DC, 26 May 2006 - Today, the
National Security Archive announces the publication The
Kissinger Transcripts: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy,
1969-1977, comprising more than 2,100 memoranda of conversations
("memcons"), many of them near-verbatim transcripts,
detailing talks between Henry A. Kissinger and United States
and foreign government leaders and officials. Edited by senior
analyst William Burr, and available on the Digital
National Security Archive as well as in print-microfiche
form, this collection includes 28,386 pages of documents. It
is the most comprehensive published record of Kissinger as decision-maker,
executor of policy, and negotiator during all phases of his
service during the Nixon and Ford administrations: 1) as Assistant
to the President for National Security Affairs ("national
security adviser"), 1971-1975, 2) as national security
adviser and Secretary of State, 1973-1975, and 3) as Secretary
of State after he was dismissed as national security adviser.
Originally found in archival sources or released through targeted
declassification requests, the memcons show Kissinger meeting
with the major leaders of the day in a variety of settings,
from the White House Situation Room to the Kremlin and the Great
Hall of the People (Beijing). Kissinger's many interlocutors
included Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, James Schlesinger, Donald
Rumsfeld, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Denis Healey, Takeo
Miki, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Anwar Sadat, Hafez al-Assad, King
Hussein, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Georges Pompidou,
Andrei Gromyko, Leonid Brezhnev, Anatoly Dobrynin, Aldo Moro,
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Itzak
Rabin, Helmut Schmidt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Le Duc Tho, Nguyen
Van Thieu, Mobutu Sese Seko, Léopold Senghor, Julius
Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, John B. Vorster, Marshall Tito, and
Nicolae Ceausescu, among many others.
The documents published in The Kissinger Transcripts: A
Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy shed light on Kissinger's
role in the key international developments of the period, including,
but not limited to, the following topics:
- The wars in Indochina--Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia--and
Kissinger's managerial role in U.S military operations in
- Kissinger's interactions with the North Vietnamese, the
Chinese, and the Soviets in trying to bring conflicts in Indochina
to an end
- The final stages of the Indochina wars, including U.S. reactions
to the collapse of the client regimes in the region
- U.S.-Soviet détente and Kissinger's conduct of the
"back channel" with the Soviet Union
- Crises over Jordan and Soviet bases in Cienfuegos, Cuba,
- U.S.-China rapprochement: including initial White House
efforts to communicate with Beijing, Kissinger's "secret
trip" to China in July 1971 and subsequent high-level
meetings with Chinese officials, including visits by Presidents
Nixon and Ford in 1971 and 1975, respectively
- Developments in South Asia, including the 1971 India-Pakistan
war and the Nixon/Kissinger tilt to Pakistan during the crisis
- The October War and relations with the Arab states, Japan,
and Western Europe during the 1973-1974 oil crisis
- Kissinger and Middle East "shuttle diplomacy"
during 1973-1975 and the negotiation of disengagement agreements
between Israel, Syria, and Egypt
- International economic, energy and raw materials policies
- U.S. policy toward Chile, including the coup and relations
with the Pinochet dictatorship
- The 1974 Cyprus crisis and U.S. relations with Greece and
- Revolutions in Portugal and its colonies and U.S. policy
toward the ensuing political crisis in Portugal and the civil
war in Angola
- U.S.-European relations, including policy coordination and
consultations on a variety of hot issues, such as Euro-Communism
and political developments in Portugal, 1974-1975
- Negotiations to end minority rule in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe,
including negotiations with South African leaders
The Kissinger Transcripts: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy
is available on microfiche or in electronic form as part of
the on-line Digital
National Security Archive (subscription service
managed by ProQuest). A printed index/catalog provides great
detail on each of the memcons, including archival location when
appropriate. The printed guide includes a 305-page catalog,
a 141-page names index, and a 592-page subject index beginning
with "Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)" and ending
with "Zimbabwe." In addition, a glossary of names
provides basic information on major participants in the "memcons."
Finally, an overview essay by the editor provides perspective
on the documents in this collection and on Kissinger's career
Today's briefing book includes a sampling
of 20 documents from The Kissinger Transcripts.
They cover such developments as:
- An early "back channel" meeting where Soviet ambassador
Anatoly Dobrynin showed concern that the Nixon administration
might escalate the Vietnam War: Kissinger replied that "it
would be too bad if we were driven in this direction because
it was hard to think of a place where a confrontation between
the Soviet Union and the United States made less sense"
- In his first high-level secret meeting with the North Vietnamese,
August 1969, Kissinger warns Hanoi that without diplomatic
progress, "we will be compelled - with great reluctance
- to take measures of the greatest consequence"
- Discussing Cuba policy, Kissinger asked an NSC committee
to look at "para-military options" because President
Nixon was interested in, even "leaning toward",
- During a meeting of the Washington Special Actions Group
on the 1970 "Black September" crisis in Jordan,
Kissinger told the group that Nixon "wants us to consider
using aircraft against the Fedayeen"; if "Royal
authority" in Jordan collapsed, Washington might intervene
- A meeting of the National Security Council showed the difficulty
of producing a "clear" nuclear weapons use policy
in the event of a NATO crisis; during the meeting Nixon argued
that "We will never use the tactical nuclears, but we
let the USSR see them there."
- During a discussion of policy toward Allende's Chile with
U.S. copper mining executives, Kissinger showed determination
to wage economic warfare: "if we agree to open up international
credits, we may be just speeding up the process of establishing
a communist regime."
- After his trip to China, Kissinger had an uncomfortable
meeting with right-wing critics of détente and rapprochement
with Beijing. While Kissinger claimed to welcome "pressure
from the Right", he preferred that his audience stay
quiet: they were "too harsh" and should "stop
yelling at us."
- During secret talks with Zhou Enlai in June 1972, Kissinger
explained U.S. Vietnam strategy. Following his "decent
interval" approach, Kissinger argued that the White House
could not accept Hanoi's proposals to eject South Vietnamese
leaders from power, but would accept the political changes
that could occur after the United States withdrew forces from
Vietnam: "if, as a result of historical evolution it
should happen over a period of time, if we can live with a
Communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept
it in Indochina"
- During a Vietnam strategy session in August 1972, Kissinger
had a livid reaction to the "indecent haste" with
which the "treacherous" Japanese had just recognized
- In the final stages of the Vietnam negotiations, South Vietnamese
officials objected strongly to proposed settlement with Hanoi.
With the agreement leaving North Vietnamese forces in the
South, one official complained to Kissinger about the "overwhelming
problems. If you present someone with a question, he does
not wish to die either by taking poison or by a dagger. What
kind of an answer do you expect?"
- Meeting with Israeli ambassador Simcha Dinitz, Kissinger
denounced the Jackson-Vanik amendment to withhold trade concessions
from the Soviets unless they liberalized their policy on emigration
of Soviet Jewry: the "issue for American Jews is whether
a major American foreign policy can be wrecked"
- During and after the October 1973 Middle East war, Kissinger
began to squeeze the Soviets out of the Middle East; the Soviets
understood this and told Kissinger that he had gone back on
his promise to include Moscow in the negotiations. When Kissinger
declared that the "United States has no intention to
exclude the Soviet Union," Leonid Brezhnev suggested
that he was not persuaded and spoke of the need for "good
faith, not playing games."
- A few days later Kissinger told Israeli officials: "we
are squeezing [Moscow]" but he worried about détente's
future because "we are facing these brutal bastards with
nothing to offer them."
- During a discussion with State Department staff of the problem
of detecting military coups, such as the April 1974 coup in
Portugal, Kissinger asked "what do we do-run an FBI in
every country? [W]e say they're a dictatorship with internal
security measures. The goddam internal security measures couldn't
find the bloody coup, so why the hell should we find it?"
- Discussing Cambodia with Thailand's Foreign Minister, Kissinger
acknowledged that the Khmer Rouge were "murderous thugs"
but he wanted the Thais to tell the Cambodians "that
we will be friends with them": Cambodia aligned with
China could be a "counterweight" to the real adversary,
- During a meeting of the "Quadripartite Group"--the
U.S., British, French, and West German Foreign Ministers-which
met secretly for discussions of matters of common concern-Kissinger
explained his skepticism about Euro-Communism: "The acid
test isn't whether they would come to power democratically;
the test is whether they would allow a reversal. It is difficult
for a Communist party to admit that history can be reversed
and allow themselves to be voted out of power." For Kissinger,
the European Communist Parties were the "real enemy."
- Meeting secretly with the Iraqi foreign minister in December
1975, Kissinger declared that he found it useful to "establish
contact" with Baghdad because he wanted to show that
"America is not unsympathetic to Iraq."
- During a February 1976 discussion with the Pakistani prime
minister, Kissinger expressed concern about Pakistan's nuclear
aspirations: worried about a proposed deal with the French,
"what concerns us is how reprocessing facilities are
used at a certain point." After the Pakistanis cited
earlier assurances on safeguards for nuclear facilities, Kissinger
observed that "realities" mattered, not "words."
The following documents are in PDF format.
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1: Memorandum for the President from Henry A. Kissinger,
"Memorandum of Conversation with Ambassador Dobrynin, April
3, 1969," 3 April 1969, Secret/Nodis (Note
One of Kissinger's most famous actions in the Nixon administration's
first months was to establish a secret communications channel,
or "back channel" (as opposed to regular "front
channel" communications through the State Department) with
the Soviet Union through Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. Seeing
relations with the Soviet Union as one of their most important
problems, Nixon and Kissinger wanted a secret channel for negotiations
on the most sensitive issues but also to defuse potential crises
with their only major nuclear rival. Kissinger would use it
to discuss and negotiate with Dobrynin a variety of problems,
including Vietnam, strategic arms control, the Berlin problem,
Cuba, and the Middle East. This early discussion quickly turned
to the Vietnam War with Dobyrnin showing concern over the possibility
of U.S. escalation of the war. Also worried about China (border
fighting had begun a month earlier), Dobrynin wondered about
the direction of U.S. policy. Nixon's inaugural address had
made plain his interest in opening communication with old adversaries
like China but Kissinger would not give any clues about White
House thinking beyond a few generalities.
2: Henry Kissinger to President Nixon, "Meeting in
Paris with North Vietnamese," 6 August 1969, with Memorandum
of Conversation attached, 4 August 1969 attached, Top Secret/Sensitive/Nodis
In late July 1969, Nixon traveled to a number of countries
in East and South Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia,
Vietnam, Thailand, India, and Pakistan (as well as the famous
stop in Guam where the "Nixon Doctrine" was articulated).
After Nixon's visit to Romania, Kissinger traveled separately
to Paris for meetings, one of which was a highly secret discussion
with North Vietnamese diplomats Xuan Thuy and Mai Van Bo in
which Kissinger was accompanied only by NSC staffer (and future
national security adviser) Anthony Lake and Defense Department
attaché Major General Vernon Walters. Showing the gulf
between the negotiating positions of the warring parties, Xuan
and Mai insisted that peace in Vietnam depended on the withdrawal
of U.S. forces and the "removal" of the Thieu-Ky regime.
Kissinger, however, argued that the United States would not
"replace" Thieu-Ky; moreover, the withdrawal of U.S.
forces required the departure of DRV forces from the South.
The central feature of Kissinger's presentation was his assertion
that if progress on a diplomatic solution had not been reached
by 1 November, the first anniversary of the Paris talks, "we
will be compelled - with great reluctance - to take measures
of the greatest consequence." This threat was part and
parcel of the "madman theory" which Nixon and Kissinger
hoped could be implemented to reach a favorable Vietnam settlement.
