172. Message From President Carter to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. President:

We have learned that forces of the People’s Republic of China today crossed into North Vietnam.

The United States strongly supports the principle of non-use of force to settle international disputes. The Chinese action today, together with the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea, represents a serious breach of that principle. Accordingly, we have informed the Government of the People’s Republic of China that we object to the military steps they have taken and urge the immediate withdrawal of their forces from Vietnam, the same position we have taken regarding the Vietnam forces in Kampuchea.

The United States seeks a stable and peaceful structure of independent states in Asia. The Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea in recent months severely weakened that structure and led directly to the [Page 515] existing dangerous situation. We informed your government on January 20th and 26th of our deep concern over developments in Indochina,2 and specifically of the possible consequences of the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea. It is clear, therefore, that Vietnam must share responsibility with China for the current situation.

Present circumstances require wisdom and restraint by our governments to prevent any widening of this conflict and to restore peace in Indochina. To achieve this most important and urgent goal, it is essential that all foreign forces withdraw from both Kampuchea and Vietnam.

In the spirit of dedication to preserving peace, as exemplified in our mutual effort to limit strategic arms, I urge you to exercise restraint and cooperate in seeking a peaceful resolution to this problem. As the Secretary of State stated to you on January 26, it is most important that the USSR not take actions which would exacerbate the situation, such as deploying military or naval units to Vietnamese ports or bases (such as Cam Ranh Bay) or other military actions. Only if all parties exercise restraint can the dangers implicit in the present situation be averted and peace restored in that area. The United States is ready to cooperate in such an effort.


Jimmy Carter3
  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff,Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 4, MDS/Dobrynin, 1/31/79. Secret; Sensitive. Sent under a covering memorandum from Brzezinski to Vance. Message was sent via Molink (Moscow–Washington direct communications link). Brzezinski wrote in the upper right-hand corner of the message, “OK to send out. ZB.”
  2. Telegram 15594 to Moscow, January 20, described the conversation between Vance and Dobrynin which focused on Indochina. The telegram is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, State Department Out, Box 115, 1/15–24/79. On January 26 Shulman met with Dobrynin to discuss Indochina. The memorandum of conversation for this meeting is in the Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 4, MDSDobrynin 1/26/79.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.