39. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk1

Mr. President:

Mr. Secretary:

John Walsh of State has talked on the secure phone to Chet Cooper.2 The situation is as follows:

After the formal meeting Wilson and Kosygin met.3Wilson had been pressing Kosygin for a firm commitment that they would negotiate if we stopped bombing.
Kosygin later said he called Hanoi and got that commitment. He then pressed Wilson to join him in a statement to Washington asking for us to stop bombing in the North in return for Hanoi entering into negotiations. Wilson refused. But Kosygin states that he will table tomorrow at 4:00 in the afternoon, London time, a draft of this type.
Wilson wants to know:
  • —On what language would we insist? Could we furnish a draft?
  • —Did we have anything concrete in mind in the President’s press conference remarks that he is prepared to stop “for almost any reciprocal action”;4
  • —If we want him to be tough, he will be tough.5
Kosygin says the Russians are ready to underwrite Hanoi’s commitment to talk if we stop bombing.


My reaction: This is obviously a pressure play which we should take seriously but not react to with excessive haste. Also, if we are going to enter into counter-drafting, we ought to get the draft Wilson is talking about.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower Plus [2 of 2]. Top Secret. A handwritten “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. On February 4 Bruce and Cooper met with Prime Minister Wilson and Foreign Secretary Brown to discuss the impending Kosygin visit. As a means of making the DRV more amenable toward negotiations, they suggested that the British could press the Soviets on the need to “insure Hanoi” against Chinese recriminations if in fact the North Vietnamese decided to move toward negotiations. Wilson and Brown were also informed about the U.S. Government’s direct contact with the North Vietnamese Embassy in Moscow, although they were advised not to reveal their knowledge of it to Kosygin. (Telegram 6271 from London, February 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) In telegram 6272 from London, February 4, Cooper reported on his review and approval of the brief that Wilson would use with Kosygin which emphasized the willingness of the U.S. Government to extend “private assurances” to the DRV. (Ibid.) In telegram 131698 to London, February 5, the Department cautioned: “May we assume that you made clear to them that private and direct message we received was even more conditional than public or third country messages.” (Ibid.)
  2. Cooper’s reports to Washington were sent in telegrams 6315 from London, February 6, and 6316 from London, February 7. Cooper met with Wilson and his Ministers immediately after the Prime Minister’s meeting with Kosygin ended and reviewed the Kosygin meeting with Wilson later that evening over dinner. (Both ibid.)
  3. Telegram 132572 to Moscow, February 7, contained a text of Wilson’s February 6 message to Johnson on his meetings with Kosygin. Wilson reported that he met with Kosygin informally in the afternoon, at the plenary session, and for a private talk at the end of a dinner he had given for the Soviet Premier. According to Wilson, Kosygin’s statements reflected a dramatic shift in favor of negotiations by the Soviets. He also reported that Kosygin would prepare a message pressing President Johnson to meet the offer put forth by Trinh in his interview with Burchett. (Ibid.)
  4. See the President’s press conference in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 128–134.
  5. In White House telegram CAP 67038, February 7, the President responded that the administration planned to inform the North Vietnamese directly of the following: “if they will agree to an assured stoppage of infiltration into South Viet Nam, we will stop the bombing of North Viet Nam and stop further augmentation of U.S. forces in South Viet Nam.” Johnson underscored that he wanted Wilson to support this position in his talks with Kosygin. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus) The text of the Johnson letter to Wilson was also sent to Bruce and Cooper in telegram 132481 to London, February 7. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET; the full text of this cable and the Johnson letter to Wilson are printed in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 29–31) Cooper read the President’s statement of the Phase A-Phase B formula to Brown on the morning of February 7. (Telegram 6321 from London; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)