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86. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Study on Laos

You raised the question whether a full-scale study of Laos is not required, in view of newspaper reports of a deteriorating military situation.

State has been working for some time on a paper on Laos in the context of a Southeast Asian settlement. The study is nearing completion, and will be forwarded to the Review Group when completed. I think that this will meet our requirements.

The military situation in Laos is indeed cause for real concern, although major shifts in the strategic balance seem unlikely before next autumn.

As I stated in a memorandum in April,2 the Communists have the military power on the scene to take Laos when they want. They refrain because of uncertainty about our reaction, and because Laos is only a part of larger concerns in the area.

The Communists' winter offensive created a very serious crisis of confidence in the RLG, though it did not take in so much new territory as the Communist gains of the year before. It slowed up in April, [Page 261]probably in part because of our aerial reaction in “Operation Rain Dance,” a spoiling operation. The Meo guerrillas counterattacked with considerable success, even occupying the Communist administrative center of Xieng Khouangville for a time.

The rains have come. If experience is a guide, pro-Government guerrillas will re-establish themselves in some contested areas during the rainy season. The enemy will attack again in the autumn dry season. Because of the attrition in forces and morale on the Government side over the years, this next dry season offensive may be dangerous to RLG stability.

The Communists are engaged in leisurely negotiations with Souvanna Phouma, and are probably dangling before him the prospect of a Laos political settlement and a reduction of military pressures, in exchange for some arrangement which will limit U.S. bombing and provide the Communists with continued access to South Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand through Laos.

These negotiations are not likely to progress far this summer, since Souvanna still plans to leave for Europe on June 20, returning only in August.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 545, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. I, to 31 July 1969. Secret. Drafted by Lindsey Grant and sent by Sneider to Kissinger under a June 10 covering memorandum in which Sneider recommended that Kissinger sign it and send it to the President. A stamped note on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Document 56.