Til man -
SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO POSSIBLE US ACTIONS
CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL
NOTE: This is Ihe estimate. No lurther distribution will be mado.
Submitted by the DIRECTOR Of CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
Concurred In by the UNITED STATES INTEUIGENCE BOARD
As indicated overleaf5
Submitted by Ibe
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE The following intelligence organizations participated in Ihe preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, and NSA.
Concurred in by the
UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD on IIoncurring were the Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of Slate; the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; and the Director of lhe Nalional Security Agency. The Atomic Energy Commissionlo the USIB and the Assistant to the Director. Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.
CLASSIFICATION OF TITLE IS OFFICIAL USE ONLY WHEN USED SEPARATELY
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SUBJECT: : COmUNIST REACTIONS TO POSSIBLE
To estimateeactions, particularly Soviet reactions,S course of sustained air attacks on North Vietnam.
This US course is presumed to startublic declaration outlining tlie new policy and linking it to the entire range of VIot Cong guerrilla and terrorist activity in South Vietnam. This declaration, we further presume, makes lt clear that the US means to go beyond specific reprisals for individual major Viet Cong actions and to continue air attacks until the threat to South
Vietnam has been reduced to levels vhlch thc US regards as tolerable. We consider in this cationtc present Communist attitudes and Coranrunlot reactions, particularly Soviet reactions, ls tlieefore and during continuing air attacks, and during eoj period when these attacks are oucpended.
Thc Present Situation
1. Reversing Khrushchev's policy of minimum involvement ln Southeast Asia, the new Soviet leaders have over the past several months begun to reassert the USSR's interest, particularly in Vietnam. Kosygln's visit to Hanoi Is the latest step in this process. We believe that, in embarking on these tactics, the Soviet lendern hoped to work Hanoi bockiddle position in the Sino-Soviet dispute, to discourage tho US from broadening the war, and to participate in the CooisunUt victory which they expected. To these ends, the USSR probably planned to offer to strengthen Horth Vietnamese air defenses and to provide equlpraent for use ln Insurgency and subversion.
2. The recent VC ottoclui ond US/CVH reprisals probably cut across Soviet calculations. The US course of action under consideration here would further undemine these calculations and force the Soviets to reconsider; lndocd, thoy ore probably already doing no. In the meantime, however, they have already reconfirmed their comnitrcot to Worth Vietnam, albeit ln senerol terms,overraocnt statement promising "further measures to safeguard tho security and strengthen thc defensive capability" of the DRV.
3- Soviet public atateraenta niter the attacks of last weekendautionary flavor, end we believe that Kosygin'b private representatives to Hanoi wereimilar nature, nevertheless, Hanoi has evidently chosen toigh level of VC pressures in South Vietnam, including attacks against US facilities, perhaps in part to force the Sovietstronger commitment, China for its part io almost certainly seeking to sharpen the Soviet dilemmahoice between support for the DHV, whatever the dangers of confrontation with the US,ith-drauol which Peiping could portray as confirmation of Its case against Moscow.
h. At the outset, the Communists vould have to determine how to interpret the new policy declared by the US. He believe that thoy would understand that the US did in factourse of sustained pressure against Worth Vietnam. Even at the be (Tannine, however, they mold see some chance that their own threats and internntional pressures could succeed in averting air attacks or keeping them at u' low level. Unless attacks continued regularly and frequently thereafter and the US Governmentonsistent determination to persevere, the Communists would tend to doubt that the US would long sustain this course of action.
5. Another important initial uncertainty relates to timing. In the course of reasserting their interest in Vietnam, thc Soviets may have extended specific commitments, including offers of military aid, of which we are not yet aware. Or they may do so between now and the time when the new US policy is announced. In either case, the USSR's freedoa to disengaga In reaction to the new US program would bo reduced, although not entirely eliminated.
6. It is possible that, once the US had demonstrated thc seriousness of its intentions, tho Soviets would revertolicy
of minlFum involvement. But we think it unlikely that they would do bo; their commitment to date probably has already carried them post this point. Although the Soviets would perceive military risks in more direct involvement, they would expect to be cble to keep theseolerable level and fox removed frm the Soviet homeland. Tbcy would also expect difficulties in their relations with Washington, but the new leaders have thus far shown themselves at least aso win the support of other Communists and anti-Western radicals as to carryetente with the US.
