11. Oral Message From President Johnson to Chairman Khrushchev 1

A handwritten notation on the source text reads: “Handed to Dobrynin, Sat. 2/22/64. WR Tyler.” In a memorandum to Llewellyn Thompson, February 22, Tyler recounted that he handed the oral message to Dobrynin at 11:30 a.m. He noted that Dobrynin read it carefully but made no substantive comment. Tyler stressed to the Soviet Ambassador that this was one in a series of private messages between the two leaders and that the U.S. approach was to be helpful and had “no propaganda objective.” In reply to Dobrynin’s question, Tyler said he was not aware of any specific date for the announcement of the U.S. reduction, “but I thought we would not wish to delay it too long.” (Ibid., National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, Pen Pal Correspondence, Khrushchev (1), Box 8)

Dear Mr. Chairman:

With further reference to my announcement of January eighth of the reduction by twenty-five percent in the United States output of enriched uranium (U-235) and the closing of some plutonium-producing reactors,2 I have again reviewed our requirements and have concluded that it will soon be possible to reduce United States production of U-235 by an additional substantial amount.

I am furnishing you this advance notice in the renewed hope that the Soviet Government would find it in its interest to take a parallel step.

It seems to me that this is an area in which our two Governments could put into practice the concept of “mutual example” which you have suggested.3 The reductions need not be by an equal amount. I am sure that another substantial reduction in United States output will naturally lead the world to hope that the Soviet Union will follow suit. I would hope that your Government would also be prepared to join the United States in taking such action as would confirm to the world that we were in fact taking these steps; I have already offered to take action of this type with respect to one of the reactors we are shutting down.

Should my suggestion meet your approval, I am prepared to delay my announcement of a further United States reduction for the time it would require to concert our views on the matter. We could then consider [Page 23]how best to make this public, whether by a joint announcement or other appropriate means. You will have noticed that the UK has announced the cessation of production of U-235 for military purposes,4 and I would hope that the UK would want to join in any discussions we have.

I sincerely believe that both our Governments would stand to gain by such joint action. It would hearten world public opinion and give new impetus to the disarmament talks.

Sincerely,5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, Pen Pal Correspondence, Khrushchev (2), Box 8. No classification marking. Regarding the decision to send this message, see Document 10. In a memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, February 18, Fisher attached an undated draft of the proposed message to Khrushchev. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, Pen Pal Correspondence, Khrushchev (2), Box 8) Fisher’s draft is similar to the source text but more directly proposed “appropriate inspection of some of the closed facilities,” such as President Johnson had already offered for one of the U.S. reactors that was being shut down. A similar draft to Fisher’s, dated February 18, is reproduced in Seaborg, Journal, Vol. 8, p. 23.
  2. See Document 1.
  3. The quoted phrase has not been further identified.
  4. Included in the British Defense White Paper, issued February 13, was a statement that sufficient supplies of fissile material were already available and that therefore production of U-235 for military purposes had ceased at Capenhurst in 1963 and military plutonium production was gradually being terminated. (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1963-1964, p. 19978)
  5. Printed from an unsigned copy.