238. Paper Prepared by the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)1



1. June 23, 1967 (a.m.)

The President hoped that Mr. Kosygin could assure him that Ambassador Thompson would get to talk to his representatives concerning control of the ABM rights. He hoped we could announce that such talks would take place. Three months ago the Chairman had informed him that he was prepared to undertake such discussions, yet nothing further had happened … we should be able to tell our people today that we would undertake discussions concerning the ABM systems; even if we disagreed on many aspects of this problem, discussions in themselves would prove to be a step in the right direction.

Chairman Kosygin said, referring to the President’s view of the ABM systems, it was not ABMs that were the root and the cause of trouble and tension in the world. To a much greater extent this was due to the development beyond reason of offensive weapons systems.

The President said he had brought Secretary McNamara to this meeting and Secretary McNamara was anxious to sit down with Soviet military representatives to discuss and explore possibilities of preventing an ABM race between the two countries.

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At lunch, at the President’s request, Secretary McNamara discussed with Chairman Kosygin some aspects of arms control. Secretary McNamara urged that the U.S. and the Soviet Union agree to the limitation of nuclear arms—both offensive and defensive; putting a limitation on their development in both countries.

Chairman Kosygin said 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 defensive weapons; what could mankind possibly hope to gain from this type of approach … 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 reiterated that he did not suggest control or limitation of defensive weapons only, but on both.) McNamara suggested that the subject be further explored through Ambassadors Thompson and Dobrynin. (Chairman Kosygin repeated his criticism of a recent speech by Secretary McNamara which had led Kosygin to conclude that the U.S. favored a commercial approach to the problem.)

In the afternoon the President said he believed the Chairman had misunderstood Secretary McNamara, and he wanted the Chairman to understand very clearly that when we proposed discussions on ABM systems, we had in mind not only defensive but also offensive weapons.

Kosygin replied that he was still shocked by Secretary McNamara’s speech in which he had referred to offensive weapons being cheaper than defensive weapons.

The President urged Kosygin to further explore McNamara’s views. The President thought that either the Chairman or his representatives could carry on a dialogue with Secretary McNamara and profit by it.

2. June 25, 1967

The President said he was most anxious to have a chance to explore all possibilities for cutting down the military budget if the USSR could be persuaded to do the same. We were ready to discuss all aspects of this question; we had asked for such talks three months ago through Ambassador Thompson and yet nothing further had been heard since the Soviet Government had indicated that it was willing to discuss these matters. When and where could Secretary McNamara meet with representatives of the USSR to begin meaningful discussions?

Mr. Kosygin said that he and his government were indeed interested in finding means to reduce military expenditures, but this very [Page 566] much depended upon relations with the U.S… It seemed to him that while the Viet Nam war continued a discussion of budget reduction could not be more than academic.

The President said a budget increase could be prevented if agreement were reached with the Soviet Union on the ABM problem. He had held back on authorizing full development of ABM systems to provide the opportunity for full exploration of this question with the Soviet Union. President Johnson repeated: When and where could Secretary McNamara meet with Soviet representatives?

Kosygin said that our proposals appeared to extend to a discussion of weapons systems only and that he could not agree with such an approach.

President Johnson retorted that we definitely are exploring all possibilities for reducing expenditures for offensive as well as defensive systems.

Chairman Kosygin said that if the President really wanted to discuss disarmament measures he was prepared to come here from Moscow with a delegation of his experts for this purpose, but he still failed to see true possibilities while the Viet Nam war continues and while the Middle East situation remains unsettled.

After lunch the President said the arms problem was of extreme importance to us, and we would like to discuss such questions as offensive and defensive missile systems, as well as expenditures in general, military budgets, and arms i.e. arms sales to other countries. The two sides should have meetings to discuss how they both could reduce their arms budget and also to discuss all other relevant questions. If he had understood the Chairman correctly as saying that he was willing to have his representatives meet with our people on these questions, he should give the time and the place and they could meet.

Mr. Kosygin noted that the President had raised the arms question first. He said that in his view the situation in the Middle East and the war in Viet Nam should be discussed first inasmuch as both of these questions, and particularly the war in Viet Nam, had a direct bearing on the arms question.

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  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Pen Pal Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163, Box 55. Secret; Nodis. Presumably Read prepared the paper following the National Security Council meeting on February 21, 1968, during which there was some discussion of what Kosygin had agreed to at Glassboro as far as arms limitation talks were concerned. Text of the record of the NSC meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XX.