John Paton Wu Ningkun
INT: Thank you. To leave method and take one particular point about SALT 1, which was signed but which didn't manage to do anything about multiple warhead missiles, or multiple warheads on missiles - why was that, why did...?
HK: Well, first...... there were no multiple warheads when SALT 1 was negotiated. We were just starting our testing of multiple warheads. The Soviet Union did not, so far as we knew, even have a design of multiple warheads; they certainly were far from testing them. So it would have been extremely difficult to negotiate a ban on multiple warheads. Secondly, we had made, actually in the previous Administration, under McNamara, the deliberate decision that we were going to have small missiles with many warheads. And prior to the ABM treaty, we needed many warheads in order to penetrate a conceivable Soviet system. So to attempt to include multiple warheads in a negotiation at a time when there were no multiple warheads, and when there was not yet an ABM agreement, would have been unmanageable. We did include multiple warheads as soon as SALT 1 was completed and the numbers were established in the folon negotiations.
INT: Could you then briefly sum up what was the importance of SALT 1?
HK: The importance of SALT 1 wasthat the two sides kept their build-up and established ground rules about how to count missiles. One can argue that they kept their build-up at the level of their plan - and I wouldn't argue that that might not be true - but what we knew, however was that the Soviets were building about 300 missiles a year and we were not building many. So the significance of SALT 1 was that it created a framework, that it kept the numbers, and that it provided a basis against which to measure then the more complex follow-on negotiations which had to occur.
INT: Thank you. Détente... How did you define détente?
HK: The debate about détente in the United States took a very curious form. First of all, I don't remember where the word "détente" ever came from. It's not a word that I had in my lexicon, and it suddenly emerged in the discussion. But that's a secondary point, because by itself it doesn't really mean more than a certain relaxation of tension. When President Nixon came into office, the conventional wisdom of all the media and the people who thought of themselves as intellectuals, was that he was a warmonger and that they had to moderate him, and we were under enormous pressure to start negotiations on trade, on SALT, on a whole complex of things. And this continued for many years. We had the view that we wanted to link political and strategic issues together and we moved at a very deliberate pace. Then, when a number of agreements were reached with the Soviet Union, the debate about détente took a very curious form, because some liberals seemed to take the view that if Nixon was for relaxation, maybe tension wasn't all that bad, and they suddenly developed theories of the need to intervene in human rights procedures that we'd never heard before and that were strenuously rejected before. Secondly, arguments were developed about the technology of SALT, that would certainly have done great credit to theology students at a theological academy, but that were really not fully relevant. And when today... when we look at the capacity of the Soviet system, this idea that the Soviets were doing this as a monumental trick, so that on one morning they could fire thousands of missiles at us and destroy us, is today absurd, that the system could ever do it. Then thirdly, a whole new class of graduates emerged, who moved from the left to the right early in 1973, and appeared in the guise of neo-conservatives, so suddenly we were on the defensive and Nixon, the old red-bait was accused of being soft on communism. And there was a true substantial difference between us and many of our critics. Our critics thought history was moving towards an apocalyptic showdown, in which Soviet nuclear capacity would be pitted against American nuclear capacity. We never thought that this was the likely direction of policy and of history. We thought the real threat was creeping expansion of the Soviet sphere, so we had our eye on geopolitical changes. And our critics developed enormous refinements of subtlety on individual items in the SALT debate. So at moments when we tried to resist, in Angola or anywhere around the Soviet periphery, most of our critics were against us; but they would jump all over us if we made any modification of some of their positions on backfire and whatever the theology was of the moment.
INT: Leaving aside the debate, as it were, and going back to the essence of what you were trying to do: were the United States and the Soviet Union after the same end result in seeking this relaxation of tension?
HK: Probably not. But I don't know how the Soviets explained it to themselves. Our view was that over any historical period, a long period of peace would benefit us more than the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had a very rigid system, a very stagnant economy. They had not, at the time that we had détente, ever had a legitimate succession: all of their successions had been by death or by sort of coup-like efforts. And moreover, we had all the industrial nations and, at that point, China on our side. So over any historical period, we thought that a long period of peace worked more in our favor than in the Soviet favor. Our critics argued exactly the opposite: they argued we were being softened up and that some cataclysmic assault would start on us. But that was really the essence of the debate.
INT: You mentioned Angola. What did you think the effect of this policy would be in the Third World?
HK: Well, we thought, with respect to Angola, that if the Soviet Union could intervene at such distances from areas that were far from the traditional Russian security concerns, and when Cuban forces could be introduced into distant trouble spots, and if the West could not find a counter to that, that then the whole international system could be destabilized with mercenary or auxiliary forces. And for that reason, while we had no huge conviction about which outcome, we had the strong conviction that it should not be achieved by Cuban forces; and what we really intended to do was to insulate Angola from the Cold War. But we had almost no support from the détente critics on that issue.
INT: To take another example, away, as it were, from the essential geopolitical confrontation, or perhaps not: Chile. Why was the United States not prepared to countenance an Allende regime in Chile? And was the concern about that ideological or geopolitical?
