407. Telegram From the Delegation to the Heads of Government Meeting to the Embassy in France0

4. Eyes only Ambassador. Following text letter to de Gaulle from President which you should deliver immediately to de Gaulle, or the [Page 1113] highest official for soonest possible communication to de Gaulle. Time is important since imperative that de Gaulle be informed prior to release communiqué from Nassau.

Begin verbatim text:

Dear General de Gaulle: I wanted you to know that Prime Minister Macmillan and I have had an extensive discussion of the question whether to proceed with the production of Skybolt missiles. I informed the Prime Minister that, having taken all the relevant factors into account, the US Govt does not wish to continue on its own account the production of this missile. However, I told the Prime Minister that, in view of the particular interest of the UK Government with the respect to Skybolt, we would be prepared to complete its development, should the UK so desire, on the basis of equally shared costs. Alternatively, I offered to make available to the UK Government the Hound Dog air-to-surface missiles, should it consider this preferable.

Having carefully considered these two proposals, the Prime Minister decided not to accept either of them.

The Prime Minister then turned to the possibility of provision of the Polaris missile to the UK by the US. We then reached an understanding, subject to approval by the British Cabinet on Friday morning which contains the following key paragraphs:

“After careful review the President and the Prime Minister agreed that a decision on Polaris must be considered in the widest context both of the future defense of the Atlantic Alliance and of the safety of the free world. They reached the conclusion that this issue created an opportunity for the development of new and closer arrangements for the organization and control of strategic Western defense and that such arrangements in turn could make a major contribution to political cohesion among the nations of the Alliance.

The Prime Minister suggested, and the President agreed, that for the immediate future a start could be made by subscribing to NATO some part of the forces already in existence. This could include allocations from US strategic forces, from UK Bomber Command, and from tactical forces now in Europe. Such forces would be assigned as part of a NATO nuclear force and targeted in accordance with NATO plans.

Returning to Polaris the President and the Prime Minister agreed that the purpose of their two governments with respect to the provision of the Polaris missiles must be the development of multilateral NATO nuclear force in the closest consultation with the other NATO allies. They will use their best endeavors to this end.

Accordingly the President and the Prime Minister agreed that the US will make available on a continuing basis Polaris missiles (less warheads) for British submarines. The US will also study the feasibility of [Page 1114] making available certain support facilities for such submarines. The UK Government will construct the submarines in which these weapons will be placed and they will also provide the nuclear warheads for the Polaris missiles. British forces developed under this plan will be assigned and targeted in the same way as the forces described above.

These forces, and at least equal forces, would be made available for inclusion in a NATO multilateral nuclear force. The Prime Minister made it clear that these British forces will be used for the purpose of international defense of the Western Alliance in all circumstances, except where H.M.G. may decide that supreme national interests are at stake.

The President and the Prime Minister are convinced that this new plan will strengthen the nuclear defense of the Western Alliance. In strategic terms this defense is indivisible and it is their conviction that in all ordinary circumstances of crisis or danger, it is this very unity which is the best protection for the West.

The President and the Prime Minister agreed that in addition to having a nuclear shield it is important to have a non-nuclear sword. For this purpose they agreed on the importance of increasing the effectiveness of their conventional forces.”

I feel that the agreement we have reached can make a major contribution to the cohesion and the effective defense of the West. I want you to know that I would consider a similar agreement with you, should you so desire.

Mrs. Kennedy and I would like to extend to you and Madame de Gaulle our very best wishes for a Merry Christmas.

(Signed John F. Kennedy)

End verbatim text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Bonn, and the Department, which is the source text. No time of transmission appears on the source text. A similar letter was transmitted to Bonn in telegram 1 from Nassau for delivery to Adenauer. (Ibid.)