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21. Memorandum of Conversation/1/
Washington, February 3, 1961, 4:30-5:10 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/2-361. Confidential.
Drafted by McSweeney and approved in S on February 12. A copy of Kohler's
briefing memorandum to Rusk, February 3, is ibid., 601.6111/2-361.
Discussion of U.S.-Soviet Relations
Mikhail A. Menshikov, Soviet Ambassador
Mr. Levchenko, Second Secretary, Soviet Embassy
Mr. McSweeney, Director, SOV
The Ambassador opened the conversation by extending congratulations to the Secretary and expressing the hope that with the installation of the new Administration the American Government and people could now find the means of improving relations between the two countries--the first steps taken by the new Administration give the Soviets and all other peoples hope that there can be concerted action between the two countries.
The Secretary said he looked forward to working with Mr. Menshikov toward
improvement of relations, a matter of enormous mutual interest. He suggested
it would be valuable to find means of progress on lesser but tangible questions
thus providing a proper framework for consideration of more difficult questions.
For example, there are the questions of an air transport agreement, establishment
of consulates at Leningrad and New York, and expansion of the exchange
program. While these are not the most important questions they can build a
basis for mutual understanding and also assist in developing public understanding.
The Secretary said he wanted to comment on the timing of the nuclear test
ban negotiations--the date suggested by the United States does not constitute
delay but rather the minimum time for a new Administration to review and prepare.
He asked if the Ambassador had any knowledge of the Soviet Government's reaction
to the suggested date of March 21.
The Ambassador said he had no word, noting that the United States approach
had been made by Ambassador Thompson. He said he would remind his Government
that a reply is expected.
The Secretary noted that Ambassador Thompson is returning from Moscow on
consultation, and suggested that he might bring the Soviet Government's answer
with him. The Secretary said Ambassador Thompson is not returning with a collection
of problems acquired in Moscow but rather to consult with the new Administration
in order to go back better prepared for discussion on a whole range of questions.
The Secretary expressed his and the President's utmost confidence in Ambassador
Ambassador Menshikov said that the Secretary had not mentioned in his early
remarks normalization of trade, which was one thing that the Ambassador thought
would help greatly, not so much from the economic standpoint as from the standpoint
of creation of a better climate. The Secretary said that the items he mentioned,
i.e., air transport and consequent increased travel, would be a part of normalization
of trade and referred to the fact that there are many more American tourists
in the Soviet Union than Soviet tourists in the United States. Ambassador
Menshikov said the Soviets buy more U.S. goods. He said that it is not Soviet
policy to earn dollars--rather they are glad to spend these dollars in the
United States. Soviet tourism in the U.S., he said, is increasing and there
have been 1,000 this year. The Secretary mentioned the admiration of a colleague
of his of the roadside tourist camps he encountered on a drive from Leningrad
to the Crimea. The Ambassador said that the President of Intourist had recently
said that Soviet capacity to handle tourists would be increased by 1965
by 200,000 per year. He then reverted to the question of trade normalization
and problems created by U.S. restrictions. He noted that the U.S. was the
only big country with which the USSR does not have a trade agreement with
most favored nation provisions. Most favored nation treatment, he said, is
a sign of normalcy. The Secretary mentioned that a major element restricting
trade can be the patent and copyright situation in countries with different
policies. The Ambassador said that commercial contracts can take care of this
situation, noting his own trade experience for many years with the Soviet
Government. He said that the present trade level of 40-50 million dollars
between the U.S. and the USSR is only about a tenth of what it was in 1930.
He said the Soviet Government does not wish to purchase military or strategic
items--indeed, he said, they could offer such items to the U.S.
Ambassador Menshikov then inquired whether the Secretary had any ideas or proposals regarding the possibility of discussion of some of the things that he had discussed earlier with the Secretary and Ambassador Bruce./2/ He disclaimed that he was in any way attempting to push the administration but only wondered when, how, and where discussion of particular items could take place. He mentioned as subjects of this sort disarmament, a peaceful German settlement including West Berlin, and improvement of relations between the two countries.
/2/See Document 2; the conversation with Rusk has not been further identified.
