Richard Nixon on Foreign Policy
President of the U.S., 1968-1974
1972 China trip: "The week that changed the world"
Like many Americans, my first real look at China came in 1972, when President Richard Nixon made his historic trip across the Pacific. We tuned in every night to watch scenes of a country that had been blocked from view for our entire lives.
I was riveted and proud of what America accomplished during what President Nixon called "the week that changed the world."
Looking back, it's clear that both sides had taken enormous risks. They were venturing into the unknown, during the height of the Cold War no less.
There could have been serious political consequences at home for leaders on both sides for appearing weak or, in our case, "soft on Communism." But the men who negotiated the trip calculated that the potential benefits outweighed the risks.
Source: Hard Choices, by Hillary Clinton, p. 65
, Jun 10, 2014
1971: Control Latin America as model for rest of world
Control of Latin America was the earliest goal of US foreign policy, and remains a central one, partly for resources and markets, but also for broader ideological reasons. If the US could not control Latin America, it could not expect "to achieve a
successful order elsewhere in the world," Nixon's National Security Council concluded in 1971 while considering the paramount importance of destroying Chilean democracy. Analysts concluded that Allende "threatened American global interests by challenging
the whole ideological basis of American Cold War policy. It was the threat of a successful socialist state in Chile that could provide a model for other nations that caused concern and led to American opposition."
The internal record makes it clear
that throughout the Cold War, a primary concern of US policy makers has been what Oxfam called "the threat of a good example," referring to Washington's dedication to destroying Nicaraguan democracy and independence in the 1980s.
Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 37
, Jun 1, 2010
OpEd: Organized Bay of Pigs invasion that JFK carried out
In the US, wars are unleashed by politicians but they must be fought by soldiers.
The young and untried Kennedy decreed the blockade [against Cuba] and the Bay of Pigs invasion, organized by Eisenhower and by Nixon who knew less about war than he did.
An unexpected twist of fate led him to new and unwise decisions that led to the October Missile Crisis from which he nevertheless emerged gracefully. But he remained traumatized by the prospect of a nuclear war.
Source: Obama and the Empire, by Fidel Castro, p. 54
, Apr 15, 2009
Nixon’s Ten Commandments of Statecraft
A President needs a global view, a sense of proportion and a keen sense of the possible. If I could carve ten rules into the wall of the Oval Office for my successors in the dangerous years ahead, they would be these:
Source: Ten Commandments of Statecraft, by James Humes, p. 9-13
, Jul 2, 1997
- Always be prepared to
negotiate, but never negotiate without being prepared
- Never be belligerent, but always be firm
- Always remember that covenants should be openly agreed to but privately negotiated
- Never seek publicity that would destroy the ability to get results
- Never give up unilaterally what could be used as a bargaining chip
- Never let your adversary underestimate what you would do in response to a challenge
- Always leave your adversary a face-saving line of retreat
- Distinguish between friends who
provide some human rights and enemies who deny all human rights
- Do at least as much for our friends as our adversaries do for our enemies
- Never lose faith. Faith without strength is futile, but strength without faith is streile.
1973: Egypt's Sadat represents future voice for moderation
The Israeli army had surrounded Egypt's 25,000-man Third Army Corps. Its demise would spell the destruction of Sadat. The Third Army was the pride of the Egyptian forces boasting the professional elite of their military. At the beginning of the invasion
on October 7, 1973, the Egyptian army had crossed the southern end of the Suez Canal and gained a foothold about 10 miles wide and 30 miles long in the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula, which Egypt had lost to Israel in the 1967 war.
Nixon believed that Sadat represented a future voice for moderation and restraint in the volatile Middle East. He prevented Israel from annihilating Sadat's army in order to preserve his leadership and thus the hope of a constructive peace
settlement at a later time. For Sadat, the preservation of his army was a "face-saving line of retreat." But for the world, it was the foundation for the Egyptian-Israeli accord a few years later.
Source: Ten Commandments of Statecraft, by James Humes, p.123-5
, Jul 2, 1997
If every nation can't be friend, let them not be enemies
Like John F. Kennedy, Nixon was sworn into office on the Capitol's east front by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Nixon's inaugural address paid tribute to a persistent rivalry. "If every nation cannot be our friend, at least it does not have to be our enemy." The attempt to mimic the Kennedy speech of 8 years earlier was unmistakable.
The triumphal parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House on January 20, 1969,
resembled an obscene pageant as the limousine bearing the Nixon family was pelted with sticks, stones, empty beer cans, and homemade smoke bombs.
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.274
, Jun 3, 1996
Don't turn our back on the Southern Hemisphere
Among the developing nations of Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and South Asia--regions that can figuratively be described as the southern hemisphere--the path to economic development remains strewn with obstacles.
Corrupt government officials, mismanaged economic policies, and misguided development strategies hold back the potential of talented and hard-working peoples on every continent.
The southern hemisphere holds unlimited potential for success, but it also faces daunting odds. We are therefore presented with an immense challenge. If we turn our backs on the countries of the southern hemisphere,
we will never narrow the widening gap between the developed and underdeveloped worlds. And if the future becomes a "tale of two worlds," the foundation of future peace and stability will have been erected on soft ground.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.233&271
, Jan 15, 1992
Improve the effectiveness of Third World economic assistance
[The US Third World policy should include]:
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.233&263-271
, Jan 15, 1992
- Assist population control programs.We must help break the link between spiraling population growth and poverty.
- Reduce trade barriers to exports from the underdeveloped world.To promote
economic growth, foreign trade, not foreign aid, should be our principal instrument.By removing trade barriers, these countries have the chance to specialize in industries in which they enjoy a competitive advantage over the rest of the world.
Facilitate debt relief.The ultimate answer to debt crisis lies with the underdeveloped world. At the same time, Western governments must insist that banks that recklessly lent billions to uncreditworthy states bear their share of the burden.
