293. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin
  • Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson

The Ambassador asked if I could give him any information on a number of matters that were up for decision. He mentioned the Non-proliferation Treaty, the exchange of ratifications of the Agreement on the Return of Astronauts, and the talks on strategic missiles.

On the Non-proliferation Treaty, I said that I thought the President and the Secretary considered this a multilateral agreement which should not be related to other issues. On the other hand, he must be aware of the sentiment that was building up in the Congress as the result [Page 693]of developments in Czechoslovakia and that we would have to investigate further to see what the line would be in the Senate. The Ambassador indicated that he quite understood that it might be wise not to bring this matter to a head in the immediate future.

With respect to the Agreement on the Return of Astronauts, I said that it was my understanding that we had not yet ratified this agreement. He said this was contrary to his information although he could well be wrong and asked if someone in the Department would let him know the status of the matter.

On the strategic missile talks, I said that I could not give him any definite information as the matter was still under active consideration. I referred to recent speeches in Congress which reflected the very strong sentiment that was extremely critical of the Soviet action in Czechoslovakia. I mentioned specifically statements by Senators Hruska and Dirksen as well as others. The Ambassador indicated that he was familiar with these statements and mentioned in fact that there were a number of others.

I said that in this connection I wished to tell him that the President had been very much concerned at statements in the American press to the effect that the President was very eager for a meeting with the Soviet leaders. I said I thought the President had the impression that at least some of these pieces had been inspired by Soviet sources.

Dobrynin reacted immediately and vigorously. He said he could assure me that his Embassy was in no way responsible. In order to draw him out further, I mentioned a piece by Joseph Kraft who was known to have good contacts with his Embassy. He said that his Counselor had talked to Kraft who had reported to him that Kraft had queried him about a possible Presidential visit and that his Counselor had confined himself saying that was up to the American side. Dobrynin said he could assure me that he had no instructions to raise this matter other than reply to questions, and the Soviet position was in fact that this was up to the American side. Dobrynin said that we obviously had ways of running down these matters and that he was confident that his Embassy was not involved since he had given strict instructions on this matter. He said he had himself noted these press references and realized that they were most unhelpful. He said he could not help but suspect that someone was interested in preventing any top level meeting, and he wondered if the West Germans or others were not responsible.

Continuing on the strategic missile talks, I said that I could not improve upon the presentation made to him by the Secretary who had explained the President’s long-standing and deep interest in promoting the cause of peace and better understanding between our two countries. On the other hand he could understand that in the light of the [Page 694]Czech developments and the reaction in this country, the President was in a very difficult position. I thought that if the President could be reasonably certain that real progress could be made, he would be prepared to disregard criticism of him for a meeting but it was of course difficult to know in advance what the prospects of success were.

With regard to the missile talks, Dobrynin replied that he had seen on his last visit to Moscow the draft instructions to the Soviet delegation. They were very detailed and raised a number of complex issues. On the other hand, they were devoid of polemics and represented a serious effort to find a basis for agreement. He suggested that the talks need not necessarily be opened on a top level and thought that in any event the issues were of such a nature that they could not entirely be resolved in one brief discussion.

I concluded by repeating that no decision had been made. He emphasized that he had not been instructed to press us on the matter and I got the impression that the Soviets would understand if a date later than September 30 was suggested.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Chlodnick File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Thompson.