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The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow
Copyright © 2000 William Burr
All right reserved.
"See How Those Pieces Could Be
Moved to Our Advantage":
Henry Kissinger's ascendancy to chief presidential adviser and formulator for national security policy gave him a central part in Richard Nixon's efforts to develop new relations with old adversaries. Yet the new era of negotiations that Nixon proclaimed in his 1969 inaugural address unfolded slowly and unevenly. While continuing negotiations with North Vietnam, Nixon's and Kissinger's insistence on "peace with honor"--the preservation of American credibility--prolonged the bloodshed until the January 1973 settlement ended the direct U.S. military role there. Although the fighting in Indochina complicated efforts to forge détentes with the Chinese and the Soviets, a negotiating track nevertheless unfolded, even if it hardly put an end to the saberrattling. Not only did Nixon realize his vision of a new relationship with an old Cold War antagonist, the People's Republic of China, but he presided over significant changes in U.S.-Soviet relations. The material results of the administration's triangular diplomacy--the Nixon'svisit to Beijing in February 1972 and the Moscow summit in May--were significant accomplishments and especially felicitous in an election year. Nevertheless, Nixon's rhetoric about a "lasting peace" rested on a foundation of Cold War mistrust: ultimately, it was suspicion of Moscow that had drawn Nixon and Kissinger closer to Beijing. The goal was a détente that would contain the Soviets and sustain American power.
The documentary record of initial White House-level efforts to initiate rapprochement with China and détente with the Soviet Union remains slim. While federal agencies have released important documentation on the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), White House files on China and the Soviets remain for the most part closed. As valuable as the Winston Lord/Policy Planning Staff (PPS) files are, even these do not include transcripts of Kissinger's secret talks in Beijing in July 1971 or of the other visits in 1971 and 1972. Nevertheless, Lord's papers contain extremely significant material--the record of the Nixon-Mao meeting in February 1972 and transcripts of Kissinger's back-channel discussions with Chinese diplomats in Paris and New York--which greatly advance knowledge of Sino-American relations during the 1971-1972 period. In addition, Nixon's Office Files at the National Archives include records of important meetings with foreign leaders that shed light on the thinking about relations with Moscow and Beijing, which animated Nixon-Kissinger secret diplomacy.
The story has been told many times of the complex and secret U.S.-China minuet that led to, after nearly two years of contacts, Kissinger's clandestine mission in July 1971. However, a key development that made other moves possible was the series of gestures Washington made during the last of the periodic meetings between U.S. and Chinese representatives in Warsaw. In February 1970, U.S. ambassador Walter Stoessel informed the Chinese that the U.S. military bases in Taiwan were not meant as a threat and that as "peace and stability in Asia grow," that is, as the war in Vietnam ended, "we can reduce those facilities on Taiwan that we now have." This was the United States' intention, he said. Beijing had already made clear that it expected some movement on the U.S. military presence in Taiwan, the most divisive issue in U.S.-China relations, so this was an important concession. Although it undoubtedly received Mao's favorable attention and facilitated further discussion, Kissinger failed to mention this exchange in his memoirs.
With both Washington and Beijing concerned about the Soviets, and Mao wanting a presidential visit to confirm China's status in the world of nations, other deft moves enabled both sides to reach their goals. Beijing's public diplomacy--inviting the U.S. ping-pong team to China in the spring of 1971--and a new round of secret U.S.-Chinese communications, facilitated by Pakistani President Yahya Khan, were crucial. On 21 April, after Nixon had publicly expressed interest in visiting China, Zhou Enlai suggested the possibility of a presidential visit. In a 10 May response, Nixon wrote Zhou that he was "prepared to accept" the suggestion and proposed preliminary secret meetings between Kissinger and Zhou to exchange views and to explore a possible presidential visit. Writing on 29 May, Zhou authorized a Kissinger visit and increased the pressure by adding that Mao "welcomes President Nixon's visit." On 4 June, Nixon sealed the bargain by replying that "he looked forward to the opportunity of a personal meeting" with Chinese leaders. In early July, Kissinger made his sensational secret trip; and, on 15 July, Nixon and Zhou simultaneously announced a summit in Beijing in early 1972.
One subtext of Nixon's announcement was his and Kissinger's pursuit of a complex balance-of-power strategy designed to increase U.S. leverage in world politics while avoiding the rekindling of a Sino- Soviet understanding. With Beijing and Washington engaged in a dialogue, Kissinger reasoned, the Soviets would have to work harder to sustain and improve relations with Washington just to keep China and the United States from becoming too close. Kissinger also sought leverage with the Chinese leadership, whom he saw as "tough ideologues who totally disagree with us where the world is going." Ultimately, though, his primary interest was in exploiting their anti-Soviet animus. Thus, during the 1971 India-Pakistan War, Kissinger viewed India as a Soviet proxy to be countered by leaning toward Beijing's ally, Pakistan and, if necessary, by providing military support for China. Kissinger, no doubt worried that some of Mao's lieutenants may have questioned the opening to Washington, acted as if a tough line was essential to a demonstration of U.S. reliability, lest Mao and Zhou have second thoughts about their decision.
In his memoirs, Kissinger was careful to downplay any tilt toward Beijing. As he put it, he had to manage the triangular relationship carefully so that both Moscow and Beijing would fall prey to "simplifications" about Washington's allegiances. Whatever the Chinese may have thought, though, Kissinger gave them special treatment and his memoirs barely hinted at actions suggesting an evolving special relationship with Beijing, such as his decisions to supply sensitive intelligence information, including satellite photography, on various occasions. In this regard, Kissinger was treating the Chinese, but not the Soviets, as well as he treated the United States' NATO allies.
