The Glassboro Summit
"This Day in Diplomacy: U.S.-Soviet Summit at Glassboro, New Jersey.
Thirty years ago today President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin and their diplomatic and military advisers met at Glassboro, New Jersey. This impromptu Summit addressed the Arab-Israeli tensions in the Middle East following the Six Day War of June 1967 and took steps toward serious U.S.-Soviet arms limitations and agreement to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other nations.
Following an emergency UN Security Council meeting in New York in mid June 1967 to discuss the recently concluded Six Day War, Soviet and American officials hurriedly organized an unplanned Summit meeting between President Johnson and Prime Minister Kosygin. Disagreements between the two sides on the locale for a meeting eventually led to the decision on June 22 to meet at Glassboro State College in New Jersey, exactly mid-way between New York City and Washington. The usual elaborate Summit preparations were telescoped into just a few hours. The surprised President of Glassboro State was abruptly moved out of his home, which became the site for the two days of heads of government meetings. President Johnson and Prime Minister Kosygin and their translators met in the study while Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrew Gromyko, and Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin cooled their heels for long hours in the small living room.
This impromptu Summit did not result in any major agreements. No communique was issued. The two leaders spent much time discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict and the mechanism for possible Vietnam peace negotiations. The President's main purpose of holding the meeting was to find a way to halt the spiraling arms race that had led to the planning of a missile defense system around Moscow. Some headway was made on the terms of a non-proliferation treaty currently under negotiation, and the two leaders appeared to reach agreement to begin discussions on meaningful arms limitations undertakings, including an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) agreement. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 thwarted President Johnson's arms limitations efforts and delayed serious U.S.-Soviet talks until 1972." - State Dept. Press Release June 23, 1997
"Both sides wished to project an image of reasonableness after the latest military clash between their allies in the Middle East, the Six-Day War, which erupted in early June 1967. Johnson and Kosygin conferred later that month in a hastily arranged summit meeting at Glassboro, New Jersey, in connection with Kosygin's attendance at a special session of the UN General Assembly devoted to the Middle East situation. Johnson's advisers did not expect much in the way of substance to come out of the meeting but maintained that it would at least avoid all the negative consequences of not meeting and would give each man an opportunity to get a measure of the other. Although Johnson found Kosygin friendly, even "jolly," the talks were inconclusive. "It was just largely conversation‹pleasant, no vitriolic stuff," Johnson told former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On the Middle East, Kosygin insisted on the immediate and full withdrawal of Israeli troops and spurned Johnson's proposal for a full disclosure of arms shipments to the region and an agreement not to ship arms. Johnson pressed Kosygin on cutting military budgets and starting arms control talks, but Kosygin doubted much could be accomplished while the Middle East and Vietnam were in turmoil, and thus he wanted those issues addressed first. On Vietnam Kosygin assured Johnson that if he halted the bombing the North Vietnamese would go immediately to the conference table, but Johnson questioned whether the North Vietnamese might escalate the ground war if the bombing stopped. Kosygin remained silent on Johnson's request that Cuban leader Fidel Castro be persuaded to stop encouraging guerrilla operations in Latin America, a matter Johnson viewed as "extremely important." - summary of vol xiv
Record of the President's Debriefing, Glassboro, New Jersey, June 23, 1967, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. - from FRUS 1964-1968, Volume XIV Soviet Union
Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Hollybush. No classification marking or drafting information appears on the record. Rostow wrote in hand at the top of page 1: "File: only copy."
Debriefing by the President on his talks with Chairman Kosygin, morning of June 23, 1967, at Hollybush, Glassboro State College, Glassboro, New Jersey.
The talks were not denunciatory or argumentative. Kosygin was reserved, contained, but jolly.
Kosygin pointed out that he had an 18-year old grandson and granddaughter and was the senior grandfather present. They both had a duty to protect them by maintaining peace between their countries of 200 million.
