177. Conversation Among President Nixon, his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and his Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig), Washington, December 12, 1971, 8:45–9:42 a.m.12
Kissinger: As you know on Friday, Yahya somewhat at our pressure had agreed in effect to accept a Brezhnev proposal. But then on further thought—
Nixon: He decided not to.
Kissinger: He decided not to, and the Chinese carried on. I think, frankly, in that case, rather than accept the Brezhnev proposal, we’d be just as well off letting nature take its course. And let them get raped. If they want to accept it, yes. But I think we should stay off it then. I think if we can—a simple ceasefire is really the best we can, at this moment, get out of it. I think if this thing emerges with the United States joining with the Soviet Union in a proposal that you disapprove, then it was made 3 days after it was made just because of the military defeat, we would suffer a very severe setback.
Nixon: Oh yeah.
Kissinger: No, no. I was the one who pressed it, in fact. What you said to the Agricultural Minister and to, what we said to his—
Nixon: Yeah, yeah. Helms’ report and he examined [unclear].
Kissinger: Uh, yes. [10 seconds not declassified]
Nixon: I, I’m referring to—
Kissinger: I know.
Nixon: —the Helms report—
Kissinger: I know the one.
Nixon: —where, which would be very helpful here.
Kissinger: I’ve told him to do it.
Nixon: I think we to [need] make more use of our own PR people to get across our side. [unclear]I think we have to realize [unclear]. Get across our point of view. [unclear]
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: We can’t do that. We’ve got to use the elements here.
Kissinger: And the departments.
Nixon: Well, the departments are not very useful. We’ve got to use them where we can. But what I meant is within the White House.
Nixon: That is when we can get the departments to take on, to carry the lead on something, they ought to carry it, that’s for damn sure. And they ought to do more. But I meant on the PR side of getting it across, as you well know. It’s an awfully weak reed to say well, you put this out. Now Bush, you can use Bush, for example. Sometimes the department fellow will do very well, as we know. But I think that here in the White House [unclear]. But our point of view is—the Indians have been just loading wires and so forth, what their view is, making US look bad. Now the report on Mrs. Gandhi’s Cabinet meeting where she said that, she said deliberately that they were going to try to conquer West Pakistan, they were going to move their forces from the East to the West, should have got out. The report, for example, with regard to the Soviet men, the naval vessels found off the, the Pakistan submarine, should have gotten out.
Nixon: Haig looks at this and says it’s, it’s very interesting how much Soviet [unclear—initiative?]but there hasn’t been any column.
Nixon: I say that should get out. You can’t do it, Henry, you’re—it’s just hard talking about—
Kissinger: Well, Roland Evans has a column today with [unclear]. But still it’s, you’re right. There’s not enough—
Nixon: [unclear] have gotten out?
Kissinger: It shouldn’t have to be—
Nixon: I think here you’re, you’ve just got to get Scali here. Just call him in. He likes to talk. Just tell him, and let him go over the place. He’s a White House horse. He—and I want him now. I don’t think—and that isn’t the most important of the game, but it does affect certain things for reasons that we’re aware. It’s rather interesting to note that Mrs. Gandhi said that, speaking to an Indian youth group, that they have not rejected the UN General Assembly. They—you probably didn’t see that.
Nixon: It’s in the other summary. she says, she said yesterday: "We did not reject the UN General Assembly, but we have it under very serious consideration.” Now why did she say that? She said it for obvious reasons that she thought that there was some world opinion building against her.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: Now we’re being goddamn fools to not build that [unclear] thing against the Indians. See what I mean?
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: [unclear] So, I’d like to see the Soviet presence get out. [unclear]
Kissinger: I’ve had last night put a paper together—
Nixon: Helms report—
Kissinger: —of how much—
Nixon: —[unclear]. The world opinion thing is going to affect the Indians. We’ve just got to get, it’s got to get out the fact that they’ve been condemned in the press and that they rejected a majority vote. That’s got to be said. Get the word to State and everybody in every statement that India has rejected an overwhelming vote of the General Assembly. That has to be said.
Kissinger: I pulled together what the Soviets received. What the Communist world sent to India in the last 6 years: 739 medium tanks, 176 light tanks, 329 carriers—
Nixon: Fine. Let’s put it out through a European source.
Kissinger: No, that is—
Nixon: Just have Scali put it out to the whole press corp.
Nixon: That’s the way to do it. Or somebody. You’ve got to get it out. You see, [unclear] others as well. The reason is we’re really not using people. We’re not bringing them in and telling them enough about it. So I would bring them in. That’s a very good statement to get out. That’s a very good statement to get out. It must seem more than a column.
Kissinger: Well, now we have Yahya’s complete concurrence to our game plan, which is to drop the political tract, to go in with a—
Nixon: Yeah. Ceasefire.