Xuan, Kissinger reported to Nixon, "did not hit back hard"
at the implied threat of a bombing campaign which Kissinger
had been trying to convey in various forms over the summer.
3: Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," 4 August
1969, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, Secret/Nodis
The same day that he had the secret meeting with Xuan Thuy,
Kissinger had several meetings with senior French officials,
including Prime Minister Pompidou and Foreign Minister Maurice
Schumann. After some discussion of possible Chinese and Soviet
thinking about the Vietnam negotiations and the views of Asian
leaders about U.S. policy, the discussion turned to the North
Vietnamese and the diplomacy of a settlement. Kissinger made
it evident that the credibility of U.S. power was an all-important
consideration in his thinking about the war: "it was important
that we not be confounded by a fifth-rate agricultural power"
and it was "unthinkable for a major power like the United
States to be destroyed politically by North Vietnam." More
or less dismissing the DRV's negotiating position, Kissinger
allowed that the White House was nevertheless willing to compromise,
but the United States refused to "destroy … organized
non-communist political forces." Moreover, "outside
military forces," including the North Vietnamese, must
withdraw or "diminish via attrition." As the meeting
ended, Schumann observed that "some kind of contact with
the Chinese might be useful," presumably to get a better
understanding of the North's position or even influence its
thinking. Kissinger made no recorded response but earlier in
the year, at Eisenhower's funeral, Nixon had secretly requested
that de Gaulle to make contact with Beijing to convey the U.S.'s
interest in high-level communications with China.
4: Meeting of NSC Review Group, "U.S. Policy Toward
Cuba (NSSM 32)," 23 September 1969, White House Situation
Part of the NSC apparatus that Kissinger and NSC staffer Morton
Halperin created in the first months of the new administration,
Senior Review Group brought together senior officials to review
responses to the various National Security Study Memoranda that
Kissinger had signed. This meeting on Cuba focused on a study
prepared in response to NSSM 32, which presented four basic
approaches: 1) force, 2) isolation, 3) carrot and stick (active
and passive versions), and 4) normalization. The meeting shows
Kissinger prodding the officials to consider the issues in a
different light, i.e., to look into "how much" value
the Soviets placed on their relationship with Cuba and the extent
to which Washington had an interest in "maintaining a Communist
regime [there] so that we can use Cuba in a squeeze play vis-à-vis
the USSR." Moreover, Kissinger wanted the Group to look
at "para-military options" because President Nixon
was interested in, even "leaning toward", them.
A fascinating part of the discussion was on the extent to which
the United States could accommodate itself to a more moderate
Cuban communism. Kissinger observed that one of the "advantages
of Castro Communism is that it is an unattractive form of Communism."
Even if Cuba followed a "Titoist" model it might not
be to the U.S.'s advantage because Yugoslavia's leader was generally
not "helpful" to Washington "except when he fears
Soviet attack." Looking beyond Cuba, Kissinger "asked
if an enlightened Communist country in Latin America would be
in our interest." Apparently the answer was no, because
Kissinger "cited a democratic Latin American leader who
had thanked God for the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia [because]
if the Czech model had succeeded, it would have been a respectable
model for others to see." Another official, the State Department's
William R. Cargo, observed that if Cuba broke its ties with
Moscow, it "could not be successful without our help."
He "thought it better to have a poor Communist example
with Soviet support and approval than not." Implicitly,
communism as such was a threat, whether it was linked to the
Soviet Union or not.
5: Meeting of the Washington Special Actions Group with
the President, "Cambodia," 15 June 1970, 3:15 p.m.,
White House Situation Room, Top Secret/Sensitive/Nodis
Some six weeks after U.S. forces had crossed over the Cambodian
border from South Vietnam, President Nixon met with members
of the Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG) to get a "maximum
effort" from the national security bureaucracy in assisting
the Lon Nol government and to review progress made since the
invasion. Established by Kissinger in mid-1969, the WSAG played
a key role in coordinating the development of contingency plans
for possible crises and enabling Kissinger to monitor the implementation
of the plans when crises occurred. During a meeting on Cambodia,
after Kissinger reminded the WSAG that Nixon was concerned that
"we were proceeding at too leisurely a pace" in providing
military aid, Nixon explained that U.S. credibility was at stake
in the Cambodian crisis: "It was important for Suharto
and the Indonesians, as well as for the Thai and the Lao, to
know that we were standing firm." If Cambodia fell, the
"other side" would have their "sanctuaries"
and the "psychological impact" would be "serious."
Believing that it was important for Washington to "take
risks" on behalf of Cambodia, Nixon wanted the group to
take an "imaginative, positive approach." In response,
JCS Chairman Admiral Moorer spoke about actions to "extend
reconnaissance" by infiltrating "teams of indigenous
ground personnel," to increase CIA activities, and to deploy
two Thai regiments to protect lines of communications in Western
Cambodia. When Nixon asked about the Cambodians' fighting abilities,
Moorer made an invidious comparison to the Laotian forces secretly
financed by the CIA: "the Cambodians were not doing badly.
Compared to Helms's Laotians, they were about a stand-off in
military ability." (Note 4)
6: Senior WSAG Meeting, "Middle East," 10 September
1970, 3:15-4:00 p.m., White House Situation Room, Top Secret
The fall of 1970 was a period of crises for the Nixon administration:
the Jordanian crisis and tensions over a Soviet naval base in
Cienfuegos, Cuba overlapped with unfolding covert activities
to thwart the election of Chilean socialist Salvador Allende.
(Note 5) This document recounts a WSAG meeting
that occurred in the midst of the "Black September"
Jordan crisis, when "Fedayeen"--Palestinian Liberation
Organization (PLO) guerillas-were fighting the government of
Jordan as well as hi-jacking passenger aircraft in an attempt
to secure the release of guerillas imprisoned in Israel. To
ensure that the Israeli government had more military resources
in the event that it intervened in Jordan, Nixon requested a
new package of military aid while the WSAG looked at contingency
plans in the event that Washington decided to intervene. The
problem was keeping U.S. military maneuvers quiet; as Admiral
Moorer explained, "We have taken every action we can take
now without signaling an increased alert." While troop
support was one possibility, Kissinger told the group that Nixon
"wants us to consider using aircraft against the Fedayeen."
