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THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION is now risking confrontation with the USSR and China on the premise that such action will save both the Thieu regime and the lives of G.I.'s stranded in South Vietnam. The tone of Monday night's statement was very soothing, as if people ought to somehow believe that the bombing and interdiction of supplies destined for North Vietnam would not have any unfortunate consequences other than the minor ones planned by the mindful crisis managers in Washington.
President Nixon has said that his actions do not provide the Soviets with any reason to cancel the Moscow summit, because--as Nixon thinks he knows well--none could possibly threaten the Soviet Union's "legitimate" interests. However, when he told the nation that the North Vietnamese had been totally intransigent at the secret negotiations last Tuesday in Paris, Nixon did more than just imply that the Soviets--who had promised Dr. Kissinger that North Vietnam would negotiate seriously--had failed to keep their word.
Actually, the North Vietnamese negotiators gave the U.S. a guarantee that there would be no "communist takeover" or "bloodbath" if Thieu resigned. As Madame Binh said at the public negotiations on Thursday, and the North Vietnamese delegate affirmed:
The Provisional Revolutionary Government does not demand monopoly of control on political life in South Vietnam. A "takeover" as the United States puts it simply does not exist. On the contrary, we stand for the achievement of board national concord.
Madame Binh's statement merely reflects the reality that non-communists must continue to play a crucial role in South Vietnam. Many of these people have earned enough--thanks to years of U.S. generosity--to form a rural and urban middle class. The PRG knows fully well that it would have to cooperate with these people for there to be any chance to heal South Vietnam's war wounds.
Since Hanoi did offer the U.S. a viable proposal with which to end U.S. involvement in "honor," the Soviet leaders may well conclude that the U.S. preferred hegemony in South Vietnam to "honor." Whatever steps the Soviets decide to take--and these are still unknown at the time of writing--the Moscow leaders will have to keep another important fact in mind: they overthrew their predecessor Khruschev who was ineffectual and who backed down at the expense of an ally in the face of U.S. demands at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.
Whether the present Soviet leaders will risk the fate of their predecessor is still unclear. The SALT negotiations, the fate of North Vietnam, the possibility of a summer with President Nixon on May 22, and the future of civilization depend on that decision.
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