STRATEGIC WARNING STAFF - MONTHLY REPORT

Created: 3/29/1979

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

n ,v

SRRATEGIC WARNING STAFF MONTHLY

TO THEF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

he nvonthlyljieport draws; upon both the 1 finished and unfinished product of the

Intolligoncbicornmunity and the field ,ift! Reflects the judgment of 1 analysts assigned to the Strategic

Warnlnq Staff arrived at in': ttbns with' analysts in thegencies. Major substantive differences I are welcomedlahd can be.addressed to.thc ' Director, SWsJ Roomentagon, com-

mercial1r, or to

the individUalFanalysts whose names appear

at thQ',endjctf papht j

'll Iil. 11 .1 ' i

S '

-rnnniirrrttl

;summary

SovietsliKetyi vo

in identifying] their1 interests so closely withmay elect to buttress^ their power position; j

We exarh^ne soink uhrnfng asbsots of ihe.-recentfSoviet exercise in the Tranebaykal Millitaruand Mongolia, j|

The Overview examinee China'sitaok' on Vietnam 'and the Soviet' response in the context of their perceptions of each**other's motived, lobjeotivee and oalpulatione ofoth Beijing and Mosoov operated ori'therealistio andae-seesments of each other's intentions and'theon^their, respective actions and'hs Chinese in particularanny skill in controllingrisks, by influencing iSopiot, Vietnamese, and other foreign perceptions of China's^ limitedThey deliberately eignat,led theirinhe1 particularly the essentially political purposes of their militaryMottoou and Hanoi seem rto halts judged that Beijing's intentions were-quite limited and thereforections uhiohtrigger an unwantedot' lead them into} military .and political trapset by the Chinese. Tn the aftermath of Beijing's: defiance of vhs Soviet-Vietnamese treaty;he Sovietslikelyl to exeraiee greater prudence

mnm

m%m

. .' I I

MONTHLY OVERVIEW

' ! lh -'I;

China's venture in Realpolitik inunitive:attack on Vietnam and the Soviet response ,to this audacious actibn,provide instructive insights' |into their perceptionsjof |each other's motives,ectives, andfcalculations of risk. An examination' jof this' episode!suggests that both Beijing andperated on the basis cjf idealistic and accuratei sessments of each other's intentions and theon their respective actions and reactions. Chinese behavior, in particular,anny skill in controlling risks by influencing Soviet, Vietnamese, and other foreign perceptions ofimited objectives. T!

There are'few precedents in twentieth eenturyiistory for the deliberate care with which the Chinese signalled thejr1 intentions in advance and uring the,conflict, particularly the precision with

i'lWhicH theyi underscored the] essentially political purposes of'strictly limited artd controlled military!

Il operations.I'Thelreactiondjof botheemed jto :ieflect! consijderablo confidence!hared evaluation thatntentions were. In| fact,uite limited!and thatlthe Soviet union and Vietnam should therefore avoid actions which mightrigger an unwanted escalation or lead them into ilitary and political traps set by the Chinese.

China's j, -l

. |

! to have been based Joh'the 'fundamental assumption that |the scope>rid duration of its military[operations could1 be tightly 'controlled inja way thatjj wouldmize1 both' thfeijrisks beockedro- ;'rand'inconclusive conflict with.Vietnam andf generating! potentially dangerous Soviet military eactions and1 politically damaging American, Japanese, and West European responses. The crucial element in Beijing's calculations 'cloarly was it3 estimate of Moscow's probablen estimate which proved to be quite accurate. [

the Chinese appear to .have judged that the Soviets would! be deterred fromajor retaliatoryacross the Sino-Soviet border by two principal factors: recognition that a; strong militaryi

j actioft;would;playjinto China's hands byinor Sino-Vietnameso confrontationino-Soviet crisis which would deflect worldion from China's attack on Vietnam and jeopardize Moscow's priority objectives in Soviet-US relations; and (b) Soviet concern about the unpredictability of Chinese^reactions and apprehensions thatimited retaliatory strike might trigger strong Chinese counterattacks which the Soviets would be unwilling to risk. Although the Chinese apparently .'estimated that Moscow's reaction would be limited

i ^primarily to propaganda, and diplomatic efforts [to

, {discredit China, they did not completely rule out 'the possibility of minojr jSoviet incursions into 'Chinese territory. Beijing's decision to evacuate

- the civilian population from cities near thearticularly in Xiangia'ng province, probably was intended not only asi'ir (precautionarybutove thi reduce:the; risk of Sovietreaction by signalling that Chinese forces in the border area were1'fully prepared to mount counter-

n ^ J:

I.i

9 !

