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On the Soviet Union, 1964-1968, the Near East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1964-68; and South Korea, 1964-68

The following information is forwarded to American Diplomacy periodically by Rita M. Baker of the Office of the Historian, U. S. Department of State in Washington, DC. — Ed.

The Soviet Union, 1964-68

The documentary record of United States bilateral relations with the Soviet Union during the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson is presented in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XIV, Soviet Union, released on February 21, 2001, by the Department of State. During 1964-1968, the United States and the Soviet Union negotiated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and concluded several accords of lesser magnitude, but the most significant achievement in East-West relations was the avoidance of outright confrontation in Southeast Asia.

By the time that the cautious new Soviet leadership that replaced the ousted Nikita Khrushchev in October 1964 had settled in sufficiently to contemplate more important agreements with the United States, the escalation of the war in Vietnam had led to a Soviet determination that to maintain its leadership of the Communist movement, a leadership that was threatened by the Chinese, the Soviet Union must be seen as a staunch defender of its socialist Vietnamese ally, and that this precluded major measures of détente. When the United States bombed Hanoi during a visit by Khrushchev’s successor, Alexsei Kosygin, in early 1965, relations plummeted. Orchestrated demonstrations against the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were followed by open hostility from Soviet leaders for this act of U.S. “aggression” against a sister socialist state. For most of the next 2 years, U.S.-Soviet relations were in a “controlled freeze.”

The Soviet Union had long been annoyed with the U.S. practice of welcoming Soviet defectors with open arms. This problem reached a boiling point in March 1967 when the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, walked into the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and was subsequently granted asylum in the United States. This would have caused a Soviet uproar under any circumstances, but at this time of poor relations with the United States, the Soviet Government was particularly furious and charged that the United States was inciting Alliluyeva to make anti-Soviet statements as part of a larger propaganda campaign. In part to avoid unnecessary complications in U.S.-Soviet relations, the Department of State agreed in December 1967 that Moscow would be notified of Soviet defectors and be allowed to talk to them before political asylum was granted. Toward the end of the Johnson administration, however, the convergence of national interests between Moscow and Washington began to produce agreements, or at least progress, on some issues, including cultural affairs, civil aviation, outer space, and nuclear non-proliferation. In June 1967 the leaders of the two nations held a summit meeting at Glassboro, New Jersey, in part to project an image of reasonableness after their respective allies in the Middle East, Israel and Egypt, fought the Six-Day War. Although President Johnson and Chairman Kosygin hit it off reasonably well, the talks were inconclusive and little was agreed upon. While the “Spirit of Glassboro” was perhaps more cosmetic than substance, at least the leaders were meeting face to face again.

In addition to summitry, during the last two years of his presidency Johnson pressed the Kremlin for a strategic arms control agreement, but the Soviet leaders delayed it by insisting on linkage with settlements in the Middle East and Vietnam. In August 1968, the two sides agreed to begin talks on limiting offensive strategic nuclear weapons and anti-ballistic missile defense systems and also agreed to hold another summit. On the eve of the announcement of these formal talks and another summit, Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. Even after the Soviet Union crushed the Prague Spring, President Johnson still wanted to end his term with a U.S.-Soviet summit. His hopes were finally dashed in November by the election of Richard Nixon. The President-elect and his adviser Henry Kissinger made it clear to Soviet leaders that the incoming leaders had their own plans for negotiating with the Soviet Union and that any last-minute summit with President Johnson would only start the Kremlin off on the wrong foot with the new administration. The Johnson administration policy toward the Soviet Union, begun with modest expectations and buoyed with occasional high points, ultimately failed to achieve much progress, mostly because of Vietnam and the Soviets’ conclusion that détente with the West during the war there would seriously weaken its position in the Communist bloc.

