156. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1 2

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  • Jet Aircraft for Colombia

As you recall, President Lleras of Colombia raised with you his government’s interest in a modest arms modernization program, especially the acquisition of small numbers of F–5 jet aircraft. You indicated a desire to be helpful, and State and Defense were asked to determine what might reasonably be done, taking into account legislative restrictions and pending amendments. (See memo at Tab B.)

The matter was taken up by the Undersecretaries Committee, and the memorandum to you from the Chairman at Tab A is an answer to that request. The Committee notes that the Colombian request cannot be separated from other similar pending requests, and hence the whole question of jet aircraft for Latin America had to be considered. The Committee also concluded that the legislative restrictions, which require a deduction from aid if jet aircraft are purchased, definitely impedes our ability to be either helpful in these cases or to restrain excessive purchases by offering reasonable U.S. alternatives to expensive European equipment. The Committee also concluded that we should not do anything in the next few weeks which would imperil our chances of getting constructive changes in the legislation.

The Committee approved the following courses of action:

Intensify efforts to amend the Conte Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act to enable us to respond to purchase requests for modern arms without penalty.
  • (a) Instruct our Ambassador in Bogota to confirm to President Lleras our desire to be helpful and our readiness to license exports of modest numbers of F–5 or A–4 aircraft;
  • (b) He will, however, describe the current congressional problem including the aid penalty requirement and suggest a delay in final decision to purchase until after the current Congressional session ends and the results of efforts to amend the legislation are known;
  • (c) Meanwhile, authorize our military mission in Colombia to discuss with the Colombian Air Force details of types, quantities, costs and delivery schedules;
  • (d) Indicate the availability of reconditioned A–4 aircraft for early delivery at an attractive price should Colombia prefer these to more expensive models.
Approaches similar to that in 2(a) and (b) will be made to other countries which have pending requests.

I believe that this is a reasonable position in the circumstances and constitutes an adequate follow-up to your conversation with President Lleras.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 779, Country Files, Colombia, Vol. 1. Secret. Sent for information. The President initialed his approval on September 15. Haig wrote on the front of the memorandum: “To Vaky for Guidance.” Attached but not published at Tab A is an August 13 memorandum from Richardson to the President. Tab B is attached and published as Document 155.
  2. Kissinger informed President Nixon of the status on the sale of jet aircraft for Colombia. Nixon agreed to have the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia tell President Lleras Restrepo that the administration wanted to license a modest number of F–5 or A–4 aircraft.