I'*

j

jL * 1

1

inllatij. Febrria^yFvJce Premier Deng

i in lace ivumai,, . -

Xiaoping publicly declared that he did not anticipate Soviet military intervention but that he couldreclude totally such 'risks." After two weeks of Soviet inaction, the! .Chinese grew increasinglyj fident that Moscow would not move. Vice Premier Li Xiannlan, in ajtone of thinly veiledold journalists onjl March1 that Soviet reaction would be confined, to "abusive language and bluffing" even if China, after withdrawing fromgain "counterattacked" to punish further Vietnamese provo-

cations. China's Objectives

h This public:depretiation of the likelihood of; Soviet military reaction reflected one of China's principal political': invading Vietnam, namely;'jto demonstrateiltond its allies that; the;Soviets would back down when challenged and that Modce-w's opponents could safely take bold! notionsagainst the'mbitions of the USSR and itsuch as Cuba andithout fear |or ;risk' ofoviet reactiorislieemo likely, in fact, that this desire tolow at Soviet'pretensions and ambitions;and to influenca Western perceptions and policies^ was asotivating factor as China's determination to punish Hanoi, redress;the damage|fco China's credibilityrestige caused by Vietnam's conquest ofnd undermine Hanoi's ability to consolidate this i| conquest..

China's Tactics to'Minimize Risks

Beijing^s'wish'tblhold risksinimum and toree hand in moving against the Vietnamese led it"to take'extraordinary' measures to influence' Soviet, Vietnamese and Western perceptions ofntentions. )As far iback as last; November,fficials began to|speak of an eventual need toroper1 lessone northern part ofind to nurture1 an understanding abroadbjectives were essentially political and that any use

of military1 force would be limited in scopeand dura- this deliberate signalling of intentionssharply in december with unambiguousagainst vietnamese provocations on theandn kampucheawarningsclearly'intended! to establisha punitivehe most striking examplesignalling appeared >in an authoritative people'3editorialocember which bluntly "don't complain later that we've nota iblear warning lih advance afU

i the final, phases careful conditioning of; foreign perceptions, was carried out by vice premieropingiduring his visits to the us and japan in late january and early 'february. his public re-j arks confirmed the movement of chinese forces to the vietnamese iborderl and jcalled; attention toossibility that china may have to teach vietnam "some necessary lessons." deng balanced his warnings that "we mean what we,with assurances that china'not act rashlyj.r

after the incursion into vietnam was launched onhe chinese .actively sought to forestall dangerous soviet, vietnamese, and western! reactionsy constantly:emphasizing that the offensive wasolely at halting vietnamese border provocations, not at broader objectives riuch as compelling hanoi to withdraw its forces from kampuchea. beijing'sent-onebruary referred to chinese forces as "frontier troops" and| defined their missiont declared that "we do not want:single inch! qferritory,l^at china's only aim was topeaceful and stablend[that after the "counterattack" had achieved its objectives, "chinese frontierill |strictly,keep to defending the[border of their own country!"ijthe statemaht' also renewed'china's f; proposal for, early negotiations with hanoi to restore peace end "settleiborder andisputes.

in the next'two weeks; chineseiofficialsided,almost daily private, and public assurances that'china would' bo circumspect and that militaryperations, vpuld^not

objective of halting Vietnamese provocations. denied;any intention to expandthe Red River delta or to attack Hanoi,that the fighting would be overfter capturing Cao BangFebruaryreiterated its call for negotiations andthatiChina did not want "one inch"1territory. On ljMarch, theoon asChinese forces achieved their majorlan^jSon^n^" " *

9 announced that '. .

its gOSIs naa oftenattained and that Chinese forces hadibegun to withdraw linto Chinese territory.. u

and' Reactions,

' T.

' '1 1

1! ' h j n jiesttEIiF^ ] h

-

..ill. :'l ' :< , j .

