34. Backchannel Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Saigon1

Tohak 59/WHS 2258. Deliver upon receipt.

I have apprised the President of the results of your discussions with Thieu. He has directed that I pass to you the following message from him.

Quote As you continue discussions with Thieu, I wish to reemphasize again that nothing that is done should be influenced by the U.S. election deadline. I have concluded that a settlement which takes place [Page 220] before the election which is, at best, a washout has a high risk of severely damaging the U.S. domestic scene, if the settlement were to open us up to the charge that we made a poorer settlement now than what we might have achieved had we waited until after the election. The essential requirement is that Thieu’s acceptance must be wholehearted so that the charge cannot be made that we have forced him into a settlement which was not in the interest of preventing a Communist takeover of a substantial part of the territory of South Vietnam.

As I outlined yesterday, we must have Thieu as a willing partner in making any agreement.2 It cannot be a shotgun marriage. I am aware of the risk that Hanoi might go public but am confident that we can handle this eventuality much easier than we could handle a preelection blowup with Thieu or an agreement which would be criticized as a pretext for U.S. withdrawal Unquote.

The President appears to be more concerned today than he has been with respect to the actual security arrangements resulting from a cease-fire in place which can neither be policed nor enforced and which might leave the Communists in control of a substantial portion of South Vietnam. I sense no weakening in his desire to cut the ties with Thieu if this be necessary but to do so only after the election. He was very strong in his discussion with me that the only way this can succeed in a preelection environment is if Thieu wholeheartedly wraps himself around the advantages of the settlement in both a public and private sense. The President believes he may, in fact, be doing this, noting the press releases coming from the Palace. On the other hand, he is concerned that he may tacitly acquiesce and then unleash a public reclama that will leave us in an isolated preelection position.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 25, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris/Saigon Trip Tohak, October 16–23, 1972 (1 of 2). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Lord.
  2. In Backchannel message Tohak 45 to Kissinger, October 19, Nixon wrote: “Above all, I want you to reassure President Thieu of my all-out and continuing support for him and the Government of South Vietnam. Your mission should in no way be construed by him as arm-twisting or bulldozing which might have been undertaken in conjunction with my own domestic election.” (Ibid., Box 104, Country Files, Far East, South Vietnam, HAK’s Saigon Trip, Hakto & Tohak Cables, October 16–23, 1972 (1 of 2))