396.1 GE/5–1754: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 232. Repeated information London 172, Paris 280, Moscow 73, Saigon 84. S/SR pass Defense and CIA. Reference Secto 212,1 we believe Molotov’s speech most significant Communist pronouncement thus far in conference. Whatever may lie behind speech in terms Moscow-Peking relations, speech itself represents Moscow decision take open initiative re Indochina question along following lines:

After presenting what they may feel is strong case from Communist viewpoint re “just” character Ho Chi Minh was against legitimate authorities Indochina, Soviets have through Molotov issued warning against intervention in Indochina or continuing US efforts to organize collective security front SEA. Speech includes significant statement that “establishing new American military bases in this region … cannot be regarded indifferently by those states, the security of which is affected by plans to create the above-mentioned bloc” (reference is to “new military bloc” in SEA). No doubt one purpose this threat is to provoke US reaction to enable Communists better to determine our intentions.
Latter part Molotov’s speech in marked contrast with foregoing and obviously intended represent constructive negotiating attitude re French proposal for guarantee by Geneva powers and British concept role for SOA Colombo powers.2
By threatening as to consequences of US intervention through “united action” and simultaneously holding out hopes regarding possible modification of Communist demands re Indochina Molotov is treating French and British to familiar Soviet carrot and whip technique. Message intended is that if they will disassociate themselves from US strength and leadership, they will find Soviets not unreasonable regarding their interests in Indochinese settlement. Worth noting that Molotov makes “full termination of movement into Indo-china [Page 828] from outside of fresh troops and all types of arms and ammunition” a condition precedent to any settlement.
That Communists intend to play present military advantage in Indochina to full is clearly indicated in Molotov’s statement to conference that “termination of hostilities in Indochina (cannot be transformed into shrewdly-arranged respite for one side which would like to use it to prepare for extension of war …”. By coupling foregoing with statement that Geneva conference “must secure early cessation of hostilities and at same time reach such an agreement as will … satisfy legitimate demands of peoples of Indochina,” Molotov also makes clear that Communist price for settlement is political turnover to Ho Chi Minh, however fancy may be the window-dressing in terms of French “honor” or prestige.
Boiled down practical aspects Molotov’s speech looks like warning to west that if it wishes Indochinese settlement it had better set aside thoughts their direct military intervention Indochina or regional collective security moves SEA. Molotov by linking such threats with apparent parallel disposition toward negotiations hopes to exploit development negotiations so that latter may act as brake against US efforts organize collective security SEA. By combining this diplomatic tactic with full exploitation military possibilities Indochina Communists believe they can thwart our defensive efforts since it will be most difficult for us to build collective security enterprise around atmosphere of defeat.
Great danger for us is that if present situation continues to deteriorate Soviets, though still adhering to fundamental policy of avoiding risk global war, may now be so encouraged by what they believe to be weakness our local position SEA that they will take or permit steps necessitating counteraction on our part at later more unfavorable time from our viewpoint.
Communists may estimate that given present British and French attitudes and our present concentration on what at best will be long drawn-out effort to set up SEA collective security system, they now have excellent opportunity gain control Indochina and perhaps other SEA areas without undue risk.

It follows from foregoing that our willingness take concrete steps retrieve Indochinese position itself, expressed primarily through deeds rather than words, would have salutary effect in bringing Communists to their senses. Appreciate that strong US position might be viewed in some non-Communist Asian quarters as having “colonial” or “imperialistic” implication. This could be counterbalanced in part by our assuming favorable position re participation Colombo Government in machinery for Indochinese settlement.

  1. Dated May 14, p. 795.
  2. SOA-South Asia. Powers included India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ceylon, and Burma.