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Volume V
Soviet Union

Washington, DC


120. Editorial Note

In telegram 1691 to Paris, September 22, 1961, the Department of State reported that in a 3-hour discussion the previous day Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and Secretary of State Rusk had laid out their respective positions on Berlin. "Gromyko's presentation did not deviate from standard version of main Soviet themes as developed at Vienna and thereafter." Rusk stressed that the "current Berlin crisis was essentially of Soviet creation" and that changes in status quo desired by the Soviets "would move against vital interests and fundamental commitments of US." For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XIV, pages 431-433.

On September 29 Chairman Khrushchev wrote President Kennedy the first in a series of letters, delivered through special emissaries and closely held, that later became known as the "Pen Pal Correspondence." Khrushchev repeated standard Soviet positions on Berlin and Germany but suggested Kennedy either send a special emissary to Moscow to discuss Berlin or authorize Ambassador Thompson to do so. For text, see ibid., volume VI, pages 25-38.


121. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, September 25, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Secretary's Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Secret. Drafted by Bowles and approved in U on September 28.

US-Soviet Relations

Ambassador Mikhail A. Menshikov
The Under Secretary of State

I met with Ambassador Menshikov at the Soviet Chancery at 16th Street at 12:00 noon on September 25th. He has suggested lunch on several occasions, stressing that while he had no specific instructions, he would like to see me to exchange views. I left at 1:25 p.m.

Nothing of importance came out of the discussion. For the most part, Menshikov advanced the line that Khrushchev had opened up in Vienna and which is now readily available to us in Pravda and elsewhere. His purpose apparently was to induce me to spell out more specifically what we were willing to do.

I repeated what the Secretary said to Gromyko,/2/ and suggested that since Menshikov and I were unlikely to be able to negotiate a settlement, it was a waste of time for us to go over the same ground in general terms. At some stage it would be necessary for them to spell out precisely what they mean by their assertion that they would not interfere with access to Berlin. It would be up to the negotiators to find common ground if, as I hoped, common ground existed.

/2/See Document 120.

I added that in my opinion it would be a mistake for Mr. Khrushchev and President Kennedy to go into any conference unless it was well established in advance that agreement would result from it; that if they negotiated directly and the negotiations failed, the danger of war would vastly increase, since it would appear there was no other alternative.

Menshikov asserted that Attorney General Robert Kennedy's speech/3/ was provocative and threatening and that it would undoubtedly require some response from Moscow. I asked him if he had really read what the Attorney General had said. When he said he had only seen the newspaper reports, I pointed out that the Attorney General had referred to the use of nuclear weapons only in defense of Berlin and our interest there, and not in any threatening sense; it was a clear statement of an obvious fact, i.e., that if we were attacked, we would defend ourselves with whatever weapons were necessary.

/3/Presumably a reference to remarks the Attorney General had made on "Meet the Press," September 24.

I pointed out that Khrushchev on many occasions had used more provocative words, i.e. he could destroy Britain with eight or ten bombs, that he could blow up Italy with even fewer, and that the Acropolis would be one of the casualties along with the Greek people if Greece did not cooperate with the U.S.S.R.

Menshikov responded mildly, stressing that Khrushchev's remarks had been made in private conversations and not intended for publication. They were simply his way of expressing his concern over the possibility of war, etc.

I then asked Menshikov what Khrushchev had meant by his willingness to see the United Nations facilities transferred to Berlin. Menshikov stated that he had no instructions on this subject and had only heard indirectly that Khrushchev had said this.

He went on to say that the United Nations should not be in New York, that this was not good for us or others, since there were groups of Americans with violent views. From what he knew therefore the Soviet would be willing to negotiate the development of United Nations activities in Berlin. I said that we had no position on the subject but that in one way or another it might come up in discussions later.

In the last ten minutes I expressed the strong hope to Menshikov that he and his government have a better understanding of our country and its interests and objectives than I sometimes felt they had. In the course of this particular discussion I made the following points:

1. That President Kennedy, Secretary Rusk, Adlai Stevenson, Arthur Dean, Jack McCloy, myself, and others in the Administration had come into office with a strong desire to reach some kind of agreement with the Soviet Union which would allow us to work constructively to establish a peaceful and rational world;

2. That none of us could be classed as haters of the Soviet Union or in any way antagonistic to the interest of the Soviet people. And although we were disappointed and felt that we had been rebuffed, we had in no sense given up hope that some better relationship could develop in the future;

3. That if the present leadership of the United States is unable to reach reasonable agreements with the Soviet Union we will be replaced by others who will follow a far harder line.