Nixon's visit to China, an achievement symbolized by his meeting with Mao Zedong on 21 February 1972, was both a public relations and a geopolitical success. However, their talks were far from substantive. When Nixon tried to steer away from the commonplace toward policy issues, Mao asked him to "do a little less briefing." Nevertheless, Nixon's willingness to make concessions on Taiwan and their mutual agreement that both powers had a more menacing adversary in common provided the underpinnings for the "Shanghai Communiqué" of 28 February 1972 that was issued on Nixon's departure. Thus, while China affirmed its support for wars of national liberation and social revolution and the United States affirmed its commitment to peace, both euphemistically conveyed their opposition to "hegemony"--Soviet influence--in Asia and the Pacific. Not only did this confirm the anti-Soviet underpinnings of the Beijing-Washington rapprochement, but it represented a rebuff to Moscow's earlier proposals for a U.S.-Soviet partnership in the event that Beijing turned hostile to both.
The Communiqué also disclosed an initial meeting of the minds on the Taiwan question. The United States made no specific public concessions on when or whether it would break diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, but it did "acknowledge" Beijing's position that there is "but one China" and that "Taiwan is part of China." In addition, Washington reaffirmed the promises it had first made in 1970 that, as "tensions in the area" diminish, Washington would "progressively reduce its forces and military installations in Taiwan."
The United States also stated its interest in a "peaceful settlement" of the Taiwan problem, but the Communiqué did not mention the specific concessions on Taiwan that Nixon had proffered the Chinese in order to cement the new relationship. Most significant, especially because of it implications for the Ford administration, was Nixon's assurance that he would "actively work toward" and complete "full normalization of U.S.-PRC relations by 1976, the year that would end his second term in office. Besides promising not to support any Taiwanese military action against the mainland or any Taiwan independence movement--apparently a source of particular concern to Beijing--Nixon also agreed to "discourage Japan or any other third countries from moving into Taiwan as the U.S. presence diminished." The last point reflected Beijing's concern about Japanese power in the region, an apprehension that Kissinger tried to alleviate by taking a gradual approach to the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Taiwan. To avoid antagonizing Taiwan and its U.S. supporters who opposed any relaxation of commitments to the Republic of China, Nixon made all of these pledges secretly.
The understanding on Taiwan was linked with a less explicit one on Vietnam. U.S. force reductions from Taiwan were dependent on the lessening of tensions in the area. Implicitly, China would also have to help lessen those tensions by encouraging North Vietnam to settle at the conference table. While China's (or for that matter the Soviet Union's) impact on the negotiations remains to be learned, in the months after Nixon's visit, Kissinger was assiduous in briefing PRC diplomats on the Paris peace talks and in asking them to intervene with Hanoi. The Chinese would express criticism of U.S. bombings, but Kissinger found the remarks "moderate." When the peace talks broke down in the wake of Kissinger's famous "peace is at hand" statement, the Chinese criticized him and argued that only the Soviets could benefit from extended conflict. Vice Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua admonished that "one should not lose the whole world just to gain South Vietnam." Nevertheless, the Chinese kept listening to Kissinger and presumably delivered his December 1972 warnings of possible bombing attacks. While Beijing would strongly condemn the Christmas bombings, it continued to play a role as intermediary until the signing of the Paris peace agreement.
The belief that U.S.-Soviet relations were fundamentally competitive was the the basis of the Nixon-Kissinger Soviet policy; nevertheless, their search for a Vietnam settlement and the recognition that the "nuclear cloud above our heads" made unchecked rivalry quite dangerous encouraged them (as it did the Soviets) to find a way of coexisting with Moscow. The latter concern had shaped the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin (3 September 1971) that substantially eased Cold War tensions over that divided city and improved the climate for further agreements at the summit level. It was the SALT process, however, that assumed even greater importance in the administration's calculations and served as a valuable political property because of domestic support for arms control. It was also a safety valve for U.S.- Soviet relations by exemplifying the idea that "negotiations could substitute for confrontation." Public interest in reducing the strategic arms competition was growing, and SALT embodied the possibility of superpower dialogue as a way to reduce tensions and the dangers of conflict. As Nixon put it, a SALT agreement would be a "boon to civilization."
At the May 1972 summit, Nixon and Brezhnev approved two agreements reached in the SALT I negotiations: the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and an Interim Agreement on Certain Measures with Respect to Strategic Offensive Arms. Eliminating an expensive and possibly dangerous competition in defensive anti-missile systems, the ABM treaty permitted each signatory to build two systems only: one to protect ICBM sites, the other to defend National Command Authorities (NCAs) in Washington and Moscow from missile attack. The interim agreement established ceilings, lasting for five years, for deployment of land-based and submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). SALT I was not exactly a freeze--it would allow the Soviets to build more SLBMs in exchange for dismantling older ICBM launchers--but it nevertheless was an important step in checking strategic competition. It was in the second phase of SALT that Washington and Moscow would begin to negotiate additional constraints and even cuts in forces.
Kissinger's penchant for back-channel negotiations had been a central element in the SALT talks, one that the agency chiefs behind whose backs he worked found exasperating. Secretary of State Rogers and the Arms Control Disarmament Agency director Gerard C. Smith, among others, believed that Kissinger's secretive diplomacy had produced less-than-optimum results, e.g., on levels of Soviet SLBMs. Kissinger, however, was less interested in the substance of SALT I than in the fact that agreements with Moscow had been reached. It may have been enough for him that the Interim Agreement preserved the U.S. lead in multiple independtly targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV), the latest deadly innovation in the strategic nuclear competition. Even though SALT I force levels gave the Soviets an edge in ICBMs, 1,618 to the United States' 1,054, and multiple warheads deployed on Minutemen ICBMs and Poseidon submarine-launched ballistic missiles [SLBM] gave Washington an advantage. With MIRVs, U.S. missiles carried more than double the number of warheads that the Soviets had on their strategic forces, about 4,764 to 1,982. Kissinger would later observe in private that the U.S. edge was politically significant; the implication was that Washington's greater firepower might make the Soviets more cautious?
Summit agreements on "Basic Principles" of U.S.-Soviet relations, on a European security conference, and on talks on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions received little fanfare in Washington because Nixon and Kissinger were not very enthusiastic about them. The Soviets, however, treated the Basic Principles solemnly, as a "juridical basis" or code of conduct for superpower relations. For them, reaching agreement on a joint declaration of peaceful coexistence, "reciprocity, mutual accommodation ... and mutual benefit," and mutual restraint was a significant achievement: It meant recognition of U.S.-Soviet parity, of an equal relationship. For Nixon and Kissinger, however, the Basic Principles were no more than a "road map," a set of "aspirations." As for the European Security Conference, a long-standing Soviet goal, now linked to prospective MBFR talks, both Nixon and Kissinger were decidedly skeptical. As Nixon put it a few months before the summit, "the Soviets may ... hope to break up NATO" by coupling SALT with the security conference.
Nixon and Brezhnev did not sign major economic agreements at the summit, but the prospect of economic détente encouraged cooperation in other areas, SALT in particular. Not long after Nixon's visit, the administration followed up promises of U.S. agricultural credits, and the Soviets purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S. grain. In October 1972, Washington and Moscow signed a comprehensive trade agreement, and a settlement of World War II lend-lease aid to the Soviets was linked to the provision of most-favored-nation treatment for Soviet exports. Furthermore, the Nixon administration committed itself to provide substantial Export-Import Bank credits to underwrite U.S. industrial exports.
The real achievements of the Moscow summit encouraged Nixon and Kissinger and their Soviet counterparts to treat détente as a process worth sustaining. While Nixon's postsummit hype conveyed the public impression that détente was about creating a "durable peace" and transcending the era of power politics, private remarks he made to advisers a few months earlier made clear that he viewed the superpowers as fundamental rivals, even if they were making significant cooperative agreements. Calling the Soviets "aggressive," he observed that "each side is out to do the other in." Indeed, Nixon suggested that the Soviets would not be interested in arms control or cooperation if it were not for internal economic problems and their worries about the "neighbor to the East." Implicitly, the Soviets were a power to be managed although in the age of nuclear parity this might take cooperative, non-confrontational forms.
The following two documents, although out of order chronologically with the others in this chapter and not Kissinger transcripts, help to put Kissinger's activities in context. Prepared by General Vernon Walters, the U.S. defense attaché in Paris, the documents show Nixon frankly describing to President Georges Pompidou of France some of the elements of his "grand design" for U.S. relations with China, the Soviet Union, and Western Europe. The meeting resulted not from China initiatives but, rather, from the impact of the United States' New Economic Policy decisions--to control inflation, to correct a gaping trade deficit and a weakening dollar by terminating dollar-gold convertibility, and to impose a 10 percent import surcharge and wage-price controls. Nixon and Kissinger, worried that European countries might retaliate against the United States, arranged meetings in December with European heads of state to help forge a consensus on international economic policy.
However much Nixon's Quaker background may have disposed him to talk about "structures of peace," these documents reflect the mixture of hard-boiled Cold War thinking and sober recognition of international configurations of power that shaped his thinking. Thus, Kissinger, for all his dislike of Nixon as an individual, later admitted that in "these general surveys, Nixon was at his best" because of his "excellent grasp of overall relations."
Top Secret Memorandum of Conversation
Subject: Meeting at Junta Geral, Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores
Date and Time: 13 December 1971; 0900 AM
Present: The President; President Pompidou; Mr. Andronikof; Major
[Nixon and President Georges Pompidou of France discuss procedure and agenda for the discussions and then agree to begin with a general review of relations between the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union. Before briefing Nixon on his recent trip to the Soviet Union, Pompidou describes how the Soviets' "great apprehensions" of Germany have led them to want a strong French role in Europe, lest European leadership fall "by default" to Bonn.]
[Pompidou] had seen Kosygin three times and Brezhnev three times. He had been to the USSR as Prime Minister and had seen both Brezhnev and Kosygin. He had seen Kosygin as Prime Minister. He had returned to the USSR as President and, as President Nixon knew, Brezhnev had recently been in France. They were very different men. Kosygin's temperament is not very gay. He was very studious on economic and technical problems. He was fascinated by industrial progress. He was from Leningrad and in this respect he was perhaps more reserved towards Germany than others. He was afraid of the Germans and if pushed might react violently. Brezhnev was a Ukrainian and a Southerner. He was jovial and cordial and liked to eat and drink. He was folksy, liked good cars. He owned a Rolls Royce, a Mercedes, a Citroen and a Maserati. He did not yet have a Mustang. President Nixon commented that Brezhnev had all kinds of cars but not an American one. President Pompidou said that a Zil looked like an American car. Brezhnev liked good living. He was easy in conversation but in depth he was very tough. He was permanently conscious of the importance of military power but was also aware that he had to raise the living standards of his fellow citizens. We were close to a period of anniversaries. The U.S. would soon celebrate its 200th Anniversary, the French were celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Republic. Brezhnev wanted to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Soviet Constitution and to them commemorate means to distribute more consumer goods to the people. Brezhnev counted on France and Germany and the West in general to furnish the means of rapidly producing more consumer goods. He is determined to import consumer goods if necessary. Despite all of this he never forgets the importance of power and at the bottom of things Soviet policy presents two characteristics:
1. It is like a river--if it finds a hollow, it flows in until stopped by rock.
2. It is obsessed by China constantly.
For now the Soviets are desirous of accentuating détente in Europe and would like to conclude their agreements with the Germans and obtain the ratification of the treaties. They are in a hurry. They watch without pleasure the formation of the Common Market. Above all they are concerned with everything that happens in Asia and try to cut the ground from under Chinese ambitions. They are presently more concerned with Chinese potential than ambitions.
