299. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1

The attached cable2 from Kohler gives an interesting account of his talk with Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Firyubin on the pause.

Kohler had a tough time getting his message to the North Vietnamese Ambassador. The North Vietnamese Embassy refused to receive the message on the ground that we did not have diplomatic relations and suggested that Kohler deliver it through the Soviet Government, as a Co-Chairman.3 The Soviets refused to play this role, and Kohler eventually got the message delivered by having it handed to an employee at the North Vietnamese Embassy who accepted it.

Kohler also gave a copy to the Soviets who refused to pass it on, but did not pass it back.

This cable makes it obvious that the whole Soviet Government is embarrassed by the notion of admitting that it has any middle-man’s role with respect to Hanoi.

Yet there is evidence on other channels of real Soviet interest in a pro-Russian and anti-Chinese settlement in Vietnam (see Tab B).4

All this is very preliminary evidence of the impact of the pause. We are reviewing all our political plans and should have comment for you [Page 652] by the end of the day on Saturday.5 Meanwhile, everyone’s orders are to avoid comment on the absence of bombing. So far we have gotten through one day more than I expected, but I expect the noise to begin very soon.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, NODIS-MAYFLOWER. No classification marking.
  2. Document 298.
  3. Reported in telegram 3378 from Moscow, May 12. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  4. There is an indication on another copy of this memorandum that CIA telegram CSDB 312/01196–65, May 12, was attached at Tab B. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. X) Tab B was not found attached to either copy of the memorandum and was not found.
  5. May 15.