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/8/In telegram 2361 from Moscow, April 1, Thompson reported that Khrushchev expressed his agreement with the President's proposal for a summit meeting at the end of May, and that he would reply directly to Kennedy about it. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/4-161)



52. Editorial Note

In a memorandum to President Kennedy, April 1, 1961, McGeorge Bundy discussed "some of the key diplomatic issues in the probable diplomacy" regarding Laos, commenting that "the Soviet Union in agreeing to negotiation believes that it can secure eventually what it is taking rapidly by military action. Consequently, we should consider immediately what encouragement and hard assistance might be given to Thailand, Cambodia, and South Vietnam to strengthen their position with respect to a 'neutral' Laos which will provide a bridge to their borders for Communist subversion and guerrilla operations." For text of the memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XXIV, pages 112-116.


53. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State/1/

Moscow, April 1, 1961, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 661.00/4-161. Secret.

2365. Eyes only Secretary. Difficult convey in telegram exact tone of conversation such as that today with Khrushchev./2/ In order conserve time interpreter frequently not used and too great emphasis should not be placed on exact words. He was friendly throughout discussion and seemed quite pleased and hopeful at President's initiative. Re Bowles speech I believe they are genuinely concerned that we may be saying that accommodation with us means they must renounce any support of govts which come into being by revolution and refrain from adopting attitude which would encourage such revolutions. This they not prepared do. Realistic question is whether they prepared refrain from initiating active subversion. With possible exception Laos they feel they have clear conscience since in Cuba and Iraq they did not take initiative. Khrushchev said he had never heard of Castro until it was announced he had taken Havana. Even in Laos they consider they were responding to our initiative. I am not supporting these contentions but believe they should be taken into consideration in judging Sov intentions. Khrushchev pointed out there is no industrial proletariat in country like Congo and he mentioned they had excellent relations with Ghana and Guinea which were not Communist countries. Sovs of course wish to expand their influence and his citing latter two countries not particularly reassuring. My judgment is Sovs will continue give political and propaganda support to movements against what they consider reactionary govts throughout world and that they will extend their influence wherever possible but that they can be brought to refrain from militant subversion by direct action such as heavy infiltration of agents, etc. I believe Khrushchev recognizes that newly developing countries particularly in Africa will not be ripe for communism for long time to come. I consider most discouraging aspect Khrushchev's current policy is his attitude toward UN Secretariat which will have wide repercussions on other problems including disarmament./3/

/2/See Document 51.

/3/On April 4 Thompson transmitted airgram G-736, which added eight minor vignettes on the conversation with Khrushchev. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/4-461)



54. Editorial Note

The President's Special Assistant, Arthur Schlesinger, expressed his opposition to the planned paramilitary action against Cuba in a memorandum to President Kennedy, April 5, 1961. He argued that the operation was likely to turn into a protracted civil conflict which would "give the Soviet Union a magnificent opportunity to wage political warfare. Cuba will become our Hungary; and, since our pretensions to international good behavior have been greater than those of the Russians, we would be more damaged by Hungary than they were (and they were considerably damaged)." Schlesinger questioned, however, the view that "this operation would have serious substantive effect on Soviet policy, in Laos or elsewhere. My guess is that the Soviet Union regards Cuba as in our domain and is rather surprised that we have not taken action before this to rid ourselves of Castro." For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume X, pages 186-189.


55. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/

Washington, April 5, 1961, 7:23 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.11-KE/4-561. Secret. Drafted and approved by Kohler and cleared with the President, Rusk, Bundy, and Bohlen (in substance).

1673. Eyes only for Ambassador. You will have noted White House announcement April 3/2/ setting firm dates worked out with French for President's visit to Paris May 31 through June 2. We are repeating to you Deptel to Paris/3/ regarding plans for this visit and will repeat future messages as pertinent. President would be prepared to proceed to Vienna for two-day "get acquainted" meeting with Khrushchev on June 3 and 4/4/ provided (1) these dates convenient to Khrushchev and (2) international atmosphere appropriate for such meeting at that time. Latter would presumably depend mainly on progress toward settlement question of Laos and Soviet restraint in not stimulating other crises. For example, if Laotian situation were still as sensitive as now, or if new crisis had developed in another area, popular reaction in the US would probably be hostile to a meeting and thus prevent it from assisting in the relief of international tensions. Therefore, President would not wish now to have any firm understanding that might later need to be changed, with attendant danger of recrimination. Nevertheless, suggest you should seek early opportunity to discuss dates and these other aspects of the question on tentative basis with Khrushchev or Foreign Minister.

/2/For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, p. 569.