President Pompidou said that he had mentioned that the Soviet leaders were obsessed with China. The dream of Yalta may not be over for Soviets who may still dream of sharing the world with the U.S. This is a deeply rooted idea. China disturbs this idea and they don't like it. President Pompidou said that leaving aside current events (Indo-Pakistan War) he believed the Soviets would seek to reach agreement with the U.S. But one must understand, and this President Nixon knew as well as he did, that to them an arrangement means retreat nowhere and advance whenever possible. This is true of all powerful people.
President Nixon said that this analysis by President Pompidou was very perceptive and very candid. It was extremely helpful and he could assure the French President that his candor would be respected and his confidence would not be betrayed. He would like to ask a question: Which did the Soviets fear most--China or the U.S.? President Pompidou replied that they feared China most, not immediately but they felt they could do nothing against China which was indestructible by its mass and in 20 to 50 years it will be so enormous that they will not be able to cope with it. Next they fear Germany. They feel Germany is capable of fomenting something. With the U.S. they feel complicity.
President Nixon said that there was one difference. They feared China certainly and Germany possibly because they are neighbors and might be a threat from a territorial standpoint. While they fear American power, they do not fear any U.S. territorial ambitions against them. He believed that in the broad landscape President Pompidou had painted we should now look at the pieces and see how those pieces could be moved to our advantage rather than theirs. To begin with, in respect to the relationship between Western Europe and the U.S., it was no secret that the Germans felt that the U.S. could not be depended on. The reasons were they felt that it was inevitable that the U.S. would withdraw from Europe except perhaps for a small force but the U.S. could not be counted upon to risk its survival to defend Europe in a nuclear war. The actions of the U.S. Senate, the Mansfield Amendment reinforces that point of view. It was all well and good for us to make the usual protests that the U.S. would stand by the European countries and that we could be counted on. In the final analysis what determines U.S. and French policy is self-interest. This was the basis for his contention that the U.S. and Western Europe, despite some differences of which they were aware, were inextricably tied together. In the long term it would be disastrous for the U.S. to leave Europe as a hostage to the USSR. That is why it was necessary for the U.S. and Europe to have close economic relations. Militarily it was vital to the U.S. to preserve Europe and to remain and not to reduce its forces unless on a very clear multilateral basis such as a reduction vis-a-vis the Communist bloc would be disastrous. MBFR had begun in 1968 before he was elected. U.S. policy was that it must be pursued on a multilateral basis. We had yet to find any formula by which such a reduction would not downgrade our interests in relation to the Soviet bloc. We could continue the Brosio discussions and consult to the extent that President Pompidou desired. Personally the President was very skeptical. His concern was that MBFR be used simply to obtain a U.S. withdrawal. Only with a visible U.S. presence could we maintain our interest. The Soviets know this and that is why they want us out as soon as possible.
In the matter of our talks with the Soviets either at SALT or in May when the President would meet with Brezhnev and Kosygin he wished to assure President Pompidou that there would be absolutely no U.S.-Soviet talks apart from or at the expense of the European Alliance. President Pompidou had spoken of the Soviet interest in a Yalta type agreement with the U.S. Many in the U.S. felt that Yalta was very detrimental for Europe politically and economically and basically beneficial to the USSR and detrimental to the U.S. Therefore the President looked on the forthcoming talks as very tough and hard. The Soviets want progress on trade. This is possible but will not be nearly as great as many think. Some progress on arms limitation may be possible if there is an equal deal on other subjects. However, there must be a clear understanding that during this period when the Soviets have nuclear parity with the U.S. this does not mean that the Soviets can get away with a policy to humiliate the U.S. or weaken the U.S. in defense of the position of its allies in Europe.
It seemed to the President that in this framework the maintenance of strength and cohesion was more important then ever. The U.S. in the long run cannot have a viable world without Europe. Europe cannot survive without the U.S. contribution to nuclear strength at this time. The Soviets know this and would like to divide the U.S. and Europe. The Soviets also know that at the heart of the European problem are the Germans. President Pompidou could not be more correct when he pointed out that Germany, which is the heart of Europe, is always potentially, despite its cultural and economic ties to the West, drawn towards the East. The East holds millions of Germans as hostages. This is why we must keep Germany economically, politically and militarily tightly within the European Community. Ostpolitik is a nice concept and can win a Nobel Prize. President Pompidou or himself in Brandt's place might do the same. But politically it was dangerous to risk old friends for those who would never be friends. We should be very tough with the Soviets on the matter of European security. The agreements with Brandt should be signed sealed and delivered. Into this picture now come France, Britain and Germany. If President Pompidou and he, in the course of their meetings, could, without being belligerent (which neither he nor President Pompidou wanted), reach a strong understanding on principles, it would be helpful and not just for both countries. It would help his meetings with the Germans and with the U.K. to make progress on Europe. We must realize that many cynics and some honest people felt that when France left NATO [sic] that this meant the end of the European Alliance. The President was aware that France remains in the Alliance but is outside the Integrated Military Structure. He felt we would play in to the hands of our potential opponents if it appeared that France, except for some economic ties, was determined to go her own way in a race to Moscow. The President was not suggesting that France and others should not have independent policies towards the East. This was why he was having meetings with our Western European Allies so as to make crystal clear in our initiatives with the Soviets and the Chinese that our primary allegiance is to the West, not in any sense of belligerence but that is where our interests lie. This will help in making a better deal with the Soviets.
