22. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • The Air Transport Agreement with the Soviet Union

Signing would bring both advantages and disadvantages to the United States.

The advantages would be:

1.
Although insufficient of itself to produce a more forthcoming attitude by the Soviets on more important issues, signing would be an important psychological step in improved relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.
2.
It would help to provide the Russians with an alternative to the Chinese hard line. Since any major multilateral agreements with the Soviets in the next year seem unlikely, bilateral agreements take on added importance.
3.
More concretely, additional Russian tourists and other visitors should be able to come to America, it will be easier for United States travelers to visit the Soviet Union, and a significant expansion of professional contacts in the civil aviation field will ensue—all these represent important strengthening of our program to increase and improve communication.
4.
There are a number of secondary advantages, such as familiarization with Soviet aviation techniques, improved courier service to the Embassy, modestly enhance Scandinavian bargaining position against the USSR on aviation matters.
5.
Signing would be viewed by many of our friends as further reducing hostility, where failure to sign would reinforce the propaganda argument that we are implacably hostile to the Soviets.

The disadvantages would be:

1.
Our efforts to restrict air contact with Cuba would be seriously impaired, and getting agreement of the OAS Foreign Ministers to cut sea and air contacts between Cuba and all OAS states would be virtually precluded, if signed before the American nations act under an OAS [Page 54]resolution. European countries will be encouraged to reinstitute air service to Cuba. In short, the precarious partial isolation of Cuba we have already obtained would be jeopardized.
2.
Bloc airlines will almost surely gain entry for the first time to Latin America, particularly to Brazil and Mexico. This in turn would facilitate the movement of Cuban trained subversives and enhance Soviet bloc efforts and prestige within Latin America.
3.
Our ability, limited in any case, to retard Communist aviation agreements for operations to other less developed countries would be reduced.
4.
While there is a military risk from security aspects of possible emergency landings at United States military bases, this risk already exists to an extent, and can certainly be controlled.

Prompt signing could:

1.
Let flights and tourist travel begin late this summer, rather than next year, and lay the ground for the other advantages.
2.
But it would bring all the above disadvantages, and would involve Congressional and domestic opposition for following too closely on other measures increasing ties with Russia.
3.
Chances of getting OAS action to stop air contact with Cuba would undoubtedly be lost.

Postponement of decision would:

1.
Let us take full advantage of prospects of action by OAS members to cut air and sea contact with Cuba under any OAS resolutions.
2.
Probably delay flights for a year.
3.
Avoid having this agreement come too close on the heels of the other agreements with the USSR, or the T39 and RB66 incidents.
4.
Let us pick the best time to get maximum net psychological benefits from signing while minimizing the psychological benefits to the USSR.
5.
Permit a balancing of the extent of remaining disadvantages with advantages to be obtained.

I recommend:

That the desirability of signature be assessed again once prospects for action under an OAS resolution have been exhausted.

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR, Memos, Vol. III. Secret. The memorandum bears no drafting information but another copy has the clearances of Harriman, Thompson, DOD, SOV, and EUR, among others. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, AV 4 USUSSR)