MEMO 3/13/68 COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN US COURSES OF ACTION

Created: 3/13/1968

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SUDJBCTi Coraunlst Reactions to Certain US Courses of Action

i. ccwsukist views o? theituation

Mono! gnd tti3 VC

It is cleer that the Vietnamese Cccnunists ero encased

ajor and coatinulns offensive. They are currently wXlBg aeffort to replace their losses, forn and train new VC units, resupply and re-ecuip their forces and reposition large units In preparation for another more intensive phase so^etice within the next few rjonths. Their prlnclpsl objectives ere to destroy the GVH's authority In nuch of the country; also to reduce the AXYll's effectiveness and to inflict defeats on US forces in battles in theorps. The net result, they hope, willolitical and military situation which will destroy the political basis for theresence end thus lead the U3 to open negotiations

ettlement of tho war on terms favorable to tho Coraunista. While they are not likely to he emitted to specific tin*tables, they clearly hope their effort will yield decisive results this year.

2. judging from Hanoi's overt propaganda. It has allowed for the possibility that the UB response to the offensive will be to Increase its own troop strengths, to Intensify bonblng of Borth Vietnam, and possibly to exert further pressures such aa the mining of Haiphong harbor. Hanoi apparently believes tliat none of these measures is likely to prevent Cconunlst forces from sustaining their offensive and expocts that before US counter-measures can be fully lopleneoted tbe political base la South Vietnam will have disintegrated beyond retrieval.

3- Poking. China has more oropenly warned that Hanoi must still be prepared to persistrolonged war, since the TO, facing ultismte defeat, will react viciously and intensify pressures in both South and Horth Vietnam. The Chinese have also displayed sexto nervousness that Hanoi will negotiate At the same time, tho Chinese have reiterated their pledges of assistance, though without Baking any specific ccanitaents.

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The USSR

h. Since tho endU Moscow has supported the Coircunist effort in South Vietnam. At tines there have been Indications' that Moscow preferred to see greater relianceolitical ratherilitary routo to victory, but there ia noevidence that the Soviets ever attempted to bring strong pressure to bear on Hanoi over this. They have felt that they would lose more froa failing to support Hanoi than from the deterioration in Soviet-US relations that such support involved. And they have argued, for. American oars, that It is US And not Soviet policy that has inhibited constructive developments In these relations.

5- What appears nore recently to be some hardening in Moscow's attitude on tbe Vietnam situation probably results from the war's intensification, but, more important,iew that Hanoi's success is becoming more certain. The Soviets would wish to manifest fullest identification with Hanoi in that case. It auty be also that for purposes of any role they may play in future negotiations with the US they would wish toough position. While they probably recognize that the likelihood of their involvement may rise as tbe strugglelimactic phase. It does not appear that they have ever rated this risk as

very high, primarily because US objectives have been so clearly limited to tho defense of South Vietnam. When and if US actions impinge more severely on North Vietnam, Soviet attitudes nay change. These circumstances are dealt with In Part II.

n. US COURSES OP ACTION Course A

The US vould make an early announcement of additional reinforcements for Vietnam on the order0 men, coupled with reserve calls and other measures to (l) make an0 men available later,ake anen available.

m either ease, bombing of North Vietnam would be stepped up as tha weather improved and would Include some new targets, but not the mining of Haiphong or major attacks in the urban areas of Hanoi or Haiphong.

Hanoi's Reaction

a. To US Reinforcement

6. North Vietnamese leaders expect to confront larger US forces and current Ccmrauniat strategy probably allows for it. A3 long ago as the summerhey predicted that US troop levels would eventuallyr. Thus, the North Vietnamese would regard on icmediate US reinforcement0

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men as little moreoken geature. By heavy infiltration, Hanoi haa already increased the number of Communist maneuver battalions in South Vietnam fromast fall tot present.* Borth Vietnam atlll haa the capability to meot the additionalombat battalions Included In any total reinforcement, and would probably deploy the additional forces necesaery to do so.

7. Hanoi would recognise, however,otalndepresented aand psychological commitment,since either wouldof sizable reservesartial mobilisation. have to consider that. If its Torrent efforts to gain a

decisive advantage failed, the war would probably continue for acne considerable period and at higher levels of ccohat and losses. The North Vietnamese might in euch circumstances give more serious thought to early negotiations, calculating that the political aituation In the US and uncertainties In Saigon in the wake of the Tet offensive provided favorable auspices for negotiations. They night think alsoeace rove at this

* This does not include all tha independent companies and platoons in South Vietnam.

juncture would be enough to collapee the CVN. On balance, however, we think it more likely that Hanoi would continue the war, providing what additional forces in tho South soenod nccaaaary to maintain or intensify its military effort.

8. The proposed US troop increases would be implemented between now and December, Withinays Hanoi could deploy two divisions to South Vietnam, thus adding lo Baneuver battalions. By Deceobcr at least ono nore infantry divisionattalions) could bo added. Such movements are within current capacities of the infiltration corridors and supply routes. S reinforcementen would addaneurer battalions to allied strength and bring the US totalsor the KVA/VC in South Vietnam.* Given its present estimate of AHVH's likely effectiveness, Hanoi would probably regard this ratio as sufficient to prevent tbe US from significantly improving on its present situation. It is unlikely that Hanoi would regard the die patchoro divisions to South Vietnam as involving unacceptable risks to hose defense.

UB Army battalions haveenVA battalions averago

To Increased Bombing

9- An increased weight of bombing attacks on Borth Vietnamese industrial and transportation targets would have no significant effect on North Vietnamese capabilities or determination, given the assumption that this coarse does not include najor urban attacks in Hanoi and Haiphong, or tho mining of the latter. We believe that Borth Vietnam would still be able to support the war in the Couth, even at the higher levole caused by the postulated US reinforcements.

