Interview for "Bill Moyers' Journal" by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Possibilities of War in the Middle East over Oil Prices, January 15, 1975, Department of State Bulletin, February 10, 1975, pp. 172-173


Mr. MOYERS. Well, if pressure sn't that important a part of the scenario, I need to ask you what did you have in mind when you gave that interview to Business Week and talked about the possible strangulation of the West? What was going through your mind at just that minute?

Secretary KISSINGER. Well, first of all, the sentence that has attracted so much attention is too frequently taken totally out of context, and it was part of a very long interview in which I put forward essentially the conception that I have developed here; that is to say, of a cooperative relationship between the consumers and producers. In addition, I made clear that political and economic warfare, or military action, is totally inappropriate for the solution of oil prices, recycling problems, et cetera. The contingency, and the only contingency, to which I addressed myself was an absolutely hypothetical case in which the actual strangulation of the entire industrialized world was being attempted; in other words, in which the confrontation was started by the producers.

I have said repeatedly, and I want to say now, I do not believe that such an event is going to happen. I was speaking hypothetically about an extreme situation. It would have to be provoked by other countries.

I think it is self-evident that the United States cannot permit itself to be strangled. But I also do not believe that this will really be attempted. And therefore we were talking about a hypothetical case that all our efforts are attempting to avoid and that we are confident we can avoid.

We were not talking, as is so loosely said, about the seizure of oilfields. That is not our intention. That is not our policy.

Mr. MOYERS. What intrigues so many people, it seems to me, was that, a few days before, you had given a similar interview to Newsweek and much the same thing has been said with no particular alarm. Then a few days later a similar statement is made, and it is seized upon. And some of us thought perhaps you had calculated between the first interview and the second interview to be more precise in some kind of message.

Secretary KISSINGER. I was astonished when this was seized upon. We were not the ones who spread it. I think there are many people who have spread this around, frankly, in order to sow some dispute between us and the oil producers.

Our whole policy toward the producers has been based on an effort of achieving cooperation. We have spent tremendous efforts to promote peace in the Middle East precisely to avoid confrontations. We were talking about a very extreme case, about which only the most irresponsible elements among producers are even speaking, and it is not our policy to use military force to settle any of the issues that we are now talking about.

Mr. MOYERS. But neither, if I understand your philosophical view of diplomacy, can a power ever rule out any contingency.

Secretary KISSINGER. Well, no nation can announce that it will let itself be strangled without reacting. And I find it very difficult to see what it is that people are objecting to. We are saying the United States will not permit itself or its allies to be strangled.

Somebody else would have to make the first move to attempt the strangulation. It isn't being attempted now.

Mr. MOYERS. Well, I was in Europe about the time and some of them almost came out of their skins, because depending as they do on Middle East oil, and with our troops on their soil, they could see a confrontation between us and the oil-producing countries that would have them the innocent bystander and victim. That is why they seized upon it.

Secretary KISSINGER. I find it difficult to understand how they would want to announce "please strangle us." We did not say-and I repeat here-that any of the issues that are now under discussion fall into this category. There would have to be an overt move of an extremely drastic, dramatic, and aggressive nature before this contingency could ever be considered.


Source: U.S., Congress, Committee on International Relations, Special Subcommittee on Investigations, Oil Fields as Military Objectives: A Feasibility Study, Report Prepared by the Congressional Research Service, 94th Cong., 1st sess., August 21, 1975, (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1975), p. 79-80.


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