SNIE 11-11-67 SOVIET ATTITUDES AND INTENTIONS TOWARD THE VIETNAM WAR

Created: 5/4/1967

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

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Spvi^fJs^jtitucles and Intentions Toward the Vietnam War

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OVIET ATTITUDES AND INTENTIONS TOWARD THE VIETNAM WAR

EXPLANATORY NOTE

Mm SNIE was prepared at Ilic mjursl of the Department of Slate.nlmdcdeneral examination of Soviet altitudes and polices, especially In IIn- |uvscnt jdvasc of the war in Vietnam. Where particular US actions are discussed, these are intended to he illustrative rather lhan to reflect actual policy dteWpam Neserthekss, recipient* will i. ionize that since US policy in Vict, iiamunder continuous review, any paper taking note of any possible US action* sltonkl hr handled as an extremely sensitive document.

I

The following intelligence organizations participated inreparation of this ostimatei

The Onlrol Intelligence Agency ond tha intelligence organfcallon. of thaof Stole ond Defense, and tho NSA.

Concurring i

Dr. R. J. Smith, for the Deputy Director, Central IntalKgence

Mr.he Director of Inrelligenee ond Research, Department

f *

Vice Adm.owrance, for thoefense Intelligence) Agency Me. Oliver R. Kirov, for the Director, National Security Agency

Abstaining!

Dr.. Rekhardi, for the Aniitonl General Manager, Atomic Energy Com-miwlon ond Mr. William O: Oegar. for. the Auhtantederal Bureaui-eiligation, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.

WAKNfNG

SOVIET ATTITUDES AND INTENTIONS TOWARD THE VIETNAM WAR

THE PROBLEM

lo examine (lie USSR's policies toward the Vietnam war and its views of relevant US policies, and to estimate Soviet intentions into that conflict.

CONCLUSIONS

A. While the Soviet leaders see the war as advantageous to lliem in many ways, they also see disadvantages which make their options unpromising and hazardous. They probably believe that there is no prospect of movementolitical solution for several months at best and appear to have concluded that for the time being they have no alternative but to help Hanoi to carry on the war, hoping that changes of attitude in either Hanoi or Washington, or both, willolitical solution possible later.

Ii. The Soviet leaders fear that the US. in its impatience to get the war over, will escalate the conflictay which will increase the risks and costs for the USSR; in an effort to forestall this they are currently stressing their intention to move to more vigorous support of North Vietnam. We believe that during the coming mouths they will continue to supply equipment designed to strengthen air and coastal defenses in North Vietnam and to increase the firepower of both the regular North Vietnamese forces and the Communist forces fighting in the South.

C. Whether or not there are formal arrangements covering the transit of Soviet supplies across China, we believe that Peking will not pose serious obstacles lo such transit. But the relations between

Moscow ami Peking are still fundamentally hostile, and their attitudes toward major issues of war and peace in Vietnam will continue to differ profoundly.

North Vietnamese al some point will prol>al>ly pressfor more sophisticated equipment than those types nowon the scene or in the pipeline. These might include cruisetactical rockets which could bo used to support Northiu the DM7 area and against US warships, Thebelieve it had to respond to such pressure, although it wouldthat the use of such weapons wouldtillUS response.

the intensity of the wmrlict were to be increased by thebelieve that at some point the USSK would create an atmospheretension with the US. The Soviets might lake certaindesigned lo bolster North Vietnam and to warn (he US.the provision of limited numl>ers of volunteers or crews foror possibly aircraft. They might also break offthe US on various subjects and suspend certain agreementseffect. The mining or tbe blockade of the North Vietnamesemost likely to provoke these responses, since this woulda direct challenge to the Soviets, and thereittledo on the scene. We do not think the Soviets are preparedto strong and direct threats of general wareans toVietnam or to preserve Soviet face.