Kissinger: To go—first to go in with ceasefire and withdrawal. I called Bhutto yesterday evening after we talked just for the record, and I said I don’t want to hear one more word from the Chinese. We are the ones who have been operating against our public opinion, against our bureaucracy, at the very edge of legality—
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: And if they want to talk they should move some troops. Until they’ve done it, we don’t want to hear one more word. I really let him have it.
Nixon: [unclear] the Chinese sit there and bullyrag us. They’ve got to learn, damn right. Henry, you’re so right about the Chinese and the Soviets, each for reasons that transcend India and Pakistan. They have to have their meetings with us. You know that. That’s their goddamn problem.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: That doesn’t mean that you [we] can just thumb our noses at them all the time.
Kissinger: Actually, strangely enough, I think the Chinese is (sic.) more precarious than the Soviets because—
Kissinger: For the Chinese—I mean these idiots who say we are doing things to—Braden has an article today blasting you and me. Of course they’ve got the bureaucracy. It’s like Cambodia again, nicely out of it again. Blasting you and me that we are sacrificing India so that you can take a China trip.
Kissinger: The trip as such is a symbol of a policy. If the Chinese feel we are nice people, well-meaning, but totally irrelevant to their part of the world, they lose whatever slight, whatever incentives they have for that opening to us. The opening to US got the Soviets under control. This is the—
Nixon: Well, then lying about sacrificing the trip is [unclear].
Nixon: That’s going to be—
Kissinger: Roy Jenkins, I saw Roy Jenkins last night and he mumbled something like it. I said, India put itself on the Soviet side. We didn’t drive them there.
Nixon: Is he British?
Nixon: Is he over here?
Kissinger: Yeah. He’s a good man. He said, after he talked to me, he said, "We made one great mistake and that was not to put it out 3 weeks earlier.” He says he completely sees the point now. And he’s an honest guy. Because he didn’t—he opposed his own party on the Common Market.
Nixon: I’m not concerned about Braden and the rest mumbling around about who’s responsible for jeopardizing the China trip. What matters there is the fact. It isn’t necessary, it doesn’t make a difference what they all said about it. Don’t worry about it.
Kissinger: I don’t worry.
Nixon: Those bastards are going to do that.
Kissinger: No, I take it as a symptom.
Nixon: That message is very juvenile, kind of [unclear] because they don’t like the idea of the trip, we know that.
Kissinger: Braden has no brain.
Nixon: Yeah, but he’s taking that from somebody else.
Kissinger: Exactly, that’s why it’s significant. That’s the only significance it has.
Nixon: The question is whether now I should call in, because I think we got to start playing a better, more effective game here, the Indian Ambassador this morning. Now, before knocking out such a tough ploy, to call him in and say, "Look here. We want to be very understanding. We noted with interest your rather savage press campaign. I have no objections to that. I understand you’ve got to play [unclear—this thing out?] But let’s get one thing very clear. Now, that East Pakistan thing is practically resolved, that if—incidentally we’re going to make certain diplomatic moves. I don’t know what they are, but if this Indian action against the West continues against the overwhelming weight of the world public opinion, then I will have to make a public statement labeling India as the aggressor, as a naked aggressor. Now that’s one way. Another way to do it is just do it. Do it right now. You see the thing I feel is that the Indians are susceptible to this world public opinion crap. They’re susceptible to it because they have lived on it for so long. And they got accused here, and the reason there’s very, very little, very, very little of anything we can say. Well, maybe Rolly Evans has got it. As far as the general news is concerned, there’s been damn little pointing out that India either has Soviet support or is continuing this operation far beyond the reason they say brought them in in the first place. That they are now continuing with efforts at India’s [unclear—behest?]. There’s been hardly anything, believe me, in the press to the effect that the vote in the UN was one that India defied. Now that’s our fault, Henry. We haven’t gotten it across.
Kissinger: I agree.
Nixon: That’s my point. Another point is we’ve got, I think, we’ve got to get it across. It’s got to be said. It’s got to be said. I mean you had a backgrounder and that’s a little blip.
Kissinger: Well, it should have been—
Nixon: It’s the opposite from the way that you intended.
Kissinger: Well the Post, that was just a deliberate lie.
Nixon: That’s what’s right here.
Kissinger: I know. Nobody else played it that way. Every other leading paper in the country had it on its front page whether I made—but the fact is to do this sort of operation—
Nixon: Now look, we can talk all about the past.
Kissinger: No, no. I mean—
Nixon: Right now we’ve got to go to—
Kissinger: No, no. But it should have been pumped out, day in and day out, from every spokesman in the Government.
Nixon: I know. I understand. It should have been. But we know we have a tough problem Henry. We’ve known that for a long time.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: We went through this time after time before, and we’re going through it again. But right now—
Kissinger: We’ll use Scali.
Nixon: Now, picking up the pieces and doing the best we can. The question is what do we do.
Kissinger: Mr. President—
Nixon: Do we get out [unclear] and check out the [unclear] put the heat on India’s back?
