The Kissinger Conversations: New Compilation to Update Archive’s Substantial Collection of Kissinger Documents
On November 12, 2014, the National Security Archive will publish a new compilation of documents on Henry Kissinger, the larger-than-life statesman who remains one of the most controversial figures in the history of modern U.S. foreign relations and whose tenure as national security advisor and secretary of state continues to be seen as a defining moment for America’s global position. The collection is being published through the Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) with the help of our partners at ProQuest.
The new collection, The Kissinger Conversations, Supplement: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977, totals more than 600 documents and updates the National Security Archive’s substantial body of documents focusing on Kissinger’s roles in policymaking and diplomacy under presidents Nixon and Ford.
The collection includes freshly declassified memoranda of telephone conversation (telcons) and memoranda of conversations (memcons) of National Security Council and State Department meetings and overseas trips. Most of the telcons and many of the memcons were declassified at the specific request of the National Security Archive, which has earned far-reaching praise for its work on the Kissinger period. A substantial number of the telcons from the Ford administration are the result of a Freedom of Information appeal filed in 2007 (over 600 more remain to be released). The topics discussed in the documents cover a wide range of Nixon and Ford administration concerns, including the Vietnam War and related military actions in Laos and Cambodia; Middle East peace talks; conflicts in Jordan, Cyprus, and Angola; the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks; international terrorism; and U.S. government surveillance of American citizens. Other topics include economic warfare against Chile during the Allende years; Kissinger’s trips to Latin America; and the 1971 South Asia crisis.
Some of the telcons from 1976 stem from Kissinger’s search for legal advice against a lawsuit filed by former NSC staffer Morton Halperin who had been wiretapped on Kissinger’s instructions. The nearly verbatim nature of Kissinger’s telephone conversations and meetings provides unparalleled insights into the U.S. policy process, notably presidential decision-making, and the extensive interaction between Kissinger and his high-level interlocutors make the memcons a critically important source not only for the study of U.S. diplomatic and military history but also for other fields of history and the social sciences, including:
- Wars in Indochina: not only Vietnam, but also Laos and Cambodia, and the White House’s role in managing United States military operations in these countries, including the final stages of these conflicts
- U.S.-Soviet détente and Kissinger’s conduct of “back channel” diplomacy with the Soviet leadership
- U.S.-China rapprochement and attempts to normalize diplomatic relations
- developments in South Asia, including the 1971 India-Pakistan war and the Nixon/Kissinger tilt to Pakistan during that crisis
- the Middle East, including U.S. conduct during the 1973 October War and Kissinger’s role in shuttle diplomacy during 1974-1975
- revolutions in Portugal and its colonies and U.S. policy toward the ensuing political crisis in Portugal and the civil war in Angola
- Latin America, including Kissinger’s meetings with regional leaders during 1976 visits
- U.S.-European relations, including policy coordination and consultations on a variety of “hot spots” and “hot issues,” including the rise of Euro-Communism
- the 1974 Cyprus crisis and U.S. relations with Greece and Turkey
- international economic, energy, and raw materials policies
The Archive has previously published two massive collections documenting Kissinger’s interaction with foreign leaders and diplomats as well as U.S. government officials. The Kissinger Transcripts: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1976 includes 2,163 transcripts of Kissinger’s meetings and The Kissinger Telephone Conversations: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977 comprises 15,502 detailed records of his telephone conversations. These two collections represent an invaluable source for research on U.S. diplomatic and military history during the late 1960s and the 1970s.