209. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1

SUBJECT

  • Sino-Soviet Border Dispute

As you know, the President is most interested in developments relating to the Sino-Soviet border dispute. It would be helpful to have a memorandum2 which assesses the significance of the continuing buildup of military forces on the Soviet side of the border.

In particular, the memorandum should address the question of what the present level of Soviet forces along the border tells us of their intentions. It should address in particular the question of whether the current Soviet strength in the border area is sufficient only for defense against a possible Chinese attack or whether it is enough to allow the Soviets to invade China and if so, how far into China. The memorandum should also examine the question of what more, if anything, we [Page 629] might expect to see on the Soviet side before an invasion, more trucks, armor, logistics buildup, etc.

If you agree, a due date of 7 October 1970, would be good.

Henry A. Kissinger 3
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 225, Agency Files, Department of Defense, Vol. VIII, July 21, 1970–September 1970. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Latimer on September 15.
  2. On October 22, Laird sent Kissinger a paper entitled “Soviet Force Level on Sino-Soviet Border,” under a covering memorandum that read: “While [the enclosed report] cannot tell us definitively what Soviet intentions are, it does indicate the extent and general significance of the Soviet buildup. The buildup of Soviet forces has been steady and methodical but is inadequate for a major and prolonged offensive against the Chinese. The further buildup required for a major offensive would amost certainly be detected by intelligence.” The CIA response is Document 227.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Kissinger signed the original.