247. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • Agreement on Non-Diffusion of Nuclear Weapons

You are aware of the conversations which I have been having with the Soviet Foreign Minister and with the Soviet Ambassador in Washington on the question of restricting the spread of independent national nuclear weapons capabilities.

At the last meeting, August 23, a potentially important shift occurred in the Soviet position. The Soviet Union now appears willing to consider reaching an agreement on non-diffusion couched in more general terms than its previous position which had specified that a prior agreement had to be reached separately concerning the specific problem of the Federal Republic of Germany and of the East German regime. In addition, although the language is ambiguous, the Soviets have not apparently precluded considering an understanding which would not rule out international nuclear weapons arrangements of a truly multilateral nature of the type which might be developed within the NATO framework.

In view of these potential shifts in the Soviet position, I have, as you know, consulted with the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, France, and Federal Republic of Germany. The response of the British Foreign Minister was entirely favorable. The French Foreign Minister stated that France would accept if the terms of the agreement were acceptable to the Federal Republic of Germany. The German Foreign Minister has only recently advised me that the Federal Republic could accept a non-proliferation agreement of the kind we have in mind, provided that Communist China adhered to the terms of the arrangement.1 I made it clear in all of my consultations that we did not propose to give up our right to work out a truly multinational NATO nuclear force, with appropriate safeguards to assure that nuclear weapons assigned to that force could not be used on the basis of a national decision alone.

I believe we are now in a position again to approach the Soviet Union. I propose that we do so promptly in order to accomplish two [Page 619]objectives. The first is to determine whether the Soviet Union is in a position to state that its allies, including Communist China, will adhere to the terms of a non-proliferation agreement. I believe we are now in a position to inform the Soviet Union that our allies can be expected to adhere to such an agreement if the allies of the Soviet Union adhere. The second objective is to give the Soviet Union a somewhat more precise indication of what we have in mind concerning the obligation not to transfer nuclear weapons. We should, of course, make it clear that we reserve the right to cooperate in the establishment of a multinational nuclear weapons force within the NATO alliance.

I am attaching a talking paper which would form the basis for the exploration of whether the allies of the Soviet Union can be expected to sign a non-proliferation agreement. There is also attached an oral statement containing the relevant portions of a draft declaration. Both of these papers would be used in our next approach to the Soviet Government. Finally, there is attached the actual text of a Draft Declaration and Minute.2 I would recommend they not be used at the forthcoming meeting with the Soviet Union but am transmitting them so you can see what we have in mind.

I am advised that the Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose the measure on the grounds that it contains no provisions for inspection; that it may have a very bad effect on our defensive alliance within NATO; and that the measure prohibits transfers which the U.S. itself may wish to make. I am advised that the Department of Defense does not oppose the measure but rather thinks it might be in our long-term interest.3

Accordingly, I request your approval for carrying out the necessary discussions with the Soviet Government in order to pursue the objectives discussed in this memorandum.4

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Agencies and Departments Series, ACDA, Disarmament, Non-Diffusion of Nuclear Weapons, 8/62-7/63. Confidential. For an earlier memorandum from Secretary Rusk to President Kennedy on this subject, see Document 230.
  2. No record of these responses has been found.
  3. None of the attachments is printed.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 230.
  5. In a November 28 memorandum to Secretary Rusk, McGeorge Bundy noted that the President had approved this memorandum on non-diffusion “and authorizes the necessary discussions with the Soviet Government in the terms set forth in that memorandum with its attachments.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA/EX/C-R Files: FRC 77 A 8, State Department, Memoranda to the Secretary)