(This is not an official statement of policy by the Department of State; it is intended only as a guide to the contents of this volume.)

Since 1861, the Department of State’s documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States has constituted the official record of the foreign policy and diplomacy of the United States. Historians in the Office of the Historian collect, arrange, and annotate the principal documents comprising the record of American foreign policy. The standards for the preparation of the series and the general deadlines for its publication are established by the Foreign Relations of the United States statute of October 28, 1991 (22 USC 4351, et seq.). Volumes in the Foreign Relations series are published when all the necessary editing, declassification, and printing steps have been completed.

The documents in this volume are drawn from the centralized indexed files of the Department of State and the decentralized Bureau, Office, and other lot files of the relevant Departmental units. The volume is also unique among Foreign Relations volumes in including documents from the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the papers of Hubert Humphrey at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Almost all of the documents printed here were originally classified. The Information Response Branch of the Office of IRM Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, Department of State, in concert with the appropriate offices in other agencies or governments, carried out the declassification of the selected documents.

The following is a summary of the issues covered. Parenthetical citations are to numbered documents in the text.


This volume represents the growing importance of global issues in U.S. foreign policy during the 1960s. For want of a specific definition, global issues are interpreted in the volume as those subjects that transcend bilateral or regional coverage yet do not fit neatly under other, more traditional functional areas such as foreign economic policy or arms control. The volume does not cover all global topics but is a selection of the more important ones. The amount of documentary material, particularly at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, was most influential in determining the choice of global issues.

The volume provides a unique insight into President Johnson’s hopes of internationalizing the “Great Society.” The goals were expansive, whether the arena was lunar exploration, efforts to use technology to raise the living standards of the destitute poor, or the possibility of beaming education to all direct from space. Many of the dreams were only partially realized and some were outright failures, but the optimism and the powerful belief that Americans could and would solve these problems left an important legacy.

By the end of 1968, however, problems that would plague diplomatic efforts over the next 30 years were becoming apparent. America’s desire to share the benefits of scientific progress became diluted by the exigencies of the Cold War, technology failed to solve all problems at an affordable cost; and new global actors emerged, particularly in the Middle East, to change the dynamic and to undermine global economic growth.

The Technology Gap

The phrase “technology gap” refers to the general and apparently growing inequality in military power and economic strength between the United States and its allies. European leaders, beginning with German Chancellor Erhard in December 1965, became concerned about the disparity in the financial and technical resources available to the Americans and the Europeans for research and high-technology development. Their primary fear was that the “gap” would result in permanent second-class status for Europe in newly emerging fields such as computer science, the aerospace industry, and atomic energy.

In December 1965 National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) No. 357 directed the Cabinet to name representatives to a committee chaired by President Johnson’s Science Adviser, Dr. Donald Hornig, to study the problem. (5) Hornig’s interdepartmental committee delivered its first report in January 1967. It concluded that the technology gap was primarily a political problem and recommended a strategy to encourage greater U.S.-European cooperation and an integration of high-technology efforts. (9) This analysis and strategy proved to be successful, leading to improved U.S.-European dialogue; by December 1967 concern about the technology gap had largely disappeared. (14)

Most importantly, European beliefs as revealed in discussions of the technology gap influenced attitudes about every other science and technology issue raised during this period. In December 1967, Hornig’s committee summarized the pervasive mood: “Some Europeans are also concerned that major decisions affecting the future of European industry, and even their national independence, may not be in their hands. They feel they may be undesirably influenced by American corporate decisions and by U.S. governmental trade and financial controls.” (15)

Cooperation in Space

Questions of U.S. international prestige and coooperation with the Soviet Union were predominant during Johnson administration discussions on space exploration. (49) In January 1964 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials proposed options for cooperative scientific exchanges between the two nations (21), an approach formalized in NSAM No. 285, dated March 3, 1964. (25) The Soviet Union, enjoying its own successes in space exploration, chose not to respond, causing anxiety among U.S. policymakers. “We have not fully recovered from the blow to our prestige, and the burden imposed on our diplomacy by the Soviet sputniks and luniks and orbiting manned-space vehicles,” wrote the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council in a December 1964 recommendation to Secretary of State Rusk for a NASA study of the effects of research and development in space technology on world leadership. (28)