The President said they had a responsibility not only to the 200 million but to the whole world of 3 billion. He hoped their grandsons would grow up to know each other. They had lived through the horrors of two wars and they did not wish their grandchildren to share that kind of experience.
Kosygin said that during the Second World War he had responsibility in Leningrad. He would never forget American help at that time. He said he wanted peace, but you don't. The President said, I believe you are sincere but I am also. At which Kosygin appeared a bit chagrined at his first ploy.
The President explained that in the 3 years he had been in office, we had made no new treaties. He had wished to make progress in relations with the Soviet Union. He began with a letter to Khrushchev urging that they both cut back their nuclear production, and they did. He urged they both cut back their levels of defense expenditure, and they did. Things then changed. There were hard words about Viet Nam.
In these 3 years, despite their stopping Mary Martin's going to Moscow, they had concluded the cultural agreement and civil [air] agreement, Consular Agreement. Working hard on non-proliferation, ready next week to start discussions on ABM's and ICBM's. He was awaiting answer which had been delayed 3 months. (President made this point three times and never got a reply.)
The President said that on the Middle East he had presented his 5 points but got no comment from Kosygin. Kosygin said that the President before the war had talked about territorial integrity, asserted this on hot line, but wound up protecting aggression. Kosygin said that he had been Stalin's deputy for 12 years. He had served in Leningrad. He would never forget the time when arm in arm we resisted Fascism. He wished we could agree on some of these moves now. Kosygin then said we must bring back the troops to the original armistice lines, and put the question of Aqaba into International Court of Justice. Then we could discuss other problems. Then came the nearest thing to a threat. He said, unless you do this there will be a war, a very great war. I'm against it. They will fight with arms if they have them; if not, with fists. All troops must be withdrawn at once. They will fight with their bare hands, if necessary. (The President said it was not clear in this passage whether the Soviets would supply the arms for this blow up or engage themselves.) The President then leaned forward and said very slowly and quietly, let us understand one another. I hope there will be no war. If there is a war, I hope it will not be a big war. If they fight, I hope they fight with fists and not with guns. I hope you and we will keep out of this matter because, if we do get into it, it will be a "most serious" matter. The President's judgment was that this was not an ultimatum and he backed away from the implication that the Soviet Union might itself become involved.
On the NPT, the President asked Kosygin to set a date and let us table the agreement.
On ABM's and ICBM's, he said let us go to work. Sec. McNamara can go to Moscow. We can meet in Washington or some neutral point.
On Viet Nam, the President drew a map and urged the separation of North Viet Nam from South Viet Nam. Kosygin attacked corruption of the regime in Saigon. The President did not engage in the quality of our allies.
President said some think we should invade North Viet Nam-not Sec McNamara, but some do urge that. We think bombing of North Viet Nam is better than invading it. If you could get them to stop invading the South, you could say to us don't invade North Viet Nam. But they must get their people out of South Viet Nam. The UK, ICC or anyone could have free elections. They could have any kind of government they want.
Kosygin said Sec. McNamara couldn't wait three days in February before he started bombing the North. The President said, well you didn't have any influence in Hanoi. The Chinese had taken over. You couldn't deliver them.
Kosygin said that Fawzi had given Sec. Rusk important proposals. Kosygin complained about Amb. Goldberg's position at the UN.
The President pressed him on sending arms to the Middle East. Said he hoped we both could avoid doing that. By working the hot line, they had achieved a cease-fire. The U.S. knew nothing of the attack. Had no knowledge of the Israeli attack. They thought they had commitments from both parties. He said he assumed the Soviet Union did not know of the closure of the Gulf of Aqaba before it took place.
The President repeated he hoped both of us would stay outside the area with our armed forces. If we engaged, it would be quite serious.