7. Wo believe that the Soviet response to the US program of air attacks would consist bothigorous diplomatic and propaganda effort to bring tho US to the conference table and the provision of military support to Horth Vietnam. The extent and nature of tho latter are difficult to predict- It would almost certainly Include anti-aircraft artillery and radoro. in order toore effective defense cgoinst US air attacks, however, Horth Vietnam would almost certainly press for surface-to-air missiles or even advanced Jet fighters. These systems
would, otine, have to be installed and operated
by Soviet personnel.**
derliic thena advanced systems, thn USSR cello cites and fighter bases ln North Vietnam
would bo hlcVy vslsrxatusj to US attack. Ine Soviets would appreciate tint vccsHWftt) attacks on these targets would face themhoice cf accnptlng the dredge, substontlolly boosting thoir irvolvenent In the defense of tho DRV, or bocaning Tarty to even more provocative escalation. It may be that, rather than open up these dangers, thc USSR would refrain from providing SAMS and fighters. efusal to satisfy North Vietnamese requests for this kind of aid would be costly to tho Soviet position, the more so if such aid had previously been promised.
balance, we think that the chances arc aboutthe Soviets would provide comeefenses to Northa move would run counter to the perferred Soviet tactics of
8 in ihe case of theissile system, tho USSR would need two and more probably about three weeks toimited operational capability in North Vietnamecision to do so. Advanced Jet fighters could be provided more quickly.
have begun to recede. But the present degree of Soviet involvement, plus the political costs of failing to provide support ln the circumstances under consideration, might outweigh their caution in the present case.
the Soviets should provide SA-2s, we believewould do so in ways calculated to minimize the initialthem. One likely way of doing this would be to deploydefenses for the key Hanoi-Haiphong area, hoping thatof involvement would serve to restrain the US andengage Soviet personnel in actual fighting. his area, however, probably would be used if attacking
US aircraft came within their range. By providing Soviet personnel in the guise ofhe USSR would preserve the option of ignoring any Soviet casualties.
wouldairly limited Soviet involvement,
but it wouldreater commitment to North Vietnam than has obtained ln the past. In this situation of increased risks, we believe that the USSR would be seeking means to curb the conflict. This effort would consist both of threats against the US and of
attempts to BObill te internationalur eg on tbe IS to negotiate probably In tho Geneva forum.
12. If these efforts failed, however, the Soviets might in time advise Hanoi to damp down operations in South Vietnam or cvon toolitical settlement on torma not completely unacceptable to the US. This wouldelicate operation for tha USSR; tho DRV vould charge that what was needed was not loss Viet Cong aggressiveness but more effective Soviet assistance, and Polping would almost certainly take the sane line. We cannot at this time predict whether the USSR would try this approach nor. If it did, what the results would be.
13- Elsewhere in the world, general Soviet policy would harden against the US. nils would tend to preclude coveselaxation of tensions end to Increase the USSR's verbal ugliness on other East-West Issues. The new loaders, however, have In any event not been Inclined to date to move very far toward detente. Nonetheless, we think it highly unlikely that they would react to tho US course of action considered here by deliberatelyajor crisis in some other area of theerlin or Cuba.
ih. Initiation of tha new US policy almost certainly vould not lead Hanoi to restrain the Viet Cone. Hanoi vould probably elect to maintain the very intense levels of activity evident ln
the past few days. Frsssurcs night be stepped up ln Laos at the same time. Tho anger and emotion with which tho US program would bo received in Hanoi might affect its calculations. In any case, the DRV vould wish to avoid an impression of weakness at the outset. Moreover, it vould have some doubt about US staying power on its new course and would hope that Sino-Soviet competition would maximize the support provided by both allies. If the US persevered in tho face of throats and international pressures, and as tho degree of damage inflicted on North Vietnam increased, the chanceseduction in Viet Cong activity would rise (see paragraph ifl).
15. Tbe insurgency ln South Vietnam is heavily dependent on support, leadership, and direction from the DRV, but the VC nonetheless has substantial capabilities independent of Hanoi Thus Hanoi could probablyubstantial standown for tactical purpocco and couldore lasting reduction.