Overseas, in order to build foreign identification with the U.S. program rather than that of the Soviet Union, the United States encouraged the cooperative space projects of its major allies (33) and actively supported the European Space Research Organization (ESRO) and the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO). In July 1966 NSAM No. 354 clarified the U.S. attitude toward cooperation with the Europeans and ELDO. (52)

In the later years of the Johnson administration, policymakers turned their attention to future space goals and the high costs associated with continuing the space race. (54) A Department of State policy paper cast doubt on the long-term benefits of pursing the race: “from the standpoint of our foreign policy interests, we see no compelling reasons for early, major commitments to such goals, or for pursuing them at the pace which has characterized the race to the moon.” (55) U.S. and Soviet space disasters in late 1966 and early 1967 respectively led to fears that the space race was endangering the lives of the astronauts and renewed calls for cooperative ventures. (59) The Soviet Union again failed to respond, and space cooperation efforts focused almost exclusively on Western Europe and communications satellites.

Communication Satellites

In early 1964 the European Conference on Satellite Communications invited the United States and Canada to join a global telecommunications organization. From the beginning, the Europeans knew that the United States would be the dominant force “for the next few years” in the new organization since it was the only nation actually to have launched communication satellites. U.S. officials believed, however, that the Europeans really wanted to ensure that the United States would not monopolize the system indefinitely. (63)

Although the stated American intention was to operate a system that provided opportunities for others to contribute as suppliers, investors, and designers, domestic forces exerted strong pressure to mold the system first and foremost to meet internal needs. The Department of Defense, for example, lobbied vigorously to combine its own military satellite network with the proposed commercial system, a move that Presidential advisers and key Congressmen thought would be hypocritical in light of the Communication Satellite Corporation’s (COMSAT) stated goal of a peaceful global system. (69) Consequently, the Defense Department abandoned its plans to participate in the international venture. (70)

Two international agreements concluded in July 1964 established a quasi-governmental system, INTELSAT, operated by the U.S.-dominated commercial entity, COMSAT. Final negotiations were scheduled for early 1969. (71) In less than one year, however, Europeans officials were dissatisfied with the dominant American role and expressed a desire to build their own national systems with U.S. technical assistance. (72) While expressing a willingness to provide assistance, U.S. policymakers wanted to discourage COMSAT’s commercial competitors to prevent a “wasteful” duplication of systems. (73–74) By late 1966 the contradictions between the twin goals of commercial competition and technological cooperation were acute enough to require a review of NSAM No. 338 after just a single year. (88) The July 1967 revision of NSAM No. 338 tried to clarify the U.S. position. (96) By November the French and the Germans were openly discussing construction of a wholly European satellite system. (98)

The Soviet Union ignored cooperative overtures and refused to participate in INTELSAT. The United States suggested a round of talks at the upcoming UN Conference on Outer Space in August 1968, but before the conference began, the Soviet Union proposed a rival system, INTERSPUTNIK, as part of the United Nations system. (102, 103) INTERSPUTNIK differed from INTELSAT in proposing a policy of “one nation, one vote” rather than a system in which usage determined control. The military invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces August 20–21 undermined the INTERSPUTNIK proposal. (106, 107)

Ongoing anxiety about the stance of the Soviet Union nearly torpedoed the conference scheduled for February 1969 when Sweden suggested moving INTELSAT into the UN forum. In October and November 1968 a concerted effort by the United States and Britain, who feared that the Swedish proposal would undercut U.S. efforts to obtain Soviet participation in INTELSAT were successful and the final obstacle to the conference was removed. (109, 110)