Kissinger: I am a little reluctant to shoot the big gun. To have you call India and have them kick you—
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: To have the Indian Ambassador in. To give that bitch the satisfaction. If we had the assets there, Mr. President, if this—
Nixon: Instead of a phone call, let’s make a statement.
Kissinger: If this were a serious situation like ‘57, or ‘70, I’d be in favor of brutalizing the son-of-a-bitch. But why let him go around and say that he looked you in the eye and, you know, this is the problem.
Nixon: What I’m trying to get at is this: it’s my intention to make a public statement labeling India as an aggressor. Now the point is, will it do any good? Would it, might serve the purpose of letting him know in advance. You see, we’ve got to get across the fact that—your conversation with Bhutto and the Chinese was correct in one sense—where they said we started out strong, and then got the impression, a plague on both of your houses, which, of course, is unfortunate. But incidentally, to an extent, because Pakistan mishandled the refugee situation in the beginning.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: It is a plague on both of your houses, but that’s true only of East Pakistan. It is crystal clear that if the military action continues after East Pakistan is wrapped up, that that is naked aggression. Now that needs to be said. As indeed, as you said, a lot of gobbly-gook. Now we—
Kissinger: The Indian Foreign Minister has refused to give an assurance. That they don’t have any territorial—
Kissinger: Ambitions. He said "minor rectifications.”
Kissinger: That means South Kashmir.
Nixon: Yeah. All that you suggest this morning that we just wait and see what we hear from the Soviet—
Kissinger: No, my recommendation is—
Nixon: Or did you tell Vorontsov last night? No, you’re going to let him know at noon.
Kissinger: No, I called Vorontsov last night and said that if we don’t hear from them this morning, we will go back to the Security Council.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: And I have some suggestions of what you might do this morning: issue a press statement from the White House. We’d have to, we’ll have to change it because—
Nixon: We’ll what—give me the general tone.
Kissinger: The general tone is that in view of India’s refusal to accept the terms of the General Assembly resolution passed by the overwhelming majority of 104–10 calling for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of armed forces, the United States has now decided again to take this grave issue to the Security Council.
Nixon: All right, fine. Now have you checked that with State?
Nixon: Before that?
Kissinger: No. I’m meeting them at 11:00.
Nixon: Not till then?
Kissinger: Well, I’ll check it earlier.
Nixon: The bastards, all right get them up early. Get them up at 9:00.
Kissinger: Then we would say, "Having occupied all of East Pakistan"—
Nixon: Have they occupied it all?
Kissinger: Virtually all.
Nixon: Did you call Bob?
Kissinger: Not yet. But—
Nixon: "Having occupied"—
Kissinger: "Virtually all of East Pakistan, India’s continued military action, action by India can only be viewed as an armed attack on Pakistan as a whole, and increasingly takes on the character"—
Nixon: All right. Add one sentence. "If India defies,” put it this way, "If India should defy the overwhelming weight, defies, should continue to defy the overwhelming weight of world opinion as expressed by a blankety blank vote in the UN General Assembly.” After you add that sentence—
Nixon: "India’s continued defiance after the fact, that India will stand before the whole world as a naked aggressor.” Now I think you have to get the naked aggression in there. That it’s got to be hit in there hard and tough. I feel, put it this way, look, we’re taking just as much heat, just as much heat, for using soft words as we do if we use hard words. Everybody says we’re kicking the goddamn Indians around. Right?
Kissinger: Absolutely. Now—
Nixon: Now it is naked aggression, right? If they defy, that’s the point, put on that basis, see then you’re getting across two points. That the General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to ask for—all right put it this way. You don’t want another thing in there which sounds like it was written by some State Department pawn. For example, I would add in the sentence, "The General Assembly on blank, by a vote of blank, now the Security council by a vote of 11–2 called on [for] ceasefire and withdrawal.”
Kissinger: That’s not binding.
Nixon: I know. Nothing is binding. "The General Assembly by a vote of blank to blank.”
Nixon: "Called on so and so and so and so. Pakistan has accepted. India has refused.”
Kissinger: That’s it.
Nixon: Now, "Pakistan has accepted. India has refused. India, supported the Soviet Union"—
Kissinger: That was the next question I wanted to put to you.
Nixon: "India, supported by the Soviet Union, has refused"—now we are going.
Kissinger: Supported only by the Soviet Union.
Nixon: Supported only by the Soviet Union. Well, some other Communist countries.
Kissinger: Supported by the Soviet Union.
Nixon: Supported by the Soviet Union. Can we say other Communist countries? Use the word Communist for a change. And, well that throws in the Chinese and the Romanians. All right, supported by, at any rate, supported by the Soviet Union. That’s enough. Now, then say that if now that East Pakistan is virtually gone, India continues to defy the overwhelming weight of world opinion as expressed by the vote of the General Assembly, you see, as reflected by the vote of the General Assembly, India will stand before the world as an aggressor. See? Now that is really what we need to say. This is contrary to every tradition for which India has stood since its birth as a nation. And we call upon the Government of India to join with the Government of Pakistan in having, in following the, no, in adhering to the overwhelming expression of world opinion to have a ceasefire. You see what I mean, or something like that. That’s the kind of language you need in this thing to get the goddamn point across.
