179. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

123253. Eyes Only for the Ambassador. In your meeting with Gromyko you should make following oral reply concerning talks on strategic [Page 433] weapons question. You may leave an informal copy of your oral remarks.

“The United States has studied the oral statement of Ambassador Dobrynin on January 18, 1967,2 concerning an exchange of views between Soviet and American representatives on the possibilities of reaching a mutual understanding concerning anti-ballistic missile systems.

“The United States Government accepts the Soviet Government’s position that discussions should include offensive strategic nuclear missile delivery systems as well as anti-missile defense systems. This position is, of course, without prejudice to whatever solutions may arise in the discussions with respect to possible understandings on feasible combinations of weapons systems which might be curtailed in order to curb the strategic arms race.

“Today both sides realize that a nuclear war would be disastrous for both and that our strategic weapons can serve only to deter such a war. In this light, it seems that the present strategic situation may be the most stable we can hope to achieve in the near future. We each have large numbers of well-protected weapons, and each has the ability with high confidence to inflict terrible destruction upon the other, even after having received an initial attack. Therefore, the initiation of such an attack is not now rational.

“There are, however, disquieting signs that suggest that this situation may become seriously altered in the near future. During the past several years, the United States has consciously restricted its deployment of strategic missiles and refrained from deploying ballistic missile defenses, hoping to see a corresponding display of restraint on part of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, it now appears that there is an acceleration in the deployment of Soviet systems. Although your deployments are no doubt prompted by concern to protect your people, we believe we should both consider whether this action, and whatever reactions on our part it will necessarily cause, are in the interest of either of our countries.

“We believe that we understand your feelings on this point because they are probably very similar to our own. The safety and security of our countries must be the first concern of each of us.

“It is in this context that we believe we should discuss the implications of the continued deployment of strategic missile and anti-missile defense systems. It seems clear to us that if unchecked your deployments could raise serious requirements for us with respect to our own deterrent. We will be forced to increase our offensive forces and perhaps start to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system. These actions on our part could [Page 434] negate your new deployments and lead you to decide on still further increases in your strategic forces. All of this would be at great cost to both of us and might well lead to greater rather than lesser risks due to the upward spiral in the arms race.

“It is also true that any evidence of progress in these talks would make easier the accession by certain non-nuclear states to the non-proliferation treaty which we both hope is nearing agreement between us.

“It is for these reasons that we believe we should discuss urgently whether it is possible to curtail the arms race in strategic weapons systems.

“High level representatives should, we believe, discuss a prompt cessation of deployment of additional strategic offensive missile launchers, and anti-missile launchers and associated launch facilities. It will be necessary to discuss respective strategic weapons systems of both sides in order to reach agreement on precisely which systems would be involved. It will also be necessary to be precise with respect to the undertakings regarding cessation or curtailment of further expansion of deployment.

“The United States would be prepared to discuss the possibilities of placing maximum reliance on unilateral means of verification to meet the major objectives of ceasing further deployment of new missile and anti-missile launch facilities without requiring inspection on either party’s territory. If discussions suggest that dependable curtailment of some aspects of strategic offensive and defensive weapons systems would require on-site inspection, such questions too could be included.

“We recognize that these and other complex questions will require careful consideration by our representatives.

“The United States places no preconditions on these discussions. We do, however, note that, especially since the discussions may extend for some time, insofar as either side may make major changes in strategic offensive or defensive weapons system deployment during the negotiations, such changes might compel the other side to take the steps necessary to offset such further changes.

“We suggest deferring consideration of the form in which an understanding between us might be expressed until we see what such an understanding might cover. And, after we have determined that such an arrangement is working to our mutual satisfaction, we might achieve the climate for broader, as well as more formal, agreements in the strategic arms area.”

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, Central Policy File: FRC 86 A 5, Folder 3543. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Fisher (ACDA) and Garthoff (G/PM); cleared by Rostow, McNamara, Kohler, Foster, and Walsh; and approved by Secretary Rusk on January 21.
  2. See Document 174.