Based on extensive research in the Russian archives, this book examines the Soviet approach to the Vietnam conflict between the 1954 Geneva conference on Indochina and late 1963, when the overthrow of the South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and the assassination of John F. Kennedy radically transformed the conflict.

The author finds that the USSR attributed no geostrategic importance to Indochina and did not want the crisis there to disrupt detente. Initially, the Russians had high hopes that the Geneva accords would bring years of peace in the region. Gradually disillusioned, they tried to strengthen North Vietnam, but would not support unification of North and South. By the early 1960s, however, they felt obliged to counter the American embrace of an aggressively anti-Communist regime in South Vietnam and the hostility of its former ally, the People’s Republic of China. Finally, Moscow decided to disengage from Vietnam, disappointed that its efforts to avert an international crisis there had failed.

Ilya V. Gaiduk (1961–2011) was a Senior Research Fellow, Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. He had been a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 2005–6. He was also the author of Divided Together: The United States and the Soviet Union in the United Nations, 1945–1965, which was published in 2012 in the Cold War International History Project series.


1. The Origins

2. To Divide or Not to Divide

3. Making Peace at Geneva

4. From Support to Cooperation

5. Neither Peace nor War

6. If the Fractured Friendship Collapses

7. Crisis in Laos

8. Back to Geneva

9. A Disposition to War


“The subject is intrinsically important. The best features of the book are Gaiduk’s utilization of archival documents. I found the materials on Geneva and Laos to be truly fascinating—I was learning as I turned each page.”—Larry Berman, University of California, Davis, and author of No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam

“From the time of the war itself, jounalists and scholars have attempted to decipher Soviet policy toward the conflicts in Vietnam and Laos from printed sources, mostly the Soviet press and speeches of top Soviet leaders. This is the first work solidly grounded in Soviet archival material. It will immediately supplant all prior studies on the subject.”—George Herring, University of Kentucky

“...the book is excellent, well researched and written, providing a perceptive analysis of this complicated crisis.”—The International History Review

“Gaiduk’s clearly written and well-researched study is a rich and substantial contribution to the literature of the Vietnam War.”—Journal of Asian Studies