175. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Thompson) to Secretary of State Rusk 1
I think it is clear from your talks with Gromyko in New York2 that the Soviets will not let Viet-Nam prevent them from proceeding with the Civil Air Agreement, technical talks on peaceful uses of atomic energy, and probably also with an agreement on outer space along the lines of our proposals. I am less sanguine about non-proliferation, but I suspect that the Soviets have the same information as we do about tendencies in India. This must worry them because if India took the nuclear route, Pakistan would surely be pushed much deeper into the Chinese Communist embrace.
Ray Garthoff tells me that a German official recently privately expressed to him the opinion that the German Government could be brought to give up a hardware solution provided we could maintain the European clause in any agreement. This official’s reasoning was that if European unity did come about, the Germans would not want to be committed to a position inferior to that of the French. I think that if we were able to accept treaty language that would bar a German hardware solution, we could probably sell the Soviets on a European clause.
Although there was nothing in the Gromyko talks that seemed very significant except the mild tone and their willingness to conclude some agreements with us, I am convinced from other information available to us that their main preoccupation is the internal situation in Communist China. It seems clear from the recent report from Belgrade that this is the chief question Brezhnev had on his mind in his recent visits to Eastern Europe. We have good reason to believe that the Eastern Europeans would like to see a Viet-Namese settlement and are doubtless pushing the Soviets to take some action in this direction.
[Page 420] Gromyko’s emphasis in his U.N. speech on the importance of Europe doubtless reflects the real Soviet attitude but was probably made at this time to put the Viet-Namese problem in better perspective. It is difficult to assess what effect a settlement in Viet-Nam would have on Sino-Soviet relations. Whatever the terms, the Chinese would doubtless accuse the Soviets of a sellout. One of the most important Soviet pre-occupations must surely be what their position will be in North Viet-Nam after a settlement. If Peking continues on its present course, the Soviets may have less concern about their influence relative to that of China in Hanoi after a settlement. In any event, the Soviets cannot enjoy the growing burden of aid to Viet-Nam nor the continued risk that developments might lead to a confrontation with the United States or at least a very painful dilemma in the event of a conflict between the United States and Peking. Because the Soviets do not want to get too far in front of Hanoi and because Hanoi probably is awaiting the outcome of our elections before making any policy changes, I doubt if anything can be accomplished right now, but after the elections I am inclined to think that in the event of another bombing pause, the Soviets would bring considerable pressure on Hanoi.