122. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1

SUBJECT

  • Vietnam

PARTICIPANTS

  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U Alexis Johnson
  • William Sullivan
  • Defense
  • Kenneth Rush
  • R/Adm. William Flanagan
  • JCS
  • Lt. Gen. Richard Knowles
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • George Carver
  • [name not declassified] (only for Mr. Helms’ briefing)
  • NSC
  • Richard Kennedy
  • John Holdridge
  • Mark Wandler
[Page 396]

[Omitted here is the Summary of Conclusions and discussion of newspaper and intelligence reports on the military situation in Vietnam.]

Mr. Kissinger: What about the report about the Russians intensifying their airlift of supplies to North Vietnam via India?2 Has that been confirmed?

Mr. Carver: No. We are still checking on this. However, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that Soviet planes have been airlifting supplies through India. [2 lines of source text not declassified] As I said before, though, the Soviet flight patterns don’t indicate they are moving supplies through India.

Mr. Johnson: (to Mr. Kissinger) Have you seen Moscow’s 3568?3 It is consistent with the paper CIA prepared.4

Mr. Kissinger: Yes, I’ve seen that message. It says that Soviets are prepared to give the North Vietnamese all-out support, although they will use muted language.

[Omitted here is discussion of a North Vietnamese statement on negotiations and an Indian statement on the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong.]

Mr. Johnson: You may know that Hogen [Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister]5 was in to see me yesterday. He brought up an interesting point—that the Indians had asked the Japanese and Indonesians to conclude a treaty with them—similar to their treaty with the Soviets.6

Mr. Helms: This would be a treaty of friendship, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Johnson: Yes. The Japanese point was that they thought the Indians were acting as the cat’s-paw for the Soviets.

Mr. Kissinger: Isn’t it also a consultation treaty?

Mr. Johnson: Yes.

Mr. Helms: It’s interesting that the Soviets are going flat-out, trying to conclude as many friendship treaties as possible.

Mr. Johnson: Brezhnev recently called for a non-aggression conference, sort of an Asian Security Conference.7 Hogen thinks this subject may come up in Moscow, too.

[Page 397]

Mr. Kissinger: Would the Japanese want to sign a treaty of friendship with us?

Mr. Johnson: They don’t know. Right now they see the Soviets trying to use them in Asia.

Mr. Kissinger: Didn’t Brezhnev suggest an Asian Security Conference in 1969?8

Mr. Johnson: Yes. The Soviets asked Asian countries for their opinions of the idea. Most countries went back to the Soviets, asking them to flesh out the idea a little more, but the Soviets never did that.

Mr. Kissinger: Isn’t the real Soviet aim to encircle China?

Mr. Johnson: Of course.

Mr. Kissinger: An encirclement of China would certainly be the result of Indian consultation treaties with other Asian countries.

Mr. Johnson: The Soviets are clearly trying to encircle China, and India is acting as the Soviet cat’s-paw. Hogen said the Japanese gave the Indians a flat turndown. They want nothing to do with the Indians in their part of the world.

Mr. Sullivan: The British put out a good statement yesterday.9

Mr. Kissinger: I know. Secretary Rogers laid down the line perfectly on negotiations.10 I don’t think we need any further guidance. We should just follow the Secretary’s line.

Mr. Johnson: We sent out some guidance, based on the Secretary’s testimony yesterday, to the field.

Mr. Kissinger: The President was delighted with the Secretary’s performance. Does anyone have objections to what the Secretary said?

No objections.

Mr. Kissinger: We should just follow his line.

Mr. Rush: Right.

Mr. Sullivan: What should Bob [McCloskey]11 say? Should he say there is no truth to the stories in the papers today?

Mr. Kissinger: There is no truth to them. He should say we will not comment on tactical operations.

Mr. Johnson: The Secretary made a point yesterday of saying that we will not say what we will not do, with two exceptions. We will not [Page 398]send ground forces back to Vietnam, and we will not use nuclear weapons.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. That’s a good line, and we should follow it. Has CIA made an analysis of how far the Soviets will really push in Vietnam?

Mr. Helms: No.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we get that tomorrow?

Mr. Helms: Yes. We’ve tried to handle this in a roundabout way, but we haven’t addressed ourselves to that one simple point.

Mr. Kissinger: The Soviets would like to pay no price in Vietnam and they would also like the offensive to succeed. The question is how far are they willing to go? So far, we have only engaged in some preliminary sparring, and we shouldn’t expect them to indicate doubt at this point. They followed a hard line well into the Cuban missile crisis.

Mr. Helms: Do you want us to estimate how far they see us going?

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. We also want an estimate of how far they will go in backing Hanoi. And how far could we go, for example, within limits, before there would be a conflict? I realize this is conjectural, but I think we need these estimates.12 we’ll meet tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s plans to visit Tokyo and of Japanese politics.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals. Top Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. In an April 15 memorandum to Kissinger, John Holdridge of the NSC staff summarized an unconfirmed report from the U.S. Defense Attaché in New Delhi that the Soviet Union was transporting military equipment, particularly surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), to North Vietnam via India. (Ibid., Box H–085, WSAG Meeting, Vietnam, 4/17/72)
  3. Document 115.
  4. Document 117.
  5. Brackets in the source text.
  6. Reference is to the 20-year Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation between the Soviet Union and India signed in New Delhi on August 9, 1971.
  7. Brezhnev issued an appeal for a conference on collective security in Asia during his address to the trade unions in Moscow on March 20; see Document 65.
  8. Brezhnev also advocated the establishment of “a system of collective security in Asia” during an address before the international conference of Communist parties in Moscow on June 8, 1969. For text of the speech, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, July 2, 1969, vol. XXI, No. 23, pp. 3–17.
  9. Not found.
  10. See footnote 5, Document 113.
  11. Brackets in the source text.
  12. The minutes summarized the conclusion on this point as follows: “CIA should continue to check on reports that the Soviets are airlifting supplies to North Vietnam, via India. CIA should also provide an estimate tomorrow of how far we and the Soviets can go in Vietnam before we risk a confrontation.” For the estimate, see Document 124.