China and tbe USSB. He do not see that these courses of action would have any major effect on Soviet or Chinese policy, neither vould regard the cecalf additional US troopeevelopment to which it had to respond directly. If requested, Peking would be willing to provide additional Ronpower for various tacks in Horth Vietnam. As for the USSR, it might provide some more sophisticated types of defensive equipment (coastal defense missiles, new type of fighters, SANs, and AAA).

Troop increases as indicated inould be accccponied by the mining of Haiphong and/or significantly intensified bombing of urban targets in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas,*

11. General. Mining of Haiphong and intensified boohing

would ultimately magnify the problems of maintaining tho flow

of military and economic goods to Worth Vietnam. An effective

mining program cauld put tho major burden on the road and rail

systems from China which would, in turn, become more lucrative

bombing targets. For ut least tho next several months, there

vould be little impact on the military situation in South Vietnam.

Butonsiderably higher level of combat in tha South, the

deployment of moro RVA units end the comnitaent of more US troops,

there might bo seme point at which Hanoi's ability to provide

essential military support In the South would decline, we

cannot foresee when this might occur, especially in view of

Hanoi'a demonstrated capability to improvise Its logistical support

and its ability to modify its own tactics to conserve or expend

There are about U6 targets not yet attacked in tha Hanoi

area, including railway yards, tbe Hand Machinery Plant and some other industrial facilities. There areorgots in the Haiphong area, including the rail yards, docks and warehouse areas near the port.

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resources. In any case, lojiatical Unltutlona arc cot likely to be such that Hanoi would be coapelled to change its general military strategy.

Intensified bombing alone would not be likely to loadajor change in Hanoi's strategy or the direct involvement of China and the USSR. Thereisk in those cireumetancos that tbe Borth Vietnamese Air Force night become sore dependent on the use of Chinaanctuary. In addition, of course, bombing in the Hanoi and Haiphong area would cause greater civilian casualties and therefore much more international criticism and opposition.

Hanoi. If in addition Haiphong were nined, the major Immediate impact on Hanoi would be psychological. Especially in combinationroop increase. It wouldB determination to persevere despite possible politicalat home and abroad. Hanoi would probably expect that the United States, having accepted the risks involved In chsUenglrg the USSR by mining Haiphong, vould sooner or later expand the vox to Laos and Cambodia and perhaps ultimatelyround attack on Horth Vietnam. It would seek core assistance

from Moscow and China, and vould maintain its pressures in Laos. But it vould probably still believe that the CTH/arvn could be virtually deaollshed before all the US actions could become totally effective. Accordingly it vould probably continue and if possible Intonsify its military effort.in the South in order to accomplish this end. As long as ithance of success, we believe Hanoi would not elect to begin serious negotiations.

1*. Slno-Sovlet Relations. Mining vouldreater burden on tho rail lines from China which already carry the bulk of military supplies and would thus test anew Sino-Boviet cooperation In maintaining the movement of supplies to North Vietnam. Apparently, the BKnranent of Soviet goods acroas CMne haa been proceeding fairly veil since last year's agreement, under which Hanoi has assured some responsibility foronce Soviet goods reached the Chinese frontier. The mining vould Increase Hanoi's dependence on China, but Peking would be unlikely to disrupt transit of Soviet military supplies.

15. China would probably also assist in developingmeans of delivery for North Vietnam. For example, the port of Chaagchiong (Fort Bayard) might be expanded to receive supplies

destined for overload Movement to Hanoi. And China would provide smaller vessels to use in coastal shipping to North Vietnam.

USSR. Tho most critical question is It would greatly lessen the risk-of trouble withif the mining were concentrated on blocking thewould only prevent entry to the docks. Inlightering would still be possible from ships anchored

In the roadstod, and Soviet seaborne supplies would not bo denied to Hanoi. The port would not be put out of commission, though its operation would be greatly complicated. Politically, however, the challenge would still appear much the same.

Soviets would probably provide aad ifminesweepers. This would be Intended as ato deter the US from continuing this course,as an attempt to assist Inlow of attraffic. Soviet merchant ships calling at Haiphongbe armed with AAA in these circumstances. Sovietwould not deliberately risk running the minefield. would probably also provide still more air defense

equipment for Haiphong (porhapa theystem) not only to protect against the intensified bombing but to make it an costly as possible to maintain the minefields. We do not believe, however, that there- would be any offensive action by Soviet military forces in the area, though in actual practice Soviet personnel night be panning defensive systems.

The mining of Haiphong vouldear challenge to tbe Soviet Onion. Moreover, in tbe course of this operation or the bombing of the Haiphong docks there would be considerable likelihood of danago or destructionoviet ship and killing Soviet personnel. Therefore, of all actions other than invasion of Worth Vietnam .mining vould be most likely to cause the Soviets to consider serious acts of retaliation against the US. Such acts would be nest likely to be effective in areas outsideAsia. If the mining proved effective the pressures on Moscow to take soae counteraction night grow.

Ve still estimate, however, that the Soviets are likely to stop short ofajor confrontation with the US. Their stake in the outcome in South Vietnam Is not so great that thoy would deliberately run extremely high

risks. There is no reafiyjaade situation, including Berlin, where they could have much assurance that their action vould force the United States to give way in Vietnam.

20. But this docs not mean that the Soviets would not react in other ways. Their stance vould bocorae tougher in general and on specific issues. They night retaliate by freezing certain issues or suspending certain negotiations In order to demonstrate against tbe United States. They vould certainly try to add to international criticism and exploit it against tho United States. In short,onsequence of the raining of Haiphong, US-Soviet relations would almost certainly bo characterized by an air of crisis.

FOR THE BOARD OF NATIONAL ESTIMATES:

ABBOT SMITH Ghoiman.

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