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/8/For text of this proposal, July 21, 1955, see Foreign Relations,
1955-1957, vol. V, pp. 450-453.
The President said that it was obvious that if controls should turn out
to be prejudicial to the national interest of any of the parties to an unreasonable
degree, the treaty could be abrogated. The President reiterated that we would
begin our discussions on disarmament on June 19, which will be in effect a
continuation of the discussion Mr. Gromyko and Mr. Stevenson had had in New
Mr. Khrushchev inquired whether the President would agree to tie together
the question of the test ban and disarmament.
The President replied that he would not unless there was assurance that agreement
on disarmament could be reached speedily. He referred to the fact that negotiations
on a nuclear test ban had been in process for three years. The President emphasized
that the problem of espionage mentioned by Mr. Khrushchev paled if compared
with the problems which would result from the development of nuclear capabilities
by other countries. This is bound to affect the national security of our
two countries, and increase the danger of major conflicts.
Mr. Khrushchev said that if we agreed on general and complete disarmament
that problem would not only pale but would completely disappear.
Turning to the question of Germany, Mr. Khrushchev said that he wanted
to set forth his position. He said that he understands that this will affect
the relations between our two countries to a great extent and even more so
if the US were to misunderstand the Soviet position. Conversely, if the
US understood the Soviet position correctly our two countries would be brought
closer together rather than be divided. Sixteen years have passed since World
War II. The USSR lost 20 million people in that War and many of its areas
were devastated. Now Germany, the country which unleased World War II, has
again acquired military power and has assumed a predominant position in NATO.
Its generals hold high offices in that organization. This constitutes a
threat of World War III which would be even more devastating than World
War II. The USSR believes that a line should be drawn under World War II.
There is no explanation why there is no peace treaty 16 years after the war.
This is why the USSR has suggested that a peace conference be convened. In
this connection, the USSR proceeds from the actual state of affairs, namely,
that two German States exist. Our own wishes or efforts notwithstanding,
a united Germany is not practical because the Germans themselves do not
want it. No delay in the matter of signing a peace treaty is justifiable and
only West German militarists gain from such a delay. A peace treaty would
not prejudice the interests of the US, the UK, or France; on the contrary,
these interests would be best served by a peace treaty. The present situation
looks as if the US opposes a peace treaty while the USSR wants it. Mr. Khrushchev
said that he wanted the President to understand him correctly. He would like
to reach agreement with the President--and he said he wanted to emphasize
the words "with you"--on this question. If the US should fail to understand
this desire the USSR will sign a peace treaty alone. The USSR will sign
a peace treaty with the GDR and with the FRG if the latter so desires.
If not, a peace treaty will be signed with the GDR alone. Then the state of
war will cease and all commitments stemming from Germany's surrender will
become invalid. This would include all institutions, occupation rights, and
access to Berlin, including the corridors. A free city of West Berlin
will be established and there will be no blockade or interference in the internal
affairs of the city. West Berlin should have a clearly defined status. If
the US desires, guarantees could be given to ensure non-interference and the
city's ties with the outside world. If the US wants to leave its troops in
West Berlin, that would be acceptable under certain conditions; however, the
Soviet Union believes that in that case Soviet troops should be there too.
Likewise, the USSR would be agreeable to having neutral troops stationed in
Berlin. UN guarantees would be acceptable as well. The USSR would be prepared
to join the US in ensuring all the conditions necessary for preserving what
the West calls West Berlin's freedom. However, if the US rejects this proposal--and
the USSR will regard such an action as having been made under the pressure
of Adenauer--the USSR will sign a peace treaty unilaterally and all rights
of access to Berlin will expire because the state of war will cease to exist.
The President said that first of all he wanted to express his appreciation
of the fact that Mr. Khrushchev had set forth his views in such a frank manner.
At the same time the discussion here is not only about the legal situation
but also about the practical facts which affect very much our national security.
Here, we are not talking about Laos. This matter is of greatest concern
to the US. We are in Berlin not because of someone's sufferance. We fought
our way there, although our casualties may have been not as high as the USSR's.
We are in Berlin not by agreement of East Germans but by contractual rights.
This is an area where every President of the US since World War II had been
committed by treaty and other contractual rights and where every President
has reaffirmed his faithfulness to his obligations. If we were expelled from
that area and if we accepted the loss of our rights no one would have any
confidence in US commitments and pledges. US national security is involved
in this matter because if we were to accept the Soviet proposal US commitments
would be regarded as a mere scrap of paper. West Europe is vital to our national
security and we have supported it in two wars. If we were to leave West Berlin
Europe would be abandoned as well. So when we are talking about West Berlin
we are also talking about West Europe. The President said he would like to
see the relations between our two countries develop in a favorable direction
so that some arrangement could be found. Mr. Khrushchev seems to agree that
the ratios of power today are equal. Therefore, it is difficult to understand
why a country with high achievements in such areas as outer space and economic
progress should now suggest that we leave an area where we have vital interests.
How can the US agree to East Germany's preventing it from exercising our
rights we had won by war? The United States cannot accept an ultimatum.
Our leaving West Berlin would result in the US becoming isolated. The President
emphasized that he is not President of the US to preside over isolation of
his country just as Mr. Khrushchev, as leader of the USSR, would not want
to see his own country isolated.
Mr. Khrushchev interjected that he understood this to mean that the President
did not want a peace treaty. He said that the President's statement about
US national security could mean that the US might wish to go to Moscow because
that too would, of course, improve its position.
The President replied that the US was not asking to go anywhere; we were
not talking about the US going to Moscow or of the USSR going to New York.
What we are talking about is that we are in Berlin and have been there for
15 years. We suggest that we stay there.
The President continued by saying that the US was interested in maintaining
its position in Berlin and its rights of access to that city. He said he
recognized that the situation there is not a satisfactory one; he also recognized
that in the conversations Mr. Khrushchev had had with former President Eisenhower
the term "abnormal" had been used to describe that situation. However, because
conditions in many areas of the world are not satisfactory today it is not
the right time now to change the situation in Berlin and the balance in general.
The United States does not wish to effect such a change. The US is not asking
the USSR to change its position but it is simply saying that it should not
seek to change our position and thus disturb the balance of power. If this
balance should change the situation in West Europe as a whole would change
and this would be a most serious blow to the US. Mr. Khrushchev would not
accept similar loss and we cannot accept it either. The question is not that
of a peace treaty with East Germany but rather of other aspects of this
proposal which would affect our access to Berlin and our rights there.
Mr. Khrushchev said that he was sorry that he had met with no understanding
of the Soviet position. The US is unwilling to normalize the situation in
the most dangerous spot in the world. The USSR wants to perform an operation
on this sore spot--to eliminate this thorn, this ulcer--without prejudicing
the interests of any side, but rather to the satisfaction of all peoples of
the world. It wants to do that not by intrigue or threat but by solemnly signing
a peace treaty. Now the President says that this action is directed against
the interests of the US. Such statement is difficult to understand indeed.
No change in existing boundaries is proposed; a peace treaty would only formalize
them. The USSR wants a peace treaty because such a treaty would impede those
people who want a new war. Revanchists in West Germany will find in a peace
treaty a barrier impeding their activities. Today they say that boundaries
should be changed. But if a peace treaty is signed there will be no ground
for revision of the boundaries. Hitler spoke of Germany's need for Lebensraum
to the Urals. Now Hitler's generals, who had helped him in his designs to
execute his plans, are high commanders in NATO. This logic cannot be understood
and the USSR cannot accept it. Mr. Khrushchev said he was very sorry but
he had to assure the President that no force in the world would prevent the
USSR from signing a peace treaty. 16 years have passed since World War II
and how long should the signing of a peace treaty be delayed? Another 16 years,
another 30 years? No further delay is possible or necessary. As far as US
losses in the last war are concerned, losses are difficult to measure. Loss
of a drop of blood equals the loss of a pint of blood in the minds of those
who shed that blood. The US lost thousands and the USSR lost millions, but
American mothers mourn their sons just as deeply as Soviet mothers shed
tears over the loss of their beloved ones. Mr. Khrushchev said that he himself
had lost a son in the last war; Mr. Gromyko lost two brothers, and Mikoyan
a son. There is not a single family in the USSR or the leadership of the USSR
that did not lose at least one of its members in the war. Mr. Khrushchev continued
by saying that he wanted the US to understand correctly the Soviet position.
This position is advanced not for the purpose of kindling passions or increasing
tensions. The objective is just the opposite--to remove the obstacles that
stand in the way of development of our relations and to normalize relations
throughout the world. The USSR will sign a peace treaty and the sovereignty
of the GDR will be observed. Any violation of that sovereignty will be regarded
by the USSR as an act of open aggression against a peace-loving country, with
all the consequences ensuing therefrom.
The President inquired whether such a peace treaty would block access to
Berlin. Mr. Khrushchev said that it would.
The President then said that the US is opposed to a buildup in West Germany
that would constitute a threat to the Soviet Union. The decision to sign a
peace treaty is a serious one and the USSR should consider it in the light
of its national interests. Referring to the question of boundaries, the President
said that General de Gaulle had made a statement on this question./9/
This problem has been discussed in the Western world and there is some division
of opinion on this matter. However, the US is committed to the defense of
Western Europe and has assisted Western Europe in the past. The President
said that one of his brothers had been killed in the last war, when the US
came to Western Europe's assistance. If the US were driven out of West Berlin
by unilateral action, and if we were deprived of our contractual rights by
East Germany, then no one would believe the US now or in the future. US commitments
would be regarded as a mere scrap of paper. The world situation today is that
of change and no one can predict what the evolution will be in such areas
as Asia or Africa. Yet what Mr. Khrushchev suggests is to bring about
a basic change in the situation overnight and deny us our rights which we
share with the other two Western countries. This presents us with a most serious
challenge and no one can foresee how serious the consequences might be. The
President said it had not been his wish to come here to Vienna to find out
not only that a peace treaty would be signed but also that we would be denied
our position in West Berlin and our access to that city. In fact, the President
said, he had come here in the hope that relations between our two countries
could be improved. The President stressed he hoped that Mr. Khrushchev would
consider his responsibility toward his country and also consider the responsibility
the President of the United States has toward his people. What is discussed
here is not only West Berlin; we are talking here about Western Europe
and the United States as well.
/9/For a transcript of de Gaulle's press conference on March 25, 1959,
when he discussed German boundaries, and his reiteration of the French
view on November 10, 1959, see Major Addresses, Statements and Press Conferences
of General Charles de Gaulle, May 19, 1958-January 31, 1964, pp. 41-51 and
Mr. Khrushchev replied that he could not understand the President's reference
to Western Europe. The USSR does not wish any change; it merely wants
to formalize the situation which has resulted from World War II. The fact
is that West Germany is in the Western group of nations and the USSR
recognizes this. East Germany is an ally of the socialist countries and
this should be recognized as a fait accompli. East Germany has now demarcation
lines and these lines should become borders. The Polish and Czech borders
should be formalized. The position of the GDR should be normalized and her
sovereignty ensured. To do all this it is necessary to eliminate the occupation
rights in West Berlin. No such rights should exist there. It would be impossible
to imagine a situation where the USSR would have signed a peace treaty with
the US retaining occupation rights, which are based on the state of war. The
US may say that its blood was shed, but the USSR shed blood too and not
The President interjected that our rights were based on a four-power agreement.
Mr. Khrushchev replied that this was so in the absence of a peace treaty,
but said that a peace treaty would end the state of war and those rights would
The President said this meant unilateral abrogation of the four-power agreement
by the USSR and emphasized that the US could not accept such an act. Mr.
Khrushchev replied that this was not so because the USSR would invite the
US to sign a peace treaty and would sign it alone only if the US should refuse
to do so. In that event the US could not maintain its rights on the territory
of the GDR. The President again referred to the four-power agreement, but
Mr. Khrushchev replied that the USSR considered all of Berlin to be GDR
territory. The President stated this may be Soviet view but not ours. If the
USSR transfers its rights, that is a matter for its own decision; however,
it is an altogether different matter for the USSR to give our rights which
we have on contractual basis. He said that the USSR could not break the agreement
and give US rights to the GDR. Mr. Khrushchev rejoined by saying that this
was a familiar point of view but had no juridical foundation, since the war
had ended 17 years ago. In fact, President Roosevelt indicated that troops
could be withdrawn after two or two and a half years.
Mr. Khrushchev continued by saying that all the USSR wants is a peace treaty.
He could not understand why the US wants Berlin. Does the US want to unleash
a war from there? The President as a naval officer and he himself, a civilian
although he participated in two wars, know very well that Berlin has no military
significance. The President speaks of rights, but what are those rights? They
stem from war. If the state of war ends, the rights end too. If a peace treaty
is signed US prestige will not be involved, and everybody will understand
this. But if the US should maintain its rights after the signing of a peace
treaty, that would be a violation of East Germany's sovereignty and of the
sovereignty of the socialist camp as a whole. Mr. Khrushchev recalled that
President Eisenhower had agreed that the situation in Germany was abnormal.