K Il.iti would alsohance that at some jinutim- tin-Soviets would exert strong effortsolitical solution, but they would probably not make Hanoi's acceptance of talks an explicitof continued material support.

DISCUSSION

I. SOVIET POLICY

Hie USSIt's initial past-KhiiitlK hcv (ummitmriit to North Vietnam inIcertainly basrd on what proved loiscalculation: in all proliohiliiy. tin- Soviet leaders did not llien expect the US to step up its involvementk- conflict and theyelatively quick .milvictory in the Smith. They wantedssociated with lhal victoryconcerned than Khrushchev with the problems and issues of the CommunistcspeeLilly anxious to disprove Chinese charges that they were sod on imperialism. Initiation of tin* US air campaign in5 caught thein by siirprise (and Kosygiu innd llteir actions ever since haw rcflcctrtl their determination to inaintain tbeir commitment to Hanoi. Init at the same lime to control the risk* of doing so. especiallyis the US.

There is wiibin litis, broadide area of uncertainty in the USSR's iittitude toward the war. The Soviets surely see tbe war as advantageous

them in many ways. It diverts US political and strategic attention away from ureas of primary interest to llle USSIt. it imposes burdens on US resources, and itubstantial portion of US military forces-in-bciug. Moreover.

has deeply troubled many US allies and associates, especially in Europe, and itivisive factor within tlx* US itself. Finally, tbetheir im portanl role inthe Soviet" to scare further gains against tin- Chinese, both in Hanoi and in tbe Communist move-merithole.

On the other band, the conflict, as seen from Moscow, has its]is w.ilif bombing ol North Vietnamontinuingto the Soviet Union. Unable as ii is tomall ally. The war is taking place far from the USSR and is being wagedtate which is unwilling to accept Soviet polilical guidance on the conduct of the war and is suspicinin even of Soviet counsel. Ihc buildup of US forces, and their eiigagenn-nt in combat, increases pressures On the Soviet leaders to expand their own forces, and ihb. in turn, may imjxm- some additional strains on the economy and further complicate long-range economic pkuining Pcriiaps mostthe US may undertake new courses of action which would force the Soviets to choose between confronting llie US or backing down. Moscow is also almost certainly concernedorean-type war could develop, leading to Chinese involvement and all the complications and dangers which the USSR desires to avoid.

The pro's and eon's of this situation tend lo make alternative- Soviet options unpromising or lia/ardouv If tlieyo force Hanoihreatening to stopmight fail, for Hanoi, even without Soviet aid, could fight on if it vvLshed, thoughature and tbe level of the conlhcl would necessarily change. ailure would cllcctlvely end Soviet

influence in Hanoi, throw North Vietnam entirely back on China, and diminish Soviei prestige in the Communist world as well as in many "uncommitted" comilrios. 'Ilic same calamities would follow if Moscow simply withdrew its sup]KHi of Hanoi in order lo escape the risks of deeper involvement. On the other hand, Moscow cannot feasibly undertake any serious militaryin the war. with its own combat forces, far from Ilic sources of Soviet power, and at the end of lines of communication passing through the dubiously friendly territory of China or risking US counteraction at sea. Finally, if Moscow tried to influence the US by heavy pressures elsewhere in the world, it would riskartial US mobilizationajor international crisis.

s for tlie war itself, tbe Soviet leaders have probably concludedilitary victory by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese is not possible. They probably also believelear-cut military victory by theforces is also impossible, unless the US steps up its war against North Vietnamery sultstantial degree or is prepared to engageong and cosily struggle. In addition, the Soviet leaders have probably concluded,nnsoipience of Ihe events of the past two to three months, that there is no prospect of movementolitical solution, at least by negotiation, for several months at best. Kspecially since Kosygin's visit to London in February, it must appear to the Soviets that both sides are determined notccept the other's terms for the opening of negotiations. The Soviet leaders thus appear to have concluded Ihatime they have no alternative but to help Hanoi to cany on the war, hoping that changes of attitude in either Hanoi or Washington, or both, willolitical solution possible later.

