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

1458. Ref: Warsaw 1429.2

At 1400 Dec 13 meeting (attended also by Michalowski and Jan-czewski) Rapacki opened by observing that todayʼs meeting was not urgent but he felt it was good for us to meet frequently to transmit information and recapitulate attitudes. (Comment: At outset and throughout meeting Rapacki struck me as being in relaxed and reflective mood.)
He stated that as result of our conversations, Poles have informed Democratic Republic of North Vietnam (DRNVN) that our conversations took place, and have transmitted those parts destined for transmittal.
Rapacki then recapitulated present situation: In mid-November Lodge presented the American view on possibilities of solving problem; Lewandowski then carried these observations and opinions to Hanoi. On basis of Hanoi conversations, Lewandowski was able subsequently to transmit to Lodge idea of Warsaw meetings.
Rapacki continued “We thought at that point that the meetings could be held soon and we were generally hopeful.” However starting with Lodgeʼs interpretation clause, complications have since arisen. On Dec 3 suburbs of Hanoi were bombed and NVN bombing intensified. Poles immediately and without asking anyone at that point presented their opinion to US. Thus, he concluded, in December new elements appeared on the scene which were negatively assessed in Hanoi. Not surprisingly, therefore, with this new situation and considering UGSʼs reaction to Polesʼ concern, there was reappraisal by party most directly involved. As a result, we are faced with this postponement of Warsaw meetings.3
Rapacki said he was not insensitive to USGʼs expression of appreciation for role Poles were playing; however he was afraid US does [Page 934] not understand nature of Polandʼs role. He said he feels we are assuming that all of his words come from Hanoi and everything we say to him goes to Hanoi. He said this is not the case; “True, we have our own views and we are friends of Hanoi, but our role is neither that of postman nor advocate; what we want is peace.” He said that having knowledge of views of both sides, which neither of participants have, “we think we can play a contributing role.”
Rapacki continued, saying that Poles are sincere and in this sincerity they must say that they are not sure what USG wants: talks, or to get soundings as to how far DRNVN is ready to yield under pressure. He added that Poles assume that prevailing intention of USG is to bring about talks. He said this is why they are engaged; they are acting on this working hypothesis.
He continued that if this working hypothesis reflects reality then he must say that USG did great harm to its own objectives in December. The USG cannot afford a repetition in future, especially at time when this matter is reassessed. He added that if we want peace then we must realize that the carrot-and-stick approach does not work with DRNVN.
Rapacki added that we should realize leadership of DRNVN does not want to and cannot yield under pressure; every step from our side that evokes impression that NVN is acting under pressure would be interpreted as sign of weakness and be utilized by all those who have a different vision of this peace move than we have here in Warsaw. (Comment: Rapacki repeated this point with emphasis and was, I believe, making a clear reference to Communist China.)
Rapacki said that in first position expressed by Lodge it appeared that this truth was grasped by USG and this is why Poles were so hopeful. However the events of December mean, if the working hypothesis Poles are using is sound, that US does not fully appreciate this situation. He added that recent statements by USG officials leave the impression that USG wants to evoke pressure. He quoted from Reuters news story of Dec 12 US Navy spokesmanʼs statement that US intends gradually to increase air raids on NVN; Rapacki interjected at this point his realization that the Navy spokesman may not have known all that was going on and this could very well be an old idea. But he added that the Navy spokesmanʼs subsequent reference to escalation and to new targets having been recently placed on bombing list represented current information. He said “You can assume what effects such statements have in Hanoi, given the fact that in recent weeks new targets have in fact been added.”
Rapacki then said that he even must allude to a statement by Secy Rusk, who has full knowledge of current developments, made in Saigon Dec 9.4 He quoted Secy Rusk as saying that he did not detect on side of [Page 935] NVN “any indication which allows me to entertain hope, but this indication will come one day; it must come; NVN cannot win here, we are much stronger.” Rapacki asked me to visualize how this would be interpreted in Hanoi.
In summary Rapacki said that in judgement of Poles the US did a lot of harm in December and it would be good if no more harm is done in future. This, he said, is advice of Poles. He added that he did not expect me to respond immediately to his remarks.
I said that I would convey his comments to Washington but that I would like also to make one general observation. I said that in situation where war is going on and neither side is sure that peace talks will eventuate, it is understandable, if perhaps unfortunate, why both sides continue their operations in whatever manner appears to them to provide military advantage. I added that the NVN in recent weeks have shown no decline in their military aggressiveness. I mentioned the attempted bombing of the Italian Embassy in Saigon (which caused Rapacki and Michalowski to look at each other in surprise and then break out in broad smiles), attempts to bomb bridges, a movie theater, to kidnap and assassinate leading citizens of Saigon, and other kinds of war activities. I said I was raising these points simply to bring out that there has been no relaxation of the war effort on NVN side and we did not expect it to happen until peace negotiations actually commence, after which I would hope that a sharp change in the picture could result. I added that this is reason I feel it so important to do everything we can to begin Warsaw talks.
Rapacki said he did not intend to suggest that there had been an armistice and realized that the war was still going on, but he said, “Recognizing this does not change anything that I have said up to this point.” He added that we should also realize that bombing of NVN is the really sensitive point. He then concluded with a smile that this was what he had to say and he will wait for our response.
  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 1:36 p.m. Printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 296–297.
  2. In telegram 1429, December 12, Gronouski notified the Department of State of a meeting with Rapacki scheduled for December 13. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD)
  3. In telegram 102298 to Rusk in Paris, December 14, Katzenbach stated that he did “not interpret Rapackiʼs statement of December 13 to Gronouski as a negative reply from Hanoi in effect closing the Marigold door.” (Ibid.)
  4. Not further identified.