77. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Contingency Plan in the Event of Sino-Soviet Hostility


  • Henry Kissinger, Chairman
  • The Attorney General
  • State—U. Alexis Johnson
  • Defense—G. Warren Nutter
  • CIA—Vice Admiral Nels Johnson
  • NSC Staff—Helmut Sonnenfeldt; John H. Holdridge

Summary of Conclusions2

The section on Vietnam should be strengthened. A legal study of the implications of a Soviet blockade of the China Mainland was needed. Additional studies on neutrality and the potential effect on the U.S.-Soviet relationship were required.3
A U.S. position of impartiality would have the practical consequences of helping the Soviets. In such circumstances we might try to get something from the Soviets.
With regard to the U.S. public position in the UN or elsewhere, we could not condone a nuclear exchange. If we wanted to quiet things down, we must say so. For the U.S. to ask for a ceasefire without at the same time condemning the Soviets would appear to the Chinese as “collusion.” With such a condemnation, however, it was acceptable to ask for a ceasefire.
The draft should be refined to reflect two alternatives: a situation in which major hostilities were in progress, and a situation in which the Soviets launched a surgical strike against Chinese nuclear centers. A surgical strike would probably lead to greater hostilities, but for the purpose of the paper this distinction should be made.
Section four—what to do to deter—was most pertinent and urgent.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969 and 1970. No classification marking.
  2. A draft of the response to NSSM 63, on “U.S. Policy on Current Sino-Soviet Differences,” was the chief item on the agenda for this meeting. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–071, WSAG Meeting, 9/4/69, Sino-Soviet)
  3. Holdridge raised this issue in talking points he prepared for Kissinger on September 3. Holdridge pointed out that, “There is a question of balance (which of course is controlled by the paper’s purpose and assumptions). Two U.S. responses to a Sino-Soviet conflict are dealt with at some length—(1) a carefully studied attitude of impartiality and (2) a slight bias in favor of the Chinese. A third alternative—a policy of bias in favor of the Soviets—is suggested, but rejected. Would it be useful to consider this alternative?” (Ibid.)