Kissinger: You’re absolutely—let me do this immediately.
Nixon: Well, we’re going to, you see what I’m getting at?
Kissinger: I know exactly what you’re getting at and you are quite right. I asked somebody to draft it last night.
Nixon: It isn’t bad.
Kissinger: It isn’t good.
Nixon: But it doesn’t, it isn’t that bad either. What I meant is, it’s what you would expect them to draft in view of what we’ve been saying about everything else. [unclear] Your backgrounder was excellent. And I, incidentally when I met with those leaders that morning somebody got the impression that I told the leaders that we were going to [unclear]. Hell, when I met with those leaders in the morning I was saying we were going to cut off AID to India.
Kissinger: You were–
Nixon: No, no. You weren’t there at the leaders meeting. But I said, "We’re going to cut off AID to India.” I said, "You know we’ve already cut off AID to Pakistan. We’re going to cut off AID to India. Do you have any objections?" They said, "Hell no.”
Nixon: But anyway, what I’m getting at is, now, having said all this, what purpose does this serve to put out something labeling India as—the purpose as I see it, it serves, well it serves three purposes. It helps with our Chinese friends. Second, it puts a little bit of heat on the Russians. Third, it puts some heat on the goddamn Indians.
Nixon: World opinion. Fourth, it helps US with our own domestic situation here at home, only to the extent that we’re taking a beating. I’m not concerned about it. I guess that isn’t getting through to people. The sad thing is it isn’t getting through to people for the wrong reasons. People don’t give a shit whether we’re to blame—not to blame—because they don’t care if the whole goddamn thing goes down the cesspool.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: That’s too bad. But nevertheless, it isn’t hurting us, I can assure you. Nobody—when you think about this as a great goal for our foreign policy. Bull. It’s not in the minds of the American people. It is in substance, but not in propaganda.
Kissinger: I agree completely.
Nixon: But the propaganda is important for the four reasons I’ve just given you. See—
Kissinger: I agree.
Nixon: And we’ve got to start—
Kissinger: Another thing you can do which is just a little—
Nixon: So we won’t call in the Indian Ambassador? [unclear] Why not Rogers? Put him out there. [unclear] All right, is that what you have in mind? Or do we have Rogers try to put it out? Let’s think. Let’s think.
Kissinger: I wouldn’t mind having Rogers put it out.
Kissinger: It wipes out our attack. It has more punch if you put it. But the advantage of Rogers is they are sticking it all on you. In fact they’re even, they’re sort of oscillating whether to get me involved or to keep me out. I mean they either think—there’s two lines of arguments being made. One is you love Yahya Khan, and that it’s a personal pique at Mrs. Gandhi.
Nixon: Yeah, shit.
Kissinger: The other one is that you and I were plotting this in order to preserve the China trip. Those two are going to merge because I’ve put myself so much [unclear].
Kissinger: Conviction on your side.
Nixon: Oh, everybody knows it.
Kissinger: I mean it’s ridiculous.
Nixon: They already knew we had [unclear]. But they, they’re not going to touch US with this thing.
Nixon: Because, by God, the country doesn’t give a shit. That’s the point. That’s what they forget. Vacate it. But the country doesn’t care about it, Henry.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: About India and Pakistan.
Kissinger: That is correct.
Nixon: All right, what’d you have in mind?
Kissinger: Well, you could put something on the hotline to Brezhnev.
Nixon: All right. Let’s start with the hotline, the hotline to Brezhnev. [unclear] What about the British? I think the British, do you want to put a message to them?
Kissinger: They’re too—yeah. I would say we do a hotline to Brezhnev, which I would like to—
Nixon: You want to work on that?
Kissinger: Work on it a little more.
Kissinger: In which we say we are now going back to the Security Council. We hope to do it jointly with you. There is still time to do it jointly. Because this thing may become public. And that should sound conciliatory.
Kissinger: So it should have a few hookers in there.
Nixon: Well, I would say, if I could suggest, I would say, "Mr. Chairman, we have not—”
Kissinger: His correct title is General Secretary.
Nixon: Mr. Secretary.
Kissinger: General is my word.
Nixon: Yes. "Mr. Secretary, General Secretary, since we have not a response on our message to you on so and so, I am sending you this message under urgent conditions. That we, we are going to take it to the Security Council again. If you should determine again to veto it, then we urge you, or whatever you want to do then.” See what I mean?
Nixon: I’d put it that way, right?
Kissinger: Right. I wouldn’t say that we are ready to go for ceasefire, because if they publish that we’d—
Kissinger: We’d say, "We’re willing to proceed along the course outlined to you"—
Nixon: Yeah. "However we’re willing to proceed.” That’s very good, along the course outlined. But we need to hear. Now what’s the disadvantage of going to the hotline? It appears that we appear to be so anxious that maybe they’re about ready to accept it and they say, ah we won’t do it, and tell US to go to hell.
