108. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • Soviet Military Assistance to Morocco

The Departments of State and Defense are concerned over the arrival in Morocco of twelve Soviet MIG-17 jet fighters and two MIG-15 trainers for the Moroccan Air Force. There are indications that twenty to thirty Bloc technicians may also have arrived, although this is not yet fully confirmed. The Department of Defense is particularly concerned about the significant threat to the security and potential usefulness of our military bases in Morocco, including the SAC complex, that would be represented by the presence in Morocco of Soviet military equipment and personnel. Last November when Moroccan acceptance of the Soviet offer of jet planes was announced our Ambassador obtained oral assurances from the King and the Crown Prince that they would do nothing in this connection to affect Morocco’s commitment (reached between the King and President Eisenhower in December 1959) to permit us to remain at our bases until the end of 1963. Those assurances included an undertaking not to admit any Soviet bloc technicians into Morocco. There is thus some question whether or not this undertaking has been breached.

With my approval, and the consent of Governor Stevenson, we have arranged to send Ambassador Yost back to Rabat this weekend, ostensibly to take his official farewell of the Moroccan Government. We are in fact anxious that Ambassador Yost explore with the King personally the significance of the arrival of Soviet jets and perhaps technicians. Last December we provided the Ambassador with a standby authority to offer U.S. jet planes to the Moroccan Government if he felt this was necessary to insure that the Moroccan Government would not make use of the Soviet planes, or as a minimum would refuse to accept any Soviet Bloc [Page 162] technicians.2 In view of the assurances mentioned above, the Ambassador did not feel it necessary to use this standby offer at the time. However it is still valid and it is our intention that the Ambassador would be prepared to make the offer explicit to the King if the trend of their conversation indicated this as the best course.

Ambassador Yost feels, and both the African Bureau and I concur, that it would be particularly valuable to him in his delicate mission to be able to present to the King a message from you. The letter would have a dual purpose, to reaffirm our good will and desire to continue our cooperation with Morocco and at the same time to emphasize the gravity with which we view the latest developments. The enclosed text will show what we have in mind and would enable Ambassador Yost to enter into a detailed discussion of the problem with the King. (I might add that the occasion could also provide an unusual opportunity to ascertain current Moroccan intentions with regard to the Congo and Algeria.)

Ambassador Yost is leaving for Morocco today, February 17, 1961, and expects to see the King the first part of next week. If you approve the enclosed message we will transmit it to our Embassy in Rabat for Ambassador Yost.3

Dean Rusk4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 771.5/2-1761. Secret; Presidential Handling. Drafted by Root. A handwritten notation on the source text states that the proposal contained in the memorandum was approved by the White House on February 17. The source text is attached to a memorandum from James K. Penfield (AF) to Secretary Rusk recommending that he send the memorandum to the President along with an accompanying draft letter from President Kennedy to King Mohammed V.
  2. For documentation on the U.S. offer, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. XIII, pp. 812816.
  3. Attached to the source text but not printed. On February 17, the letter was transmitted to the Embassy in Rabat to hold for Ambassador Yost. (Telegram 1202; Department of State, Central Files, 611.71/2-1761) The letter explained to King Mohammed that Ambassador Yost was being transferred to another post at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, reminded the King of the 1959 U.S.-Moroccan air base agreement, expressed concern over Morocco’s recent military transaction with the Soviet Union, and said that Yost would be discussing with the King U.S. concern over Soviet technicians in Morocco.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.