he Soviei leaders probably recognizeubstantial majority in the US supports the President in his wish to terminate ibe warolitical settlement and Ihat US witlKlraw.il without meaningful concessions from the Communists in Vietnam is an unrealistic hope. But they fear that, in its anxiety to get the war over and finished, the US will escalate the conflictay which would pOSC those serious dangers wc have noted above.

n its oflorts to prevent the US from escalating Ihe conflict and to accept terms also acceptable to Hanoi for movingolitical settlement, the Soviet leaders have engagcrdariety of stratagems.eriod they sought to warn the US of the harmful effect upon US-Soviet relations of the continued rise in the US commitment. Although lliey have continued to pursue this theme, they have since last summer also used another route; theysome tangible progress in US-Soviet relations, partly in order to persuade the US that such progress should not be jeopardized by new US actions in Vietnam. Finally, they took steps, which culminated in Ihe Wilson-Kosygin talks, designed to convince the US leaders that thineeal prospect for political settlement. At the moment, because of their fear of imminentthey are trying to convince the US of the hazards of escalation, this time by stressing that they intend to meet US moves wilh even more vigorous suppoil of North Vietnam.

II. SOVIET REACTIONS TO ESCALATION

We believe thai both Hanoi and Moscow haveigher level of US military operations against North Vietnam, and it seems likely that the Soviets will respond to the current expanded bombing program by providing additional quantities and jtcrhap* new types of weapons and equipment. Indeed, tliey may already have decided to do sn.

We believe that live altitude of China will not pose serious obstacles to the continued transit of Soviet military supplies. We have no evidence that shipments have been significantly disrupted in the past, despite Soviet charges to tbe contrary and despite some degree of Chinese harassment. Early this year, at the height of tbe anti-Soviel demonstrations in Peking, the Soviets and Ihe North Vietnamese apparently made some new arrangements under which the North Vietnamese would accept Soviet cargo at the Sino-Soviet border and assume responsibility for ils onwarduch an arrangement would lesson still fuiiher ihe chances of Chinese meddling with Soviet supplies, but it would seem lo liave little bearing on Sioo-Soviet relations. These relations remain fundamentally hostile, and Chinese and Soviet atliludes toward major issues of war and peace in Vietnam will continue to differ profoundly.

i..iln Chinese inMn.il oil airs, should il wine. uiuM uf iimwn!lyabog tr.im.it iiiraiigeint'iits. 'Six AN'NKX fin- oViiis ofeflpon* ami ivcjpons system*.

In general, we believe that the types of weaponry the Soviets are likely to supply during the eoming months willintended to strengthen the air and coastal defenses of North Vietnam and to increase the firepower of both the regular North Vietnamese forces and the Communist forces fighting in theo bolster air defense, the Soviets will probably supply more jet fighters with air-to-air missiles, more surface-to-air missiles, and improved anh'aircraft artilleryhee think it somewhat less likely that they would introduce an improved surface-to-air missile systemomewhat belter capability against low altitude attacks than the SA-2's now in North Vietnam. To meet US naval attacks on coastal shipping, thereood chance that the Soviets will provide coastal defense missiles with conventional warheads (the Samlel and perhaps even the coastal defense version of tbehey will aLso probably supply more patrol boats, perhaps even the Komar or OSA guided missile patrol boats. For the ground forces, the Soviets will probably provide additional multiple rocket launchers, heavier artillery and mortars, better antiaircraft and antitank weapons,ariety of antipersonnel devices. Some of the lighter, more mobile equipment would bo sent forward by Hanoi to South Vietnam for use against US personnel and bases. Indeed, some has already appeared there.

