95. Message From President Kennedy to Chairman Khrushchev 0

Dear Mr. Chairman: It has been some time since I have written you directly, and I think it may be helpful to have some exchange of views in this private channel. As we have both earlier agreed, it is of great importance that we should try to understand each other clearly, so that we can avoid unnecessary dangers or obstacles to progress in the effort for peaceful agreements.

On the negotiations for a nuclear test ban, I fear that there may have been an honest misunderstanding between us. You and your represent-atives, [Page 266] on a number of occasions, have made clear your belief that on our side there had been some indication last year of a readiness to accept the number of inspections which you proposed in your message of December 19.1 I know that the United States Government never adopted any such position, and I have the most direct assurances from all my senior representatives that no such American position was ever indicated by them. But I have respect for your representatives, too, and so believe that there was an honest misunderstanding on this point. I can assure you that we are not engaged in any effort to impose a one-sided or arbitrary view on this matter. We continue to believe that an agreement to end nuclear testing is deeply in the interest of our two countries. Prime Minister Macmillan and I hope to be able to make new suggestions to you on this matter very soon.

A closely connected question is the spread of nuclear weapons, and on this question the American position remains as it has been. We are strongly against the development of additional national nuclear capabilities, and the plans and proposals which we are considering for the future management of the nuclear forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are all based upon this principle. I regret that the formal communication which Mr.Gromyko passed to Ambassador Kohler a few days ago2 reaches quite different conclusions as to the meaning of these events. I shall not reply to that paper here, but let me say clearly that you can rely upon our continued and determined opposition to the spread of national nuclear forces.

Neither the multinational nor the multilateral forces we are considering will increase the dangers of diffusion. Both are intended to reduce those dangers. The plan for a multinational nuclear force implies no change in present arrangements for the ultimate political control of existing nuclear weapons systems, and it is a fundamental principle in our support for a new multilateral force that no such force could ever be used without the consent of the United States. The concept of this force is therefore exactly opposite to that of independent national nuclear forces, and the opposition to it in the West comes precisely from those who would prefer the expansion of independent nuclear forces.

Although together we found workable arrangements for ending the very dangerous crisis which was created when strategic weapons were introduced into Cuba last year, I am sure we can agree that the situation in that island is not yet satisfactory or reassuring to those who care for the peace of the Caribbean. Although the recent withdrawal of a number of your forces has been an important contribution to the reduction of tension, [Page 267] the continued presence of Soviet forces in Cuba can never be regarded with equanimity by the people of this Hemisphere and therefore further withdrawals of such forces can only be helpful.

Meanwhile, we on our side have been endeavoring to reduce tension in this area in a number of ways. For example, the fundamental justification of our practice of peaceful observation of Cuba is precisely that it is necessary to prevent further increase in tension and a repetition of the dangers of last fall. Without such peaceful observation in 1962, this Hemisphere would have been confronted with intolerable danger, and the people of the Hemisphere could not now accept a situation in which they were without adequate information on the situation in Cuba. It is for this reason that this peaceful observation must continue, and that any interference with it from Cuba would necessarily evoke whatever response was necessary to retain it.

We are also aware of the tensions unduly created by recent private attacks on your ships in Caribbean waters; and we are taking action to halt those attacks which are in violation of our laws, and obtaining the support of the British Government in preventing the use of their Caribbean islands for this purpose. The efforts of this Government to reduce tensions have, as you know, aroused much criticism from certain quarters in this country. But neither such criticism nor the opposition of any sector of our society will be allowed to determine the policies of this Government. In particular, I have neither the intention nor the desire to invade Cuba; I consider that it is for the Cuban people themselves to decide their destiny. I am determined to continue with policies which will contribute to peace in the Caribbean.

Another area in which there has been a flare-up of danger in recent days is Laos. My representatives will be in touch with yours on this problem, and I am sure that we both have a clear interest in preventing the breakdown of the agreement worked out so carefully last year. We continue to put great reliance on your own pledge of support for a neutral and independent Laos. Neither of us can wish for a direct test of force in that remote country, and in the instance it appears that the provocation has come from a side in which your influence can be more effective than ours.

There are other issues and problems before us, but perhaps I have said enough to give you a sense of my own current thinking on these matters. Let me now also offer the suggestion that it might be helpful if some time in May I should send a senior personal representative to discuss these and other matters informally with you. The object would not be formal negotiations, but a fully frank, informal exchange of views, arranged in such a way as to receive as little attention as possible. If this thought is appealing to you, please let me know your views on the most convenient time.

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In closing, I want again to send my warm personal wishes to you and all your family. These are difficult and dangerous times in which we live, and both you and I have grave responsibilities to our families and to all of mankind. The pressures from those who have a less patient and peaceful outlook are very great—but I assure you of my own determination to work at all times to strengthen world peace.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Another copy is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence.
  2. Document 85.
  3. The note, April 8, was transmitted in telegram 2527 from Moscow, April 8. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF MLF 6)
  4. Printed from an unsigned copy.