195. Editorial Note
On the evening of March 12, 1968, Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey dined informally at the Soviet Embassy with Soviet Ambassador and Mrs. Dobrynin. According to the memorandum of conversation prepared by the Vice President for President Johnson on March 15, Dobrynin expressed puzzlement at U.S. air strikes against North Vietnam. “Why did the United States bomb Hanoi [on February 7] while our new Premier was there?” queried Dobrynin. Before Kosygin’s visit the USSR was not committed to heavy support of North Vietnam, Dobrynin claimed, but it was now. Why was the U.S. testing the USSR? continued the Ambassador. As a socialist state, the USSR was “morally and ideologically bound to come to the assistance of a sister Socialist State. We can’t be a leader and stand by and ignore the bombing of the North Vietnamese.”
During the lengthy discussion that ensued, Humphrey explained and defended U.S. actions and asked why the USSR, in its capacity as co-chairman of the conference that negotiated the 1954 Geneva Accords, did not take some initiative and persuade North Vietnam to stop its infiltration of South Vietnam. “You can’t police a jungle border,” replied Dobrynin; nor should the United States expect the USSR to pressure North Vietnam while the bombing continued. For a considerable period of time, Dobrynin indicated, the USSR had not been disinterested in an international conference on the conflict but was not interested anymore. (Department of State, S/S White House Files: Lot 70 D 216, Vice Presidential Memoranda of Conversation)
Humphrey’s memorandum is scheduled for publication in volume XIV.