HK: It was probably a combination of both. And again, one has to look at it in the context of the period. Cuba was fomenting revolutions all over Latin America, to the extent of its capabilities at the time, and was considered to be a threat. But Cuba was a Caribbean island, so the assumption was that if one of the traditional nations of Latin America became a base for communist subversion of all of its neighbors, that then the repetition of the Cuban experience in the Caribbean and Central America and South America would become very difficult to manage. Secondly, there was ... And incidentally, that conviction had been held by both the Kennedy and the Johnson Administrations, and as the various investigations unfortunately revealed, American resources were added to what we considered democratic parties in the Kennedy and Johnson period to defeat Allende. So this fear of Allende was not an imaginary thing. When Allende actually was elected, this general consideration which... this general strategic analysis was compounded by enormous frustration with the way some of our agencies had conducted themselves, because the White House's view was that the support which everybody agreed we should give, should be concentrated on the Democratic Party, that had the greatest chance of winning. The bureaucracy was following the established pattern of the Sixties and wanted to give it to the Christian Democratic Party, which had no chance of winning. And so our concern that the Allende victory was against the national interest was compounded by the fact, since it was a very narrow victory, and really was achieved through the division of the Democratic Party ... was compounded by the fact that we, rightly or wrongly, were convinced that if we had targeted our aid properly, he would not have won. And so this explains why Nixon reacted with both concern and anger.
INT: I'm going to jump again to the Middle East in 1973 and ask you what was your policy in the Middle East in 1973? What were you (Overlap) trying to...
HK: (Overlap) To understand our policy in 1973, you have to go back to 1969. When the Nixon Administration came into office, we found Russia the main arms supplier of the Arabs, or at least to the Arabs in confrontation with Israel, a supporter of the radical Arab peace program, and asking us to collaborate with them in imposing this, for which we had no incentive, because why should we do this in conjunction with them? We established the policy that we would thwart any move backed by Soviet arms, until some Arab leadewould become so frustrated that he would turn to us for diplomacy, and then we would try to take as even-handed a position as we were capable of developing. And early in the Nixon Administration, when I was quite inexperienced in the media, I told a journalist, "Our intention is to expel Russian troops from the Middle East." All hell broke loose, but it was our policy. So in 1973, we had two strands to our policy. First of all, we wanted to prevent a victory of Russian arms; we did not want Israel to be defeated with Soviet arms, or with any arms. Secondly, we wanted this to be the cap-stone of a policy where the Arab leaders would learn, as I told them in messages: I sent out a message early in the war, saying: "You have made war with Soviet arms, but for peace you need American diplomacy, and keep this in mind as this develops." That was our strategy. So we saw to it that Israel would not be defeated; but we also wanted to maintain the option of starting a peace process as soon as the war was completed. This was our fundamental approach, and we maintained it rather firmly.
INT: You issued, or you authorized a DefCon warning that was a sort of signal to the Soviet Union at the height of the crisis.
HK: The... so-called alert against the Soviet Union occurred not during the war, it occurred at the end of the war. A cease-fire had been negotiated between Brezhnev and me and accepted by all the parties. ... as to the date, I think it was October 20th, but it doesn't matter. Then I went from Moscow to Tel Aviv to discuss with the Israelis. On the way back from that, the Israelis jumped off and trapped the Egyptian Third Army after the cease-fire. So at this point, the Soviet leaders had every reason to look at it in the sense that there had been some sort of a plot, and they reacted very violently and they sent us an extremely tough note saying that they wanted joint American-Soviet intervention, and if not they would act unilaterally. and the text of this is available, so people can judge now for themselves. But I think Dobrynin agrees that it was unfortunately worded. I then called a meeting of the National Security Council in the White House to discuss this; and while it was going on I kept calling Dobrynin and said, "Now please tell your leaders not to do something until you have a response." To which the normal reply would be: "Of course not, we will not act until we have your response." But all he said was, "I have to communicate with Moscow, and I will transmit your request to Moscow," which is actually a rather threatening phrase. So we then decided to go on alert. But it's important to understand what that means. Normally, there are five levels of alert. Normally, American forces are... at that time we were on the fourth or fifth level of alert. We raised it from the fourth to the third, which meant that troops on leave in paratroop units and at sea and on ships in the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, were called back to their units. The strategic forces were already... due to the war in Asia, were already on DefCon 2, and they are always at a high level of readiness, so not much was done to them. The basic purpose was to generate a lot of traffic that the Soviet Union would pick up before they received our reply, to know that this was getting serious. But this was after the war was completed, and it was a crisis, again, which worked. After 24 hours, the Soviets withdrew their threat, we lowered our readiness, and the crisis disappeared.
INT: Thank you very much. I want to go back to a particular aspect of détente: Willy Brandt and his Ostpolitik. When Germany, under Willy Brandt, the Federal Republic, embarked on a policy of rapprochement, I suppose, with the East, what was your first reaction to what they were doing?
HK: My first reaction to Ostpolitik was concern that it would lead to German nationalism, that if Germany operated on its own vis-ŕ-vis the East, it would emphasize its own national concerns, if not immediately then over a period of time. I have the highest regard for Brandt, and I had the highest regard for him then, and that concern was somewhat mediated by that regard. But still, I thought that the tendencies were in that direction. As the policy began to develop, we came to the view that while the danger that we feared was real, the best way to avert it was not to fight it and then be accused of being the cause of permanent German partition, but rather to help guide it in a direction that was compatible with allied policy. And so we established another back channel, to Brandt through his associate (Egon Barre), and to the Soviets via Dobrynin and Falin, and we insisted that before anything could be concluded with respect to Germany, absolute assurances had to exist with respect to our position in Berlin. So we conducted simultaneously a Berlin and a German negotiation. And while we were uneasy about Ostpolitik when it started, I believe that Barre and Brandt will agree that if they did the negotiating without us it wouldn't have been brought to a conclusion.