238. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

106086. For Ambassador Only.

It seems obvious from your meetings with Gromyko and others that Sovs regard official contacts on Pueblo case awkward and even annoying because of inevitable attendant publicity. Same considerations would apply to contacts with charge here.
Nonetheless, it is essential we remain in close communication with Sovs to stress gravity of situation. While we are hopeful success diplomatic approaches, it is always possible that at later juncture we may wish to warn them of actions we may be compelled to take in order to obtain release of men and vessel. Purpose then would be to insure that Sovs understand limited objectives such action and thus avoid miscalculation by other side.
Hot line is, of course, secure private channel, but we believe this would be inappropriate for warnings of impending action as indicated para 2 since Sov prestige would be engaged and they would feel compelled respond. Its use subject daily inquiry here and confirmation would escalate public concern.
Accordingly, we now giving consideration to establishment, at appropriate time, of clandestine channel on Scali-Fomin pattern used during Cuban missile crises. Helms has proposed we use Kulebiakin, top KGB official in US as well as Dep Sov UN PermRep. Our spokesman would be reliable non-official, perhaps Wm. S. White, who would be carefully controlled and authorized inform Kulebiakin he acting on [Page 550] precise instructions and at specific request of Secretary on behalf of President if this deemed necessary in light existing circumstances.
We do not believe necessary or appropriate officially to inform Sovs in advance of establishment of contact. We can assume knowledge of contact will be relayed by Kulebiakin through his channels to top Sov officials. At some later point, it might be desirable for you to convey quietly to Gromyko your knowledge that channel exists and is operative.
Would appreciate your views by opening of business Monday (EST)2 on desirability such move and its timing, and if you concur in need, on modalities as set forth paras 4 and 5.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Malcolm Toon, Country Director, Soviet Union Affairs; cleared by Helms at CIA and Read; and approved by Katzenbach.
  2. By January 29 at 8 a.m. EST.
  3. Printed from an unsigned copy.