Admiral Moorer's "first recommendation is that we should
not get involved" because of the logistical problems that
such an intervention would face, as well as the possibility
that the Soviets would react. Nevertheless, Kissinger wanted
the Group to develop plans if Nixon decided in favor of a "sustained
operation in Jordan" because a "collapse of Royal
authority" could lead to Israeli intervention followed
by Soviet and Iraqi counter-moves. This led the group to consider
possible deterrent measures such as alerting strategic bombers.
While Kissinger believed that Soviet intervention was "quite
possible," Jordanian armed forces were able to hold off
the Fedayeen and a Syrian tank column that crossed into Jordan.
Nixon and Kissinger later argued that the Soviets had encouraged
the Syrians to intervene and then, in response to U.S. warnings,
pull back but subsequent accounts suggest exaggeration of both
the Syrian and Soviet roles. (Note 6)
7: Memorandum of Conversation, "NSC Meeting: NATO and
MBFR," 19 November 1970, 10:00 a.m., White House, Top Secret/XGDS
As part of its overall review of U.S. foreign policy, the Nixon
White House looked closely at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO). Nixon's first overseas trip was to Western Europe, as
a sign of the alliance's importance to the new administration.
Nevertheless, Nixon and Kissinger had concerns about future
relations with Western Europe in light of Congressional pressures
to withdraw troops and the emergence of Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik,
which worried Kissinger because of the prospect of overly close
ties between Bonn and Moscow. Moreover, Soviet pressure for
a European security conference and Mutual and Balanced Force
Reduction talks complicated matters further. In the fall of
1970, in the wake of major studies of NATO and MBFR, the NSC
met to discuss the issues. Kissinger's briefing emphasized the
necessity for developing a "viable strategy" for U.S.
forces in Europe but he wanted to "avoid any actions which
would lead our allies in the direction of neutralism."
Force withdrawals could shock the West Germans and "push
them toward the Russians." As Nixon argued, "If they
reach the conclusion that the U.S. is withdrawing [the Germans]
will go into a psychological frenzy." According to Kissinger,
one problem that the study of NATO strategy disclosed was that
the U.S. government "could not develop a clear picture
of the use of tactical nuclear weapons." Nevertheless,
Nixon saw tactical nuclear weapons as basic to deterrence: "We
will never use the tactical nuclears, but we let the USSR see
them there." Moreover, the U.S. position in Western Europe
depended on overall nuclear strength: "strategy without
a credible deterrent would mean the Soviet domination of Europe."
The United States could not let people believe that Soviet nuclear
forces were "superior" because Washington would "lose
leverage as Number Two."
8: "Chile", Memorandum of Conversation with Anaconda
Copper Executives, 17 August 1971, White House, memoranda and
letters attached, Confidential
The CIA's inability to stop Salvador Allende's election to
the Chilean presidency the previous October had produced great
displeasure in the Nixon White House, which had backed covert
operations to prevent the Popular Unity coalition's victory.
In keeping with Nixon's order to Director of Central Intelligence
Richard Helms to "make the economy scream," the White
House supported an embargo on international loans to the Chilean
government. Earlier governments had taken steps to nationalize
copper mines in Chile, but the Allende coalition took the process
further in July 1971, when Congress passed a constitutional
amendment allowing the government to nationalize all the mines,
placing them under the control of a state-owned company. In
light of the high profits that U.S. corporations had made in
Chilean copper over the years, Allende argued that those profits
were sufficient compensation. Concerned about the Chilean situation,
in August 1971 Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller
asked Kissinger to meet with his former colleague John Place,
who had recently become president of Anaconda Copper. A meeting
between Kissinger, Place, and another Anaconda executive showed
some differences over the exact meaning of a "tough line"
toward Chile, but it was evident that the White House wanted
to harass the Chilean economy: "if we agree to open up
international credits, we may be just speeding up the process
of establishing a communist regime."
9: Memorandum of Conversation with Conservative Opinion
Leaders, 12 August 1971, 4:00-5:30 p.m., The White House, Secret
In 1968 publishers, intellectuals, and activists on the right
had generally supported Richard Nixon's candidacy. Moreover,
William F. Buckley, Jr., publisher of the National Review, had
been on friendly terms with Henry Kissinger since the 1950s;
while Kissinger tended to dismiss most conservative activists
as yokels, Buckley was one conservative opinion leader whom
Kissinger, a self-described "historical conservative,"
had tried to win over. By the mid-summer of 1971, however, the
conservative establishment was in revolt against the Nixon administration.
That Nixon and Kissinger were making unnecessary concessions
in the SALT talks was one worry, but the biggest blow was Kissinger's
trip to Beijing, which the conservatives regarded as a deal
with the devil. In a statement published in Human Events on
12 August Buckley and twelve others announced that they had
"resolved to suspend our support of the Nixon administration."
