31. Oral Message From Chairman Khrushchev to President Johnson 1

Dear Mr. President:

I received your verbal message of May 12 even before my trip to the United Arab Republic.3 I have thought it over and I wish, in turn, to express a few thoughts.

First of all, I should like to assure you that I also am pleased with the measures taken simultaneously by us concerning the cut-back in the production of plutonium and uranium-235 for military purposes. They have met with widespread approval throughout the world. After concluding the treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water and reaching the understanding not to station in outer space any objects carrying nuclear weapons, this new step agreed upon between us constitutes, in effect, a third milestone on the way to ending the nuclear weapons race.

It is good that such a course is gradually becoming established in the relations between our countries, and in international relations in general, although, of course, we both know that the progress achieved along this line is still limited, on the whole, especially if it is compared with the vastness of the problem that confronts our countries and all mankind, that is, the elimination of the threat and the very possibility of a nuclear war.

As I learned from your message, you agree with our proposal that we now take a step forward in the field of cooperation between our countries in the peaceful uses of atomic energy, that is, in solving the problem of the desalinization of sea water. That is also a useful undertaking and, after receiving your reply, I immediately gave instructions to our appropriate organizations to start preparing for the forthcoming meeting with the American representatives.

You suggested that both sides issue a statement simultaneously concerning our mutual interest in solving the problem of the desalinization of sea water. That is acceptable to us. For our part, we are prepared to publish a statement by the USSR State Committee on the use of atomic energy concerning the understanding reached on the meeting of Soviet and American specialists for the joint study of scientific and technical [Page 67]questions relating to the desalinization of sea water by means of nuclear energy. If you have no objection, such a statement by us and a similar one from the American side could be published about a week after the transmittal of this communication by Ambassador Dobrynin. As for the practical details of the preparations for the forthcoming meeting, including the time and place of the meeting, it will not be difficult to coordinate them through diplomatic channels.

We are, of course, pleased with whatever contributions have been made to the improvement of the international situation; this provides further assurance that cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States of America in this matter is not an impossibility but quite within the realm of reality. In this connection, I liked your recent statement that you will henceforth try every path to peace, that you intend to keep moving forward and that, after all, the United States is not standing still. I can definitely assure you that we, for our part, will be equally dynamic and equally flexible in searching out ways to promote peace.

[Here follows discussion of possible reductions in foreign troops in Germany.]

In your message you mention the US proposal submitted at the Geneva conference on disarmament. I am acquainted with these proposals, just as you yourself are of course acquainted with ours. I do not think there is any need at present to enter into details, but if it is a question of the whole gamut of disarmament proposals, then we surely have before us an unlimited field for serious work on the finding of ways to achieve agreements. The Soviet Government has made, and is making, considerable efforts to plow this field and to grow a good crop on it. However, to be perfectly frank, we do not have the feeling that the other party is acting along the same lines. The fact is that there has not yet been any progress in the Geneva negotiations, and the state of the disarmament problem naturally leaves us with a strong feeling of disappointment.

Now you are in favor of our representatives, who are dealing with disarmament problems, being instructed to make a really persistent effort to reach agreement in this important area. Why not? Let them work a little longer, and a little harder; we have to explore every possibility to the end, that is my feeling. We shall give our representative in the Committee of 18 the necessary instructions. And to increase the chances of success, to ensure that the disarmament negotiations do not again sink into routine, let us both follow the work of our representatives more closely; let us prod them a little if that is needed. As you will obviously remember, as early as 1962, before the beginning of the work of the Committee of 18, the heads of states and the member governments of the [Page 68]Committee agreed to take a personal interest in the course of the negotiations.4 That was a sensible decision.

I am thinking that sometime soon it might be useful to instruct our ministers of foreign affairs to examine the course of the negotiations. They could do this, for example, during the XIX Session of the General Assembly of the UN. They will of course have other matters to discuss. Let us see what concrete results can be achieved by our ministers. And then, perhaps, the need will arise for us to meet. We understand that similar views are current in Washington also. But this is, of course, a matter for the future. We should not run too far ahead.

[Here follows extensive discussion of Cuba, Southeast Asia, and especially the “German question.”]5

  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. A typed notation on the source text indicates that the date refers to the day the message was received.
  2. Document 26.
  3. Khrushchev visited the United Arab Republic May 9-25.
  4. Reference is to the exchange of correspondence between Khrushchev and Prime Minister Macmillan and President Kennedy on this question in February and early March 1962. For texts of their messages, see Documents on Disarmament, 1962, Vol. I, pp. 25-26, 32-38, 49-57, 61-63, and 75-81.
  5. Printed from an unsigned copy.