24. Oral Message From Chairman Khrushchev to President Johnson 1

Dear Mr. President:

I have received your oral message of April 172 on the question of the reduction of the production of fissionable materials for military purposes [Page 51]which you sent through our Ambassador in Washington A. Dobrynin and which as it turned out you prepared before you could familiarize yourself with the answering message which I sent you earlier on this question.3

You state that you intend to make a statement April 20 concerning the plans of the Government of the U.S.A. in connection with a fixed reduction of the production of fissionable materials for military purposes and would like to know whether you could refer in some form or other to the possibility of parallel actions on the part of the Soviet Union in this area.

I think the answer, although possibly not complete, to this question of yours is already contained in my last message to you of April 17: we regard the achievement of agreement between our countries on the reduction of the production of fissionable materials for military purposes useful, although naturally we for our part will determine the amount of the reduction of such production of active materials proceeding from a calculation of the total production of them by the NATO countries.

As for England, in addition to your communications, I have only just received a message from Prime Minister Douglas-Home 4 in which he informs me of his intention to associate himself with your forthcoming statement of April 20 although he is doing this in general form not giving concrete expression to his intention. Concerning the plans of France, nothing as formerly is known to us in this connection, although as I have already noted it is important for us to know this.

Nevertheless, since as a result of the exchange of opinions, agreement in principle between us concerning the desirability of parallel actions in this question has been achieved and, as you point out, it is important for you to make a statement on this question April 20, we also on that day will make a declaration concerning the intentions of the Soviet Union in the matter of the reduction of the production of fissionable materials for military purposes. Our declaration naturally will take into account the above mentioned circumstances complicating for us a determination at the present moment of the specific amount of reduction of the production of uranium-235. As for plutonium, as I have already informed you we shall make a declaration concerning the discontinuance of the construction of two new big atomic reactors for the production of plutonium.

And so, we have nothing against your referring in your statement to the receipt from me of a communication concerning the intention of the [Page 52]Soviet Government to carry out some reduction of fissionable materials for military purposes. For my part, I have in mind to refer in my statement to the receipt of analogous communications from you and from Prime Minister Douglas-Home.

I am sure that our parallel statements on the question of the reduction of the production of fissionable materials for military purposes will be interpreted positively by international public opinion as a step in the development of that course which our governments have taken through the conclusion of the treaty on the banning of the testing of atomic weapons in three spheres.

Of course, as I have already said, this new measure which it is now possible to consider agreed, is although useful limited in its significance. This is not a disarmament measure. However the very fact that we have succeeded in undertaking certain practical steps as a matter of mutual example—I have in mind both the present agreement and mutual reduction of military budgets—shows that this approach can also be applied beneficially in a number of other instances.

Why, for example, do we not attempt to agree in the same manner on the reduction of foreign troops on others’ territories? I am familiar with the declarations to the effect that the U.S.A. intends to withdraw from Western Germany 7,500 soldiers and officers transferred there additionally in 1961.5 We welcome this step of yours. If you would be prepared to go farther and proceed to the reduction of those American troops which are permanently stationed on the territory of the FRG, then I can say right now: we in that case will also be prepared to reduce our troops stationed on the territory of the German Democratic Republic with the provision, naturally, that the reduction of your troops would not be compensated by the further increase in the number of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany itself. It is no secret that recently the West German Bundeswehr is swelling quickly. Your Minister of Defense declared recently that the number of NATO troops in Europe already exceeds the number of troops of the countries of the Warsaw Pact6 and we understand that this on the whole is directly connected with the rapid growth of the West German Army. All this we must naturally take into consideration.

I would be happy to know your views on this score.

In conclusion, I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for the warm congratulations in connection with my 70th birthday sent me through [Page 53]Ambassador A. Dobrynin. I am grateful for the token of remembrance which you sent through our Ambassador for me on my birthday.7

I have also received your official congratulations for which I thank you and to which I shall reply.

Respectfully,8

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Arms Control Messages Exchanged Between President Johnson and Chairman, USSR, Vol. I, Box 11. No classification marking.
  2. Document 22.
  3. Document 23.
  4. This message has not been further identified.
  5. No announcement of these specific numbers of troop withdrawals has been found.
  6. In a speech to the New York Economic Club on November 18, 1963, McNamara stated that “the Warsaw Pact total [of armed troops] including the Soviets is only about 4,500,000. Against that, it is today the members of NATO whose active armed forces number over 5,000,000.” (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1963-1964, p. 19920)
  7. Neither the President’s message nor his “token of remembrance” has been further identified.
  8. Printed from an unsigned copy.