275. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • New Negotiations Proposal for Vietnam

Background

Your May 24 meeting with Soviet leaders2 brought no changes to the Vietnam negotiating picture:

  • —The Soviets supported the DRV negotiating position and advanced no proposals of their own.
  • —They stressed their past theme that the war is essentially a matter to be settled between us and the DRV, although the Soviets were prepared to play a procedural role in transmitting any proposal we have to the DRV.
  • —They did not intimate any retaliatory course of action of their own to the steps you announced May 83 and made no explicit mention of the mining, probably because they are not prepared to do anything about it.
  • —They appeared more concerned about accidental damage to Soviet ships by our bombing than by the overall implications of our actions which they repeatedly brushed away as likely to be ineffectual against the DRV in the long run anyway.

Soviets suggest we table a new negotiating proposal

The Soviets, like the DRV, had nothing new to offer themselves but asked that we give thought to making a new proposal which they would be prepared to convey to the DRV.

Clearly we cannot make any more concessions to the other side. It may even be tactically unwise to try and come up with a repackaging of our past proposals, which might encourage the other side to believe we have not yet reached our rock-bottom position. The earlier they are convinced of this latter fact, the better the chance that they might show some give of their own.

We nevertheless told the Soviets on May 24, in response to their request, that we would take another look at our negotiating proposals to see if there was anything new we could offer.

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We have, therefore, on a contingency basis prepared the following proposal which introduces no new substantive elements, emphasizes cease-fire and POW’s and could serve the dual purpose of giving the Soviets something to show their DRV allies and providing a fig-leaf for the Soviets continuing to take their lumps on the more substantive Vietnam issues, as they have been doing so far.

Our Proposal

We would propose that plenary sessions be resumed on June 8, 1972, in Paris and we would pose no objection if the Soviet Union informed its DRV allies that resumption of these sessions resulted from their intervention. We would, nonetheless, follow our usual practice of also informing the DRV side directly ourselves.

The resumption of these talks would be unconditional (e.g. We would not in any way restrain our actions against the DRV); and the U.S. side would expect to emphasize the military aspects of a settlement. [We would, in fact, use the June 8 plenary to formally table the negotiating proposals contained in your May 8 speech.]4

We would tell the Soviets that in returning to the plenaries we would be prepared to engage in prompt and serious discussions with the DRV of the modalities of prisoner returns and an internationally-supervised ceasefire. These would be our two most strongly preferred agenda items, although as always we are prepared to listen to serious counterproposals by their side.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, TS Box 41, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Summits, 1972, May. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The memorandum is not initialed by Kissinger and there is no indication that the President saw it.
  2. See Document 271.
  3. See Document 208.
  4. Brackets in the source text.