220. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1

The following is Ambassador Thompson’s memorandum of the message from Ambassador Dobrynin:

“Ambassador Dobrynin telephoned me from New York to say that Mr. Kosygin wished to thank him very much for the message from the President which I had transmitted to Dobrynin.2 The Chairman appreciated the invitation to visit the United States. Unfortunately, he was very busy and would not have time now to visit the United States. The Chairman did not plan to visit Washington. If the President wishes or has some plans to be in New York, Mr. Kosygin will be ready to meet him in New York at any time or place convenient to the President.

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Dobrynin went on to add personally that this meant any place in or near New York but not any place far away from New York.”

We are now revising the speech which you would make at the State Department at 9:30 on Monday morning to include the other subjects along the lines of your suggestions. We hope the next draft can be in your hands later this evening.3
The most serious question for you to consider is what to do about a meeting with Kosygin. McNamara, Katzenbach, Vance, Bundy, Rostow, Thompson and McPherson and I discussed this question this afternoon. Our views may be summarized as follows:
There is no need for you to rush up to New York to see Kosygin before his speech to the General Assembly. If the two of you meet before his speech, he might even be under pressure to be tougher in the General Assembly than he might otherwise-to avoid the impression among the Arabs or the Chinese that he was in some personal collusion with you. In any event, a tough speech by him after a meeting with you would make it appear that you had “failed” in your private talk with him.
We do believe, pending some change in the situation, that there would be enormous political loss to you if Kosygin were to go home without a conversation between the two of you. We could not rely wholly upon his refusal to come to Washington since he has indicated that he would see you in New York. You should bear in mind that his theory is that he is visiting the United Nations and not the United States. It just happens that the United Nations is in the United States. You have said on other occasions that you would “go anywhere, see anybody” in the interest of peace. If it became generally known (as it would from the Russians) that you had refused to see Kosygin in New York, we believe that you would be under very severe domestic criticism-quite apart from international public opinion.
There will be intense press interest in the question of whether the two of you will meet until the point is clarified. The Russians may do some leaking on their own. It is not clear, therefore, that the question can be held over until, say, next weekend.
I would recommend that, in any event, Ambassador Thompson proceed to New York on Sunday and have a long talk with Dobrynin. Then, I would go on to New York on Tuesday and have a talk with Gromyko.
The group named above would recommend that you decide now that you will see Kosygin before his departure even if it means your going to the New York area. If you do that, you can also see Krag, Wilson and one or two other Heads of Government who might be in New York at the same time. There would be considerable advantage in letting it be known early that you expect to see Kosygin in order to avoid a churning press. If you agree with us that it is important to see him before he leaves the United States, it would be better to make the arrangement early rather than appear to be submitting to UN, US or Congressional pressures.
You need not go into New York City to see Kosygin; arrangements could be made to meet him at an estate on Long Island or in Westchester County. None of us thinks that your going to New York to see Kosygin would require you to appear in the General Assembly. You always have the option of appearing in the General Assembly if the course of Assembly discussion leads you to believe you would like to do so.
If you do not wish to make a final decision before you hear Kosygin’s opening speech on Monday morning, Llewellyn Thompson could go back to Dobrynin with a message substantially as follows:

“The President regrets that Mr. Kosygin feels unable to visit Washington. The President will study his own schedule about other possibilities and will be pleased to know what Mr. Kosygin’s own schedule is if that is now known.”

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 6. Secret; Eyes Only. Rostow forwarded the memorandum to the President at 5:50 p.m. on June 17 under a covering memorandum which stated: “Herewith Sec. Rusk’s statement of the consensus which emerged from the meeting this afternoon.”
  2. See Document 218.
  3. For text of the President’s June 19 address at the State Department’s Foreign Policy Conference for Educators, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 630–635.