This volume complements extensive coverage of Soviet-related issues in other Foreign Relations volumes on the Johnson administration. In particular, it supplements the treatment of arms control in Volume XI, national security policy in Volume X, relations with the Soviets over Eastern Europe in Volume XVII, and U.S. Soviet conflict and cooperation over Vietnam in Volumes I-VII. For the full context of U.S.-Soviet relations in these years, readers are encouraged to consult these other volumes.

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the volume. For further information, contact David S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: The texts of the volume, the summary, and this press release will soon be available on the Office’s Web site: Copies of volume XIV can be purchased from the Government Printing Office (; reference GPO Stock Number 044-000-02451-8 or ISBN 0-16-050594-1).

February 21, 2001

The Near East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1964-68

During the Cold War, the strategically important Near East, bridging three continents and possessing two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves, was an arena in which the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, jockeyed for influence. The efforts of the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson to prevent the expansion of Soviet influence in the region is the subject of Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXI, Near East Region; Arabian Peninsula, released today by the Department of State. This volume, one of five documenting U.S. policy with respect to the Near East during the Johnson Administration, covers regional U.S. policy concerns in the Near East and U.S. policy toward and relations with the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute and the June 1967 War, which vastly complicated the Johnson administration’s policy in the region, is covered in Volumes XVIII, XIX, and XX. U.S. policy toward Iran is documented in Volume XXII. Documentation on U.S. oil policy is in Volume XXXIV.

U.S. policymakers sought to maintain the viability of the moderate Arab regimes in the Near East region in the face of rising anti-Western Arab nationalism under the influence of UAR President Gamal Abdul Nasser. The U.S. goal of promoting peace and stability while avoiding being drawn into either inter-Arab or Arab-Israeli disputes ran aground, however, when the Arab-Israeli dispute broke out in the June 1967 War in June 1967. The widespread perception in the Arab world that the United States supported Israel during and after the war severely damaged U.S. relations with the Arab countries in the region and opened the way for expanded Soviet influence.

The Johnson Administration was concerned with maintaining U.S. access to and influence in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, both because of U.S. interest in access to oil and because of the region’s strategic significance. U.S. concerns were heightened by the United Kingdom’s plans to withdraw British forces from Aden and the Persian Gulf. U.S. policymakers believed that a precipitate British withdrawal would result in a chaotic situation in South Arabia harmful to Western interests. Therefore, the United States tried to delay that withdrawal and, when that was not possible, to mitigate its effects. Nevertheless, U.S. policymakers agreed that it was not politically feasible or desirable for the United States to attempt to replace the British. Following Prime Minister Wilson’s January 1968 announcement that British forces would be withdrawn from the Persian Gulf by the end of 1971, however, the United Kingdom agreed that a proposed U.S. military facility should be established on Diego Garcia to enable the United States to respond militarily to contingencies in the Indian Ocean area.

U.S. policymakers saw the ongoing civil war in Yemen, with Saudi aid to the royalists and UAR troops intervening on the side of the republic, as a threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Peninsula as a whole. The United States had a long-standing interest in maintaining the security and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia, and the two countries shared a mutual interest in the uninterrupted flow of Saudi oil to the West. The civil war in Yemen, however, put an ongoing strain on U.S.-Saudi relations and fueled Saudi demands for increased U.S. military aid. While U.S. officials regularly reaffirmed U.S. support for Saudi security, they stressed that this was not a shield behind which the Saudis could continue to stimulate hostilities in Yemen or provoke an attack by UAR forces there. The Johnson Administration continued the Kennedy administration’s policy of attempting to prevent the escalation and spread of the Yemen conflict by encouraging a negotiated settlement. The June 1967 War and its aftermath put U.S.-Saudi relations to a severe test, although the Saudis did not break relations with the United States. The war also devastated the UAR air force and greatly weakened the UAR position in Yemen, and Nasser and Faisal subsequently agreed to a plan to withdraw UAR troops from Yemen and end Saudi aid to the royalists. A November 1967 coup in Yemen, however, led to new royalist offensives and a massive Soviet airlift of arms to Yemen. During the ensuing military stalemate, the United States continued to express opposition to all foreign military intervention in Yemen and to maintain that only compromise among the contending Yemeni factions could settle the Yemen problem.

