47. 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 83/WHS 2281. Urgent urgent deliver immediately.

The President has called in semi-euphoric state from last night’s report2 and it was essential I apprise him of latest turn.3 I told him we were awaiting details from you and stated that what we have thus far is cryptic and that we will have recommendations for him around noon. He is returning from Camp David at that time and has asked to meet with me. I believe he will be inclined to call Dobrynin in and meet with him personally which, given the seriousness of the situation, may be the best thing providing you are comfortable with the talking points he should adhere to. In this regard, there follows telegraphic steps which should be taken in the diplomatic area.

Step one: Sullivan should be launched immediately to repair whatever damage has occurred in Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Bangkok. State should instruct Habib to explore situation with Park and be sure that we don’t develop the phenomenon in which the rest of Southeast Asia pulls away from Thieu in the light of his intransigence. We will also have to police up what has been done with respect to the aircraft.

Step two: With respect to Hanoi, we should immediately send a message through Guay making the following points:

  • —It has proved impossible, despite the most serious effort, to bring Thieu to the point of accepting the agreement. Without Thieu, the [Page 256] entire framework is unworkable. The discussion between the Prime Minister and the Newsweek correspondent had a devastating impact at the crucial moment in Saigon. Such references as victory parades, etc., pushed Thieu into an intransigent position at a point when success was in our grasp.
  • —It is now essential that the U.S. and DRV mutually explore alternative solutions in the same spirit of good will which has characterized discussions thus far. Dr. Kissinger must now report immediately to the President in Washington and proposes to meet urgently next week in Paris with Le Duc Tho to seek alternate solutions. In the present circumstances, it is impossible for Dr. Kissinger to go to Hanoi until such time as these additional discussions have been completed.
  • —In the interim, public recriminations must be avoided which can only have effect of forcing the United States to escalate the level of military activity and further reduce the hope of achieving a solution which the U.S. genuinely still hopes to achieve.
  • —Pending further discussions with the DRV leadership the U.S. will continue to maintain a reduced level of air activity against the North.
  • —The U.S. is still determined to pursue every avenue for peace and urges Hanoi’s leadership to join with it in the same spirit of good will and cooperative effort which has brought the situation so close to a solution.

With respect to Dobrynin, suggest the following themes:

  • Thieu has suddenly refused to accept all provisions of the settlement. The Hanoi leak proved devastating just as negotiations with Thieu were at a critical juncture and appeared to be heading for favorable outcome. Without Thieu, in the short term, it is impossible to proceed to implement the agreement as outlined. It is also impossible for Dr. Kissinger to go to Hanoi until such time as additional talks have been held with the DRV leadership in Paris or elsewhere.
  • —It is now essential that the situation not deteriorate to one of public recriminations. Moscow must join with us in exercising maximum influence on our respective clients so that the dialogue can continue in the same spirit which has characterized it thus far and brought us so close to a settlement.
  • —The U.S. remains determined to pursue every avenue to bring the conflict to a conclusion rapidly. A public break can only generate pressures here for escalation of the fighting and reduce hopes for future progress.
  • —Above all, it is essential that the United States and Moscow not permit its clients to sour the progress that has been made in improving relations between the two major powers which is so essential for [Page 257] improved international climate in a period of reduced tensions worldwide. The U.S. for its part is determined to do all possible to achieve this and urges Moscow to join with us at this critical juncture to exercise a tempering and constructive influence on the leaders of Hanoi.

With respect to the message to Dobrynin, please give me your views on whether or not a personal meeting between the President and Dobrynin this afternoon, drawing from the foregoing talking points or any others which you prefer, would not be the most effective demonstration of our concern and the best way to keep Brezhnev and his cohorts in a constructive posture. It is my view that it would be.

With respect to the PRC, I would suggest pursuing the preceding points in a written note from you which would be delivered to our customer tonight in New York but one which would be modified to mesh it more closely with the state of our relationships with them.

With respect to the crash military shipments now under way I would suggest that we continue with the turnover of F–5A’s but to lessen the pressure on the countries which hold them so as not to pay any price with them to achieve a nebulous advantage at this point.

With respect to the other shipments, we will have to be very careful in deciding to proceed with the schedule outlined or to slowly wind it down to a normal pace. If we continue on the current schedule we are both providing Thieu with the grist for further intransigence and possibly providing a further irritant to Hanoi and Moscow. I would recommend that we go ahead with the F–5A’s and instruct Laird to wind down the other crash shipments in a way best designed to prevent public blow or a knee-jerk reversal within our own bureaucracy. What gets in as a result of what has been done thus far cannot hurt. The problem now is to minimize further irritants to Hanoi.

I believe our responses to France, Romania and other interested powers can await the outcome of the initial steps taken with Hanoi, Moscow and Peking.

On public relations, we will probably want to take the high ground emphasizing that we are making every effort to reach settlement fair to all parties but cannot accept imposition of coalition or situation which unravels basic security of South Vietnam. We must have HAK press conference quickly to head off and defuse inevitable leaks from other capitals (e.g., Seoul, Taipei, Tehran, Moscow, Peking) which, building on the Hanoi leaks, will portray terms as generous and thus only Thieu responsible for continued war. We will be developing more scenarios dealing with probable questions and answers.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 59, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Trips, Kissinger, Henry, 1972, October, Chronological File. Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Lord.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 42.
  3. See Document 41.