95. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State0

Secto 182. Eyes Only for the President from the Secretary.

I plan depart Geneva early Saturday morning,1 after considerable attention Friday to Thai FonMin.2 Home, De Murville, Green departing Friday.

After painful question Laos representation, conference now well into fundamental issues. First is reinforcement cease-fire. On this Western delegations are united and getting some help from neutrals. Bloc will try to hamper such moves and try to keep negotiations Laos and Geneva under threat of resumed fighting. Canadians now being very helpful on cease-fire problems.

Second major issue will be vetoes scattered through any arrangements for long-range supervision and control. Soviets have made it clear in private talks that these are not negotiable, thereby throwing light on seriousness this point in nuclear test talks. Gromyko told me that Soviet Union will not subject interests Soviet Union to decisions made by others. On this issue majority of conference will be united, including some neutrals. Believe, however, Krishna Menon may be startled by extent to which press pictures him in head-on clash with Soviets on this point and may try to compromise.

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Third major issue turns more on events in Laos than at Geneva though conference will be fundamentally affected. If a coalition government is formed on basis of thirds for three “forces” now at table, arrangements here about neutrality may be devoid of meaning or even fraudulent.

My own estimate is that an acceptable agreement will not result from this conference. Since it is a classical diplomatic conference without voting procedures issues cannot be resolved by majorities. It seems to me that we should concentrate hard on cease-fire and not feel under pressure to hurry conference to conclusion. Cease-fire plus sitting conference leave way open for RLG to stand against disastrous coalition if King and non-Communists prepared to be stubborn. If cease-fire collapses, situation then also more favorable for reference to UN and possibly SEATO.

Presence delegations Saigon, Bangkok, and Vientiane has helped as has influence Prince Sihanouk. I had not fully appreciated extent to which US had become isolated on Laos by acts previous administration seen both by friends and neutrals as overplaying our hand. Impression that US had “earned” Communist reaction against present RLG has been deep-seated but now being steadily overcome by your efforts in support of neutral Laos and patience in negotiation. Negative reactions Bangkok and Saigon were predictable and understandable and both will need realistic and persistent support by US.

Averell Harriman has situation well in hand to take over here and will do admirable job.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/5–1961. Secret; Niact; Eyes Only.
  2. May 20.
  3. Rusk met with Thai Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman at 3 p.m., May 19, at Geneva. A memorandum of their conversation is in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.