178. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Miscellaneous Matters


  • U.S.
    • The President
    • The Secretary
    • Llewellyn E. Thompson
    • Mr. Rostow
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Mr. Sukodrev

The President opened the conversation by saying that he had been informed of the Minister’s talks with Secretary Rusk and the Minister’s other activities and thought he must have been a very busy man.

Gromyko said it was true that he had much to do here. He had had an exchange of views with Secretary Rusk and had also had a meeting with Ambassador Goldberg to discuss questions which he had raised.2 He assumed the President was informed of the content of these meetings and this would facilitate his task.

The President said he had been informed of these discussions and that Secretary Rusk would have a further discussion with him this evening.3 While waiting for the photographers to come in, the President said that the Soviets had allowed their Ambassador to come back to Washington and in return the President had selected the best man we had to go to Moscow.

[Page 425]

Mr. Gromyko said Mr. Thompson would be very welcome in Moscow.4 After the photographers had left, Mr. Gromyko remarked that the temperature of the room had risen as a result of their activities. The President replied that he hoped not as his job was to cool things down.

Gromyko said that the leadership and the Government of the Soviet Union often discussed the question of where the policy of the United States is leading. He presumed that there was an awareness of the responsibility of the United States and of the Soviet Union in world affairs. However, certain facts related to United States policy baffled the Soviets. He could declare on behalf of the Soviet Union that it was in our mutual interest to work for better relations. If the United States Government and Mr. Johnson, as President, were willing to take steps to promote international détente to improve relations, they would not find the Soviet Union lacking in response as this was in accord with the wishes of both the Soviet Government and its people.

The President said he agreed with the points Mr. Gromyko had made. We were just as baffled about the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. It was evident that we had not communicated with each other very well. He also agreed that agreement between our two great powers was of the highest importance and that we had a great responsibility to the world. He had on many occasions tried to take steps to ease tension. He had been greatly encouraged in the correspondence that had taken place during his early months in office. He had been deeply disappointed that the keeping of our commitment to South Viet-Nam seemed to frustrate these early beginnings. He had been distressed to read in the Soviet press remarks about himself personally and about the motivation of his Administration. He knew that the Soviet and American people wanted friendship and he was always ready to go more than half way to reach agreement. The greatest reward to him as President, and the greatest blessing for all people, would be if we could succeed in this endeavor.

[Here follows discussion of Vietnam; see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume IV, Document 264.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL USUSSR. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Thompson and approved by the White House on October 13. The full text of this memorandum, most of which deals with Vietnam, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 264. A memorandum of the part of the conversation dealing with non-proliferation is ibid., vol. XI, Document 157. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. The time and place of the meeting are from the President’s Daily Diary. (Johnson Library) Dobrynin’s recollections of the meeting are in his memoir, In Confidence, pp. 144–145; Johnson’s are in The Vantage Point, pp. 248–249. Johnson discussed the meeting in a telephone conversation with Fulbright on October 11, calling it a “very delightful, scintillating, stimulating, exciting, enjoyable hour and 45 minutes.” It was “very, very frank. Both of us spoke rather bluntly. He does by nature and I did by purpose.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a Telephone Conversation between Johnson and Fulbright, 5:20 p.m., Tape F66.28, Side A, PNO 2)
  2. Goldberg reported to Rusk on his October 3 meeting with Gromyko in telegram 1214 from USUN, October 3. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 USSR)
  3. The President met with Rusk from 4:35 p.m. prior to the Gromyko meeting but did not meet with Rusk later in the day. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  4. The President appointed Thompson Ambassador to the Soviet Union on October 13. Thompson entered on duty January 23, 1967, and served until January 14, 1969.