40. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon, Washington, September 27, 1973.1 2


September 27, 1973


SUBJECT: New Zealand Prime Minister at U.N. General Assembly Sides with Small Nations Against Great Powers

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 26, Prime Minister Kirk aligned New Zealand with the small and developing nations, strongly criticizing the great powers as having made notably little progress since World War II on the world’s major problems. Kirk attributed this state of affairs to great power self-aggrandizement and accumulation of material goods, and said the basic solution lies in nations drastically changing their attitudes in the direction of a pursuit of idealism. Kirk called on small nations to combine to force this change.

More specifically, Kirk:

  • — Criticized the emerging detente as “temporary and fragile,” noting that balance of power arrangements in the past have given the great powers another guise to continue competition and rivalry and have always failed.
  • — Pegged the achievement of international economic and social justice as the foremost global problem, calling attention to the growing gap in standards of living and worsening food and population problems.
  • — Welcomed in principle my proposed World Food Conference, but criticized indirectly U.S. domestic agricultural policies and asked for improved access for food producing nations to foreign markets.
  • — Proposed a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, consideration of partial disarmament or regional demilitarization, and a South Pacific nuclear-free zone. (In the course of this, Kirk also supported the ASEAN plan for the neutralization of Southeast Asia and nuclear-free zones in the Indian Ocean and Latin America.)
  • — Attributed UN ineffectiveness to the failure of the great powers to make sufficient use of the world body.

Kirk’s speech is wholly consistent with his sympathy with the “little guy,” and his belief in resolving international tensions largely by economic development and disarmament. His suspicions of the great powers betray his frequent naiveté on world affairs, particularly on the largest issues, although he also shows a hard-headed pragmatism on some more limited issues such as SEATO and Five Power Defense Arrangement for Malaysia-Singapore. The only new elements in the speech are the call for a comprehensive test ban treaty (which follows on his unsuccessful protests against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific this past summer) and his effort to range the small nations against the large. This being his first major speech before a world forum may account for the lengths to which he has projected some of his longer-standing positions.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 934, VIP Visits, New Zealand, Prime Minister Kirk [1 of 2]. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. Kissinger reported on Kirk’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly.