SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN US ACTIONS
CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL
NOTE-he linal version ol the estimate and additional text will not be circulated.
Submitted byDIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELUGENCE
Concurred tn by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
At Indicated over!5
Submitted by the DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE The following intelligence organizations participated in the 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 on5 Concurring were the Director of Intelligence and Research. Department of State; the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; and the Director ofthe National Security Agency. The Atomic Energy Commissionto the USIB and the Assistant to the Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SUBJECT: : COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN US ACTIONS
To estimate likely Communist, particularly Soviet arc Chinese, reactions to non-nuclear air strikes by tbe US against China.
For the purpose of this estimate, we haveumber of assumptions about US air strikes and Communist reactions ln order to consider several different situations. In Part I, wease ia which the initial US-strike was in response to direct and overt attacks by Chinese fighter from Chinese bases, against US forces bombing in the DRV. In addition, we assume that the first US strike would be against the fighter base or bases from which the Chinese attacks were launched and that tbe US objective
Note: The Judgments ln this estimate are based oa current evidence aad the situation as ofpril and could be modified by changlnE circumstances.
stimates Communist reactions to this initial exchange, and to similar lv limited US responses to further Chinese air attacks.
In Part II, we assume that the Chinese attacks continue,hat US strikes are expanded to include other targets of militar" significance ln
South China; the slated US objective remaining the some.
In Part III. we considerunlst reaction to US air strikes expanded to include hundreds of targets oi" major military siRnificar.eebout China. Weat USat this point would have expanded 'jeyond theirnl scipe.
1. The policies and'v Compunist powers
Vietnameseve settledairly definite pattern. It appears that the DRV; with strong Chinese encouragement, is determined for the present to ride out the US bombardment. Both the DRV and Ccraimnist China have hardenad their attitudes toward negotiations, without categorically excluding the possibility under all conditions. They apparently believe
DU TED MS'mi BUTIOW
that the US attacks are Intended toettlement on US terms. They apparently calculate that the DRV can afford further punishment and that. In the meantime, US determination to persist will weakeo because ofDRV air defense capabilities, the threatroader conflict, and the pressure of international and US domestic opinion. Moreover, they consider that the tide is running ln their favor io the South. Hence, as thenow stands, the Chinese probably see no need for action which would involve substantial risk of precipitating US military attacks upon their territory.
2. By contrast, the Soviets probably have had substantial doubts that the situation can be controlled, and have indicated their preference for negotiations. Hanoi has thus far rejected this option. esult the Soviets areuandary. They are committed to material andsupport for the DRV but have not yet demonstrated an ability tc Influence overall strategy. ommon interest in supporting the DKV, relations between the USSR and China have again worsened. Thc Chinese are working to prevent the growth of Soviet influence over the conduct of the Vietnamese conflict. Yet they are at the same time challenging the Soviets with increasing stridency to prove their revolutionary credentials by committing the USSR to an implacable struggle against the US ln Asia.
INITIAL US AIR STRIKES Chinese Reactions
3- The Chinese air attackS bombing mission ln the DRV might be the start of aa all-out Communist offensive to drive the US out of Indochina. If so, its nature would soon become apparent, and limited US retaliation would not alter the Chinese course.
U. On the other hand, thc Chinese attack might beingle episode, intended to test whether the US regarded Chinaanctuary, or to servearning of tho risk of further US bombings in the DRV. In either of these cases, Peiping might pause after the initial US response, to weigh US policy and to generate various pressures on thc US, trying to exploit the dangerous implications of the incident.
5. However, we do not believe that the Chinese would take so clearlytep a6 an overt attack on US bombing missions, only to stopingle US retaliation. They would probably haveigh risk of retaliation and would have decidedeneral strategy to cope with US strikes against China and to prosecute the war in South Vietnam in these new circumstances. Indeed, their decision to Intervene with an air attack probably would have been intended to shore up the DRV and intimidate the US. If the limited and retaliatory nature of the
initial US strike waa made fully clear to the Chinese, they would underctand that by ceasing any further efforts to Interfere In US air strikes against Worth Vietnam they could avoid further attacks upon Chinese territory. they would certainly also realize that, having once engaged U8 planes
over North Vietnam, it would be difficult for them to dealst because Chinese
territory had been hit, since this would cast doubt on their whole position of willingness to come to Hanoi's defense. We think that the initial US retaliatory attack would not cause the Chinese to discontinue their air attacks against the type of US bombings of North Vietnamese targets that had given rise to the initial encounter.
