101. Editorial Note

On November 10, 1969, the final version of the response to National Security Study Memorandum 63 on Sino-Soviet differences was completed. The paper was discussed in previous drafts at meetings of the Washington Special Actions Group and Senior Review Group in September and October (see Documents 77, 79, and 97). The summary [Page 304] of “Immediate US Policy Problems in Event of Major Sino-Soviet Hostilities,” prepared by the Department of State’s Policy Planning Council and printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 43, includes the following:

“The U.S. would publicly emphasize its impartiality and noninvolvement, urge both sides not to use nuclear weapons, call for negotiations and the restoration of peace, and take steps to avoid any provocative actions or accidental contact by US forces with belligerent forces. If hostilities were set off by the Soviets, the US would express its strong concern, and if nuclear weapons were used, strongly condemn their employment. These points would be made privately as well to both the Soviets and Chinese. We would not take the initiative to change our bilateral negotiating posture toward the Soviets significantly in the event of the conventional conflict, but if the Soviets employed nuclear weapons, we would at least suspend arms limitation talks.

“In the event of any conventional Sino-Soviet conflict, the US military readiness and reaction posture would be strengthened by selected command and alerting actions. Scheduled overseas military exercises would be reviewed for possible provocative risks and degradation of our military posture, and force demobilization and withdrawal programs would be selectively suspended pending further analysis of the impact of Sino-Soviet hostilities on the US global force posture. In the event nuclear weapons were employed, DEFCON status would be increased, NATO consultations initiated, advanced Civil Defense plans implemented, and selected Reserve and National Guard units recalled to active duty.” (Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 83 D 411, National Security Council Contingency Plans)

On November 18, Roger Morris of the National Security Staff sent Kissinger a dissenting view on the NSSM 63 study. In this memorandum, printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 46, he argued:

NSSM 63 seems to proceed from certain basic assumptions about the effect of the Sino-Soviet rivalry on US interests. I would argue those assumptions. In my view, the revised paper still: (a) overdraws the benefits of the dispute for the US, (b) omits significant side effects of Sino-Soviet hostility, (c) fails to probe the most likely form of a full-fledged Sino-Soviet war and (d) puts the fundamental policy choice to the President in the wrong terms.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–040, Senior Review Group Meeting, Sino Soviet Differences, 11/20/69)

On November 20, the National Security Council’s Review Group also discussed the study. Minutes of this meeting are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 47. The summary of decisions as reflected in the minutes read: [Page 305]

  • “1. The problem should be considered by the NSC even though there was no immediate operational decision to be made;
  • “2. For purposes of the NSC discussion, we would distinguish between neutrality on the Sino-Soviet dispute and neutrality in our relations with China and the USSR;
  • “3. The basic paper would be carefully reviewed by the NSC Staff and any proposed restatements would be discussed with the State representatives;
  • “4. Following this review, suggestions for handling the paper in the NSC would be discussed with the R[eview] G[roup] members early next week;
  • “5. If desired, the oral presentation for the NSC will be discussed with the State representatives;
  • “6. The considerations in the Defense Department supplementary paper will be brought before the NSC in some form or other.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, SRG Minutes Originals 1969)