249. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union 1

1523. Eyes only for Ambassador from the Secretary. Instructions sent you yesterday2 have been coordinated with the British and the Germans. The French have been given a copy for information.

While admittedly these instructions do not offer you much field of discussion we feel that it is important to be able to demonstrate to public opinion here and elsewhere that every effort has been made to explore with Soviets the possibility of finding some basis for negotiation. We do not feel that matters could be allowed to proceed to point where danger of war became acute while Western Powers remained completely inactive. We anticipate that the exploratory conversations which you will undertake may go on for at least two or three meetings and could go on longer if first talks show promise. Although we assume that neither Soviet nor Allied side would wish to use this method for negotiations at final stages, we do not look upon your “probes” as play acting but rather as serious effort to move ahead on questions of substance if possible. You should, therefore, be as alert to any possible leads which might come from Soviet side as would be the case in “negotiation.” The purpose as indicated in the instruction is to explore with Gromyko the possibility of identifying a reasonable basis of negotiation which would justify and permit the calling of a more formal conference probably at Foreign Ministers level.

Your instructions are not intended to preclude the issue of narrow versus broad negotiations, even though they are obviously based upon a narrow beginning. Despite German nervousness about linkage broader questions with specific issues of Berlin, Western governments realize that Soviets will almost certainly inject other issues. Indeed, there are other of these questions such as boundaries, on which West is unlikely to reach unity on hypothetical basis in advance as distinct from need for dealing with specific issues raised by Soviets. If such issues brought up by Soviets during first talk, suggest you tell Gromyko, as instructed, you will report his inquiry or observations to your Government and press for further exploration access problem which, as Western vital interest, could not but affect Western attitude other issues.

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Reference your 1801,3 I would see no objection to your suggesting to Gromyko in the event that he knocks down international control autobahn, the possibility of extension of international authority into West Germany but not as a formal Western proposal but as a suggestion coming personally from you which you would submit to your Government. It would be preferable if this suggestion could come from Gromyko which would give us a better basis for discussion with our Allies. A suggestion of this nature however would fall within the last sentence of the FYI portion on page one of your instructions.

You also should know that immediately prior to my departure for Paris on December ninth Menshikov called to convey an invitation from Gromyko that I should visit Moscow during my European trip.4 I asked Menshikov to express to Gromyko my appreciation for this invitation but to tell him that my schedule was such it would not be possible for me to come at this time. There are of course powerful arguments against any meeting between me and Gromyko at this stage of developments but invitation in principle was not completely rejected by me and may conceivably be useful at later stage.

Re your 17975 we would leave to your discretion how to handle any conversation Berlin and Germany initiated by Khrushchev at the New Year’s Eve dinner. We think it would be wiser not to make any specific reference to your instructions in order to avoid vitiating the value of your presentation to Gromyko and should rely rather on standard Western positions and if possible avoid entering into any detailed discussion which might affect your subsequent meeting with Gromyko.

The President has asked me to tell you of his confidence in your ability to carry out this difficult and delicate assignment.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/12-2961. Secret. Drafted by Bohlen and Rusk and approved and signed by Rusk.
  2. Document 248.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 248.
  4. No record of this conversation has been found.
  5. Dated December 26. (Department of State, Central Files, 641.61/12-2661)