Eisenhower had said that US prestige was involved. Then the possibility
of an interim agreement was discussed, an arrangement that would not involve
the prestige of our two countries. Perhaps this could serve as a basis for
agreement. The USSR is prepared to accept such an arrangement even now. Adenauer
says that he wants unification but this is not so. As far as unification is
concerned, we should say that the two German governments should meet and
decide the question of reunification. A time limit of say 6 months should
be set and if there is no agreement we can disavow our responsibilities and
then anyone would be free to conclude a peace treaty. This would be a way
out and it would resolve this question of prestige, which, Mr. Khrushchev
said, he did not really understand. Mr. Khrushchev said that he had hoped
that Eisenhower would agree subsequently at the Summit, but the forces which
are against improvement of relations between the US and USSR sent the U-2
plane and the USSR decided that in view of the tensions prevailing as a result
of that flight this question should not be raised. However, the USSR believes
that time for such action is ripe now. Mr. Khrushchev expressed regret on
his own behalf and on behalf of his colleagues and allies at not having found
understanding on the President's part of the Soviet Union's good intentions
and motivations. If only the German question were resolved the road would
be clear for the development of our mutual relations. The USSR does not want
to infringe upon anybody's interests, but neither would it concede its own
interests. Mr. Khrushchev said he believed that the US does not want territorial
gains although there is ideological disagreement between the US and the USSR.
However, ideological disagreements should not be transferred onto the plane
of a devastating war. He said that he was confident that people would be reasonable
enough not to act like crusaders in the Middle Ages and would not start
cutting each other's throats for ideological reasons. If the United States
disagreed with the Soviet proposal it should at least understand the Soviet
position. The USSR can no longer delay. It will probably sign a peace treaty
at the end of the year, with all the ensuing consequences, i.e., all obligations
will come to an end. The status of West Berlin as a free city will be guaranteed
and complete non-interference will be ensured. West Berlin will be accessible
to all countries with which it will want to maintain ties. However, access
will be subject to GDR's control, since communication lines go through its
territory. If the US is concerned about what it calls freedom of West Berlin,
let us develop guarantees jointly or invite the UN. No nation will understand
the US position of perpetuating the state of war with Germany. The USSR will
explain its position to the world. It wants to prevent the possibility of
war. If the US refuses to sign a peace treaty, the USSR will have no way out
other than to sign such a treaty alone. The USSR lost 20 million people in
the last war while the US lost 350 thousand.
The President interjected that this was why the US wanted to prevent another
Mr. Khrushchev continued by saying that if the US should start a war over
Berlin there was nothing the USSR could do about it. However, it would
have to be the US to start the war, while the USSR will be defending peace.
History will be the judge of our actions. The West has been saying that
Khrushchev might miscalculate. But ours is a joint account and each of us
must see that there is no miscalculation. If the US wants to start a war over
Germany let it be so; perhaps the USSR should sign a peace treaty right away
and get over with it. This is what the Pentagon has been wanting. However,
Adenauer and Macmillan know very well what war means. If there is any madman
who wants war, he should be put in a straight jacket. Nations close to USSR
territory know what war will mean for them. The USSR thinks of peace, of friendship,
and it is happy with its trade relations with West Germany, France, Great
Britain and Italy. It is not by accident that trade between the US and
the USSR is still frozen but that is a problem for the US. So this is the
Soviet position. The USSR will sign a peace treaty at the end of this year.
Mr. Khrushchev concluded by saying that he was confident that common sense
would win and peace will prevail.
The President said he recognized that the situation in Germany was abnormal. Germany is divided today. When President Roosevelt talked about the withdrawal of troops he was not able to foresee this situation or the fact that our two countries would be on different sides. The US does not want to precipitate a crisis; it is Mr. Khrushchev who wants to do so by seeking a change in the existing situation. The President then said the US was committed to this area long before he had assumed a position of high government responsibility. Now Mr. Khrushchev suggests a peace treaty at the end of the year, which would deny our rights in that city and our rights of access. Mr. Khrushchev knows very well that Berlin is much more than a city and yet he makes such a suggestion. Is that a way to secure peace?
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P49