42. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, June 11, 1971.1 2

Nixon: I marked on that [Chile]—I took the, the least—as usual, the little bit pregnant option: five million dollars rather than ten million.

Kissinger: Well, you have no choice about that Mr. President. That’s my recommendation, because the five million has already been promised. The question was whether we would let them pyramid the five into twenty, as State wanted, by using them as security for loans. And, then, there was an intermediate recommendation of making—letting them pyramid the five into ten. I feel—I’d just give them the five straight out, as military—

Nixon: I’ve asked that you call Connally on that, and you should today.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: Because he said he was—He said, “I’d better get over to talk to Henry,” and you know it’s—

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: If you, you [unclear]—

Kissinger: —I can explain to him we have no choice about the five million—

Nixon: None, none.

Kissinger: —but that’s the absolute minimum.

Nixon: We have taken the absolute minimum. Now, the other point is [unclear]—

Kissinger: But on these 707s—

Nixon: [Unclear] the 707s?

Kissinger: Whether we want Ex-Im

Nixon: Ex-Im Bank?

Kissinger: Ex-Im Bank. Here, the argument is the following: Now, we talked to [Henry] Kearns that he could attach banking conditions to it. The Chileans are trying to play it into a political issue and saying we are withholding it for—on political grounds. I’ve talked to Kearns—

Nixon: Fine.

Kissinger: He can attach banking conditions, which, if they don’t come across on expropriation, enable us to prevent the thing from coming through. What they will do is receive the application and process it over a period longer than the expropriation hearings.

Nixon: Connally’s feeling is this: He feels, and he—his gut reaction may be right, Henry, that the effect on the rest of Latin America, whatever we hear from State and the rest, is going to be bad for us to quit screwing around and being so soft on the Chileans.

Kissinger: I have no problem with it—

Nixon: Second, he believes that, as far as American public opinion is concerned, the American people are just aching for us to kick somebody in the ass, and that he wants us to do it.

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: Now, here I am, approving both the [unclear]—You see, State, Goddamnit, they never are against anything.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President—

Nixon: They’re never been against anything—

Kissinger: —you know my view on the Chilean situation—

Nixon: —except against aiding Pakistan.

Kissinger: Yeah, and Brazil. But, on the Chilean thing, I’ve always been for a harder line. We have a pretty good pretext now, because they’ve just—there’s just been an assassination of—

Nixon: I saw that.

Kissinger: —of the right-wing Christian Democrat.

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: And the sons-of-bitches are blaming us for it. He was—

Haldeman: Blaming the CIA? [Laughs]

Kissinger: They’re blaming the CIA.

Nixon: Why the hell would we assassinate him?

Kissinger: Well, a) we couldn’t. We’re—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: CIA’s too incompetent to do it. You remember—

Nixon: Sure, but that’s the best thing. [Unclear].

Kissinger: —when they did try to assassinate somebody, it took three attempts—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —and he lived for three weeks afterwards.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: But, the—But why would we assassinate him? He’s our—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —strongest supporter there. And they have used it to impose martial law and to engage in a violent attack on us—

Nixon: Are they? Then let’s, let’s give—let’s let them have it.

Kissinger: So, I think we should use that as a pretext—

Nixon: Well, you—Will you take any papers I’ve signed on Chile and re-evaluate them? The other one that’s in there is the military assistance. Now, the military, of course, here, comes up with the idea, “Well, they’re our only friends,” and so forth. I haven’t seen the military in Chile do anything for us. I’m inclined not to help them militarily.

Kissinger: Well, the five million we’ve already told them, so that we can’t withdraw—

Nixon: All right. All right.

Kissinger: But, we can prevent their pyramiding it into twenty, which is the current proposal. [Pause] The funny thing is that they have twisted your instruction to keep contact with the military into a relationship where we do more for the Chilean military than for any other military in Latin America. We’ve had more admirals and generals in Chile than in Brazil . [ Laughs ] So, they’re almost [unclear]—

Nixon: They know damn well what I’m trying to get at, and they don’t want to do it. Well, let’s change it. Do you know what I mean?

Kissinger: Oh, they know—

Nixon: I was—Just watch those things. But, if you could give Connally a call today and be sure—

Kissinger: I’ll call him in transit.

Nixon —be sure—Yeah, well, just be—sometime today, be sure he understands what we’re doing, because I saw he was, he was against it and everybody else was for it, and so forth.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South America.]

Nixon: Well, if you would let Connally know why we are doing what we’re doing on Chile. But, let me say, on all future actions toward Chile I prefer a harder line. And incidentally, on the military, I’m not for—I’m not for doing more for the Chilean military. I don’t, I—I don’t—I think this guy has got a stranglehold on that country. [Unclear]—

Kissinger: Mr. President, that man is heading for a one-party government as fast as he effectively can—

Nixon: I think this murder proves it.

Kissinger: Oh, yes. But, even before that, when we had that meeting on the Ex-Im Bank, I went around the table; I asked everyone, “Is Allende moving slower than you expected or faster?” Everyone agreed that he’s moving faster. Everyone agreed that he’s heading for a one-party state. He’s, he’s getting control of the press. He’s, he’s isolating the military.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: He’s treating the military just like Hitler did. He’s, he’s—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —building them up while neutralizing them. And then, he’ll—once he’s got—He’s, he’s already taken over the police.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: They’ll—there’ll never be another free election in Chile.

Nixon: Now, I know all the argument, of course, is that if we get out, then we lose our stroke there. And then, the Russians will be—have to come in, and so forth and so on. The point is that he’s just going to weave us in. And the point—And also, that that—treating him well is going to encourage others to go do likewise. That’s what I’m more concerned about.

Kissinger: Right. That’s the point.

Nixon: Connally’s concerned about it. So, that’s my line. Will you remember? And hit it—?

Kissinger: I’ll remember with enthusiasm—

Nixon: Because, you see, these papers come in Henry, and they’re too far down the line, Henry. And I’ll initial the goddamn things, but I want you to know whatever I initial, my view is that I don’t want to do anything for Chile. Nothing.

Kissinger: I, I want you to know that by the time they come in here, I’ve already pulled them back about—

Nixon: [Unclear]—

Kissinger: —a hundred percent from what they—

Nixon: Well, what concerned me about this paper was that it said Connally was the only one that opposed it. Maury Stans was for it, and everybody else was for it.

Kissinger: Well, Stans is for anything that gets dollars.

Nixon: Yeah, I know. He doesn’t know anything at all.

Kissinger: I mean, Stans, for a conservative Republican, he’s, he’s the softest on any of these trade matters—

Nixon: I know.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 517–4. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording published here specifically for this volume. The transcript is part of a larger conversation, 9:37–10:36 a.m. In the portion printed here, Nixon and Kissinger discussed different options for increasing assistance to Chile. The assassination of the right-wing Christian Democrat, who headed up the right-wing segment of the Christian Democratic Party, former Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Zujovic, is discussed in Lester A. Sobel, Chile & Allende, pp. 42–43.
  2. President Nixon and President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger discussed U.S. relations with Chile in the broader context of the administration’s policy towards Latin America.