That same day, some members of the group, without Buckley,
met Kissinger at the White House. Doing much of the talking
and defending the administration's record, Kissinger denied
that the White House "has given away anything on SALT"
and treated the opening to China as a "necessity"
to balance off the Soviet Union. Not persuaded by Kissinger's
arguments, one conservative opined that Nixon foreign policy
was not significantly different from Kennedy/Johnson diplomacy,
while others showed concern about Taiwan, defense spending,
and missile accuracy programs. Trying to square the new China
policy with the traditional support for Taiwan, Kissinger made
a statement that proved remarkably imprudent in light of what
happened only a few months later: "The justification of
… our China initiative would be disproved now if the Taiwanese
were excluded from the UN." While Kissinger pretended to
welcome "pressure from the Right", it was evident
that he preferred his audience to stay quiet: they were "too
harsh" and should "stop yelling at us." His audience
was not persuaded; one saw it as "kind of a patronizing
performance." (Note 8)
10: Memorandum of Conversation with Zhou Enlai, 20 June
1972, 2:05- p.m., Top Secret/Sensitive/Exclusively Eyes Only
While the far right remained unhappy with Kissinger, the rapprochement
with Beijing continued to unfold with another Kissinger visit
in October, Alexander Haig's visit in January 1972 and the Nixon
trip in February 1972. In White House Years, Kissinger discussed
at length his and Nixon's trips to China but he devoted only
one paragraph to his talks with Zhou Enlai in Beijing, during
20-23 June 1972. (Note 9) These exchanges,
however, do not deserve the obscurity to which Kissinger has
relegated them because they were significant, covering key issues
such as the Vietnam War, the possibility of normalizing relations,
U.S.-Soviet relations, Soviet policy, and a host of regional
problems ranging from Western Europe to South Asia to Japan
and Korea. Kissinger visited Beijing in the midst of U.S.-China
tensions caused by Beijing's secret protests of border incidents
and attacks on Chinese ships during the Linebacker I bombing
raids and mining operations against North Vietnam in retaliation
against Hanoi's spring offensive. With respect to the Soviets,
who were the source of considerable apprehension in Beijing,
a fascinating moment occurred when Kissinger tacitly brought
Beijing within the scope of the U.S. nuclear umbrella by telling
Zhou that Washington would make a nuclear response in the event
that Moscow launched an attack "that would put all of Asia
under one European center of control" (p. 19). On the outcome
of the Vietnam negotiations, Kissinger drew on the "decent
interval" concept to convince Zhou that the United States
was truly determined to exit from Vietnam. He told Zhou that,
for credibility reasons, the United States could not meet Hanoi's
demand for the "overthrow" of President Nguyen Van
Thieu. Nevertheless, once U.S. forces had left Indochina, Kissinger
declared, the White House would accept the results of historical
change: "while we cannot bring a communist government to
power, if, as a result of historical evolution it should happen
over a period of time, if we can live with a communist government
in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina"
11: Memorandum of Conversation with Ambassador to Republic
of Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker, 31 August 1972, Honolulu, with
Bunker chronology, negotiating papers, and Nixon letter to Thieu
attached, Top Secret/Sensitive/Exclusively Eyes Only
A year later, Kissinger was in Oahu for the summit between
Nixon and Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. Before meeting
with Nixon, Kissinger had a discussion with Ellsworth Bunker,
the U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, about the reactions of
the South Vietnamese leadership to the latest U.S. proposals
at the secret peace talks with North Vietnam. Before beginning
the discussion on Vietnam, Kissinger denounced the "treacherous"
Japanese, who had just informed Washington, with very little
notice, that they were about to establish full diplomatic relations
with China. This outburst is an example, confirmed by other
documents in The Kissinger Transcripts, of his often
difficult, sometimes antagonistic, relationship with Japan,
a society that he had great difficulty understanding. On Vietnam,
Kissinger's main concern was President Thieu's fear that an
agreement with North Vietnam would "sell out" the
South; for Thieu, the proposed tripartite "Committee of
National Reconciliation" would amount to a "disguised
coalition government" by including representatives of the
National Liberation Front. Worried that the "obtuse"
Thieu would make his objections public, Kissinger declared that
would be "their death and our death" because it would
give a "big boost" to George McGovern's presidential
Certainly, the surfacing of Thieu's objections would interfere
with Kissinger's "plan" to walk out of the Paris Talks
after the U.S. elections and initiate a "confrontation
with the North Vietnamese." To get Thieu on board, Bunker
and Kissinger agreed that Nixon had to send him a letter with
an assurance that the White House would not "purchase peace
or honor … at the price of deserting a brave ally."
While Kissinger's memoirs included a discussion of the meeting
with Bunker, he did not mention the frank discussion of the
U.S. presidential election, the "rigged" South Vietnamese
elections in 1971, or Thieu's concern about a "disguised
coalition government," much less the outburst over Japan.
12: Memorandum of Conversation with Nguyen Phu Duc, Foreign
Policy Assistant to President Thieu, 29 November 1972, 5:30-7:15
p.m., The White House, Top Secret/Sensitive/Exclusively Eyes
Several months later, the crisis with Saigon that Kissinger
had tried to forestall began to unfold. While Kissinger had
said that "peace was at hand" and Nixon was re-elected,
Thieu and his advisers could not be persuaded that the agreement
that Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were negotiating was in their
interest. At the end of November Thieu sent his national security
adviser Nguyen Phu Duc to try to persuade Nixon to make changes
in the agreement. The discussion between Duc and Nixon was difficult
enough, but the first Duc-Kissinger conversation amounted to
a confrontation, with Kissinger taking the offensive by accusing
the South Vietnamese of giving the North a "victory"
because of their "public demands [on the U.S. government]."
(Note 11) While Kissinger reminded Duc of
Nixon's secret commitments to Thieu, which would include pledges
to bomb the North in order to police the agreement, that was
not enough to convince Duc to swallow his objections. As before,
Duc believed that the proposed Council of National Reconciliation
will be interpreted as "a coalition government without
the name." Just as bad, from his standpoint, was that the
peace agreement would leave North Vietnamese forces in the South.
As Duc explained, these were "overwhelming problems. If
you present someone with a question, he does not wish to die
either by taking poison or by a dagger. What kind of an answer
do you expect?" Kissinger, however, argued that he believed
that the agreement was an "enormous success" because
it kept President Thieu in office. "No one in America thought
this was possible."
Kissinger argued that Duc should treat the plan for a Council
with "total contempt"; in any event, Kissinger "wouldn't
let [it] come into being." As for language on the withdrawal
of North Vietnamese forces, Kissinger argued that it was "impossible."