/3/Telegram 1668 to Moscow, April 4. (Department of State, Central Files, 711.11-KE/4-461)

/4/On April 10 Thompson reported that Gromyko believed June 3 and 4 was acceptable, but would confirm it with Khrushchev. (Telegram 2441 from Moscow; ibid., 711.11-KE/4-1061) The following day Thompson cabled that Khrushchev had agreed. (Telegram 2459 from Moscow; ibid., 611.61/4-1161)



56. Editorial Note

From April 4 to 6, 1961, Frank G. Siscoe, Director of the Soviet and East European Exchanges Staff, visited Moscow for conversations with various Soviet officials about U.S.-Soviet cultural, scientific, and technical exchanges. On April 5 and 6 he met with G.A. Zhukov, Chairman of the State Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and after explaining that both President Kennedy and Secretary of State Rusk were interested in the exchange program, developed a list of problems and opportunities on the question. On April 4 and 6 he talked to M.S. Prokofiev, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, about exchanges in the field of education; on April 5, with G.V. Aleksenko, Deputy Chairman of the State Scientific and Technical Committee; and on April 6, with S.V. Kaftanov, Chairman of the State Committee for Radio Broadcasting and Television. At the end of the meetings Siscoe extended an invitation to Zhukov to visit the United States for further discussions after each side examined its programs in light of the other's desiderata. Memoranda of all these conversations were transmitted in despatch 705 from Moscow, April 13. (Department of State, Central Files, 511.613/4-1361)


57. Editorial Note

In telegram 1722 to Moscow, April 12, 1961, Secretary of State Rusk expressed concern at the effect in Laos of the Soviet delay in responding definitively to the British proposal of April 5, particularly the call for a cessation of hostilities. Rusk instructed Ambassador Thompson to remind Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko of President Kennedy's statement during their meeting on March 27 that "while we seriously and wholeheartedly supported the goal of a neutral and independent Laos, free from any foreign alignment or domination, the United States as a great power could not stand by if forces hostile to the United States sought to take over the country by military means." For text of telegram 1722 and information on the British proposal of April 5, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XXIV, pages 124-125. President Kennedy's report of his meeting with Gromyko on March 27 is ibid., pages 105-107.

Gromyko responded to the British proposal on April 16; British analysts cited two major shortcomings in the response: it did not explicitly accept a cease-fire as a precondition for an international conference, and it did not provide for an immediate International Control Commission presence in Laos to verify the cease-fire. (Ibid., page 135) However, following a meeting on April 19 between Gromyko and the British Ambassador to Moscow, the United Kingdom recommended to the United States that it accept the Soviet response as "explained" by Gromyko with the understanding that it would not be binding on the United States and that the West would not attend the conference unless there were a cease-fire by May 5. The U.K. recommendation was discussed at a meeting of the Laos Task Force on April 19. For text of the memorandum of the meeting, see ibid., pages 137-138.


58. Editorial Note

The landings of the Cuban Expeditionary Force at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba began on April 17, 1961. On April 18, the Department of State received telegram 2550 from Moscow conveying a letter to President Kennedy from Chairman Khrushchev. The letter, which the Soviet Government made public, expressed "indignation" at the invasion of Cuba by armed bands "trained, equipped and armed in the United States" and called on Kennedy to "put an end to aggression." The letter also declared that the Soviet Union would "render the Cuban people and their government all necessary help to repel armed attack" and implied that the Soviet Union might retaliate by menacing U.S. interests elsewhere. President Kennedy responded the same day in a letter handed to Ambassador Menshikov and released to the press. Kennedy stated that the "United States intends no military intervention in Cuba" but could not conceal its "admiration for Cuban patriots who wish to see a democratic system in an independent Cuba." Kennedy also warned the Soviets not to use the situation in Cuba as a pretext to inflame other areas of the world. For text of the two letters, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume VI, pages 7-10.

Khrushchev replied to Kennedy's letter of April 18 in a long letter of April 22 in which he reiterated and expanded upon his charge of aggression against Cuba and again pledged Soviet support for Fidel Castro's government. For text, see ibid., pages 10-16. The Department of State responded the same day with a statement in effect dismissing Khrushchev's letter as unworthy of reply. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, May 8, 1961, page 663.

In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs crisis, U.S. policy makers reassessed Soviet involvement in Cuba and the threat posed to the United States and its interests in Latin America. In a memorandum to President Kennedy, April 21, Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Rostow raised the issue of "a potential Soviet offensive base in Cuba." The United States must decide whether to permit Castro to acquire defensive arms, asserted Rostow, and "what the touchstones are between defensive arms and the creation of a Communist military base threatening the U.S. itself. I assume that evidence of the latter we would take virtually as a cause of war." For text of the memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume X, pages 310-312.

In an April 26 paper prepared for the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency reviewed Soviet bloc military aid to Cuba, noting that since September 1960 its value was estimated at between $50 million and $100 million. A May 2 report prepared jointly by the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency stated that "with continuing material and technical assistance from the Bloc and with further military training and political indoctrination, under Bloc tutelage, the combat effectiveness of the Cuban armed forces will substantially increase. The Bloc will probably provide some MIG-17's when Cuban pilots training in Czechoslovakia return home. However, the buildup of a sizable jet air force in Cuba will probably be a slow process as compared with the improvement of the army. Nonnuclear air defense missiles may be supplied to Cuba, but the Bloc will not supply offensive type missiles nor nuclear weapons." A May 4 paper prepared for the National Security Council by an Interagency Task Force on Cuba stated that there was "no danger of effective direct attack against the U.S." and only a "remote possibility of an attempt to convert Cuba into a Russian base for strategic attack on the United States." However, Cuba clearly served "as an exporter of physical aids to revolution" and "as an example and stimulus to communist revolution." For text of the two papers and the report, see ibid., pages 389-390, 417-422, and 459-475.

FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P27

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