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83. Memorandum of Conversation/1/
Vienna, June 3, 1961, 12:45 p.m.
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, USSR. Secret. Drafted
by Akalovsky. The meeting was held at the American Ambassador's residence.
According to another copy this memorandum of conversation was approved by
the White House on June 23. (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66
D 110, CF 1901) A summary of this conversation was transmitted in Secto 16
from Vienna, June 4. (Ibid., Central Files, 600.001/6-461)
Vienna Meeting Between The President and Chairman Khrushchev
D--Mr. Akalovsky, (Interpreting)
Mr. Dobrynin, Chief, American Countries Division, USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Sukhodrev, Interpreter, USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The President said he wanted to express his pleasure at seeing Chairman
Khrushchev and recalled his earlier meeting in the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee during Mr. Khrushchev's visit in the United States. The President
said that he had talked to the Soviet Foreign Minister and the Soviet Ambassador
and that he was extremely interested in discussing at least to a certain extent
matters affecting the relations between the two countries. He said he hoped
that during these two days a better understanding of the problems confronting
us could be reached, and that the conversations would be useful.
Mr. Khrushchev said that he also wished the conversations to be useful. He
remembered the meeting in the Foreign Relations Committee and said that the
President had been late for that meeting, so that there was no opportunity
to say much except hello and goodbye. He also recalled that he had told the
President that he had heard of him as a young and promising man in politics.
He was glad now to meet him as President.
The President replied that he also remembered this remark and said that Mr. Khrushchev had told him that he was very youthful in appearance. The President remarked that he must have aged since then.
Mr. Khrushchev wondered whether he had really said that. Normally he did not say such things because young people want to look older and older people like to look younger. He said that he had had a similar experience because in his youth he had looked much younger than his age and had regarded it as offensive if someone made a mistake about his age. However, he obtained a kind of mandate of old age by beginning to gray at the age of twenty-two. In any event, if he could he would be happy to share his years with the President or change places with him.
The President stated that as President, bearing heavy responsibilities just
as Mr. Khrushchev as leader of his country, he was concerned about how it
would be possible for the two countries--allied with other countries, having
different political and social systems, and competing with each other in
different parts of the world--to find during his Presidency ways and means
of not permitting situations where the two countries would be committed to
actions involving their security or endangering peace, to secure which is
our basic objective.
Mr. Khrushchev replied that the Soviet Union had endeavored for a long
time to develop friendly relations with the United States and its allies.
Such relations would bring about peace and would be in the interest of the
two countries and the world at large. At the same time the Soviet Union did
not wish to reach agreement with the U.S. at the expense of other peoples
because such agreement would not mean peace. Several basic questions must
be resolved. Without their solution sources of tension between the two countries
would continue to exist. Such solutions are all the more necessary because
the Soviet Union believes that the situations of the two countries do not
impel them to clash with each other. Mr. Khrushchev said that what he had
in mind was primarily the economic field, which was basic. The United States
is a rich country and has all the necessary resources. So far, the Soviet
Union has been poorer than the United States and it recognizes that fact.
However, the Soviet Union will develop--not at U.S. expense, because it has
no predatory intentions, but rather by developing its own human and natural
resources. Mr. Khrushchev said that he did not want to conceal that the USSR
was challenging the United States; it wants to become richer than the United
States and this is not just a desire but there is some real foundation for
such a development. The U.S. may not agree with this but then the U.S. can
also develop further. In any event, it is necessary to suppress any feeling
of envy, if it exists. The Soviet Union does not wish to stand in the way
of U.S. economic development.
The President remarked that he was impressed with the rate of growth in the Soviet Union and said that this was surely a source of satisfaction to Mr. Khrushchev, as it was to us.
Mr. Khrushchev said that the West and the U.S. as its leader must recognize
one fact: Communism exists and has won its right to develop. Such recognition
should be de facto and not de jure. United States policy under Dulles excluded
such possibility; Mr. Dulles had based his policy on the premise of liquidation
of the Communist system. This struggle against Communism would of course never
lead to the establishment of good relations between our two countries. The
existence of the Soviet system does not depend on the United States just
as the existence of the capitalist system does not depend on the Soviet
Union. Relations between our two countries could develop only if this fact
is recognized. Mr. Khrushchev said that he had raised this point not for the
purpose of arguing. He would not try to convince the President about the advantages
of Communism, just as the President should not waste his time to convert him
to capitalism. Mr. Khrushchev repeated that the recognition he had referred
to should be de facto.
The President said that Mr. Khrushchev's remarks raised a very important
problem. Mr. Khrushchev disagreed with the interpretation of the policy ascribed
by him to Dulles, who, according to Mr. Khrushchev, had sought to eliminate
Communist control in areas under such control, and says that this represents
failure to recognize Communism as a fact in that area. His own interpretation
of the situation was, the President continued, that the Soviet Union was seeking
to eliminate free systems in areas that are associated with us. So while objecting
to efforts directed at eliminating Communism in areas under the Communist
system, Mr. Khrushchev appears to believe that it is appropriate to exert
efforts to eliminate free systems. This is a matter of very serious concern
Mr. Khrushchev said that this was an incorrect interpretation of Soviet
policy. The Soviet Union is against implanting its policy in other states.
