62. Letter From the Ambassador to Thailand (Unger) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I deeply appreciated your letter of March 27, with which you enclosed the text of your statement before the House Sub-Committee on Defense Appropriations. I have reviewed this very significant document and I noted particularly the emphasis which you placed upon the Nixon Doctrine. As you know, the Thai have fully endorsed the Guam Doctrine. They have repeatedly stressed the identity of their and our views that U.S. forces should not become involved in Thailand’s internal security operations. They have also stressed the very point you made in your presentation, namely, the need to obtain critical resources and skills to do the job themselves. The Thai attitude can be illustrated by reference to three specific points which are currently active issues, i.e. military assistance, Laos and U.S. force reductions. These points and some others that are also relevant are discussed in greater detail in a memorandum attached to this letter.2

U.S. military assistance is regarded by the Thai as a key measure of the meaning of the Nixon Doctrine. Unfortunately, military assistance is declining. Viewed in isolation the projected downward trend for Thailand would probably not be unmanageable, but the Thai will regard it as only one among several recent developments that have produced a sense of uncertainty about our future intentions. I was encouraged, however, by your remarks in the March 27 letter about the importance of improved training and sales programs. We are making certain recommendations regarding intensified training and the Thai are interested in increased military sales.

With respect to Laos, it is obvious from the map, why the Thai regard the situation there as being even more directly related to their own security than the situation in Viet-Nam. You are familiar with the rather considerable commitment Thailand has already made in cooperation with us to support the neutral Government of Laos. We are considering ways in which that support may be expanded. From the Thai point of view a Viet-Nam settlement which does not include a satisfactory stabilization in Laos would leave them under a very grave [Page 131]threat. In the light of recent developments in Cambodia,3 the same would apply to that country. Accordingly, the Thai have been gratified and encouraged by the strong actions and position announced by the President in his statement of April 30.

The reduction of U.S. forces in Thailand is inseparable from the Laos question. It is for this reason that I take this opportunity to express to you personally my grave reservations regarding the impact of the 10,000-man force reduction which is now under consideration in Washington.4 The removal of seven out of 15 USAF squadrons, three of A–1s and four of F–105s, would necessarily gravely weaken our capability in Laos and, accordingly, the capability of the Lao forces to resist. As seen in Thailand, it would comparably increase the threat to Thailand’s security. The Thai expect us to propose a new force reduction and I believe that a reduction of approximately the size of the last one, 6,000 men, could be managed without either cutting too deeply into the Air Force muscle required for Laos, or arousing acute Thai concern over a too rapid withdrawal.

I understand that the projected Vietnamization program requires the continued availability of Thai bases and facilities as well as Thai forces in South Viet-Nam well into 1973, if not beyond. I don’t think we will have any difficulty retaining the use of these facilities if we maintain Thai confidence in our intentions as manifested in military assistance under the Nixon Doctrine, our firmness in Laos, and the utilization of U.S. military facilities in Thailand. A further point which is most germane you yourself made very clearly on page 29 of your summary when you emphasized the need to maintain the confidence of our allies that we do not intend to renounce our long-standing obligations here. It is because of the close relationship between the success of the Vietnamization program and the availability of Thailand facilities over the next few years that I have taken this opportunity to emphasize the foregoing points. I appreciate the political and budgetary pressures at home and I assure you that we will do our utmost, given the situation in Thailand, to assist in the success of the Nixon Doctrine in Southeast Asia.

Sincerely,

Leonard Unger 5
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, ISP/P Files: Lot 72 D 504, Box 1. Top Secret; Exdis. Copies were sent to Rogers, CINCPAC, and Kissinger.
  2. A more detailed analysis of Laird’s reduction recommendations, summarized in an April 29 memorandum from the Embassy’s Political-Military Counselor, George F. Muller, to Unger, is attached but not printed.
  3. President Nixon announced in an address to the nation on April 30 that the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had stepped up their infiltration and occupation of the part of Cambodia that bordered South Vietnam and, in response, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were moving into Cambodia to attack them. (Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 405–410)
  4. The Thai reduction package recommended to the Secretary of Defense by the JCS was submitted as part of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) Improvement and Modernization Program.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.