32. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman) and Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff1

H: I find the Secretary [Rusk] is reaching for some easy way out and one of them is to get the Russians to agree to a government of neutralists and the right wingers without Pathet Lao representation. This would be utterly unrealistic. Russians would never agree. He wants Tommy [Thompson] to see Dobrynin. If this comes up, it must be knocked out. Would make Russians think this our put up game. If fixed, could have a meeting about how this can be worked out. We can’t go to the Russians and ask them to accept in advance. Wouldn’t do it and haven’t got assets. You are not going to be at the breakfast;2 I wish you were.

F: I will speak to Mac [Bundy].

H: Three sanctions are proposed and only #2 worth anything.

F: Do they intend to bring that up at the breakfast?

H: I don’t know. Marshall is preparing a memo for the Secretary.3

F: I better be in touch with him.

H: We have got to be very clear that only one posture we can take and that is strong support for back to the status quo. No other position is tenable. If anything else develops, about all we can do is demand from the world that civil war does not break out, and possibly call a meeting, perhaps not necessarily a Geneva meeting.

F: We have to play this line out completely.

H: Have to play line out completely without any dirtied hands. Khrushchev is bored with Laos and wouldn’t do it and hasn’t got any assets.

F: Agree completely.

H: I am on 100 percent wave length with Unger’s actions.

F: Same here.

H: Everything he is doing, doing with great skill and sense.

F: Thanks. I will get right to Mac on this.

H: Thanks a lot.

  1. Source: Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, Chronology of Telephone Conversations, April–May 1964. No classification marking.
  2. Reference is to a breakfast meeting attended by President Johnson, Rusk, McNamara, and McCone, which began at 8:45 a.m. (Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Book) According to an April 22 agenda prepared by Bundy, Rusk was prepared to comment on the SEATO meeting, his trip to Saigon, and the Laos situation. (Ibid., National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. III)
  3. Not found.