84. Notes of Cabinet Meeting1

President: Czech situation.

We did not assume there would be no military intervention.
There was massing of troops on the borders.
Thompson said they would go to any length to push Czechs back to pre-January site.
Tuesday lunch included item on Soviet Central Committee meeting.
At 7:05
  • Dobrynin asked for meeting
  • Rostow told Rusk
  • —Read Soviet message
  • Rusk sent message to DNC meeting
  • —Asked for NSC meeting
  • Rusk called in Dobrynin
  • Ball instructed to talk to other nations in UN.
  • Yesterday morning we formalized a statement.2
  • —We have no commitment to intervene militarily.
  • —It would not be in Czech interests or ours.
  • —The “Cold War” is not over.
  • —Our relations with Soviets are in transition.
  • —We would go anywhere at anytime to further interests of peace.
  • —We have thought at times we have made progress.
  • —We have the NPT, Outer Space agreement and the Consular Treaty.
  • —Soviets thought a pause would enable them to do something in Vietnam. We tried a 37-day pause in the bombing.
  • —There are some plusses and some minuses.
  • —We have been disillusioned if not deceived.

Secretary Rusk: The political costs the Soviets would have to pay was one reason we thought they would not move.

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A decision was made on Monday. If there were military intervention, there would be a world war.

In the Security Council the matter was inscribed, 13–2. India, Pakistan and Algeria voted to put it on the agenda. Only two voted against it. They were the Soviet Union and Hungary.

There would be 80–90 votes on this issue in the General Assembly.

This action has created violent world reaction.

The National Assembly can speak. The President and the Foreign Minister can also.

As far as the relation between Czechoslovakia and Vietnam—I see no direct relationship.

I hope members of the Cabinet will not get into this.

Secretary Wirtz:3 I agree Czechoslovakia and Vietnam are different situations.

There is confusion in the peoples’ minds.

The Czechs spoke to the world as though people do not recognize the difference between this and Vietnam.

Sixty five percent of the people in the world wish us well in Vietnam.

Vice President: I was shocked to find Galbraith talking as though it was one and the same.

President: I want the Cabinet to have all the information that is available to me.

We want to achieve peace.

Secretary Clifford: JCS maintain watch over the Soviet Union. They followed the meetings of the Czechs with the Warsaw Pact countries. They understand the dangers. They watched the exercises on the border. The Warsaw nations had rehearsed it.

Planes moved in. Elements of 26 different divisions took part. They went into radio silence.

Dobrynin’s message was the first notice.

There is no basis for resistance on the part of Czechs. We have no mutual assistance pacts.

We do have an understanding with West Germany.

This action on the part of the Soviet Union may be helpful to us in not getting the troop cutback in Europe.

[Here follow 3 pages of discussion of Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. A covering memorandum from Tom Johnson to the President lists the 35 participants and noted the time of the meeting. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. For text of the August 21 U.S. statement, see Department of State Bulletin, September 9, 1968, p. 261.
  3. Secretary of Labor William W. Wirtz.