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1223. Eyes only Stevenson and McCloy. We have received from the Soviet Ambassador here a confidential indication(1) that the Soviet Government takes strong exception to the list of weapons we consider offensive in accordance with the exchange of letters between President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev which you furnished Mr. Kuznetsov (Urtel 1606, November 2).(2)
The Soviets take position that Kennedy-Khrushchev agreement related only to missiles. They also consider quarantine proclamation an illegal act and that they will ignore list of offensive weapons in that document.
Our primary purpose is to get the MRBM's and IL-28 bombers out and we would be prepared to go far in reducing the list of offensive weapons in order to achieve this purpose. When Kuznetsov is in a position to negotiate (which may not be until Moscow gets him instructions following our approach to the Soviet Ambassador here last night) you may go as far as necessary toward the following minimum list:
1. Surface-to-surface missiles. (We are prepared limit these to MRBM's and IRBM's and drop mention of those designed for use at sea, and propellants.)
2. Bomber aircraft.
3. Any nuclear warheads for missiles, nuclear bombs for aircraft, or any other type nuclear weapon.
With regard to the Komar-class torpedo boats you might, however, inquire whether Soviets intend to furnish any additional craft of this kind. What we are concerned about are the missiles and bombers with their immediate supporting equipment, and you could explain that point five in your letter to Mikoyan was included to prevent setting up of bases complete except for missiles which could quickly and secretly be brought in.
This modifies the instructions contained in section 2 Deptel 1034,(3) "Definition of Offensive Weapons."
On submarines you should take the position that we are relying on Soviet assurances against the establishment of submarine bases in Cuba and our assumption that they did not intend to furnish such offensive weapons system to Cuba.
Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.56361/11-762. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Thompson and U. Alexis Johnson; cleared by Cleveland, Gilpatric, Bundy, and Rusk; and approved by Johnson.