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

Mr. President:

You should know that, pursuant to your instructions, Dobrynin is dropping by my home at 8:30 p.m. this evening.

I attach notes on your guidance to me over the phone. I would, of course, make these points in appropriately diplomatic—but quite clear—form—but blunter than if I were at State.

The technical problem is this:

  • —On strategic missiles, neither we nor Moscow can assess whether the first talks could be productive until each side had quietly examined the other’s opening position. Otherwise the meeting could only be productive in the sense that initial views were exchanged and both sides agreed to meet again.
  • —On other matters, the great thing would be for the meeting to announce forward movement on Vietnam and the Middle East. That depends, of course, on what emerges in Paris and in New York (General Assembly) in the weeks ahead.

I shall communicate the message precisely as given to me; but the optimum outcome would be for Dobrynin to come back and say we’re prepared to work towards a meeting with positive results and see, in, say, three weeks time, whether a basis existed for a positive, constructive result.



The President does not wish to launch the missile talks at a meeting lower than the Kosygin-Johnson level.
The President is prepared to contemplate a meeting in the original time frame—that is, October 1—10—if there could be good results.
Frankly, a meeting which was not successful would simply give a political handle to Nixon that President Johnson “was selling the country out.”
Only if Dobrynin believes the chances for a productive meeting “are good” is the President prepared to contemplate such a session.
Dobrynin should be aware of the depth of the Congressional reaction about Czechoslovakia. (See Hruska and Dirksen speeches.)
If the Soviet Union does not want to deal with President Johnson on these matters constructively, they can wait for Nixon. (See latest polls.)3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Chlodnick File. Confidential; Sensitive; Literally Eyes Only. The memorandum is marked with a “PS,” indicating that the President saw it.
  2. Secret.
  3. In a September 6 memorandum to the President on the “Advance Gallup” for September 8, Fred Panzer stated that “the GOP continues to lead the Democrats as the party better able to handle the Nation’s top problems.” The memorandum is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Chlodnick File.