247. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State1

Secto 16. Eyes Only for the President and Acting Secretary from the Secretary. In private conversation with Gromyko (two of us alone) tonight,2 the following matters were mentioned:

I asked Gromyko whether he had any further clarification on what he had said about our last meeting about ABM’s. I told him that I was sure that the President would want me to report faithfully exactly how Gromyko saw it. Specifically, was there anything that Gromyko could say about the timing of negotiations? He replied that [Page 579] they have been giving the matter a great deal of thought, that they consider it is a question which needs further development, they accept our assurance of our readiness to talk about both offensive and defensive missiles, and came close to stating that they did expect to enter into serious talks with us on the subject. He said it was just not possible for him to indicate anything about timing. Putting Gromyko’s remarks alongside of Dobrynin’s remark on the same subject, I would gather that the Russians are formulating a position in the expectation of talks but are not yet ready to take the responsibility for setting a date and starting a process of discussion. I doubt we shall get much more from them, at least for the next several weeks.
I told Gromyko that I was prepared to discuss Vietnam in great detail and that he was familiar with our position. I told him that we continue to be in occasional contact with Hanoi through private channels and that we had exercised some restraint in our own operations in connection with such contacts. I did not go into detail and he did not ask me for any detail. He summarized their position in familiar terms, insisting upon a cessation of the bombing without any indication of what the results of such a cessation would be. He did not even state categorically that there would be talks. He brushed aside any thought of reciprocal military action on North Vietnam. He showed no interest in discussing the matter and it was not pursued in further detail. He did not respond as to what the Soviets would do if we stopped the bombing.
We then had some discussion about China. I asked him, with a light touch, if his people in Moscow thought that we were in some sort of conspiracy with Peking. He seemed somewhat amused by the question and asked me whether I thought if Moscow really believed that such was the case they would not have mentioned it to us directly. We had some discussion about elements of future common interests, based on national state interests despite ideology, as we looked to the prospect of a billion Chinese armed with nuclear weapons. He said there were such potential common interests but did not pursue the matter.
On the Middle East, he confirmed that the Soviet view was based on the tentative draft which we and they worked out at the end of the emergency General Assembly. He thinks there are points of interpretation on which the two of us do not see eye to eye. I told him that we had heard rumors that they were moving away from that position to the Tito proposals.3 He said, of course, the Tito proposals were more acceptable to the Arabs and would be entirely acceptable to the Soviet Union but he understood that such proposals could not produce an answer. The principal points of interpretation to which he alluded [Page 580] were (1) the type of response expected from the Arabs if such a resolution were passed by the Security Council and (2) the Suez Canal. He agreed with me that the Soviets would not object to an opening of Suez to Israeli flagships but he saw no prospect that Egypt would agree. I doubt, therefore, that the Soviets will publicly support Israeli passage of Suez pending Arab agreement. Once again he left the impression that the Soviets are not so much concerned now with the Syrians and the Algerians and were prepared to work for a solution with which Nasser and the so-called moderate Arabs could live even if Syria and Algeria objected. He agreed that Algeria’s distance from Israel made the Algerians rather brave. As a little bargaining pressure, he underlined twice the importance of the Middle East to US-Soviet relations, clearly inviting concessions on our side in the Arab-Soviet direction. We agreed that the state of belligerency must be removed but that the problem was to find a formula which would achieve the result without humiliating the Arabs. That will take some doing. It was left that we would be in further consultation with them about the Middle East to see if we could not clarify and tighten up the beginnings of the common approach we established in the emergency General Assembly. At no time was there any threat or bluster on his part.
Gromyko spoke to me about reports they had heard about our building a nuclear mine field along the Turkish border. This was a subject which they raised more than a year ago with both us and Turkey and he said he had not had a very conclusive reply from either government. I told him that I did not know very much about it and that I would look into it to see if there was any more that ought to be said. He said that if these reports were true, this would have a very negative influence on our relations.
There was considerable discussion about Article 3 of the NPT, as well as procedures to be followed in bringing it to signature and the handling of the subject before the General Assembly. Details will be reported separately. It was agreed that Foster and Dobrynin would talk further about Article 3 after the meeting of the Ministers of EURATOM next Monday.4
In the general discussion after dinner, most of the time was spent on a futile argument about procedure on the Soviet proposal for a definition of aggression.
In reply to my question, Gromyko indicated the Soviets would be prepared to proceed with negotiations for a new cultural agreement, possibly in December.
In a separate conversation with Thompson and Stoessel, Dobrynin suggested that Gromyko’s indication on Monday that they might be ready to inaugurate civil air operations in October was probably a bit optimistic. He thought that Aeroflot like PanAm would not be keen to start operations in winter and that perhaps Gromyko had in mind an inaugural flight this fall with regular operations to start next spring. He said that they were having difficulty on the question of liability insurance.

I could not detect any particular change in mood although I found nothing encouraging in his attitude about Vietnam. The evening as a whole was reasonably relaxed with no polemics.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL USUSSR. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Rostow forwarded a copy to the President under a September 28 covering memorandum. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, UN Vol. 8)
  2. September 27. Rusk was in New York for the 22nd UN General Assembly. In telegram Secto 5, September 26, he reported to the President on the opening dinner with Gromyko on September 25, during which the non-proliferation treaty, ABMs, and the Middle East were discussed. Secto 5 is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIX. Memoranda of Rusk’s conversations with Gromyko on September 25, 27, and 28, concerning arms limitation, the non-proliferation treaty, the cultural exchanges agreement, outer space cooperation, and the Soviet proposal to the United Nations to define aggression, are in the Department of State, Kohler Files: Lot 71 D 460.
  3. Information on the Tito proposals is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIX.
  4. October 1.