155. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Kennedy1


  • Your meeting with the Secretary of State at 6 o’clock

You have the Secretary of State at 6 o’clock.2 Many interesting problems may come up: the situation at the UN—your speech—the Congo—trouble at NATO. But the main business should be the Rusk-Gromyko talk. The first serious meeting is at lunch tomorrow. The Secretary will undoubtedly indicate his own sense of the scenario, but the following [Page 430] check list is an effort to summarize what you have spoken of in recent days as your own sense of the agenda.

A. Basic principles underlying the discussion

Serious negotiation is difficult, if not impossible, while the air is full of threats. On the other hand, if the atmosphere can be improved, we are quite ready for businesslike and constructive discussion.
Our basic objection is to the Soviet threat to end our rights in West Berlin. The Secretary plans to spell out the three fundamental rights and their detailed meaning. He plans to make it clear that we will surely fight for these rights. This he will state as a fact, not as a threat.
The proposal for Soviet troops in West Berlin is flatly not negotiable.
East Berlin and East Germany are the real root of danger; this danger is not permanently removed by barbed wire and concrete. What is the Soviet view of the future here?
Our presence in West Berlin rests fundamentally not only on occupation rights but on the will of the people of that city. We are for what they are for. West Berlin and its people are not a part of the GDR but a part of our fundamental international commitments.

B. Our view of the process of negotiation (this part is where you and the Secretary need to be sure that you clearly understand each other)

That the forum of negotiation which we would prefer is serious bilateral talks, to begin as soon as they can be promising. We are not inflexible on the place and parties of such talks: Thompson in Moscow, Kennan and Yepishev in Belgrade, or any other reliable channel will serve our purpose (this point in particular needs to be discussed with the Secretary).
That we are not hostile to some form of peace conference leading to an internationally recognized end of the war, if a real basis for understanding can be reached beforehand (this is a most sensitive point, and probably not appropriate for early discussion, but because you and the Secretary have talked about it before, it may be important for you to know his current view).

That in any process of negotiation we do not mean to begin with a restatement of the Western Peace Plan.

This is not for statement to Gromyko, but for clear understanding with Mr. Rusk. Thompson has just added his thoughtful voice against any such restatement, and your own position has been clearly stated before, but the Western Foreign Ministers last week continued to talk about using the revised Western Peace Plan as a starting point.

That a Foreign Ministers’ meeting is not a good negotiating forum to aim at now. This is the obverse of point 1., and I list it because, [Page 431] again, I think you and the Secretary may not be on the same wave length. A 4-Power meeting, given French attitudes, is a means of having no negotiation at all, and is the opposite of the process of serious exploration which I believe you have wanted.
McG. B.3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies, State Department. Secret.
  2. No record of this meeting has been found, but the President’s Log Book indicates that it lasted for 30 minutes. (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.