INT: Was the Cold War inevitable?
ML: Well, I think that the Cold War was inevitable once the famous speech was given and the Marshall Plan was started, and there were great things that were done. And of course, that had a reaction upon the Soviet Union and it drove the Soviet Union into a large military build-up, and it was just a question of who could stay the longest; and we survived because we had the staying power.
INT: You made reference to a great speech. Which great speech were you thinking of?
ML: Well, I was thinking of the Marshall Plan speech.
INT: And what did he say at the Marshall Plan [speech]?
ML: Well, he brought out the fact that we had to be a party to rebuilding Europe and rebuilding the continent of Europe, Western Europe particularly, and laid out the guidelines that we would follow as a world power to rebuild those friends of ours, not only in Europe but throughout the world.
INT: To what extent do you think that the Cold War damaged the United States?
ML: Well, it damaged the United States because of the amount of money that we had to spend on military equipment, on missiles, anti-missile programs, all of those things, in order to keep a parity with the Soviet Union. If we wouldn't have kept that parity with the Soviet Union, there's no telling what would have happened to Western Europe... and the rest of the world.
INT: I wonder if you could use the words "Cold War" in your answer? In fact, I'll ask you if you can do that one again.
ML: Well, I don't like using the term "Cold War". Really... this Cold War business,... well, I'll do it if you want me to, but I just don't feel any need to do that because I don't like to refer to that as a war - it was a competition of military powers, without firing a shot, and war seems to me to mean that you're actually in combat, and that's why sometimes I think that term is misleading.
INT: What was the worst moment in the last 40 years, which we characterize as the Cold War, for you? At which point do you think both sides came closest to a conflict?
ML: Well, that was before I became Secretary of Defense. I think that probably had to do with the Cuban missile crisis. We were very close to a real confrontation and a hot war. At that particular time, it was a very close call. I never felt we were close to that at any time during the Vietnam War, but I did feel that way as a member of Congress at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.
INT: Why do you think that the Soviets were not persuaded to join militarily in any significant way in the war in Vietnam?
ML: They were very much involved. The Soviet Union was very much involved with the war in Vietnam. They went up from $5 to 6 billion of involvement on almost a yearly basis. They broke the Paris Accord by giving another $2 billion of aid to the North Vietnamese, that was not aid limited to replacements: they went far beyond that; they were very much involved in the Vietnam War all along. Everyone thought that all that material was coming from China, or some people did, but most of the material and most of the support came from the Soviet Union.
INT: And when you sent in the B-52s over Hanoi in December - well, May and December 1972 - what were your concerns about the casualties that might be incurred when Soviet-made missiles and anti-aircraft guns were used against the B-52s?
ML: Well, the B-52s came out very well. I was convinced that we would not lose aircraft at that time, and we did not.
INT: Mr. Laird, thank you very much indeed for the interview.
INT: What do you think the impact of Watergate was on American foreign policy?
ML: Watergate had a devastating effect on American foreign policy.
INT: In what way, do you think? If you could just elaborate on that.
(A bit of discussion. No new answer provided.)