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Specific Issues

Berlin and Germany. Probably Khrushchev's foremost aim will be to obtain some commitment to resume negotiations on Berlin and Germany. To buttress his position, he will probably reaffirm Soviet determination to conclude, if necessary, a separate treaty with the East Germans, and he will not refrain from generalized warnings about the consequences of such action. But he will stress the Soviet Union's desire to "solve" the Berlin question peacefully, through negotiations. Indeed, there is little doubt that negotiations represent Khrushchev's preferred approach. In the Soviet view, even a relatively limited negotiated agreement--provided it left the door open for further Soviet action at some future date--would be preferable to the uncertainties and potential dangers of unilateral Soviet action.

Khrushchev will restate the maximum Soviet position; the conclusion of a "two Germanies" peace treaty on the basis of which West Berlin would be converted into a "free city." If the discussions delve deeper into the substance of the Soviet demands, Khrushchev will probably outline a proposal along the lines of the May 9, 1960,/2/ aide-memoire, that is, an "interim agreement" containing first-step limitations on Allied rights in West Berlin and designed as well to enhance the international status of the East German regime. He might soften some of these provisions in an effort to induce agreement on another round of negotiations.

/2/For text of this Soviet proposal, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. IX, pp. 395-397.

It seems likely that Khrushchev will table a formal proposal for convening an East-West summit conference on Berlin and Germany. If Khrushchev meets with a categorical rejection of any further talks on Berlin, this will occasion an angry response which might well set the tone for the rest of the talks. Short of this, there would probably be considerable flexibility in Khrushchev's position. He would like to get a firm commitment to hold a conference this year; but he would be willing to settle for general agreement on a conference in the late fall of this year, after the Party Congress in October. Also, he would probably agree to expand the conference agenda to include other issues and he might not insist on holding the conference on the summit level. Khrushchev might even be satisfied with an equivocal US response to the proposal for a conference of this kind.

Disarmament and Security Matters. Khrushchev's approach to disarmament and related questions is less predictable. He will almost certainly dwell on these matters at some length, intending to set the stage for the forthcoming US-Soviet bilateral talks on disarmament. He will maintain that the bilateral talks should deal with matters of substance and not just procedure. He will stress, probably with real conviction, the need for disarmament and for the US and Soviet Union to make every effort to avoid a nuclear war. He will also express what is probably a genuine concern over the possible proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the burdens of the arms race. He may use the occasion of privacy to indicate misgivings about Communist China's emergence as a nuclear power.

But the specifics of Khrushchev's future position are not clear. Regarding Moscow's current tactics at the nuclear test ban talks it is unclear whether they are designed merely to strengthen its bargaining position, or represent a firm decision not to conclude a separate agreement on a test ban. Very likely there is some indecision in the current Soviet attitude. If the Soviets have decided against a test ban treaty, it is doubtful that Khrushchev will so indicate directly during the Vienna meeting; he would prefer to have the US assume the onus of breaking off the test ban talks. (There are indications, however, that Khrushchev might argue that a test ban agreement, because of the extensive inspection requirements of the US and UK, will have to be related in some fashion to an agreement or negotiations on broader disarmament issues.) But if this decision has not been made, he may hope to bargain with the President over some of the remaining unresolved differences. In this case, he might agree to modify the Soviet demand for a three-man directorate; there is some evidence that the Soviet delegation to the test ban talks wishes to do so.

In discussing general disarmament, Khrushchev will try to impress upon the President the virtues of the Soviet single-treaty approach to "general and complete disarmament." He may stick rigidly to the Soviet position that this approach must be the basis for any resumed negotiations on general disarmament. But he may wish to sound out the President about the possibility of negotiations on what he must realize to be a more realistic disarmament package proposal, particularly one geared to the "Nth country" problem. Such a proposal could take the form of a separately negotiable "first-stage" agreement linked in only a declaratory sense to the goal of general and complete disarmament. Or, the Soviets might propose that negotiations on complete disarmament be conducted parallel with talks on other proposals. In any event, Khrushchev would probably be interested in hearing whatever new ideas the US may have concerning measures to check the spread of nuclear weapons.

Peaceful Coexistence. In this first encounter with the President, Khrushchev should be particularly disposed to expound the Soviet philosophy on East-West relations. This will include, at a minimum, the standard line on peaceful coexistence: that the existence of two world systems is an established fact; that these two systems must resolve their differences and prove which is superior through peaceful, economic means, and not by wars between states; that there can be no interference in the affairs of another state (i.e., the West must respect the authority of established communist regimes); but that there can be no cessation of the ideological struggle (i.e., communist subversion), as this is an objective law of history transcending the level of relations between states.

But Khrushchev will go beyond this familiar dialectical rationalization of imperialist intent and self-survival in the nuclear age. He will wish to establish the thesis that the US must draw appropriate conclusions from the growth of Soviet power. In particular, he will maintain that the West's acceptance of the permanence and legitimacy of the satellite regimes of Eastern Europe is a sina qua non of tranquil East-West relations. He will present parallel arguments for a "solution" of the West Berlin problem.

Khrushchev may not choose to bring up the question of Cuba, but if he does, he will probably raise it in connection with these connotations of peaceful coexistence. If so, he will warn the President of the dangers to peace involved in armed intervention in Cuba. But Khrushchev will be careful to avoid any embarrassing, specific commitment to render Castro all-out military support. Instead, he will take the line presented in his letter of April 22/3/ that US intervention in Cuba could justifiably, and might well, provoke similar action by the USSR along its periphery. Realizing Soviet inability to give Castro's Cuba effective military support short of running grave risks of nuclear war (which in the final analysis he would have no intention of doing), Khrushchev will concentrate on maximizing the political price for any overt US action.

/3/For text, see ibid., 1961-1963, vol. VI, pp. 10-16.

Khrushchev will probably maintain that as another consequence of the growth of Soviet power, the communist bloc should have a voice equal to that of the West in international councils. The question of the USSR's "troika" proposal for administering international organizations will inevitably arise in this connection, or in connection with the test ban talks. Khrushchev might vociferously voice his determination to press this proposal until it is fully accepted. But it would be a mistake to assume that the Soviet position on this question is immovable. The Soviets almost certainly expect this fight to be lengthy--one that will require compromises along the road if it is to be successful. And they will be prepared in the end to abandon their extreme demand if they become convinced that it will antagonize rather than win the neutralists to their side. To date, the Soviets have been notably unsuccessful in securing neutralist support--which is essential--for this proposal.

Laos. Apart from probable cautions concerning the consequences of SEATO intervention in Laos, any points Khrushchev chooses to raise regarding the Laotian situation will be conditioned by the course of negotiations in Geneva and Ban Namone. For this reason, an estimate now of Khrushchev's position on this major issue is particularly imprudent.

There is a possibility that Khrushchev might concede one or two non-essential points on the Laotian question (the Soviets have a fair amount of leeway) if he were pressed and felt that such concessions would promote an amicable outcome of the Vienna conference.

Other Issues. On his own initiative, or in response to US initiatives regarding other US-Soviet bilateral issues, Khrushchev might well raise the various standing Soviet proposals for expanded economic relations--in particular, the extension of US credits and most-favored-nation treatment to the USSR.

Unless the talks take an acrimonious turn, Khrushchev might seek to promote an atmosphere of accord by making some conciliatory gesture on a lesser issue. He might agree to a US initiative on bilateral relations, retool some earlier US proposal on bilateral cooperation in scientific or medical endeavors (though probably not in the exploration of outer space), or invite President Kennedy to visit the Soviet Union (though the CPSU Congress and the Berlin question would pose vexing problems of timing to Khrushchev).

Finally, with the eyes of the world on Vienna, Khrushchev might regard the meeting as an appropriate occasion for some dramatic step intended to demonstrate Soviet progress or peaceful intent. This might mean a new space shot; and it is another reason for some Soviet initiative in the field of disarmament.


77. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, undated.

/1/Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, USSR. Secret. The source text bears no drafting information, but a handwritten notation states that it was signed by Rusk on May 25. Another copy states that it was sent to the White House on the same day. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 1906) A third copy was attached to a memorandum from McCloy to Rusk, May 25, which stated his belief that a direct telephone communication system might reduce "the risk of war by accident or miscalculation." (Ibid., S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, Owen Chron)

Direct White House-Kremlin Telephone

It may be useful, in your meetings with Khrushchev, to mention that we propose to install a direct telephone connection between the State Department and the United States Embassy in Moscow if the Soviet Government has no objection. This telephone would permit direct communication between the heads of the United States and Soviet governments without being ostensibly and exclusively designed for this purpose. Such communication might be useful, in a grave crisis, in reducing the risk of war by miscalculation.

Khrushchev has in the past indicated that he favored a "white telephone" between the United States President and himself, in order to reduce the risk of war by miscalculation. This telephone connection could serve the same purpose, without creating as many political problems.

This discussion might afford you an opportunity to avert to the broader question of the risk of war by miscalculation, and to the fact that this risk may be of some significance during the next few years, when the advantage accruing to a first strike could lead to a pre-emptive strike if one side thought that the other was about to attack.

