215. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

198583. Literally Eyes Only for the Ambassador from the Secretary.

There follows the text of a message which the President wishes to send to Kosygin, possibly on Monday.2 We feel that it might be useful to have some such message taken into account in present deliberations going on in Moscow. You should, however, hold this message for a further execute authorization.

This gives you a chance to make any comments which you might have on the text or the timing. You should know that at least one more strike on the Hanoi power plant is authorized and its timing will depend upon weather.

“Dear Mr. Chairman: I wish to address you at this time because we appear to be faced by a series of situations which are dangerous in themselves but which, taken together, could seriously impair the interests of our two countries and the attempts which have been made on both sides to improve our relations.

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I would wish you to consider if-whatever our differences-our common interests do not now require concerted or parallel action to bring these situations under control.

  • First, Viet Nam. There the increasingly large scale of North Vietnamese forces moving through the DMZ, the increased use of Laotian territory for the movement of men and arms to the south, and the growing use of Cambodian territory by the forces of North Viet Nam create dangers of widening the already dangerous hostilities in Southeast Asia. Secretary Rusk has recently written Mr. Gromyko about Laos3 and our desire to see the Accords of 1962 fully carried out as we had a right to expect they would be. As you know, we have repeatedly affirmed that we consider the Accords of 1954 as an adequate basis for peace insofar as North and South Viet Nam are concerned. Further, we have urged that international action be taken to assist Prince Sihanouk in maintaining the neutrality and territorial integrity of Cambodia. You are already familiar with a considerable number of proposals which we and others have made which could lead to a military de-escalation of the conflict. You are also aware of a number of steps which we have taken de facto in this direction without any response from Hanoi. We have been disappointed in this lack of response and will try to probe such a possibility further. Therefore, I urge you once again, as I did in my letter of December 6, 1966,4 to lend your help in bringing this conflict to a close by exercising fully your prerogatives as Co-Chairman of the Geneva Conferences which yielded those Accords.
  • Second, the Middle East. The increasing harassment of Israel by elements based in Syria, with attendant reactions within Israel and within the Arab world, has brought the area close to major violence. Your and our ties to nations of the area could bring us into difficulties which I am confident neither of us seeks. It would appear a time for each of us to use our influence to the full in the cause of moderation, including our influence over action by the United Nations.5
  • Third, Cuba. In Venezuela and elsewhere the government of Cuba is engaging in quite open and active support of violent movements, including the illegal transit of international frontiers with men and arms.
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I found in my recent meeting with Presidents of the Western Hemisphere at Punta del Este6 a great deal of excitement and determined concern on the part of my fellow Presidents about these actions by Cuba. I would hope there is some way in which your influence in Havana could be used to halt these dangerous activities.

Beyond these points of danger and conflict, there are two areas of opportunity where I deeply believe it is our common interest and common duty to humanity to achieve constructive results: the achievement of understandings which would limit our respective deployments of ABM’s and ICBM’s and the negotiation of a non-proliferation treaty.7 These two enterprises are not explicitly linked; but I am sure you are conscious that our task of persuading the non-nuclear powers to accept a non-proliferation treaty would be greatly eased if you and we could demonstrate concurrently our will and ability to begin to bring the nuclear arms race under better control. I hope, therefore, your government will find it possible to respond positively to our proposals to enter into serious discussions on the ABM and ICBM problem.

I am aware that neither of our nations fully controls the forces at work in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or the Caribbean. Indeed, we cannot determine by ourselves whether a non-proliferation treaty will prove acceptable to the governments, parliaments, and peoples of the principal non-nuclear nations. Nevertheless, our influence in these matters remains formidable if it is used in the same direction. At this critical moment I believe we must try consciously to overcome the forces drawing us further away from each other and bring to bear our capacity to shape events along paths of moderation and peace.

I have outlined my own thoughts on certain of these matters and would be glad to have your own thoughts and any suggestions which you might wish to make.

Sincerely yours, Lyndon B. Johnson”

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL USUSSR. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Rusk.
  2. The message was forwarded to Kosygin on Monday, May 22.
  3. Rusk’s message was transmitted in telegram 191165 to Moscow, May 10; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXVIII, Document 285.
  4. For text, see ibid., vol. IV, Document 330.
  5. Documentation on U.S.-Soviet relations concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict during late May is scheduled for publication ibid., volume XIX. Included are Thompson’s report of his meeting with Gromyko on May 23, transmitted in telegram 5078, May 23; Thompson’s assessment of the crisis as seen from Moscow, transmitted in telegram 5125 from Moscow, May 25; an exchange of messages between Kosygin and Johnson on May 27; and Rusk’s May 28 message to Gromyko.
  6. For documentation on the Punta del Este meeting on April 12–14, see ibid., volume XXXI.
  7. Documentation on negotiation of the non-proliferation treaty and initiation of strategic arms talks is ibid., volume XI.