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the volume. For further information, contact David S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: The texts of the volume, the summary, and this press release are available on the Office’s Web site: Copies of volume XXI can be purchased from the Government Printing Office (

December 4, 2000

South Korea, 1964-68

The responses of the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson to a series of potentially disastrous conflicts and crises in South Korea at the height of the Cold War in Asia form a major theme of Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXIX, Part 1, Korea, which the Department of State released today. The volume in particular shows how the administration encouraged South Korean concessions to anti-government demonstrators in 1964, discouraged Republic of Korean military retaliation for North Korean attacks in 1967-1968, and how President Johnson drew South Korea into the war effort in Vietnam. In addition, following the North Korean seizure of the U.S. intelligence-gathering vessel USS Pueblo and its crew on January 23, 1968, Johnson and his advisers won the return of the crew after almost a year of captivity and helped to bring together two key Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, to resolve long-standing differences. Part 2 of volume XXIX will document U.S. bilateral relations with Japan.

The volume released today is presented in three chapters. The first documents bilateral relations between South Korea and the United States and underscores two main themes: The search for stability in the Korean peninsula and the Republic of Korea’s growing self-confidence. Student anti-government riots in 1964, followed by the imposition of martial law, threatened South Korean stability. President Park Chung Hee reluctantly accepted U.S. advice to defuse the crisis by removing some of his senior advisers.

South Korea also faced external threats from the North, which escalated in 1967. In January 1968 a group of North Korean saboteurs assaulted the presidential palace, the Blue House, in the hopes of assassinating President Park. Although the attempt failed, the bold attack left Park and other government leaders angry and insistent on retaliatory military actions against the North. The United States interceded and sent Cyrus Vance as President Johnson’s personal envoy to reassure President Park and to advise against retaliation against the North.

In part, Vance’s success and the strengthening U.S.-South Korean relationship were due to the Republic of Korea’s willingness to support U.S. policy in Vietnam and to contribute increasingly large numbers of troops and support units to the war effort in Southeast Asia. South Korea became the principal military supporter of South Vietnam after the United States, and Presidents Johnson and Park formed strong personal bonds. The second chapter of this volume documents the Pueblo incident, which became a major hostage crisis for the Johnson administration. North Korea insisted that the Pueblo had violated its territorial waters and justified retention of the ship and incarceration of the crew. The volume documents U.S. policymakers’ initial contingency discussions and the realization that the use of force was impossible. The United States was left with tortuous negotiations at Panmunjom, supplemented by diplomatic efforts in the United Nations, contacts with the Soviet Union, and a restrained show of force on the Korean peninsula and the Sea of Japan. In the end, on December 23, 1968, the United States signed, but promptly repudiated, a text of admissions that won release of the crew of the Pueblo.

The third and final chapter of the volume is devoted to Japanese and Korean efforts to settle differences remaining from World War II and to enter into a new era of mutual cooperation. The United States, convinced that a bilateral treaty would enhance regional stability and cooperation, encouraged both sides to agree on the terms of a settlement and worked to promote ratification of the treaty. On June 22, 1965, a Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea was signed; after ratification it went into effect on December 18, 1965.

A number of volumes in the Foreign Relations series cover the East Asian-Pacific region for the 1964-1968 period: Volumes I-VII document the Vietnam war; volume XXVI covers Indonesia, Malaysia-Singapore, and Philippines; volume XXVII covers regional issues, Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand; and volumes XXVIII and XXX document Laos and China, respectively. All these volumes have been published or will be later in 2000 or in 2001.

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the volume. For further information, contact David S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: The texts of the volume, the summary, and this press release will soon be available on the Office’s Web site: Copies of volume XXIX, Part 1, can be purchased from the Government Printing Office. Please order from

October 30, 2000

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