As a matter of fact, this would be an impossible task. What the Soviet Union
says is that Communism will triumph. This is a different proposition because
it represents a teaching, a scientific analysis of social development. The
United States may not accept this teaching, but the Soviet Union proceeds
from one assumption alone, namely, that any change in the social system should
depend on the will of the peoples themselves. The Soviet Union is for change.
It believes that it is now in the political arena and it is challenging the
capitalist system just as that system had challenged feudalism in the past.
The French Revolution was the first instance where such challenge was made.
The response to the French Revolution was the creation of the Holy Alliance,
which failed, primarily because Russia was its leader. In those days Russia
was a feudalist state, but now it is a Communist country. The Soviet Union
has proposed general and complete disarmament. This is a manifestation of
its intention not to use arms. The Soviet Union believes that human minds
will develop and it believes in its system, just as the President believes
in its own system. In any event this is not a matter for argument, much less
The President said that he believed that the most important problem for the
two sides was to have some understanding of their respective views on the
differences that exist. Such understanding would explain the actions of the
two sides as distinct from what their interpretation might be otherwise. Our
position is that people should have free choice. In some cases minorities
seize control in areas associated with us, minorities which do not express
the will of the people. Such groups associate themselves with the USSR and
act against the interests of the United States. The USSR believes that this
is a historical inevitability. This is a matter of concern to us because we
do not believe that this is a historical inevitability. This brings in conflict
the USSR as center of Communist power and the US as center of our power.
Thus the problem is how to conduct this disagreement in areas where we have
interests without direct confrontation of the two countries and thus to serve
the interests of our people. The President said that his interest here was
to explain our concern about what Mr. Khrushchev says is an inevitability.
We cannot regard this to be an inevitability. We believe in our system just
as Mr. Khrushchev believes in his.
Mr. Khrushchev replied that this was correct but wondered whether the United
States wanted to build a dam preventing the development of human mind and
conscience. To do such a thing is not in man's power. The Spanish Inquisition
burned people who disagreed with it but ideas did not burn and eventually
came out as victors. Thus if we start struggling against ideas, conflicts
and clashes between the two countries will be inevitable. Once an idea is
born it cannot be chained or burned. History should be the judge in the argument
between ideas. People will judge capitalism and Communism by the results of
their respective efforts. If capitalism insures better living for people it
will win. Conversely, if Communism achieves this goal, it will be the winner.
Mr. Khrushchev said that he wanted to emphasize that what he had in mind was
victory of ideas, not a military victory. In any event, the military aspect
has become unimportant today.
The President expressed his belief that his and Mr. Khrushchev's obligation
to the peoples of the US and the USSR respectively was to have this struggle
for ideas, which is part of our times, conducted without affecting the vital
security interests of the two countries. The Soviet Union as a national entity
has certain essential interests. The same is true of the United States. The
struggle in other areas should be conducted in a way which would not involve
the two countries directly and would not affect their national interest or
prestige. As Mr. Khrushchev knows from history--and this, the President said,
he had discussed with Gromyko--it is very easy to involve countries in certain
actions. We might get involved in a struggle which would affect the peace
of the world and the interests of our peoples.
Mr. Khrushchev said that he hoped that he had misunderstood the President's
remarks. He wanted to seek clarification of whether the President wanted to
place the responsibility for the development of Communist ideas on the Soviet
Union. Did the President want to say that Communism should exist only in
those countries that are already Communist and that if Communist ideas should
develop the U.S. would be in conflict with the USSR? Such an understanding
of the situation is incorrect, and if there really is such an understanding,
conflicts will be inevitable. Ideas do not belong to any one nation and they
cannot be retracted. Marx and Engels were the originators of Communist
ideas; even if the originators of ideas were to reject their own ideas, the
ideas once born would continue to develop. There is no immunization against
ideas. Mr. Khrushchev continued by saying that if he should renounce Communism--something
he has no intention of doing--his friends would exclude him from their group
but the idea would continue developing. De facto recognition of the two main
ideas--although some other ideas may develop--is essential for the peaceful
development of the world. Ideas should be propagated without the use of arms
or interference in the internal affairs of other states. If Communist ideas
should spread in other countries, the USSR would be happy, just as the US
would be glad if capitalist ideas were to spread. In any event, the spread
of ideas should depend on peoples alone. Ideas should not be borne on bayonets
or on missile warheads, bayonets now being obsolete. This would mean war and
the USSR does not accept such a situation. Mr. Khrushchev said that he would
guarantee that the USSR would not exceed the bounds of this professed policy,
namely, that ideas would not be imposed by war.
The President interjected that Mao Tse-tung had said that power was at
the end of the rifle.
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P39