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Praise for The Kissinger Transcripts:

"Henry 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 these documents."

- Walter Isaacson, author of Kissinger: A Biography

"The 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


Related posting

The Kissinger Transcripts:
The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow

Edited by William Burr

Massive Collection of Formerly Secret and Top Secret Transcripts of Henry Kissinger's Meetings with World Leaders Published On-Line

28,000 Pages of Documents Show Kissinger as Negotiator and Policymaker in Real-time, Verbatim Talks with World Leaders

For more information contact:
William Burr
202/994-7000

Washington, 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", them
  • 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 China
  • 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, North Vietnam.
  • 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.

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