88. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- The US Role in Soviet Maneuvering Against China
In the last two months, the increase in Sino-Soviet tensions has led the Soviets to sound out numerous American contacts on their attitude toward a possible Soviet air strike against China’s nuclear/missile facilities or toward other Soviet military actions. These probes have varied in character from point-blank questioning of our reaction to provocative musings by Soviets over what they might be forced to do against the Chinese, including the use of nuclear weapons. Some of these contacts have featured adamant denials that the Soviets were planning any military moves—thereby keeping the entire issue alive. (Secretary Rogers’ Memorandum on this subject is at Tab A.)[Page 267]
Our contingency planning for major Sino-Soviet hostilities is well along, and NSC consideration of a basic policy paper on the Sino-Soviet dispute is scheduled for October 8.2
Meanwhile, I am concerned about our response to these probes. The Soviets may be quite uncertain over their China policy, and our reactions could figure in their calculations. Second, the Soviets may be using us to generate an impression in China and the world that we are being consulted in secret and would look with equanimity on their military actions.
A related issue is the shifting Soviet attitude on Chinese representation in the UN. We have had two indications that the Soviets, in an effort to keep the Chinese Communists out of the UN through indirection, are dangling the prospect before us of cooperation on the representation issue. Gromyko, in his UN speech, of course failed to mention Peking’s admission for the first time.3
I believe we should make clear that we are not playing along with these tactics, in pursuance of your policy of avoiding the appearance of siding with the Soviets.
The principal gain in making our position clear would be in our stance with respect to China. The benefits would be long rather than short-term, but they may be none the less real. Behavior of Chinese Communist diplomats in recent months strongly suggests the existence of a body of opinion, presently submerged by Mao’s doctrinal views, which might wish to put US/Chinese relations on a more rational and less ideological basis than has been true for the past two decades.
That you authorize me to ask the Department of State to prepare instructions to the field setting forth guidance to be used with the USSR and others, deploring reports of a Soviet plan to make a preemptive military strike against Communist China.4[Page 268]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 337, Subject Files, HAK/Richardson Meetings, May 1969–December 1969. Secret. Sent for action. Drafted by Sonnenfeldt. This memorandum was sent as an enclosure to an October 23 memorandum on items to discuss with Elliot Richardson; see footnote 4 below.↩
- See Document 79.↩
- Gromyko’s speech before the UN General Assembly on September 19 mentioned all Socialist countries except the People’s Republic of China and also avoided the issue of UN membership for the PRC. (United Nations, General Assembly, Twenty-fourth Session, Official Records, 1756th Plenary Meeting, September 19, 1969, pp. 7–14)↩
- Nixon initialed the approve option and added: “Base it on ‘reports which have come here—etc.’” On October 23 Kissinger apparently asked Richardson to “prepare instructions to the field setting forth guidance for deploring reports on a Soviet plan to make a preemptive military strike against Communist China” based on Nixon’s comments on this paper.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- Document 73.↩