230. Record of the President’s Debriefing1

Debriefing by the President on his talks with Chairman Kosygin, morning of June 23, 1967, at Hollybush, Glassboro State College, Glassboro, New Jersey.

The talks were not denunciatory or argumentative. Kosygin was reserved, contained, but jolly.

[Page 526]

Kosygin pointed out that he had an 18-year old grandson and granddaughter and was the senior grandfather present. They both had a duty to protect them by maintaining peace between their countries of 200 million.

The President said they had a responsibility not only to the 200 million but to the whole world of 3 billion. He hoped their grandsons would grow up to know each other. They had lived through the horrors of two wars and they did not wish their grandchildren to share that kind of experience.

Kosygin said that during the Second World War he had responsibility in Leningrad. He would never forget American help at that time. He said he wanted peace, but you don’t. The President said, I believe you are sincere but I am also. At which Kosygin appeared a bit chagrined at his first ploy.

The President explained that in the 3 years he had been in office, we had made no new treaties. He had wished to make progress in relations with the Soviet Union. He began with a letter to Khrushchev urging that they both cut back their nuclear production, and they did. He urged they both cut back their levels of defense expenditure, and they did. Things then changed. There were hard words about Viet Nam.

In these 3 years, despite their stopping Mary Martin’s going to Moscow, they had concluded the cultural agreement and civil [air] agreement, Consular Agreement. Working hard on non-proliferation, ready next week to start discussions on ABM’s and ICBM’s. He was awaiting answer which had been delayed 3 months. (President made this point three times and never got a reply.)

The President said that on the Middle East he had presented his 5 points but got no comment from Kosygin. Kosygin said that the President before the war had talked about territorial integrity, asserted this on hot line, but wound up protecting aggression. Kosygin said that he had been Stalin’s deputy for 12 years. He had served in Leningrad. He would never forget the time when arm in arm we resisted Fascism. He wished we could agree on some of these moves now. Kosygin then said we must bring back the troops to the original armistice lines, and put the question of Aqaba into International Court of Justice. Then we could discuss other problems. Then came the nearest thing to a threat. He said, unless you do this there will be a war, a very great war. I’m against it. They will fight with arms if they have them; if not, with fists. All troops must be withdrawn at once. They will fight with their bare hands, if necessary. (The President said it was not clear in this passage whether the Soviets would supply the arms for this blow up or engage themselves.) The President then leaned forward and said very slowly and quietly, let us understand one another. I hope there will be no war. If there is a war, I hope it will not be a big war. If they fight, I hope [Page 527] they fight with fists and not with guns. I hope you and we will keep out of this matter because, if we do get into it, it will be a “most serious” matter. The President’s judgment was that this was not an ultimatum and he backed away from the implication that the Soviet Union might itself become involved.

On the NPT, the President asked Kosygin to set a date and let us table the agreement.

On ABM’s and ICBM’s, he said let us go to work. Sec. McNamara can go to Moscow. We can meet in Washington or some neutral point.

On Viet Nam, the President drew a map and urged the separation of North Viet Nam from South Viet Nam. Kosygin attacked corruption of the regime in Saigon. The President did not engage in the quality of our allies.

President said some think we should invade North Viet Nam-not Sec McNamara, but some do urge that. We think bombing of North Viet Nam is better than invading it. If you could get them to stop invading the South, you could say to us don’t invade North Viet Nam. But they must get their people out of South Viet Nam. The UK, ICC or anyone could have free elections. They could have any kind of government they want.

Kosygin said Sec. McNamara couldn’t wait three days in February before he started bombing the North. The President said, well you didn’t have any influence in Hanoi. The Chinese had taken over. You couldn’t deliver them.

Kosygin said that Fawzi had given Sec. Rusk important proposals. Kosygin complained about Amb. Goldberg’s position at the UN.

The President pressed him on sending arms to the Middle East. Said he hoped we both could avoid doing that. By working the hot line, they had achieved a cease-fire. The U.S. knew nothing of the attack. Had no knowledge of the Israeli attack. They thought they had commitments from both parties. He said he assumed the Soviet Union did not know of the closure of the Gulf of Aqaba before it took place.

The President repeated he hoped both of us would stay outside the area with our armed forces. If we engaged, it would be quite serious.

At one point Kosygin complained about our bombing Hanoi when he was there. The President explained that our bombing had nothing to do with his presence. Sec. Rusk was bombed when at Saigon. This was a problem of travelers going into war areas. In fact, we made clear in our Tonkin resolution we would not take such attacks. When they killed 60 of our men asleep at Pleiku, we had to take action. Totally unrelated to Kosygin’s visit.

President pressed on Middle East, Viet Nam, non-proliferation, ABM’s.

[Page 528]

He got no positive reaction in the first talks. But he found Kosygin friendly, jolly and warm. He enjoyed him.

There was some exchange on the two Ambassadors. President said he thought very well of Amb. Dobrynin and Tommy Thompson had his full confidence. He had returned to Moscow as duty to all humanity as well as to his country.

Kosygin said Dobrynin reports very objectively. He says nothing that will increase the heat between the two countries.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Hollybush. No classification marking or drafting information appears on the record. Rostow wrote in hand at the top of page 1: “File: only copy.”