1i. vConcurrlnctMreTfte.andtale; (he Assistant
Chief of XazcX Operation*olf pecial'JTw Atoffl&jJnerirVto" Ifte USie, and the
PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN US COURSES OF ACTION WITH RESPECT TO LAOS
purpose of this estimate is briefly to assess Communist (Sonet. Chinese, and DRV) reactions, and. where significant. non-Communist reactions, to certain US-sponsored military actions' with respect to Laos. It is proposed that thesebe assessed for two situations: that the military moves were undertaken (a) under essentially presentor (b> after neutrals and US allies hadS proposal for the establishmenteutral nationsin Laos, but before it had begun to function in Laos.
The courses of action here considered were given to the intelligence community for the purposes of this estimate and were not intended to represent the full range
Military icUoc" ai um4 in thu estimate, means
Me application ol inreterCommunlatin Laos^tnan now obtain, the purpose being to improve the non-Communist military-political aefouaung posiUon.
of possibilities. The given courses are of five general types:
a. The direct delivery of military supplies to Vientiane by US aircraft.
o. Sustained US aerial reconnaissance over Laos (by such aircraft at
actions in Laos by volunteeraircraft (Thai, Vietnamese, or others).
introduction of variousforces (Thai technicians.irregulars,ompositevolunteer legion) toof action in Laos.
military action by US and(forward deployment ina token force, air or ground forcesin Laos, or the threat of USamphibious action against
The Present Situation In Loos
ince the bursts of activity that enaed in the RLG's capture of Vientiane and the seiiure of the Plaine des Jarres by the Pa the: Lao-Kongorces, the military situation in Laos has turned into sporadic, inconclusive civil wax. Military action at present Is largely small unit probe and movement, with each side groping toward the other, hampered by difficult terrain and uncertainCombat consists chiefly ofskirmishes between small infantry groups, usually broken off when one or the other sideew mortar or artillery rounds to bear. Although the terrain favors guerrilla tactics.
not even the pro-Communist forces have yet chosen to base their fighting essentially on such tactics. In sum. neither side is likely to "win" the war in Laos in the near future, unless tt receives more than logistic support from the outside. However, more limitedby one side or the other could occur, and might have significant political effect on the situation
The RLO forcesreater amount and diversity of military equipment available to them at present than do the PL forces, but the USSR is continuing to airlift supplies and equipment Into Sam Neua and the Plaine des Jarres. Bloc support appears to be In excess of the present needs of the PL-Kong Le forces, and tt ts not clear for what purposes thissupport ts Intended. Also, we believe that PI. forcesomewhat greater military capability than they have yet chosen toFor their part, these Communist force* have the great advantages of covert support from across the Jungle border withnd of the ability to retire into the DRV for safe haven and retraining. More importantly, the PL do not have to maintain their military effortery high level to NTH Communist aims in Laos.
Despite the apparent military stalemate of the past fern- weeks, we believe that longer rangeaos in present circumstance* are. slowly, toward the Communists. Pro-Communist forces occupy ihe key centers of Xieng Khouang and the Plaine des Jarres. most of Sam Neua and Phong Saiy provinces,umber of pockets in the central and southern provinces. They are not meeting er.Yccti.ve resistance in these areas and havehadow government, whichlaim to be the legal continuation of Soj-vanna Phouma's. at Xieng Khouang. The RLG is largely inept and ineffective in mar-shilling non Communist support IhrOUtjpmTal Laos, and will probably not be able to retakehouang and the Plaine ties Jarres In the near future Present PL actions appear directed towards consolidating their position in areas :hey hold, but they may shift to more offensive tactics at any time.
4 Many US allies and the neutrals have been disturbed by events of baa last year or so in Laos and critical In varying degrees of US objectives andere. The British and the French in particular have felt that the US was too unyielding in its dealings with Sou-vanna Phoumn. too indexible regarding aRLO accommodation with the Pathel Lao. and overly confidentilitarywas possible There hasenerally favorable response among US allies andthus far lo the new US planeutral nations commission in Laos. Thailand. South Vietnam, the Philippines, and The Republic of China have generally supported US action* In Uos. but have been critical of the US at the same time for what they regard as its failure to act swiftly and decisively in the face of the Pathet Lao-Kong Le challenge Allied and neutral opinion has beer, further disturbed by the recent retreat of Chinese Nationalistfrom Burma into northwest Laos, near the Laos Communist China border.