The North Vietnamese would probably at some point press the Soviets lor more sophisticated equipment, and this woulderious problem for the Soviets. They might believe they had to respond to such pressure,

especially if liard pressed by North Vietnam and if no break appealed on the political horizon. They might provide iioimuclcar weapons with additional range and firepower, hoping that the new military situation thus created would bringhange iu the US position. But the Soviets would also he ton-terncd that the introduction of new types of weapons and especially their use in South Vietnam would provoke further US retaliation, which they would like to avoid, or evenituation which wouldS invasion of North Vietnam. We believe nevertheless that thereood chance that they would provide sonic of these weapons systems.

If live Soviets did decide to embark on this course, some uf the weapons involved might be the Salish short-range ground-support cruise missile orog tactical rocket. Both are road mobile, require little in the way ofsupport facilities, and would noteady target for US bombing. Vietnamese could be trained to man themew months. They could be used from sites in North Vietnam against US forces in therea, but probably would not be transported South.. Scud and. Shaddock would also meet these general criteria for mobility and Vietnamese manning. The latter however,elatively new and complex system never deployed outside the USSIt. and, in any case, both the Scud and Shaddock are too cumbersome and complicated for use in the South. If the Soviets weretoeapon for attacks upon the South Vietnamese population or US Ikiscs, they might consider MltBMs with conventional warheads. Such weapons would create logistical problems and have marginal military value; if provided, their use would he primarily for political and psychological reasons. In any event, the Soviets would probably believe that the emplacement of such weapons would provoke an unacceptable level of US retaliation, and we consider their provision unlikely.

Beyond supplying equipment, the Soviets could take certain other actions to holster the North Vietnamese and warn the US. They might believe, for example, that tbe provision of limited numbers of volunteers, or of crews for defense equipment or possibly aircraft, would servearningerious confrontation.

In anyteady increase in tho level of combat and especially in the level of US air attacks would make the Soviet leaders increasingly nervous, and each new step would bring them closer to responses which would seriously impair US-Soviet relations. They might, for example, break off variousand contacts with the US, and perhaps suspend certain agreements of recent months. We cannot say precisely what would be the Soviet response to particular actions. Much would depend upon what had gone befoie and how dangerous the situation of North Vietnam bad become. But we are persuaded that at some point the USSK would create an atmospbero of heightened tension with the US.

Io. The mining or the blockade of the North Vietnamese coast would be most likely to produce this result, since such action wouldirecttn the Soviets. inimum they would try to mobilize world Opinion

against tin* IS on this issue, and. di pi 'tiding on the attitude of North Vietnam, would eonsidcr taking tin; matter to tlio UN.

here i> little- that the Soviets could do on the scene rf confrontedkind ol mutation. They do not bm the strength in llie area to. ix lo confront the USiiijor military challange. and wc dotiny would wish to nm large risks simply hi order to humus USgain temporary respite. In the case of mining, for example, the Sovietsto reopen shipping routes by bringing in minesweepers, oilier naval shipsand air eover from North Vietnam. But this would be asince the US could continue to sow mines hv air and tlut Sovietspresent it unless they were prepared toajor naval ami airbehVve they would not risk Iheir shipping in mined waters andthe oeirssary supply by other means,hrough China or byMost important, we do not think that the Soviets are prepared tostrong ,nid direct tlireats of general wareans to protect Northto preserve Soviet face.

of the precise action taken by the US, the Soviets mightpoint exert pressures On the US outside of Southeast Asia.in Korea, new troubles in the Middle East are possibilities. Bulthe mml plausible pressure point; US interests there are directlyvulnerable, and the USSR <ould be surer of controlling the action.t> insider 'bat only minor pressureess routes would be enoughthe impression nf an impending crisis. But we think it unlikely thatwould want lo lake the risk of provoking by suchajorcrisis whicht only undercut their policies inbut could also leadS-Sovlct confrontation,

IS. There wouldood chance thai the Soviets svonld at some juncture exert strong effortsoIitie.il solution of the Vietnam problem. They would have to weigh the risks of some level of confrontation with the US against their reluctance to put real pressure on Hanoi forolution. They wouldcertaiidy urge the course of negotiation more vigorously than they have heretofore. Hut tliey would probably not be willing lit make Hanoi's acceptance of talks an explicit condition of continued material support. If negotiation* did get underway, liny would, of course, still Itend every effort to obtain terms which gave Hanoi liopc of eventually achieving lis aims.

