9. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • US Thinking on Disarmament

PARTICIPANTS

  • British
    • Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister of Great Britain
    • R.A. Butler, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
    • Sir David Ormsby Gore, British Ambassador
    • Sir Harold Caccia, Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign Office
    • N. Henderson, Private Secretary to Mr. Butler
    • Tom Bridges, Second Private Secretary to Mr. Butler
    • Denis Greenhill, Minister, UK Embassy
    • M. Hadow, Press Secretary, Foreign Office
  • US
    • The President
    • The Secretary of State
    • Governor Harriman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
    • David K.E. Bruce, Ambassador to Great Britain
    • McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Richard I. Phillips, Director, P/ON
    • M. Gordon Knox, Deputy Director, BNA

Secretary Rusk reviewed current US thinking on disarmament for the Prime Minister. He referred to the categories of missiles and delivery systems which the US thought could be banned from further production under a carefully devised formula with a minimum of inspection. These included intercontinental missiles, heaviest bombers, medium bombers of 25,000 kilograms, anti-missile missiles. In the meantime, the Secretary thought that it might be helpful if the British wished to contribute something to the “bonfire” of Badgers and B-47’s. He suggested that the British could discuss aspects of disarmament privately with the French. The French government was interested in non-dissemination of nuclear weapons, he said, though it was not interested in a Multilateral Force. It might be possible for the French to tell the Russians that in the French opinion MLF does not constitute dissemination of nuclear weapons.

Sir Alex asked whether the categories of weapons and delivery systems where production might be halted excluded all tactical nuclear weapons. Mr. Rusk said they would not be included; that the US was [Page 20]now in the process of re-equipping its allies with smaller but more effective weapons of this sort. Mr. Bundy pointed out that thousands of them are in existence and are hard to inspect.

Sir Alec wanted to know why the Russians would want to agree on a strategical hold-down. Mr. Rusk referred to these advantages: a) the expense, which the Russians could spare themselves (developing an anti-missile missile might cost $14 billion); b) the Russians have a deterrent now.

The British Ambassador remarked that in fact the Russians to date have not shown much interest in the idea of limiting production of various categories.

Sir Alec inquired whether if the bomber production were stopped, it would be stated that the Polaris production continues as a replacement of the bomber. Mr. Bundy thought that the rationale would be different. The US would agree to a freeze on terms which would allow it to honor its agreement at Nassau and with regard to MLF. Furthermore, the freeze would permit confidence firings and this would mean a one-for-one replacement of such missiles.

Secretary Rusk indicated that some specifications might be made which would allow, for example, Polaris submarines on the way but not built to be completed. He felt sure that such a plan, in any case, would not become a reality for a considerable period of time, almost certainly not in 1964.

Sir Alec asked whether the Soviets were interested in comprehensive and general disarmament. Secretary Rusk thought they had no interest at the present time.

Mr. Bundy said that the immediate problem is to make use of and yet control underground testing in the light of the partial test ban. There is also the problem of the peace time use of nuclear power. These issues would not be acute, he thought, this year, but they would be in 1965 and the years to come.

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149. Secret. Drafted by Knox and approved in S on February 20 and by the White House on February 24. The source text is labeled “Part II of II.” On February 12-13 in Washington, Prime Minister Douglas-Home and President Johnson had their first working meetings since assuming the leadership of their respective governments.