[After Pompidou raises doubts about the Mansfield Amendment--"more significant than Pearl Harbor" because Western Europe not just part of the U.S. fleet could be "lost to the Soviets"--he questions West German interest in reduction of U.S. and Soviet forces in Europe.]
They should be the most hostile to the reductions envisaged in MBFR. After all, they would be the first to be endangered. He must say that Brandt had told him that he was hostile to the neutralization or "Finlandization" of Germany. But the day the U.S. leaves Germany, the U.K. and France will not be far behind and then Germany would not be far from neutralization.
President Nixon said that the problem in the U.S. as in Europe was largely psychological. Many Americans were naive and softhearted. Many intellectuals, the media and professors don't believe there is any threat from the Russians. Some of the young also. President Pompidou interrupted to say, "Bishops too." President Nixon said that some of the Protestant and Catholic clergy feel this way too and the inherent difficulties are increased when political leaders who know the Soviets add fuel to the fire. What used to be called the cold war rhetoric is no longer salable. What was needed was the type of spirit with which President Pompidou had met the Soviets and in which he himself planned to meet them. A totally pragmatic meeting of Eastern and Western leaders. He had no illusions regarding the difficulties of his forthcoming meetings. There would be no "spirit of Moscow or Beijing" arising out of his trips. He remembered Khrushchev. He had a sense of humor. He was tough and impressive. He would not allow the almost passionate desire of so many of our people to believe the best about the Soviet leaders' desire to seek peace to blind them to reality. Not because the Russians were Communists but because they were a powerful country who saw their goals as antagonistic to ours.
The French had lived too long to be so naive. His attitude towards both the Communist Superpowers was that we cannot live with them but then we cannot live without them. Live and let live based on fantasies of our own. Our society and civilization need to recognize that their attitudes, desires and foreign policies are different from our own basically because they are Communists. From time to time they may recede from their policies of expansion but Communist theology requires a dedication to expansion taking advantage of every temporary circumstance. By that he did not mean that non-communist nations did not try and take advantages but not in areas of fundamental policy of conquest. The nations of Europe and the U.S. do not have this as part of their national policies.
The President did not know why the Soviet leaders and the Chinese leaders had arrived at the decision to meet with U.S. leaders. Not primarily because they wanted better relations or liked us. If there was not a strong Europe and if the Soviets did not have a threat in the East they would not be interested in talking to the U.S. By the same token he would like to have Dr. Kissinger tell President Pompidou what the Chinese think. He did not believe that Mao would be talking to the leader of the capitalists and courting the U.S. unless he was concerned by the Soviets and to a lesser extent by the Japanese. If one said this publicly they would deny it. Some in our country said when the President announced his trip to Peking that the Soviets would refuse to talk with us. Actually the Soviets were more willing to talk SALT, Europe and Berlin after Peking announced the visit than they had been before. After the announcement of his visit to Moscow the Chinese had showed a greater interest in talking to us than before.
President Nixon recalled that he had told President Pompidou before that when he had seen General De Gaulle while he (President Nixon) was out of office and ha[d] asked him whether he had any advice for the U.S., President De Gaulle had replied that rather than put all of its eggs in the Soviet basket the U.S. should have a more open policy towards the Chinese like France. His responsibility was like President Pompidou's. They must go into these things with their eyes open and try to defend our point of view.
[Regarding an East--West European security conference, Nixon suggests that it might not be an "unmixed blessing" for the Soviets: One result might be to open up Eastern Europe to the West. Nevertheless, he is concerned that it could "lead to the letting down of our guard and the belief that ... the cold war is finished."]
Overhanging the whole area of Soviet-U.S. relations is the sober, somber fact that if the Soviet leader decided to risk nuclear war and the U.S. was involved, he knew that he had the power to kill 70 million Americans and we had the power to kill 70 million Russians. The U.S. President knows this too. There are limitations on power and a restraining influence not because of love but because of fear. It was essential that the two nations pursue the negotiating track rather than the confrontation track. We have impressed this on the Soviets with regard to Southern Asia in the last 24 hours. The President wished to add in regard to the desire for détente that he totally agreed with President Pompidou. The people of the U.S. and Europe wanted it, at least a majority of them did. In Europe perhaps for different reasons. The Germans want it because the Soviets can give them East Germany, U.K., France and Italy because they are convinced that we live in a dangerous world. The danger presently represented by nuclear war, not the loss of 3,000 men as at Pearl Harbor. The whole place would be turned into a graveyard. No one wanted that. It was very important to look at the two attitudes on détente. Some sought a European Conference on the naive assumption that the Soviet aims have changed and that their designs in Europe and in the rest of the world are basically peaceful. On the other hand, some who seek détente on our side have no illusions and recognize that a different relationship and good relations between Europe and the USSR and the U.S. and the USSR are a practical necessity, that there are dangers in a policy of confrontation. But we must have no illusions about the basic aims of the Communist States. They are quite different from one another. Even if they wanted it would be impossible for European or U.S. leaders to take an intransigent stand and refuse to talk. Ten years ago this was possible in the U.S. It is no longer. On the other hand, it is important that the leaders recognize that naive public opinion often demands talks that will make the whole world peaceful. We should seek such negotiations but for the right reason. By the facts of Soviet power, the risks of confrontation in the Middle East or elsewhere are unacceptable. Therefore, we should seek to lessen the risk of war and seek, as President Pompidou had indicated, to make Europe a more viable area and to open Eastern Europe whose peoples' hearts are with the West.
The President wished to add in a different sense. He would like to discuss the motives for his trip to Peking in the afternoon. China today was a major power with the largest population in the world. She was a mini economic power with a production less than half of Japan's although she had 800 million people to Japan's 100 million. China was a mini nuclear power in relation to the USSR but we take the long view as do the Soviets and President Pompidou. Twenty years from now China will be a major nuclear power if they so wish. Do we allow that to come about with China isolated. We should make an effort for a new start. The President had made this choice himself with his eyes open to seek by necessity a peaceful relationship with them.
[The two presidents begin to close their discussion and agree that Kissinger will attend their afternoon meeting, which will include discussions of China and international economic issues. "President Pompidou then expressed the belief that the Chinese were much more complicated than the Soviets. The President said that they were perhaps more sophisticated and more subtle." They conclude by agreeing to tell the press they have discussed the President's forthcoming trips to Beijing and Moscow.]
Memorandum of Conversation, Top Secret
Subject: Meeting at Junta Geral, Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores
Date and Time: 13 December 1971; 4 PM
Present: The President; President Pompidou; Dr. Kissinger; Mr.
Andronikof; Maj Gen Walters
President Nixon opened the discussions by saying that he felt that they had had a good talk that morning and that President Pompidou had expressed a most perceptive view of the Soviet leaders. What was important was not so much their views as what they were like. The President then said that if President Pompidou found it useful, Dr. Kissinger could give him on a confidential basis his appraisal of where the China initiative stands. The President and President Pompidou had talked together concerning Sino-Soviet relations. They had skirted the Chinese Soviet confrontation in South Asia that was going on. The President said that if President Pompidou had different views, he would appreciate hearing them.
Dr. Kissinger then said that the President had given the background. His trip had been a chance to explore with the Chinese. It was rather complicated but we had put a series of propositions up to the Chinese. They did not have to accept or refuse. We had used intermediaries trusted by them. After contact was established, the original initiative for the invitation came more from the Chinese side than from ours. Vietnam was almost not discussed.
Our analysis was that they were concerned principally by four main countries of which three were their immediate neighbors. With a common frontier or close by. Before he had gone, the President had given him detailed instructions to explore their views of the world situation to see whether there was a basis for a discussion. He had spent 20 hours with Zhou Enlai the first time and had had 35 hours with him on the second visit.
Dr. Kissinger said that as an illustrative anecdote, on the second visit there had been a sign at the airport which said, "Defeat the American Imperialists." He had mentioned it to the Foreign Minister and that afternoon the sign had been replaced by one greeting the Afro-Asian Tennis Team.
Mostly the Chinese feared the Soviet Union, and to a lesser degree Japan. There were underground shelters in Peking and other cities. They were not against us. They had showed some of these tunnels and they were 35 kilometers long. The Chinese were far more exercised by the million Soviet troops along their borders than they were by our forces in Japan.
With regard to Vietnam it was our basic impression that the Chinese would like this to be settled, but they do not know how to go about it without moving Hanoi closer to Moscow and increasing their feeling of being encircled.
The President said that in our discussions with the Chinese there seemed to be two separate problems. We had a whole series of matters to discuss. They do not and this may complicate the problem. At the beginning of the evolution of the Chinese situation they had to set the direction and their difficulty in doing this was understandable. Chinese policy was affected by three conflicting motives: ideology which was hostile to us, their requirements for survival and their desire to lead the third world would often lead them into opposition to both the USSR and to [the] U.S. and would lead them to zigzags.
The President then asked Dr. Kissinger to explain what was planned in the way of meetings there.
Dr. Kissinger said the President would have extensive talks with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and would also see Chairman Mao. It is expected that he will see Mao twice. It was impossible that he should not see him. There will be simultaneous meetings at different levels with the experts. Prime Minister Zhou Enlai expects to accompany the President. This has not been announced. Discussions will be far reaching. There is no agenda and each side can submit for discussion anything they want. The talks will be bilateral.
The President then said that he gathered from Dr. Kissinger's talks with the Chinese that they take the long view. They do not view the talks as producing immediate results in Taiwan or elsewhere and tend to regard these talks as the beginning of a long process. In the case of the Russians they will probably insist upon shorter range discussions when he goes to Moscow and will want decisions.
Dr. Kissinger said that there was a different style between the Soviets and the Chinese. The Russians like general statements that can be interpreted in many different ways. The Chinese prefer declarations which can be carried out and like to state differences as well as agreements.
The President then said that the attitude of the Chinese towards their neighbors can be summed up in this way. The Russians they hate and fear now. The Japanese they fear later but do not hate. For the Indians they feel contempt but they are there and backed by the USSR.
[The discussion turned to the India-Pakistan War and then to international economic policy. In order to avoid economic tensions, Nixon and Pompidou approve an agreement on exchange rates, which presages the Smithsonian Agreement to be signed in Washington a week later. That agreement will codify new currency alignments, including a devaluation of the dollar by about ten percent against the Group of Ten European currencies in order to help the United States to correct its balance of payments deficit.]
In briefing Pompidou, Kissinger did not discuss the back-channel communications he had routinely used for White House approaches to the Chinese and negotiations with the Soviet Union. Kissinger worked hard at preserving the secrecy of these communications; even today only a handful of memoranda of conversations with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin have been declassified. The one that follows documents a meeting that took place only a few weeks after Kissinger's first trip to China, and only a few days after Nixon's announcement of import quotas. Besides dealing with some of the key issues of détente--the Berlin negotiations and SALT--it suggests some implications of the new U.S. China policy for U.S.-Soviet relations.
