NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO POSSIBLE US ACTIONS
This is the estimate- fo'fartherll b
Concurred in by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
DIRECTOR Of CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
Submitted by tbe
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
7Vw following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central IntelUgence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of Stale, Defense, andXSA.
Concurred in by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
ononcurring were Ihe 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 I'SIS and the Assistant to the Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.
CENTRAL IDTELUOESCE AOEHCY
SUBJECT: : CTI0BS TO POSSIBLE
To estimate Communist reactions, particularly Soviet reactions,S course of suctained air attacks on Horth Vietnam.
This US course is presumed to startublic declaration outlining the new policy end linking it to the entire range of Viet Cons guerrilla and terrorist activity in South Vietnam. This declaration, ue further presume, makes it clear that the US means to go beyond specific reprisals for individual major Viet Cong actions ond to continue air attacks until the threat to South
Vietnam haa been reduced to levels which the US regards as tolerable. We consider in this estimate present Communist attitudes and Communlot reactions, particularly Soviet reactions lu the period before and during continuing air attacks, and during any period when these attacks are suspended.
THE ESTIMATE The Present Situation
1. Reversing Khrushchev's policy of minimum involvement in Southeast Asia, the new Soviet leaders have over the past several months begun to reassert the USSR's Interest, particularly In Vietnam. Kosygin's visit to Hanoi is the latest step in this process. We believe that, in embarking on those tactics, the Soviet leaders hoped to work Hanoi backiddle position in the Sino-Soviet dispute, to discourage the US from broadening tho war, and to participate in the Communist victory which they expected. To these ends, the USSR probably planned to offer to strengthen Horth Vietnamese air defenses and to provide equipment for use in insurgency and subversion.
The recent VC attache and US/CYH reprisals probably cut across Soviet calculations. The US course of action under consideration hero vould further undermine these calculations ond force the Soviets to reconsider; laicad, they are probably already doing so. In the meantime, hoxfover, they hove already reconfirmed their eccnitoent to north Vietnam, albeit in general terms,overnment statement promising "further measures to safeguard the security end strengthen the defensive capability" of the DRV.
Soviet public statements after the attack! of laat weekendautionary flavor, and ve believe that Kosygin's private representatives to Hanoi wereimilar nature. Nevertheless, Hanoi has evidently choeon toigh level of VC pressures in South Vlotnan, including attacks against US facilities, perhaps in part to force tho Sovietstronger coonltaent. China for its part is almost certainly seeding to sharpen the Soviet dilemmahoice between support for the DRV, whatever the dangers of confrontation with the US, or awhich Peiping could portray as confirmation of its case against Moscow.
U. At the outset, the Conmuiists would have to determine how to Interpret the new policy declared by the US. We believe that thay would understand that the US did in Tactoarse of sustained pressure against Horth Vietnam. Even at the beginnine, however, theysee some ohanco that their orn threats and international pressures could succeed in averting oirr keeping themow level. Unless attacks continued regularly end frequently thereafter and the US Governmentonsistent determination to persevere, the Communists vould tend to doubt thot the US vould long sustain this course of action.
Important initial uncertainty relates totho course of reasserting their interest in Vietnam,may have extended specific commitments, including offersold, of which wo ere not yet aware. Or they may doam and the time when the now US policy is announced. case, the USSR's freedom to disengage in reaction toUS program would bo reduced, eltliouch not entirely eliminated.
I H "
is poasiblo that, once the US had demonstratedof its intontions, tho Soviets would revertolicy
of mlnlmm Involvement. But we think it unlikely that they would do so; their coranitoent to date probably has already carried them past this point. Although tho Soviets vould perceive military risks in more direct involvement, they would expect to be able to keep theseolerable level and for removed fron the Soviet homeland. They would also expect difficulties in their relations with Washington, but the new leaders have thus far shown themselves at least as concerned to win the support of other Communists and anti-Western radicals as to carryetente with the US.
7- Wc believe that the Soviet response to the US program of oir attacks would consist bothigorous diplomatic ond propaganda effort to bring the US to the conference table and the provision of military support to North Vietnam. The extent and nature of the latter are difficult to predict. Itoost certainly Include anti-aircraft artillery and radars, in ordfrr toore effective dcfor.se egoist US air attacks, however. North Vietnam would almost certainly press for surface-to-air missiles or even advanced Jet fighters. These systems
would, atccrrt tine, have to be installed and operated
by Sovtet pcroorjiel.*
cer.BlJarDif. these advanced oyatoms, the USSRalctlXn sltea end fi(jhter bases in Northbeulrxrabl* to US attack. Thoucctacfui nttecks on these targetshoice cf accepting the drmce, substantiallyirvolvonent in the Oofense of tho EOT, or becoming flirty
to even core provocative escalation. It may be that, rather than open up those dangers, the USSR would refroin from providing SAMS and fiehters. efusal to antiafy Worth Vietnamese requests for this kind of aid would bo costly to the Soviet position, tho more bo if such eld hod previously been promised.
balance, wc think thot tho choncos are aboutthe Soviets would provide someefenses to Wortha novo would run counter to the porforred Soviet tactics of
* In the caso of theissile system, the USSR would need tvo and more probably about three weeks toimited operational capability in Worth Vietnamecision to do so. Advanced jet fighters could be provided more quickly.
Increasing their commitments only when the dangers of confrontation have begun to rocado. But the present derq-ee of Soviet Involvement, plus the political costs of failing to provide support in the circumstances under consideration, night outweigh their caution In tho present case.
