216. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Vietnam


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • William Sullivan
  • Defense
  • Kenneth Rush
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • R/Adm. William Flanagan
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas Moorer
  • Capt. Kinniard McKee
  • CIA
  • George Carver
  • [name not declassified] (only for Mr. Carver’s briefing)
  • NSC
  • Maj. Gen. Alexander Haig
  • Richard Kennedy
  • John Holdridge
  • Mark Wandler


  • —Concerning the Soviet statement,2 our spokesmen should just say we are studying the statement with the care it deserves. The spokesmen should not make any comments about the on-going U.S.-Soviet negotiations in Washington or about the summit.
  • —The White House will see that the Soviets are again notified about the mines at Cam Pha.
  • —We will go ahead with the transfer of two additional squadrons of C–130s to Taiwan.
  • —The Defense Department should provide a plan on augmentation of fixed wing gunships. It should also provide the Vietnamese Air Force study by next Tuesday morning.
  • —We will see what can be done to satisfy the ROK requests for more equipment and support.
  • —We will proceed with the leaflet drops and develop an active psywar campaign in both North and South Vietnam.

Mr. Kissinger: I’m sorry I’m late. I was in with the President and the Soviet Trade Minister.3

Mr. Johnson: Did the Soviet Minister deliver the message to you?

Mr. Kissinger: No. In fact, he talked about the great relations—especially in trade—we can have.

Mr. Johnson: Has the Soviet message been officially transmitted to you?

Mr. Kissinger: No.

Mr. Johnson: You haven’t received any amplification of the message?

Mr. Kissinger: No. The Soviet note doesn’t seem too tough to me. What do you people think?

Mr. Johnson: It isn’t very tough. They talk about interference on the high seas and about the 1958 Law of the Sea convention.4 The question is why have they put up this windmill about the high seas?

Mr. Kissinger: So that they can claim they stopped us from doing something we never intended to do. Then they will be able to claim a tremendous victory. Have you seen the message from Poland?

Mr. Sullivan: You mean from the Vice Foreign Minister?

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. He told us the Poles will put out a fairly moderate statement and that we should go ahead with planning the trip to Poland. I can’t imagine that Moscow wouldn’t know about this message.

Mr. Sullivan: There’s been another interesting development, too. Neil Gallagher, the Congressman from New Jersey, called me last night and said that the Far East expert in the Soviet Embassy came to see him yesterday. The essence of the Russian’s remarks, according to Gallagher, was that: (1) the Soviets have made their decision and are now implementing it, and (2) there will be an escalation of the rhetoric, but the professional people will be able to discern that this does not translate into escalated actions. I don’t know how much credence we can put into this, but that’s what Gallagher told me.

Mr. Kissinger: I have somewhat the same impression. The Soviets are putting forth a straw man so that they can condemn us for something which will not happen.

[Page 806]

Mr. Johnson: This is a very deliberate action on their part. They could have cited the 1907 Hague Convention on Mining5—and raised some legal questions about our actions. Instead, they chose to refer to the 1958 convention.

Mr. Kissinger: The Soviets also said in their statement that they will continue to support North Vietnam, but they didn’t say they would try to break the blockade.

Mr. Johnson: On the whole, it’s a mild statement.

Mr. Sullivan: Should our spokesmen make any comment on it?

Mr. Kissinger: No. They should just say we will study the statement with the care it deserves.

Mr. Rush: It’s interesting to note, too, that the statement made no attack on the President.

Mr. Kissinger: If asked, our spokesmen should just say we are studying the statement. I talked to the Secretary about another straw in the wind. Dobrynin called me and said that it was not helpful for us to call attention to the negotiations. He said we should keep quiet about them.

Mr. Sullivan: You mean the Paris negotiations?

Mr. Kissinger: No. He was referring to the negotiations being conducted here by the Soviet missions. We should say nothing about these negotiations. And we should also say we have nothing new to add about the summit. Let’s just keep quiet about these things for the time being.

Mr. Johnson: (to Mr. Sullivan) Bill, will you make sure Bob [McCloskey]6 gets these instructions?

Gen. Haig: we’ve already spoken to Bob about this.

Mr. Johnson: Good.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Rush) The same thing goes for Defense. Can you instruct your people? We should play these things low-key.

Adm. Flanagan: I’ll speak to Henkin7 when I get back to the office.

Gen. Haig: I’ve called Henkin, too.

Mr. Kissinger: It’s important that we stay low-key. Let’s not make any comments on these things.

[Page 807]

Mr. Rush: The next to the last paragraph of the Soviet statement is interesting. It in effect dilutes the action statement made higher up by saying that the Soviet views are shared by other peoples as well.

[Omitted here is discussion of the military situation in Vietnam.]

Mr. Kissinger: By next week, we should know where we stand with Moscow. The Democratic caucus will not take a harder line than the Soviets.

Gen. Haig: It’s been suggested that Secretary Rogers should hold a press conference, but I don’t think it is needed at this time.

Mr. Kissinger: you’re right. We should hold off on that. If the summit is still on, that will be all to the good. If the summit is cancelled, that will be another matter.

Mr. Sullivan: How is the advance party making out?

Mr. Kissinger: I’m amazed that they are being treated so royally.

Mr. Nutter: Perhaps the Soviets are waiting for the summit to get a little closer before they cancel.

Mr. Carver: The Soviets may be waiting to see the outcome of vote on the German treaties, too.

Mr. Sullivan: When is the vote?

Mr. Rush: It’s on May 17. The longer the Soviets wait to cancel the summit—if that is what they are doing—the more danger they run of being accused of deception.

Mr. Kissinger: In order to get the German treaties ratified, they have to act as though the summit is still on. But if they do that, it will have a bad effect on Hanoi.

Mr. Carver: Unless there are private communications we don’t know about, Hanoi has to be uncomfortable with the rather mild Soviet and Chinese responses.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes, I think so. The people who met Xuan Thuy: in Moscow weren’t even high-ranking officials.8

Mr. Carver: They were at the right level for Xuan Thuy:. The Soviets did not bend over backwards to greet him.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s what I mean. It’s funny that Xuan Thuy: is there.

Mr. Carver: Will we meet tomorrow?

Mr. Kissinger: Yes.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–116, WSAG Minutes, Originals. Sensitive. Transmitted to Kissinger under cover of an attached May 11 memorandum from Davis.
  2. Reference is to a public Soviet protest released that day by the official Soviet news agency. An assessment of the statement in CIA Intelligence Information Memorandum SC No. 00915/72, May 11, termed it “a relatively temperate document designed to preserve Moscow’s freedom of maneuver.” (Ibid., Box 1087, Howe Vietnam Chronology, 5–11–72) In a Spot Report, May 11, the DIA concurred with the CIA’s assessment. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 215.
  4. Reference is to the Convention of the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization, entered into force March 17, 1958. (United States Treaties and Other International Agreements, vol. 9, 1958 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1959), pp. 621–646)
  5. Reference is to the Laying of Automatic Submarine Contact Mines, October 18, 1907. (Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949, vol. I, Multilateral, 1776–1917 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1968), pp. 669–680)
  6. Brackets in the source text.
  7. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Daniel Z. Henkin.
  8. On May 11, Thuy met with Kosygin; see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, XXIV: 17, pp. 5, 10.