6. Assuming that the Chinese attacks did continue and that thc US continued to retaliate with strikes limited to Chinese fighter bases, the Chinese would try to defend themselves against these strikes and would put the US under various new pressures to halt all bombings. They might put out feelers for negotiations, but without meeting US terms. At the same time, they would try by new threats and further military deployments to Impress the US with their readinessarge-scale war. Because we think they would still be seeking to avoid further escalation during this Initial phase, we think the chances are less than even that they would attack US carriers or operational bases.
7- An Important reaaon for estimating this kind of response, rather than an Immediate expansion of the direct US-Chinese conflict. Is the Chinese leaders' apparent conviction that the US can be confronted and defeated in Southeast Asia by proper revolutionary tactics without bringingeneral war. The main Communist reaction vouldharp Intensification of the struggle in South Vietnam. Indeed, under certain circumstances, the initial Cninese air attacks might have been part of oa agreement with Hanoi to that end. As part of thisommunist infiltration into South Vietnam would be increased, and it vould probably include more DRV regular troops and, if required, some Chinese personnel. The objective vould be to gain effective control over South Vietnam and to destroy the political basis of the US position there.
8. Nevertheless, on air var vith the USost disadvantageous combat for the Chinese. Wc think it unlikely that they would continue lt for very long before deciding to take whatever political steps they con-'" sidered necessary to holt the conflict, or to shift to their most effectiveround offensive. Thus in the successive phases of US air strikes which we are considering here, the Chinese would be examining these We cannot be sure how long they would accept US bombings before choosing one of these alternatives. It would depend greatly on how the Chinese and the DRV weighed the current prospects for victory in the South against the effectiveness of US strikes lo both China and North Vietnam.
9- In considering further ndlltory moves, the Chinese might fear that
the US attacks had involved Chinese prestige and security to the point where failure toere decisive response would appearumiliating retreat. Thoy might also calculate that the US, if facedround
would not carry throughrogram of extended bombing. Or they might believe that even large-scale US air attacks would not irreparably damage their nation. Hence they might conclude that the gains available la Southeast Asia Justified the risks involved.
10. On the other hand, they might calculate these same factors and reach the opposite conclusion. They might rate US determination as high, particularly since they probably would not regard the US as acutelyof major military reactions from the USSR. Now tbat China has acquired facilities for the production of advanced weapons systems, it may be much more concerned than before about their vulnerability to air attack. And the Chinese might believe that, if confrontedassive ground invasion of Indochina, the US might quickly move to the use of nuclearagainst China itself. Furthermore, they might Judge that US bombings hod already reduced or would soon significantly reduce Chinese capabilities for an invasion southward. Finally, they might believe that US bombings of China and the DRV could be halted, at least temporarily, by various political steps which would slow the pace of the Viet Cong insurgency, but notits ultimate success.
11. As indicated above, we think that, if the Initial Chinese air action was not part of an all-out offensive, thc first US retaliation probably would not produce an immediate Chinese choice between these alternatives. Ac US strikes against fighter bases in South China continued, however, the pressures on the Chinese tc makehoice would rise. Although it is impossible to estimate the exact scale of retaliation which wouldhinese decision, ve think it likely that Peiping would make its choice some time before its capabilities In South China for supporting air action had been completely destroyed.
IS. There is on almost even chance that the Chinese choice would be to break off the air battle and make political moves designed to dissuade tbe US from continuing its bombings of the DRV. On balance, however, we think it somewhat more likely that they wouldajor military response to the continuation or expansion of US strikes agaiasthe exact combination and timing of military moves could vary greatly. If they had not already done so, Chinese Communist forces would probably move into Horth Vietnam. Chinese or additional DRV forces vould probably move into Northern Laos. The DRV armed forces, with Chinese support, would probably
he Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believes that the Chinese are much more likely toilitary response to the US bombings, as described ln the latter part of this paragraph, than to seek to dissuade the US solely through political moves. Moreover, be believes thatesponse will come, if not Immediately after the initial US retaliatory strike, very soon after any continuation of such retaliatory strikes.
open an offensive against South Vietnam. Thailand vould be threatened, especially if its bases vere used in air attacks against China. Such military moves as these might be accompanied by some probing for Indeed, Peiping might think that, faced vith this nev stage in the war, the US voulday to bring hostilitieslose.
