222. Memorandum From the President’s Special Consultant (Bundy) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

Walt passed me your request for a memo on a meeting with Kosygin.

Cons: 1. He has not gone at this in a gracious way, to put it mildly, but he is within his rights in visiting the UN, and the custom of working by indirection goes back in the Russian character at least 200 years.

2. Very little of substance can come from the meeting, and it may even lead to a hard-nose standoff, but the estimates of both hard-and soft-boiled demonologists run against such a result, and everyone knows that you are not the man to lose in a face-to-face encounter with anyone.

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3. After a week of pulling and hauling, some may call it a tactical surrender if you go near New York, but there are solutions to that in the neighborhood. Of those I have heard, the Governor’s mansion at Princeton seems best.

Pros: 1. If you meet him you avoid all the negative consequences of not meeting him. That avoidance in itself is a very large gain. If you do not meet Kosygin, who has come as far as New York, the continuing noises (press and politicos) will be awful. I have had a great deal of free advice on this point from people I have not bothered you with.

2. You get a measure of the man. Kosygin is only one member of a committee, but he is one of the most important and certainly the best informed on foreign affairs. You will get a picture of him which can only be helpful to you.

3. Kosygin will get a measure of you. This is the most important point of all. You really do speak, on topics like Vietnam, wider contact, and the Middle East itself, in tones which are significantly different from those of your Secretary of State. In my judgment there is more prospect of Soviet help on Vietnam than they have ever given (though much less than Averell Harriman thinks). I think you can increase the prospect of such help and in particular I think that Johnson to Kosygin is a vastly better channel than Johnson to Wilson to Kosygin.

Specifically, you could substantially improve Thompson’s value to you and to the United States by emphasizing directly to Kosygin your confidence in him.

In summary, I see no unmanageable risks in the meeting, modest but practical advantages in holding it, and very great penalties (both here and in friendly opinion abroad) if it does not occur.

In this as in other things, people everywhere apply a double standard to us and to the Soviets.

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Trip to Soviet Union. No classification marking. On June 7 Johnson named McGeorge Bundy as a Special Consultant to the President and Executive Secretary of the Special Committee of the National Security Council, which Johnson established on June 7 to coordinate U.S. policy in the Middle East.