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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 05, 1970

REPORT ON THE TALK BETWEEN HENRY KISSINGER AND MIRKO TEPAVAC HELD ON AN AIRPLANE EN ROUTE FROM ZAGREB.

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    Report on the conversation between Henry Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, United States, and Mirko Tepavac, Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, SFRY. Topics of the conversation, held on an airplane en route from Zagreb, include U.S. development policies in Africa, the war in Vietnam, the crisis in the Middle East, and the Yugoslav position in Soviet-U.S. relations.
    "Report on the talk between Henry Kissinger and Mirko Tepavac held on an airplane en route from Zagreb.," October 05, 1970, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Josip Broz Tito Archives, KPR I-3-a USA. Visit of Richard Nixon 9.30-10.2.1970. Translated for CWIHP by Lana Obradovic https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110827
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Cabinet of State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Belgrade, 10.5.1970

NOTE

About the talk with Henry Kissinger, held on Thursday, October 1st, 1970 on an airplane en route from Zagreb

1. Kissinger politely asked me to explain to President Tito that his information about America not giving help to African countries is not correct. They are giving large means to a lot of African countries and they are not connecting them to any political conditions.

I told him that President Tito was not referring to the help given to individual countries, but to the need for the full participation of America in (1%) the program of the Second Decade of Development because America has not given positive answer as of yet, even though many Western European countries have done so.

2. I returned to the question of Vietnam. I said that it is necessary to understand that it is not easy for them, and that they cannot simply “walk away”, that they inherited it from the previous administration and that there can be no solution if the provisional government of South Vietnam continues with unacceptable demands. They asked if we could influence the provisional government to make it more realistic, because the war cannot be won. America is not going to accept defeat.
I said that it was clear from the morning talks that from the beginning things were viewed differently. I added that we are not the only ones who disapprove of their politics in Indochina. The fact that today they have a bigger battlefield and less support in the world than they had two years ago, when they came to power, must mean something to them. They have to recognize that the provisional government already took a step toward continuing talks with the eight points. I know they think that step was small, but why are they not making a bigger one? We have contacts with the provisional government. However, we cannot do anything if they (Americans) are not countering this with a positive suggestion. If that happened, then I am convinced that the negotiations in Paris have some future. From our contacts with various countries, we see that they all think that America cannot have a wider world role as long as situations such as Indochina, Middle East and others exist.
3. Next, the talks went on about the Middle East. He does not know if we have seen that they (Americans) really want peace there. They would like for the Israelis to withdraw, but it is a baseless illusion of the Arabs, and perhaps us, to think that they can just order Israel to withdraw. He realized that the situation in the Middle East worries us and they expect that we will calm Arab extremism, because the situation can ultimately become very dangerous if both sides remain adamant. That is the situation in which the Arabs are not gaining anything, but rather the Russians are the ones who are because they would like to keep the state of a “constant little war”.
I told him that perhaps some overestimate their influence on Israel, but we are not underestimating it. Who else can make Israel withdraw if not them! All the politics are measured by the real effects of it. The effect so far is that they are losing ever more, and that the Russians are gaining ever more. It is not necessary for the Russians to force themselves on the Arabs, because the Arabs are completely helpless without Soviet support and help.
The situation there also worries us because of our position. The military-political space of the Middle East is expanding today to encompass the whole Mediterranean and the part of Europe where we are located. It is still possible to exit such a situation today if we can achieve Israeli withdrawal, therefore strictly implement the Security Council resolution. Tomorrow the resolution might already be unacceptable even for some of the Arab states that are accepting this SC resolution today. In the meantime, the Arabs are getting stronger, and the Soviet presence larger. Even though we support the Soviet policy of helping the Arabs, we also do not wish for the deterioration of the situation to increase the importance of the Yugoslav geographical space (the only space outside of the two blocks in that region) for the strategies of the two great powers in the Middle East.

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4. The discussion continued on the position of Yugoslavia. Kissinger was asking if we are threatened by the Russians. Do we think they will want to get access to the Mediterranean via Yugoslavia? What would we do in that case?
I told him that we do not feel threatened, but that the logic of the possible expansion of the conflict can lead them to demand a bigger understanding on our part toward Soviet needs in the Mediterranean, where the Soviet Union does not have adequate bases and communications. These needs no longer exist or would be significantly reduced if the crisis in the Middle East ended. They (Americans) are the most capable of helping us achieve that. In any case, as far as we are concerned, we are not ready to sacrifice our independence and territorial integrity for any or anybody's strategy.

5. In terms of the Yugoslav position and American relations and dialogues with the Soviet Union, I asked Kissinger how should the statement that Rogers made a few months ago about how “the USA believes that the Soviet Union will be more careful about its implementation of the Brezhnev doctrine to Yugoslavia” be interpreted. I said that such a statement suggests a smaller degree of interest for Yugoslav security than those expressed earlier. We are not expecting them to be protecting us nor do we feel insecure. I asked the question not because of the insecurity of the Yugoslav position, but because of the ambiguity of the American views on that. Are they, perhaps, giving such statements to the Russians in private?
Kissinger said that it is known that they would not view indifferently any type of a Soviet military move toward Yugoslavia.
I asked him what he meant by “would not view indifferently”? Does that mean that they would be “angered” or that they would confront them?
Kissinger was trying to be more precise and said that they would give “all necessary help” so that we could fight on our own.
I told him that we would fight unconditionally against anyone who tries to hurt us regardless of who will be helping us do that and that, most importantly, we trust our own defensive capabilities. However, it is not even about us fighting, but about us not being threatened to begin with. A strong and stable Yugoslavia is the best guarantee that nobody will even try to do anything against it. But it seems that this has not always been understood well by those who try to underscore their interest in our independence and outside-of-the-blocks position. The Soviet Union also tells us that they are interested in our security. We simply desire not to be the subject of any rivalry or any relaxation in the relations of the two great powers and their pacts.
Kissinger said that, regardless of how Rogers's statements were formulated, the Russians ought to know that they could not do anything against Yugoslavia without difficult consequences.
I ended by saying that everybody needs to know that. We are not asking anybody to protect us, but we do not want the ambiguities of such a thing to raise unrealistic hopes on either side, that the relations of the great powers in Europe and in the Mediterranean can be changed at the expense of our integrity.
Kissinger underscored the claim that the independent Yugoslavia is in their (America's) interest, and that they do not want to change us even if they could. They are not being a threat to us, but – he added – they will have to make it clear that others cannot do that either. He concluded by saying that it is also a goal of Nixon's visit to make that clearer. We would not be indifferent if Yugoslavia was to become closer to the Soviet Union at the expense of sacrificing its independence, even though we do not believe in that possibility.

M. Tepavac

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