168. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bator) to President Johnson 1


  • The Soviet-US Exchange Program

At lunch today Secretary Rusk may discuss the possible cancellation of our hand tools exhibit in the USSR.2 The Russians have been [Page 407]dragging their feet on visas for exhibit personnel, and giving us the run-around on arrangements. They may wish to punish us on Vietnam and to protect themselves from the danger of “collaboration” with the U.S. Cancellation of the hand tools exhibit would be a clear violation of the exchange agreement.

Kohler proposes he tell Gromyko we have concluded from the Russians’ actions on the track meet and exhibit that they are not prepared to carry out exchanges which “attract public attention.” Therefore,

  • —we view performing arts and sports exchanges as suspended;
  • —we shall negotiate attendance at scientific congresses on a case-by-case basis; and if there are more Soviet violations, we reserve the right to reexamine our obligation further.

(Kohler cautions against declaring the whole agreement invalid because it would 1) probably cause the Soviets to cut off Amerika magazine (which is covered by the agreement) and 2) risk Soviet resumption of VOA jamming.)

The people at State think Kohler’s proposal does not punish the Soviets enough. They believe

  • —a suspension of performing arts exchanges would actually buttress the Russians’ public stand of “non-collaboration” with us.
  • —it would leave technical exchanges intact, and these are the ones the Soviets have most interest in.
  • —we would have trouble enforcing a case-by-case negotiation of attendance at scientific congresses because of pressures from the American scientific community.

Instead, State proposes a suspension of all new activities—more sweeping, and also more risky than Kohler’s proposal.

If Secretary Rusk should raise this question at lunch, you may want to ask:

At what level we are pressing the Soviets on hand tools (visas, etc.) before we tell them we are retaliating. (I am not sure Kohler or Thompson has yet intervened strongly.)
How serious are our losses if we make a soft reply-by accepting Kohler’s formula?
What is the Secretary’s evaluation of the effect on your peace posture at home and in Europe if we suspend all new activities under the exchange program?
Are we sure the Soviets have no come-back which would obscure their clear violation of the agreement?
Can we hold the level of retaliation at “new activities,” or do we risk counter-retaliation against the sections of the agreement we want to preserve-such as Amerika magazine?
How much would the partial suspension of the Soviet-US agreement affect bridge-building elsewhere in Eastern Europe?3

Francis M. Bator 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR, Vol. XII. No classification marking.
  2. In a July 19 memorandum Rusk proposed to the President either the suspension of all new exchange activities or an ad hoc cancellation of certain exchanges if the Soviet Union canceled the hand tools exhibit. Rusk expressed support for the first option, which would “make clear to the Soviets that we will not implement an agreement which they abuse to suit their political purposes.” (Ibid.)
  3. A handwritten note on Rusk’s July 19 memorandum indicates that at the luncheon meeting on July 19 the President approved suspension of all new exchange activities. (Ibid.) In a July 20 memorandum Rostow, noting that Press Secretary Bill Moyers, NSC Staff Member Nathaniel Davis, and Bator leaned toward ad hoc cancellation, asked the President to look at the two options again and confirm his decision for Rusk. (Ibid.) The subsequent Soviet agreement to accept the U.S. exhibit made the issue moot.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Bator signed the original.