13. Chinese calculations in the Initial stage of US bombings vould not be greatly affected by the Soviet position, since the Chinese probably vould not be counting on Soviet support in Southeast Asia. They would almost certainly demand that the Soviets confront the US with the threat of military intervention. Peiping would probably call on the Soviets for advanced equipment. The Chinese vould hope either to gain some measure of Soviet support and seriously damage US-USSR relations or, if the Soviotfi hesitated to provide support, to destroy Moscow's standing among other Communists and thc Afro-Asians.
lA. US strikes against Chinese territory would greatly alarm large segments of world opinion, and the various Cccuaunlst countries involved ln the crisis would of course strenuously exploit these feelings. The moro chance thoy saw of inhibiting the US in this fashion, the less they would be prepared to change their course.
15- For their part, the Soviet leaders would be greatly apprehensivear between China and the US night expand to Involve then. Theirn would be to halt the escalation, and they would probably hope to have more influence on the US than on China, tfe would expect Soviet threats and warnings, along with overturesease-fire or negotiations. On the one hand, they would try to Impress the US that thc USSR would liave no choice but to support its Communist ally. On the other hand, Moscow would endeavor to restrain the Chinese by privately indicating to than that they could not count on the USSR to use Its own forces or nuclear power to support China's war ln Southeast Asia.
16. These US attacks would point up the fundamental arguments between the USSR and China about strategy and tactics in confronting the US and would sharpen the Soviet dilemma. Nevertheless, It Is likely that the Soviets would agree to supply China with military equipmenttrategically defensive character, including air defense missiles and advanced fighters. Though they could not afford the political coot ofhinese request, they would probably bargain on types ond quantities of aid and on terms, and would place some politicaloa their assistance,reater voice in the conduct of Communist policy in Southeast Asia. The Soviets would probably offer
personnel for technical assistance end lo nan the advanced equipment, perliaps in the guise of "volunteers" or without any formal acknowledgement of their participation.
17- It is possible that the Soviets would calculate that, by* important US or Western interest in Jeopardy elsewhere in the world, they could force the US to pauBe or reverse its course ln Vietnam and China. In general, the Soviets have avoided such tactics in past crises, evidently fearing that this sort of multiplication of tensions might engender in theenseeneral showdown. We think that this attitude will continue to govern Soviet policy, although we are somewhat loss certain that the now Soviet leaders will adhere to this pattern. In any case, it is very unlikely that the USSR would take military action outside Southeast Asia.
18. Assuming that US attacks agnlnst thc DRV were growing, Hanoi might believe that its fate was becoming subordinate to thc Larger struggle, and this mightource of difference between the DRV and China. On the other hand, the DRV would be encouraged by tbe increased Chinese commitment. In any cone, we do not believe that the differences between Pclplng and Hanoi would be such as to Impair the present degree ofin the war effort.
II. EXPANDED US AIR STRIKES AGAINST OTHER SOUTH CHINA MILITARY TARGETS Chinese Reactions
19- Assuming that the US expanded its air strikes to include other military targets in South China, this action would almost certainlyew decision hy Peiping. As indicated above, we think it likely that the Chinese and the DRV would already have elected to escalate the war by various military moves,RV offensive against the South. If this had not yet occurred, then the first few US strikes at other military targets in South China would probably bring on such an attack.
Further, the expansion of US bombings vould probably convince the Chinese that attacks on northern China vould soon follow. If they had not yet attacked US carriers or operational bases, they woulddo so. If Chinese troops had not yet moved into North Vietnam or Laos, they would probably do so. It is possible also that regular Chinese forces would move into South Vietnam, and Chinese or DRV forces might push beyond the northern provinces of Laos.