Nixon and Kissinger had conceded this point to Hanoi several
years earlier when they stopped talking about "mutual withdrawal"
of forces from South Vietnam; they would not reopen the issue.
The meeting ended without resolution; "it is impossible
to get an agreement this way," Kissinger complained. While
Saigon could not win on its basic objections, before Hanoi and
Washington signed the peace agreement in January 1973, the U.S.
Air Force and Navy had conducted the "Christmas Bombing,"
to weaken Hanoi in order to create a decent interval but as
an earnest to Thieu that the United States would use force to
deter violations of the agreement. (Note 12)
13: Memorandum of Conversation, 30 March 1973, 12:00-12:40
p.m., Military Aide's Office, East Wing, White House, Top Secret/Sensitive/Excusively
Meeting with Simcha Dinitz, in his new role as the Israeli
ambassador, Kissinger was briefed on the secret talks on a Middle
Eastern settlement between Israeli diplomats and Yevgeny Primakov,
one of the top Soviet Middle East experts. According to Dinitz's
account the Soviets minimized the importance of Egypt's expulsion
of Soviet military advisers in the summer of 1972: "It
is not so important; we [the Soviets] are still there, with
friends and arms." Kissinger had no objections to the Israel-Soviet
discussion, which generally paralleled the U.S. approach on
the Middle East: "We are pushing nothing [with the Soviets];
we are wasting time." Referring to secret talks with Sadat's
national security adviser, "We are using the Egyptians
to kill off talks with the Russians." Apparently Kissinger
wanted to continue "wasting time," until the Egyptians
had something new to offer. Nevertheless, Kissinger and Dinitz
agreed that the situation could "explode" and Kissinger
recommended that the Israelis "think about eventual negotiations."
On the question of the exit tax on Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate
to Israel, Kissinger warned against the Jackson-Vanik amendment
to deny Most-Favored Nation trade status to Moscow. Declaring
that the "issue for American Jews is whether a major American
foreign policy can be wrecked"-the détente trade
deals with Moscow-Kissinger hoped that he could negotiate away
the exit tax problem.
14: Memorandum of Conversation, "CSCE: Middle East,"
26 March 1974, 10:35 a.m.-1:53 p.m., The Kremlin, Secret/Nodis
The Middle East situation "exploded" in October 1973,
and in the wake of the Yom Kippur War Nixon and Kissinger launched
an intensive effort to secure the disengagement of, on the one
hand, Israeli and Egyptian forces from the Sinai and, on the
other hand, Israeli and Syrian forces from border areas. While
Kissinger had worked with the Soviets in brokering a cease-fire
and Moscow took it for granted that it would play a central
role in negotiating a peace settlement, that was far from Kissinger's
mind. After the near-crisis triggered by Brezhnev's 24 October
1973 letter, Kissinger became determined to squeeze the Soviets
out of any peace talks. Well before the first Egyptian-Israeli
disengagement agreement had been completed in mid-January 1974,
it was evident that Kissinger and his interlocutors in Cairo
and Damascus were putting the Soviets on the sidelines. When
Kissinger traveled to Moscow in late March 1974, mainly to discuss
the SALT II negotiations, he found out how much "shuttle
diplomacy" had angered Brezhnev and the Soviet leadership.
(Note 13) After some discussion of CSCE, which
Brezhnev felt was moving too slowly (and whose human rights
implications he did not take too seriously), the conversation
turned to the Middle East; while Brezhnev believed that he and
Kissinger had reached an understanding in October that peace
settlement diplomacy would be under joint, U.S.-Soviet auspices,
he was uneasy with the U.S.'s independent, or "separate,"
diplomatic activity in the Middle East since the cease-fire.
A telling moment came after Kissinger warned against criticizing
"what has been achieved"; Brezhnev responded that
he was "criticizing the past from a position of principle,
because it was done in circumvention of our understanding with
you." That, Kissinger claimed, "is a phrase I cannot
accept." While Kissinger later declared that the "United
States has no intention to exclude the Soviet Union from the
negotiation," Brezhnev suggested that he was not persuaded,
by speaking of the need for "good faith, not playing games."
15: Memorandum of Conversation with General Moshe Dayan
and Ambassador Simcha Dinitz, 29 March 1974, 12:05-2:45 p.m.,
With the Israeli-Syrian disengagement talks under way, Israel's
Defense Minister, General Moshe Dayan, came to Washington for
talks on the negotiations and on military aid issues. (Note
14) Having just returned from Moscow, Kissinger briefed
the Israelis on the Middle East discussions with Brezhnev, "the
roughest conversation I have ever had with the Soviets on any
subject." "It was a very brutal talk." What Kissinger
would not acknowledge to Brezhnev, he was perfectly comfortable
telling Dayan and Ambassador Simcha Dinitz: "we are squeezing
[the Soviets] on the Middle East." Indeed, Kissinger worried
about the future of détente because the United States
had so little to give the Soviets: "we are facing these
brutal bastards with nothing to offer them." Much of the
conversation related to the proposed disengagement of Israeli
and Syrian forces from a "buffer zone" and the levels
of forces that both sides would keep in the area. Kissinger
believed that a successful negotiation was essential to achieve
a "temporary neutralization of the most radical [Arab]
elements" but also to thwart the Soviets, who wanted the
talks to "fail to bring about a disintegration of our role
in the Middle East." Kissinger, however, was critical of
the lines that the Israelis drew; arguing that "some slice
of the Golan Heights … will have to be part of this arrangement",
otherwise the Israelis "will produce a war." The disengagement
talks posed complex problems that were not resolved until the
end of May, when the two parties reached a final agreement.