At one point Kosygin complained about our bombing Hanoi when he was there. The President explained that our bombing had nothing to do with his presence. Sec. Rusk was bombed when at Saigon. This was a problem of travelers going into war areas. In fact, we made clear in our Tonkin resolution we would not take such attacks. When they killed 60 of our men asleep at Pleiku, we had to take action. Totally unrelated to Kosygin's visit.
President pressed on Middle East, Viet Nam, non-proliferation, ABM's.
He got no positive reaction in the first talks. But he found Kosygin friendly, jolly and warm. He enjoyed him.
There was some exchange on the two Ambassadors. President said he thought very well of Amb. Dobrynin and Tommy Thompson had his full confidence. He had returned to Moscow as duty to all humanity as well as to his country.
Kosygin said Dobrynin reports very objectively. He says nothing that will increase the heat between the two countries.
Memorandum of Conversation. Glassboro, New Jersey, June 25, 1967, 1:50-3:05 p.m.
Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Addendum, USSR, Glassboro Memcons. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Krimer. The meeting took place during a luncheon, the time of which is from the President's Daily Diary. (Ibid.) The memorandum cites the time as 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. A list of those present is at the end of the memorandum.
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Alexei Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Following an exchange of pleasantries between the President and Chairman Kosygin, a brief description of each other's workday and the President's thanks to the Chairman on behalf of himself and Mrs. Johnson for the presents given him at the previous meeting, the President inquired how Mr. Kosygin had enjoyed his visit to Niagara Falls. Mr. Kosygin said that he had enjoyed it very much indeed, particularly his inspection of the power station, which was of great interest to him from an engineering point of view. He said that the Soviet Union today had the largest power station in the world and that next year an even larger hydro-electric power station would be started up. Thus when he said he liked the power station at Niagara he was speaking as an expert. President Johnson briefly mentioned the six small water projects on his native river in Texas and to Mr. Kosygin's question as to whether irrigation was used in that part of the country he replied that it was and also, in connection with the meal served at the luncheon, mentioned that he raised sheep.
[Chairman Kosygin, his daughter, and about 50 other Soviets visited Niagara Falls on June 24, traveling there in a Presidential aircraft. Chief of Protocol James W. Symington, who accompanied Kosygin, reported on the visit in a June 27 memorandum to President Johnson. (Ibid., Memos to the President--Walt Rostow, Vol. 32)]
President Johnson told the Chairman that he had made an excellent impression on the American people, that everyone here was hopeful that peaceful relations with the Soviet Union could be maintained and extended and that the leaders of the two countries would find ways and means to bring this about. He said that the press reaction to Chairman Kosygin's visit here was very favorable and that, in spite of some such feelings in the past as had been stimulated by the Dies Committee, on the whole, the great wish of the people of this country was that Americans and Russians would find a way to like each other rather than hate each other and to this end the Chairman's visit had contributed significantly.
Chairman Kosygin replied that while it was true that the people here seemed to be very friendly and pleasant, he was somewhat perplexed by some excerpts from the President's address in Los Angeles which had been shown to him to the effect that while a socialist and a capitalist system existed in this world, tensions would remain.
The President replied that he must have been misquoted or else quoted completely out of context, since in his speech he had spoken of a new spirit of friendship between the two countries and of his earnest hope that mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding problems would be found. He had said in that speech that one meeting does not in itself resolve all problems, that their solution required extended talks and negotiations and that that was what he was now trying to accomplish.
Mr. Kosygin volunteered the information that he was leaving at noon on Monday, June 26, 1967, and in reply to the President's question said that he did not presently intend to stop anywhere else other than Cuba, where he hoped to spend no more than two days. He was anxious to return to Moscow since he had to present a three-year budget plan; this was not an easy job because of the conflicting demands for resources made by various agencies and organizations of the Soviet Union for construction and development purposes. He said that he was under great pressure to devote more of the resources of his country to these peaceful pursuits, that many people came to him with requests for more money and that he was hard put to explain why not all these requests could be granted. He had the feeling that even after his explanations these people went away believing that they had not been properly understood.