Nonetheless, the Insurgency ia South Vietnamomentum of
its own, and some hostile VC action would probably continue.
though at reduced levels.
16. China would be equally violent in castigating the new
US course. At the outset of the new US program, thereair chance that Peiping vould also introduce limited numbers of Chinese ground forces as "volunteers" into North Vietnam, in-
tending to raise the specter of further escalation, to underline its commitment to assist the North Vietnamese, and to challenge the Soviets to extend corresponding support. More extreme Chinese reactionssuch as Introduction of large-scale ground force combat units into North Vietnam or northern Laosvould be possible, though ve think this unlikely in the early stages. If the US program continued and Inflicted severe damage on North Vietnam, tbe chances ofovement vould rise. But we still think that China, conscious of the danger of provoking major US attacks against its own territory, probably vould not take this step.*
* The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department
of State,believes that the chance of introduction of Chinese ground forces into Horth Vietnam or northern Laos ishigher than is estimated in this paragraph.
Use of Conrcuniet Aircraft
17- pecial problem for the Communists lies lo the fact that only three Horth Vietnnmeoo airfields, all located in the northern part of the country, are fully capable of sustaining Jet fighter operations. Fighters would thus have difficulty inUS/GVN aircraft attacking targets in the southern port of Horth Vietnam. Furthermore, the Communists recognize that US retaliation against these airfields would be feasible and effective. These considerations apply to the use of Soviet or Chinese fighters ln Horth Vietoam as well as to the interceptors which thc DRV might be able to put Into the air with Soviet or Chinese assistance. Despite these limited capabilities, tbe Communists probably would employ the fighters based in Horth Vietnam against the US air attacks. If US olr attacks reached the northern port of the DRV,
China might react over North Vietnam with fighters from its own bases.
At Kien An in northern Horth Vietnam and at Vinh and Dong Hoi in southern North Vietnam, there are airfields on which Jet fighters (including) can land and take off, but nooe of these fields has ancillary facilities sufficient to support sustained operations. Thus, while Horth Vietnam has six fields with runways adequate for Jet fighters, only three (Phuc Ten, Hanoi/ Gia Lam, Haiphong/Cat Bl) can support sustained Jet fighter operations.
2/ The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of of State, bellcvoo that "might" in this sentence should be changes to "would probably."
18. The Communists could react by launching air attacka against South Vietnam from Horth Vietnamese or Chinese bones. We think this unlikely because of the vulnerability of north Vietnamese bases and China's reluctance to risk retaliation against its own territory*
A Possible Communist Tactic
19. If at some point the Communists had become persuaded of the durability of the new US policy, they might adopt tactics designed toespite. This might come about if US attacks were inflicting severe damage and if, at the same time, the US had made clear an intention to reduce or cease its attacks In returnharp reduction of Viet Cong activity in South Vietnam. In these circumstances, the DRV might order such a eduction and use an ensuing period of calm to pressegotiated cease-fire and an international conference. At the same time, it might use the respiteajor buildup, assisted by Its allies.uildup might Include extensiveeployments, additions to Jet fighter strength in Horth Vietnam and southern China, and
large-scale deployments of DRV and Chinese ground forces suitable
for rapid invasions. The Communists might expect that they could complete these preparations without US interference, and that thereafter thc US would be deterred from resuming Its program of air attacks when Viet Cong activity was again stepped up.
The Coordination of Communist Policy
20. It io obviously to Communist advantage to appear unified and they will make great efforts to convey this impression. Heightened military conflict would itself exert strong pressures for effective unity. Nevertheless, wo have at several points indicated our belief that the USSR and China act as competitors in North Vietnamese affairs and that they would continue to do soeriod of sustained US air attacks on Horth Vietnam. He have also pointed to complex and conflicting interests which make for delicate relationsand difficult communicationsbetween Hanoi and both its allies. He think it likely that policy coordination among the three Cocamunist countries Involved will be chronically imperfect and occasionally quite erratic. Hence, Communist policies and reactions will at times be faltering and uncertain and at others bold to the point of rashness. In any case, since Communist policies will be constantly fashioned and refashioned toonstantly changing situation, they will be difficult to foresee very far ahead.Original document.