171. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

Kissinger : Well, Mr. President, this thing is beginning to shape up. [5 seconds not declassified] Bhutto is coming over here. The Pakistan Ambassador. Not the Ambassador, the Pakistan Representative at the UN.

Nixon : Bhutto?

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : That son-of-bitch?

Kissinger : Yeah. But we understand that his instructions are to offer a settlement very close to what we have. What we are putting to them.

Nixon : I noticed, I read that in the news summary, I mean in this morning’s briefing.

Kissinger : That he’s coming?

Nixon : Yeah, that he’s coming, and that Yahya may be setting him up to make a sell out in order to [unclear]. He’s a bad man. Bhutto’s a terrible bastard.

Kissinger : But the point is if we get this, you see, if we get this offer, if we get Yahya to agree with this proposition, then we can go back to the Russians and settle this thing. And we’ll be in good graces with the Chinese because we’ve got the summit with Yahya’s concurrence. We’ll have squared the circle. Then after we settle it, we put the bastards here to the torch by saying that we were playing this game [unclear]. I think we’re going to pull it off.

Nixon : [unclear]

Kissinger : Well, they will lose East Pakistan. There’s nothing to be done about that.

Nixon : We all know that.

Kissinger : But the question is how they lose it.

Nixon : And West Pakistan, they think they’re going to lose it anyway, don’t you think so?

Kissinger : Well, they may be so demented that, well, yes by now they have to think it.

Nixon : Well, for Christ sakes. Well, how will it be done then? It’ll be done through, they’ll make an offer for a political settlement with East Pakistan? But that’s, beyond that point, the Indians will never accept that. Neither will the Russians.

Kissinger : No, but that wouldn’t be, no, the Russians will. That’s the interesting thing in the Brezhnev letter. The Brezhnev letter says the negotiations should start at the point at which they were interrupted on March 25, 1970. At that point, East Pakistan was part of Pakistan. And if we could get the Soviets to state that as their idea of a settlement. If we make a choice—

Nixon : They have. They have stated that.

Kissinger : No.

Nixon : In the letters.

Kissinger : In the letter. Now if we, if you and Brezhnev, could make a joint declaration. The way I see this thing evolving, if we get Yahya aboard by tomorrow morning, and the time factor works for us—

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger : It could be a joint appeal by you and Brezhnev along these three lines. If the Indians reject it, then we go to the United Nations Security Council and get—this time the Soviets have to support us in the Security Council because it’s a joint—

Nixon : [unclear]

Kissinger : So then we’ve got the Indians at a disadvantage. And we’ll have separated the Soviets from the Indians to some extent.

Nixon : Um, hmh.

Kissinger : If the Indians accept it, then what will happen, first of all, it will then save West Pakistan—

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger :—for the time being. And if the Indians—

Nixon : The Indians will stop, and there’ll be a cease-fire. But the Indians will stay in East Pakistan.

Kissinger : Well, what will happen then is a negotiation between the East Pakistan leaders and the West Pakistan leaders, which if one, which will probably lead to the independence of Bangladesh anyway. But it will then be done not by us selling out but by Yahya agreeing to it.

Nixon : All right. Now—

Kissinger : You know, it’s a lousy outcome, but we are now talking, Mr. President, of—

Nixon : Well, it was sort of inevitable. East Pakistan in my opinion could never be saved. In my opinion it could never be saved with the way it was going.

Kissinger : I mean, when it’s all done it will—

Nixon : They were too clumsy, the West Paks, to have saved the damned thing.

Kissinger : When it’s all, if we come out of it that way, Mr. President—

Nixon : If we can save a strong West Pakistan we’ll have accomplished a lot.

Kissinger : We’ll have accomplished a lot, and all the bleeders about India will again have been proved wrong, because after that—

Nixon : Well, if we ever get the Russians to go with us on this, that could be a watershed in the relations between the two countries. That’s why I wish Dobrynin was here so you could tell him exactly that.

Kissinger : I know. But it’s better with this guy because he’s got to report it. Dobrynin would have argued with you and tried to pitch.

Nixon : Did you notice we stopped him? We didn’t have arguments.

