13. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Disarmament:
  • (1) MLF and Non-dissemination
  • (2) Military Budgets

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador, Soviet Embassy
  • David Henry, Deputy Director, SOV

At the Secretary’s request, Ambassador Dobrynin came in this afternoon to discuss disarmament matters.

The Secretary opened the conversation by explaining that he had mentioned Dobrynin’s visit at his just-concluded press conference2 [Page 26]because not to have done so would have created an undesirable air of mystery.

The Secretary mentioned that Mr. Foster’s return from Geneva did not indicate any lessened American interest in disarmament and stressed that we must keep trying to reach agreement.

The Secretary also mentioned seeing today for the first time an indication that the Soviet Government is supporting the Polish proposal for a nuclear freeze in Central Europe.3 Dobrynin indicated that his Government would support the Polish plan but, in response to the Secretary’s question, said he did not know when full details of the plan would be available. The Secretary said that we will take a good look at the plan when the details are available.

MLF AND NON-DISSEMINATION

The Secretary then turned to the subject of the Multilateral Force (MLF) and non-dissemination of nuclear weapons, saying that this was an informal conversation and not a government-to-government representation. The Secretary stated that he wished clarification of one aspect of this subject. He desired to know whether the Soviet objection to MLF is that the Soviet Government believes MLF would mean dissemination of nuclear weapons or whether the Soviet Government has additional or different objections. He said that if the Soviet objection is merely the former, we believe that we can eventually reassure the Soviet Government on this point. After Dobrynin had said that the U.S.S.R. is opposed primarily to dissemination, the Secretary asked further whether the Soviet Government was concerned primarily about the possible dissemination of nuclear weapons to Germany or whether it was more generally concerned about dissemination to any country. Without answering the question in specific terms, Dobrynin indicated that the U.S.S.R. is concerned about the dissemination of nuclear weapons to Germany but was also concerned about dissemination of these weapons to any country.

At this point the Secretary mentioned that the primary U.S. concern in this field is Communist China and asked whether the Soviet Government had any indication whatsoever whether Peiping would be interested in a non-dissemination treaty. Dobrynin said he had no information and would not guess but stressed that we (the U.S. and U.S.S.R.) should not lose interest in non-dissemination in any case.

The Secretary agreed and stated that he hopes we can keep the issue of non-dissemination open, adding that we know the MLF will not give [Page 27]nuclear weapons to Germany; that the safeguards are not merely legal but also apply to the physical arrangements; that the MLF safeguards will be even stronger than those currently in force among NATO partners. He asked Dobrynin whether, if the U.S. can satisfy the U.S.S.R. on this point, the Soviet Government had other objections to MLF. He mentioned as an example that the U.S.S.R. might be concerned that MLF would add the financial and economic resources of other countries to the production and deployment of nuclear weapons capability. Dobrynin responded that the Soviet side believes that MLF means dissemination, that the Soviet Government understands the U.S. position but does not agree with it, that the Soviet Government is concerned that Germany, and also other countries, will get nuclear weapons through MLF.

The Secretary said that if this is the specific point of Soviet objection, it is important to keep the discussion of non-dissemination open because the Soviet Government will discover that the Germans will not get nuclear weapons through MLF.

Dobrynin asked if he could summarize the Secretary’s position as follows: The U.S. believes in the desirability of non-dissemination but is going ahead on the MLF and will later try to convince the Soviet Government by the actual MLF arrangements that the MLF will not mean dissemination. The Secretary said there was one more point—that he had asked whether the Soviet objections to MLF were concentrated on dissemination or on other questions. Dobrynin replied that the question of other objections had not arisen because the Soviet Government was concerned about dissemination. The Secretary repeated that in this event it is important to keep the discussion of non-dissemination open because the U.S. will eventually be able to show the U.S.S.R. that the MLF will not mean the dissemination of nuclear weapons to Germany and others.

MILITARY BUDGETS

The Secretary said that the Soviet Government had made proposals for a mutual reduction of defense budgets and that the U.S. had responded by suggesting technical talks on this subject. He indicated that the U.S. is concerned that the Soviet and American military budgets are so different that it would be impossible to make percentage reductions which would be meaningful. He pointed out that the U.S. defense budget contains more items than the Soviet defense budget and suggested that the U.S. defense budget expert, Mr. Charles Hitch,4 talk to his Soviet counterpart to obtain a proper comparison in military budgets. He added that when he had discussed this subject with Gromyko the latter had neither agreed nor disagreed and the Secretary asked Dobrynin to sound out his Government as to whether we could have such a discussion of experts.

[Page 28]

Dobrynin said the Soviet side and he personally felt that such a discussion would do no good, that if the U.S. doesn’t trust the U.S.S.R. now, no details would ever satisfy the U.S. The discussion passed back and forth on this question, the Secretary reiterating the need for further information and Dobrynin arguing in favor of an immediate percentage cut in budgets. When Dobrynin asked why, since the U.S. favored cuts by mutual example, it could not accept cuts by agreement, the Secretary replied that by an agreement the U.S. would be giving up its freedom of movement. He also said that, since the Soviet defense budget is more narrow than ours, a percentage reduction would mean less of a reduction for the U.S.S.R. than for the U.S.

Dobrynin said that when the U.S. announced a reduction in its defense budget, it did not say exactly what it was reducing. He added that the U.S.S.R. was prepared to do this same sort of thing. He continued that another committee to study defense budgets would get nowhere. It would take years of discussion and the U.S. would want to look at the defense budgets of all the Soviet ministries.

The Secretary replied that he thought a policy of mutual example was best, but the U.S.S.R. was pressing for a percentage reduction at Geneva.

Dobrynin claimed the U.S.S.R. had set a good example but said he felt an agreement was better than mutual example. He added that the U.S. had intelligence means to discover whether the U.S.S.R. carried out its agreement. He concluded by saying that without some such technical discussion of military budgets he did not see how the U.S. could agree to a percentage reduction of military budgets, since it would be giving up its freedom of action for something unknown.

The Secretary and Ambassador Dobrynin agreed that Dobrynin would tell the press that they had discussed a number of disarmament matters.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18. Confidential. Drafted by David H. Henry (EUR/SOV) on February 28 and approved in S on March 9. The source text is labeled “Part I of VII.” The conversation was held in the Secretary’s office. In a memorandum to Secretary Rusk, February 26, Fisher provided talking points for this meeting. (Washington National Records Center,RG 383, ACDA/D Files: FRC 77 A 52, Memos to the Secretary, 1964)
  2. Text in Department of State Bulletin, March 16, 1964, pp. 403-409.
  3. Reference presumably is to a February 24 memorandum from the Government of Poland on freezing nuclear weapons in Central Europe, which was transmitted to interested governments through diplomatic channels. Text in Documents on Disarmament, 1964, pp. 53-55. The first indication of Soviet support for the Polish proposal has not been further identified.
  4. Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).