173. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

1263. Ref: State’s 41009, 44806; Moscow’s 1182.2

I saw Gromyko today and told him of Secretary’s interest in resuming talks with him while both were in New York, and also indicated [Page 416]that Secretary would be pleased to arrange hospitality if Gromyko wished to visit any other part of U.S. I said that our missions in New York had already talked about the possibility of a meeting and, if Gromyko agreed to meeting, they could make necessary arrangements.
Gromyko said he had received word about this and that he of course agreed in principle. He had not given matter much thought but would think about it and let me know before I left Moscow on Thursday or send word back through the mission in New York. He asked if I could tell him what subjects Secretary would want to discuss. I noted that our missions had already talked about possible subjects, and that Secretary had in mind a tour d’horizon which obviously would include Viet Nam, various disarmament questions, bilateral matters, and of course anything Gromyko wished to raise.
Gromyko said that, on Viet Nam, he should mention again that Soviets were not going to negotiate with anyone on this matter; this did not mean they could not speak about their position, or hear other side, but they would not negotiate or do anything analogous to it (obviously implying that there should be no press stories alleging US-Soviet negotiations on Viet Nam). I replied that as much as we wished they would change their position, we nevertheless understood it at this point and had no desire to put him on the spot.
When Gromyko asked if we had in mind a purely exploratory exchange of views, I told him it seemed possible to me that we could move a little farther on some matters and singled out outer space (depending on progress in UN legal committee), non-proliferation, and comprehensive test ban. Mention of non-proliferation set in train an exchange of familiar arguments about whether US really desired non-proliferation, in course of which Gromyko said he had not detected any narrowing of wide gap between our two positions at Geneva talks. He did however express interest when I referred to President’s statement on need for “compromise”3 and asked if there were any specificity in our position on this. I said there was none yet but that we were thinking about how we could close gap between us. Gromyko commented that since President had not specified what he had in mind, it was not clear how progress could be made.
Gromyko complained at one point that although it was sometimes agreed in his discussions with Secretary that further talks should be held on one or another subject, none of these matters were ever permitted to come to fruition. Mentioning disarmament as one example, I said that while I did not want to provoke argument today on this point, it was nevertheless Soviet side which took position that Viet Nam was barrier to solution of bilateral and other questions between US and Soviets who spoke of “freeze” in our relations. I said it was regrettable that there were such differences between us as Viet Nam but US Govt had consistently maintained that special responsibility lay with our two powers and we should continue to try to make progress despite Viet Nam. I said in this connection that I was sure that he had read President’s Idaho Falls speech,4 which was addressed to them; and that, as he knew, I had personally always felt that we should do what we could to move forward.
Gromyko countered that contrary to what we say it was US in fact which had blocked final implementation, for example, of consular convention and air agreement. While he did not attach great importance to these issues, they had a certain importance and even on these minor matters we had stopped progress. I said I frankly recognized that these matters had not gone forward as had been expected but this was not cause but result of development in our relations.
Gromyko said they had impression that US had two policies, or at least two methods of conducting them, with respect to Soviet Union. On one hand, we tried to give impression that we were dealing with USSR and trying to reach agreement with them; and on other hand we conducted highly negative policies which only served to raise tensions. This, he said, created very difficult situation.
I told Gromyko I could not agree with this description. Soviets had their alliances and had made promises to some of its allies, and we also had obligations to many of our allies. Fact that we had to keep these obligations was fact of life but did not mean that we should not try to move ahead wherever we could.
During discussion disarmament, I said I thought some progress had been made at least in bringing language closer together, and that in fact I had always thought our purposes here were same. It had never been our purpose to give nuclear weapons to Germany or to any other state. We had not made same mistake, I said that Soviets had made in furnishing assistance to Communist China. If he wanted testimony to our position, he should study history of our refusal to help France which had cost us dearly in other ways. In any event, I said, there had [Page 418]been a change in situation following Chinese explosions which resulted in pressures in India and other countries for them to develop their own nuclear capability.
At end of conversation, Gromyko asked if Secretary had been specific about visit to “any other part of US” which had been mentioned. I said he had not, but assumed he had in mind whether Gromyko would wish to come down to Washington or travel anywhere else in US as he might wish. He took note of reference to Washington but went on to comment that he was not a great traveler.
In reply to my query, he said Mrs. Gromyko would accompany him to New York but said official delegation had not yet been approved.5
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, UN 22–2 GA. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to USUN.
  2. Dated September 2, 10, and 9, respectively. (Ibid.) They all discussed preparations for a meeting between Rusk and Gromyko at the United Nations.
  3. While discussing the non-proliferation treaty during his remarks at the National Reactor Testing Station in Arco, Idaho, on August 26, the President said “I believe that we can find acceptable compromise language on which reasonable men can agree.” Johnson also expressed his desire to seek out all possible areas of agreement with the Soviet Union despite differences over Vietnam. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book II, pp. 900–903. For documentation on the negotiation of the non-proliferation treaty, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XI.
  4. See footnote 3 above.
  5. On September 14 Kohler reported that he had lunched with Dobrynin that day for a “far-ranging discussion on Soviet-American relations” but noted that the substance of the conversation was largely repetitive of that with Gromyko. (Telegram 1280 from Moscow, September 14; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, POL USUSSR)