B. Communiil Intereitj ond Policies with Respect lo Lao*
he USSR his tor some time almostconsidered Laos to be one of the softest spots in US commitmentsromising candidate for eventual fall to the Communists Until recently the USSR has apparently been content to keep subversion-aggression in Laosairly low-key. and to let the DRV largely run the Communist showup by Soviet and Chinese Communist logistic, propaganda, and diplomatic support.Sourannaecognition of the USSR in0 gave Moscow theto involve itself more directly inin Laos. This it was quick to do.considering at ihe time (November-early December) that trends in Laos were rapidly benefiting Bloc interests, andelativelymmitment iPOL and rice airlift) could markedly abet thissince the (all cf Vientiane to General Phuumi. however, the USSR has increased that commitment, organising anda steady airlift of military* supplies into Communist-held areas of northernthe face of indications that the US considers
a test case ol Soviet willingness to reduce tensions and to turn lo ser:ous negotiation of other outstanding issues.
ft The USSR has not committed the Blocin Laos It has not admitted, even to its own public, that Soviet aircraft areinto Laos; DRV military involvement in Laos has been kept covert, although wc have firm evldencr that DRV technicians ondare present; and the USSR has not given any ultimata concerning Laos, publicly orAt the same time, Moscow'sairlift is unprecedented, the DRV haswarned through diplomatic channels that it might be forced to intervene, and the Bloc has warned that the situation In Laoshreat to the security of the DRV andChina and that thereanger of expanded hostilities. Tactically, the USSR seems to be playing by ear in Laos,arget of opportunity, apparently confident that there is little if any compulsion at present either to raise :he Communistante or toettlement, and that present Communist tactics will boththe demise of non-Communistin Laos and seriously embarrass the US Internationally.
he USSR probably considers, too. that it isolitical-military advantage in Laos and that there is presently little risk InCommunistaos at about their present scale and pace. Moscowanticipates that the US Is going toifficult time either winning the Jungle war in Laos or backing out of it. that the US will be hesitant to take any extreme measures in Laos which might divide tt still further from its Western ullles and the neutrals, that the US will be concerned not to become engaged In expanded hostilities with the DRV or,Communist China; and. hence, that the US will probably In time agreeettlement on terms which, from the Soviet viewpoint, will leave ample opportunities for futuresubversion of Laos Additionally, the USSR may also consider that Its believedin Laos can be usedounter In any high-level negotiations it might have with the US in coming months on other world issues.
6 There has been no clear indication to date of the degree to which difficulties In Sino-Soviet relations have either spurred orBloc action in Laos. The fact that the Soviets, rather than the Chinese, haveirect role there is probably the product of: (a) the opportunity accorded the USSR in the KLG's diplomatic recognition of it. but not of Peiping; (b) Soviet concern not to evoke the much stronger US response which, inview, would probably result were Peiping demonstrably Involved In direct support of the PI.-Kong Le forces. (c( Soviet desire toits revolutionary Initiative as the leader of the Bloc; and possibly fd) Sovietin precluding greater ChineseInfluence in Laos
Communist propagandarespect to Laos has increased in theweeks, partlyesult of thethe Chinese Nationalist irregulars intopicture Communist China ismore concerned with the USin Laos than is the USSR, andirm line on Moscow Wehowever, that Soviet policy inmore from response to the situationand the US' involvement therein,problems arising out of relationsChina. At the sameaos Is probably somewhat morethan it might be were It not forSino-Soviet dispute.
C. Probable Reactions to US-Sponsored Military Action*
reactions to particularmilitary actions wouldariety of factors: eg.combination of such actions:speed, and success, the degree ofor condemnation given these actionsopinion, and the diplomaticand general Bloc posture existingtime. Also of primary importancethe Bloc leaders' Impression of theand vigor of the new USwhich they will Judge from the whole
range of US moves and statements. Thiswill affect the degree of credibility which the Bloc leaders assign to any USgiven them concerning Laos. Thediscussion of Bloc reactions is based on the situation in Laos as it has developed thus far.
loc reactions would be profoundlyby Bloc appraisal of the political effects of the US-sponsored measures. Except in the case of the most modest US military measures (paragraphloc leaders wouldcertainly expect that most of worldwould be sharply critical of the US, and that this fact would deter the US fromtooence, unless Communist assets were directly threatenedonfrontation of US and Bloc military forces had actually taken place, the Bloc would probably not feel compelled toignificant militaryln Laos.