Improve the effectiveness of economic assistance.We must face up to the fact that in the past our foreign aid has done as much harm as it has done good. We should not extend aid without attaching strings with clearly defined and measurable goals.
Provide funds to increase Japan's geopolitical role
The link between Japan's technological advancements and U.S. military development should be strengthened.
To compensate for its low level of defense spending, Japan should allocate substantially more resources to helping those developing countries in
which the West has a strategic stake.
[The US should] provide funds to provide the financial support needed for the internationally supervised elections, multilateral peacekeeping forces, economic compensation.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.154-156
, Jan 15, 1992
Selective foreign aid to create incentives for change
The first item on our new agenda must be the outstanding issues of the cold war, such as arms control and Moscow's aid to third world totalitarians. The second item must be to assist those former Soviet republics that take the needed and painful steps to
transform their state-dominated economies into market-based ones. A policy of selective assistance that differentiates among republics on the basis of their commitment to economic and political reform will create powerful incentives for needed change.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 45
, Jan 15, 1992
Recast foreign policy with US as only superpower
For the past half century, we have lived in a world dominated by the clash of two superpowers inspired by two conflicting ideologies. The East-West struggle was the defining characteristic of the era. The Soviet Union and the
United States confronted each other across the front lines in Europe and Asia, backed rival clients in regional conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia, and sparred with each other in civil wars throughout the underdeveloped world.
But today one ideology--communism--has been discredited beyond resurrection. And one superpower--the Soviet Union--has a new noncommunist government so preoccupied with its massive problems at home that it
can no longer play a dominant role abroad.
We now live in a world in which the United States is the only superpower. We must recast our foreign policy to cope with this radically new situation.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 14
, Jan 15, 1992
Vital interest in preventing nukes by potential enemies
An interest is vital if its loss, in and of itself, directly endangers the securing of the US. The survival and independence of Western Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, and the Persian Gulf states are vital to our own security.
We also have a vital interest in preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by potential aggressors in the underdeveloped world. The US has no choice but to respond with military force if necessary to turn back threats to these interests.
A peripheral interest is one that, if taken by a hostile power, would only distantly threaten a vital interest.
Our overall security strategy must calibrate what we will do to protect an interest to its strategic importance. We should then match our
capabilities--and the will to use them--to the threat we face. We should not send the 82nd Airborne Division to defend a peripheral interest in Mauritania, but we must not hesitate from doing so to defend a vital interest in the Persian Gulf.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 36-37
, Jan 15, 1992
Top NATO priority: East Europe postcommunist recovery
In Europe--newly united after a half century of ideological division--we face the twin tasks of redefining NATO's mission and ensuring the success of the fragile new democracies of Eastern Europe.
The most successful regional alliance in history, NATO should become the focal point of cooperative foreign policy initiatives by the world's industrial democracies.
Helping Eastern Europe's postcommunist recovery must be a top priority, not only for its own sake,
but also because the fate of reform there will profoundly affect the prospects for reform in the Soviet Union.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 38
, Jan 15, 1992
Islamic tolerance needs our support against fundamentalists
We should recognize that the Muslim world's diverse political movements fall within 3 basic currents of thought:
We should support the modernists in the Muslim world, in their interest and in ours. They need to give their people a positive alternative to the ideologies of extreme fundamentalism.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.201-203
, Jan 15, 1992
- FUNDAMENTALISM .They are motivated by a consuming hatred of the West and a determination to restore the superiority of Islamic
civilization by resuscitating the past. They seek to impose the shari'a, the code of law based on the Koran.
- RADICALISM. Dictators and one-party states control several of the countries in the Muslim world.
- MODERNISM. Most prominent but least
visible, the modernist political current seeks to integrate the countries of the Muslim world into the modern world, both economically and politically. Tolerance marks the key thrust of modernist Islam, with the nations of the west not condemned
as "unbelievers" but embraced as other peoples "of the book."
No President nor Congress will allow destruction of Israel
Our commitment to the survival and security of Israel runs deep. We are not formal allies, but we are bound together by something much stronger than a piece of paper: a moral commitment. Contrary to the conventional wisdom,
Israel is not a strategic interest of the US. Our cooperation in intelligence sharing and military prepositioning and exercise is helpful but not vital. While Israel's forces have brilliantly proven themselves on the battlefield, the
Persian Gulf War--where they contributed not by participating in but by staying out of the conflict--proved their limited utility in the most important regional contingencies.
Our commitment to Israel stems from the legacy of WWII and from our moral and ideological interest in ensuring the survival of embattled democracies. No American President or Congress will ever allow the destruction of the state of Israel.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.218
, Jan 15, 1992
We should not allow billions of people in poverty
The future will become a tale of two worlds--one rich and the other poor, one surging ahead with high technology and the other lagging behind with obsolete industrial plants and subsistence agriculture, one smug in its ease and comfort and the other
increasingly resentful and hostile. The average annual per capita income of the more than 4 billion people of the underdeveloped world has stagnated at less than $800, compared with $21,000 in the US. If we ignore those less fortunate than ourselves, we
will not only disregard our moral responsibility, but also imperil our vital economic and strategic interests.
1/4 of the people in the underdeveloped world live below the threshold of poverty. 30,000 people die every day from dirty water & unsanitary
conditions. Average life expectancy is 20 years shorter than in the US. We cannot stand back and watch from afar as the underdeveloped world sinks in an economic morass. We should not allow it, and the billions of people who live there will not tolerate
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.234
, Jan 15, 1992
I did not "sell" ambassadorships; but I did appoint donors
The most hypocritical myth was that the Nixon administration "sold" ambassadorships to major political contributors. It has been a standard, and continuing, practice to appoint a handful of principal contributors to choice embassies.
