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

SUBJECT

  • Mid-East Arms Limitation Approaches

During your talks with Prime Minister Eshkol, you instructed Secretary Rusk to approach both the Soviets and the Arabs to urge restraint on further arms shipments and to see whether we can avoid another round in the arms race.

The Secretary raised this with Dobrynin before he returned to Moscow. Now, to make sure everyone understands this is a serious effort, he recommends two more steps:

1.
Instruct Ambassador Thompson to follow up with Dobrynin in Moscow, giving him the broad outlines of our aircraft decision, underlining your desire to avoid a new round in the arms race and urging some indication of his Government’s reaction. (Tab A).2
2.
Instruct our ambassadors in Arab capitals to make clear our restraint and to let Arab leaders know that further decisions will depend on what they and the Soviets do. (Tab B). State would follow this up with specially tailored stronger approaches in Cairo and one or two other key capitals, perhaps urging them to talk with the USSR.

We believe it is important to lay it on the line that we have decided to sell a few more Skyhawks. If we don’t, both Russians and Arabs can throw this back at us when it comes out formally, saying we’ve already voided our plea for restraint and pushed the arms race a step further. We will try to say we’ve deferred our decision on Phantoms in such a way as to preserve the deterrent value of a decision still to be made.

While I realize this describes to a pretty broad audience the simpler elements of your decision, I think this is necessary if we’re going to put real substance in a major pitch for limitation. I recommend you approve the attached.

Walt

Approve Tabs A and B

See me3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East, Vol. I, 6/65-3/68. Secret;Exdis.
  2. The proposed draft cables at Tabs A and B are not printed.
  3. This option is checked.