232. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France 0

16. Eyes only Ambassador. [Here follow instructions for classifying and delivering this and a second letter transmitted in telegram 17, Document 233.]

“June 30, 1961

Dear General de Gaulle:

It is almost exactly a month since we met in Paris. Much has happened in that time, and while many members of our two Governments have been in touch with each other on special problems, it seems to me time to write you again. I have the better occasion to do so because I am now able to send the enclosed formal statement confirming the understanding and assurance which we agreed upon with respect to the use of nuclear weapons. This assurance is parallel to the one which has been in force between this Government and Great Britain.

Obviously, the biggest issue before us now is Berlin. Fortunately, as we discovered in our first conversation, you and I see this problem in essentially identical terms. What has happened in June simply shows that we were right to take it seriously. We, for our part, are closely engaged on serious planning of all sorts to meet a crisis which seems to us to be more serious than any before it. Ours is a large and complex Government, and clear decisions on concrete steps do not come as quickly as I would like. But the direction in which we shall move is just like yours in the movement of a division from Algeria to France. It is action and not appearances that will be effective in our judgment. We shall also move to insure agreement and understanding in this country as a whole, and while there are occasional voices, even in my own party and in the Senate which sound an uncertain trumpet, I can assure you that they do not represent the Government or the people of the United States on this issue.

In this atmosphere of serious preparation for a test in Berlin, the notion of effective negotiation towards disarmament seems somewhat unreal. Mr. McCloy has been meeting with the Russians because it seems to us important not to be hasty in breaking off discussions on which there was agreement some months ago. But we are simply repeating over and over again that there can be no discussion of substance except after a new agreement on an appropriate forum. The time may come, I believe, [Page 671] when it will be possible and useful to have such serious discussion in a very small circle, but I must say that time does not seem to be now.

I am personally disappointed that we have not made more progress in this last month toward the establishment of stronger processes of consultation in the intervals between our personal meeting. I do not think either of our foreign secretaries has been idle, but we must not allow the pressures of the day to prevent preparations for continued close consultation, even though some of these pressures are those of the consultation which does in fact go on regularly at many levels. I have talked with Dean Rusk again about this, and he tells me that he is planning to talk about ways and means today through Ambassador Alphand and Ambassador Caccia, as agents of their two foreign secretaries.1

Meanwhile, one of the lessons which I draw from our meeting in May is that there is a sense in which no other consultation can substitute for direct encounters between chiefs of Government.

It seems to me that if the crisis in Berlin becomes more serious, and perhaps on even more general grounds, it may be useful if you and Prime Minister Macmillan and I can have a meeting at some convenient time in the autumn. I should be glad to know whether this seems a reasonable idea to you.

May I conclude by sending my warmest personal regards, in which Mrs. Kennedy joins, to you and to Madame de Gaulle.2


John F. Kennedy

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 700.5611/7–261. Secret; Verbatim Text. Drafted by Beigel and cleared by Kohler and Tyler.
  2. Rusk met with Caccia and Alphand at 3:05 p.m. to discuss consultations. According to a memorandum of conversation they agreed to discuss in Washington Laos, the Congo, Africa including Algeria, disarmament, and Southeast Asia. Rusk asked the Ambassadors to seek the opinions of their Foreign Ministers with respect to a pre-September meeting. (Ibid., 396.1/6–3061)
  3. On July 6 de Gaulle responded saying that he too believed Berlin was the essential problem and agreeing on the desirability of a meeting with Macmillan. (Ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204; printed in part in Charles de Gaulle, Memoires d’Espoir, Le Renouveau, 1958–1962, p. 272)