In hindsight, Truman’s failure to respond to Ho’s entreaties was a tragic error. The Viet Minh were not beholden to the Soviet Union, and the Viet Minh’s egalitarian economic program posed no threat to the United States. Had Truman offered aid to Ho’s independent government, the French would likely have been deterred from re-imposing their control, which means that there would have been no First Indochina War, no U.S. involvement in that war, and no subsequent American War in Vietnam.
A second development was the opening of a backdoor dialogue between Diem’s brother, Nhu, and representatives of the NLF and DRV concerning the possibility of a reunited Vietnam. While this dialogue fell into the same category as reconciliation between the U.S. and Soviet Union, it was not perceived as such by the Kennedy administration, which moved quickly to squelch it. Nhu began talking with communist representatives in July 1963 about a possible accommodation that would allow him and his brother to remain in power while a lengthy unification of Vietnam proceeded. Hanoi and the NLF were willing to accept this delay if it meant ridding their country of foreign troops. President Kennedy, however, was committed to maintaining a separate, noncommunist South Vietnam. This meant not only staying the course in Washington, but also preventing the Vietnamese from working out a peace agreement among themselves. According to the diplomatic historian Fredrik Logevall:
In part to limit the damage from America’s impending loss in Vietnam, the Nixon administration undertook a dramatic new policy in early 1972, inaugurating détente with the great communist powers, China and the Soviet Union. New trade and arms control agreements were signed as part of a general relaxation of tensions. After twenty-five years of anti-communist propaganda and policies, it appeared that the U.S. could live with communist nations after all, that peaceful competition could replace militant confrontation and that mutual interests could be pursued. This seismic change in official U.S. attitudes toward communism was surprisingly well-received by the American public. Nixon and Kissinger essentially adopted the liberal program advocated by former Vice-president Henry A. Wallace in the late 1940s, and by many European leaders beginning in the mid-1950s. Had the détente policy been taken up a generation earlier, the American War in Vietnam would never have taken place.
A third development was the signing of an international peace treaty ending the civil war in Laos in July 1962. The agreement was welcomed across the world as a step toward reducing Cold War tensions. Along with de Gaulle, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan helped to convince Kennedy that a negotiated solution in Laos was the most realistic option and would not hurt U.S. interests in the region. After conferring with Kennedy in March 1961, Macmillan wrote to de Gaulle: “I think that the President really accepts the necessity for a political solution if we can get one.” It took thirteen months of negotiations, but in the end, an agreement was signed by fourteen nations, including the belligerent parties in Laos and the governments of South Vietnam, North Vietnam, the United States, Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and China. Laos became a “neutral and independent” nation led by a coalition government under prime minister Souvanna Phouma, with power shared with the communist-led Pathet Lao. As the U.S. had been supporting anticommunist guerrillas in Laos since the late 1950s, approval of the treaty marked a significant change of policy.
With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow and the Russian Federation escaped direct responsibility for some of the world's worst environmental devastation because many of the Soviet disaster sites were now in other countries. Since then, however, the gravity and complexity of threats to Russia's own environment have become clear. During the first years of transition and reform, Russia's response to those conditions was sporadic and often ineffectual.
In the half-decade that began with the Chernobyl' disaster and culminated in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, substantial changes took place in the public's attitudes toward environmental crises. The public engaged in unprecedented discussion about the dangers the state's environmental policies posed to public health. According to surveys, the public's main concerns were local problems having immediate impact, such as polluted water supplies, violation of public health regulations, and air pollution. Russians were much less interested in more general and fundamental issues such as loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and acid rain. In 1989 a national poll placed environmental pollution fifth among citizens' major concerns, but only one-third of respondents expressed their willingness to sacrifice economically to improve the situation. Nevertheless, a substantial green movement arose in the late 1980s. Fragmented by disagreement over politicization and national versus local agendas, parts of the movement branched into other areas of activism such as human rights and regional autonomy, and no single green party emerged.
You know, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was such a supergiant, still in today’s Russia – the largest country in the world by area – 70 percent of our territory belongs to the north or to the territories of the Far North, we must understand it.”
Lake Baikal, a water resource of world importance located in south-central Siberia, long was the focal point of Soviet environmental efforts to end the pollution that the pulp and paper plants caused in the lake's watershed. A series of comprehensive Soviet and post-Soviet plans yielded limited success in protecting the lake's water and shoreline, which gradually have succumbed to chemical stresses. In 1995 the World Bank (see Glossary) and the European Union (EU--see Glossary) granted funds for cleaning up Lake Baikal, and in 1996 the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission announced United States plans to aid Russia in overhauling paper plants in the Baikal region (see The United States, ch. 8).
You know, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was such a supergiant, still in today’s Russia – the largest country in the world by area – 70 percent of our territory belongs to the north or to the territories of the Far North, we must understand it.
Dangerous environmental conditions came to the attention of the public in the Soviet Union under the glasnost policy of the regime of Mikhail S. Gorbachev (in office 1985-91), which liberated the exchange of information in the late 1980s. The three situations that gripped public attention were the April 1986 nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl' Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine, the long-term and ongoing desiccation of the Aral Sea between Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, and the irradiation of northern Kazakstan by the Semipalatinsk (present-day Semey) nuclear testing site. The overall cost of rectifying these three disasters is staggering, dwarfing the cost of cleanups elsewhere, such as the superfund campaign to eliminate toxic waste sites in the United States. By the time the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, such conditions had become symbols of that system's disregard for the quality of the environment.
The Pentagon Papers, Vol. 1, pp. 242-69. Hanoi also appealed to the co-chairs of the Geneva conference, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, on numerous occasions, asking that the Geneva conference be reconvened to deal with Diem’s obstinacy.
Stephen P. Randolph, Powerful and Brutal Weapons: Nixon, Kissinger and the Easter Offensive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Truong Nhu Tang, A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath (New York: Vintage Books, 1985); David Biggs, Quagmire: Nation Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010), p. 204; Martin Van Crevald, The Age of Airpower (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), p. 366; Mickey Grant, “The Cu Chi Tunnels (59-minute documentary film, 1990), ; Jonathan Neale, A People’s History of the Vietnam War (New York: The New Press, 2003), pp. 99-100; and Stephen Budiansky, Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), p. 259.