Former President Nixon claimed last night that his foreign policy maneuva saved West Pakistan from being "gobbled up" by India in 1971 and prevented the likely over-throw of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the late stages of the 1973 Middle East war.
Giving his version of foreign policy events of his five years in the White House, Nixon told interviewer David Frost and a national television audience of his monentous dealings with the Soviet Union and China as well as "the Rogers-Kissinger fued" and moments of low comedy among the high and mighty.
The former President, who is reportedly being paid more than $600,000 for his participation in five 90-minute interviews, appeared confident and expansive in his reminiscence of the overseas events which may represent his greatest claim for historical achievement.
Waving his arms, moulding an invisible globe, sometimes mimicking others within a burlesque of conversations, Nixon's demeanor was far more relaxed than in the discussion of Watergate-related events broadcast a week ago.
If there are any major undisclosed secrets of Nixon's foreign policy, he did not reveal them last night. Nontheless, his descriptions and interpretations of big events provided a new dimension for historians and the public in several areas:
In opening a relationship with China, the United States had no explicit assurance and "I would say I did not feel we had a tacit assurance" that China would not use force to take over Taiwan. However, Nixon did not rate such a move as likely.
Passing up the chance to suggest an exchange of embassies and full normalization, Nixon recommended that the Carter administration explore "most-favored-nation" trade status and agreements on blocked assets. Since the taping of Nixon's comments, new U.S.-China negotiations about blocked assets have been made public. Carter said yesterday the Taiwan question is still the "major difficulty" in the way of normalization with China, but called the assets talks "the first step" toward improved relations.
Nixon ordered his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, to send Isreal "everything that flies" in a monumental resupply during the early stages of the October, 1973, Middle East war. But later the United States exerted strong influence to restrain Isreali forces from sweeping to victory against Egypt's Third Army in a way that would have brought about "a coup or worse as far as Sadat was concerned."
Speaking of the worldwide U.S. military alert which caused jitters of superpower nuclear conflict, Nixon attributed it to a Soviet note with "an ominaus sound to it" implying that Russia might intervens unilaterally on the side of Egypt Soviet intervention was taken as a serious possibility because there was "very substantial evidence" from military movements tht Russia had the capability in place and might employ it, he said.
The U.S. "tilt" toward Pakistan in the 1971 India-Pakistan war arose from Nixon's belief - based on a "completely reliable" report of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's cabinet deliberations - that India was prepared to attack West Pakistan following the conflict between the two countries in the east.
Nixon asserted that "we saved West Pakistan" by a show of naval force and diplomatic pressures which dissuaded India from the proposed attack.
His version of India's plan goes well beyond the secret CIA report used in White House deliberations - later obtained by columnist Jack Anderson - that Gandhi intended "to straighten out the southern border" of Pakistan's armor and air force capabilities.
Nixon conceded that U.S. China policy, including "a lot of pressure from China to do something," was a factor in the U.S. decisions on the India-Pakistan war.
Some of the most enlightening parts of Nixon's interview concerned Kissinger, whom he described as "a genius" who sought to dominate others and was jealous to dominate others and was jealous of his powers.
He stated more openly than ever before that Kissinger as White House adviser handled the "major issues where secrecy was involved . . . Vietnam, China, Russia and the Mideast" during the four years when William P. Rogers was Secretary of State.
"He honestly felt he knew more than anybody else did," said Nixon of Kissinger. "Henry felt . . . that he had to be the major foreign policy adviser and he therefore couldn't tolerate a Secretary of State who would impinge upon that position."
According to Nixon, Kissinger sought on many occasions to keep state secrets from the Secretary of State on grounds that Rogers - if he knew theinside workings - would "leak." In the case of the opening to China Kissinger argued that Rogers, if informed, would leak or object - but Nixon said he insisted that Rogers be told.
The Rogers-Kissinger conflict was "a very painful thing for me because Rogers had been my friend," Nixon said. The Secretary of State, "a very proud man," objected that Kissinger was taking too much credit for foreign policy and wanted to be informed about things on grounds that he had to be informed about things on grounds that he had to make public statements and testify, the ex-President said.
When Rogers resigned - reportedly under some pressure from Kissinger - Nixon considered appointing former Texas Gov. John Connally. However, Kissinger considered Connally "a potential rival," and in the end Nixon named Kissinger.
"While he didn't have a veto power, it was indispensable that whoever was Secretary of State be able to work with Henry be able to work with him because he had his fingers in so many pies . . . I didn't want to buy another feud with another Secretary of State . . . and that's why I finally . . . gave Henry both hats."
Nixon confirmed previous reports that Kissinger developed second thoughts about the 1970 invasion of Cambodia after the killings of students in an antiwar demonstration at Kent State University. "I said, 'Henry . . . we've done it.' I said, 'Remember Lot's wife. Never look back.'" About half a dozen times, according to Nixon, Kissinger suggested to him that "maybe he [Kissinger] should resign" - but there was no indication that Kissinger ever pressed the point.
According to Robert Zelnick, editor of Kissinger in a portion not shown of the Frost interviews, Nixon said last: "Whatever disagreements we had were always on tactics and never on strategy. People who think that Kissinger was basically a softliner and I was a hard-liner just don't know what each of us believed."
Zelnick told reporters that between taping sessions of the interviews, Nixon consulted Kissinger by telephone on several occasions for information. In the broadcast interview, Nixon said Kissinger has telephoned to explain publicized remarks critizing his former boss.
When Kissinger was overheard calling Nixon "an odd person" during-chitchat at a banquet in Canada, the problem was that Kissinger didn't think to turn the microphone off, said Nixon. "But on the other hand Nixon. "But on the other hand I didn't turn it off either in the Oval Office on occasions, so I never held him for that," he added.