73. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11/13–69


The Problem

To estimate the general course of Sino–Soviet relations over the next three years.


Sino-Soviet relations, which have been tense and hostile for many years, have deteriorated even further since the armed clashes on the Ussuri River last March. There is little or no prospect for improvement in the relationship, and partly for this reason, no likelihood that the fragments of the world Communist movement will be pieced together.
For the first time, it is reasonable to ask whether a major Sino-Soviet war could break out in the near future. The potential for such a war clearly exists. Moreover, the Soviets have reasons, chiefly the emerging Chinese nuclear threat to the USSR, to argue that the most propitious time for an attack is soon, rather than several years hence. At the same time, the attendant military and political uncertainties might also weigh heavily upon the collective leadership in Moscow.
We do not look for a deliberate Chinese attack on the USSR. Nor do we believe the Soviets would wish to become involved in a prolonged, large-scale conflict. While we cannot say it is likely, we see some chance that Moscow might think it could launch a strike against China’s nuclear and missile facilities without getting involved in such a conflict. In any case, a climate of high tension, marked by periodic clashes along the border, is likely to obtain. The scale of fighting may [Page 225] occasionally be greater than heretofore, and might even involve punitive cross-border raids by the Soviets. Under such circumstances, escalation is an ever present possibility.
In the light of the dispute, each side appears to be reassessing its foreign policy. The Soviets seem intent on attracting new allies, or at least benevolent neutrals, in order to “contain” the Chinese. To that end Moscow has signified some desire to improve the atmosphere of its relations with the West. The Chinese, who now appear to regard the USSR as their most immediate enemy, will face stiff competition from the Soviets in attempting to expand their influence in Asia.

[Omitted here is the Discussion section of the estimate: Political Background, the Military Dimension, Prospects, Impact of the Dispute Elsewhere in the World, and Annex of Territorial Claims.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R1012A, NIEs and SNIEs. Secret; Controlled Dissem. The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate, which was submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence and concurred by all members of the USIB, except the Assistant General Manager of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who abstained because the subject was outside their jurisdiction. This NIE was included with materials for a meeting of the National Security Council’s Review Group on November 20; see Document 101. This NIE superseded NIE 11–12–66; for text, Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXX, China, Document 223.