President Nixon’s Doctrine

Posted: November 30th, 2013


President Nixon’s Doctrine






President Nixon’s Doctrine

Richard M. Nixon was one of the prominent American presidents who were remembered for his strong stand on communism. Ironically, Nixon also established the first relations between America and China from 1949 to 1971. Nixon was central in the escalation of the tension between America and Vietnam that resulted in the Vietnam War, but he was also responsible for the exclusion of USA in 1973. The second term for Nixon was marked by an oil embargo, the Watergate controversy and the resignation of his vice president that cost him much of his career that ended in his own resignation. His involvement with the Chinese begun even before he had occupied the presidential position when he wrote several publications alongside Henry Kissinger.

Nixon initiated the process of reining in China’s support by collaborating with other countries such as Romania and Pakistan. The initial aim was to portray America as a militant adversary of communism but later, attempted to improve relations with the USSR and China. The contact started with a cultural exchange between the table tennis teams of America and China. This action by Nixon brought up a negative response by a section of the American politicians as having acted without informing the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Secretary of Defense William Rogers and Melvin Laird were intentionally left out of the foreign policy matters. Nixon, on his part, intended to balance the relations between USSR and China. Apart from gaining the credit for ending the Cold War, Nixon also intended to use the strong relations between Beijing and Moscow to pressure North Vietnam to end the Vietnam War. In reality, he wanted to play the two countries against each other and use the hostility to end the war.

President Nixon had a strategy to improve the relations in China. First, Nixon increased the controls over the television broadcasts that covered the proceedings of the relations. Nixon made orders to favor television over printed material, as he felt that television would portray their relations in a better light than other printed materials would. This opportunity was also used to stifle any journalists that had negative news about the foreign relations. In this way, the relations between USA and China improved markedly over the years. The announcements that China would host the American president triggered an almost immediate response from USSR who also sent out a personal invite to Nixon to meet with Leonid Brezhnev, the Russian premier.

This was a sign that the triangulation effort by Nixon was working effectively as the fear of good relations between America and China prompted the Soviets to increase relations with America. Nixon then initiated trade reforms that improved the trade between China and USA. The loose trade restrictions increased the capital flow between the East and West. Many trade and science contracts were signed between China and USA. The more lasting treaties between the two countries involved the joint decision to control nuclear proliferation. The agreements involved the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (Dallek, 2007).

Nixon also simplified the immigration process for Asian countries. The visa application and allocation process was simplified to encourage the migration of Chinese citizens. This strategy was by far the most influential as it increased pressure for diplomatic pressure. Lastly, it was interesting that Nixon reduced American troops in Vietnam and across military bases located near China. This clearly indicated to the People Republic of China that United States was much ready to strengthen their relationship. Vietnam was one of the most influential bases where President Nixon’s doctrine “Supply weapons but not troops to countries fighting off communism”, was applied. President Nixon removed American troops from the country though it was highly opposed by most of the Western States. However, it was later clear that President Nixon openly supported South Vietnam through his Vietnamization policy.

This strategy was employed by America in various other countries apart from Vietnam. None of the strategies employed by Nixon worked on improving the relations. The North Vietnamese soldiers did not yield their pressure, and President Nixon was forced to withdraw all of his threats of imposing embargos and other economic consequences on Vietnam. At the end, efforts to woo China were foiled after the two countries failed to agree over the deals with other Western countries. To demonstrate the fall of the relationship, the Chinese premier visited North Vietnam, considered the capital of communism. The sour relationship was marked by the interference of Nixon in stopping the supply lines in Cambodia. President Nixon never gave up in ensuring that he maintained the long-term struggle to maintain the relationship with China.

As American troops could directly engage in ground attacks, the operation was also an experiment of the extent of Vietnamization. The operation did not succeed, but at least it destroyed the major sources of supplies for the Communists to a level that briefly stopped the war. Next, Kissinger and Nixon argued that the Communists might probably try to attack toward the end of 1972. These fears were confirmed when the North Vietnamese army was dispatched into the southern area of the country at around March. The American president responded by actualizing the 1969 military plans which included authorizing the usage of mines and B-52 fighter jets to bomb the Northern area. The combined effort of the American army and the South Vietnamese soldiers stopped the insurgence but did not prevent the Communists from occupying more territory than they had previously had (National Endowment for the Humanities, 2010).

Although America as a country had always embraced soft diplomacy in her relations with the East, Nixon took a very aggressive approach toward dealing with the Vietnam situation. In 1972, the struggle between the North and the South over the provisions of the October 1972 agreements forced Nixon to use military means to end the quarrels. After the elections, the South Vietnamese president was presented with sanctions that would cut off American aid to their region. To quell the North, Nixon issued threats that came in the form of the Christmas bombings of 1972. The resumption of negotiations in early 1973 was therefore, done quickly as the few problems were ironed out, and by January 23, the Paris Accords were signed. Consequently, the US ground forces were immediately withdrawn from the Vietnam territory.