Nixon: Why? What’s the advantage of the hotline? It makes it more urgent to them?
Kissinger: It gives US a public record.
Nixon: The public record doesn’t bother me a bit. If it makes it more urgent to them, it’s good.
Kissinger: It makes it more urgent.
Nixon: Has State been talking about a hotline at all?
Kissinger: No. Also, we can let State in on that.
Kissinger: We can let State in on that.
Nixon: Oh, sure.
Kissinger: Now with the British, Mr. President, I think I should talk to Cromer—
Nixon: This morning?
Kissinger: Rather than you talk to Eden. I should get Cromer in and say, "Now listen—
Nixon: All right, do it this morning.
Kissinger: Yeah. "You’re blowing the whole bloody relationship. You’re going back to the Security Council,”—
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: And we just—
Nixon: Talk to Cromer and say, "Look, that we, that the President wants to have some really good talks with them. [unclear] Now look, Cromer, the President recalls that HEATH on one occasion—and Alec Home at great length—talked about their concern about Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean.” I say, "Now you’ll have noted the greater Soviet presence in India here. The chips are now down. If we continue to let this thing drift, it will mean an enormous Soviet presence in the subcontinent—the subcontinent is going to the Soviets. Now, do you want to play that game or do we want to join together and try to keep them from playing this,” in other words, the idea that we’re really [unclear]. Britain has expressed great concern about the Soviet presence.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah. I’ll tell him from me that I just want to [unclear].
Nixon: I would put it in terms of, look, you know the French are going to play their games. The President wants to work with Britain in Asia. We support you on Singapore. We support you on the Indian Ocean. But right now the whole goddamn house of cards is going to go tumbling down, unless we save what’s left of Pakistan. The only way we can do it is for US to join together at this point in stopping the goddamn—I think Cromer would hear that.
Kissinger: I wanted to get this message drafted.
Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: And then I’ll come right back.
Nixon: Yeah. Now let’s go over again what we’re doing in the message. I want to be sure we are doing the right thing. We have in mind a hotline message.
Kissinger: The thing is, we’d instruct State to go back to the Security Council.
Nixon: Instruct State to go back to the Security Council.
Kissinger: And to do it with a ceasefire and withdrawal. To implement the General Assembly thing.
Kissinger: Get it vetoed if necessary.
Kissinger: Then be prepared to get the Pakistanis to move toward a simple ceasefire.
Kissinger: It won’t happen till tomorrow. But we’ve got that all lined up.
Nixon: The Assembly won’t meet today?
Kissinger: No. It will take through today and probably—
Nixon: All right. Fine.
Kissinger: Then we will get the ceasefire, we have about a week before this thing plays out because they can’t ship their armies that fast.
Nixon: Well, the Paks will last for 2 weeks.
Kissinger: Two weeks. That’s right.
Nixon: So you got 10 days.
Nixon: Because they could make it exciting if they collapse before then. Go ahead.
Kissinger: Then we ask for a, then we try to get the ceasefire resolution through as a next step.
Nixon: Right. Right. I got all that.
Kissinger: Now what do we do about the public statement. The public statement is first, the public statement along the lines you indicated.
Nixon: All right, now what is the purpose of the public statement? The four purposes I mentioned? Do you think well of the public statement, or am I talking you into a public statement?
Kissinger: I thought I talked you into a public statement.
Kissinger: We have to do—
Kissinger: We have to do a public statement to impress the Russians, to scare the Indians, to take a position with the Chinese.
Nixon: Chinese. That’s the main thing.
Kissinger: Mostly with the Chinese.
Nixon: I think that’s first—I’d put—but that’s all right.
Kissinger: That’s number one.
Nixon: Because after what they said to you, you’d better do something.
Kissinger: That’s right. What they said to me. What they said to Bhutto.
Nixon: All right. I think we need it.
Nixon: And then to clear up American public opinion.
Kissinger: And to clear up—
Nixon: Well, at least, taking the heat, the argument of American public opinion. Take it for a good reason.
Kissinger: We won’t take any more now.
Nixon: Put the heat on the Indians who are the aggressors.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: All right. Let’s let our opponents side with India at this time, with this aggression. People don’t like war. They don’t like it. They’ll turn against it. All right, so you believe a public statement’s in order. Now, are you going to try and get Rogers to make a statement? Or are you going to say the other thing? Is it worth trying to get Rogers to do it?
Kissinger: Frankly it isn’t worth it.
Nixon: It isn’t worth it because he’ll try to water it down too much.
Kissinger: By the time he gets through explaining it—
Nixon: Yeah. All right—
Kissinger: I mean we’re again at the Cambodian situation. We’ve got to go through the goddamn thing on our own. With whatever, with keeping the logistics to a minimum. And take care of the basic situation.
Nixon: All right. Fine. I agree. You call Cromer in later.