Before Nixon announced his visit to China the Soviets had been stalling on a proclamation of the U.S.- Soviet summit, but now they were suddenly cooperative. Dobrynin told Kissinger that Moscow saw "no difficulty" in announcing a May 1972 Nixon visit to Moscow. The conversation made it clear enough that the China initiative had raised some hackles in Moscow, not only did the Soviets see the opening to China as aimed at them, but they also worried about the impact of U.S. moves on Japan. Dobrynin's worried suggestion that the Nixon "shocks"-- the ten percent surcharge on imports and the failure to provide Tokyo with due notice of the administration's volte face on China policy--could prompt the Japanese to move closer to Beijing was not the last time that the Soviets would express concern to Kissinger about a Sino-Japanese entente.
The exchange on Berlin showed some of the problems created by Kissinger's secretiveness. U.S. diplomats, unaware that Kissinger and Dobrynin had already reached an agreement, had to "go through a procedure of negotiation" at the risk of a deadlock involving "overwhelming difficulties" that could derail the prearranged agreement.
Before this conversation took place, a serious crisis between India and Pakistan began to unfold, a crisis triggered by Karachi's brutal suppression, involving the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people, of the independence movement in East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh). Despite wide opposition in the U.S. government, the White House was already tilting toward China's ally, Pakistan, and against India, which Kissinger regarded as a Soviet proxy. Well before war broke out between India and Pakistan, Kissinger was secretly encouraging "friends of Pakistan" in the Middle East to provide military aid because the U.S. Congress severely limited direct assistance to that country. Dobrynin understood very well the direction of U.S. policy and was not about to accept Kissinger's assurances that "we were not lined up with anybody" in South Asia.
THE WHITE HOUSE
TOP SECRET/SENSITIVE/EXCLUSIVELY EYES ONLY
MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
DATE & TIME: August 17, 1971-Luncheon
PLACE: The Map Room, The White House
The meeting took place so that I could give Dobrynin the answer to the Soviet invitation to a summit in Moscow.
Dobrynin opened the conversation by speaking about the new economic policies announced by the President on Sunday evening. He said it was the second jolt we had given to Japan. I said "Well, maybe this gives you an opportunity." He said "No, this gives China an opportunity." The real danger to the world was a combination of China and Japan, and he wondered whether we took that sufficiently into account. I said that the total effect of our policies might be healthy. Dobrynin was noncommittal.
We then turned to the business at hand. I gave him the date of May 22 for the summit and September 16 or 15 for the announcement. Dobrynin said that the announcement sounded good to him and that the date would have to be confirmed in Moscow; however, he saw no difficulty. He asked why we picked that particular date. I replied that the primary reason was that the President would be in San Clemente and would not be back in Washington until September 7 and that therefore it was important for him to have a week of preparing allies and telling the bureaucracy. Dobrynin said if we told the bureaucracy it would leak. I said that nothing that we have handled in the White House has ever leaked and this would not either. Dobrynin said that he would have an answer for us very soon.
Dobrynin then pulled out a slip of paper and discussed the Berlin issue. He said he had received instructions to get in touch with me immediately on the basis of a cable he had received that [Valentin] Falin had sent to Moscow. Apparently [Kenneth] Rush had said that he was bound by Presidential instructions to deviate from the agreements already reached. Dobrynin said that this was making a very bad impression, if an agreement reached by the highest authorities was overthrown again later due to bureaucracy. I explained to Dobrynin that our problem was as follows. Neither our bureaucracy nor our allies knew of the agreement that therefore had to go through a procedure of negotiations. Sometimes the formulations might have to be altered. I wanted him to know, however, that if there were a deadlock we would break it in favor of the agreed position, unless overwhelming difficulties arose. I read to him the telegram from Rush speaking of Abrasimov's rough tactics towards the British Ambassador which certainly didn't help matters. Dobrynin said that speaking confidentially the Soviet Ambassadors in Eastern Europe were not used to diplomacy. They were usually drawn from party organizations and when they met opposition they didn't realize that they were not dealing with party subordinates. This was the trouble with Abrasimov. Falin would certainly have acted differently.
Dobrynin then asked whether there were any difficulties in our relations with the Chinese. Why, for example, were we delaying so long in announcing the date of our visit? I said that there were no difficulties and that the visit would be announced in due time, but that we wanted everybody to settle down for a bit first. Dobrynin reverted to his usual line that he hoped we were not engaged in an anti-Soviet maneuver. I said that events would demonstrate that this was groundless. He referred to the Alsop column that we had exchanged ideas on military dispositions. I said, "Anatoliy, do you think I would be this amateurish, and do you think that could be of any precise concern to us?" He said he certainly hoped that this were true.
We then turned the conversation to India. Dobrynin said he wanted us to be sure to understand that the Soviets were doing their best to restrain India. They wanted peace in the subcontinent. It was an ironic development where they were lined up with what looked we had always thought was the pillar of democracy while we were lined up with the Chinese. I said as far as the subcontinent was concerned, we were not lined up with anybody. We above all wanted to prevent the outbreak of a war, and we hoped that they did not inadvertently give the Indians enough backing so that they felt it was safe to engage in war. Dobrynin said that their interest was stability, and in fact they had invited the Pakistani Foreign Secretary to come to Moscow in order to show that they were pursuing a balanced policy. I said that they should not encourage Indian pressures for an immediate political solution since that would only make the problem impossible. I stated it would be best if we worked on the refugee and relief problems first and on political accommodation later. Dobrynin said that he was certain that the Soviet Union basically agreed.