Kissinger : Yeah, well it would have been harder for Dobrynin, to stop Dobrynin. So actually I think, I told Haig I thought this was one of your finest hours here because anybody else that I know would have said the hell with it. We have no chance. It’s a long shot. Why jeopardize the summit? And I think you’ll have strengthened the summit when it’s all over.

Nixon : The Russians could come back with a hard-nosed message.

Kissinger : No.

Nixon : I don’t see how they can.

Kissinger : No.

Nixon : You know, when you really put it in terms of basically a lawyer arguing a case, I made such a strong case of how much was on the plate, how much they were going to risk at such a cheap small game that they just can’t. I don’t see how they could possibly turn it down. If they do, they aren’t worth dealing with. Huh?

Kissinger : Every instinct I have tells me they won’t turn it down.

Nixon : Well, Vorontsov, you know, made notes for [unclear].

Kissinger Every instinct—because basically it accepts their framework. We should get a letter to them tomorrow sort of summarizing what you said as a formal reply.

Nixon : Well, could you get something done, prepared?

Kissinger : Yeah, I’ll have it for you first thing tomorrow.

Nixon : I think we ought to get it off right away to Brezhnev.

Kissinger : Tomorrow morning. Now because—

Nixon : You know, it’s an interesting thing how these people are the same. This fellow here, who is incidentally, he is a nice guy, and he hasn’t changed. Just think 12 years ago. He comes in and says I haven’t changed, but boy you should see him. He hasn’t changed one bit. Still got the [unclear]. But this fellow went through the same line that Gromyko did about how Brezhnev was a warmhearted man, a good man, and so forth and so on.

Kissinger : Brezhnev has a hell of a lot at stake in this meeting with you, Mr. President.

Nixon : He wants it to succeed, you think?

Kissinger : Yeah. The sons-of-bitches in this country can piss on you as much as they want.

Nixon : They do.

Kissinger : Outside this country you are the world leader right now. I mean, why the hell would Trudeau, who dislikes everything you stand for, who in his style, in his baggy style, is as different from you as two human beings can be.

Nixon : That’s right.

Kissinger : How, why does he say it was a fantastic revolutionary concept? First, because it was, of course, well put. But also because he feels he wants to be identified with the leader of the, at least the non-communist world.

Nixon : He was hurting with his identification with Kosygin, and he wanted to be identified as American.

Kissinger : Yeah, but he didn’t say this about Kosygin. And he couldn’t have because his domestic opinion wouldn’t—

Nixon : That’s right.

Kissinger : If he had said Kosygin made a revolutionary—

Nixon : Well, that vote at the UN wasn’t too bad too. That had some reflection of this.

Kissinger : That’s right. I mean, our liberal establishment is intellectually, it’s morally corrupt, but it’s also intellectually so totally corrupt. What they’re telling you is, in effect, to preside over the rape of an ally, to which Kennedy has a commitment. What you are almost certainly going to achieve is the preservation of West Pakistan which is, it’s a tragedy but—

Nixon : Well, it was done before.

Kissinger : But we didn’t urge him to go into East Pakistan the way he did.

Nixon : I know.

Kissinger : And we can’t be given the impossible.

Nixon : One thing I want you to do, Connally mentioned to staff. I want you to take, this is an order, $25 million, take it out of the Indian money and go to the Indonesians in need of it. Now by God that is to be done. I want the Indonesians to be, a Muslim country to know that we’re their friends. I think that will have repercussions right away.

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : Agreed?

Kissinger : Absolutely.

Nixon : All right. Can you issue that order?

Kissinger : I’ll get it done this minute.

Nixon : Put it out. What I meant is, Henry, put it under my name if necessary.

Kissinger : Oh, no, no, no.

Nixon : I’m not going to have any screwing around.

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]

Nixon : You think State will call in the Indian Ambassador and tell him that?

Kissinger : Well, Irwin was so shaken he hardly knew what to say.

Nixon : Well, give him instructions. Give him a talking paper and the rest. Will he do that? Or what? What are you going to do? I don’t know what the hell they’re—

Kissinger : Oh no, no. He’ll now carry it out.

Nixon : Well goddamnit, it must be, it would be very easy for me, for anybody to tell the Indian Ambassador we will not tolerate acquisition of territory, right? Well, for Christ sakes, you’ve got to say that much.