Kissinger: I’ll call Cromer in. We’re leaving at 1:00, so I’ve got to do it well before we—
Nixon: Yeah. What about the reason for calling Cromer in? I had the idea that there’s good reason to bluff him. Maybe we can wait on it.
Kissinger: I’ll call him. You shouldn’t talk to him.
Nixon: I understand that. I know. Is it worth it? Is it worth your doing it? I think it is. Let’s get the British on salvo.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: I have other reasons. Even if the British say no, we’re talking to the British about things that are very, very important.
Kissinger: Plus I—I’m just going to tell him—
Nixon: This is a chance for the U.S. and America to be, and England, to be together. The French aren’t going to go along. We’re going to raise it with them, but we wanted to raise the problem with you first.
Nixon: That’s a very clever thing to do, right?
Kissinger: Yeah. I’ve just—
Nixon: Use their influence.
Kissinger: I’d just put it to him very hard. And if I do it very hard it has the added advantage that they may figure it out.
Nixon: Yeah. Fine. Now then the hotline.
Kissinger: The hotline.
Nixon: We’re going to roll that. Are we being over anxious on the hotline? No we’re not. Basically all we’re doing is asking for a reply. We’re not letting the Russians diddle US along. Point one. Second, all we’re doing is to reiterate what I said to the Agricultural Minister and what you said to Vorontsov. Right?
Nixon: Does that sound like a good plan to you?
Kissinger: It’s a typical Nixon plan. I mean it’s bold. You’re putting your chips into the pot again. But my view is that if we do nothing, there’s a certainty of a disaster.
Kissinger: This way there’s a high possibility of one, but at least we’re coming off like men. And that’s helps US with the Chinese.
Nixon: Well, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. And if it goes down the tube now, we’ll have done the best we can.
Kissinger: We’ll have blamed it on the world.
Kissinger: If it goes down the tube [it will be] because we can’t get anyone to support us.
Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: By tomorrow, our fleet will be in the Indian Ocean and—
Nixon: Yeah. Did you see all those Russian tanks, and the Russian ships, and all the rest lining up with the Indians and not one liberal newspaperman—
Kissinger: [unclear] A people of 500 million people. We are to blame for driving 500 million people. Why are we to blame? Because we aren’t letting 500 million people rape 100 million people.
Nixon: That’s right. That’s right.
Kissinger: That’s the way to keep if—
Nixon: Everybody worried about Danzig and Czechoslovakia and all those other places.
Kissinger: If South Africa gobbled up Basutoland and we said, "Well, there are 7 million South Africans…”—
Nixon: We’re on the wrong side.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: You know, Henry, the liberals have let themselves be totally exposed here. They’re only interested in who’s going to win.
Kissinger: And if these bastards with this high-sounding morality leak—we don’t even pretend high-sounding morality on some of these issues, except in the deepest sense of the—
[Omitted here is a portion of the conversation that relates to Vietnam. Haig entered at the end of the discussion of Vietnam with a message from the Chinese.]
Kissinger: Oh. The Chinese want to meet on an urgent basis.
Nixon: With you?
Kissinger: Well, of course I can’t—
Nixon: In New York?
Kissinger: No, they want to meet Haig.
Nixon: Oh. This is the Chinese?
Haig: Huang Hua.
Kissinger: That’s totally unprecedented. They’re going to move. No question, they’re going to move. I had that impression. They’re not, to them, the Indians going to the border—
Nixon: Well, this may change our plans a bit. No, it doesn’t change our plans at all. It makes the hotline more urgent, to get the hotline thing on.
Kissinger: Well, you’ve [Haig] got to go down there.
Nixon: Or go to New York.
Nixon: Haig, the reason they sent that to you is that you had told them, Henry, that you’d be out of town, to see Haig [unclear].
Nixon: I understand. But my point is they said they wanted to see AL rather than you.
Kissinger: Because they said, in view of my departure, Huang Hua wants to meet Haig. I told him I’m leaving for the Azores.
Nixon: All right, fine. Get up there.
Kissinger: This afternoon. Wait until noon. I think we ought to trigger this anyway. This gives them more [unclear].
Nixon: Trigger what?
Kissinger: What we discussed, the press release.
Nixon: Haig, Al, do you really think this means they’re going to move? What else could it be?
Kissinger: No question.
Haig: No I think [unclear].
Nixon: We may not be able to do it, but we’ve got to guarantee it. Shit, they lie to us, we lie to them.
Kissinger: Well, but we have to think that through. If the Soviets move against them, and then we don’t do anything, we’ll be finished.
Nixon: So what do we do if the Soviets move against them? Start lobbing nuclear weapons in, is that what you mean?
Kissinger: Well, if the Soviets move against them in these conditions and succeed, that will be the final showdown. We have to—and if they succeed, we’ll be finished. We’ll be through. Because no one then will be—
Kissinger: Then we better call them off. I think we can’t call them off, frankly.