Development of the Supersonic Transport Aircraft

In the early 1960s the United States seemed poised to enter a high-stakes race, similar to the race for the moon, to develop a supersonic transport aircraft (SST). The policy debate was dominated by fears about damage to American prestige if the country fell behind the Soviet Union in another high-tech battle. In 1963 State Department officials concluded that winning the race had little value if the project was not directly tied to the overall goals of American society, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) believed that the nation should move quickly to develop an SST. In June 1963 President Kennedy committed the United States to an SST program, a decision endorsed by President Johnson in March 1964. (111)

The United States chose not to join the Anglo-French Concorde consortium but hoped to build a superior, wholly-American aircraft. The British Government, facing severe economic constraints, proposed joint talks in January 1965 to stabilize development schedules in order to avoid an uneconomic competitive situation. A U.S. delegation met with the Concorde consortium, but refused to limit U.S. design plans or tie the United States to any time schedule. (116) Despite an FAA finding that test populations found sonic booms to be unacceptably loud, 80 percent of the public, when informed that the British, French, and Soviets were working on an SST, felt the United States should proceed with its plans. (120)

By January 1966 European officials again proposed an agreement to delay introduction of an SST. U.S. Government opinion was divided, but strong opposition from the Federal Aviation Administration scuttled an agreement. (124, 125) Concerned about the delays and mounting doubts about viability, the FAA approached Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, to have the Council declare the project to be “of the highest national urgency.” (126) NSAM No. 344 of April 1, 1966, formalized that recommendation. (127)

Unlike the Apollo manned space program, the American SST was doomed to failure by 1968 when questions arose as to whether the Concorde would be able to use American airports. In April 1968 a Department of Transportation official called the Concorde “a web of technical, legal, social, economic, and political issues.” (129)

Water for Peace

The greatest technological advance of the 20th century, nuclear power, also seemed to have tremendous potential as a tool of peace. In 1963 President Kennedy had held discussions on the use of nuclear energy to provide fresh drinking water, a proposal President Johnson also found highly attractive. (130) Johnson considered it to be as important as space exploration and “wanted to go all out for cooperation and maximum progress on behalf of the whole world.” (133)

The desalination proposal was important in two foreign policy arenas: U.S.-Israeli relations and proposed cooperative ventures with the Soviet Union. A Committee on Foreign Desalting Programs under the control of the State Department was established in November 1964, and the United States proposed an international conference on the topic to be held in Washington in October 1965. (136) As the conference approached, a major bureaucratic split developed when the Department of the Interior and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) strongly lobbied for a larger-scale program because of “considerations of national prestige.” (139)

Officials at the State Department, Agency for International Development (AID), the Bureau of the Budget, and the Office of the President’s Science Adviser opposed a larger program, primarily because of uncertainty about basing a major foreign aid initiative on untested and uneconomic technology. Caution prevailed and the President announced a “Water for Peace” program that fell short of the larger proposals and included a call for another international conference. (144) In light of keen Presidential interest, the split in the U.S. Government, and a strong push from Israel for an agreement, policymakers felt the need for a more dispassionate analysis. In August 1966 Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker was tapped to study the proposals in depth. (152) His schedule prohibited a long-term commitment of time, and Johnson named Secretary Rusk as the overall coordinator in May 1967. (160)

The outbreak of war in the Middle East in June 1967 gave new impetus to desalination proposals as part of a possible settlement. (163) The idea also re-emerged as a focus of Presidential interest when former President Eisenhower made a proposal to President Johnson on June 25, 1967. (164) The White House suspected that Eisenhower’s interest was politically motivated. Although the former president assured them that his interest was non-partisan, Eisenhower’s Chairman of the AEC, Lewis Strauss, took the proposal directly to the Senate. Despite growing political pressure, problems with the Atomic Energy Commission’s test plant in California brought the initiative to a halt. (168)

