11. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union0

1180. Eyes only for Ambassador. Immediately following telegram contains text of Aide-Memoire1 for delivery to Khrushchev in your discretion either directly or through Foreign Minister. You may in delivering [Page 33] this communication assure the Soviet Government that we have no intention of exploiting the release of the Air Force officers to the detriment of Soviet-American relations. There will inevitably be some publicity but to the extent possible we will seek to minimize undesirable aspects. We would hope that release can be arranged prior to Presidentʼs press conference scheduled for 6 pm Jan 25.2 Arrangements should be made for them to be accompanied out of the Soviet Union by Air Attaché or representative and Embassy doctor. Air Force will send separate instructions regarding specific arrangements for delivery of released officers.

A statement by President at press conference would be limited to first two sentences of Aide-Memoire. If questions asked, he would state position in second paragraph of Aide-Memoire as respects distinction between RB-47 andU-2 and non-resumption of flights of American aircraft into or over Soviet territory. Beyond this he would in response to questions reiterate hope for improved relationship along lines his inaugural address3 and message of Jan 21 to Khrushchev4 as referred to in Aide-Memoire.

While we have considered desirable to make clear in Aide-Memoire we are not prepared to seek withdrawal of specific UN items, we have no intention, as President stated in his inaugural speech of “belaboring those problems which divide us.” Clearly the nature of the debates at the resumed UN session would reflect the international atmosphere prevailing at that time. It would be our hope that this would be improved over atmosphere characterizing first phase of the current session.

We fully agree that the Aides-Memoire exchanged should not be published. On our side comment on this exchange will be limited to the Presidentʼs remarks at the press conference on the lines stated above plus announcement with factual information regarding the physical release and travel of the airmen. We hope latter can be coordinated with Soviet Govt. Report urgently.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/1-2361. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Kohler on January 23 and approved by Rusk. Also printed in Declassified Documents, 1977, 73B.
  2. Document 12.
  3. For a transcript of the Presidentʼs press conference on January 25, in which he stated that the release of the RB-47 flyers removed “a serious obstacle to improvement of Soviet-American relations,” and that American flights penetrating the air space of the Soviet Union would not be resumed, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 8-17.
  4. For text of the Presidentʼs inaugural address, January 20, see ibid., pp. 1-3.
  5. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. VI, p. 3.