69. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Soviet Union Affairs (Toon) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Soviet Objectives in Southeast Asia


  • Vientianeʼs 4372

We assume that in due course Embassy Moscow will comment on the attached cable from Vientiane,3 but in the meantime, I wish to draw your attention to our views of Soviet policy in Southeast Asia, which differ from some of Ambassador Sullivanʼs ideas.

In essence, we do not think that in the long run there is much hope for useful US-Soviet cooperation in Southeast Asia. Limited exceptions may arise on these occasions when Soviet efforts to supplant Communist Chinese presence coincide with our own actions to contain and reduce it. Since the Sovietsʼ purpose is also to reduce our influence, and replace it with their own, we can in general continue to expect Soviet efforts in the region to be hostile to ours.

In this connection, it should be noted that Soviet interests in the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia differ markedly. The former is of immense geopolitical importance to the USSR and involves very heavy Soviet investments of many yearsʼ duration. The USSR can afford to be far less concerned with Southeast Asia, and Soviet policies there are more opportunistic and flexible. We do not believe it is valid to extrapolate from one area to the other.

We are also less sanguine than Ambassador Sullivanʼs cable with respect to the long run effect of the Soviet presence on US relations with Laos. Nor are we hopeful about the prospects for Soviet cooperation in forestalling DRV encroachments there.

Finally, while we concur in general with the cableʼs assessment of the Soviet stance in Laos as being loose and flexible for the present, we [Page 177] are reluctant to read too much into this as an indicator of Soviet policy in Vietnam. The two situations are altogether too different.

Perhaps it is unnecessary to add that we too view Soviet policy in Southeast Asia as being essentially on the make, but we see ourselves as being one of the principal Soviet targets.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 ASIA SE-USSR. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted by J. Stapleton Roy and Vladimir I. Toumanoff of EUR/SOV.
  2. Document 68.
  3. The Embassy presented its analysis in telegram 1593 from Moscow, November 15. Although admitting that the United States and the Soviet Union both desired stability in Southeast Asia, the Embassy did not see “significant practical results” from this “coincidence of views in the foreseeable future.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 ASIA SE-USSR)