62. Letter From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

As you know, one of the remaining issues in the effort to achieve a negotiated settlement of the Vietnam conflict relates to the question of restricting military supplies to both North and South Vietnam by outside powers.2 The DRV has insisted that there can be no international restrictions on the amount of military aid it will receive from outside powers while on the other hand there must be precisely such restrictions in regard to aid for South Vietnam.

While I am prepared to accept limitations on American military aid to South Vietnam under the terms of a settlement, you will I am sure understand that a one-sided limitation will not be understood by the American public, on whose support the viability of any agreement depends. Moreover, such a one-sided arrangement would violate the principle of reciprocity and equality of commitments which must be the foundation of any lasting settlement—and which is the foundation upon which it has been possible to build the significant progress that has been achieved in our own bilateral relations in the recent period.

In view of your stated interest in an early settlement of the Vietnam conflict, Mr. General Secretary, it therefore becomes important for me to have a clear indication of your own intentions regarding the supply of military aid to North Vietnam in the event of a settlement.

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The question of how any restrictions may be formulated in the actual agreement on the settlement is less important than the actual conduct, in practice, of the country which is after all the principal military supplier of the North Vietnamese. To be quite frank and specific, therefore, I am writing this letter to you in our private channel to ask you whether your Government would be prepared to express intentions in regard to military supplies to North Vietnam in case a rapid peace settlement is arrived at. Such an indication from you would do much to accelerate agreement between the U.S. and the DRV.

I know that you will recognize that this is a crucial aspect of any settlement of the conflict in Vietnam and that it will require urgent attention if such a settlement is to be achieved in the near future.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 14. Top Secret. A note at the top of the letter reads: “Hand carried to Amb. Dobrynin at Embassy, 2:30 pm, 10–15–72.” On October 15, Kissinger and Dobrynin discussed the letter by telephone at 9:55 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8:35 p.m. The transcript of their 2 p.m. conversation is misdated October 16. (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 15, Chronological File) The transcript of their 8:35 p.m. conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 17.
  2. During their telephone conversation at 9:55 a.m., Kissinger told Dobrynin that if the Nixon administration knew Moscow’s intentions with regard to military supplies to North Vietnam after a peace settlement, “it would really then enable us to take greater risks.” Kissinger continued: “It seems to me you know, I don’t want to speak for your government, it seems to me improbable that you would—that under conditions of peace your incentive would certainly—would seem to me to be less.” Kissinger subsequently added that such a Soviet commitment “might then enable us to make a very rapid settlement.” Dobrynin replied: “Well, it’s a rather difficult question, but of course I will send immediately this [letter] to the First Secretary because it is a question of rather serious importance as you perfectly understand.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 15, Chronological File)