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Part of a subsection of a node in the Cold War Document and Speech Meta Node
/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
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
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,
/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,
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.
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