Given the financial requirements of the social circuit in Paris and London, only a wealthy person could afford to serve as ambassador. That is one of the reasons why FDR appointed Joseph Kennedy ambassador to Britain. In the Nixon administration, some
qualified contributors received such appointments, though others did not. In fact, while campaign laws in 1972 placed no restrictions on the size of individual donations, we consciously limited, or even refused, money from wealthy supporters whom we
wanted to appoint as ambassadors simply to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Walter Annenberg, who made no campaign contribution, was chosen for London, and no one who donated over a million dollars was ever appointed to any ambassadorship.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 33
, Apr 1, 1991
Expect coordinated European foreign policy after 1992
Western Europe has come a long way since 1945. Britain and France are no longer rivals, and France and Germany are no longer enemies. Our allies have made great strides in unifying their economies and have taken the first halting steps toward political
Since leaving office, I have been impressed by the gradual psychological and spiritual recovery of the peoples of West Europe and by the caliber of many of their top leaders. I did not expect that
Western Europe would so quickly adopt and move forward with the plan for economic unification starting in 1992.
I now expect that in the decade ahead we will see movement toward coordinated European foreign policies that might enable the fragmented giant of Europe finally to begin to emerge as a powerful geopolitical player.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 51-52
, Apr 1, 1991
US is not a declining power
In academic circles, it has been fashionable to argue that in the late 20th century the US has become a declining power. That view is profoundly mistaken. We do have difficult problems. But we must keep in mind that the US economy ranks #1 in terms of
overall productivity, that access to the US market remains indispensable to our allies and friends, that the dollar continues to be the central currency of the international system, and that our people have kept our country in the forefront of
technological and scientific innovation.
In geopolitical terms, the US continues to be the world's only military, economic, political, and ideological superpower. Moscow has military might. Western Europe and Japan have economic clout. China, because
of its size, enjoys political influence. But the US alone is a major player in all dimensions of world power. It is a distinction that implies a profound responsibility for shaping the course of world events.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 76
, Jul 2, 1990
Japan needs to spend more on defense
Japan needs more defense, and it can afford it. The present constraints on defense spending are political and psychological, not economic. It may be unrealistic to expect a Japanese government in the immediate future to break through the traditional
1% of GNP barrier on defense expenditures. But even within that limit, expenditures can and should be raised, and Japan's leaders will have to work at preparing their people for a greater military effort. Meanwhile, Japan should compensate for its
virtually free ride on defense by shouldering a greater share of the free world's economic burden--in foreign aid, for example.
The cornerstone of Japan's defense, however, will continue to be its alliance with the US. A close partnership between the
strongest military and economic power in the free world and the strongest economic power in Asia could provide the basis for American political and military flexibility in the region and act as a restraint on Soviet adventuring.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.207
, Jan 1, 1981
Nixon Doctrine: sell arms to resist aggression abroad
If the Soviets have agitators and terrorists where we have no countervailing force, local defense forces are the ones best equipped to deal with these low-level threats, but if the aggressor is receiving aid from outside, those defending their freedom
must also have access to aid from outside.
The Nixon Doctrine provided that the US would supply arms and assistance to nations threatened by aggression, IF they were willing to assume the primary responsibility for providing the manpower necessary
for their defense.
Some Americans have an almost theological aversion to having the US sells arms abroad. But those who argue against supplying our friends with the arms they need to defend themselves ignore one very important point. There is almost no
case on record since WWII in which arms provided by the US have been used by the country receiving them for purposes of aggression. Soviet arms are the ones that have been consistently used to break the peace.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.214
, Jan 1, 1981
Revitalize Monroe Doctrine to counter indirect aggression
The Monroe Doctrine must be revitalized and redefined to counter indirect aggression, which was not a threat 150 years ago. The US should make it clear that we will resist intervention in Latin America not only by foreign governments but also by Latin
American governments controlled by a foreign power. Of the total of 10 million Cubans, more than 40,000 are now acting as proxies for Soviet expansion in Africa. This is the equivalent of sending an army of nearly 1 million Americans overseas to fight--
almost twice the highest number we had in Vietnam. Tiny Cuba, under Soviet tutelage, has become a major imperialist power. Castro has made Cuba a disaster area. He must not be allowed, with Soviet support, to foist his discredited economic and political
systems on other countries in Latin America. Any such effort at subversion should be firmly and unmistakably checked, and both Soviets and Cubans should be told in advance that any interference here will bring far more than a diplomatic protest from us.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p. 36
, Apr 1, 1980
Islamic modernization is wrenching but must be done
The "Islamic revolution" defies simple categorization. Among the world's 800 million Moslems there are more non-Arabs than Arabs; Moslems form a majority or a sizable minority in seventy countries. The world's most populous Moslem country is Indonesia.
There are more Moslems in India, Nigeria, the Soviet Union, and even China than in most countries of the Middle East.
Modernization--which often means Westernization--has been a wrenching experience for these traditional societies, and the
United States has become a convenient whipping boy for those torn between the strict teachings of the past and the lures or demands of the modern world.
Conserving the best of traditional Islam while satisfying the needs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will challenge the wisest reformers. But it must be done.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p. 92
, Apr 1, 1980
Work with Japan to shape international order in the Pacific
While Japan has begun to take on a wider global role, its ultimate shape remains undetermined. Although Japan's and America's interests would be best served by a collaborative relationship, the prevalence of Japan-bashing in the US and America-bashing in
Japan casts a dark cloud on the future of our relationship. With the rise of a new generation of Japanese leaders--many of whom have no personal memories of the US postwar reconstruction of Japan--the danger exists that our trans-Pacific ties will
fray or even snap. We therefore need to elevate our relations from the constant arbitration of individual trade disputes--many of which though politically potent are economically petty--to the higher plane of shaping the international order in the
Pacific, of taking on jointly challenges such as solving the debt crises in Mexico and other Latin American countries, and of helping ease Japan's entrance onto the world stage by linking our approaches to global economic and political issues.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 58-59
, Nov 30, 1978
Use American power to create world peace for decades
After the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Nixon and the Reverend Billy Graham discussed world peace--past press accounts have mentioned their anti-Semitic rants, not included here:
Nixon: We are in a situation at the present time where, and it
will be the last time when the United States, through its power, can create conditions which can lead to peace for, perhaps, 25 years. Nobody can look beyond that. That would be a great deal.