Even though the Kremlin should somehow maneuver us into a position over Berlin that was to their immediate advantage and to our disadvantage, it would be a pyrrhic victory since it would leave America embittered, and no less militarily powerful;

4. That he must realize that while we were anxious to find ways of living and working with the Soviet Union, we were not afraid, and they should not ever assume that we lacked the will to protect our interests.

I pointed out that he personally had made remarks suggesting that we lacked that will and that this was dangerous. Anyone who had not known the British people in 1939 might have assumed their unwillingness to fight as they did in 1940 and 41 when they faced up to the entire Nazi power. I said that while the British, French, and Americans were often divided on small matters, they were united on large issues, and it was important that he understand this.

Menshikov hastened to comment on my reference to the story that he had said we would not fight. He said that the question had been asked him by someone in the Germany Embassy whose name he did not know, and it was taken entirely out of context. He seemed particularly anxious to correct what he said was a false impression.

My general impression was that Menshikov was less anxious to argue than usual and was almost mellow in his general approach. There were none of the angry replies encountered on previous occasions.


122. Current Intelligence Weekly Review/1/

Washington, October 5, 1961.

/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency: Job 79-S01060A. Top Secret; codeword not declassified; Noforn. Prepared by CIA's Office of Current Intelligence. The source text comprises pp. 1-3 of the Weekly Review section of the issue.

East-West Relations

Moscow's treatment of the conversations between Secretary Rusk and Foreign Minister Gromyko and its general commentary on Berlin suggest that the Soviet leaders are confident formal negotiations will be arranged. Following the third meeting between Secretary Rusk and Foreign Minister Gromyko on 30 September, Pravda on 2 October quoted from a US statement that the sessions were cordial, that they were related to the possibility of East-West negotiations, and that Gromyko was likely to meet with President Kennedy. Soviet press coverage of the first two discussions merely reported that the meetings had been held but gave no indication of the general atmosphere or possible results. The coverage of 2 October, therefore, conveys an impression that the talks are proceeding favorably.

Izvestia also injected a hopeful note in an article which claimed that the Soviet people did not believe that the international situation was entirely covered with the "leaden clouds of war." A speaker at a public lecture in Moscow on 26 September predicted that the Rusk-Gromyko talks would be followed by negotiations and cited the US-Soviet agreement on disarmament principles as a favorable sign. The East German party organ Neues Deutschland echoed this line in an editorial of 28 September, stating, "Everyone realizes now that there will be negotiations." Polish party First Secretary Gomulka on 30 September also asserted that "on our side nothing stands in the way of a peaceful solution of the German problem by means of fruitful negotiations and mutual agreements." The Polish news service reported that "UN circles" expect an East-West foreign ministers conference to be followed by a summit meeting.

This general line suggests that Moscow views the Rusk-Gromyko talks as the opening of a decisive phase in the Berlin crisis. A number of Soviet journalists, in their contacts with American officials, have stressed that the next several weeks will determine the future course for the bloc and have hinted that the Soviet year-end deadline for a solution could be revised if negotiations were in process or scheduled. The third secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City stated that the USSR was not disposed to sign a separate East German treaty if there were real possibilities for East-West agreement.

A Pravda correspondent claimed that the next six weeks would be most important for setting a date for a meeting at the highest level. He added that the date could be "sometime in 1962" provided the US agreed to the principle of negotiations. A TASS correspondent also emphasized negotiations and warned that if they failed to materialize, Khrushchev would have some "very interesting warnings" at the Soviet party congress.

Communist sources in London were apparently responsible for press reports that the bloc foreign ministers would convene in November to consider the next move on Germany. According to these reports, the bloc would review the results of current East-West contacts, such as the Rusk-Gromyko conversations, and decide whether to proceed with a peace treaty before the end of the year. If no East-West negotiations were arranged by November, the bloc would go ahead as announced and convoke a peace conference, but that if it was clear the West was prepared to negotiate, the Warsaw Pact ministers would recommend postponement of a peace conference until "two or three months" into 1962. Other press reports quoted "Communist diplomats" as saying that the bloc might postpone a separate treaty if the West agreed to negotiate a Berlin settlement.