ANNEX

CHARACTERISTICS OF CERTAIN SOVIET WEAPONS MENTIONED IN THE TEXT

GROUND FORCES

SS-lb or c)

Type: single-stage, tactical ballistic with storablc

liquid piopellant.0bs. HE or CW (intended

primarily lor nuclear option). CEP llcfire lime:o 1xk hours

Remarks: the Scud launcher is mountedodified tank chassis; it has been deployed in the USSR and some East European countries

Salisb (SSC-2a)

Type: surface-to-surface version of the Kennel air-lo-surface, turbo-jet cruise missile Range:.1 lbs. HE (nuclear possible)eet CEP Retire time: unknown

Remarks: the Salish is transportedheeled launcher; it Is deployed in the USSR. Cuba and with Soviet forces in East Germany

Shaddock (SSC-la)

Type: tactical ground forces version of the

naval cruise missile.HE (nuclear option)m. CEP. range Rcfirc time: unknown

Remarks: the Shaddock is transportedaunch tulieheeled vehicle; it has not been made available to non-Soviet forces

Frog

Type: solid propellant, surface-to-surfaiv. un-guidcd rocket available iu wver.il versions Range:on.mv> ntimval warheadbs. HE (nuclear option)OO meter CEPuinuun rangeoninutes

Remarks: tbe Frog is mountedight lank chassis and can support ground forces in aof climatic and terrain conditions: variants have been deployed in tbe USSR. East Europe and Cuba

COASTAL DEFENSE

Samlet (SSC-2b)

Warhead Overall system reliability Retire time Remarks

Type: coastal defense version of the Kennel air-to-suiturbo-jrt cruise missileam.

bs. HE orercenttnutes

two, wlwcled Samlet launchers areper launch site; the system has been deployed in Uh> USSR, Cuba,China, North Korea, and East Europe

Shaddock (SSC-lb)

Type: coastal defense version of the SSC-la

ground force* cruise missile.bs. HE or CW (nuclear option)

Overall system reliability;ercent Retire time: no rcfirc

Remarks: the Shaddock has not been made available to non-Soviet forces.

5tyx)

Type: liquid-fuel, antisbip cruise missile launched from Osa and Komar-class guided missile patrol boats Range:un.bs. HE Overall system reliability:oercent depending on homing mode Retire time: no rcfirc

Remarks; carried by Komaraunchers} and Osa-classaunchers) guided missile palrol boats; deployed in the USSR. Cuba, China, North Korea, Egypt, Indonesia. Algeria, and East Europe

ANTIAIRCRAFT

ZU-23

Type;m twin antiaircraft gun mountedowed, two-wheel chassisards0 feeteet effective antiaircraft range Hate of fire;ounds per minute per gun Muzzle

bs- overall Remarks: tbcual-purpose weaponfor AA use as well as duect-fire ground use against personnel and light armor; it is standard issue in the USSR and has been delivered to several other countries

MEDIUM RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILES

Shyster (SS-3)

Range Warhead Accuracy Retire time

Type: single stage MRIJM employingguidance and nonstorable liquid.

bs. nuclear (conventional,ours

thes now obsolete; il has never been deployed outside the USSR

(SS-4!

single stage MKRM employing inertial guidance and stumble liquid propellantan,bt. nuclear (conventional

. CEP Refircoours

Remarks: thes deployed in both soft and hard sites, primarily in the Europeanueli larger conventional warhead could be delivered io shorter rangesbs. to; this system was deployed to Cuba2

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