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

2191. Following is text of joint letter from President and Prime Minister Macmillan:

Begin verbatim text.

“Dear Mr. Chairman,

You will recall that in February and March, 1962, we had some correspondence about the Geneva disarmament conference, and in particular about the possibility of reaching agreement on the text of a treaty to ban nuclear tests. Both President Kennedy/Mr.Macmillan and I pledged ourselves to take a personal interest in the progress of this conference on which so many of the hopes of mankind have been fixed. Last October we both indicated in messages to you our intention to devote renewed efforts to the problem of disarmament with particular reference to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the banning of nuclear tests.
Since then the Geneva meeting has continued but it has not reached the point of definite agreement. Nevertheless, some encouraging advance has been made. For example, your acceptance of the principle of on-the-spot verification of unidentified events has been of great value. Equally, the Western countries have been able to reduce the number [Page 269] of annual inspections for which they felt it essential to ask, from about twenty down to seven. The difference remaining is of course real and substantial, if only because it presents in practical form the effects of two different lines of reasoning. At the same time the actual difference between the three inspections which you have proposed and the seven for which we are asking, important though this is, should not be impossible to resolve. As regards the automatic seismic stations, the difference between us appears to be fairly narrow.
We all have a duty to consider what are the needs of security; but we also have a duty to humanity. President Kennedy/Mr.Macmillan and I therefore believe that we ought to make a further serious attempt by the best available means to see if we cannot bring this matter to a conclusion with your help.
We know that it is argued that a nuclear tests agreement, although valuable and welcome especially in respect of atmospheric tests, will not by itself make a decisive contribution to the peace and security of the world. There are, of course, other questions between us which are also of great importance; but the question of nuclear tests does seem to be one on which agreement might now be reached. The mere fact of an agreement on one question will inevitably help to create confidence and so facilitate other settlements. In addition, it is surely possible that we might be able to proceed rapidly to specific and fruitful discussions about the non-dissemination of nuclear power, leading to an agreement on this subject. Such an agreement, if it was reasonably well supported by other countries, would seem to us likely to have a profound effect upon the present state of tension in the world. If it proved possible to move promptly to an agreement on nuclear weapons and on the proliferation of national nuclear capability, an advance to broader agreements might then open up.
The practical question is how best to proceed. It may be that further discussions would reveal new possibilities from both sides as regards the arrangements for the quota of inspections. But if we attempted to reach this point by the present methods both sides may feel unable to make an advance because this would appear to be surrendering some point of substance without obtaining a final agreement on a definite treaty in exchange. It may be that we could make some progress on this question of numbers by exploring an idea which has been mentioned by the neutral nations in Geneva—the idea that a quota of on-site inspections might be agreed upon to cover a period of several years, from which inspections could be drawn under more flexible conditions than an annual quota would permit.
(a) But at the moment it is not only the question of numbers which holds us up, we also have to agree on the final content of the draft treaty and in particular to decide certain important questions as to how [Page 270] inspection is to be carried out. You have taken the view that once the quota is agreed the other matters can easily be settled, whereas we feel that the final agreement about the number of inspections is unlikely to be possible unless most of the other matters have been first disposed of. Thus we have reached an impasse.
We should be interested to hear your suggestions as to how we are to break out of this. For our part we should be quite prepared now to arrange private tripartite discussions in whatever seemed the most practical way. For example, our chief representatives at Geneva could conduct discussions on the questions which remain to be settled. Alternatively, or at a later stage, President Kennedy/Prime Minister Macmillan and I would be ready to send in due course very senior representatives who would be empowered to speak for us and talk in Moscow directly with you. It would be our hope that either in Geneva or through such senior representatives in Moscow we might bring the matter close enough to a final decision so that it might then be proper to think in terms of a meeting of the three of us at which a definite agreement on a test ban could be made final. It is of course obvious that a meeting of the three of us which resulted in a test ban treaty would open a new chapter in our relations as well as providing an opportunity for wider discussions.
We sincerely trust that you will give serious consideration to this proposal. We believe that the nuclear tests agreement and what may follow from it is the most hopeful area in which to try for agreement between us. The procedure which we have suggested seems to us the most practical way of achieving a result which would be welcome all over the world.


John F. Kennedy

Harold Macmillan

End verbatim text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence, Lot 66 D 204. Secret; Verbatim Text; Operational Immediate; Eyes Only. Drafted and approved by James E. Goodby of ACDA and cleared by Bundy, Foster (ACDA), and Davis (EUR). Repeated to Geneva and London. This message was delivered to Khrushchev by Kohler on April 24; see vol. VII, pp. 685686. Another copy of this message is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence.