24. Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy0

Dear Mr. President, As you know, I devoted my latest letter entirely to the German problem,1 and did not touch upon other questions raised in your letter of October 16.2 Now I would like to express my thoughts concerning Laos and the situation in South Vietnam.

First of all, I must emphasize that with regard to the question of Laos I proceed from the fact that as early as in Vienna both of us agreed on the necessity to make our contribution so that Laos become a really independent and neutral state. In addition, our governments have also agreed that a coalition government should be formed in Laos headed by Souvanna Phouma, on the basis of the formula 4-8-4. Now, to all appearances, the major obstacle has arisen in connection with the solving of the task of forming the government.

Creation of the government by Souvanna Phouma on the basis of granting 8 posts to the neutralists, 4 posts to the Pathet Lao and 4 posts to the Boun Oum group would allow to have in Laos a government which would reflect the internal situation existing in the country and which would be able to pursue a neutralist policy in favor of which both the Soviet Government and the Government of the United States have spoken. The recent agreement of the King of Laos to naming Souvanna Phouma the Prime-Minister and entrusting him with forming a coalition government gave reasons to hope that the settlement of the Laotian problem is a matter of the very near future. To be frank, that was what we expected.

However recent reports from Laos indicate that the efforts of Souvanna Phouma to form a coalition government run into serious difficulties that, I would say, are hard to explain.

It has come to our knowledge that from the American side pressure is being exerted on Souvanna Phouma through the Boun Oum-Nosavan group to include representatives of the Vientiane group into the category of neutralists-supporters of Souvanna Phouma.

But, Mr. President, these are completely groundless claims and they endanger the creation of a coalition government. Now a situation has developed when a neutral Premier is denied a possibility to form a neutral government, and it appears that the agreement reached on the composition of a coalition government becomes entirely meaningless. Indeed a [Page 59] question arises—what sort of a neutral Premier one would make whose cabinet members are imposed upon him against his will, and what kind of a neutral government it would be if it does not include people who stand for a neutralist course in foreign policy? But this is precisely the way to which those who want to bind Souvanna Phouma by feet and hand during the formation of the government are pushing.

The composition of the Souvanna Phouma government is a strictly internal matter of Laos. We should give Souvanna Phouma every opportunity to act in such a way as he deems necessary proceeding from the agreement on the representation of the three political forces in Laos and the interests of securing true neutrality of his country.

When I was writing to you about the necessary to use your and my influence to accelerate the solution of the problem of forming the Laotian government, I did not mean at all that this influence would go so far that you and I would be choosing ministers or aides for Premier Souvana Phouma. As I see it, our duty is to use our influence in order to bring about as soon as possible the formation of a coalition government neutral in the orientation of its policy and this in its turn would make it possible to accomplish earlier the work of the Geneva conference on Laos. In any case the Soviet representative at this conference has all necessary instructions to contribute to a successful conclusion of the conference.

Thinking over the situation that has now developed in Laos I have come to a conclusion that the speediest settlement in Laos requires now that the demand to include persons from the Vientiane group into the category of neutralist ministers in the coalition government of Souvanna Phouma be withdrawn. It is necessary to give up making pressure on Souvanna Phouma and stop interfering with his carrying out the agreement on forming a coalition government. Any other approach may only lead to an increased tension in Laos and to a renewal of the military conflict there which not only we but, judging by your repeated statements, you too do not want.

The Boun Oum group has of late not only been hindering the forming of a coalition government and refusing to hold a meeting of the three princes to solve the still unsettled questions but has been organizing constant attacks on the Souvanna Phouma troops and the Pathet Lao armed forces. I presume, Mr. President, that you are well aware of the facts in this connection. Thus, the continuous pressure on Souvanna Phouma and the activities of the Vientiane group threaten to bring to nil the results which have already been achieved in the negotiations in Geneva, turning Laos into a kind of almost permanent source of international tension which, naturally, both of us should not allow to happen.

Therefore I take the liberty to express anew the hope that you will use all your influence to prevent the above mentioned undesirable consequences.

[Page 60]

In your message, Mr. President, you also touch upon the problem of South Vietnam.

As far as I know, the cause of the present tension in South Vietnam is the policy of merciless terror and mass reprisals carried on by the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem which has absolutely no support among the people. And this is not only our opinion. I think that you are informed even better than we are as to what kind of regime it is and how it is viewed both within the country and abroad. Realizing that it is doomed this regime resorts to force and repressions against the people, exterminating physically all those who in one way or another express their disagreement with the order introduced there. I think that looking at facts soberly you cannot but agree that the present struggle of the population of South Vietnam against Ngo Dinh Diem cannot be explained by some kind of interference or incitement from outside. The events that are taking place there are of internal nature and are connected with the general indignation of the population at the bankrupt policy of Ngo Dinh Diem and those who surround him. This and only this is the core of the matter.

In this connection I as well as many other people feel rightfully puzzled—how one can support a man like Ngo Dinh Diem with his bloody regime who completely lost the respect of the people? Yet, the United States Government supports him, giving him economic and military assistance. And what does it mean to give military assistance to such a regime? It means to assist this regime of terrorism which managed to antagonize not only the population in the South of the country but also its neighbours because of its aggressive policy. Mr.Johnson, Vice-President of the United States, paid a visit to Ngo Dinh Diem; quite recently General Taylor visited South Vietnam. Some news agencies report of the intention of the US Government to send American troops to South Vietnam. I do not think that all this could contribute to the improvement of the situation in this part of Southeast Asia. Sending troops to suppress national-liberation movement in other countries is by no means a way that corresponds to the interests of peace and, besides, what are the guarantees that the American troops would not get tied up in South Vietnam. I think that such a perspective is most real. But it is fraught with new complications, and to the difficulties that exist now in the international situation and that you and I are trying to overcome new difficulties would be added to which, it think, neither you nor I can be sympathetic.

I am writing this letter to you, Mr. President, being entirely under the impression of the results of the 22nd Congress of our Party. The Congress confirmed once again before the whole world an unshakable desire of the Soviet people to live in peace and friendship with all other peoples and to develop relations with all countries including the United States on the basis of peaceful coexistence. Guided by this we will continue to strive for peace and friendship with all the peoples and countries. It is [Page 61] precisely with this aim in mind that I take the liberty to frankly and straightforwardly express in this letter my opinion on the two problems of interest to us. I hope, Mr. President, that you will correctly understand that it is motivated only by my desire to contribute to the settlement of the urgent international problems in the interests of peace. I told you of this desire which reflects the very nature of our foreign policy during our meeting in Vienna too.

I avail myself of this opportunity to convey to you, Mr. President, to your wife and the members of your family my best wishes which are fully shared by my wife Nina Petrovna.


N. Khrushchev
  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163. Top Secret. Another copy is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence.
  2. Document 23.
  3. Document 22.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.