These semiofficial statements have been accompanied by an official effort to appear responsive to Western views that the agenda of any formal negotiations should be broader than the Soviet proposal of a peace treaty and free-city status for West Berlin. The Soviets have begun to emphasize European security and certain limited partial disarmament measures to show willingness to enlarge the scope of East-West discussions. The Soviets have made it clear, however, that European security discussions are no substitute for a German treaty.


A Soviet Government memorandum submitted to the 16th UN General Assembly/2/ suggested reaching agreement on freezing military budgets, denouncing the use of nuclear weapons, banning war propaganda, concluding a nonaggression pact between the NATO countries and the Warsaw Pact nations, withdrawing foreign troops from the territories of other countries, taking measures against the further spread of nuclear weapons, creating atom-free zones, and taking steps to lessen the danger of surprise attack.

/2/Dated September 26. For text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1961, pp. 496-504.

All of these measures have appeared as provisions of earlier Soviet disarmament proposals, although not necessarily as "partial" disarmament measures. The increase in the number of partial disarmament measures listed may be aimed at countering neutralist dismay over the Soviet position that a test ban solution can be reached "only" through agreement on general and complete disarmament. Several of the measures--a NATO-Warsaw Treaty nonaggression pact, establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe, withdrawal or at least reduction of foreign troops in Europe, and a ban on supplying nuclear weapons to other countries--are probably calculated to appeal to groups in Western Europe who favor tying European security arrangements to a German settlement.

The memorandum's call for reciprocal commitments not to be the first to use nuclear weapons is at variance with a recent statement by Khrushchev. The Soviet leader--who in past years had advocated such an agreement--told New York Times correspondent Sulzberger early in September, "It would be untimely at present to say that in the event of war, atomic weapons would not be employed." He added that if both sides were to promise not to employ nuclear weapons but retained their stockpiles and the imperialists unleashed a war, "any side" that felt it was losing would "undoubtedly use its nuclear bombs."


Information on Khrushchev's discussions with Indonesian Foreign Minister Subandrio on 16 September supplements the line taken by Khrushchev in his talks with Nehru and Belgian Foreign Minister Spaak. Khrushchev stated he was willing to "accommodate" President Kennedy but that he could not infringe on East German sovereignty. He suggested that the access to West Berlin could be guaranteed in separate documents which would be attached to a peace treaty; the documents would be signed by both the German Democratic Republic and the USSR and in this way assuage East German sensibilities.

Bloc leaders continue to stress possible guarantees for future access to West Berlin. Gomulka said on 30 September that the peace treaty will allow a "solution of the West Berlin problem in a way . . . which will provide it with free communications with the world and international guarantees of the interested powers or guarantees of the UN." On the same day, Czech President Novotny asserted that if Berlin had become a question of Western prestige, "Let us agree on guarantees for West Berlin, as clearly indicated by Khrushchev."

1 paragraph (13 lines of 2-column source text) not declassified

The bloc's intention to sign a separate peace treaty by the end of the year continues to be muted in statements and propaganda, although it appears occasionally. Gomulka referred to the deadline in speeches during a visit to Prague; an Izvestia editorial on 29 September mentioned a treaty by the end of the year; and East Germany has continued to stress the deadline. Further information on economic planning to achieve a position to deal with any Western reprisals after conclusion of a separate treaty was contained in an intercepted East German message, which referred to the goal of being "completely free from economic disruption by 1 December 1961."


123. Editorial Note

On October 6, 1961, President Kennedy met with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko for 2 hours at the White House. The latter stated, among other things, that if the United States would not agree to a peace treaty resolving the larger German issues, i.e., borders and nuclear weapons, the USSR would be willing to sign an agreement on Berlin alone. However, in that case the United States would have to agree to resolve the larger issues separately. The President again expressed the U.S. view that Soviet proposals to change the status quo in Berlin did so at the expense of U.S. interests. For text of the memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XIV, pages 468-480.


FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P66

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