USSR Planned Nuclear Attack On China In 1969


The Soviet Union was on the brink of launching a nuclear attack against China in 1969 and only backed down after the US told Moscow such a move would start World War Three, according to a Chinese historian.


Andrew Osborn in Moscow and Peter Foster in Beijing
13 May 2010

US President Richard Nixon in Moscow with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1974 Photo: AP

The extraordinary assertion, made in a publication sanctioned by China’s ruling Communist Party, suggests that the world came perilously close to nuclear war just seven years after the Cuban missile crisis.

Liu Chenshan, the author of a series of articles that chronicle the five times China has faced a nuclear threat since 1949, wrote that the most serious threat came in 1969 at the height of a bitter border dispute between Moscow and Beijing that left more than one thousand people dead on both sides.

He said Soviet diplomats warned Washington of Moscow’s plans “to wipe out the Chinese threat and get rid of this modern adventurer,” with a nuclear strike, asking the US to remain neutral.

But, he says, Washington told Moscow the United States would not stand idly by but launch its own nuclear attack against the Soviet Union if it attacked China, loosing nuclear missiles at 130 Soviet cities. The threat worked, he added, and made Moscow think twice, while forcing the two countries to regulate their border dispute at the negotiating table.

He quotes Soviet ministers and diplomats at the time to bolster his claim.

On 15 October 1969, he quotes Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin as telling Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev that Washington has drawn up “detailed plans” for a nuclear war against the USSR if it attacked China.

“[The United States] has clearly indicated that China’s interests are closely related to theirs and they have mapped out detailed plans for nuclear war against us,” Kosygin is said to have told Brezhnev.

That same day he says Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to Washington, told Brezhnev something similar after consultations with US diplomats. “If China suffers a nuclear attack, they (the Americans) will deem it as the start of the third world war,” Dobrynin said. “The Americans have betrayed us.”

The historian claims that Washington saw the USSR as a greater threat than China and wanted a strong China to counter-balance Soviet power. Then US President Richard Nixon was also apparently fearful of the effect of a nuclear war on 250,000 US troops stationed in the Asia-Pacific region and still smarting from a Soviet refusal five years earlier to stage a joint attack on China’s nascent nuclear programme.

The claims are likely to stir debate about a period of modern history that remains mired in controversy.

Mr Liu, the author, admits his version of history is likely to be contested by rival scholars. It is unclear whether he had access to special state archives but the fact that his articles appeared in such an official publication in a country where the media is so tightly controlled is being interpreted by some as a sign that he did have special access.

7 Responses to “USSR Planned Nuclear Attack On China In 1969”
  1. On the UK’s BBC Four tonight, Tuesday, 8th June 2010, at 2345 BST there’s an hour long documentary about Nixon dealing with his international relationship with Chine and the Soviet Union which might be of interest in light of the above. You can see comments about this programme at:

    It will also be broadcast again on:

    Wed 9 June 2010 at 03:15 BST and

    Sun 13 June 2010 at 20:00 BST

    • justinwrites says:

      Hey Gary, thanks for that. I was watching the game last night, but I’m going to try my best to catch the one tonight. I enjoyed your previous post. Have you read The Grand Chessboard by Brzezinski? It primarily deals with the geostrategic conquest of Eurasia by America and the importance of the countries therein. A good read which also shows why control of Vietnam was necessary to achieve the goals for the region. My politics may be a little different than yours, I personally believe the U.S. military has been used at the behest of the British Monarchy and the Rothschild banking cartel for quite some time, primarily used since they gained control of our economy in 1913. Their imperial desires have as a result been achieved through America’s previously good name. We are now resented and hated worldwide as a result of this control. I could get much deeper into this but I can already tell that you are very well read and while you might possibly disagree with me, you would see why I would believe these things. If you don’t for one reason or another, I would love to hear why.


  2. justinwrites says:

    Thanks for that Gary. If this is the case it complicates things even more for me due to the well documented support and resources the Viet Minh was receiving via China. For this to make sense the U.S. would have had to be the only one to know of the intentions of the U.S.S.R.. The U.S. would have at the same time had to think it prudent to keep China in the dark. Something isn’t adding up for me.


    • Secret deals between the US & USSR were not unknown and had another more significant precedent. JFK settled the Cuban Missile Crisis by pulling out US Jupiter missiles from Turkey as a quid-pro-quo for the Soviet Union removing its missiles from Cuba. But, this was an agreed secret between JFK and Khrushchev about which the US public were never told. It did not come out for over 20 years.

      I happen to have had first hand knowledge of this in 1964 when I was stationed at Trabzon, Turkey in the USAF Security Service. Socially, I spent time with radar engineers working under NATO contract in Rize who were from the UK, Ireland and France. One of them told me that they were retraining Turkish missile men because JFK had pulled out the US missiles as part of the Cuban Missile Crisis deal.

      You can also read a complete account of this in Seymour Hersh’s book “The Dark Side of Camelot,” HarperCollinsPublishers, London, 1998 (paperback). See the chapter called “Missile Crisis.” He goes through the whole thing, and it is devastating. There was a mid-term election in early November 1962 just after the Cuban Missile Crisis. By withholding this vital information from the US public JFK made himself grandiose which benefitted the democrats during the election.

      It would not be unusual for Nixon to keep China in the dark about his secret nuclear threat against the USSR since JFK and a few people managed to keep people generally in the dark about the real denouement of the Cuban Missile Crisis for over 20 years.

      I think it was a balance of power issue for Nixon and perhaps more understood by Kissinger as his security adviser. Nixon had just become president in early 1969 after eight years harbouring his grudge against JFK when he lost to him in 1960 after being vice-president for eight years.

      Nixon faced huge economic, military and domestic political problems in 1969 that did not bottom until May 1970. The economy was in a recession with markets falling that did not end until May 1970 with the Penn Central bankruptcy and liquidity crisis triggered by its commercial paper. The Kent State shootings occurred in May 1970 as a result of protesting over Nixon’s Cambodia bombing.

      All the while he was fighting a war in Vietnam, negotiating peace in Paris and contending with peace demonstrators in the US including home grown terrorists like the Weather Underground. Let us not forget the extreme domestic abuse that derived from COINTELPRO during this period too. There were extremists on each end of the spectrum.

      The USSR most likely looked at the US in 1969 as weak and self absorbed along with a new president whom it could surprise and get away with a nuclear strike against China to secure the border it wanted. The US was bogged down in Vietnam and politically distracted at home with a weak economy and protests.

      Evidently, Nixon et al learned about this strike against China with nuclear weapons (who wants a land fight with the Chinese?), and realised that it could shift the whole balance of power between the US, USSR and China so that the USSR would become stronger. I suspect that it was his only option to play out the US nuclear strike capability in October 1969 to stop the USSR from destablising the world. He went for it given Nixon’s proclivity to such extremes about which we now know. Such a move actually showed weakness rather than strength.

      Remember the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi after Nixon won the 1972 election and had stated “Peace is at hand?” These went on for almost two weeks at a time when Hanoi was dismantling its war effort and standing down. There was no reason for this bombing. B52 pilots refused to fly, and airmen in the USAF Security Service unit on Okinawa who knew the truth about what was actually happening on the ground in North Vietnam refused to report the SAM (Surface to Air Missiles aka “Telephone Poles”) launches which helped to protect the bombers.

      Fifteen B52s were shot down and 93 US airmen officially listed as missing. Hanoi said that 31 had been captured. Before the 12 days of the Christmas 1972 bombing, the USAF Security Service guys in Okinawa had tracked US bombing of the north when it was publicly declared as having been banned. They were not allowed to report it. When it came to the Christmas bombing, they stopped working. The deceit was too much for them. Again see Seymour Hersh’s “Price of Power,” Summit Books, New York, 1993, pps 628-9. BTW Joan Baez was in Hanoi during this bombing I’ve learned recently from a BBC Alan Yentob interview she made.

      I do not see any complication about China knowing or not knowing about the secret agreement between the US and USSR in October 1969. It’s like all such government actions at the top: they remain secret from those down the line and, of course, the public with the US (and UK) as big culprits as the Sino-Soviet bloc. Nixon apparently stopped any actual nuclear attack against China. This posturing couldn’t have anything to do with Vietnam and, therefore, nothing to do with China as you describe their being involved.

      The greatest problem which is even worse today is the deception that exists in the governments of supposed democracies that keep the public and many in government in the dark. A few nights ago Oliver Stone was interviewed on the BBC Hardtalk programme in the UK after his appearance at Cannes. His new ten-hour film which will be aired on Showtime in the US is called “The Secret History of the United States.”

      It will interesting to see what he has to say. We don’t have enough investigative journalism or film makers willing to create documentaries about what is actually happening in this world. Fortunately, there is the Internet these days which needs to be used more and more by individuals to report what they know and experience directly.

      Most important everyone needs to pay careful attention to what is being said and listen even if it is difficult to accept the validity of some of it. Often times these things take decades to work themselves into the public consciousness generally. Today that can be too long for some dangers which currently exist. We need more people to say “no” and vote with their feet.

  3. Seymour Hersh confirmed US attack readiness stance against USSR in Oct 1969 in his 1983 book “The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House,” Summit Books, NY, pps 124-5.

    For 29 days all SAC bombers stood at full Defcon 1 alert on runways fully fuelled, armed with nuclear weapons & crews aboard ready to take off. The US evidently back up its threat against USSR with acts which meant a state of war existed to prevent an attack against China. No wonder the Chinese liked Nixon.

    • justinwrites says:

      so there was no reference to China in Hersh’s book?


      • No, but Hersh wrote on page 124: that “The alert amounted to a secret between the White House and Soviet Union, whose military and political leaders were bound to realise that the United States had gone, without announcement and for no obvious reason, to the most advanced alert possible, Def Con I.”

        At the same time, however, Hersh describes that there was extreme posturing by the US with respect to Vietnam including a get tough operation called “Duck Hook” while peace talks were taking place in Paris and 250,000 protesters marched on Washing in October 1969.

        Comments have been made that the alert was in conjunction with Vietnam, but I not so certain. Now that this Chinese scholar has published his information, I tend to think China was in the background all along as a USSR target over its border dispute which Nixon might have wanted to stop given the Vietnam problems.

        The Chinese scholar says that his information will be controversial, but nothing could be more controversial than an unannounced Ded Con 1 “for no obvious reason” that went on for 29 incredible days. Def Con 1 means a state of war exists. US tactical fighters sat at the end of runways as did B-52 bombers fully armed with nuclear weapons, crews and fuel ready to fly. I don’t think that needed to be done with respect to Vietnam vis-a-vis the USSR.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: