17. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Nixon1

The following is the report of Dr. Kissinger’s final meetings in Hanoi:

This will give you some more details on my economic discussions in Hanoi in addition to the information contained in my third day report2 from there.

Your message to me pointing out the difficulties of getting aid for the DRV in any event, and the impossibility if their forces remain in Laos and Cambodia, was most helpful.3 As you know from my earlier reporting I had already made clear to the Prime Minister in plenary and private talks that they could not expect assistance from us and better relations while keeping their troops in Laos and Cambodia as well as South Vietnam. Indeed I refused to discuss economic questions at all until we had gone through two meetings on implementation of the Vietnam Agreement and two more on Laos and Cambodia.

As a result, economic aid came up at the end of our agenda and our talks on this subject lasted only two hours. I spent the first hour explaining in some detail the legal and constitutional requirements of Congressional authorization and appropriations. I pointed out how our actual aid levels in recent years always fell far short of our request. I stressed that it was hard enough to get money for our friends, let alone for those with whom we have just been at war. At the same time I reaffirmed your intention to seek aid as part of an Indochina effort, because it reflected our traditional policy, was part of our undertakings to the DRV, and was in our own self-interest. I explained various bilateral and multilateral approaches. Finally I handed over a series of papers on these aspects, including a compilation of skeptical and negative Congressional comments.

Against this background, as I have reported to you, the last hour went smoothly. They did not try to raise the ante. They agreed that all discussions should take place in the Joint Economic Commission, [Page 120] including yearly target figures and approval of specific programs and projects. They agreed not to mention any totals and we decided that both sides would establish the Commission by March 4; we still have to select the members and site. At no time did we discuss specific figures, incur new undertakings, or break any new ground. All technical discussion was left to the Joint Commission.

I used your message in my final meeting with Le Duc Tho the morning of February 13 which concerned mostly Laos and Cambodia, as well as procedural matters.4 I again emphasized the unavoidable link between our aid and their performance with respect to those two countries. Our discussions on Laos apparently had some impact. We have just received word that the Laos agreement is sewed up and includes a timetable for troop withdrawals within the period that Le Duc Tho and I discussed.

On Cambodia we made little progress beyond registering your great concern. Part of the problem is due to the various factions involved and Sihanouk’s intransigence which Hanoi cannot fully control. However, I made clear that the difficulty of reaching a political settlement should not be linked to the withdrawal of their forces which was required by the Vietnam Agreement. I will discuss Cambodia in Peking. This is going to be very difficult to resolve. Our economic aid remains our best lever as I mentioned in a previous message.5

In short, the economic discussions went better than anticipated. They came last, were unspecific, and involved no new undertakings. I continue to believe that assistance to Hanoi is in our interest as leverage. My discussions with the North Vietnamese have clearly established the link. They should now know unambiguously that they will have to choose between pressing their Indochina aims in an illegal manner and getting help in rebuilding their country.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 29, HAK Trip Files, February 7–20, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. A notation at the top of the memorandum reads: “The President Has Seen.” Kissinger sent the original report to Scowcroft in message Hakto 59, February 14, 0900Z. (Ibid., HAKTO 1–117)
  2. Document 16.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. A memorandum of Kissinger’s final conversation in Hanoi, February 13, 8:55–10:55 a.m., is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 113, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, Hanoi Memcons, February 10–13, 1973.
  5. Nixon underlined the last sentence of this paragraph. A handwritten notation in the margin reads: “K Emphasize to Congress.”
  6. Nixon underlined “assistance to Hanoi is in our interest as leverage” and highlighted the last sentence of the paragraph.