n the light of these considerations, wethat the facteutral nationsfor Laos were being established would not affect Communist reactions to US military measuresajor way. In the event that there were general Free World support of the neutral nations commission plan, the USSR might well associate itself with it and might even attempt to use it lor Its own purposes We believe, however, that any US-sponsored military actions, except for the most modest
It is the opinion ol Ihe Director tor Intelligence. Joint. Staff, that reactions of the Bice snd the non-Communist world to US-sponsored measures would depend significantly on the vigor, forth-rightnesa. and success of these measures.the Bioc leaders would not necessarily expect "most of world opinion" to be "sharply cntieal of th* US" rwflawSfM US action In the Taiwan Strait and in Korea attest to the factignincani segment of world opinion could tie expected le applaudipon-aored military action takenom-munlHl threat against all of Southeast Asia and its attendant challenge to the Free World. The consideraUons of timing, vigor, and success o! possible US-sponsored measures are not weighed ir. the ensuing parairaphi of this estimate The Director for Intelligence. Joint Staff, believes thatareful welshing ofactors ihe Judgments as to probable Bloc andreactions muit be viewederve.
measures (paragraph IBould meet adverse non-Communist reactions, possibly causing the participating neutrals either lo withdraw from the commission scheme or to attempt to insert themselves more fully Into settlement of the Laos situation.
Wc believe that Bloc reactions would be essentially determined by the USSR, except in those instances, as discussed below, where specific military measures engaged special Chinese Communist or DRV sensitivities.
Excepthe case of extreme militaryc believe that Soviet leaders would not feel it necessary to match US-sponsored military actions in Laos with corresponding, step-by-step, Bloc military measures Soviet leaders would probably conclude that the lesser US-sponsoredwould probably not prove militarilywould not threaten to destroy or greatly reduce Communist positions and assets In Laos, and therefore would not necessitate Bloc actions which carry any considerable degree of risk They would probably also consider that US-sponsored measures would evokeworld reactions, cause friction between the US and much of the non-Communist world, and create receptive audiences for the Bloc's effort to convince the world that It Is US policy which threatens the peace inAsia and elsewhere. In thesethe USSR would probably consider that it would have the option, at any stage at which it thought US moves were becoming hazardous, to bring about negotiations with excellent prospects of achieving an outcome favorable to the PL.
Under certain conditions the USSR would sponsor some military moves in Laos. Moreover, the USSR would not hesitate to make serious threats against the bases of countries participating In the US-sponsored moves. It would not consider that such Soviet actions would prejudice Its efforts to
'See paragraphelow, where the eitunated Communist reactions are givenomposite-nauonatity volunteer ground force, US and allied air forces. OS ana alllml groundr the threat ot US air snd amphibious action against the DRV.
portray the US as the disturber of the peace However, we believe that Bloc responses to all except the most extreme military measures (paragraphelow) would be designed .'ar more for their political than their military effects Depending on the US-sponsored measure or measures in question, thewould probably tun the gamut of propaganda attacks, political action, hots, demonstrations, and attempts in the UN and other international groups to condemn the US and its participating partners.
The Soviets do not want lo prejudice their chances of negotiating wilh the US on issues more important to them than Laos. This consideration may restrain them fromup military pressures In Laos on their own initiative, it will be less likely to restrain them from military responses to US rnihtary initiatives there. They will wish to be sure that the new US Administration Is convinced of Soviet firmness and determination. They may also see cases where Soviet militarywill reinforce, rather than weaken. Soviet political and propaganda efforts.
a. Those US measures which fell short of threatening defeat or serious setback toforces would probably not cause the Bloc to make any substantial change in the present scale and nature of its logisticto the PL. or place the Bloc under any compulsion to make political concessions to the US. Some PL military actinty would probably develop, however, as an adjunct to Bloc political and propaganda efforts.
hose US measures which actually began to threaten PL positions or security would probably cause some Bloc military responses Ln Laos. However, before these became too sharp and irrevocable, we believe that the Communists would attempt to move the Laos question into some international forum They would probably consider that worldto any expansion of the conflict, together with Bloc firmness, would suffice to force the US loettlement which, at apreserved thesUion in Laos.
eactions to lesser measures There would certainlyigorous diplomatic and propaganda reaction, but probably not aIncrease in Bloc Intervention in Laos in response to the following measures.
a The direct delivery of military supplies to Vientiane by US aircraft (However, the Communists would probably increase their logistic support of the PL forces.)
VS reconnaissance flights(However. If the US aircraft onwere detected on overflights of theCommunist China, the Blocwould become shrill,might be made by Bloc aircraft,pursuit might occur as the US aircraftto their bases)
use of unmarked That or otherto augment present FAT. and CATin Laos.
assignment of volunteer Thaito FAL units.
None of these measures would be likely, in our judgment, to cause the Communists to cease their military efforts in Laos, to feel the need to make any concessions, or. on the other hand, themselves to step up the tempo in Laos Non-Communist world reactions to such US-sponsored measures would probably be severe only if incidents involving outside forcesbut pressuresegotiated solution would grow.
eactions to intermediate measures. In addition to intense Bloc propaganda-political action, the Bloc would probably undertake certain military countermoves to the following mrusures:
a. The commitment of "volunteer" combat aircraft to ground support operations in Laos. The Bloc would probably seek to increase PL AAA capabilities, possibly covertly introducing DRV AAA units Soviet threats would be made against the iThai, Vietnamese, or otheri bases supporting the air operations. The chances are about even that "volunteer"ground attack aircraft would bein Laos. However, the chances of such commitment would rise sharply if the non-
Communul aircraft had attacked andSoviet airlift aircraft. We believe it less likely that Communist air strikes would De attempted against the supporting non-Communist air bases.
commitment of Chineseto combat action ineneral assumption. Bloc andthat these troops had beenat least the tacit consent of the USas the Nationalist irregulars did notafTect the course of fighting indid not make raids into China, SovietCommunist reactions wouldconfined to vigorousHowever, the possibilityexcluded that the Chinesemake punitive raids against thein Laos.
overt assemblingoken forceand allied ground force* in northeastDRV troops would probably bealong the Laos border, and threatsintervention might be made
We do not believe that any of these measures would cause the Communists to cease their military support of the PL. However, the USSR would probably consider that much greater political gains could be made from exploiting non-Communist criticism of these US-sponsored measures than from spirited military responses in or about Laos. This might be the point at which the USSR would feel it profitable to enter into negotiationsettlement, confident that the outcome of the negotiations would be favorable to the Communist cause lo Laos.*
eactions to extreme measures. Wcthat more drastic US measures wouldtrong military and political response from the Bloc, although the Bloc would still be concerned to keep hostilities fromfurther. Us military responses would be calculated to deter the US from undertaking still more extreme action, and to force the Laos issue into negotiations Since the US measures would almost certainly haveegative world response, the USSR would press for negotiations In the belief that the US would be at considerable disadvantage and that no significant concessions by the Bloc would be necessary. Extreme propaganda-political action against the US. worldwide, would of course accompany Communist political and military moves The precise scale of Bloc military response in the Laos area would vary, depending on thehe US-sponsored military measures, as follows:
a. The commitmentolunteer, composite-nationality ground force in Laos. If theof the PL forces were threatened,numbers of (DRV) "Lao" or "border" loices would probably be committed tothe situation We believe it unlikely that Chinese Communist "volunteers" would be committed, although wc cannot rule out this possibility.
o. The overt commitment of US and allied nation combat aircraft in Laos. We believe that the Bloc would probably regardeasure asajor commitment by the US to the support of non-Communist forces in Laos and would feel that this challenge obliged it totrong political and military response. The Communists would seek to maximize the propagandaof non-Communist adverse reactions to the US air actions. They would probably move to negotiate, calculating that they could bothettlement that would protectassets in lacs and at the same time reap considerable political benefit in the world. We cannot estimate with precision what form these military responses would take It is possible tha'. they might commit Bloc air or ground forces, but would in any event build up their readiness posture in the general area and issue strong threats against the US and participating allies to cease their air
c. The commitment of overt US and allied ground forces to garrison or combat duty in Laos. Bloc reactions would probably beto. but more intense than, those described for air action <o> above. In particular, the chances are about even that the USSR would at the same tune sponsor DRV intervention in Laos, and It might even acquiesce in Chinese Communist intervention.
d. The usumgolemn, pnsate teeming to the Bloc poteen to cease theiraos or face possible US air ana amphibious action against the DRV. Thewould certainly regard defense of North Vietnam against such an attack as imperative They would prefer to forestall such an attack, not only to prevent great military damage to the DRV but also to avoid the risk thatmight expand even further They would probably feel thatl interests could best be served by making public the US warning and castigating ithreat to world peace. They would probably seeadvantage sn this course even if they did not believe that the US was prepared to make good on its threat. Simultaneously. Moscow would probably announce Itsto defend the DRV against attack and stress that any such US action would carry the risk of general war. The Soviet leaders would probably calculate that they could in this manner generate worldwide pressures on the US which would dissuade it from its threat and force it Into negotiations on terms acceptable to the Communist side.Original document.