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So Much to LoseJohn F. Kennedy and American Policy in Laos$
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William J. Rust

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813144764

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813144764.001.0001

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A Wide Measure of Discretion

A Wide Measure of Discretion

(p.37) Chapter 2 A Wide Measure of Discretion
So Much to Lose

William J. Rust

University Press of Kentucky

Kennedy, reluctantly concluding that Souvanna Phouma was the only hope for a negotiated solution in Laos, authorized W. Averell Harriman to convey conditional US support to the neutralist leader. The chief US negotiator in Geneva, Harriman was convinced that the Eisenhower administration had been wrong in supporting the right-wing faction in Laos, against the advice of the French and British. Based on his long experience in Soviet affairs, Harriman viewed the Kremlin as the key to a diplomatic solution in Laos. Harriman reached a key agreement with Georgi M. Pushkin, his Soviet counterpart at Geneva: The Soviet Union would “police the commitments made by the Communist signatories not to interfere in the internal affairs of Laos nor to use the country as a corridor into South Viet-Nam.” Harriman considered this Soviet obligation the “single most important” outcome of the Geneva conference. Despite a growing understanding of the Sino-Soviet split, and of the diverse national interests within the communist world, Kennedy's policy decisions on Laos were largely based on the cold war stereotype of a monolithic conspiracy, efficiently directed by Moscow and obediently executed by its wholly owned subsidiaries in Beijing and Hanoi.

Keywords:   W. Averell Harriman, Georgi M. Pushkin, Geneva conference, 1961–1962, Sino-Soviet Split, cold war

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