16: "The Secretary's Staff Meeting - Wed., Oct. 8,
1975," 8 October 1975, 8:00 a.m., State Department, Secret,
Not long after he became Secretary of State, Kissinger met
regularly with senior State Department officials for updates
on a variety of issues, ranging from world events and overseas
trips to relations with Congress and press leaks. This document
is an example of the staff meetings, with topics including law
of the sea issues, the International Labor Organization, Indonesian
inroads on East Timor, passports to Vietnam, military sales
to Chile, the developing civil war in Lebanon, SALT, a post-mortem
of intelligence prior to the 1974 military coup in Portugal,
a Congressional request for Kissinger testimony on covert operations,
and the situations in Portugal and Ethiopia. The extended discussion
of military sales to Chile shows Kissinger's resistance to linking
non-security criteria such as human rights concerns to military
aid to friendly governments: "if we once get into other
criteria, we're licked." When Kissinger and his staff turned
to failures to predict military coups, especially the one in
Portugal, the discussion became heated. Kissinger argued that
"What do we do-run an FBI in every country? [W]e say they're
a dictatorship with internal security measures. The goddam internal
security measures couldn't find the bloody coup, so why the
hell should we find it?" When Assistant Secretary for Intelligence
and Research William Hyland riposted, "That's supposedly
what we get paid for," Kissinger disagreed: "Are we
in the business of finding coups all over the world?"
17: Memorandum of Conversation, "Secretary's Meeting
with Foreign Minister Chatchai of Thailand," 26 November
1975, 1:00 p.m., State Department, Secret/Nodis
Months after the Indochina debacle, Kissinger had an "informal
lunch" with Chatchai Chunhawan, Foreign Minister in the
civilian government that came to power after the October 1973
student revolution against the military regime. Part of the
new regime's agenda included normalization of relations with
Beijing, so China (including Mao's physical condition, prospects
for Deng Xiaoping, and the Chinese role in Southeast Asia) came
up at several points during the conversation. Another agenda
item for the Thai government was the withdrawal of U.S. military
forces from Thailand; as Kissinger indicated, negotiations had
settled most of the issues except for the more sensitive issue
of the U-2 deployments in Thailand (they would be redeployed
to South Korea in 1976). The conversation, which moved easily
from serious issues to banter, touched on the forces withdrawal
issue, military aid, and especially regional problems, including
the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. Recognizing that Cambodia was
controlled by "murderous thugs," Kissinger nevertheless
wanted the Thais to tell the Cambodians "that we will be
friends with them." That was because he saw Cambodia as
a useful "counterweight", especially if aligned with
China, to the real adversary, "North Vietnam." Thus,
"our strategy is to get the Chinese into Laos and Cambodia
as a barrier to the Vietnamese." (Note 15)
18: Memorandum of Conversation, "East-West Relations
(European Communist Parties); Angola; Spain; Yugoslavia; Cyprus;
Italy,"12 December 1975, 3:30-5:40 p.m., Brussels, Residence
of U.S. Ambassador, Top Secret/Nodis/Xgds
Beginning in 1974-1975, Kissinger and the foreign ministers
of France, the United Kingdom, and the Federal Republic of Germany
began meeting secretly (usually around the time of UN or NATO
meetings) to discuss problems of common concern, mainly but
not exclusively relating to "hot issues" in Western
Europe, such as the Portuguese Revolution and "Euro-Communism."
Barely mentioned in the press, the "Quadripartite Group"
had a more or less clandestine existence for many years, because
its members were determined to escape the notice of other NATO
members who would feel perturbed if they learned of such meetings.
Kissinger's memoir of 1974-1976 never mentions the Group, but
in recent years records of its meetings have surfaced in State
Department records at the National Archives.
During this meeting the ministers traded opinions on Euro-Communism,
whether any of the European Communist Parties were independent
from Moscow, whether they would allow themselves to be voted
out of power, and what kind of threat an electoral victory by
any of them would pose to the Alliance. All four ministers had
dark views of the European Communists and did not anticipate
that the ideas of a multi-party democratic socialism that were
common among reform Communists in Italy and Spain would be supported
by a Soviet Secretary General in a dozen years. An extended
discussion of the Angolan crisis followed, in which the participants
discussed the implications of a victory by the Cuban-Soviet-backed
MPLA. While Kissinger pushed "to get something done,"
in only a few weeks Congress passed the Clark Amendment proscribing
U.S. intervention in Angola's Civil War. Discussions of the
post-Franco transition in Spain and an accommodation between
Italian Communists and Christian Democrats ("historic compromise")
sandwiched a detailed review of Western policy toward Yugoslavia
with a briefing by Commander-in-Chief U.S. European Command
(CINCEUR) General Alexander Haig. Concerned that the Soviets
might make aggressive political or military moves against Yugoslavia,
the ministers listened with interest to Haig's discussion of
possible military maneuvers for the purpose of deterrence in
a crisis. The end of the discussion showed the problems that
the Quadrapartite Group had in arranging meetings; all four
ministers had to have an excuse to be in the same city.
19: Memorandum of Conversation with Sadun Hammadi, Minister
of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, 17 December 1975, 12:20-1:18 p.m.,
Iraqi Ambassador's Residence, Paris, Secret/Nodis/Xgds
Several weeks later, Kissinger was in Paris for a meeting of
an international energy conference. This circumstance provided
the occasion for a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hammadi,
probably the first major U.S.-Iraq diplomatic contact since
Baghdad broke diplomatic relations with Washington in 1967 after
the Six Days War. Kissinger did not mention this event in his
1999 memoir Years of Renewal but it shows that he wished
to "establish contact" to show that "America
is not unsympathetic to Iraq." One consideration that might
have prompted Kissinger's interest in a meeting was Iraq's settlement
of border issues with Iran earlier in the year (an agreement
that collapsed in 1980 when Iraq went to war with Iran). Before
the settlement, the CIA and the Shah of Iran had been covertly
supporting a Kurdish rebellion inside Iraq, whose purpose had
been to distract the Baathist regime, which Nixon and Kissinger
saw as too close to Moscow. As soon as Iraq and Iran had reached
a settlement, Ford and Kissinger liquidated CIA support for
the Kurds. Hammadi, one of the few high-level Shiites in the
Baathist regime, showed concern about the earlier U.S. support
for the Kurds, but as he argued at length, Baghdad's biggest
worry was Israel, which with its nuclear arsenal and its expansionist
policy was a "direct threat to Iraq's security." Kissinger
responded that the United States stood for the "survival
of Israel" but did not want it to dominate the region;
this would be accomplished by "reduce[ing] its size to
historical proportions." Historical evolution, Kissinger
argued, would turn Israel into a small state like Lebanon: "[I]f
Israel wants to survive as a state like Lebanon-as a small state-we
can support them."
Hammadi and his aide disagreed with Kissinger on Israel but
they wanted to talk with him about such matters as the Kurdish
rebellion, the prospects for a Palestinian state, and the situation
in Lebanon. The Iraqis saw no prospect for normalizing relations
with Washington but they saw possibilities for "developing
relations … on the cultural and economic level."
Hammadi and Kissinger agreed that more meetings would be possible
"on a case-by-case basis." As the conversation ended,
Hammadi shared his concern about the Kurdish problem but Kissinger
dismissed it by saying "One can do nothing about the past."
Not so sure, Hammadi rejoined, "Not always."
20: Memorandum of Conversation, "The Secretary's Meeting
with Prime Minister Bhutto," 26 February 1976, 7:00 p.m.,
The Waldorf Towers, Manhattan, Secret/Nodis
U.S. relations with Pakistan were a major element in Kissinger's
first volume of memoirs but the relationship seldom surfaces
in the third volume, Years of Renewal, probably because
there was no great crisis during the period covered by the volume.
Since the Indian-Pakistan war in late 1971 a "tilt"
toward Pakistan had been a hallmark of Nixon/Kissinger diplomacy
and Kissinger sustained it under the Ford administration. Sharing
with Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hostility toward the
government of Indira Gandhi, Kissinger speculated that if the
latter had another "go" at Pakistan, the Soviets would
benefit from changes in the regional balance of power. Nevertheless,
differences between Bhutto and Kissinger were evident. While
Bhutto argued that U.S. détente policy gave the Soviets
an opportunity to "strike in various places," Kissinger
strongly defended the policy as a strategy to "moderate"
the competition with the Soviets as well as weaken the peace
movement at home and communist movements abroad. The problem,
Kissinger argued, was not détente but a "collapse
of executive authority" preventing executive officials
from doing their "duty … to maintain an equilibrium"
internationally. Unlike right-wing critics of détente,
Kissinger was not worried about a Soviet nuclear first-strike
because of the odds against staging a successful one. While
strategic weapons were important for deterrence, he stated that
tactical nuclear weapons could be useful in a crisis. He was
strongly interested in teaching the Cubans a "lesson"
because of their successful intervention in Angola.
One problem that was becoming difficult for U.S.-Pakistan relations
was Pakistan's interest in developing a nuclear capability.
Kissinger had been skeptical over how much of a national interest
the United States had in leading an effort to curb proliferation
but he became more worried in the wake of the Indian test. To
Bhutto, he expressed concern about Pakistan's dealings with
the French to secure reprocessing technology: "what concerns
us is how reprocessing facilities are used at a certain point."
After the Pakistanis cited earlier assurances on safeguards
for nuclear facilities, Kissinger said he was concerned about
"realities" not "words"; safeguarded deals
were not enough because one side could break an agreement. While
Bhutto declared that "We don't want to explode a bomb,"
it was evident that he thought that Pakistan should continue
its nuclear development programs: "an embryonic capability
… may prove helpful" in getting India to accept a
The 1976 election overshadowed this conversation, which showed
that Kissinger did not believe that the Democrats could run
successfully against the Ford administration's record: "I
don't see the Democrats winning since they have neither foreign
policy nor domestic issues to campaign on."
1. See document 19.
2. "Nodis" or "No Distribution" without
3. For Kissinger's account of the meeting, see White House
Years (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979), 278-282. For the campaign
of threats, see William Burr and Jeffrey Kimball, "Nixon's
Secret Nuclear Alert: Vietnam War Diplomacy and the Joint Chiefs
of Staff Readiness Test, October 1969," Cold War History,
January 2003, and Kimball, The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering
the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy (Lawrence, KS:
University Press of Kansas, 2004), 11-21.
4. For Kissinger's account of Cambodia (which does not mention
this meeting), see White House Years, 457-520. For
an up-to-date account of U.S. policy during this period, see
Kenton Clymer, The United States and Cambodia, 1969-2000:
A Troubled Relationship (New York: Routledge, 2004), 24-42.
5. For Kissinger's account of the Jordanian crisis, see White
House Years, 594-631; this meeting is mentioned on page
607. For an overview of crises during September 1970, see Walter
Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography (New York, Simon &
Schuster, 1992), 285-315.
6. Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation,
2nd edition (Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 1994), 98.
7. "XGDS": exclude from general declassification
8. John B. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr., Patron Saint
of the Conservatives (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1988),
300-307 and 330-332.
9. For Kissinger's version, see White House Years,
at 1304. For a detailed account of the Kissinger-Zhou talks,
see William Burr, "The Complexities of Rapprochement,"
in Academic Committee of Beijing Forum at Peking University,
eds., The Harmony and Prosperity of Civilizations: Selected
Papers of Bejing Forum (2004) (Beijing: Peking University
Press, 2005), 190-219.
10. For Kissinger's account of the meeting, see White
House Years, 1326-1327.
11. For Kissinger's brief account of the discussion, see White
House Years, 1426.
12. Kimball, The Vietnam War Files, 275.
13. Kissinger discusses this meeting with Brezhnev in Years
of Upheaval, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982), 1022.
14. For Kissinger's account of the meeting without the frank
evaluation of détente, see Years of Upheaval,
15. For U.S. policy toward Cambodia during and after the fall
of Lon Nol, see Clymer, The United States and Cambodia,