Kissinger : No, no. We’re in.

Nixon : What else they do, I don’t know.

Kissinger : We’re getting it.

Nixon : I’ll tell you one thing, the—

Kissinger : I think we’ll be over it by this time next week.

Nixon : [unclear] He’s going to feel, they’re going to think twice over there before they allow any inspired leaks, piss on the White House for a couple of days. Oh, they’ll still come, but they can’t help but know, that whole establishment over there, how I feel about it. I mean, I know what they’re doing. I read the damn papers.

Kissinger : I think we’re over the hump. My instinct tells me that this is not going to build into a confrontation. These Russians are slobbering all over you.

Nixon : You think we’ve got the bureaucracy lined up [unclear]?

Kissinger : I thought it was essential. We’ll have a well-behaved WSAG meeting tomorrow, I hope. First time in 4 weeks.

Nixon : For the first time in 4 weeks you say?

Kissinger : Yeah. The others aren’t so bad, I mean, Packard is fine. Moorer is fine, Packard is fine, Helms is fine.

Nixon : Well, they got that Moorer knows about moving that ship.

Kissinger : Oh, yeah. Oh, no, we’re doing everything that can be done now.

Nixon : We’re right to move the carrier. If you’re going to make a move, Christ, move the carrier.

Kissinger : In fact, even if there is a settlement, we should move the force in there just to show we can do it and take it out again.

Nixon : That’s right.

Kissinger : Then no one can accuse us of anything.

Nixon : That’s right. We move the carrier. Get the planes over. Call in the Indian Ambassador. I thought it was good to report to this group that I’ve just told the Russian minister, and you’re going to tell him anyway.

Kissinger : No, but this way I don’t have to tell him.

Nixon : Good.

Kissinger : This is even better. This way I don’t—

Nixon : [unclear] told the Russian.

Kissinger : This way I don’t have to do—

Nixon : Without poisoning our relations. Also, I thought it was, nobody that was there was taking it down, but, you know, it’s too bad—

Kissinger : No, Haig was taking it down.

Nixon : The point that I made that, I said I know the usual line here is the same as what’s—

Kissinger : I know.

Nixon : The diplomatic line is to let the dust settle until you no longer see the grave. And I said that’s not my policy.

Kissinger : I thought that was powerful. Haig said this was the most powerful statement he’s heard you make in WSAG. It was really strong. You know, if it works it will look inevitable.

[Omitted here is discussion of the President’s schedule.]

Nixon : I’ll bet you that wire to Moscow is humming right at this moment.

Kissinger : We’ll have an answer to that tomorrow. Saturday morning at the latest.

Nixon : Well, I was conciliatory though, Henry. I did say, I said as far as this deal is concerned, all that we ask is restrain the Indians, let’s have a ceasefire, they must have a political settlement. As a matter of fact, it was his deal that we were talking about.

Kissinger : Well, there were a few hookers in there the way you put it. You said, “Talk to the Awami League.”

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger : And the way they put it was, it has to start where it stopped on March 25, which really means freeing Mujib.

Nixon : I see.

Kissinger : On the other, but—

Nixon : That’s negotiable too.

Kissinger : But I would figure, Mr. President, that’s not what we get into in the first phase. In the first phase, we should state a few general principles. The major thing is to defang the Indians now. The Pakistanis have lost 80 percent of their POL. They bombed Karachi completely. The Pakistanis are going to collapse in 2 weeks, incidentally. If we can save West Pakistan it will be—

Nixon : Thirty percent?

Kissinger : An extraordinary achievement, which is not warranted by the situation.

Nixon : Because the Indians are ready to gobble it up?

Kissinger : Because if State played its usual game, it will send a message to [New] Delhi, it will send a message to Islamabad, all of which plays into the Indian hands just as our strategy the first week of the operation did. They then take 5 days to reply. The reply will be inconclusive.

Nixon : You know another point that State needs to get pounded into its goddamned head is that we do not determine our policy around here solely on the basis of how many people are on one side.

Kissinger : Yeah. Yeah. Well, you made that point.

Nixon : And how many, and whether a country is a democracy or whether it is not a democracy.

