1. Editorial Note

In a December 31, 1963, letter sent to President Johnson and heads of state or government throughout the world, Chairman Khrushchev proposed an international agreement to settle territorial disputes and border issues by peaceful means. For text of the 5,000-word letter, see Department of State Bulletin, February 3, 1964, pages 158–163, or Documents on Disarmament, 1963, pages 654–665.

On January 2, 1964, upon learning of the letter from Secretary of State Rusk, the President telephoned his Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, McGeorge Bundy, and proposed that he “get Rusk and the five ablest men in the State Department and go up to Camp David and lock the gate this weekend and try to find some imaginative proposal or some initiative that we can take besides just reacting to actions and just letting Khrushchev wire everybody twenty-five pages every two days and us just sit back and dodge.” Johnson continued, “I’m tired, by God, [of] him being the man who wants peace in the world and I’m the guy who wants war.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a Telephone Conversation between the President and Bundy, January 2, 3 p.m., Tape 6401.02, PNO 10) A transcript of the conversation is printed in Michael Beschloss, Taking Charge, pages 144–145. The President telephoned Secretary of Defense McNamara a few minutes later and raised the same issue. “I don’t like every time I wake up in the morning and see where Khrushchev sent me another communication for peace. Makes me appear like a warmonger.” Johnson asked McNamara “to be thinking of anything you can that will give substance to our peace offensive.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a Telephone Conversation between the President and McNamara, 3:20 p.m., January 2, Tape 6401.02, PNO 12)

On January 3 the President discussed a proposed statement in response to Khrushchev’s letter with Rusk and Ambassador at Large Thompson, but the statement was not issued. (Ibid., Recordings of Telephone Conversations with Thompson and Rusk, 11:15 a.m. and 11:25 a.m., January 3, Tape 6401.02, PNOs 16 and 17) Johnson responded to Khrushchev in a January 18 letter in which he proposed “even broader” guidelines for settling territorial disputes and called on the Soviet leader to join him in new disarmament proposals to the Geneva conference. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 3, 1964, [Page 2]pages 157–158, or Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–1964, Book I, pages 153–155. For the President’s recollections of the episode and a more general discussion of U.S.-Soviet relations during his Presidency, see The Vantage Point, pages 462–491.