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Alexander Haig, Deputy National Security Advisor, on:
the strategic objectives of the new policy
Q: If we could then move on to 1970-71 and how the White House formulates the new strategy. Can you tell us if you can recall a particular meeting or discussion at which the strategic objectives of the new policy were raised? |
Haig: As one thinks back on the evolution and the implementation of Nixon's policy, there were many, many occasions at which we discussed the purpose of the initiative -- how it should be portrayed, both publicly and privately. The conclusion was at first there would be a very strong chance that the Chinese side would reject any overtures in the first instance, so that was an uncertainty. Secondly, of course, there was a tremendous sensitivity, as we were seeking to implement detente and a better relationship with the Soviet Union, as to how the Soviets would view this initiative. And of course in that sense the so-called triangle was discussed. Now it was rejected by President Nixon, Kissinger, and myself as a very foolish way upon which to build a relationship with the largest population in the world, and that is to make them a ploy or a card in a three partner game. It was important to establish that relationship in its own right. That was the criticality of the United States having normal relations with what will soon be, some years later, probably the largest economic bloc in the world. So that was the basis upon which we justified the initiative. Not the so-called triangle, the effort to put pressure on the Soviet Union to be better boys, although that was a clear and obvious dividend in the near term of those relationships.
Q: Can you recall any conversation which would express that tension between the two possible reasons for opening to China?
Haig: Well I think if you look at, in a real politic sense, of course one could emphasize the value of showing the Soviet Union that, if they were not going to enter into a constructive dialogue on arms control, Vietnam, and a host of other different areas, we clearly had other alternatives. And I think it's also well to remember that, at the beginning of our administration, we received signals at a considerably low level, to the effect that the Soviets were considering a castrating nuclear strike against the Chinese nuclear capability. Now, there's some evidence that perhaps a previous administration had toyed with such conversations with the Russians -- we did not. Never was there any thought of condoning a castrating strike against China. We sent back at a fairly high level a very strong message to the Soviets that an attack on China would be considered an attack on us, and that this was simply not an acceptable outcome.
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