on?] in the first place.
Nixon: But let’s cool it on the Stans thing.
Nixon: We’ll meet tomorrow. I’ve only got 5 minutes for whatever they want to do. [unclear]—
Kissinger: Then I would suggest also, Mr. President, the Indian Ambassador must not be seen under any level higher than the country desk officer. [unclear]
Nixon: Did you put that out?
Nixon: We’ll put that out. [unclear] the Indian Ambassador. I want it as an instruction on my part: "The President instructs the Indian Ambassador to not be seen at any level other than the country desk level.” Also, I want you to send a message to Keating. He is to be totally cold in his relations.
Nixon: Put that out. From me.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, Oval Office, Conversation No. 630–20. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation published here specifically for this volume.↩
- Nixon and Kissinger discussed the crisis in South Asia, focusing on the approach to take with the Soviet Union and China, and the best way to deal with Indian Prime Minister Gandhi.↩