335. Telegram From the Embassy in Poland to the Department of State1

1421. Reference: State 98924.2

Met Rapacki at my request at 1600 Dec. 9. Michalowski and Janczewski present.
My opening remarks, based on reftel, were as follows:
“I have requested todayʼs meeting as a result of consultations I have had with Washington since our meeting Wednesday afternoon.3
I can now assure you that at the time of the first Warsaw meeting with representatives of the North Vietnamese Government, I will be prepared to confirm to the NVN Govt the position of the USG with respect to negotiations. I can also assure you that this confirmation will be consistent with the discussions Mr. Lewandowski had with them and with us.
With respect to the question you raised Wednesday on bombing, I can state flatly that the pattern of our bombing in NVN has nothing to do with the current effort of the Polish and USGs to get underway the projected US–NVN talks. The pattern of bombing is dictated solely by military considerations and is, of course, always subject to operational considerations such as vagaries of the weather. The record will confirm that there have been numerous variations in the bombing pattern over [Page 918] time. There is no basis whatsoever for attributing any changes which you believe you have detected in the recent period to an effort on our part to bring pressure on NVN with respect to these talks.
You will recall that the subject of bombing NVN was one of the matters discussed in Hanoi by Mr. Lewandowski. After his return from Hanoi Mr. Lewandowski clearly implied to Amb Lodge that he had discussed this matter in Hanoi in accordance with Amb Lodgeʼs earlier formulation. Amb Lodge had suggested that a package could be worked out which in its totality represented what both the US and NVN would agree to as reasonable measure of de-escalation, but which would have two separate phases in its execution. The first phase, Phase A, would be a bombing suspension. Phase B, which would follow after some adequate period, would see the execution of all the other agreed de-escalation actions. NVNʼs actions taken in Phase B thus would appear to be in response to US actions in Phase B rather than to the bombing suspension. Inherent in this formulation is the package approach to de-escalation which I assume you had in mind when you referred to ‘a new package deal’ during our conversation last Tuesday.4
I would like to conclude by saying that we are looking forward to an early opening of talks with the North Vietnamese in order to reduce the possibilities of leaks and resulting publicity which none of us desires. We again express our appreciation to the Polish Govt for the constructive role it has played, and hope it will make every effort to move forward what appears to us to be a promising possibility for peace.”
Rapacki responded by saying that the contents of my remarks do not advance us and if first impressions are correct could mean a step backward. He added that there appears to be no advance on the two points which were subject of our last talk (Warsaw 1394).5
However, with respect to my first point (presentation of USG negotiating position to NVN) he said if this is done in a way which will dispel doubt on invoking interpretation clause, then one of the difficulties has been reduced.
On bombing question, he said there is nothing new in my argument and he is loathe to transmit to Hanoi our interpretation that we are carrying on military business as usual and abstracting from any political considerations. He said Poles had asked avoidance of steps that would have to be considered provoking to Hanoi. He said he takes note of our intentions but he doesnʼt know if this will be convincing. Adding that bombing was clearly intensified at the precise time it would create provocation, he said what Poles had in mind in their presentations on this subject was, “Do not create new elements of tensions particularly when [Page 919] critical decisions are at stake.” He added that the USG is ignoring this consideration in making its military decisions.
Rapacki read what he said was Nov. 14 statement by Lodge: USG understands that the Liberation Front and Hanoi have deep-seated distrust of USG; that is why USG is willing to take practical measures to show good intentions, and would be willing to hear any suggestions. Rapacki said this statement by Lodge was treated as addressed “only to Polish ears,” adding Poles have been proved right in treating it so because in the case of their bombing suggestion they have not found such readiness to listen to suggestions as Lodge indicated.
Rapacki expressed concern over my use of term “de-escalation,” noting that Lodge said Washington was convinced that not much can be accomplished in getting talks under way with partial de-escalation. He said Lodgeʼs accent was on the package deal which would cover all problems, including withdrawal of US troops. If my use of de-escalation represents a short-cut for a package deal including cessation of hostilities and the resolution of a variety of other outstanding problems, then his concern over my use of the term is simply a matter of semantics. He asked if my use of the term was consistent with Lodgeʼs declaration on a package deal.
I said I did not clearly understand what he was driving at but referred to my opening text and pointed out that the degree or manner of de-escalation is not subject to unilateral determination. I said that this would have to be resolved in negotiating sessions between the USG and NVN. I said I could not tell him in advance nor could anyone else how de-escalation will be defined in the ultimate package deal. I said one must assume that both parties entering negotiations will enter them with the objective of ending the war in Vietnam and that through negotiations directed toward that end the package deal will include whatever is possible for the two sides to agree upon. I concluded that the package deal idea was suggested by Lodge in context of our failure to elicit from NVN an answer to our question, “How will you respond if we quit bombing?” I went on to say that the conception of a package deal involving two steps was designed to solve the problem of achieving mutual de-escalation without treating NVN de-escalation as a direct response to the cessation of bombing. I concluded that only time will tell exactly what the negotiators will include in the final package; that the definition of de-escalation will be a product of negotiation.