Now, what is important is that the United States use that power, and use it effectively. The millennium will come someday, we hope, when everybody may want peace for the right reasons. But at the present time, we may want peace for reasons of necessity.
Any man, no matter how tough, or savage, or barbaric he is, probably does think of young people, the kids. I mean, the Russians must think of the Russian kids, and the Chinese must think of the Chinese kids.
Source: The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972, by Douglas Brinkley, p.~500
, Feb 1, 1972
New world order of 5 major power centers
In a speech in made in Kansas City in 1971, I said that I foresaw the emergence in coming decades of a new world order in which the interaction of five major power centers--the
US, Western Europe, Japan, the Soviet Union, and China--became the principal axis of history. As I traveled abroad since leaving office, I have found that this continues to be a useful conceptual framework through which to view the world.
In 1971, I spoke to "power centers" defined in terms of potential economic power; today, I would broaden the concept to mean global political clout. While economic power represents a key ingredient of such power, military forces,
ideological appeal, domestic political cohesion, skill in statecraft, and commonality of interests with other major powers also must be factored into the equation.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 51
, Dec 31, 1971
No intervention in Cuba; it violates treaties & UN charter
Q: How do your policies on Cuba differ?
NIXON: Our policies are very different. Sen. Kennedy's policies and recommendations for the handling of the Castro regime are probably the most dangerously irresponsible recommendations that he's made during the
course of this campaign. In effect, what Sen. Kennedy recommends is that the US government should give help to the exiles and to those within Cuba who oppose the Castro regime--provided they are anti-Batista. We have five treaties with Latin America,
plus the charter of the United Nations, in which we have agreed not to intervene in the internal affairs of any other American country--and they as well have agreed to do likewise.
KENNEDY: Mr. Nixon shows himself misinformed. He surely must be aware
that most of the equipment and arms and resources for Castro came from the US, flowed out of Florida to Castro in the mountains. #2, I believe that if any economic sanctions against Latin America are going to be successful they have to be multilateral.
Source: The Fourth Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate
, Oct 21, 1960
20 new African countries in 1950s, and all chose democracy
Look at South America: We had a good neighbor policy, yes. It sounded fine. But there were 11 dictators when we came into power in 1953 in Latin America. There are only 3 left. Let's look at Africa: 20 new countries in Africa during the course of this
Administration. Not one of them selected a Communist government. All of them voted for a free type of government. Does this show that Communism has the bigger pull, or freedom has the bigger pull?
Am I trying to indicate that we have no problems in
Africa or Latin America or Asia? Of course not. What I am trying to indicate is that the tide of history's on our side, and that we can keep it on our side, because we're on the right side. We're on the side of freedom. We're on the side of justice
against the forces of slavery and injustice. But we aren't going to move America forward and we aren't going to be able to lead the world to win this struggle for freedom if we have a permanent inferiority complex about American achievements.
Source: The Fourth Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate
, Oct 21, 1960
Latin America had 11 dictators in 1953; and only 3 now
Q: Senator Kennedy said last night that the Administration must take responsibility for the loss of Cuba.
NIXON: First of all, I don't agree that Cuba is lost. As I look at Cuba today [after the Castro revolution], I believe that we are following the
right course, a course which is difficult but is the only proper one, working with the Organization of American States. Now Senator Kennedy has made some very strong criticisms of my part--or alleged part--in what has happened in Cuba. He points to
the fact that I visited Cuba while Mr. Batista was in power there. I can only point out that if we are going to judge the Administrations in terms of our attitude toward dictators, we're glad to have a comparison with the previous administration.
There were eleven dictators in South America and in Central America when we came in, in 1953. Today there are only three left including the one in Cuba. We think that's pretty good progress.
Source: The Second Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate
, Oct 7, 1960
Richard Nixon on China
1972: Implemented Shanghai Communique's "One China" policy
The US position on Taiwan is ambiguous. In 1972, in the Shanghai Communique, the US addressed the "crucial question obstructing the normalization of relations":
"The US acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there
is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China."
As long as he remained in office, Nixon maintained the US embassy in Taipei and the treaty commitment to defend the Republic of China. Jimmy Carter, however, severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Source: Where The Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p.132-133
, Aug 12, 2004
Economic liberty mounts pressure to open up China
Nixon counseled that first, we should make a comparison between the leader of a friendly country and the alternative. Examples included South Vietnam and North Vietnam, South Korea and North Korea, Iran (under the Shah) and Iraq. Would Ho Chi Minh's
Communist regime be as "democratic" as the government of President Thieu, which tolerated free elections, religious freedom, and the right of opposition journals to operate? Would the North Korean psychopath Sung offer a more open society than President
Second, Nixon was implicitly arguing that a free market economy, which both South Vietnam and South Korea were encouraging, was a basic freedom totalitarian Marxism did not recognize. It was Nixon's belief that economic liberty, even if under
autocratic governments, generated mounting pressure to open up society. In other words, if economic freedom comes, it is usually soon followed by political freedom. Nixon would cite Chile, Taiwan, and Singapore, as well as South Korea, as evidence.
Source: Ten Commandments of Statecraft, by James Humes, p.134
, Jul 2, 1997
1972 "Triangularization": USSR vs. USA vs. mainland China
Nixon's strategy of "triangularization" was aimed at reshaping a bipolar world into a 3-sided one, led by the Soviet Union, the US, and mainland China. Before this could happen, Nixon needed to establish a diplomatic office in Beijing.
Of course, he
could have followed the example of the British and French, who recognized Red China and abandoned the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan. But such a move would mean canceling our defense treaties with Taiwan and implicitly endorsing Red China's
claim to the island.
The genius of Nixon's negotiations enabled him to have his cake and eat it too. That is, he achieved "triangularization" without abandonment of US military support of Taiwan. With the carefully crafted phrases, "one China"
and "peaceful resolution," Nixon gained a liaison office in Beijing. George Bush would be the 1st liaison officer of that mission in Beijing. This access to the People's Republic was a success that exceeded Nixon's greatest hopes.
Source: Ten Commandments of Statecraft, by James Humes, p. 92-3
, Jul 2, 1997
Appeasement didn't work with Hitler & won't work with China
Boldly, Nixon cited the pre-WWII legacy of Munich, comparing Kennedy's position to the appeasement policy toward Hitler's Germany his father had supported as ambassador to Britain. "This is the story of dealing with dictators. This is something that Sen.
Kennedy and all Americans must know. We tried this with Hitler. It didn't work. He wanted, first, we know, Austria, and then he went on to the Sudetenland, and then Danzig, and each time it was thought this is all he wanted."
Before a national TV audience, Richard Nixon was reminding Jack Kennedy of his father's disgrace. "Now what do the Chinese Communists want?" he asked, building dramatically to his climax. "They don't want just Quemoy and Matsu. They don't just want
Formosa. They want the world." Nixon called the islands "a symbol of freedom."
If the 1st debate turned the election, the 2nd and 3rd, with their focus on holding the line against Asian communism, would one day drive American foreign policy.
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.161-163
, Jun 3, 1996
1968: Open China so they accept international rules
It was now time for Richard Nixon to begin his extraordinary deviation from Cold War doctrine. The '68 hopeful produced an essay in Foreign Affairs urging a diplomatic opening to Red China.
Nixon suggested that the US demonstrate to China "that its interest can be served only by accepting the basic rules of international civility."
Such a policy, he reasoned, would lure "China back into the world community... as a great and progressing nation."
The ardent Cold Warrior who had hit Kennedy as too soft on Quemoy and Matsu and Johnson as weak-rooted on Vietnam, was now talking of normalizing relations with the Communist giant herself.
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.256-257
, Jun 3, 1996
1971: Initiative came after years asking "Who lost China?"
Nixon announced to a stunned world his plan to hold a summit conference in Beijing with leaders of the People's Republic of China. The partisan warrior who had spent years shouting, "Who lost China?" and had scolded Jack Kennedy in the
1960 debates for refusing to fight for Quemoy and Matsu was himself opening the door to "Red China." It was a brilliant act of strategic surprise, leaving his enemies little recourse but to praise him.
Ted Kennedy was particularly gracious. "Rarely, I think, has the action of any president so captured the imagination and support of the American people as President Nixon's magnificent gesture."
Even with Nixon's chances of reelection bolstered by
his masterful turning of the tables on China policy, Nixon was single-handedly taking China out of the global struggle between the US, and the USSR, making her, more Cold War ally than enemy.
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.304-312
, Jun 3, 1996
Pacific Rim will take center stage in 21st century
The Pacific Rim region will take center stage in the 21st century: Japan, China, and the Soviet Union.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.147-149
, Jan 15, 1992
Japan, an economic heavyweight but a political and military lightweight, has stumbled as its leaders search for a new role in the world commensurate with its great resources.
China, a potential economic superpower and a major political player, stands at a crossroads--its people seeking to break with the Communist past but its current leaders unwilling to relinquish their totalitarian control.
- The former
Soviet Union, a declining economic power but a towering military power in the Pacific, has the potential to convert its armed might into a greater presence politically and greater access to the region's capital and technology.
Keep China reforms alive until hard-line leadership passes
China has 1/5 of the world's population and could become a major global economic power in the coming decades. Even if there had been no war in Vietnam or no Soviet threat, it was vital for the US to end China's isolation.
As China broadened its contacts with the world economy, these ties transformed Chinese society. Pro-democracy political currents ran deep. The old regime and these new ideas clashed at Tiananmen Square in June 1989.
Their calls were met not with reason and understanding but with tanks and bullets. An estimated 1,300 demonstrators were killed and 10,000 wounded in the one-sided battle.
Our objective must be to keep the process of reforms alive until the current
hard-line leadership passes from the scene.
Economically, China has moved halfway to a free-market system. It now has two economies--one private and one state-owned--locked in mortal competition.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.163&166-171
, Jan 15, 1992
China must modernize; but US can't push too much
To assume its rightful place in the world, China must modernize. It cannot succeed without contact with the countries of the West, but its success depends ultimately on the Chinese people themselves.
We should provide moral and material support to those who favor economic and political reform, but we must not try to [push] through changes before China itself is ready to make them work.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.178-181
, Jan 15, 1992
Tiananmen repression did not wipe away progressive reforms
Many have wrongly concluded that a night of brutal repression in Tiananmen Square wiped away a decade of progressive reforms in China. Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms and opening to the West have irreversibly changed his country. Reactionary hard-line
leaders cannot fully turn back the clock. When China's leaders have looked at the rest of the world, they have been astonished and shamed by the backwardness of their country. What was particularly disturbing was the stark contrast between the poverty of
the Chinese on the Communist mainland and the high living standards of Chinese living and working in capitalist Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. When the Chinese people watched televised reports on Deng's visit to the US in 1979, the backdrops of modern
cities and technological wonders fundamentally altered their world view. While this alone could not change anything overnight, it did condition them against wanting to turn back to their old ways and stimulated a genuine revolution in their thinking.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 60
, Apr 1, 1991
Tiananmen massacre inexcusable, but continue China relations
In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, some observers called for the US to punish China's leaders by breaking off all relations. But to destroy the US-Chinese relationship would be a tragic error that would serve neither our interests nor
those of the Chinese people.
