7. Telegram From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State 1
1006. As instructed by Secretary January 9 I saw Spaak 2 today to convey Secretary’s warmest personal good wishes and regards and to acquaint him on informal confidential basis with Secy’s current thinking re East-West negotiations (so that Spaak would not feel compelled to make uncoordinated initiatives or proposals re East-West negotiations that could create problems). Explained that while we have no illusions that basic Soviet objectives have changed, Secy wants Spaak to know our views because we greatly appreciate Spaak’s leadership in NAC and elsewhere in trying to keep our allies alert to possibility for progress and desirability of taking advantage of any openings that may present themselves to reduce tensions with the Soviets through formal or informal agreements.
Following is summary of what I said to Spaak, at conclusion of which he asked his deep appreciation be expressed to Secy for latter’s confidence in him. He said he concurs entirely with Secy’s views re East-West negotiations set forth below and will endeavor to continue to be helpful to US. He also said he fully approves our draft reply to Khrushchev as tabled in NAC in Paris and deplores negative and unhelpful position of de Gaulle. (We do not have text of our draft reply to Khrushchev.)3[Page 11]
(Following is summary of presentation to Spaak.)
- General Observations.
We do not believe Soviet purposes have changed and indeed Khrushchev has insisted there is not and cannot be any ideological co-existence although there has been some improvement in East-West atmosphere as a result of certain limited agreements such as “hot line”; Test Ban agreement, etc.
At same time we recognize Khrushchev has his troubles and Soviets have great economic problems in their allocation of limited resources. Their gold and foreign reserves probably in neighborhood of $2 billion and they have been or will be obliged to spend perhaps almost $1 billion for grain. Demands of Soviet agriculture are great as are those for social advances (housing, consumer goods, etc.) whereas Soviet space and defense programs are very costly.
Insofar as overall picture concerned, Cuban missile crisis may have been more significant and sobering to Soviets than we ourselves believed at that time in causing the Soviets to think again about their past policy of rattling the threat of missile annihilation to US and our allies.
In past two years we have engaged in far ranging probing of Soviet position and have explored and tried to identify elements of common interest. We believe as a result there is better comprehension in Russia of our position and that the Soviets have been influenced in constructive direction by our views on certain issues. Appointment of Soviet Amb Dobrynin who knows and understands US has also probably contributed to greater Soviet understanding of our basic views and positions and our non-negotiable vital interests.
- Discussions with Soviets.
- Possibility of multi-lateral agreements with Soviets: These consist of such matters as (I) disarmament dealt with at Geneva where prospect of breakthrough in near future not great; (II) Non-aggression Pact, but here also unless Berlin were included or we derived substantial other benefits there would be little advantage for us. While it useful keep discussion of multi-lateral possibilities with Soviets going we do not believe possibility of new and far-reaching multi-lateral agreements of a formal nature too promising in reasonable future.
- Bilateral Agreements with Soviets. In this area there are limited and modest possibilities: (I) Consular Convention; (II) Civil Air Agreement providing for flights between US and Soviet Union; (III) agreements on cultural exchange; (IV) possibly some modest and limited agreements looking to an expansion of peaceful trade but here also except for grain the field is limited because Soviets, who engage in barter trade, have so little to offer.
- Third area of exploration with the Soviets involved
subjects where our policy interests coincide but where
formal international [Page 12]agreements are not possible. In other words problems where
both we and Soviets, each for his own reasons, desire to act
along parallel lines. Where, in effect, there is de facto
similarity of interests and policy although no formal
agreement is possible.
Non-dissemination of Nuclear Weapons. The Soviets, like ourselves, desire avoid nuclear weapons dissemination and seem want them limited to nations (US, UK, France and Soviet) who have such weapons today. They do not wish US to give them to our other allies and Soviets apparently do not intend on their part to give them to ChiComs or satellites. However formal agreement probably not possible as among other things Soviets would probably insist we abandon MLF as conditions for non-dissemination agreement.
While Soviets oppose MLF they would probably do so in any event as the Soviets oppose anything that ties Germany closer to its principal NATO allies and strengthens Western unity. Actually, Soviet principal objective is Germany not have its finger alone on nuclear trigger and MLF should prevent this.
- Lowering Defense Budgets. Here also there seems little possibility of a “formal agreement” because it would be virtually impossible to reach meaningful agreement on what a defense budget includes and because basic factors involved in such budgets are different (i.e., we pay enlisted men minimum of $120 per month whereas Soviets pay only fraction thereof). In Soviet closed society true size of military budget can be concealed and recently when military budget went down budget for “other" types of research and development (probably including military) went up. However, defense budgets of Soviets and ourselves are leveling off and may undergo modest reduction in years ahead even though it would not seem possible to have a formal accord on this. We have told Soviets we would be willing to sit down and have technical people try to reach common understanding or definition of what elements of defense budget should be but Soviets have not taken us up on this. Nonetheless, we believe Soviets do have an interest, as do we, in leveling off and trying to reduce military spending. And we believe what we have said to them about this over the past two years has had an influence on them.
- Limited Measures that Could be Helpful in Certain Aspects of Arms Control. For example, agreement to destroy obsolescent bomber aircraft (B–47’s and Badger) could be useful. For although these aircraft becoming obsolete in terms of total nuclear war they would still represent formidable weapon if they were given to other states (i.e., if given to Arabs it could present mortal danger for Israel and cause latter to act; if given to certain Asian nations (Indonesia) it could increase hostilities in that area, etc.). Soviets have asked us if we have other weapons in mind in addition to aircraft and we have expressed a willingness to examine other proposals but they have not followed up on this.
- Nuclear-free Zones in Latin America and Africa. We feel this also offers de facto opportunities even if no formal agreement possible because (a) there are not nuclear weapons in these areas now; and (b) because these areas do not represent primary military or industrial targets. Although formal agreement perhaps impossible (Cuba might not agree unless US was included in atom-free zone and Arabs might not because of fear Israel might get “the bomb,” etc.) we believe Soviets do not wish to see weapons extended into these areas any more than we do and therefore an area of tacit even if not formal agreement may be possible.
We also believe we should continue to probe Soviets and urge them be cautious in such areas as Laos, Vietnam and Cuba where dangers could escalate. Re Laos and Cuba Soviets have not been entirely unresponsive but insofar as Vietnam concerned we have had little comfort or sympathy.
To summarize some constructive progress has been and may continue to be made in some of these problems by mutuality of US-Soviet interest without formal agreements and therefore fact that there are no formal agreements being negotiated does not mean we are frozen in a rigid position. We will continue to probe and believe that this method more designed to achieve positive results in certain areas than by trying to insist on formal agreements. (End summary.)
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 1 US–USSR. Confidential; Limdis.↩
- Paul-Henri Spaak, Belgian Foreign Minister, and former NATO Secretary General.↩
- For text of Khrushchev’s December 31, 1963, letter to President Johnson, see Documents on Disarmament, 1963, pp. 654–665; text of the President’s reply, January 18, is ibid., 1964, pp. 5–7.↩