282. Memorandum From the Government of the United States to the Government of the Soviet Union1

The President has considered very carefully the observations made by Ambassador Dobrynin on September 13.2 He attaches serious importance [Page 719] to the understanding of Soviet leaders that a positive outcome of a highest level meeting between the two sides is essential to a success; and he agrees that this requires efforts from both sides.

The President wishes the Soviet leadership to have his further reflections about how such a success could be achieved.

With respect to offensive and defensive missiles, the President agrees that it ought to be possible to establish certain common basic principles affecting the limitation and subsequent reduction in such nuclear weapons systems. He further agrees that, following an accord on general principles at the highest level, representatives of the two sides would have to address themselves to the translation of general principles into the more concrete aspects of the problem.

It would, however, be desirable to go beyond a general statement that “restraining measures in this field would answer to the interests of both our countries as well as to the task of strengthening international security.” With this in mind, the President would be glad to know whether the Soviet leaders could accept the following general objectives as guidance for our respective delegations or would wish to suggest any amendments for his consideration:

  • —To achieve and maintain a stable U.S.-Soviet strategic deterrence by agreed limitations on the deployment of offensive and defensive strategic missiles.
  • —To enhance the credibility of our efforts to prevent the destabilizing actions of other nations by demonstrating U.S. and Soviet willingness to limit their strategic missile forces.
  • —To provide assurance to each of us that our security will be maintained, while at the same time avoiding the tensions, uncertainties, and costs of an unrestrained continuation of the strategic arms race.
  • —To improve U.S.-Soviet understanding by establishing a continuing process of discussion of issues arising from the strategic situation.

[Here follows extensive discussion of Vietnam and the Middle East.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Chlodnick File, Box 12. No classification marking. Originally drafted by Secretary Rusk following Rostow’s September 13 meeting with Dobrynin (undated memorandum from Rusk to Rostow; ibid.), with the understanding that Rostow would hand the text of the message to Ambassador Dobrynin, and revised by Rostow (memorandum from Rostow to Rusk, September 15; ibid.). Rostow forwarded the revised message to President Johnson under cover of a memorandum, September 16. Also attached were “rough guidelines for my ‘personal’ remarks [to Dobrynin] which would be done as reflecting the President’s attitude as I’ve perceived it, with no trace of ultimatum,” and a “paper of issues and actions that lie down the line if you decide to proceed.” (Ibid.) The message forwarded to President Johnson is identical to the text printed here.

    In a September 16 memorandum for President Johnson, Rostow reported that he handed this memorandum to Ambassador Dobrynin, with whom he met from 6-7:30 p.m. that evening, noting that it had the same status as Dobrynin’s September 13 “oral communication.” After reading the memorandum carefully, Dobrynin “said in general that the communication was ‘positive and clear.’” Concerning the missile talks, Dobrynin made the following observations: “He understood our objective in proposing an amplification of the principles. He wanted to know, simply, whether the response of the Soviet government should come back through his channel to me or through normal diplomatic exchanges. I said that until we were clearer as to whether the conditions for a Summit were mutually understood and agreed, he might let their response come back to me. I then went through the points that it was agreed that I should make on a ‘personal basis’ as reflecting the attitude of the President, as he had indicated it to Sec. Rusk and myself.” (Ibid.)

  2. Document 281.