61. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11/13–69


The Problem

To estimate the general course of Sino-Soviet relations over the next three years.


Sino-Soviet relations, which have been tense and hostile for many years, have deteriorated even further since the armed clashes on the Ussuri River last March. There is little or no prospect for improvement in the relationship, and partly for this reason, no likelihood that the fragments of the world Communist movement will be pieced together.
For the first time, it is reasonable to ask whether a major Sino-Soviet war could break out in the near future. The potential for such a war clearly exists. Moreover, the Soviets have reasons, chiefly the emerging Chinese nuclear threat to the USSR, to argue that the most [Page 236] propitious time for an attack is soon, rather than several years hence. At the same time, the attendant military and political uncertainties must also weigh heavily upon the collective leadership in Moscow.
We do not look for a deliberate Chinese attack on the USSR. Nor do we believe the Soviets would wish to become involved in a prolonged, large-scale conflict. While we cannot say it is likely, we see some chance that Moscow might think it could launch a strike against China’s nuclear and missile facilities without getting involved in such a conflict. In any case, a climate of high tension, marked by periodic clashes along the border, is likely to obtain. The scale of fighting may occasionally be greater than heretofore, and might even involve punitive cross-border raids by the Soviets. Under such circumstances, escalation is an ever present possibility.
In the light of the dispute, each side appears to be reassessing its foreign policy. The Soviets seem intent on attracting new allies, or at least benevolent neutrals, in order to “contain” the Chinese. To that end Moscow has signified some desire to improve the atmosphere of its relations with the West. The Chinese, who now appear to regard the USSR as their most immediate enemy, will face stiff competition from the Soviets in attempting to expand their influence in Asia.

[Omitted here is a ten-page Discussion section with four parts: Political Background, The Military Dimension, Prospects, and Impact of the Dispute Elsewhere in the World. The estimate also includes a three-page annex entitled Territorial Claims and a map of the Soviet-Chinese border.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R01012A. Secret. The CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Department of State, Department of Defense, and the NSA participated in the preparation of this estimate. The Director of CIA submitted this estimate with the concurrence of all members of the USIB with the exception of the representatives of the AEC and FBI, who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction. The table of contents is not printed. The estimate is also published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 24.