In this connection the President expressed the hope that the two countries would be able to reduce their military budgets in order to devote more of their resources to peaceful pursuits. He pointed out that during the three years he had been President his Administration had tripled expenditures for education from $4 billion annually to $12 billion, that it had also tripled expenditures for health in the same amount, that is, from $4 billion to $12 billion annually and that this total increase in expenditures from $8 billion for health and education when he first became President to $24 billion now indicated the direction in which he wanted this country to develop. It is for this reason that he was most anxious to have a chance to explore all possibilities for cutting down the military budget if the Soviet Union could be persuaded to do the same. We were ready to discuss all aspects of this question, we had asked for such talks three months ago through Ambassador Thompson and yet nothing further had been heard since the Soviet Government had indicated that it was willing to discuss these matters. When and where could Secretary McNamara meet with representatives of the Soviet Union to begin meaningful discussions?
Mr. Kosygin said that he and his Government were indeed interested in finding some means of reducing military expenditures, but that this very much depended upon relations with the United States. How could the US reduce its military expenditures while it was spending upwards of $20 billion on the Viet-Nam war alone? It seemed to him that while this war continued a discussion of budget reduction could not be more than academic.
With reference to Viet-Nam, the President pointed out that military expenditure reduction could be achieved if the Soviet Union reduced or eliminated its supply of military equipment to North Viet-Nam while we found a way to de-escalate the struggle in South Viet-Nam.
He said that at the very least an increase in the military budgets could be prevented if agreement was reached with the Soviet Union on the ABM problem. He had held back on authorizing full development of ABM systems in order to provide the opportunity for full exploration of this question with the Soviet Union. President Johnson repeated: when and where could Secretary McNamara meet with Soviet representatives?
Mr. Kosygin said that our proposals appeared to extend to a discussion of defensive systems only and that he could not agree with such an approach. President Johnson retorted that, as he had stressed during their previous talk, we definitely meant exploring all possibilities of reducing expenditures for offensive as well as defensive systems.
Mr. Kosygin said that if the President really wanted to discuss disarmament measures he was prepared to come here from Moscow with a delegation of his experts for that purpose. But he still failed to see true possibilities while the Viet-Nam war continues and while the Middle East situation remains unsettled. He turned to a repetition of his position regarding the Middle East. He pointed out that on the one hand there were 100 million Arabs who were really people of the 19th century as far as their spiritual development was concerned, and on the other hand here were 3 million Jews who were 20th century people, had attacked the Arabs and seized large tracts of Arab territory. There could be no peaceful settlement in the Middle East unless these forces were withdrawn.
The President replied that one could not regard this question as merely a matter of numbers of people involved, it was also a question of what was right. The President had been careful to note in Mr. Kosygin's speech before the UNGA that he had acknowledged Israel's right to a national life./4/ He asked the Chairman whether he had read the President's speech on the Middle East situation which had been delivered before the Chairman's address./5/ Following Mr. Kosygin's reply to the effect that he had watched the President's speech on television and had had it translated for him, the President asked Mr. Kosygin point by point whether he did not agree with the proposals the President had made in that speech. One such proposal pertains to the recognition of Israel's right to a national existence. A second proposal pertains to the right of free passage through international waterways such as the Strait of Tiran and the Suez Canal; since the Soviet Union was also a maritime power, surely the Chairman too was for such right of free passage. He certainly thought the Chairman would agree that something had to be done for the refugees of this and the previous wars.
Mr. Kosygin said that in his view, following troop withdrawal to the original armistice line, all other questions could be solved. He pointed out that surely if the United States had been invaded the President would not agree to any discussion of settlement as long as parts of the United States were under foreign control. For his part he could definitely state that the Soviet Union under such hypothetical circumstances certainly could not agree to hold discussions while parts of its territory were occupied by an aggressor. He related this position to the previous discussion of reduction of the military budget and said that, after all, it was not the Soviet Union which had gone to war but rather the United States in Viet-Nam.
