269. Letter From President Johnson to Chairman Kosygin 1

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I was very glad to receive your letter of June 52 and have given it the most careful study. I think you and I agree as to the great importance of a peaceful resolution of the Vietnamese problem and of a halt to the bloodshed. I think you and I would also agree that the Soviet Union and the United States have a very special responsibility with [Page 783] respect to the reduction of tensions and the stabilization of peace in the world.

We are prepared to end the bombardment of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam if we know it will lead to the de-escalation of the war. In this connection, I have given special attention to your statement that a cessation of bombing and other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam cannot result in any kind of negative consequences for the United States in the sense of damaging the interests of its security.

Does this statement apply to the security interests of the United States with respect to our own and allied forces in Viet-Nam? Obviously, the military capability of the DRV would be further enhanced by the total cessation of bombing. A decision must be made by the DRV not to take advantage of this cessation; we and Hanoi must be clear on this point. Such a decision need not be made public. You will understand that I must be concerned about the position of our troops and allied forces in South Viet-Nam and the safety of the civilian population which depends upon them for security. Any light which you can throw upon this vital point would be appreciated.

As a result of my unilateral action, Hanoi and its civilian population are now free from military attack. At the same time Saigon and its civilian population have been subjected to the most vicious and indiscriminate attacks, attacks which continue even as I write this letter. I would be less than candid with you if I did not tell you that this is a situation which could easily become intolerable.

We shall make every effort to discuss these matters constructively with the representatives of the DRV in Paris. We are prepared to stop the bombing of North Viet-Nam as a further step toward peace. But we do need to know the steps the DRV will take toward further de-escalation of the violence.

Of course, Mr. Chairman, we would be glad to pursue these matters directly with the government of the Soviet Union. If you are in a position to tell us privately and with precision that there would be no adverse military consequences to our own and allied forces as a result of a bombing cessation, we would be prepared to accept your statement and would issue the necessary orders.

We appreciate the fact that you have informed the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam of our interest in unofficial contacts between our respective delegations in Paris, as well as the fact that you believe that all forms of contact between the parties should be utilized. Our delegation in Paris is ready for such contacts and we would hope very much that the delegation of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam [Page 784] would be responsive. I do believe it important that we keep in close touch with each other on this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Lyndon B. Johnson 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence, Pen Pal Correspondence, Kosygin. Secret; Nodis. The letter was delivered by Rusk to Dobrynin at 6:35 p.m. that evening. (Ibid., Dean Rusk Appointment Books, 1968–1969)
  2. Printed as an attachment to Document 262.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.