162. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bator) to President Johnson1


  • Ships Under Soviet Charter in the Great Lakes

At Tab A, George Ball recommends two bridge-building actions: (1) permission for Western flag ships under Soviet charter to enter the Great Lakes; (2) Ex-Im guarantees of commercial credit for four East European countries.2 As you know, Secretary Rusk wants to take a Congressional reading before going ahead with the Ex-Im guarantees. However, the shipping issue is ready for decision.

The Issue: The Soviets have asked us to permit non-Soviet Bloc ships under Soviet charter to enter Great Lake ports, on a scheduled basis. State recommends that we not agree to a scheduled service, but agree to consider individual applications.

The Soviet application has merit:

  • —Soviet ports are open to U.S. shipping on a non-discriminatory basis;
  • —We have been allowing Soviet charter ships into Atlantic ports all along; there is no real reason for treating Great Lake ports differently;
  • —The ships would be manned by non-Bloc crews, and subject to security inspection by the Coast Guard, etc., as in the case of Bloc flag vessels calling at other U.S. ports. Our strict-minded Interagency Port Security Committee is ready to go ahead;
  • —The Great Lakes can use the business.

Opposition: Senators Douglas and Hickenlooper are the most important opponents. Sen. Douglas remembers the blown-up locks of World War I. (If we go ahead, I will suggest to State that they explain to him that we are talking about Western flag ships with Western crews.) [Page 397]Hickenlooper is against because of Vietnam, as are Representatives Arends, Adair, Brad Morse, Selden and Laird (probably).

Gleason and the longshoremen will not like it either. (I understand Gleason controls some but not all of the longshoremen in the region.)

Support: According to State, Senators Mansfield, Dirksen, Kuchel, as well as such East-West traders as Senator Magnuson are favorable. In the House, supporters include the Speaker, Representatives Albert, Boggs, Ford, and William Springer (Interstate and Foreign Commerce). According to Carl Marcy, Fulbright “perceives no objections”. (All together, State contacted 25 Members, and staff members of six more, and got support or an O.K. from 23 of the 31.)

On balance, I would vote for the State proposal that we tell Moscow we cannot give them a blanket yes, but will consider individual applications. This would be a forward step, yet would give some protection against the Cold Warriors.


Approve State Recommendation3


Speak to me

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President-Walt R. Rostow, Vol. 7. No classification marking.
  2. Attached but not printed is a June 2 memorandum from Ball to the President. In National Security Action Memorandum No. 352, “Bridge Building,” July 8, 1966, the President directed the U.S. Government, in consultation with its allies, to “actively develop areas of peaceful cooperation with the nations of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.” For text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XVII, Document 15.
  3. This option was checked. Rostow wrote “OK” to the right of Bator’s initials.