Haig: I think that you call them off if you don’t give them some assurances. But the price you pay for that [is] almost as bad as if you—
Kissinger: The thing is, if we call them off, I think our China initiative is pretty well down the drain.
Nixon: Sure. That’s what I think. And our China initiative is down the drain. And also our stroke with the Russians is very, very seriously jeopardized.
Kissinger: If the Russians get away with facing down the Chinese, and if the Indians get away with licking the Pakistanis, what we are now having is the final, we may be looking right down the gun barrel.
Haig: It’s the Chinese view that the Soviets won’t—
Kissinger: It’s the Chinese view, which they expressed to Bhutto yesterday that the Soviets will back off. I think the Soviets will back off if we face them.
Nixon: Well, that’s the point. The reason that I suggested that the Chinese move is they talked about the Soviet divisions on their border and all that sort of thing. You know that the Soviets at this point aren’t about to go ripping into that damn mess, having in mind the fact of their gains from the Indian thing.
Kissinger: Well, we’ve got to trigger this quickly, so that we are positioned and not at the tail of the Chinese.
Kissinger: Otherwise, we have no moral basis whatsoever for supporting the Chinese.
Nixon: Basically, Bhutto asked the Chinese to move too, didn’t he?
Kissinger: They’re not doing it because of us.
Nixon: That’s what I mean. Let me just get that straight right away. Why are the Chinese moving?
Kissinger: The Chinese—
Nixon: I think it’s a good idea.
Kissinger: The Chinese, well, we asked, but that’s not the reason they’re doing it.
Nixon: The way you put it, Henry, the way you put it is very different as I understand. You said, look, we’re doing all these things, why don’t you threaten them. Remember I said, threaten, move a couple of people.
Kissinger: Well, and I said if you—
Nixon: Look, we have to scare these bastards.
Kissinger: And I said—
Nixon: We can’t scare them, can we?
Kissigner: I said, you’d be, and I said we will prevent pressures on you from other countries.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: But it’s immaterial who made them do it. We didn’t make them do it. They are acting for the same reason they jumped US when we approached the Chinese border in Korea.
Nixon: In Korea.
Kissinger: It’s exactly, to them—
Nixon: Is that what you think, Al?
Haig: Yes, sir.
Kissinger: It’s exactly the same situation. But leaving aside whether we made them do it or not, we did not make them do it, my feeling would be the same, Mr. President, if I had not talked to them on Friday. They don’t move that fast. This has been—
Kissinger: Oh, yeah. This has been building up. My feeling is, Mr. President, leaving completely aside what we said, if the outcome of this is that Pakistan is swallowed by India, China is destroyed, defeated, humiliated by the Soviet Union, it will be a change in the world balance of power of such magnitude—
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: That the security of the United States may be forever, certainly for decades—we will have a ghastly war in the Middle East.
Kissinger: We will have Indonesia—
Nixon: Now, we can really get into the numbers game. What do you have? You’ve got the Soviet Union with 800 million Chinese, 600 million Indians, the balance of Southeast Asia terrorized, the Japanese immobile, the Europeans, of course, will suck after them, and the United States the only one, we have maybe parts of Latin America and who knows.
Nixon: Isn’t that the story?
Kissinger: This is why, Mr. President, you’ll be alone. And we’ll—
Nixon: That’s fine. We’ve been alone before. The point is, Christ almighty, as you remember we sat around here and talked about the [unclear] the goddamn television programs [unclear]. And even Laos even more.
Kissinger: That’s what we might consider.
Nixon: All right, we’ll do it.
Kissinger: Mr. President, I should stay here and skip the Azores.
Nixon: Huh? Yeah.
Kissinger: Given what’s coming up it wouldn’t be better for me to stay here.
Kissinger: What do you think, Al?
Nixon: Well, let’s think a bit. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think the communiqués are so good. I mean I’ll end up making the decision. Al is totally capable of doing all this. And also there is something else that is important. It’s just as well for US not to appear in such an urgent crisis and all that sort of thing. And the fact that when something occurs, you can’t leave Washington but I can. You see my point? Now that wouldn’t do.
Kissinger: Yeah, I’ve got to be with you. No question.
Nixon: But look at [unclear].
Kissinger: I know that. The right answer is you have to make the decision.
Kissigner: And nobody else.
Nixon: But Al, you have an idea—
Kissinger: Al was present—
Nixon: And I trust you to make [unclear] before the end of the day anyway.
Kissinger: Al was present at the other meeting. No you better, you call them back. Set it for what, 4:00?
Nixon: Well, why make it 4:00? I’d go sooner.
Kissinger: Well it should be after these [unclear]. I want Al to be here while we’re doing that. We’ve got to get this triggered quickly so that we are positioned. I mean, this leaves no doubt now what we’ve got to do.
Nixon: Right. Now let’s come back to this general thing. You say they want to see Al. Tell him they are going to move.
