10. Intelligence Memorandum (1)

OCI No. 0341/65

Washington, February 1, 1965.

Soviet Premier Aleksei N. Kosygin and President Johnson during their meeting at Glassboro, New Jersey, in 1967. National Park Service, Special Collection.

THE KOSYGIN DELEGATION TO NORTH VIETNAM

1. Moscow's decision to send an unusually strong delegation headed by Premier Kosygin to Hanoi underscores both the USSR's desire to regain influence with the North Vietnamese and its concern over the possibility of escalation in the Indochina conflict. One of the main purposes of this mission probably will be to strengthen the credibility of repeated public statements since late November that the USSR "cannot remain indifferent to the fate of a fraternal socialist country" and that it is ready to give Hanoi the "necessary assistance."

2. The presence of high-ranking military and economic officials on the delegation almost certainly foreshadows a substantial increase in Soviet economic and military assistance. This aid may well include such defensive weapons as surface-to-air missiles, antiaircraft weapons, and naval torpedo and patrol craft. It is also possible, however, that Kosygin will offer advanced jet fighters.

3. A Soviet economic aid mission headed by M.N. Sulovey, a vice chairman of the State Committee for Foreign Economic Relations, is already in Hanoi to "study implementation" of existing economic aid agreement. Most of the USSR's economic aid under earlier programs is believed to have been utilized. The Soviet Union has extended North Vietnam about $370 million worth of economic aid since 1955, mainly in the form of factories and machine shops, power plants, and coal mine equipment. The last major Soviet economic credit--$200 million--was extended in 1960 to cover North Vietnam's first five-year plan (1961-1965). New economic aid probably will be designed primarily to provide equipment for projects covered by the second five-year plan.

4. The pattern of Soviet and North Vietnamese pronouncements in recent weeks suggests that both parties wish to work toward improving relations which have been rather distant and cool since Hanoi felt obliged to support Peiping in the period since the nuclear test ban treaty of August 1963. It is possible that the Kosygin mission, at the invitation of the North Vietnamese Government, is the culmination of an exchange of views since Khrushchev's downfall, particularly during Premier Pham Van Dong's visit to Moscow last November. Dong's junket apparently was intended as a fishing expedition
to see what could be expected of the new Kremlin bosses in support of North Vietnamese objectives. It has been evident since his return that the North Vietnamese were intent on softening at least the public manifestations of their opposition to Soviet policy. A hard-hitting anti-Soviet piece, for example, was hastily scratched from the party journal Hop Tac last November, a few days after Dong's return. Subsequent developments, including the appearance of Soviet antiaircraft guns in North Vietnam, the harder Soviet propaganda line on the Indochina situation, and the dispatch of a major
Moscow economic delegation to Hanoi, make it appear that Pham Van Dong probably received assurances of increased Soviet military, economic, and political assistance from the new leaders in Moscow.

5. It was not mere coincidence that almost simultaneously with Moscow's announcement of the Kosygin delegation, the leading North Vietnamese party paper published an editorial welcoming this visit in unusually warm terms. It expressed gratitude for past Soviet assistance and voiced "warm and profound sentiments toward the Soviet Communists" and for their "spirit of proletarian internationalism."

6. In addition to more favorable prospects for improving relations with Hanoi, the decision to send the Kosygin mission probably was motivated by growing Soviet concern that both sides in the Indochina conflict may be contemplating actions which could lead to a rapid escalation of the war. Over the past two months, the Soviets appear to have been searching for means of inhibiting the actions of both antagonists. An upsurge in Soviet diplomatic and propaganda attention to the Indochina conflict coincided with Ambassador Taylor's consultations in Washington in late November and early
December and with the movement of substantial numbers of North Vietnamese troops into Laos in December. Soviet uncertainty and concern regarding US intentions probably was heightened not only by US air strikes against the infiltration routes in Laos but by a more general feeling that the US may be impelled to adopt more far-reaching military measures in an attempt to check the erosion in South Vietnam. One of Foreign Minister Gromyko's main purposes in his talks with US leaders in December apparently was to probe for signs of US plans which might lead to escalation and
also for indications of Washington's attitude toward negotiations.

7. The Soviet leaders almost certainly hope that a substantial increase in economic and military assistance to North Vietnam will enable them to press for a greater voice in the formulation of Communist policy in South Vietnam and Laos. Kosygin probably will argue that the Viet Cong campaign is progressing satisfactorily and that North Vietnam should avoid actions which might provoke US reprisals. He may also discuss political initiatives designed to inhibit US freedom of action, such as greater pressure toward reconvening the 14-nation conference on Laos.

8. The presence of party secretary Andropov on the delegation suggests that the Soviets will exchange views on the general situation in the world Communist movement and set forth their plans for the proposed meeting of the Communist "editorial commission" in Moscow on 1 March. The North Vietnamese have maintained silence on the March meeting. The Soviets, however, may not have abandoned hope completely that Hanoi will decide to participate. In any event, the Soviets undoubtedly would feel they had nothing to lose by renewing assurances that they had no intention of "excommunicating" the Chinese and that the only purpose of the meeting is to discuss means of restoring Communist unity.

9. From Hanoi's standpoint, the growing strain in Hanoi-Moscow relations during Khrushchev's era was primarily a product of Soviet softness in political and propaganda opposition to US action in South Vietnam and Laos. It has always been clear that if Moscow were to firm up its support of North Vietnamese policy objectives in Indochina, Hanoi would tend to moderate the degree of its open support for Peiping in the Sino-Soviet dispute, and once again attempt to play up its assumed role of "honest broker" seeking to bring at least an operative unity between Peiping and Moscow.

10. It is unlikely that an increase in the Soviet presence in North Vietnam will bring about a change of Hanoi's tactics in prosecuting the Viet Cong war. Although factional differences appear to exist in the North Vietnamese party over certain areas of policy, it has always appeared that the party was basically united on the tactics to be used in the Viet Cong insurgency. The so-called "extremists" in the North Vietnamese party seemed most to resent the lack of political and propaganda support from Moscow over South Vietnam. More vigorous Soviet backing of Hanoi may tend to reduce the
differences between the factions.

11. Moscow's desire to reassure the US that the Kosygin mission to Hanoi does not signal an abrupt shift in Soviet policy was apparent in an authoritative Pravda "observer" article of 31 January on President Johnson's State of the Union message. In sharp contrast to the negative tone of Moscow's initial reaction, Pravda for the first time warmly welcomed the President's remarks about expanding US-Soviet contacts.


Footnotes:

(1) Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings and Travel File, McGeorge Bundy--Saigon, Vol. III. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. Prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research produced a similar analysis of the Kosygin delegation on February 1. (Memorandum from Denney to Rusk; ibid.) Also on February 1, Robert Komer wrote a memorandum to McGeorge Bundy stating: "my hunch is that Soviets have decided we're probably licked in VN, and are climbing on bandwagon. Kosygin's visit, and inevitable aid promises when there, strike me as Soviet effort to prevent ChiComs from getting full credit for the victory." (Ibid.,
Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXVII) In Special Memorandum No. 7-65, dated February 5, CIA's Office of National Estimates made a point similar to Komer's while emphasizing that Kosygin's trip reflected "a basic Soviet decision to contest the spread of Chinese Communist influence in the Far East." (Department of State, INR Files: Lot 81 D 343)


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