257. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk1


  • “Negotiations”

I believe the only real chance now in sight to induce Hanoi to negotiate a settlement depends on the influence Moscow is willing and able to exert. Events in China have probably made Hanoi look more towards Moscow than Peking, but have not eliminated Hanoiʼs dependence on Peking.

If Moscow is to take on the task of persuading Hanoi to move towards a settlement, the USSR will probably have to assume certain risks and obligations. Thus I believe we must offer some compensating inducements.

In my judgment, the overpowering desire of Moscow today is for greater stability in Europe. Regardless of how we assess developments in Germany in the years ahead, I am convinced that the Soviet leaders are deeply concerned over a possible reemergence of a German threat to Russian security. The Kremlin desires a nuclear non-proliferation pact with Germany particularly in mind. I seriously doubt that the Soviet Union will be satisfied with a formula which would permit “hardware participation” by the Germans. A possible quid pro quo for Moscowʼs action in Southeast Asia would be our abandoning the hardware option in our proposals for the pact. Although few Germans really believe a NATO hardware deal is probable, its abandonment would mean to the Germans the giving up of a hope which has some political appeal.

To induce a German Government to abandon this hope would probably require concessions in “offset” agreements. Yet, the end of hostilities in Vietnam would more than compensate for the dollar drain resulting from such a concession.

In addition, a mutual reduction in forces in Germany would probably appeal to Moscow.

In sum, I believe that we will have to agree on some arrangement affecting Germany if we are to induce Moscow to act in Vietnam. I recognize the political difficulties in Germany at the present time, but our [Page 692] interests are so overwhelming to get the war over in Vietnam, that I cannot help but feel we should move as rapidly as feasible.

I hope that there will be an opportunity for you to raise this subject, or at least touch on it, in your talk with Gromyko. It may require discussions with Soviet leaders in Moscow before an understanding can be worked out. But the stakes are so great in ending the fighting in Vietnam, that action along the lines outlined above is highly desirable.2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, vol. LX. Top Secret. Rostow forwarded the memorandum to the President at 1 p.m. on October 4. In his covering memorandum he expressed his doubts that the Russians had the “power to make Hanoi end the war” and his opposition either to abandoning the hardware option or to letting the Germans “off the hook on balance of payments offsets.” (Ibid.)
  2. Responding to a request from the President for comments, Katzenbach and Eugene Rostow each expressed disagreement with Harrimanʼs proposal in memoranda of October 8 and 12, respectively. Katzenbach questioned both the necessity of the proposed concession to Moscow and “the wisdom of mixing Europe and Asia at our suggestion.” (Ibid., box 212, Amb. Harriman—Negotiations Comm.)