There is little evidence that this problem has yet figured prominently in Soviet thinking about arms control. It may be useful to get Khrushchev to thinking about the problem and about the need for remedial measures. This might possibly increase the chance of progress in any later discussions of such measures with the Soviets. A sober view of this risk might also help him to appreciate the risks that he will be accepting if he initiates further aggressive moves in the period immediately ahead.


78. Editorial Note

In a memorandum to President Kennedy, May 26, 1961, Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Rostow stated that it was his view that "the Viet-Nam situation is extremely dangerous to the peace and that we must push on all fronts to force a deflation of that crisis before it builds to a situation like that in Laos. If it comes to an open battle, the inhibitions on our going in will be less than in Laos; but the challenge to Russia and China will be even greater." Rostow noted that the United States was working on two fronts: "to build Diem's strength" and "to heighten the awareness of the international community about the border issue and to make the ICC the focus of the Laos conference." But, Rostow continued, "a third front on which we must work is Mr. Khrushchev himself. Thus my efforts to get the town to focus on the role of Viet-Nam in Vienna." For text of Rostow's memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume I, pages 157-158. As it turned out, Kennedy and Khrushchev scarcely mentioned Viet-Nam during their meetings in Vienna on June 3-4. For records of their conversations, see Documents 83-85 and 87-89.


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

Moscow, May 27, 1961, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/5-2761. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution.

2941. Believe Khrushchev will wish meeting with President to be pleasant one and that he will desire if possible to make some proposal or take position on some problem which would have effect of improving atmosphere and relations. I find it extremely difficult however to imagine what this could be. Some change in attitude on Laos problem is possibility since quite possible Soviets consider neutral Laos at this time desirable from their point of view. Slight possibility K might intimate to President his concern over Red Chinese policies but think this unlikely in any direct way. Believe K will place main emphasis on general and complete disarmament. Revival of Central European regional security arrangements possibility as well as renewal proposal Warsaw-NATO non-aggression agreement./2/

/2/In a conversation on May 23, primarily devoted to Germany and Berlin, Khrushchev had mentioned the idea of a non-aggression agreement between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Thompson noted that the proposal had little meaning for the West, but might make it easier for the Soviet Union to concede points on Berlin or atomic testing. Thompson concluded by saying the President should be prepared to knock it down completely or consider such a proposal. (Telegram 2908 from Moscow, May 25; ibid., 611.61/4-2661)

President should be prepared for K exploitation two weaknesses in our position. In any discussion self-determination he will probably bring up our failure carry out elections Viet Nam. In any discussion our concern over expansion Soviet influence Latin America via Cuba he will bring up question our bases and activities on Soviet periphery.

With respect Laos best agreement we can hope to get will apparently rest on shaky foundations. At appropriate time and possibly during President's talk would be advisable my opinion attempt put on Khrushchev responsibility for seeing that Laos in fact remains neutral and that this will be gauge of over-all Soviet intentions. Unless and until there is radical deterioration of our relations believe this could have real value as domination Laos itself not major Soviet interest particularly in view Chinese angle.

Believe Soviets will be concerned about moves of administration in arms field and K may well raise this subject contrasting this with his action to demobilize substantial number Soviet troops.

As gesture of goodwill K may respond favorably on subject joint projects in outer space. K likely express appreciation of President's action in controlling provocative statements particularly on part military officials.

K may probe our intentions in Congo and on this question believe good case can be made for fact that Soviets have been misinformed and have misjudged our actions.

In course conversation K likely rake up U-2 case and may well make gesture release of Powers. Believe caution advisable on former as K might later quote President in order stir up controversy in US. President might take line that flight was major error particularly timing thereof, but that Khrushchev apparently does not realize extent to which Soviet secrecy caused concern over Soviet intentions to those responsible for US security.

Assume President will also have been briefed on subjects of trade, CIA activities, Vershinin visit,/3/ Korea, and possible eventual Presidential visit to Soviet Union.

/3/The question of a visit to the United States by[ Soviet Air Marshal Constantin A. Vershinin had been under discussion during the spring of 1961 without resolution. While the Department of State favored it, the Department of Defense in a letter of April 5 stressed the negative aspects of such a visit. (Memorandum from Kohler to Rusk, July 3; ibid., 033.6111/7-361) On July 9 Secretary of Defense McNamara wrote to Rusk saying that the climate for the visit was not right and on the following day Ambassador Thompson was informed that the issue was dead. (Davis letter to Thompson, July 10; ibid., 033.6111-VE/7-1061)



FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P36

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