246. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1


  • Port Restrictions on Soviet Ships

When this question was put to you last May (Tab A),2 your reaction was to hold it “for the present.”

The original idea was:

  • —To increase the number of American ports open to Soviet and Eastern European ships from 12 to about 50;
  • —To provide for board and search on a spot-check basis (instead of the present full coverage);
  • —To reduce advance notification from 30 days to 7.

Nick Katzenbach, Foy Kohler and others at the State Department have looked at the problem again. They have come back recommending we take only the third step—reducing advance notification to 7 days. The original 30-day requirement was a rule the State Department set up for its own convenience in processing visas and export licenses for bunker fuel. (The Coast Guard has never required more than 7 days advance notice for its search and surveillance responsibility.)

The change might result in a few more Soviet and Polish freighters calling at U.S. ports, and this might increase the chances of labor union opposition and political flak. However, easing the requirement would go a long way toward quieting the Russians and preventing retaliation (which the Russians have threatened) against our cruise-ship calls at [Page 578] Leningrad and Odessa. Kosygin raised the matter personally with Ambassador Thompson a few months ago.

Nick does not believe we need Congressional consultation—as it might actually stir up the issue over a minor administrative change. We would advise interested commercial shipping agents but not issue a press release. I recommend approval.




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  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR. Secret.
  2. Document 214.
  3. This option is checked. Handwritten notations at the top of the memorandum read: “Mr. N. Davis notified 9/18/67,” “S/S notified,” and “telegram cleared.”