Kissinger: That’s what I’ve been—
Nixon: What they want in the way of assurances, they maybe want something more direct. Well, let me see, the Kennedy memorandum of November 5, 1962 [unclear] and that’s what they’ll think.
Kissinger: They’ll believe you.
Nixon: The point is, the fact of the matter is I’d put [it] in more Armageddon terms than reserves when I say that the Chinese move and the Soviets threaten and then we start lobbing nuclear weapons. That isn’t what happens. That isn’t what happens. What happens is we then do have a hotline to the Soviets and we finally just say now what goes on here?
Kissinger: We don’t have to lob nuclear weapons. We have to go on alert.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: We have to put forces in. We may have to give them bombing assistance. I mean—
Nixon: One thing we can do which you forgot, we clean up Vietnam at about that point.
Kissinger: We clean up Vietnam. I mean, at that point, we give an ultimatum to Hanoi. Blockade Haiphong.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: We’ll blockade Haiphong. Now that will hurt China too, but we can’t worry about that at that point.
Nixon: Well, we’ll say it’s for the purpose of protecting Americans, and there is great pursuit of a power struggle.
Kissinger: But above all we have to give the Chinese the sense that if the Russians threaten them—the worst thing, we cannot desert them then move against Haiphong, because that would then say the U.S. and China—we’ll pick up North Vietnam in the process of that. I mean, North Vietnam will be finished then. If Russia and China are at war we can pick it up at any time.
Nixon: Well, we’re talking about a lot of ifs. Russia and China aren’t going to go to war.
Kissinger: I wouldn’t bet on that, Mr. President.
Nixon: Well, let me put it this way. I have always felt that India and Pakistan, inevitably, would have a war. And there can always be a war in the Mideast. As far as Russia and China is [are] concerned there are other factors too overwhelming at this particular point for them to go at each other.
Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, the Russians, first of all, are not rational on China. Secondly, if they can get a pretext to wipe out China then your trip and everything else is an incident. Your trip in their minds was an incident on the road—
Kissinger: Your trip to them was an incident on the road where they would isolate China and could then turn against China in ‘73–‘74. Now that works fine with US because it puts China over on our side and we could play. But if they see an—
Nixon: Well, what are you trying to suggest here? Are you trying to get to the point that maybe we tell the Chinese we won’t back them?
Kissinger: No, I think we have to tell them we will back them.
Nixon: What do you think, Al? You think we should tell them we won’t back them and discourage them?
Haig: I think they may premise action on three things. One is they said the Soviets are cowards. The United States stood the Soviets down recently in Cuba and in the Middle East.
Nixon: Do they know that? You told them that, is that right?
Kissinger: No, they said that to Bhutto.
Nixon: If you think they believe that, then they got the message where nobody else did.
Kissinger: The Chinese respect you.
Nixon: How the hell do they know we stood them down in Cuba, for example? You must have told them that? Oh, everybody knows about Cienfuegos.
Kissinger: Yeah, I told them that.
Nixon: How about the Middle East? How would they know we stood them down there?
Kissinger: Well, because they see what happened. They are tough customers. When all is said and done, they know that Syrian tanks pulled back unconditionally.
Nixon: Fine. Now—
Haig: That’s the assumption they’re moving on. So they feel they know that if the United States moves on the Soviets that will provide the cover they need to invade India. And we’ve got to neutralize the Soviet Union.
Nixon: So, the way to do this, let me hear how you Henry [unclear].
Haig: Well, precisely the same way. We have a terrible domestic problem in the sense that no one can conceive of the seriousness of this thing. It hasn’t been postured.
Haig: We’ve got to ease into that, we can’t just go in—
Kissinger: Plus, you’ve got to do this.
Haig: We have to tell the Soviets today the direction in which we are moving, and it’s going to up the ante of concern. [unclear]
Nixon: We up the ante of concern and what else do we do? Then suppose the Chinese move and the Soviets threaten, then what do we do?
Haig: Well, we’ve got to move, I think, beforehand with the Soviets.
Haig: That a war would be unacceptable.
Kissinger: As soon as the Chinese move we have to tell them that.
Kissinger: We can’t tell them before the Chinese move because it would look like collusion.
Nixon: That’s right. That’s right. Okay. All right, the message should get off. I think the message is the right tone, but if you don’t like the tone, tone it down some.
Kissinger: No, now I think we have to strengthen it to Brezhnev.
Nixon: Yeah, Yeah. Oh, the message to Brezhnev. I mean the public statement.
Kissinger: No, let me write it and come right back with it.
Nixon: Fine. Anything you want.
[The brief conclusion of the conversation is unclear.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation among Nixon, Kissinger and Haig, Oval Office, Conversation No. 637–3. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the conversation published here specifically for this volume.↩
- In the course of discussing the public opinion aspects of the crisis, a UN resolution to condemn India as an aggressor, and a hotline message to Moscow, Nixon, Kissinger, and Haig were confronted with the implications of having offered to protect China from the Soviet Union if China intervened in the conflict between India and Pakistan.↩