231. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Bohlen) to Secretary of State Rusk1
- US-Soviet Strategic Missile Negotiations
On March 16, following a briefing which ACDA gave you, you instructed me to form a committee to examine the ACDA recommendations on controlling the strategic arms race. This review has now been [Page 565] completed by representatives of the Department, ACDA, and DOD/ISA, and I wish to submit for your consideration and approval the following proposals.
Though the working group was initially in substantial agreement on these proposals, I understand that Ambassador Foster has certain reservations and will be submitting to you a separate memorandum on the subject. However, the proposals set forth in this memorandum have the full approval of Ambassador Thompson and DOD/ISA. They will be presented simultaneously by DOD/ISA to Secretary Clifford. If you and Secretary Clifford agree on them, they will be checked with the JCS prior to submission to the President for his approval.
The main aim of the US in engaging the Soviets in negotiations on strategic missiles would be to reach an agreement which would maintain a stable US-Soviet strategic deterrent relationship, primarily by controlling the number of offensive and defensive missile launchers. Even if unsuccessful in this quest, the US would benefit indirectly from such talks. They would promote a better understanding of the concerns each side has in the developing missile race. Also, a new US-Soviet agreement to hold such talks, if announced in the near future, would help secure support for the NPT (see below).
Initial Negotiating Position
The US should be prepared to submit a concrete initial negotiating position to the Soviets even prior to their agreement to set a date for talks. Some Soviet contacts have intimated that such a step would help the Soviet Government (i.e., those favoring talks) to reach a positive decision on this matter. It would be taken as an earnest of our intent and help remove doubts that, in proposing talks, we were merely bent on an intelligence fishing expedition.
The attached initial negotiating position (Tab A), drafted in the form of an oral statement to be presented by Ambassador Thompson in Moscow, is a revised version of the paper submitted to you, the Secretary of Defense, and the Acting Director of ACDA in early March.2 It incorporates recommendations made by ACDA relating to the general principles which would underlie a strategic arms agreement. However, like its immediate predecessor, it essentially is based on the draft proposal approved by you on September 23, but modified to take account of objections subsequently voiced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.3[Page 566]
Whatever may be the decision on the timing of the delivery of this oral statement, it would be desirable to reach agreement now within the US Government on an initial negotiating position, so as to provide a base for further examination of the problem and to be prepared for talks should they eventuate.
Timing of Presentation
As for timing the proposed initiative, both you and Secretary Clifford indicated in early March that the time was not ripe for such a move. This may still be the case today. However, new considerations have arisen. The President’s initiative, and the North Vietnamese response, on limiting bombing have cast a better international climate in regard to the Vietnam War. Also, on March 14, the ENDC completed its work on the NPT and submitted a draft treaty to the UN General Assembly for its consideration and endorsement. Preliminary soundings indicate that General Assembly support for the NPT may be anything but overwhelming. A number of non-nuclear weapons states have complained, among other objections, that the nuclear powers have assumed no meaningful obligation under the NPT to move forward with the business of disarmament.
In order to dispel this charge, as well as to hold out an added inducement to the Soviets to agree to talks, it is recommended that Ambassador Thompson deliver the proposed statement under Tab A promptly after his return to Moscow (April 17) and that he preface this statement with a message from the President to Chairman Kosygin (Tab B), arguing that it would be advantageous to the cause of the NPT if the US and USSR were to announce during the General Assembly session their agreement to commence on a given date bilateral discussions of limitations on strategic arms.4
Once negotiations begin, we should pursue in parallel discussions of concrete proposals and of principles, embodying the concept of an agreed limitation on the strategic arms race. The latter dialogue would be helpful in convincing the Soviets of the desirability of our proposal, as well as in obtaining a clearer idea of Soviet thinking on this arms-disarmament complex, which in turn might influence our final negotiating position. The general principles contained in the ACDA briefing paper of March 16 could serve as guidelines for such a discussion.[Page 567]
Negotiating Problems and Alternatives
It is recognized that our initial negotiation position contains a number of significant omissions and almost certainly would be challenged by the Soviets on certain points. Several of them were examined in the ACDA study. In some problem areas, it would be relatively easy to construct convincing rebuttals. In other cases, we might at some point want to reconsider our position. However, I do not recommend that decisions on these problem issues be made at this point. This would have to be done after negotiations have been in progress for some time and we have a clearer idea of Soviet intentions.
I understand that S/P, at your instruction, is preparing a separate study on the problem of strategic arms control and that it proposes a rather substantial reduction of missiles. This study will be given careful consideration and may prove useful for future contingencies. However, I believe that, at this stage at least, our aim should be to obtain Soviet agreement to level off the strategic arms race.
Alternative contingency proposals such as this could be considered by the Committee of Principals.
- That you approve the proposed oral statement set forth in Tab A, either to be delivered shortly (see below) or to be held as a contingency position.
- That you approve the proposed Presidential letter to Chairman Kosygin (Tab B), to be delivered along with the above oral statement by Ambassador Thompson on his return to Moscow.5
- Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, Central Policy File: FRC 86 A 5, Folder 2915. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by John P. Shaw (G/PM) on April 2. There is a typed notation on the source text for Ambassador Thompson’s concurrence, but it is not initialed.↩
- The paper sent to Rusk, Clifford, and Fisher in March has not been further identified.↩
- The draft proposal approved by Rusk on September 23 has not been further identified.↩
- Tab B is a telegram to Moscow, drafted by John P. Shaw (G/PM), Sidney N. Graybeal (ACDA) and Lawrence D. Weiler (ACDA) on April 24; cleared by Ambassador Bohlen and Foster (ACDA); and approved by Secretary Rusk. A typewritten notation on Tab B reads: “Draft. See OD-ACDA-2915 dated April 5, 1968, (not sent in this form, per Mr. Shaw).” Tab B was apparently revised and incorporated into a May 2, 1968, message which was sent directly from President Johnson to Chairman Kosygin. See Document 237.↩
- There is no indication whether Secretary Rusk approved or disapproved these recommendations.↩
- Top Secret; Nodis. It is uncertain if this undated, unnumbered telegram was ever sent to Moscow. It was drafted by John P. Shaw (G/PM) and Mort Halperin (DOD/ISA) on April 3, and prepared for clearance by Bohlen, Clifford, and Thompson, and for approval by Rusk, but no initials appear on the source text.↩
- On March 2, 1967, President Johnson held a news conference at which he revealed that Chairman Kosygin had responded on February 27 to his letter of January 21, 1967 (see Document 178), to enter into discussions on limiting defensive and offensive nuclear missiles. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 259-260. For background on the ABM issue, see Documents 173 and 174. Regarding subsequent high-level exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union, see Documents 178, 179, 185, and 186.↩
- For text of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. joint statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations, transmitted to the 16th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, September 20, 1961, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 1091-1094.↩
- Printed from an unsigned copy.↩
- Top Secret; Nodis.↩
- Printed from an unsigned copy.↩