231. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Luncheon given by President Johnson for Chairman Kosygin of the USSR and his Delegation


  • US
    • President Johnson
    • Secretary Rusk
    • Secretary McNamara
    • Ambassador Thompson
    • Mr. Rostow
    • Mr. McGeorge Bundy
    • Mr. W.M. Watson
    • Mr. George Christian
    • Mr. W. Krimer, Interpreter
    • Mr. Cyril Muromcew, Interpreter
  • USSR
    • Chairman Kosygin
    • Foreign Minister Gromyko
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • General Volkov
    • Mr. Vorontsov
    • Mr. Zamyatin
    • Mr. Firsov
    • Mr. Batsanov
    • Mr. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
[Page 529]

During the lunch, the President and Chairman Kosygin exchanged a number of views in repetition of some of those discussed during the morning meeting. At one point, Mr. Kosygin stated that all governmental and international bodies had a tendency of becoming bureaucracy managed and controlled. He saw a great danger in this trend which had brought about the demise of the League of Nations and said that in his view a meeting of heads of states or governments at the United Nations every year or two years would be helpful in preventing this trend from getting the upper hand. He felt that the UN would then truly provide a forum for an exchange of views between governments as against the present situation of a bureaucracy and red tape hindering the useful work of the organization.

At the President’s request, Secretary McNamara discussed with Chairman Kosygin some aspects of arms control. He stated his position regarding the desirability of avoiding an ABM race between the two countries by pointing out that the two countries had engaged in an arms race in nuclear weapons which had already gone beyond all reason. Mr. Kosygin agreed with this view. The Secretary enlarged upon the process of the US reacting to developments in the USSR and vice versa, and said that he considered this to be an insane road to follow. At some point, we should begin to dampen the expansion of nuclear arms-both offensive and defensive. He emphasized that he did not mean this statement to imply that the US or the Soviet Union should disarm. He considered complete disarmament to be beyond achievement at the present stage of world affairs. He did think, however, that both countries should put a limit on their development of offensive and defensive weapons.

Mr. Kosygin said that he did not quite agree with this view of preventing a race in ABM systems development. He said: supposing we were to agree that no ABM systems were to be developed at all, but that it would be perfectly all right to continue to develop offensive weapons; what could mankind possibly hope to gain from this type of approach? He knew that Secretary McNamara was not a military man, even though he was engaged in dealing with military matters, but he saw no logic in his arguments. Further, Mr. Kosygin said that he had read a speech delivered by Secretary McNamara in which the Secretary had stated that it was much cheaper to develop offensive weapons than defensive ones. Mr. Kosygin considered this type of approach to be actually immoral. He regarded this as a commercial approach to a moral problem which was by its very nature invalid. He would agree with the Secretary if the Secretary would agree to consider the entire complex of the arms race in offensive and defensive weapons.

Secretary McNamara stated that he knew he had not made his thoughts clear to many people in this country and from Chairman Kosygin’s remarks he concluded that his views were not clear to the [Page 530] Chairman as well. He did not suggest control or limitations on defensive weapons only, but on both. He supposed that the subject required more time than was available today and suggested that it could be further explored through Ambassadors Thompson and Dobrynin, but he did want to stress 2 or 3 points: (1) he did not suggest that the discussion be limited to defensive weapons; (2) he did not believe that we should limit defensive weapons and continue expanding offensive ones; (3) the whole matter was not a question of offensive weapons being cheaper than defensive ones; he was not taking a commercial view of the problem as the Chairman had suggested. He did not think that in the present situation the security of our respective peoples would permit us to disarm in the near future. But he did consider the continued growth of offensive weapons to represent a great danger to each of our countries and a great penalty to our respective societies. Secretary McNamara developed the thought that the development of offensive weapons led to increased development of defensive measures against them, which in turn promoted further development of offensive weapons, etc., beyond all reason. Such a situation was not in the interest of the security of either country and he felt very strongly and hoped that this process could be stopped by discussing the entire range of problems either in Moscow or in Washington or in both places.

Mr. Kosygin said that he had read the Secretary’s speech which had led him to the conclusion that a commercial approach had been taken. He did not think he was wrong in this and indeed the Secretary confirmed that he had made such a speech, although he was convinced the Chairman had misunderstood his meaning. Mr. Kosygin was glad to see that he was right. He did not want to say anything that was wrong for the simple reason that he was the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union. He continued that he then interpreted the Secretary’s statement in the manner in which he had described it earlier, namely, that the Secretary advocated a limitation on the development of defensive weapons while continuing the development of offensive weapons. He failed to see how the question could be posed in such a bare-faced manner. After he had read the Secretary’s statement, he very much wanted to have a chance to meet him and tell him just that, so that his words might perhaps force the Secretary to realize the fallacy of his concept. He considered it to be his duty to say this to the Secretary and he was very happy to have the opportunity of doing just this. On the other hand, he did see a positive aspect in what the Secretary had just said in the sense that the Secretary appeared to be urgently concerned for the fate of mankind, and this he considered to be a hopeful development.

Secretary McNamara replied to the Chairman that while he knew it to be true that offensive weapons were cheaper than defensive ones, as is true of many facts, this particular one was quite irrelevant. Some [Page 531] people in our country thought that the Secretary was in favor of disarming at the expense of the security of our nation. This view was quite as wrong as the one expressed by the Chairman. He did think, however, that each country could take some steps toward limitation of arms without endangering its respective security.

Ambassador Thompson remarked that he thought a part of the misunderstanding arose because of the great pressure in this country to further develop armaments as a result of increasing ABM development in the Soviet Union.

At this point, the President and Chairman Kosygin exchanged toasts, texts of which are attached hereto.2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Addendum, USSR, Glassboro Memcons. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Krimer. The time of the luncheon is from the President’s Daily Diary. (Ibid.) The memorandum cites the time of the luncheon as 1:30 to 3 p.m. Another record of the discussion during the luncheon, made by the President’s secretary, Marie Fehmer, is included in the President’s Daily Diary.
  2. Not attached; for text of the President’s toast, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 643–644.