186. Oral Statement Delivered to the Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Thompson)1


We note with satisfaction the agreement of the US Government with the opinion of the Soviet side that the question concerning achievement of a mutual understanding on anti-missile defense systems should be considered simultaneously with the solution of the question of offensive nuclear delivery means. Such a combined approach is in this case the only correct one, since it would permit a real discussion of the broad objectives concerning both containment of the arms race and disarmament.

However, as can be understood from your statement, the American side proceeds from the premise that as a point of departure for consideration of these problems it is necessary to recognize the present strategic situation as “most stable” and to seek to preserve it for the future. Unfortunately, [Page 452] in real life such “stability” by no means precludes the risk of nuclear conflict. This is especially true in the present situation which is characterized by the existence of dangerous hotbeds of international tension. A buildup of the means of nuclear attack which is being carried out in the US and the militant mood of certain US allies which is finding support among influential American circles further exacerbate the tenseness of the situation.

The presently existing strategic situation, which you call stable, has another dangerous aspect. As a matter of fact, one can speak of the concept of “stability” at any given moment only in very relative terms, as of a combination and interaction of many factors which are understood differently by the parties. Such “stability” creates in practice a situation where one party in providing for its security is compelled, in response to the accelerated production and accumulation of offensive strategic rocket-nuclear means by the other party, to take steps for strengthening its defense capabilities, while the other party in turn sees in this reason for moving to a new and higher level in the armaments race spiral.

We believe it necessary to find a way out of this vicious circle. This in our view can be done only if we seek equally to ensure the security of each side rather than attempt to solidify such a correlation of forces as this or that party regards at a given moment to be advantageous to it. Such an approach, in our view, would meet the interests not only of our countries but also of other nations, and it would meet the interests of the world at large.

It seems to us that the best way towards nuclear disarmament which would take into account the considerations expressed above would be to destroy all offensive weapons and, in any event, to reduce to a minimum the arsenals of means for a rocket-nuclear attack, leaving—and then only temporarily—only strictly limited amounts of such means. In such a case apparently no great difficulties would arise for the solution of the anti-missile defense problem either.

In our view, it is important first of all to reach some common understanding with regard to the approach itself to the solution of this problem, after which one could move to a discussion of more specific questions.

We would be prepared to consider any additional considerations which the American side might wish to express on this matter. In this connection, we do not exclude holding in the future, if it proves necessary, a special meeting or meetings of our appropriate representatives for more detailed discussions of this entire problem.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Arms Control Messages Exchanged Between President Johnson and Chairman, USSR, Vol. 1. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 185.