107. Tosec 95 to Geneva, March 211

[Facsimile Page 1]

Following is text message to President from Macmillan dated March 20 to which President’s letter reftel replies


I agreed with you after Bermuda that Christmas Island could be made available for your tests with our help. You agreed with me that the Christmas Island tests could not in fact be made without a further effort for a test ban treaty. Khrushchev agreed grudgingly with our procedure but now he seems unwilling to have any form of verification of unexplained events which involves permanent establishments of experts in the Soviet Union or even merely episodic visits. His objections seem to cover even teams of experts who are all neutrals or some of whom are neutrals. If this is really the Russian final position, then I agree that the tests must proceed. But the public still do not [Facsimile Page 2] realise that this is the position, nor do they understand the difference between detecting a seismic event and verifying whether it is natural or artificial. We have got to bring this point out into the open and make Khrushchev publicly reject all international verification so that the whole world will realise why the tests must go on.

If the scientists agree that the risk may in the future be acceptable, we can perhaps offer the Russians, at least as an alternative to the 1961 treaty proposals as modified, the possibility of no static experts but only periodic visits. If this position is scientifically tenable, we could make this proposal with public advantage. But even if we have to stick to the 1961 treaty we need to force Khrushchev publicly to reject the whole principle of international verification.

From every point of view, the sooner we get the Russians to adopt this position publicly the better. Apart from the desirability of removing the test question from the immediate field of speculations, there would be advantage in clearing the way for possible progress on general disarmament and on other matters where the Russians may be prepared for more serious [Facsimile Page 3] negotiation. I would suggest therefore that when Mr. Rusk and Lord Home have come home from Geneva towards the end of this week you and I should send letters to Khrushchev on the lines of the attached draft. This will force him to reply and will be seen as [Typeset Page 296] a final effort to arrange a test ban treaty before going ahead with the tests.

Enclosure: Draft message to Khrushchev from President Kennedy and Prime Minister Macmillan . Mr. Rusk and Lord Home have now reported about their conversations with Mr. Gromyko in Geneva during the first two weeks of the meetings of the Disarmament Committee. They have informed us that in discussions about a treaty to ban nuclear tests the Soviet representatives have rejected any form of international inspection or verification inside the Soviet Union, whether by static posts or by visits by international teams. The ground given seems to be that existing national detection systems can give adequate protection against clandestine tests. But whether or not the present state of scientific instrumentation has reached sufficient perfection as to distinguish between natural and artificial seismic disturbances, the treaty cannot be made [Facsimile Page 4] effective unless at least verification by visit is included in it. For otherwise there would be no alternative, if an instrument reported an unexplained seismic occurrence on either side, between accepting the possibility of an evasion of the treaty or its immediate denunciation. Verification in some form or another is of the very essence of mutual confidence. We hope therefore that the Soviet position has been misunderstood and that you would accept the principle of international verification. In that event, I cannot believe that we can fail to reach agreement about its application in practice and thus lead to a rapid conclusion of a treaty to ban all nuclear tests. If, however, you cannot accept any form of international verification on Soviet territory in any circumstances, then I do not see how tests can be effectively banned. President Kennedy and I would, therefore, have to take the action which flows inevitably from this conclusion. May I express my sincere hope that we may yet hear that you accept international verification at least in principle.


  1. Text of message from Macmillan to President Kennedy. Pushing Khrushchev on verification issue. Top Secret. 4 pp. Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 533, CF 2059.