48. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk1

President: What is your impression of [Kosygin’s speech]?2

Rusk: Well, I think that he said what we expect him to say, and I think that his general tone was reasonably moderate for a fellow in his position.

President: I thought that he was rather restrained. I’m a little bit concerned, though, that he’s got Wilson aboard. I think we’re liable to be hearing further from them to stop the bombing, and they’ll trade us our preachers and our youth and our psychological warfare offensive—they’ll cut that down a little bit—if we stop our military action while they keep operating on our boys. That’s about what it adds up to.

[Page 109]

Rusk: That’s what it sounds like. I don’t think the British are going to jump aboard on that. We’ve got a—we’ve had a suggestion from them which is not good enough, and we’ll be over to suggest a reply to it.

President: What did the British say?

Rusk: Well, they said they wanted to propose to the Russians that first, that the United States stop its bombing; secondly, that there be a commitment from both sides to stop the augmentation of their forces; and third, that then let them call a Geneva conference [like] 1954. Now the trouble with the second point is that augmentation is not good enough as a substitute for infiltration because that would mean that the other side would be free to go ahead with a rotation and sending arms and re-supply and all that kind of thing, you see. I think our original formulation—stopping infiltration—is the one we ought to stay with.

President: Didn’t we bring augmentation onto ourselves though somewhere?

Rusk: Yeah, we said that we wouldn’t augment, that we wouldn’t augment, if they stopped infiltration.

President: So they’d just agree to not augment either.

Rusk: Yeah, but if they agree not to augment, they can still send in arms and rotate their men and do the things that we would have to do during that period. So I think our original language, or the Phase A-Phase B business, is still the thing we ought to stay with.

President: Now what’s George Christian going to say about his definite proposal that we stop bombing? They’re already moving him, heaven, and earth, and at 11 o’clock he’ll go right into it, and I guess that …

Rusk: Why doesn’t he just for the present read that paragraph in your reply to the Pope?3

President: I thought he might say that “I’m sure no one overlooked the fact that Mr. Kosygin agreed that it would be all right for the United States to agree to stop its military action, but he didn’t comment on the other side stopping their military action, and I don’t know whether he could really be serious in this or not—such a one-sided affair. And here’s what the President said on this subject yesterday. It’s amazing that he got no question in that direction and made no comment on it.” Something like that.

Rusk: I think I’d say “noteworthy” rather than “amazing.”

President: Well. All right.

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Rusk: All right. I think it’s all right.

President: If you get a chance, write that sentence out and call George before 11 o’clock so it’ll be careful, and I would really point up, though, that it’s almost amusing that he would agree that we could stop and not mention what the other side would do, that that doesn’t look like it’s a two sided affair, and that it’s noteworthy that he didn’t even get a question on what the other side would do, and if he’s proposing just to trade psychological warfare for military action, why we’re not about to do it. If he’s willing to trade military action for military action, we’re willing to talk.

Rusk: Right. All right, sir.4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, February 9, 1967, 9:07 a.m., Tape F67.05, Side A, PNO 5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
  2. In a speech at Guildhall on February 8, Kosygin stated that the first step toward a settlement based upon the Geneva agreements would be the “unconditional cessation” of the U.S. bombing of the DRV. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 851–852.
  3. See Document 42.
  4. Rusk called Christian and read to him the following statement to be given to the press: “Mr. Kosygin commented on the military action the United States should take but made no mention of any military action the other side would take. It is somewhat surprising that he did not have a question on that point, or, if he had a question, did not deal with it.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Rusk and Christian, February 9, 1967, no time indicated, Tape F67.05, Side A, PNO 6) Rusk elaborated on this statement in a press conference that afternoon. For text of Rusk’s statement, see Department of State Bulletin, February 27, 1967, pp. 317–322. At the end of the press conference, Rusk distributed copies of a restatement of the administration’s Fourteen Points for Peace in Southeast Asia originally made on January 3, 1966, by Vice President Humphrey. For the 1966 version, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 740–742; for Rusk’s restatement, see ibid., 1967, pp. 856–858.