After this long dissertation, I was surprised to hear Rapacki say that inasmuch as the term de-escalation is used in Phase B, his concern has been resolved.
Rapacki returned to the question of “important differences of interpretation.” He said if this merely meant hammering out greater precision in negotiations then he could perfectly well understand what we [Page 920] were getting at; but if this is the case why did we mention it at all? But if we have important substantive reservations, and that would seem to be the most logical reason for inserting the clause, then Poles still do not know what is meant by “important differences” and are still concerned about the suspicions of Hanoi that this clause will be invoked during the actual negotiations to reverse USG position as stated by Lewandowski. He asked for my comment.
I said whether the differences that are bound to exist are simply a refinement or would fall into the category of important differences cannot be determined until the matter is tested in negotiations. What one side at one point may judge to be a refinement to gain more precision, the other side might regard as a very important departure from the original intent. I cannot predict the kind of differences that will arise in negotiations because the resolution of this question will be a product of the negotiations.
Recapitulating his position, Rapacki said that we still have not achieved clarity on the manner of presentation of the USG position in the first Warsaw meeting. He added that Poles are also disappointed in having to draw the conclusion that in intensifying bombing the U.S. took into consideration only military factors, rejecting consideration of suspicions that the intensification is designed either to exert political pressure or to undermine the peace effort.
I replied that I have felt during the year I have been here, and have expressed this feeling to my govt, that Mr. Rapacki was genuinely interested in helping to advance a negotiated solution to the Vietnam war. I said I felt that at no time since I have been here has the possibility appeared so hopeful to me, and that it behooves all of us to bend every effort to induce Hanoi to begin the Warsaw talks. I said that no one knows whether these talks, once begun, will succeed or fail but that this is a risk well worth taking. I said if they succeeded, nothing that he or I could do in a lifetime would have been quite so important. I added that it is inevitable when we are attempting to start negotiations between two who have been military adversaries that there will be doubts on both sides as to the good will of the other. I said I can understand how the NVN may have doubts about our good intentions as I hoped he could understand how we could have doubts about their genuine interest in wanting to come to the conference table and negotiate with good faith toward a peace agreement; these doubts will linger until they are finally resolved through the HACC process of negotiation. I continued by asking him to view our intentions in terms of the whole series of discussions in Saigon and here that began almost six months ago. I said I am convinced that no reasonably objective man could have any serious doubt, if he looked at the overall picture, including those suggestions advanced by Lodge on Nov 14 and 15, and the comments we have made recently here in Warsaw, [Page 921] that the President and the whole USG is genuinely interested in moving forward toward a negotiated settlement. The fact that doubts exist and will persist should not be permitted to blind anyone to the overwhelming evidence of our deep and genuine interest in finding the basis for a negotiated settlement.
I concluded by saying that it is essential that we take the first step. Nothing will be accomplished unless we begin the meetings; what will happen once they begin, I cannot predict. All I can tell, I said, is that the USG will enter the negotiations in good faith and with the intention of coming out of the negotiations having found a mutually agreeable solution to the problem. I added that the fact that we cannot predict how the negotiations will go is no justification for not getting them started; it would be criminal if after having reached this point their efforts and ours to get the two parties together failed. I hoped and trusted that the Poles would do their best to bring about a commencement of negotiations.
Rapacki concluded by saying that you are attaching great importance to this first meeting.6 It is not easy, however, and we will have to wait and see what happens. He said he would be in touch with me if there is anything to report.
Comment: Rapackiʼs position was much less intransigent today than during Dec 7 meeting. I thought it significant that when I stressed importance of initiating talks Michalowski, Rapackiʼs major adviser on Vietnam war, nodded his head affirmatively three or four times. Because I found no threat to break off talks that was implied Dec 7, I did not use para 2 of reftel.7
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Marigold. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 8:57 p.m. Printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 293–295.
  2. Dated December 2. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD; printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 288–289)
  3. December 7; see Document 332.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 329.
  5. Document 332.
  6. In telegram 1422 from Warsaw, Gronouski added a clarification to paragraph 16 at this point, based on a review of his notes, that included the following: “He continued, it looked as if we could move forward. You know the reasons for our concern: what basis do I have in our conversations to dispel suspicions of other side arising out of intensified bombing, bombing of Hanoi, the ‘important differences of interpretation’ clause? In such circumstances it is difficult for me to get a reply, to move the matter forward.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD)
  7. Paragraph 2 of telegram 98924 to Warsaw reads “If Rapacki attempts to nail us to anything on bombing beyond our first contact with the North Vietnamese, or again threatens to break off the operation, you should inform him in no uncertain terms that if he maintains this position he will have to accept the full responsibility for the breakdown of what appears to us to be a promising possibility for peace.”