The President pointed out that we had not gone to war over Cuba although the Soviet Union had placed offensive missiles on that island. To this the Chairman replied that the Soviet Union had not gone to war either, that it had withdrawn its missiles from Cuba. In fact he said that we had been instrumental in pressuring Khrushchev to withdraw the missiles and surely the President knew that there were no missiles on Cuba today.
Mr. Kosygin said that Nasser presently was in a very difficult position, that what was needed was an effort to find a way out for Nasser, that the question of closing the Straits could be solved if troops were withdrawn to start with. A way to accomplish this would be to state that following troop withdrawal all other questions would be considered.
President Johnson did not think that it was possible now to just remove the troops without at the same time removing the dangers which had caused the conflict in the first place. We had to find a way to get the two sides to talk to and listen to each other. We did not say that all of our friends were perfect and he was sure the Chairman would not make such statements about his friends either. The President knew that it had not been the Soviet Union's advice that caused Nasser to close the Gulf of Aqaba, and that evidently the Soviet Union's advice to Nasser had not been heeded. This same situation pertained to some of our friends too. This was a case where neither our friends nor the Chairman's friends took our respective advice. He was sure that the Chairman did not think the US had encouraged Israel to send its Air Force into action. He considered the Chairman to be far too intelligent to think that.
President Johnson repeated that it was not enough to say: "remove the troops," that along with troop removal the dangers facing Israel would have to be removed as well. The President pointed out that short of some such arrangement the Israelis would certainly not follow our advice. They had not followed our advice with respect to refraining from sending their Air Force into action just as Nasser had not followed the Soviet Union's advice which the President was confident must have been to refrain from closing the Gulf of Aqaba. Alarming reports of new arms shipments being carried by hundreds of planes and ships to the Arab countries since the ceasefire, and continuing danger of renewed hostilities had already resulted in our being asked to supply new weapons. So far we had refused in the hope of getting the Soviet Union's agreement to full disclosure of arms shipments, in spite of various pressures upon us. Therefore, the solution of the Middle East difficulties had to be found in something that would be acceptable to both sides. How else could we make our friends listen?
Mr. Kosygin stated emphatically that he was certain war would break out again unless the Israeli troops were withdrawn quickly. Therefore, he suggested that the UN Security Council pass a resolution forcing Israel to withdraw and include a provision for negotiations to begin following withdrawal. He was convinced that this was the only way to prevent a new war in that area. He pointed to the experience in Algiers where the Arabs had fought for seven years until France finally decided to withdraw. He was sure the President knew that the Straits would have been opened had hostilities not been initiated by Israel.
To this the President replied that both countries should have taken immediate steps to open the Straits after Nasser had closed them.
Mr. Kosygin said there was little point now in a historical review of that situation. The problem was here and now and the only solution was troop withdrawal.
President Johnson repeated again that such a resolution would not be heeded by Israel. Before the outbreak of hostilities he had talked for one hour with Israel's Foreign Minister Eban and thought after that talk that Israel would await the Security Council's action before doing anything drastic. However, after all Nasser had seized the Straits, he had closed the Gulf, he had threatened to liquidate Israel and had concluded a military agreement for that purpose with Syria. This must have scared the Israelis to death, prompting them to send their armed forces into action. Neither one of us had been able to prevail upon our friends, and the President knew today that the resolution proposed by the Chairman would not be followed. Apparently Foreign Minister Eban had met with disagreement within his own government, which was split almost evenly on the issue of what effective steps to take. For this reason what was needed now was not a determination of what was right depending upon the numbers of people involved on each side but rather by what could be done to remove the fears along with removing the troops. He was certain that the five points he had proposed would accomplish exactly that.
At this point the President and Chairman Kosygin left the luncheon table for their private meeting.