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President Kennedy's telephone call with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan

President Kennedy: "Hello, Prime Minister."

Prime Minister Macmillan: "Hello, what’s the news now."

President: "Well, Governor Stevenson saw U Thant this afternoon and made our proposals about the importation of arms ceasing and that work on these bases stopping and leading to eventual dismemberment. There are some reports around, some Russian conversations, but it’s rather unofficial and unreliable, about some thought that it’s possible they might do something about withdrawing the weapons if they could get a territorial guarantee of Cuba. But that is so unofficial that I’m not in a position now to know whether there’s anything to it or not. Khrushchev told U Thant that he would keep his ships out of there for the time being, but he couldn’t—he wouldn’t do it very long. He isn’t giving us very much because actually he’s got no ships in the area anyway. But at least he’s made that an announcement; he’s keeping his ships out of there for the time being. We are continuing the quarantine. The build-up of the sites continues, however. And I put a statement out this afternoon describing how the build-up is going on, so that unless in the next 48 hours we get some political suggestions as to dismantling the base we’re then going to be faced with a problem of what to do about this build-up."

Prime Minister: "There’s one idea that you’ve just mentioned is that Cuba might be made like Belgium was - an international guarantee - an inviolable country which now all of us would guarantee its neutrality and inviolability. Is that a possibility?"

President Kennedy: "Well, that is a matter that which seems to me we ought to be thinking about and we will be talking about that in the next 24 hours as to whether there is any room for a settlement on that basis. That would leave Castro in power it would leave the Russians perhaps free to ship in a good deal more of defensive equipment and they have shipped in a good deal. We now find a good many self-propelled armored vehicles with very sophisticated conventional equipment and so on but it may be a possibility but I could probably give you more information about that by tomorrow night but at least there have been a couple of hints but not enough to go on yet."

Prime Minister: "Yes, now I thought another possibility was that U Thant might himself propose to the United Nations, which I believe they would accept, that he should go with a team and ensure that these missiles were made inoperable during the period of any conference or discussions."

President Kennedy: "Yes, that is correct. There would have to be some technical way of determining that these weapons were being made inoperable and that work on the sites was ceasing during these conversations. That is correct."

Prime Minister: "Yes, but do you think that U Thant …mightn’t… I am quite sure that Hammarskjold would have done such a thing. Mightn’t he suggest to the United Nations that he would do this? He would go and do it with a team and see that they were not operable during the period of the talks."

President Kennedy: "Yes, there is some suggestion of that. Also they want to inspect some of the refugee camps in Florida and Nicaragua, Guatemala and Swan Island. That came up in the conversation with the Governor and I am looking into it. I don’t think we have got anything going there that would be difficult to inspect but this is all part of the political proposals which are now being looked at in view of the Governor’s conversation. So I would sum it up, Prime Minister, by saying that by tomorrow morning or noon we should be in a position of knowing whether there is some political proposal that we could agree to which--and whether the Russians are interested in it or not. We will know a little more I think by tomorrow afternoon. In the meanwhile the quarantine stays, he doesn’t send ships in, we let a ship pass this afternoon but there’s no other ships within 48 hours or so, so we don’t expect any problems on the sea. The problem that concerns us is the continued build-up and I issued a statement on that today. I think I can probably get you a little more precise information on the various political proposals and U Thant’s conversation with Stevenson. I’ll send you a report on that tonight and then you will have it in the morning."

Prime Minister: "There is just a third point that occurred to us. If we want to help the Russians to save face, would it be worthwhile our undertaking to immobilize our Thor missiles which are here in England during the same period - during the conference."

President Kennedy: "Well, let me put that into the machinery and then I’ll be in touch with you on that."

Prime Minister: "I think it is just an idea that it might help the Russians to accept."

President Kennedy: "Good, Prime Minister, let me send that over to the Department. I think we don’t want to have too many dismantlings but it is possible that that proposal might help; they might also insist on Greece -- on Turkey and Italy but I will keep in mind your suggestion here so that if it gets into that, that may be advantageous."

Prime Minister: "Yes, I don’t see why they should ask because we have got sixty so that missile for missile you see there wouldn’t be as many as that in Cuba."

President: "Yes that is correct. Let me-- I’ll let Stevenson know that and he will have that in mind in the conversation."

Prime Minister: "Well now, if there are any other suggestions that we can make you will probably send me a message tonight and we can get in touch with you tomorrow."

President: "That is correct, Prime Minister. I think we just have to wait ‘til we’ve analyzed this conversation. I haven’t seen the entire conversation, but I think that there may – and the prospect of a trade of these missiles for some guarantees of Cuba is still so vague that I am not really in a position to say that there is any possibility of it as yet. Maybe by tomorrow evening at this time we’ll know better."

Prime Minister: "Yes, because of course at this stage any movement by yours, by you, may produce a result in Berlin which would be very bad for us all. That’s the danger now."

President: "Well we’re not going to have any problem at sea because he is keeping his ships out of there, and as I say we let one ship pass today for the very reason that you’ve named. On the other hand, if in the end of 48 hours we are getting no place and the missile sites continue to be constructed, then we are going to be faced with some hard decisions."

Prime Minister: "And of course in making those decisions, one has to realize that they will have their effect on Berlin as well as on Cuba."

President: "That’s correct, and that is really why we have not done more than we have done up til now. But of course on the other hand if the missile sites continue and get constructed and we don’t do anything about it, then I would suppose that it would have quite an effect on Berlin anyway."

Prime Minister: "Yes I think that is the difficulty but anyway there are these political plans which we have now got going and if I may I’ll send you a message concerning them and you will send me the result of U Thant’s conversation."

President: "Yes. I’ll send you a memorandum based on the copy of the conversation that Stevenson had with U Thant. I will also keep in touch with you tomorrow at this time if your – or otherwise I’ll send you a message tomorrow. Maybe I’ll send you a message unless we have got something immediate. And number three, we will not take any further action until I have talked to you in any case. I won’t bother to call you tomorrow, because I may be down – I may be away from here tomorrow evening and I assume you may be too. But I will send you a message if there is anything new, and in any case I will talk to you on the phone before we do anything of a drastic nature."

Prime Minister: "Well thank you. I will be here all day so you can get me any time today, tomorrow or Sunday."

President: "Prime Minister, I’m going to send you a note tonight or tomorrow morning about asking if it’s agreeable with you if General Norstad stay on until January 1st, that there be an overlap with Lemnitzer’s tour of duty; that Lemnitzer go over there and take over the American forces and be there and have that 60-day period to be sort of adjusted to his new responsibilities. You’ll be getting a formal letter, and I didn’t want to say anything about it because we haven’t been in touch with General DeGaulle as yet, who is very sensitive in these NATO matters. But I will be in touch with you and I would assume probably that the suggestion would be agreeable to you?"

Prime Minister: "It is indeed very sensible."

President: "Good. Well I’ll be in touch in a formal way with you tomorrow on that matter and I’ll send you tonight the memorandum on the U Thant conversation—over and I hope all goes well."

Prime Minister: "Well thank you very much and of course Bundy can always ring up de Zulueta here. They can speak to each other so it is quite easy to have a talk."

President: "Good, fine Prime Minister, and I’ll be in touch with you very shortly. Thank you and good night."

Prime Minister: "Good night."