Israel continued to pursue the proposal, and in May 1968 the White House named a new coordinator, former World Bank President George Woods. (171) Woods concluded that it was impossible to operate a large-scale desalination plant economically without large cash subsidies. In mid-December 1968 the President agreed to put Woods’ scaled-down proposal for a much smaller plant in his last budget message to Congress. (174)


“We can no longer brush OPEC under the rug,” representatives from the United Kingdom told their U.S. counterparts during a bilateral meeting on petroleum problems in January 1964. (176) The formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in August 1960 had resulted from the oil glut of the 1950s. Overproduction had led the major oil companies to slash the prices paid to the producers while their own profits rose. The producers had responded by joining together to maximize their bargaining power. Official U.S. policy toward OPEC had been one of “neutrality and non-commitment,” but in November 1965, in light of OPEC’s diplomatic gains, the Department of State decided that a reassessment was in order. (185)

The Six-Day War of June 1967 hardened OPEC’s negotiating stance and moved some member states to nationalize oil company assets. While the conservative sheikdoms of the Gulf supported the more radical nations like Iraq and Algeria, they were unhappy with OPEC’s confrontational stance. As a result, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) was founded in late 1967 to act as an umbrella organization for the conservative Gulf states. (222) By the end of the Johnson administration, oil company executives were “explosively critical” of U.S. Middle East policy, which they believed was too pro-Israel and liable to damage important American interests, including their own, in the region. (225)

Iraq/Syria: In 1961 Iraq had seized 99.6 percent of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) concession, ushering in a protracted dispute with Western oil companies over the legality of the measure. (179) The move sparked interest on the part of U.S. independent oil companies eager to secure access to plentiful crude oil resources, but the State Department discouraged them from making advances to Iraq pending the final outcome of the dispute. (181) After the Six-Day War, Iraq’s position hardened and the Iraqis published Law 97 in August 1967, assigning the assets to a government-owned entity, the National Iraq Oil Consortium (NIOC). (207)

Iran: The Shah’s relationship with the Iranian Oil Consortium was a diplomatic problem for both the United States and the United Kingdom since the two nations represented members of the IOC. The Shah’s ambitious 5-year development plans left him constantly short of cash and jealous of the monies paid to states with small populations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. One payment crisis was resolved in 1965 (198), but the issues arose again in 1967. (203) The shutdown of Iraq’s IPC pipeline during the Six-Day War resulted in a 22 percent increase in Iranian revenue for 1967. The Shah wanted a new agreement based on the artificially inflated output levels and was disgruntled when his expectations went unmet. (212) The immediate crisis was unresolved until April 1968 when a bookkeeping sleight-of-hand allowed the Shah to “win” the confrontation with the consortium. (221)

The 1967 Oil Embargo

As the political situation in the Middle East deteriorated, the U.S. Government studied the effects of a crisis on world crude oil supply. While oil would be expensive, the Department of the Interior concluded that the loss of two oil regions plus use of the Suez Canal would be tolerable. (228) By late May 1967 Saudi Petroleum Minister Sheik Zaki Yamani told oil executives that he was convinced war was imminent (229), and King Faisal warned the United States, again through the oil companies, to stay out of the conflict. (231)

In early June the region’s oil ministers decided that supplies would be cut off to nations that committed aggression, directly or indirectly. (235) Oil-producing nations were split between those favoring nationalization and those that saw the oil companies as “friendly instruments.” In an attempt to keep the oil flowing, the companies agreed to bring Arab concerns to their respective governments.(240)

U.S. officials believed that a state of emergency did exist and were eager for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to coordinate the industrialized world’s response. (245) Some European nations were reluctant to cooperate closely: Germany felt that the shortage was primarily a supply problem of the Anglo-American oil companies (246), and France wanted to maintain as much independence from the United States and United Kingdom as possible. (250) But with no end to the crisis in sight by late June, French and German companies took the first steps toward cooperation and tacitly agreed to participate in technical fora. (254)

The crisis abated in late July when Iraq, followed by Libya in August, resumed shipments to most Western European countries. As oil stocks improved, the Embassy in London reported that many were praising the United States for its prompt response and insistence on urgent action. (261) On September 2 King Faisal announced that Saudi Arabia would resume oil shipments to all countries without exception.

