131. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1

The Soviet Government agreed today to our proposal that, as an initial step in exploring the possibility of U.S.-Soviet cooperation on methods of desalting sea water, a meeting of U.S. and Soviet representatives should be held in Washington on 14–15 July. The Soviets proposed that both countries concurrently release statements announcing the meeting at noon tomorrow. We have asked that the release would be advanced to 10:30 a.m. tomorrow for your press conference and will assume this is acceptable unless we hear to the contrary from the Soviets.2 Ambassador Dobrynin has been shown the attached draft press release and has promised to give Ambassador Thompson a copy of their release this evening.3

The proposal for scientific cooperation on desalting was originally made by Premier Khruschev in one of his oral messages dealing with the nuclear cutback.4 You indicated interest in the proposal and the Soviets have pursued the idea vigorously, emphasizing the use of nuclear power as the source of energy.

It is not yet clear whether the Soviets are really interested in desalting which is a serious technical problem quite aside from nuclear power or whether their real interest lies either in the possibility of technical discussions on large nuclear reactors or of simply associating themselves with us in this activity which they may feel has far reaching significance in certain areas of the world such as the Near East. In the latter connection, you should recall that we have recently entered into [Page 237] a cooperative agreement with Israel and that we have a continuing program with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).5 It is intended that this preliminary meeting will help clarify these questions and provide a basis for deciding how far we can go with the Soviets in a cooperative enterprise without jeopardizing our other commitments in this area.

Finally, there is a problem of internal U.S. Government organization on the desalting problem. Technically, desalting is the responsibility of the Department of Interior; however, the Atomic Energy Commission has the responsibility for the development of nuclear reactors that would probably be used in any very large scale projects and has the technical manpower and funds that would be required to pursue this project on a large scale. In order to coordinate the activities of these agencies, it was decided to make Dr. Hornig the responsible officer for this activity and he has agreed to serve as Chairman of the U.S. delegation to the preliminary meeting. This procedure and the attached press release have been agreed to by Dr. Hornig, Dr. Seaborg, and Secretary Udall.6

McGeorge Bundy 7
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, 6/1/64–2/9/65, Vols. 5–8. Secret.
  2. Johnson announced the agreement at his June 23 press conference. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book I, p. 804)
  3. Not printed.
  4. Khrushchev made the proposal in a February 28 message to the President; see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XI, Document 15.
  5. See Document 130.
  6. The U.S. representatives were Hornig, Kenneth Holum (Interior), Seaborg (AEC), James Ramey (AEC), John Calhoun (Interior), Ragnar Rollefson (State), and C.F. MacGowan (Interior). (White House Press Release, July 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 359, Office of Science and Technology, OST Administrative History, E—Water Resources)
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.