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The President rejoined by saying that he wished to explain the logic of what
Mr. Khrushchev considered to be the illogical point in US position. He said
that he wanted to do this not in order to defend any of our actions, but simply
to explain things as we saw them. The President stated that we regard the
present balance of power between Sino-Soviet forces and the forces of the
United States and Western Europe as being more or less in balance. The
President said that he did not wish to discuss the details of the respective
military postures, but that generally this was how we saw the situation.
Mr. Khrushchev interjected that he agreed with this.
The President then said that the United States has three interests. The first
interest is that the right of free choice be ensured to all peoples and that
such right be executed through elections as we understand them. He said that
Mr. Khrushchev may not agree with this but this is what we desire. Such free
choice is not possible today in many areas of the world. It is not possible
in Cuba, it is not possible in Spain. Mr. Khrushchev had said that he could
not understand how the US could object to Cuba while it was supporting Spain.
The reason is that our second interest is of a strategic nature. Spain has
no allies. It is a power standing alone. It is a dictatorship, but it makes
no contribution to our strength.
Mr. Khrushchev interjected that the US had bases in Spain. The President
replied that those bases were moving into history. Mr. Khrushchev observed
that they were still there.
The President continued by saying that we also support Yugoslavia, which
is not a capitalist country. Thus, the question might arise how the logic
of our policy could be justified. The reason for this policy is that if Franco
should be replaced and if the new regime were to associate itself with the
Soviet Union, the balance of power in Western Europe would radically change
and this is, of course, a matter of great concern to us. The third interest
of the United States is to see that the next decade--and we cannot predict
which way the developments during that time will go--should proceed in a way
that would not greatly disturb the balance of power. The President said that
he was concerned how this balance of power might be affected as China developed
its military potential. This is our general view with which Mr. Khrushchev
will not agree, but this is the logic of our position. Referring to the Laotian
question, the President said that this was of particular concern to us. While
relatively unimportant from the strategic standpoint, this country was included
under the protocol to the SEATO agreement in the Treaty Area, and thus we
have treaty commitments in that area. The President then said that speaking
frankly, US policy in that region had not always been wise. He stated that
he had not been able to make a final judgment as to what the people's desires
in that area are. According to our information, there are about nine or ten
thousand Pathet Lao but they have two distinct advantages in our view. One
is that they are for change. The President remarked that he himself is for
change and that he had been elected on the basis of his advocacy of change.
He then said that was not to say that if a change were to occur in Laos it
would be the one the people wanted. The second advantage Pathet Lao has is
the fact that they received support not only in the form of supplies, but
also in the form of Viet Minh manpower, which has made them a stronger force.
The problem now from a historical standpoint is to find a solution not involving
the prestige or the interests of our two countries. The President recalled
that last March/7/ he had said that the United
States wanted a neutral and independent Laos. The USSR had said it wanted
the same. The question now is of definition of these two terms, "neutral"
and "independent". The President said that he believed that Cambodia and
Burma were neutral and independent countries and inquired what Mr. Khrushchev's
view on this was.
/7/Reference is to the meeting between the President and Gromyko, March 27; see Document 50.
Mr. Khrushchev said that he held the same view.
The President continued by saying that the problem in Geneva was how to
secure a cease-fire in Laos and to establish a mechanism for its verification.
The point is that the Soviet side had stated that forces associated with us
had taken action against Pathet Lao. For our part, we have information that
forces supported by the Soviet Union have violated the cease-fire, particularly
in the Padong area. Therefore, the ICC should undertake to determine the
exact situation and if it were to find that the forces supported by the US
are at fault, the US would take the responsibility. If we support the ICC
in making such a determination, then the next step would be to create a neutral
and independent Laos.
Mr. Khrushchev said that he wished to revert to the question of regimes
which the USSR calls rotten and anti-popular. He said that he could cite
a number of countries where power had been seized by military means. Ayub
Khan, an ally of the United States, seized power by force in Pakistan by
displacing the then Prime Minister of that country, and the United States
immediately recognized him. A similar situation exists in other countries,
particularly in Latin America. Such regimes are anti-popular and yet the
United States supports them. However, if there is popular upheaval, the US
regards this as Communist seizure of power and does not support it. This
is dangerous for the future and leads to a deterioration of the situation.
There should be no interference and people should decide for themselves. Tolerance
and patience are absolutely required. Mr. Khrushchev then said that he wanted
to say a few words about the so-called guerilla warfare against regimes that
are not to US liking. There has been a lot of talk about this kind of warfare
in the United States and this is a dangerous policy. Mr. Khrushchev asked
the President to believe him that if guerilla units were to be sent from the
outside and were not supported by the people, that would be a hopeless undertaking.
He said that the USSR had had great experience in this kind of warfare throughout
its own history. The war against Napoleon in 1812, the Civil War, including
the struggle against the US in Siberia, and World War II, had been fought
with guerilla units. If guerilla troops are local troops, belonging to the
country, then every bush is their ally. If they are not, then only bloodshed
will occur and such an undertaking will pay no dividends. Mr. Khrushchev then
recalled his service in the Red Army and said that the Red Army had British
clothing seized from the White Army under Denikin, which was supported by
the British and whose units were destroyed by the Reds. In spite of its being
very poor, the Red Army won because the people were on its side. Mr. Khrushchev
then observed that our two sides differed as to their understanding of what
popular or anti-popular movements were. However, both sides should agree not
to interfere and let the peoples decide for themselves. This is the only wise
course to take. Modern times are not like the past; modern weapons are terrible.
He said that he did not know whether the balance of power was exact, but that
did not matter anyway. Both sides know very well that they have enough power
to destroy each other. This is why there should be no interference. Mr. Khrushchev
then referred to Angola and said that the United States supported Portugal
in this matter because it was its ally. The USSR regards this situation as
a popular war against colonialists. The US has no colonies but it supports
colonial countries, and this is why the people are against it. There was a
time when the United States was a leader in the fight for freedom. As a matter
of fact, the Russian Czar refused to recognize the United States for twenty-six
years because he regarded the United States as an illegitimate creature. Now
the United States refuses to recognize New China--things have changed, haven't
The President said that he wanted first to refer to Angola and said that
he agreed with what Mr. Khrushchev had said. In fact, the US and USSR
had voted alike in the U.N. General Assembly and Portugal was bitter because
of this. We have supported the liberation movement in Africa, and if one should
take a look at the map of Africa today, he would see a great number of new
countries. We hope that in the next two or three years the number will increase
Mr. Khrushchev inquired with regard to Algeria and the Congo.
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P43