40. Letter From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The speech I am making on Tuesday evening, January 252 reaffirms once again the United States desire to reach a negotiated settlement of the Indochina war.

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We are offering a new plan for peace, the essence of which was transmitted to the North Vietnamese over three months ago.3 Hanoi has chosen to ignore this proposal, cancelling a private meeting with Mr. Kissinger at the last moment in mid-November. Since then we have had no reaction from the North Vietnamese except a step-up in their military actions throughout Indochina.

This plan reflects the conversation Foreign Minister Gromyko had with me and Mr. Kissinger last September. It is specifically designed to take account of the obstacles to a solution that still remained after considerable progress during the summer. It offers a political process which would give all forces in South Vietnam a fair chance for political power, as well as committing the United States to total withdrawal within a short period. Alternatively, as I make clear in my speech, we remain ready to settle military issues alone, as we proposed privately last May. In this case, we would withdraw all American and allied forces within six months in exchange for an Indochina ceasefire and release of all prisoners. The political question would be left for the Vietnamese to settle among themselves.

The United States has now taken every reasonable step to meet North Vietnamese concerns and respect the sacrifices and interests of all parties. These proposals go to the limits of United States generosity. They make it clear that there is no reason for the conflict to continue.

The North Vietnamese nevertheless seem intent to keep on trying to embarrass the United States by a major military offensive. The Soviet Union should understand that the United States would have no choice but to react strongly to actions by the North Vietnamese which are designed to humiliate us. Such developments would be to no one’s benefit and would serve to complicate the international situation.

The United States believes that all concerned countries have an interest in helping end this war and that its proposals mean that the Soviet Union could promote this objective without in any way compromising its principles.

I am sending you this note in the spirit of candor and mutual understanding which have characterized our exchanges.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 9 [Pt. 2]. No classification marking. Kissinger gave this letter to Dobrynin on January 28. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule) A similar message also was passed to the People’s Republic of China on January 26.
  2. For text of Nixon’s January 25 speech on peace in Vietnam, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 100–106.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 39.