The Secretary said that with regard to the last general question it is useful to find specific points on which progress can be made--big questions are made up of many little questions. Normal diplomatic means should be used to find points capable of resolution. He said that we feel disarmament to be of the utmost importance, mentioning that Mr. McCloy, who has been charged with this responsibility, is undertaking intensive work in close collaboration with the Secretary. Our priority attention first goes to the question of nuclear testing where we must have a little time for review. He suggested it might be useful at an appropriate time for Ambassador Menshikov and Mr. McCloy to discuss these matters. The disarmament question as a whole is more comprehensive and complex and probably would require a little more time than review of the testing question. He noted that it is difficult to insulate or isolate disarmament from the general situation regarding our relations. The Ambassador said that a disarmament settlement would settle most other things as well.
Ambassador Menshikov noted that the U.S. aide-memoire/3/ included the two points of an air transport agreement and consulates. The Secretary had also mentioned widening the scope of the exchanges. He, the Ambassador, had added the subject of trade which he considers important. Finally, the President had mentioned cooperation in the scientific field./4/ The Ambassador asked if the Secretary had any idea how and when these questions might be discussed. The Secretary said he hoped to be able to work out something after Ambassador Thompson arrives. After discussion with him the U.S. might be in a position to make some suggestions.
/3/See Document 12.
/3/For text of the State of the Union address, January 30, during which the
President made this suggestion, see Public Papers of the Presidents of
the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 19-28.
The Secretary then asked Ambassador Menshikov, unofficially, if he thought
there was any point of raising the question of lessening travel restrictions,
which are now anomalous. Ambassador Menshikov said he personally favored such
relaxation and said that on several occasions in the past his Government had
tried to approach this matter but each time something happened in the field
of foreign relations which prevented development. He said that a year ago
when preparations were being made for the visit of President Eisenhower all
kinds of things were developing in this direction and everyone was hopeful
that steps forward, including this particular problem, could be taken. They
now again hope for a radical improvement of the situation. He suggested that
progress in other fields might have a good result in the field of travel restrictions.
He said the restrictions were left over from the last war and noted that they
applied to all foreigners, not just Americans. The Secretary said he fully
understood that security of certain installations would have to be retained
both in this country and the USSR. Close-in protection could be provided while
the rest of the country could be open.
The Secretary expressed the hope that quiet employment of normal diplomatic
channels could give both sides a better approach to larger questions. The
Ambassador said that he felt an exchange of views on all questions was useful
either in Washington or Moscow or both places simultaneously. He noted that
Mr. Bowles yesterday had expressed the hope that in the future the two countries
could go into all international forums with joint views./5/
The Secretary said it is important to guarantee the success of important debates
in international forums since the effect of failure is serious. The Ambassador
said this was indeed the Soviet approach, i.e., through discussion in diplomatic
channels to establish a common basic point of view. The Secretary said that
the significance of a new Administration in Washington is that it offers an
opportunity to both sides to review the situation. Such review can open the
way to a common approach at least in some questions. The Secretary said that
the Administration has no illusions that the problems involved are simple.
The Ambassador said that with a common desire the two countries could do many
things. The Secretary suggested that we need also to find a common vocabulary--we
need to examine this question in a relaxed fashion. The Ambassador agreed
that words have different meanings in our two societies. This is natural,
he said, given the difference of our ideologies. Neither one of us will persuade
the other, he said, but we can co-exist. The Secretary agreed that the important
questions between the countries are not ideological--but we must be careful
in the field of action and be sure we understand each other in this regard.
The Ambassador said that the Soviet Union is all in favor of a quiet purposeful
approach involving reasonable compromises. But this must be on an equal basis
and there must be no attempt to achieve any one-sided settlement.
/5/A 3-page memorandum of Menshikov's conversation with Bowles on February 2, which covered the same topics as his conversation with Rusk, is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/2-261. Kohler's briefing memorandum for this meeting is ibid., 601.6111/2-161.
As the Ambassador left, the Secretary said he hoped he would see the Ambassador and Mrs. Menshikov at the President's reception on the 8th.
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P10