May 29

This Day in History

Vietnam War

May 29, 1972:

United States and USSR issue a joint communique

In a joint communique issued by the United States and the Soviet Union following the conclusion of summit talks with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev during President Richard Nixon's visit to Moscow (the first visit ever by an U.S. president), both countries set forth their standard positions on Vietnam. The United States insisted that the future of South Vietnam should be left to the South Vietnamese without interference. The Soviet Union insisted on a withdrawal of U.S. and Allied forces from South Vietnam and an end to the bombing of North Vietnam.

Despite this disagreement over the situation in Southeast Asia, Brezhnev and Nixon had reached a dÝtente and Brezhnev did not want the Vietnam War to threaten the thawing of relations with the United States. Nixon, who had also visited China in February 1972, had hoped that the rapprochement with the Chinese and Soviets would scare North Vietnam into making concessions at the Paris peace talks. He was wrong, however, and the North Vietnamese continued to pursue the massive invasion of South Vietnam that they had launched on March 30 and proved intractable in the ongoing negotiations.

The Soviet Union had supported North Vietnam because it served Soviet interests well by keeping the United States fully occupied in an area not of crucial importance to the USSR. After the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Soviets believed for the first time that a total victory was possible, but as the fighting continued, the Soviet leaders became increasingly weary of the war. They came to believe that little more was to be gained from a war that was proving very expensive for the Soviet Union. The Soviets had supplied weapons and equipment that were used in the 1972 spring offensive, but when the Paris peace talks became deadlocked later that year, the Soviets pressured Hanoi to accept a compromise settlement with South Vietnam and the United States that was finally reached in January 1973.

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