In the wake of the crisis, the State Department formed a committee to assess U.S. national interests in the Middle East better and to determine whether or not threats to those interests could be minimized. (265) OPEC, too, was absorbing the lessons of the crisis. Iran and Venezuela reported that non-Arab members had been asked to limit their output to help the Arabs pressure the Western Europeans. (266) But the crisis failed to unify the oil producers. On January 9, 1968, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Libya formed the more moderate Organization of Arab Exporting Countries (OAPEC); Algeria, the United Arab Republic, Syria, and Iraq refused to join. (268)

Additional documentation on U.S. policies on the Middle East, the Six-Day War, and general petroleum issues is scheduled for publication in Volumes XVIII, XIX, and XX.

Population Growth

The acute problem of global food shortages had been the subject of study during the administrations of both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Both had concluded that the real problem was unchecked population growth although neither wanted to openly discuss birth control issues. The problem, as seen by the United States, was that huge population increases had a negative effect on economic progress and left developing countries less prosperous and more in need of foreign aid. (269)

In November 1964 John D. Rockefeller, III, a long-time population activist, approached Secretary Rusk for his support for a Presidential Commission on Population. Even though the issue was prominent in the United Nations and the subject of growing Congressional interest, the Department opposed a commission that it felt might render decision-making “more difficult and controversial.” (270) The White House, too, was interested in taking action but kept a close eye on the ongoing debate within the Vatican. In August 1965 NSC Staff member Robert Komer suggested linking population control abroad “at least to the war on want.” (273)

By late 1965 a White House staff review yielded a set of principles by which U.S. Government policy could be guided. First, the problem should be treated scientifically to avoid “obfuscating ideological dispute” on the propriety of action; and second, the United States should stand ready to respond only to assistance requests and should not advocate specific national population policies. The President raised the issue at least six times during the first two months of 1966. (277)

Rockefeller again approached Rusk on the population issue in September 1966 with an idea for a world leaders’ statement stressing the importance of family planning in countries where such programs were already in place. (279) The President declined to sign, but Rockefeller was persistent. In March 1967 he approached 25 heads of state from developing countries in an attempt to make the joint statement more appealing to Johnson. (284) In April action by the Vatican increased the likelihood of U.S. action. Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical on population matters, which, according to State Department officials, was so ambiguous that it was almost impossible to interpret. The State Department chose to interpret it positively: “The fact that the entire statement is ambiguous in several places and open to interpretation is itself important in giving flexibility to officials, individuals and perhaps individual priests.” (285)

On May 12, 1967, Rockefeller brought his proposals to the President, who expressed interest in both the commission and the statement. In June Secretary Rusk approved Johnson’s signature, in part because the Vatican encyclical showed “a substantial advance.” (289) Later that month Johnson decided to sign with the proviso that Rockefeller concurrently obtain the signatures of other world leaders. In August British Prime Minister Harold Wilson decided to sign the document, clearing the way for Johnson to participate. (292) On December 11, 1967, the United Nations released the names of 18 new signatories, bringing the total number of participating world leaders to 30.

Proactive measures on the population question soon ended. On July 29, 1968, the Vatican released Pope Paul’s new encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which overruled the recommendations of the Papal Commission and called all forms of contraception except voluntary continence “illicit.” (294) An August 1968 telegram to all diplomatic posts summed up U.S. policy: “We do not wish to engage in any public discussion of the Papal Encyclical and you should decline to comment if asked.” (295)


While the hijacking of civilian aircraft was not a new problem, it became a much more serious one during the Johnson administration. A series of hijackings in 1961 led to a U.S. law declaring air piracy to be a crime and paved the way for the Tokyo Convention of 1963 which awarded jurisdiction to the aircraft’s country of origin. Unfortunately, it had yet to enter into force when a new rash of hijackings broke out in the late summer of 1967, intensifying during the spring of 1968. (296) The problem for the United States was that hijackers invariably sought asylum in Cuba where they were out of the reach of the American justice system.

