187. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 1

3682. Ref: Moscow 3674,2, 3675,3 3676.4

1.
I interpret Kosygin’s letter and Gromyko’s statement as effort to establish good negotiating position rather than intention avoid serious discussion. Although not spelled out, implicit in Gromyko’s remarks is Soviet unwillingness to freeze present strategic balance which we have publicly boasted is in our favor. This, however, is difficult for Soviets to admit.
2.
Possible approach to solution would be agreement by which Soviet would maintain present ABM deployment around Moscow, agree not to complete or activate other ABM launchers, and Soviets would be allowed to complete or harden agreed number of additional launchers which number would still be less than ours in view of their Moscow ABM deployment, larger territory and greater dispersal their targets, large size some of their warheads, etc. Both sides would be free to improve quality of their missiles. Since Soviets doubtless have a number of missiles in their production pipeline, our agreement for increase on their part would have some practical appeal. The alternative of some decrease in our missiles would make it easier for them to justify abstention from ABM deployment and would have greater appeal to world opinion. If we decide insist on deactivization Moscow complex they will probably demand parity in number of launchers.
3.
Best way to proceed to rapid agreement would be for us to present concrete proposal but I realize this is difficult in view of uncertainty about their present deployment ABMs.
4.
While would be useful to have expert assistance here, each step in negotiation at this stage will have to be considered at top level here which will be time consuming and I doubt if presence of expert yet justified.
5.
I trust that any public statement on our part will be confined to announcement receipt of reply to President’s letter and fact that discussions taking place in Moscow with no indication of position taken.
Thompson
  1. Source: Department of State, Pen Pal Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163, Special US-USSR File, Pen Pal Series, 1963. Top Secret; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 3674, February 28, is the translation of Kosygin’s letter to President Johnson (Document 185). A copy of the telegram is in Department of State, Pen Pal Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163, Special US-USSR File, Pen Pal Series, 1963.
  3. Telegram 3675, February 28, is the translation of Gromyko’s oral statement delivered in connection with Kosygin’s letter to President Johnson (Document 186). A copy of the telegram is in Department of State, Pen Pal Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163, Special US-USSR File, Pen Pal Series, 1963.
  4. In telegram 3676, February 28, Ambassador Thompson noted that “at nine-thirty this morning Gromyko handed me Kosygin’s reply to President’s letter on ABMs and made some oral remarks.” In this same telegram, Ambassador Thompson inquired about the possibility of a Department of State or White House response to Gromyko’s statement and he asked for press guidance. A copy of the telegram is ibid.