396.1 GE/5–1054

Memorandum by Chester L. Cooper and Joseph A. Yager to the Special Adviser to the United States Delegation (Heath)1



  • Joint State-CIA Estimate on Communist Intentions Regarding Indochinese Phase of Conference

In response to your request, State Department Intelligence and the [Page 759] Office of National Estimates, CIA, prepared a joint estimate on Communist intentions regarding the Indochinese phase of the Geneva conference. There follows a text of the estimate which was received here this morning. You will observe that this estimate appears to use the term “cease-fire” to refer to both an armistice and a simple cessation of hostilities.

Intentions with Respect to Cease-Fire

On the basis of present indications, it appears probable that the Communists will propose or assent at Geneva to a cease-fire in Indochina, without prior guarantees for the withdrawal of French forces. The Communists may, however, insist on French initiative in calling for a truce, in order to underline a Communist military “victory” in Indochina.
The Communists may estimate that under a cease-fire negotiated between Ho and the French and possibly even the Associated States, Communist prospects would be favorable. They may estimate a ceasefire would forestall US military intervention, would enable the Communists to maintain and possibly increase their military strength, and would enhance Communist political capabilities. Moreover, the Communists estimate the French would find it difficult to resume the war once hostilities ceased. On the other hand, a cease-fire would confront the Communists with the risk of a possible build-up of French Union forces through massive US aid. Furthermore, the Communists could not be certain a cease-fire period would not be utilized by the US to create anti-Communist alliance in Southeast Asia for “united action” in the event of renewed hostilities in Indochina. If a cease-fire contained safeguards against military build-up, the Communists would benefit, since such safeguards would be difficult to enforce against the Viet Minh. Finally, they would hope by proposing or agreeing to an unconditional cease-fire they could further their political warfare objectives in Europe and Asia.
These advantages to the Communists of a cease-fire would in general apply also to a cease-fire based on territorial division. While the Communists have rejected the Laniel formula of March 5 on the grounds that it would require Communist withdrawal from areas now held, the Communists have not categorically rejected partition as a formula for a cease-fire (as distinct from political settlement). A cease-fire involving partition would place the Communists in a favorable political position in both halves, and need not greatly prejudice Communist espousal of Vietnamese “nationalism”.
[Page 760]

Intentions with Respect to Political Settlement

While indications of possible Communist terms for political settlement are at best vague, it is possible to ascribe some order of probability to various possible Communist demands. In any event, it is possible a cease-fire would be followed by long drawn out and inconclusive political negotiations.
Partition of Vietnam as a political solution appears to be made unlikely by the logic of the Communist position, not only on Indochina but also on Korea and Germany, and by popular resentment that would be aroused in Vietnam by proposals for permanent partition of the country. Insofar as private Communist hints concerning partition may reflect Communist policy, they must probably be taken as referring not to political settlement but to terms for a cease-fire.
Coalition government of some type, with or without elections, is a more probable Communist proposal. However, it should be noted that the Communists have taken great pains during recent weeks to build up the DRV as a regime recognized not only by the people it governs, but also by French-held areas, and even by France itself. The Communist view of the relative status of the DRV and the Government of Vietnam are not analogous to the Communist view of the status of two Korean or two German governments, since the latter never governed all their respective countries. Therefore, if the Communists advance a coalition formula for Indochina it may differ somewhat from the German or Korean formulas. For example, Communists may offer merely to broaden the present DRV regime, possibly through new elections, to include members or supporters of the present government of Vietnam. Conversely, the Communists will almost certainly reject any formula providing merely for Communist participation in the present Bao Dai government.
Although the ultimate Communist objective is control of all Indochina, their immediate concern is victory in Vietnam. Communists have given little indication of their position with regard to Laos and Cambodia, although it appears probable that Communist demands for these countries, centering on claims of two Communist “regimes”, will be advanced at Geneva, but only as a tactic to delay or even prevent agreement or as a likely bargaining counter. In any event, moreover, the Communists are unlikely to relinquish control over northern Laos.
  1. In addition to this memorandum, Cooper and Yager drafted and circulated another intelligence paper entitled “Intelligence Notes—II.” (396.1 GE/5–1054)