The relations between USA and USSR

To the public of America, none of these matters was revealed. In public, the president announced that a combination of negotiation and Vietnamization strategies were being used to reduce the effect of the Vietnam War and withdraw the American troops from Vietnam. Again, these withdrawals were done without informing the Communists of his actions. At the end of the year, President Nixon finalized the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam but was discouraged from the idea by Henry Kissinger. In fact, some time immediately, Nixon ordered the temporary invasion of Cambodia after a coup by Prince Sihanouk. President Nixon’s policy was immensely influential when Soviet Union softened its position and agreed for a dialogue and diplomatic agreement with United States. The USA agreed to enter a trade deal with USSR to ship wheat as well as technology that resulted in the Apollo-Soyuz space project. America also cooperated with the Soviet Union in disarmament activities such as the SALT talks in Vienna and Helsinki. Because of the talks between the two countries, targets were set on the limits that would be reached on offensive weapons.

All these events were after the Soviet Union realized that China had drawn its attention to a stronger relationship with United States. It is during this period that the first formal agreement between United States and the Soviet Union was signed. In the agreement, the issues that were agreed upon included an antiballistic missile treaty, Interim Strategic Arms Limitation Talk and more than one billion dollar worth of trade. This marked one of most influential foreign agreement by President Nixon. The year 1972 was marked by a down turn in the Chinese and Soviet relationship with United States. This was because of two key factors including Nixon’s reelection campaigns and the ferocious bombing to North Vietnam’s capital. President Nixon did not respond to this bombing as a sign of dissolution and the need for further dialogue. He wanted to appear rational and ready to express that he was against the bombing. The strategy worked as the United States, and North Vietnam entered into a peace pact soon after the skirmishes. Nixon agreed to withdraw his troops although he silently continued to fund the country with weapons and military equipment. This agreement marked a significant success on the war against communism (Advamega, 2012).

Domestically, citizens of America responded to the move by Nixon to invade Cambodia by staging some of the largest anti-war protests in America. It was during the protests that some university students were killed during skirmishes with the police. The Chief of Staff, Mr. Haldeman, was witness to the recommendation from Kissinger. Henry Kissinger argued that, by pulling out the troops at the end of the year, trouble would surge again on the next year and it would be difficult to contain. The insurgence would also lower their re-election chances during the next polls. His solution involved the declaration to withdraw by the end of 1972, after the US presidential elections that were to be held in November. This would ensure they were protected. This made sense to the president, but the finer details of the plan were left to Kissinger.

Apart from the Vietnam War, Nixon’s policies were also applied in the dissolution of other diplomatic issues. The Watergate scandal and the Israeli Gulf issues were also resolved under the leadership of Kissinger and Nixon. In the Israeli attacks, Kissinger provided a large-scale American airlift that assisted the Israeli forces with a ceasefire forestalling the victory of the Israelis. After the ceasefire, Israel continued the war that prompted the Soviet Union to make statements that they would return in kind. America responded to this declaration by heightening the level of preparedness to Defense Condition Three that deterred the Soviet’s actions.

The months that followed were marked with intense attempts at reconciling the Middle East countries through shuttle diplomacy as he traveled all the capitals seeking agreements. The Nixon Doctrine dictated that America would avoid any direct combat assistance but would give the allies the means to defend themselves. During the war, America increased their arms sales volumes to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran. The obvious support for Israel by Nixon was however conditional. In return for military hardware assistance, Israel would have to make peace with the neighboring Arab countries under the encouragement of the United States. Although his actions were intended to bring peace in the Middle East, they only triggered the 1973 oil crisis. The crisis came as a refusal by Arab oil-producing countries to sell oil to the United States. The efforts however, resulted in a reasonable calm, in the Middle East for many years (Miller, 2012).

Within Chile, the opponents to Nixon’s reelection such as Salvador Allende supported military coups that also led to the death of many citizens and the looting of public coffers. The American government singled out General Schneider and even tried to abduct him at some point. Nixon went ahead to slash the foreign aid to Chile from about $70 million to around $10 million. He also authorized the CIA activities that were responsible for suppressing Allende sympathizers. When the president died, and Augusto Pinochet took over, most of the Allende supporters were rounded up and executed at the Santiago National Stadium. President Nixon also supported the increased CIA activity in Cuba by befriending Castro’s enemies. Fears that the aggression between Castro and Nixon would culminate in another war after the missile crisis was averted pressured the Soviet Union to intervene in the relations between USA and Cuba.

In conclusion, President Nixon’s doctrine to withdraw troops, supply and military equipment to countries fighting communism had effectively achieved its objectives. Under his leadership, the United States improved its relationship with the East particularly China and Soviet Union that were considered as rivals to the West for several decades. He spent billions of dollar in military aid programs to countries fighting communism. Nixon wanted to establish a friendly relationship with world superpowers including China and Soviet Union.


Advamega, Inc (2012). Arms Transfers and Trade – The Vietnam war and the Nixon doctrine. Retrieved from

Dallek. R. (2007) Nixon and Kissinger: partners in power. New York: Harper Collins Publication

Miller, C., (2012). American President A Reference Resource: Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from

National Endowment for the Humanities (2010). American experience Foreign Affairs Retrieved from




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