We do not believe that the Chinese would try to counter expanded US bombing actions by initiating large-scale fighting outside Southeast Asia. Tension would probably rise in the Taiwan Strait, but the Chinese vould probably not at this point initiate action against Taiwan unless
faced with an invasion attempt by Chinese Nationalist forces or attacks on China from Taiwan bases. Koreapecial case. ecent Interview, Mao stated that if on East Asian war Involved North Korea, the Soviets would almost certainly have to get involved. If Indeed Mao believes this, it ls possible that, under continued and damaging US attacks, Peiping would try to ronew the war in Koreaeans of bringingR into the conflict. But even If the Chinese wished to reopen hostilities in Korea, under thc circumstances considered here Horth Korea would probably seek to dissuade then. If hostilities nevertheless began, we believe that the USSR could not long remnin aloof. Moscow would probably limit its active participation, however, to the provision of materiel and of special units employing advanced conventional equipment such as SAMs.
22. The expansion of US air attacks to other military targets in South China would provoke an atmosphere of general world crisis and put the USSR under increasing pressure. However, we do not believe that these attacks would unite Moscow and Peipingolid alliance. In fact, ue believe that the Soviet leaders might derive some satisfaction from the feeling that the error of tbe Chinese line was being demonstrated to tho world at large. They would nevertheless alsotrong desire to doter the US and on urgent necessity to display solidarityocialist
ally under attack. Accordingly, the Soviets vould respond to thiswith thc most Intense kind of propaganda, and possibly some demonstrative incidents designed to convince the US that its actions vere jeopardizing the ground rules which had governed the use of military force ln previous crises. But Soviet actions would probably still be measured. If they had not already done so, the Soviets vould probably provide supplies and equipment,air defense equipment, including SAMs and fighter aircraft, and the necessary associated personnel.
23- The Soviets would have to consider again thc advisability of generating crises elsewhere Intended to press the US to desist. We believe that, as the US-Chinese conflict expanded, the inhibitions on this tactic would rise rapidly. In particular, we think it unlikely that the USSR would openly undertake direct engagement with US forces, so long as it saw no direct threat to Soviet territory or to thc existenceommunist regime in China.
III. EXTENSIVE US BOMBING THROUGHOUT CHINA Chinese Reactions
2U. We have estimated that the continuation and especially the expansion of US bombing of South China wouldritical decision on the Chinese. But if they bad refrained fromecision, we believe
- IU -
lbc ted ry^miBunoN
that the first few US attacks against other regions would precipitate the Chinese decision. And long before thc US air campaign had reached the level of attacks on hundreds of targets of major military significance throughout China, the Chinese would. In our view, have felt compelled either to engage the US In large-scale hostilities or to move openly toward at least temporary conciliation.
US willingness to take the critical step of bombing throughout China would almost certainly cause Peiping to conclude that the US was determined toull-scale war, perhaps including the eventual use of nuclear weapons. Thus therehance that thc Chinese, If they hadhoice to this point, would now decide that it was necessary to halt the conflict and shiftime to political tactics.
We believe, however, that they vould probably respondombination of major military moves ln Southeast Asia, as outlined In paragraphs Further, since thc US would have alreadyeadiness to bomb North China, Peiping would probably Judgeeneral showdown had arrived and would engage the US with all the forces at its disposal.
USSR would at this level of cri6is come under It vould have to consider on the one hand the possibility that
the existenceommunist regime in China was in Jeopardy, and on the other the danger of general nuclear war. Peiping would be vigorously
insisting that Moscow come to its defense and in some way bring US attacks
ait. In these circumstances, the USSR would almost certainlyonsiderable effort, on an emergency basis, to sustain Chinese warcapabilities. At the came time, the USSR would alsoaximum effort to stop the war through political action, particularly by mobilizing world opinion against the US and persuading China to negotiate.
28. Beyond this, so much would depend upon the circumstances in which the crisis had developed that Soviet reaction cannot be anticipated. The Soviets would probably still believe that the US was not bent on attacking the USSR. Hence, we believe that the USSR would not attack US forcesChina, initiate the use of nuclear weapons, or provide them to China. We believe that Soviet actions would be calculated to limit the risk to further escalation, but we cannot be sure that Moscow would correctly calculate these risks.