146. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Letter From You to Premier Kosygin

At the WSAG meeting on the afternoon of March 19,2 it was agreed that one of the political moves which we might carry out in response to the situation in Laos would be to go back to the Soviets with a tough letter from you telling them that it was their duty to support the Geneva Agreements. In this letter we would make plain that we would not accept their contention that they had no responsibility and add that such a reaction might have an adverse effect on US–USSR relationships.

A letter to this effect from you to Premier Kosygin is at Tab A. I consider that this letter, which was drafted by State, appropriately conveys the message which we want the Soviets to receive, and also lets them know the gravity with which we view developments in Laos. I believe that your sending the letter to Kosygin would be a useful move. State proposes that we follow it up by sending letters from you to each of the other Geneva signatories calling attention to the threat to Laotian neutrality which now exists, and observing that the signatory powers accordingly have the responsibility of supporting Prime Minister Souvanna’s appeal for consultations under Article IV of the Geneva Agreements on maintaining the neutrality of Laos.


That you sign the letter to Premier Kosygin at Tab A.

[Page 450]

Tab A3

Letter From President Nixon to Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union Kosygin

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I wish to thank you for your assurance that you and your government are concerned about the situation in Laos and have considered steps that might be taken to permit peace to return to that country. While I agree with you on the importance of internal consultations among the Lao themselves, I am unable to share your view that consultations among the signatories of the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos are unrealistic and would not be helpful.

Indeed, I find the position of your government illogical and unconvincing. In your letter4 you connect the problem of Laos with the general situation on the Indo-China peninsula and refer to American interference in the affairs of Laos. Therefore, even though you do not refer to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s flagrant violations of the independence, neutrality and territorial integrity of Laos or its use of Lao and Cambodian territory for aggression against the Republic of Vietnam, you clearly recognize the international character of the problem of Laos, including violations of the Geneva Agreements of 1962 on Laos. A solution to the international aspects of the Lao problem is the proper responsibility of the mechanisms established by the 1962 Conference. I would be less than frank if I did not point out that the opposition of your government to the holding of consultations under Article IV of the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos is totally indefensible given your admission that you consider there have been violations of the neutrality of Laos. It is not a question whether the present situation is “good” for such consultations; it is precisely because the situation is not good that such consultations must be held. I call upon you, Mr. Chairman, as the head of one of the two governments most specifically charged by the Geneva Agreements with the supervision over their observance to fulfill your responsibility and, together with the United Kingdom, to call for consultations to consider measures which might prove to be necessary to insure the observance of the sovereignty, independence, neutrality and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Laos.

[Page 451]

As I noted in my previous letter,5 the principal cause of the present hostilities in Laos is the presence there of over 65,000 North Vietnamese troops. The restoration of peace in Laos cannot, therefore, be accomplished solely through consultations among the political forces there as you suggest. Such internal talks can serve a useful purpose, as they did in 1961 and 1962, as an adjunct to international actions dealing with the basic cause of the Lao problem, North Vietnamese aggression in Laos and use of Lao territory for interference in the internal affairs of other countries. I need hardly remind you that the United States air activities in Laos are in response to these antecedent North Vietnamese actions.

I assure you that the United States Government will spare no effort to bring peace to Laos through full implementation of the 1962 Agreements. I welcome your assurances that the Soviet Government will continue to make efforts aimed at the cessation of military actions in Laos and the creation of conditions for the re-establishment of peace and neutrality. For there can be little doubt that failure to bring peace to Laos will have repercussions beyond the confines of that region of the world and adversely affect our relations. I confirm my Administration’s desire to base our relations on the principle of negotiation rather than confrontation and I therefore call upon you to reconsider your position concerning consultations under Article IV of the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos. I again urge that your government join with mine and the governments of the other signatories in fulfilling the responsibilities we assumed in 1962.


RN 6
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 215, “D” File. Secret. Sent for action. Drafted by Holdridge on March 20.
  2. On March 19, from 1–2:20 p.m., the WSAG met to discuss the situation in Laos. Minutes of the meeting are in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VI, Vietnam, January 1969–July 1970, Document 204.
  3. No classification marking.
  4. Document 142.
  5. Document 139.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Nixon signed the original.