Kissinger : That’s another point you made.

Nixon : By God, we just don’t do it that way. I mean, it doesn’t make, an evil deed is not made good by the form of government that executes the deed, Henry. I mean, as I’ve often said, the most horrible wars in history have been fought between the Christian nations of Western Europe.

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : Right? Does that make them right?

Kissinger : Absolutely.

Nixon. No, sir. No, sir.

Kissinger : And between, the governments prior to World War I were all more or less the same, with the exception of the Czar. I mean, that German emperor wasn’t all that powerful.

Nixon : Well, he was a Christian monarch.

Kissinger : I mean, they had a pretty democratic government. He sort of strutted around and made it look as if he were powerful.

Nixon : Well, I don’t know. I hope it works. I hope it works from the Russian standpoint. I just can’t believe Brezhnev can hear this being said. And I must, I think your hunch is right, saying it to this guy was, it was just an accident. But saying it to him was very important. He could see that I was fair, I was conciliatory, but tough as hell.

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : And he saw that too. And I said there’d be a confrontation.

Kissinger : And you listed all the things you were willing to do. It was a masterpiece. It was the subtlety, and then you were expecting—you want to jeopardize European Security, Middle East, SALT, all of that, for what? And you said there’d be a confrontation.

Nixon : Also pointing out that we had a treaty with Pakistan, just as they had one with India. [unclear] And he just assumes we might do something.

Kissinger : Mr. President, if this were a key country to them they might challenge you. But why should they run this risk to back you down? First of all, no one knows you’ve threatened.

Nixon : No. I told him, you know. I said, “I am not threatening anything.”

Kissinger : And besides, you can do a lot of things. I mean, if the principle gets established that the stronger country can prevail with the backing of another country, we could unleash the Israelis and kill the Egyptians.

Nixon : We might do that.

Kissinger : I mean we won’t do it but—

Nixon : Who knows?

Kissinger : But I mean, just looking at it from their point of view.

Nixon : Who knows? Who knows?

Kissinger : Every time we’ve played them this way it’s come out all right. And they know, they said you’ve just done too many unpredictable things. No, I think this was a great day.

Nixon : We shall see. We shall see.

Kissinger : We may lose on it. We were certain—

Nixon : Well at least we tried.

Kissinger : We were certain to lose the other way. We may win this way.

Nixon : Well, we tried. Some people, the Russians cannot ignore this. They just can’t let the—

Kissinger : Oh, no. Oh, no. You’ll get an answer within, by Sunday morning.

Nixon : The Russians, I think, the real question is whether they will just lean on the Indians now.

Kissinger : That’s what it amounts to. And anything we get in this connection is money in the bank a) in the sense of defeating, of protecting Pakistan. But even more importantly, it will teach the Indians that there are bigger games than, the Indians know they’ve got the Pakistanis where they’ve wanted them.

Nixon : Sure.

Kissinger : So if we can stop an Indian onslaught on West Pakistan now, the Indians will consider that being thwarted.

Nixon : You think so?

Kissinger : Oh, yeah.

Nixon : Well, they’re going to be thwarted in another way. Now, I will not listen to any suggestions that that aid be restored.

Kissinger : No matter what happens, Mr. President.

Nixon : No, sir.

Kissinger : That is what we have to be—

Nixon : I will not listen to it. Now these bastards have asked for it, and they’re not going to get it. Now I think we’re going to have to play that game. They chose Russia. Let Russia aid them. Correct?

Kissinger : Absolutely. What I would do with the Indians, Mr. President, is keep them in the deep freeze until after your election. After you’re elected they’ll come to you hat in hand.

Nixon : Well, we don’t want—

Kissinger : No, no. But then, I don’t think Indian animosity can hurt you if there’s no war. I don’t know which American likes India.

Nixon : Nobody.

Kissinger : Except those intellectuals who are against you.

Nixon : [unclear]

Kissinger : Yeah, but they’re against you anyway.

[The brief conclusion of the conversation is unclear.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, Oval Office, Conversation No. 634–19. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the conversation published here specifically for this volume.
  2. Nixon and Kissinger concluded that, while East Pakistan could not be saved, they would have “accomplished a lot” if they managed to “save a strong West Pakistan.”