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15. National Security Study Memorandum 631

TO

  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director of Central Intelligence
[Page 42]

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Policy on Current Sino-Soviet Differences2

The President has directed a study of the policy choices confronting the United States as a result of the intensifying Sino-Soviet rivalry and the current Soviet efforts to isolate Communist China.

The study should consider the broad implications of the Sino- Soviet rivalry on the U.S., Soviet, Communist Chinese triangle and focus specifically on alternative U.S. policy options in the event of military clashes between the Soviet Union and Communist China.

The study should also examine alternative policy approaches in the event of continued intensification of the Sino-Soviet conflict short of a military clash.

The President has directed that the paper be prepared by an ad hoc group chaired by a representative of the Secretary of State and including representatives of the addressees of this memorandum and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.3

The study should be submitted to the NSC Review Group by August 15.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–155, NSSM Files, NSSM 63. Secret. A copy was sent to Wheeler.
  2. In February, a CIA report noted that “the Soviet Union is continuing to strengthen its military forces on the Chinese border.” The report concluded that “the upgrading of forces and command structure east of Lake Baikal appears to go beyond the requirements for border security. It suggests that the Soviets are developing a capability for offensive operations against North China should the need arise.” (“Recent Military Developments Along the Sino-Soviet Border,” Intelligence Memorandum 69–5, February 5; ibid., Box 1, President’s Daily Briefs) Kissinger briefed Nixon on armed conflict along the Sino-Soviet border on March 3. (Memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, March 3; ibid., Box 3, President’s Daily Briefs) Kissinger noted, “This shooting incident was the first of its kind, although there have been previous instances of provocations by the Chinese.” In a later report, Kissinger informed Nixon that “Soviet forces in regions adjacent to the Sino-Soviet border have more than doubled since late 1964 and now total about 285 thousand troops.” (March 29; ibid., Box 4, President’s Daily Briefs) Tension between the PRC and the Soviet Union increased through the spring and summer of 1969, when armed clashes spread to the western border region, the Chinese declared their expectation of war, and the Soviets proposed to form a multinational collective security system that would in effect contain the PRC. On June 24 Haig sent Kissinger a “very significant document” from the CIA, which detailed Soviet concerns over the possibility of improved relations between the United States and PRC. Haig wrote, “The report, together with others we have picked up, simply confirm that a concerted effort on our part to at least threaten efforts at rapprochement with the ChiComs would be of the greatest concern to the Soviets.” (Memorandum from Haig to Kissinger, June 24; ibid., NSC Files, Box 710, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. III)
  3. Rogers designated Richardson to serve as chair of the ad hoc group of representatives from State, Defense, NSC, and CIA who were charged with producing this report. Information on this group is ibid., RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, National Security Files, NSSM 63.