61. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow) to the President1

It is my view that the Viet-Nam situation is extremely dangerous to the peace and that we must push on all fronts to force a deflation of that crisis before it builds to a situation like that in Laos. If it comes to an open battle, the inhibitions on our going in will be less than in Laos; but the challenge to Russia and China will [Page 158] be even greater. Moreover, I fear what the strains of the current guerrilla battle may do to the political situation within VietNam.
We are now working on two fronts. First, to build Diem’s strength. Second, to heighten the awareness of the international community about the border issue and to make the ICC the focus of the Laos conference. This could help substantially in VietNam.
But I believe a third front on which we must work is Mr. Khrushchev himself. Thus my efforts to get the town to focus on the role of Viet-Nam at Vienna. Thus, the attached memorandum.2
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Viet-Nam Country Series. Secret.
  2. No memorandum was attached to the source text. In the course of their meeting at Vienna, June 3-4, Kennedy and Khrushchev scarcely mentioned Vietnam. Memoranda of their conversations are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 1906. A two-page briefing paper on Vietnam, PMK-B/3, May 26 is ibid., CF 1905.