With reference to our telephone conversation, there is attached our draft
of the reply from President Kennedy to Prime Minister Macmillan.
The Department of State, I understand, has been charged with coordinating
replies to Macmillan’s recent
communications so that the final draft of this letter will be reaching
you probably today or tomorrow through the Department.
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
Your helpful letter of April 27, 1961, shows that we have drawn
similar conclusions from the recent behavior of the Soviet
delegation at the Geneva nuclear test ban talks. I, too, have come
to believe that the Soviet Government will not change its position
unless Chairman Khrushchev
can be persuaded that the alternative to a satisfactory treaty is
the ultimate resumption of tests with the consequent damage to
prospects for disarmament which that would mean. I propose to exert
every effort to persuade him that a fair and reliable agreement is
in his interest and in ours.
In my communications with Mr. Khrushchev regarding a possible meeting I shall
refer to the need for a close examination of the test ban problem
along the lines you suggest. I would not wish, however, to single
out the test talks as the primary object of my discussions with him.
I therefore do not believe we should address letters to Mr.
Khrushchev on this
subject prior to my meeting with him.
If I fail to reach any understandings with Mr. Khrushchev and if by that time the
position that the Soviets [Facsimile Page 3] have maintained in Geneva has not substantially
changed, I believe the United States should be ready to resume
nuclear tests for both seismic research and weapons development. I
am now engaged in a thorough review with my advisers of the
significance of carrying out nuclear detonations in the various
categories. Pending this review I am not prepared at this time to
suggest either the timing or the character of such tests. Presumably
a seismic research explosion could be prepared within a shorter
period of time than any really significant weapons test series. Any
nuclear explosion would, of course, be underground and an
announcement would be made that we had no intention of resuming
atmospheric or underwater tests.
The essential thing for us is that the United States be in a position
to exercise the freedom of action which has been reserved by my
government since December 1959. I naturally hope very much that our
two governments will be able to support each other’s position.
I believe that if this country does not conduct a test prior to the
resumption of general disarmament negotiations in August of this
year, the difficulties of our doing so thereafter would be much
increased. These are only my preliminary thoughts as I have
indicated. I shall, of course, communicate with you the results of
my thinking on the basis of our review and I would appreciate
receiving your own.
[Facsimile Page 4]
I believe that the question of the security of the free nations of
the world is the paramount consideration for us to bear in mind in
connec[Typeset Page 73]tion
with the resumption of tests, but I am also impressed with the
increased erosion of our own position which has been based upon
adequate systems of control and inspection as a concomitant of
measures for arms control and reduction. The interminable
continuation of the moratorium through the indefinite extension of
the test ban negotiations seriously undermines that position. Not
only is our position in the test ban rendered less credible through
such delays, but our ability to press the principle of inspection in
connection with other disarmament measures is impaired. These
implications are in addition to those which rise from the recent
Soviet line of attack on the effectiveness of the UN and indeed upon any international
peace-keeping machinery. I think all these considerations point to
the need for our taking a definite position without further
attenuations, always assuming that, let us say, by the middle of
June, we have not received any indication of a substantial change in
the Soviet attitudes.
Finally, I am glad to say that I believe we approach these decisions
in a strong position because of the good record at Geneva to which
the close cooperation of our delegations has so much