for The Kissinger Transcripts:
Kissinger's memos of conversation are an amazing, fascinating, and
absolutely indispensable resource for understanding his years in
power. No history of the Vietnam War, the China opening, the negotiations
with Moscow, or the Middle East would be complete without studying
Walter Isaacson, author of Kissinger: A Biography
National Security Archive's Kissinger set is an extraordinary collection
of primary source materials for one of the most important periods
in recent international relations. It allows students to research
and explore the complex diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, the most celebrated
American diplomat of our time. In these memoranda and meeting transcripts
students can see the development of America's policies toward almost
every part of the globe - a unique teaching resource, carefully
organized and thoroughly accessible."
Thomas Schwartz, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow
Edited by William Burr
Collection of Formerly Secret and Top Secret Transcripts of
Henry Kissinger's Meetings with World Leaders Published On-Line
Pages of Documents Show Kissinger as Negotiator and Policymaker
in Real-time, Verbatim Talks with World Leaders
more information contact:
DC, 26 May 2006 - Today the National
Security Archive announces the publication of the most comprehensive
collection ever assembled of the memoranda of conversations
(memcons) involving Henry Kissinger, one of the most acclaimed
and controversial U.S. diplomats of the second half of the 20th
century. Published on-line in the Digital
National Security Archive (ProQuest) as well in
print-microfiche form, the 28,000-page collection is the result
of a seven-year effort by the National Security Archive to collect
every memcon that could be found through archival research and
declassification requests. According to Kissinger biographer
and president of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson, "Henry
Kissinger's memos of conversation are an amazing, fascinating,
and absolutely indispensable resource for understanding his
years in power." Nearly word-for-word records of the meetings,
the memcons place the reader in the room with Kissinger and
world leaders, and future leaders, including Mao Zedong, Anwar
Sadat, Leonid Brezhnev, Georges Pompidou, Richard Nixon, Gerald
R. Ford, Donald Rumsfeld, and George H.W. Bush.
The memcons show Kissinger at work from 1969 to early 1977
as policymaker, negotiator, and presidential adviser. They show
him pursuing détente with the Soviet Union, rapprochement
with China, strong ties with Europe and Japan, stability in
the Middle East, and, most important, a diplomatic resolution
to the Vietnam War. The near-verbatim transcripts vividly show
Kissinger's style as negotiator, his use of flattery and humor,
his outbursts, and his musings on U.S. interests and the use
of power. They show Kissinger in the early days of the Nixon
administration as his influence was growing as presidential
adviser, at the height of power when he served simultaneously
as Secretary of State and national security adviser, and later
after President Ford fired him from his White House post. The
documents are equally revealing of Kissinger's numerous interlocutors.
A sampling of twenty of the newly-published
memcons, posted today on www.nsarchive.org, document
a variety of episodes in Kissinger's career in statecraft:
- 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 National Security Archive and its co-publisher ProQuest
have published these and over 2,100 memcons in The Kissinger
Transcripts: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977,
edited by senior analyst, William Burr. A catalogue and index
produced by the expert indexers at the National Security archive
provides easy access to the wide-ranging material in the collection;
the documents are searchable by names, key-words, title, authors,
and other elements. The published guide includes a 305-page
catalog, a 141-page names index, and a 592-page index of subjects
beginning with "Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)"
and ending with "Zimbabwe." The collection also includes
a chronology for ready reference, a who's who of Kissinger's
interlocutors, a bibliography, and an introductory essay providing
perspective on Henry Kissinger's career in government.