My 6th visit to China in October 1989 was potentially the most sensitive and controversial since my first trip 17 years before. My purposes in these meetings were threefold: to show the leaders that even China's friends in
the US were outraged at the events of June 2-4 and that China would have to take steps to address our concerns; to draw the leaders back into a discussion of geopolitics after months of preoccupation with their domestic problems; and to establish a
dialogue about the future of Sino-American relations.
My message was clear: While what they had done in June was tragic and inexcusable, it was in the interests of both the US and China for our relationship to continue in spite of it.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 63-67
, Apr 1, 1991
China fears USSR & is USSR's major vulnerability
We should recognize the strengths but also the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the opposing forces.
The most dramatic of those vulnerabilities lies in the deep and perhaps irreconcilable differences between the Soviet Union and China.
China's economy is still weak, and its nuclear capability is still relatively primitive.
But with a billion of the world's potentially most able people on its longest frontier, under control of a government that looks toward Moscow with bitter hostility, the leaders of the Kremlin have reason to be apprehensive.
In the long run China may post an expansionist threat to the West. But for the present China fears the Soviet Union and needs the West.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p. 15
, Jan 1, 1981
Bring China into world community, but with restraints
In 1967, I wrote "taking the long view, we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies and threaten its neighbors." But for the short run we needed "a policy of firm restraint of no reward, of
a creative counterpressure designed to persuade Peking that its interests can be served only by accepting the basic rules of international civility," so that China could finally be pulled "back into the world community--but as a great and progressing
nation, not as the epicenter of world revolution."
Dialogue with mainland China could begin when the leaders in Peking were persuaded "to turn their energies inward rather than outward." One of my first acts as President was to direct that we explore
privately the possibilities of a rapprochement with China. This proceeded at first as a sort of slow ritual dance, but the steps rapidly gained momentum in 1971 until, on July 15, I made the surprise announcement that I would visit China in early 1972.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.149
, Jan 1, 1981
1972: Cultural, trade, and journalistic contact with China
The primary goal of this trip was to reestablish communication with the People's Republic of China after a generation of hostility. We achieved that goal.
We did not bring back any written or unwritten agreements that will guarantee peace in our time.
We made some necessary and important beginnings, however, in several areas. We entered into agreements to expand cultural, educational, and journalistic contacts between the Chinese and American people. We agreed to work to begin and broaden trade
between our two countries. We have agreed that the communications that have now been established between our governments will be strengthened and expanded.
Most important, we have agreed on some rules of international conduct which will reduce
the risk of confrontation and war in Asia and in the Pacific. We agreed that we are opposed to domination of the Pacific area by any one power. We agreed that international disputes should be settled without the use of the threat of force.
Source: A Patriot's Handbook, by Caroline Kennedy, p.479
, Feb 28, 1972
Security interest in China overrides ideology
In view of such irreconcilable differences, what brought us together? One China expert in the US predicted that the first question Mao would put to me would be: "What is the richest country in the world prepared to do to help the most
populous country in the world?" He was wrong. Not once during many hours of discussion did economic issues come up. Our common economic interests are the primary factors that keep us together today.
They played no part whatever in bringing us together in 1972.
The real reason was our common strategic interest in opposing the Soviet dominance of Asia.
Like the Soviet Union, China was a Communist country. The US was a capitalist nation. But we did not threaten them, while the Soviet Union did. It was a classic case of a nation's security interest overriding ideology.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 6
, Feb 21, 1972
Shanghai Communique established "One China" policy
The Shanghai Communique was issued at the conclusion of the visit. Instead of trying to paper over differences with mushy, meaningless, diplomatic gobbledygook, each side expressed its position on the issues where we disagreed.
On the neuralgic issue of Taiwan, we stated the obvious fact that the Chinese on the mainland and on Taiwan agreed that there was one China. We expressed our position that the differences between the two should be settled peacefully.
And on the great issue which made this historic rapprochement possible, the communique stated that neither nation "should seek hegemony in the
Asia-Pacific region and each opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony." This document has stood the test of time. The principles it set forth are still adhered to by both sides.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 7
, Feb 21, 1972
Richard Nixon on Communism
1959: Suspicious of Castro even when new Cuban leader
In April 1959 Castro went on a victory tour to the US. Pres. Eisenhower snubbed him, sticking Vice President Nixon with the task of receiving the revolutionary. Castro showed up in green fatigues. Nixon, in a button suit, awkwardly shook the bearded
revolutionary's hand. Nixon's memo about the meeting, declassified in 2001, reveals his suspicions: "His primary concern seemed to be to convince me that he was sincere, that he was not a communist. [Castro is] either incredibly naive about Communism or
under Communist discipline. My guess is the former; his ideas as to how to run a government or an economy are less developed than those of almost any world figure I have met in 50 countries." It didn't take long for Castro's assurances that he was not a
Communist to be shown for what they were: complete baloney. But in early days of his revolution, many Cubans in the US thought he might be a kind of savior. After all, he'd toppled a corrupt dictator; he'd promised to transform a society.
Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p. 34
, Jun 19, 2012
OpEd: Supported democracy when it fit strategic interests
The Nixon administration regarded control of Latin America as a necessary condition for establishing a "successful order elsewhere in the world," while devoting itself to barring a successful social democracy in Chile that could be a model for others.
In Nixon's own words, "Our main concern in Chile is the prospect that [Allende] can consolidate himself and the picture projected to the world will be his success. If we let the potential leaders in South American think they can move like
Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble. No impression should be permitted in Latin America that they can get away with this, that it's safe to go this way. All over the world it's too much the fashion to kick us around."
Even mainstream scholarship recognizes that Washington has supported democracy if and only if it contributes to strategic and economic interests, a policy that continues without change through all administrations, to the present.
Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.116
, Jun 1, 2010
Recommended quarantine of Cuba in 1960
When Vice President Nixon met Premier Fidel Castro during his 1st visit to the US in April, 1957, Nixon had written that Castro "was either incredibly na‹ve about Communism or under Communist discipline." Such a view was, at that time, opposed by the
Latin American bureau of the State Department. The official State Department line was to "try to get along with Castro and understand him."
By early 1960, Nixon recommended economic, political, and diplomatic isolation of Cuba.
He added that "the time for patience was past," and that we should move vigorously in full association of our sister Latin American republics "to eradicate this cancer" in our hemisphere and "to prevent further Soviet penetration." "The Administration,"
said Nixon, was planning "a number of steps" and "will very promptly take the strongest possible economic measures to counter the economic banditry being practiced by this regime against our citizens."
Source: Ten Commandments of Statecraft, by James Humes, p. 76-7
, Jul 2, 1997
Coined term "Domino Theory": defend against Asian Communism
Nixon clung to the parlance of the global game board, skipping over the inconvenient realities he had seen in country. "If Indo-China falls, Thailand is put in almost an impossible position. The same is true of Malaya; the same is true of Indonesia.
If Indo-China goes under Communist domination, the whole of Southeast Asia will be threatened, and that means that the economic and military security of Japan will inevitably be endangered also.
That indicates to you, and to all of us, why it is vitally important that Indo-China not go behind the Iron Curtain."
Caught up in the "who lost China?" syndrome, he continued to speak of Southeast Asia with the same simplicity Ike had employed when he compared its countries to a row of dominoes.
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p. 94-95
, Jun 3, 1996
1960: Krushchev's grandchildren will live in freedom
Nixon understood that the most useful strategy available to him was to prove that he, not John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was the best possible steward of foreign policy, that he and Lodge, not Kennedy and Johnson, were the most seasoned men to confront
the Soviets. He would need to make the 1960 presidential election into a national referendum on the Cold War.
"Our next president must tell the American people not what they want to hear but what they need to hear,"
Nixon said in his acceptance speech. "Why, for example, it may be just as essential to the national interest to build a dam in India as in California." When read with historical hindsight, his best line dealt with the
cold war. "Mr. Khrushchev says his grandchildren will live in freedom." Nixon would later call his words that evening "the single most effective political address" he ever made.
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.136
, Jun 3, 1996
Renew transatlantic institutions; integrate Eastern Europe
We need policies that renew existing transatlantic institutions such as NATO and that build bridges to integrate Eastern Europe into the West. As we revise our policy toward Europe, we must address new realities:
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.118-122&133-134
, Jan 15, 1992
- Security vacuum in Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union.
- New democracies in Eastern Europe: We should open American business schools in each East European country to teach skills required to make the nuts and bolts of capitalism work.
We should not ignore the need to train government regulators, particularly in the banking and antitrust fields. Without strict but sensible regulation, reforms can become a transition not to market but to anarchy.
- We should open Western markets to Eas
European exports. Trade represents the major hope for rapid economic development.
- In order to prevent potential ethnic conflicts, we should work with the continent's leaders to channel the new East European nationalism in constructive directions.
Help construct viable post-Communist system in former USSR
While the upheaval in the Soviet Union swept the old regime away, no revolution can wipe the slate of history clean. Vestiges of the past stand alongside opportunities for the future. All-too-familiar problems confront the new noncommunist leaders: the
deepening economic crisis, the redefinition of relationships among the elements of the former Soviet Union, and the construction of a viable post-Communist political system. Toppling a corrupt old regime was far easier than erecting a just new order.
In any revolution, two battles must be fought, one over ideology and one over control of the state. The democratic forces have won the first and prevailed in the first major clash of the second. But the victory of freedom will not be secure until the
new democratic institutions are firmly in place.
All former Soviet republics have claimed sovereignty and asserted the supremacy of their laws over Moscow's. It is inevitable that virtually all will follow up with full declarations of independence.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 68-69
, Jan 15, 1992
Promote democratic self-determination away from Moscow
Promoting the principle of democratic self-determination should be the hallmark of our policy. For a multinational state ruled by a dominant nation with long-standing imperial traditions, a direct contradiction exists between democracy and unity.
In the wake of democratic reform, smaller nations will inevitably exploit democracy to free themselves from the unity imposed by the center. And if the center insists on political unity, it will be inexorably driven to dismantle democracy.
We must recognize that the defeat of Moscow's imperial rule was an indispensable precondition for securing the triumph of freedom and democracy.
Our policies should reach out to help those leaders who are part of the solution rather than the problem:
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 72-75
, Jan 15, 1992
- Encourage republics to make a clean break with the Communist past.
- Press nondemocratic republic governments to hold free legislative and presidential elections.
US assistance to new republics toward free market
Western assistance to the newly independent republics must be the initial focus of our partnership. Those who claim that nothing short of a Western bailout can save the nations of the former Soviet Union are wrong. Its natural resources remain abundant.
Its labor force, despite its poor work ethic, was highly skilled and would have responded to proper incentives. Its scientists were recognized internationally. If the new noncommunist leadership adopts the right reforms, the accomplishments of the nation
of the former Soviet Union will astonish the world.
While there are scores of needed economic reforms--free prices, private property, and others--there are two fundamental political requirements: painful honesty and strong leadership. The US should
extend a helping hand to all republics that move toward a free-market system. The essence of our strategy should be to differentiate among the republics, providing greater assistance to those who make the most decisive break with the past.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 95&99-103
, Jan 15, 1992
Now is the springtime after the long winter of Communism
By encouraging institutions pressing for political pluralism and market economics, we can help accelerate the demise of communism and the advent of liberty. Each of the nations of the former Soviet Union has rediscovered its identity, its heritage, and
its freedom. These nations have spoken out for the first time since they were silenced by the armies of empire. After the long winter of Communist tyranny, it is now a springtime of nations.
As a result of the new
Soviet revolution, the world stands on the eve of an era of unprecedented opportunities for peace and progress. We must remember, however, that democracy is like a fragile plant.
