49. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State1

6411 Ref: 6406.2 For Secretary and Harriman from Cooper.

There follows report of this morning’s session obtained from Murray who was present. I have checked this against his notes.
Wilson and Kosygin had forty-five minutes alone. According to Wilson’s summary of this private session given to Brown it was primarily procedural. It was agreed that no communiqué would be issued [Page 111] until after the meeting at Chequers on Sunday. Wilson reported that Kosygin made many harsh references re the Chinese.
When Brown (and Murray) joined the session at 1045 Wilson indicated, and Kosygin nodded in agreement, that they were now ready for “substantive discussions” on Vietnam, thereby giving Brown a pre-arranged cue. Brown then asked Kosygin whether his remarks about Geneva in his speech yesterday indicated the Russians were ready to reconvene the Geneva Conference, even if the Chinese refused to attend. Kosygin replied this was “not exactly” what he meant to imply. Kosygin, according to Murray’s notes, said that in his speech yesterday “I proceeded upon the assumption that the main thing was for the UK and the Sov Union to assist the two sides to meet together after the bombing stopped. After this has been done there may be various proposals for moving further. The Geneva Conf could be convened even without China. We need not insist on Chinese participation.” (Kosygin then made several uncomplimentary references to the way the Chinese felt about diplomatic procedures and forms.) Kosygin then went on to say that he “could not speak for Hanoi on this point.” He emphasized that it was important to “do first things first. If we try to work out the tactics too early we might jeopardize everything … we might raise other problems such as China and Laos (according to Murray this is the first time Laos has been mentioned in any of the conversations).”
Brown then asked whether Kosygin felt that after the two sides had sat down and worked out something in their private talks, should the two co-chairmen then move? Kosygin agreed that this would probably be the appropriate time for a move by the two co-chairmen, but stressed again that their present task was to “get the two sides to the conference table after the bombing stops.”
Brown then said that no bombing would be going on during Tet. In light of this, “thinking out loud, suppose the US should agree not to resume bombing, and both sides agreed to take mutual and equivalent steps, would Kosygin then agree to call a Geneva Conf on 15 Feb?”
Kosygin said that he would first want to know Hanoi’s views before he committed himself. He reminded Brown that a Geneva conf would be “a complicated issue”; China will create difficulties and there are “Chinese troops in North Vietnam.” There is also a pro-Chinese faction in Hanoi that would have to be dealt with. Kosygin then asked “has this been discussed with the Americans?” Brown said that if Kosygin could deliver his friends in Hanoi the British would try to “deliver the Americans”.
Kosygin responded “I could send this to Hanoi, but I am concerned about the difficulties.” He said he would like to “think it over,” [Page 112] and asked if he could have the proposition in writing as early as possible today. Brown said he would do his best to get this to Kosygin later in the afternoon.
The next meeting will be at 1030 tomorrow morning. At this session the British plan to point out that they have now delivered two solid propositions to the Russians and presumably Hanoi. One of these provides for a private series of negotiations, the other a public one. Both involve mutual and equivalent steps of de-escalation. If Hanoi is serious about wanting to stop the war, the Russians have an obligation to provide Hanoi’s reactions, and this should be done on an urgent basis.
The proposition that Brown is ready to submit in writing is literally the same as that sent to Wash last night. Request Wash reaction as soon as possible.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis; Sunflower. Received at 10:23 a.m.
  2. Dated February 9. (Ibid.)