206. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to President Johnson1
- Possible Kosygin Talks on Vietnam Settlement
Your meeting with Kosygin offers a unique opportunity for progress towards negotiations for a peaceful settlement in Vietnam. Direct or indirect cooperation of the Soviets is, I believe, essential to get talks going.
There is undoubtedly a difference of opinion within the Kremlin on this question, as is always the case on important matters. During the war, I knew that this was true even in Stalin’s Politburo, at least until he made the decision.
From my talks with Kosygin two years ago and his actions in London last February, it is clear that Kosygin believes Soviet interests are best served by the ending of hostilities in Vietnam. However, of first importance in Soviet foreign policy is their conflict with Peking, and Moscow will not be anxious to get out in front and give credence to the accusation that they are conniving with the United States. In addition, Kosygin still smarts under what he considers a deliberate personal affront because bombing commenced during his visit to Hanoi.[Page 522]
Under all these circumstances, I believe that to achieve positive results from your discussion with Kosygin it is important that you make some unilateral gesture. I therefore recommend that you inform him that you have decided to de-escalate the bombing, perhaps in accordance with the 20th Parallel proposal, without any commitment as to the length of time this restraint would hold. You might suggest that you are not going to make this decision public, but that he is free to inform Hanoi if he wishes. This gesture on your part would unquestionably improve Kosygin’s position with his colleagues, and perhaps make it possible for him to carry on an exploratory discussion with you in an objective manner on what each side might do to encourage a de-escalation of the fighting and a commencement of discussions.
Although Kosygin is a devoted Communist, his first concern is solving in a pragmatic way their internal economic problems. I believe you will find him interested in further progress in the control of nuclear weapons and curtailment of military expenditures if Vietnam can be gotten out of the way.
I would not be discouraged if little progress can be made on fundamental agreements on the Middle East. This is an area in which the Soviets have attempted to expand their influence at our expense for the last dozen years with the expenditure of billions of dollars in military and economic aid. Nevertheless, I would not rule out progress on what Dobrynin in his talk with Dean called the Number One subject, namely, Vietnam.2
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject File, Johnson, Lyndon 1967. Top Secret.↩
- This meeting between Rusk and Dobrynin took place from 3:05 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. on June 16, with Thompson present. (Johnson Library, Dean Rusk Appointment Book, 1967) A record of their discussion is in a memorandum of conversation, June 16. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) Dobrynin repeated this remark in a meeting alone with Thompson later in the evening. (Memorandum of conversation, June 16; ibid., POL 7 USSR)↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