10. If tho Soviets should provide SA-2s, we believe that they would do so in ways calculated to minimize the initial risks to them. One Hholy way of doing this would be to deploy comeefenses for the key Hanoi-Haiphong area, hoping that this decree of involvement vould serve to reotroin the US und atill not engage Soviet personnel in actual fighting. eployed In this area, however, probably would bo 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.
U. This vouldairly limited Soviet involvement, but it wouldreater commitment to Horth Vietnam than haa obtained in tho post. In this situation of increased risks, wo believe that the USSR would be seeking moans to curb the conflict. This effort would consist both of throats against tho US and of
attompts to mobilise International pressures cn tbe US to regctiate, probably lr. the Geneva forum.
12. If these efforts failed, however, the Soviets might in time onviso Hanoi to damp down operations in South Vietnam or even toolitical settlement on terms net completely unueccptablo to the US. This wouldelicate oporatlon for tho USSR; tho DRV vould charge that what was noodod was not loss Viot Cong aggressiveness but more effective Soviet assistance, and Peiping would almost certainly take the same line. We cannot at this tioo 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. This would tend to preclude moveselaxation of tensions and to increase the USSR's verbal ugliness on other East-West issues. The new leaders, however, hnva in nny ovent not been Inclined to dato to novo very fur townrd detente. Nonetheless, we think it highly unlikely that they would react to the US course of action conoidorod hore by dolibcratolyojor crisis in seme othor nrea of theerlin or Cuba.
lft. Initiation of tho new US policy almost cortainly vould not lead Hanoi to restrain the Viet Cong. Hanoi would probably elect to maintain the very Intense levels of activity evident in the past few days. Pressures might be stepped up in Laos at the same time. The anger and emotion with which the US program would be received in Hanoi night effect its calculations. In any case,V would wish to avoid an impression of weakness at the outset. Moreover, it would have some doubt about US staying power on its new course and would hope that Sino-Soviet competition would maximise the support provided by both allies. If the US persevered in the face of throats ond International pre figures, and as the degree of damage inflicted on Horth Vietnam increased, tho chanceseduction in Viet Cong activity would rise (see.
15. The Insurgency in South Vietnam is heavily dependent on support, leadership, and direction from tho DRV, but the VC nonetheless has substantiol capabilities Icdepondont of Hanoi Thus Hanoi could probablyubstantial atondown for tactical purpocen end couldore lasting reduction.
Nonetheless, the insurgency in South Vietnamomentum of ita 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 would also Introduce limited numbers of Chinese ground forces as "volunteers'* into Horth Vietnam,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 Laos vould be possible, though we think this unlikely in tbe early stages. If the US program continued and inflicted severe damage on North Vietnam, the chances ofovement would riso. But we still think that China, conscious of the danger of provoking major US attacks against its own territory, probably would not take this step.*
* The Director of Intelligence and Research, Deportment
of State,believes that the chance of introduction of Chinese ground forces into North Vietnam or northern Laos ishigher than lc estimated in this paragraph.
Usc of Ccmrcunist Aircraft
17* pecial problem for the Cctnmuolsts Ilea in the fact that only three Worth Vietnamese airfields, all located in the northern part of the country, are fully capable of sustaining Jet fighter operations. Fighters vould thus have difficulty inUS/GVN aircraft attacking targets In the southern part of Horth Vietnam. Furthermore, the Communists recognize that US retaliation againat these airfields vould be feasible and effective. These considerations apply to the use of Soviet or Chinese fighters in Worth Vietnam as well aa to the interceptors which the DRV might be able to put into the air with Soviet or Chinese assistance. Despite these limited capabilities, tbe Communlots probably would employ tbe fighters based in Horth Vietnam againat tho US air attacks. If US air attacks reached the northern part of the DRV, China might react over Horth Vietnam with fighters from ite own bases.
At Klen An in northern North 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 none of these fields has ancillary facilities sufficient to support sustained operations. Thus, while North Vietnam has six fields with runways adequate for Jet fighters, only three (Phuc Yen, Hanoi/ Gia Lam, Haiphong/Cot Bi) can support sustained Jet fighter operations.
2j The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of of State, believes that "might" in this sentence should bo changes to "would probably."
Cce.nur.ists could react by launching airSouth Viotnam from Horth Vlotnomcoe or Chinese bonne. this unlikely becauas of the vulnerability of northond China's reluctance to risk retaliation against Its
nt Dome point the Communists had become persuadeddurability of the new US policy, they might adopttoespite. This might come about ifwere inflicting sevore damage ond if, at tho BamoUS hod code clear an intention to reduce or coase itsreturnharp reduction of Viet Cong activity in In those eircurastonces, the DRV might order suchend use an ensuing period of calm to press for aand an international conference. At the oame time,use the respitesjor buildup, assisted by itsa buildup night include extensiveeployments, additions
to Jot fighter strength in Horth Vietnam and southern China, and large-scale deployments of ERV and Chinese ground forces suitable
for rapid Invasions. The Communists might expect that they could complete these preparations without US interference, and that thereafter the US vould bo deterred from resuming Its program of air attacks when Viet Cong activity was again stopped up.
The Coordination of Communist Policy
20. It is obviously to Communist advantage to appear unified and they vill make great efforts to convey this impression. Rclshtened military conflict would itself exort strong pressures for effective unity. Nevertheless, we have at several points indicated our belief that the USSR and China act as competitors in North Vietnamese affairs and that they vould continue to do soeriod of sustained US air attacks on North Vietnam. We have also pointed to complex and conflicting interests vhich make for delicate relationsand difficult communicationsbetween Hanoi and both its allies. We think it likely that policy coordination among the three Commmunist countries involved will bo chronically imperfect end occasionally quite erratic. Hence, Communist policies and reactions will at times be faltering ond 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.