26. Oral Message From President Johnson to Chairman Khrushchev 1

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have read with great interest your two recent letters2 and I think we can agree that the separate decisions which we announced on April 203 have already had a useful effect. Such responsible actions on each side are helpful in moving us forward on the hard road to peace. It was particularly [Page 55]good to have our announcements come out at the same time, and I send my thanks for your understanding of the need which I faced to make a statement, and for your willingness to make your own statement at the same moment. Throughout the world these actions have been warmly approved, and I have already told your Ambassador how strongly I believe that we should continue the search for further steps along this road.

In this spirit I am happy to express my agreement to your suggestion that our scientific and technical experts should cooperate on the problem of desalting sea water, including the possibility that nuclear energy may be an effective force for this purpose. This is a problem which is of great interest not only to our two countries but to many others throughout the world, and we believe that there is every reason for hearty cooperation among the interested nations. I have designated my own Scientific Adviser, Dr. Donald F. Hornig, to prepare concrete proposals for cooperative efforts, working with Chairman Seaborg of the Atomic Energy Commission. They or their chosen representatives will be ready shortly to begin discussions with those whom you designate. As I understand this problem, it appears to be one which requires a great deal of careful scientific and technical study before we will be ready to undertake large-scale projects, but that is all the more reason for moving ahead urgently, and we on our side are ready. As soon as your representatives are designated, I suggest that we should make a simultaneous announcement of our interest in this problem.

I also continue to believe that our representatives in the field of arms control and disarmament should continue to press forward to seek agreement in their great field of work. I will not take your time in this message to repeat the arguments which we have put forward both in my public statements and at Geneva on this subject, but I mention the matter so that you may know that the positions taken by the American Government on this subject have my strong personal support and have been designed, at my direction, to provide real hope for additional useful agreements. We continue to hope that as these proposals are further studied by the Soviet Government the prospects for agreement may improve.

In two of your messages, and especially in the most recent one, you refer to the problem of the reduction of troop levels, especially in Germany. I am sorry to have to tell you that I do not think this subject is one on which we can expect to make progress by private discussion between us at this time. The American forces in Germany are there for entirely defensive purposes, and their presence is a matter of great importance for the people and government of West Germany. For there to be any substantial additional reduction in the level of the U.S. forces in Germany there would have to be changes in the situation which would make it [Page 56]possible for the Germans and others in Western Europe to feel secure in other ways. In the meanwhile, I hope we can continue to cooperate in reducing the level of tension in Central Europe.

The problem of the future of Germany is a most important one, and nothing could be better for the peace of the world than a real settlement. We on our side remain ready for such a settlement, which could serve the legitimate interest of the German people as well as the other peoples involved, including your own.

I think we should go forward with projects like the desalting of sea water, in which no one can misunderstand the purpose of our cooperation. Meanwhile, of course, we should also work hard to find ways which will reconcile our differences in all fields, with due regard to the interests of others. This is the central purpose of my policy in international affairs. There are differences between us, Mr. Chairman, in important areas, but it should be our purpose to reduce them and to find sensible agreements wherever we can.

Let me state again, in closing, my great satisfaction with our success in reaching parallel positions on the cutback of production for nuclear weapons, and my hope that we shall continue to make more progress of this kind.

Sincerely,4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Arms Control Messages Exchanged Between President Johnson and Chairman, USSR, Vol. 1, Box 11. No classification marking.
  2. Documents 23 and 24.
  3. Document 25.
  4. Printed from an unsigned copy.