The United States privately appealed to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to approach Cuba to seek return of the hijackers. (299) IATA officials met with the Cubans at the United Nations in early August, but found them to be uncooperative. In the view of the Cubans, the problems stemmed from the “stupid” and “criminal” policies of the United States. They believed Cuba was the victim and refused to cooperate. (301, 305)

In a parallel approach, U.S. diplomats also asked the Government of Mexico, which had also been the victim of hijackings, to talk to Cuba, apparently on its own behalf. (300) The United States decided to halt the Mexican venture in October 1968 when IATA’s attempt failed, rather than have official U.S. interest revealed. (306) When three more aircraft were hijacked in November, bringing the total to 15 in 6 months, the United States asked IATA President Walter Binaghi again to approach Castro. (307)

The hijacking of yet another plane in late November, bringing the 1968 total to 27, triggered direct U.S. action when the State Department decided to send an official note to Cuba through the Swiss. The Cuban response, once again, was non-committal. (311) At the end of the year, the United States asked Canada to forward the same request. (314) No resolution of the problem was within sight.

Human Rights

Problems of race and human rights emerged as issues on the foreign policy agenda during the Johnson administration primarily in the context of various international organizations. At the United Nations, the Human Rights Commission began work on a convention against racial discrimination and discussed proposals for an international Human Rights Year. In October 1964 the U.S. delegation felt that it would be “premature” to make a recommendation for a conference, a position that hardened to strong opposition the following month. The delegation argued that it would be too expensive to stage a conference independent of the General Assembly. (317)

Other reasons soon emerged. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations felt that such an event would mean “irresponsible use [of] conference platform for race and other propaganda issues.” (321) Although the British Foreign Office shared the State Department’s views on the conference (“it would become involved in black-white problems such as West Indians in UK and negroes in US”), both eventually bowed to strong pressure from the developing world. (322) The Human Rights Conference was scheduled for April 1968, and the U.S. delegation was pleasantly surprised when there was almost no criticism of American progress or problems. (329)

Concurrently, the issue of race emerged in another UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, primarily a technical and regulatory body. During its first major session in January 1964, several African states objected, for the first time, to the participation of South Africa and Portugal. In July 1964 the Organization of African Unity announced a policy of isolation for those practicing apartheid. (317) The African delegates continued the “black out” tactic in another ICAO meeting in November 1964, leaving the room whenever air transport to and from South Africa or the African territories of Portugal came under discussion. (319) The U.S. delegates lamented the emergence of political issues such as race in purely technical fora, but it was a trend that would only intensify.

Racial protest came to the Department of State in the later stages of the administration. In May 1968 the Reverend Ralph Abernathy brought his Poor Peoples’ Campaign directly to Secretary Rusk. Their grievances included U.S. relations with South Africa, Rhodesia, and Portugal; the Vietnam war; and the perceived failure to comply with the provisions of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. Rusk told the President that the delegation had been “poorly informed.” (330) The following month, a group of Mexican-American poverty marchers presented their grievances to the Mexican Ambassador to the United States. (332)

Although U.S. policy in the human rights arena by the end of the Johnson administration seemed to be troubled by the same problems straining domestic relations, those officials with long-term involvement, such as the U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Commission Morris Abram, felt otherwise. In his estimation, the Johnson administration had made significant progress during a difficult time: “for the first time in the history of the Commission, the men and women who speak for America no longer needed to apologize for or equivocate about our national policy in matters of race. You and your administration-by your firm words, by your legislative program, and by your administrative actions-have made clear to the world the determination of the Government of the United States to end once and for all time the terrible burden of institutionalized or sanctioned racial discrimination.” (335)