Dobrynin then asked me whether it was correct what the Indians had told them, namely that we would look at a Chinese attack on India as a matter of extreme gravity and might even give them some support. He said that the Indians had been puzzled by my comment but had then put it all together after my trip to Beijing. I said that I never commented about meetings in other countries, but that we certainly were not aligned with any country against India. Dobrynin commented that he admired the general conduct of our foreign policy even when it was objectively directed against the Soviet Union, but he felt that our arms policy towards Pakistan escaped his understanding. We were paying a disproportionate amount for what we were shipping. I said that we never yielded to public pressure and that he knew very well that the arms we were shipping were minimal and inconsequential with respect to the strategic balance.
We then turned to SALT. Dobrynin said that whether I believed it or not the Soviet military were deeply concerned about a three site system, because they believed it provided the basis for an area defense and could be tied together. Even a two site system was in principle hard for them. He said he thought there might be a possible compromise if we accepted one site for us with a wider radius than the Moscow radius, and if this were done there might be a basis for a compromise. I avoided an answer and told him that we would study this proposition.
Dobrynin said that he was ordered to stay here until the summit issue was settled, but he was very eager to leave because he knew he had to be back on September 20.
Parallel to the back-channel with Dobrynin, which Kissinger had institutionalized early in the Nixon administration, were secret communications with Chinese diplomats that Kissinger had initiated within weeks of his secret trip in July 1971. One of the channels was the PRC's ambassador to France, Huang Zhen. Before Huang's later assignment to Washington in 1973 as the PRC liaison to the United States, Kissinger would meet with him regularly to discuss U.S.-Soviet relations and the state of the Paris peace talks with North Vietnamese diplomats, among other issues. In part, these confidential discussions fulfilled Kissinger's assurance to Zhou that he would keep Beijing informed on the substance of U.S.-Soviet relations. He never discussed with the Soviets the substance of U.S.-China relations, much less the details of his talks with PRC officials. In this and other ways, then, Kissinger was showing the tilt of U.S. policy toward China.
Another important channel to Beijing was Ambassador Huang Hua, who headed the PRC's United Nations Mission when it was established in November 1971, a few weeks after the U.N. General Assembly voted to seat Mainland China. Huang and Kissinger began holding secret meetings at a CIA safehouse in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and quickly developed a comfortable relationship across the ideological divide. Although they were able to keep their meetings secret, within months some neighbors began to wonder "what is going on." Security officials asked that Kissinger "arrive in something other than a large limousine," arrive on time, and bring a less obtrusive Secret Service detail. (Apparently the agents had "been leaping out of the car and stopping traffic.")
On 10 December 1971, Kissinger met with Huang Hua to brief him on the U.S. stance toward the South Asian crisis. A week earlier, the Bangladesh crisis had exploded into war when Pakistan launched a surprise attack on India. With the U.S. public generally supporting India and the cause of Bangladeshi independence, Nixon and Kissinger secretly and deceptively tilted policy toward Pakistan, in part because of President Yahya Khan's important role in facilitating communications with Beijing during 1970 and 1971. Moreover, Nixon and Kissinger saw India as a Soviet proxy and believed incorrectly that Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi aimed to destroy West Pakistan in order to humiliate the government that had helped to forge U.S.-China relations. Kissinger told Huang how the White House was sustaining its tilt toward Karachi with veiled threats to the Soviets, secret requests to Middle Eastern governments to provide military equipment to Karachi, and instructions to send an aircraft carrier fleet through the Straits of Malacca into the Bay of Bengal.
Secretary of State Rogers was furious with White House policy toward Pakistan, although he failed to realize that Nixon was as much its architect as Kissinger. Nixon and Kissinger continued to make key decisions in secret. Only they knew that their naval deployments were to ensure "maximum intimidation" of India and the Soviet Union. Although the Indians were puzzled by U.S. maneuvers, Kissinger later argued that this action had been "the first decision to risk war in the triangular Soviet-Chinese-American relationship." However, he did not admit in his memoirs that he had counseled Ambassador Huang that if Beijing decided to intervene in the war "to protect its security, the U.S. would oppose efforts of others to interfere with the People's Republic." Huang's rhetoric in the conversation was militant; Kissinger concluded incorrectly that the Chinese were about to join the fighting. Beijing had as little interest in intervening as the Indians had in escalating the fighting. A week after this meeting, on 17 December, the Indians accepted Pakistan's offer of an unconditional cease-fire.
Excerpted from The Kissinger Transcripts by William Burr Copyright © 2000 by William Burr. Excerpted by permission.
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|Introduction: Henry Kissinger and American Power in a Multipolar World||1|
|Ch. 1||"See How Those Pieces Could be Moved to Our Advantage": Washington-Moscow-Beijing, 1971-72||27|
|Ch. 2||"Two Former Enemies," Kissinger in Beijing, February 1973||83|
|Ch. 3||From Cambodia to the October War: Beijing-Washington, March-October 1973||124|
|Ch. 4||In Search of Strategic Alliance: Kissinger in Beijing, November 1973||166|
|Ch. 5||"What's 3,000 MIRVs Among Friends?": Kissinger in Moscow, March 1974||217|
|Ch. 6||Firing Cannons: Beijing-Washington, 1974||265|
|Ch. 7||Trials of Detente, Washington-Moscow, 1974-75||322|
|Ch. 8||"We Have Some Problems with the Chinese," 1975-1976||371|
|Ch. 9||"But 8,000 Cubans Running Around ...": Kissinger in Moscow, January 1976"||426|
|Epilogue: "I Would Like to Be Chairman of Something," January 1977||476|
|A Note on Sources||504|