If it is not nurtured and cared for, it will wither and die. But once it sinks its roots, people will care for it. They will not fight to extend it, but they will fight to defend it.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.109-110
, Jan 15, 1992
Western aid premature until Soviets overhaul economy
I disagree with [assisting the Soviet reform effort]. Gorbachev's reforms will rise and fall according to his ability to institute a market-based system. From the outside, there is little we could do to advance such an outcome. For the Soviet Union to
receive Western assistance, we should insist on 6 conditions.
Until Gorbachev meets these tests, Western assistance would be premature. It would be futile to provide aid before the Soviets overhaul their economy.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.376
, Apr 1, 1991
- Moscow must establish a free-market economy
- Eastern European countries must complete their transition to full independence
- NATO and the Warsaw Pact must establish parity in
- the US and the Soviet Union must conclude a verifiable START agreement ensuring stable nuclear deterrence
- Gorbachev must cease his aggressive policies in the Third World.
- the Soviet Union must adopt a political order that
respects human rights and reflects the wishes of people expressed in free elections.
Anti-communist since 1946's Iron Curtain
During World War II, I became strongly pro-Russian as the Soviet Union fought alongside us in the war against Hitler. My attitude began to change in 1946, in part because of Winston Churchill "Iron Curtain" speech. At first I thought that Churchill might
have gone too far, but these doubts were soon removed by Stalin's actions. When Pres. Truman asked for aid to Greece and Turkey and initiated the Marshall Plan, I strongly supported both in Congress.
In my travels as VP, in 1959
I visited the Soviet Union. In the heart of Siberia in Novosibirsk, away from the tight control of the central government of Moscow thousands of Russians swarmed around us shouting "mir y druzhabe"--"Peace and friendship."
The people wanted friendship; the leaders, however, made no bones about the fact that they wanted something different. As Khrushchev put it coldly, "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p. 52-53
, Jan 1, 1981
China summit and Russia summit give Americans hope
On certain days, Nixon's mood turned grim. Even on the eve of his historic first summit with the Soviets, he voiced a cynical view about how he felt the American public reacted to such high-profile encounters.
Nixon: The hope thing. The China thing [the Nixon-Mao summit three months before] was important from one standpoint only--hope. The American people are suckers. "Getting to know you"--all that bull.
They're for "people to people."
Kissinger: Yeah, but it's for precisely that reason to go there under these circumstances and to cater to that group, it's just--
Nixon: It's isn't that group. The gray, middle America--they're suckers.
Source: The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972, by Douglas Brinkley, p.~600
, May 4, 1972
Going to China forced Russia to hold US summit meeting
By reaching out to Communist China to lay the groundwork for his historic face-to-face meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong, the president was simultaneously challenging the Russian leadership to host a summit. Playing this "China card" not only helped
raise that nation's global stature but also broke a stalemate in US-Soviet relations:
Nixon: We are playing a game, without being too melodramatic: whatever happens with the election is going to change the face of the world. Now, "the China move"
I've made not because of any concern about China, because I have none, but because of the need to do something about the Russians and to have another specter over 'em.
Nixon: You never can predict how the Chinese are. They're much less predictable than
the Russians. The Russians are predictable. The Chinese are not predictable.
Kissinger: But they're subtler.
Nixon: Because they are Chinese, not because they're Communists. The Russians are more predictable because they're doctrinaire.
Source: The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972, by Douglas Brinkley, p.~400
, Jan 24, 1972
No official criticism of USSR's mistreatment of Soviet Jews
Nixon and Kissinger, cautious about U.S. pronouncements that might upset their secret talks with the U.S.S.R., insisted on squelching official American criticism of Russia's oppressive policies against Soviet Jews:
Kissinger: The State Department issued a terrific blast against the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union.
Nixon: Oh, why didn't we stop that? I think you should get the memorandum to me, first thing in the morning, Henry. It's so important.
I want no statement concerning the Soviet Union of any kind, public statements, to be made without clearance with me.
Kissinger: You know, I'm Jewish myself, but who are we to complain about Soviet Jews? It's none of our business.
If they made a public protest to us for the treatment of Negroes, we'd be--
Nixon: I know.
Kissinger: You know, it's none of our business how they treat their people.
Source: The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972, by Douglas Brinkley, p.~200
, Jul 6, 1971
1959 Kitchen Debate: show Soviets the American lifestyle
[At the 1959 World's Fair in Moscow], where the Vice President opened the United States Exhibition, [Russian Premier] Krushchev deliberately took advantage of what was supposed to be a purely ceremonial occasion to attack both Dick and the United States.
But the Vice President met him point by point and in my opinion came out considerably better than even. The debate continued even at social events. The Vice President's popular reception throughout the Soviet Union, however, had been amazingly good.
In one instance, at least, the police apparently had orders to suppress the enthusiasm of the crowd. I was delighted with the way things went.
Our Moscow exhibition served a constructive purpose by bringing thousands and thousands of Soviet men, women,
and children face to face with the products of American industry and above all with American citizens. [The Nixon-Krushchev event became known as the "Kitchen Debate" because the exhibition portrayed a typical American kitchen].
Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.410
, Jan 1, 1965
Soviets have a long road before their economy catches ours
44% of our total gross national product. That's the same percentage that it was twenty years ago. And as far as the absolute gap is concerned, we find that the United States is even further ahead than it was twenty years ago.
The Soviet Union has been moving faster than we have. But the reason is they start from a much lower base. Although they have been moving faster in growth than we have, we find, for example, today that their total gross national product is only
Source: The First Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate
, Sep 26, 1960
- Click here for definitions & background information on Foreign Policy.
- Click here for VoteMatch responses by Richard Nixon.
- Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Richard Nixon.
Other past presidents on Foreign Policy:
Richard Nixon on other issues:
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)
Past Vice Presidents:
Natural Law Party
Page last updated: Jan 10, 2015