The next PhMgeJ! It [Vr I'

' It is -lifttfid*aw. ia balance sheet on^tholt nf the Sino^Vietnamese confrontation and Mos-

9

Soviet leaders' lingering concern to offset thenow being assiduously promoted by the hinesehat the USSR failed to make good on its commitments to Hanoi and that it backed down when challenged by|China. This concern is likely to be ;translated into1 active Soviet support for'Vietnamese'j 'efforts to consolidate their grip on Kampuchea and to strengthen their political and militarygainst an eventual renewal of Chinese pressure on

the border-,

Kampuchea, in the short term, probably will again become the central focus of the Sino-Vietnamese conflict. Hanoi almost' certainly will undertake strenuous political and military efforts to break the back of the Pol,Pot, forces' stubborn resistance. The Vietnamese beganilairlifting elements ofivisions to Kampuchea onarch in what may bo preliminary preparationsulti-division,of-fensive in western arid1 {southwestern Kampucheathe rainy season begins in May. In view of the severe drain on Vietnam's limited resources created by Pol ii Pot's guerrillas and the failure1 toiable client regime in Phnom Penh, Hanoi probably willhigh priority toI bringing its Kampuchean problems under control before'confronting China in an attempt recover disputed territory occupiedhe Chinese1.!

annex

an Indochinal federation.

If the Vietnamese (appear to1 be making signifi progress in weakening Pol Pot's forces, the Chinese will againhe same kind ofi challenge that led ri to their incursion onebruary. One of China's major objectives was, to| compel Hanoi to reduce its forces in Kampuchea and to encourago indigenousto the Vietnamese conquest. Vietnamesetherefore could trigger another cycle of Chinese pressures and threats. Beijing radio warnedarch'that ithe Vi|etn>mese are attemptingj to step up military operations in Kampuchea in an,attempt to1 thatreountry and achieve their objective, of |

' iThei Soviets and Vietnamese probably anticipatehat bhina intends to use its .occupation of,territory! clSJwSahoS :toPrsa and bargain for the removal of Vietnamese troops .rom. Kampuchea.: There would, seem

9

T

to be no prospect of an early break in theions impasse, however, as long as Hanoi continues torior Chinese withdrawal to theboundary." Although Hanoi has proclaimed its right to act int seems unlikely that the Vietnamese willajor military effort to expel the Chinese from somequareeters of territory inJthe next'few months while they are preoccupied with Kampuchea.

The formidable array of military, political,problems facihg the Vietnamesecause them to press the Soviets forassistance. These pressures mayrowing Soviet^Vietnamese tensions and resent-because Moscow's behavior during theunderscored their divergentMoscow's desire to avoid excessivebehalf of (Vietnam which might jeopardizeSoviet objectives. There is also someSoviets will pverplay their hand:turn Hanoi's 'increased! dependence to their Ipressing for sHUrarv access to Vietnameseair! 1

Although the Soviets have little choice but to continue demonstrative' support and assistance to Hanoi as the latter prepares for the next round with China, it seems likely that'the Soviet leaders, having digested the lesson of Beijing's defiance of thetreaty, will exercise! greater prudence intheir interests So closely with Hanoi's. In preparing for the next, phase of the Sino-Vietnamese confrontation, the Soviets may therefore elect to give higher priority to buttressing their generalositionis. China, perhapstrengthoning heir combat forcesiin'Mongolia and in the military districts' on theviet border. T

ac

r

ynr srrRFT["

CIiEl|

1

j conclusions; we have seen1 nothing inent devnlopments toimpdify our,view that the soviets

see the chinese as;ong-term threat to'theirnterests, perhaps thoir greatest threat. thisalmost .certainly has, been intensified byecent developmentsllin; southeast asia. thoeadership no doubt,list relieved that the, chinese invasion of vietnam, was broughtalt before they were compelled!*tb do something" to aidietnamesebut they may also believe that

Si'

I,!' f

0

the respite is temporary and that tho Sino-Vietnamese confrontation could resultore dangerous aitua-tion some time in the future. Although from our standpoint the Soviets may appear toreat military superiority! over the Chinese, this has not deterred China from attacking Vietnam. The Soviets may therefore hope that their recent exercise, and perhaps others to comej will have some deterrenton futureand, if deterrence fails, that they will be better prepared to take ^whatever military action they deem necessary.,

RET

PUBLICATIONS'IpF INTEREST TO THE

STRATEGIC WARNING COMMUNITY 'l 9

1^

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA