242. Letter From Soviet Secretary General Brezhnev to President Carter 1

Dear Mr. President,

I received your message of December 13, 1979.2 In it you express concern over the situation in Southeast Asia and, in particular, in the area of the border between Kampuchea and Thailand.

I agree that there is cause for concern. I must, however, state at once that the reasons for the tension in this area—and we have no doubts on this score—lie not in some sort of actions being attributed to Vietnam, but elsewhere entirely.

The crux of the matter is that certain external forces do not wish to recognize the irreversible nature of the changes which have occurred in Kampuchea and the clearly expressed will of its people, and are attempting in every way to carry on a struggle against the legitimate government of the PRK. In this connection, it is no secret to anyone that one of the main areas for this subversive activity is in providing aid to the remnants of the Pol Pot bands operating out of the territory of Thailand. Who is arming these bands and whose specialists are in direct command of their attacks against Kampuchea is well known. You, of course, know whom I have in mind.

The question is: where does the threat to peace and stability in Southeast Asia come from? Certainly not from Kampuchea, whose people are at present completely occupied with rebuilding their country, and would like to have good relations with all states, including their neighbor Thailand.

The assertions regarding armed attacks by the Vietnamese against Thailand are also entirely without foundation. It is known that the leaders of Vietnam have stated repeatedly that the SRV respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Thailand. The Vietnamese side is making practical efforts to have normal good-neighbor relations with Thailand. We know that the armed forces of the PRK and the sub-units of the Vietnamese people’s army, which are in Kampuchea pursuant to treaty obligations, are under strict orders not to cross the border with Thailand and not to shell the territory of Thailand. We have confidence in the information to the effect that this order is being complied with.

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At the same time, there is much evidence that the land border, the air space and the territorial waters of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea have been violated from the Thai side.

In light of this, Mr. President, we would like to hope that the United States, which has close ties with Thailand, will give its leadership good advice, so that the hostile actions against a neighboring country will cease and the territory of Thailand will not be used as a base for sending Pol Pot bands into Kampuchea. Such a policy would serve the interests of normalizing the situation not only on the border between Kampuchea and Thailand, but also in Southeast Asia as a whole. This would be in accord with the understanding jointly confirmed by us in Vienna regarding the importance of efforts to facilitate the removal of existing centers of international tension and to prevent new ones from arising.


L.I. Brezhnev 3
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 70, USSR: BrezhnevCarter Correspondence: 7/79–2/80. Secret. A copy of the Russian-language version of the letter is ibid.
  2. See Document 238.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.