191. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) and President Johnson 1

Governor Harriman called the President.

H—Mr. President, I wanted you to know I feel very strongly that Warsaw has a number of advantages over any other place.

The President—I have rejected it outright, flat, all the way. I saw where the State Department said it was excellent. But as long as I am President we are not going to Warsaw where we have been once before and negotiate in that kind of atmosphere. I feel strongly it ought to be neutral, have adequate communications and some of the other people with experience feel the same way, such as Ellsworth Bunker.

H—I would also hope to be among those consulted.

The President—Yes, you have told me your opinion now. I would also like to be consulted and decide before the State Department decides. I have drafted and just LDX’d my reply.2

H—I will obey orders.

The President—I hope so.

H—But I hope I can always tell you how I feel. I have to tell you this was a major step forward in kicking the Chinese out of the situation. The people in Eastern Europe want to end this conflict and have a reasonable [Page 565] settlement. It doesn’t bother me to negotiate in an Iron Curtain country.

The President—It does bother me. I don’t want any part of Warsaw, Czechoslovakia, or any of these other Eastern European countries. I think it ought to be in Asia, in a neutral territory. We shouldn’t be dictated to through Tass.3

H—I am a fellow who takes orders. I have dealt with these countries for a long time, and I think my judgment is better than Bunker’s.

The President—It may be. It may be better than mine.

H—But I would like to be able to tell you how I feel.

The President—You did you see.

H—We have a tough proposition to get the kind of peace you want in Asia. We have got to use all of our resources to get it.—I am a soldier. I obey orders.

Note: (I understand that in addition to Katzenbach and Bundy, Clark Clifford agrees in favoring Warsaw. W.A.H.)

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Chronological/Schedule, April 1968. No classification marking. The President’s Daily Diary notes a telephone call by the President to Harriman at 11:46 a.m. on April 11. (Johnson Library)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 190.
  3. The DRV proposal of Warsaw was first disclosed through a report from the Soviet news agency Tass. According to a memorandum of conversation, April 11, Katzenbach chided Dobrynin for Soviet release of the offer through public channels, which tended “to give the impression that what we are engaged in is a propaganda exercise rather than a serious effort to bring about peace in Vietnam.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Crocodile—Paris to be filed) In a memorandum of conversation with Dobrynin, April 12, Thompson noted: “In the course of my talk with Dobrynin today, I probed to find out whether the North Vietnamese had been in contact with the Soviets about their recent move for talks with us. He said he had no information to indicate that they had consulted the Soviets before the President’s speech on the matter but that the North Vietnamese had informed their Ambassador in advance of the reply they were making to our proposal. (I believe he was referring to our proposal of Geneva.)” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) According to a more detailed memorandum of this same conversation with Dobrynin dated April 12, Thompson told him that “Warsaw was almost like our proposing Taiwan.” (Ibid.) Christian read a statement to the press acknowledging the Tass dispatch, the DRV message in Vientiane, and the U.S. reply. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, April 29, 1968, p. 551.