227. Memorandum From Thomas Latimer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- CIA’s Memo2 on the Soviet Buildup on the Sino-Soviet Border
This is a comprehensive examination of the significance of the Soviet military force now deployed opposite China. Its major conclusions are as follows:
- —The 37 to 41 division force structure which the Soviets have developed opposite China now exceeds what would be required to repulse any foreseeable Chinese incursion.
- —The present Soviet force could probably carry out large scale raids in the border regions of China but in view of their underdeveloped [Page 677] service support structure they could probably not occupy and defend a significant amount of Chinese territory.
- —With the divisions filled out to combat strength, a process which would take about three weeks, and provided with normal army and front level support, the Soviets would be capable of large scale offensive operations in the peripheral regions of China. Under these circumstances, the full strength Soviet force probably could seize and occupy sizable portions of territory, including Manchuria, the eastern part of Inner Mongolia, and the Dzungarian Basin in Sinkiang, using only conventional weapons.
- —To date, there is no persuasive evidence of a Soviet intent to commit deliberate aggression against China. The forces now in being are not ready to undertake protracted large scale offensive operations. Were the Soviets planning to initiate a deliberate aggression, there would be a concerted effort to fill out existing understrength divisions and support units. In addition, some tactical missile units probably would be redeployed from other areas.
The CIA memorandum states that the Soviets probably had several objectives in undertaking the buildup. One objective, already realized, may have been to set the stage for discussions on the border. The Soviets also probably calculated that a credible land war threat near the China border will enhance their ability to influence events in China after the death of Mao. In addition, of course, the buildup has—from the Soviet viewpoint—put the damper on any inclination the Chinese may have to launch military forays against Soviet territory. From the standpoint of providing security for Soviet territory, the forces near the China border are not excessive when compared with Soviet forces located opposite other potential enemies.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. IX. Top Secret; Sensitive; Contains Codeword. Latimer handwrote “action” at the top of the memorandum. The memorandum bears Kissinger’s initials and the handwritten comment, “Tell Helms excellent job.” On October 28, La-timer sent Kissinger this paper and a similar report prepared by DOD (see footnote 2, Document 210) under a cover memorandum that bears Kissinger’s handwritten remark, “Sum up both memos for Pres[ident] as info.” (Ibid.)↩
- An attached cover memorandum to the CIA report indicates that the paper is a response to Kissinger’s request, September 21, for a study on the Sino-Soviet border dispute. (Ibid.) For Kissinger’s request, see Document 209.↩
- Top Secret; Ruff; Umbra; Handle via Talent–Keyhole–Comint Control Systems Jointly. According to a footnote in the source text: “Note: This report was produced solely by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of Strategic Research and coordinated with the Offices of Basic and Geographic Intelligence, Current Intelligence, and Economic Research.”↩