2. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the Under Secretary of State (Ball)1

GWB:2 any bad news from any other part of the world, but the situation in Cyprus has been getting worse in the last few days.

LBJ: Yeah, I’m reading it.

GWB: The British Ambassador was in to see me this morning3 and he said that they’re not prepared to continue alone to try to carry this because of the political problem they find themselves in—the history of the hatred of the British on both the Greeks’ and Turks’ side as far as the local population is concerned. And that he wanted us to agree with them on a [Page 3] proposal to try and internationalize the arrangement. Now, this would mean one of two things—

LBJ: NATO going in or the UN?

GWB: No. Getting a NATO force to go in or going to the UN. The UN would be very bad because it would—

LBJ: I’d try to get NATO to go in if I could.

GWB: Well.

LBJ: I think that the British are getting to where they might as well not be British anymore if they can’t handle Cyprus.

GWB: Well, I’ve, they’re—we put it to them very strong as to whether this was on the basis that they were spread too thin in which case we might relieve some of their forces from, even from Germany. But the—what Ormsby Gore says—and this checks with our own advice—is that putting additional British forces in is probably just going to make the situation worse rather than better.

Now, I’m meeting with Bob McNamara at five o’clock.4 In the meantime, we’re having this thing looked at by the Joint Chiefs—

LBJ: I’ll be available and I’ll talk to you—

GWB: We’ll have a recommendation—

LBJ: —and I would say off-hand that I would have NATO—try to get NATO in there. And I think the UN’s out, but I’d tell the British that there might as well not be a Britain anymore if they can’t handle Cyprus.

GWB: Right. Well, this is—what we’re taking a hard look at—

LBJ: And I’d let them relieve whatever they needed in Germany to put there rather than NATO. But they won’t do it, then we go to NATO. I don’t agree that it’s going to make it worse, because they can—I’m ashamed of them, but go ahead and let’s take NATO.

GWB: Well, we’ll have a recommendation for you. Bob and I are getting together at five and [unintelligible].

[Here follows discussion of the situation in Panama.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Ball, January 25, 1964, 2:05 p.m., Tape F64.07, Side B, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared by the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
  2. The recording of the conversation begins in mid-sentence.
  3. At a noon meeting, Ambassador Ormsby Gore reported on the lack of progress at the London four-power talks and on the “disturbing” situation on Cyprus. He informed U.S. representatives that the British Government wanted to internationalize the problem either through NATO or U.N. intervention in the crisis. A memorandum of conversation of this meeting is ibid. Ball passed the substance of the meeting to President Johnson in a 2:10 p.m. telephone conversation. The President directed Ball to “try to get NATO—not the U.N.” (Johnson Library, Ball Papers, Telephone Conversations, Cyprus Pre-Trip)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 3.