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116. Memorandum of Conversation/1/
Washington, September 9, 1961, 7:15 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Secretary's Memoranda of Conversation:
Lot 65 D 330. Confidential. Drafted by Davis and approved in S on September
Soviet Protest Against "Bandit Raid" on Soviet Embassy, Resulting in Setting Fire in Ambassador's Quarters
Mr. M.N. Smirnovsky, Charge d'Affaires, Soviet Embassy
Mr. Igor D. Bubnov, Third Secretary, Soviet Embassy
Mr. Foy Kohler, EUR
R.H. Davis, EUR
At 7:15 p.m., the Secretary received the Soviet Charge, who had demanded
to see the Secretary personally on "urgent business" late this afternoon.
Mr. Smirnovsky, reading from pencilled notes, said he had come to protest
the "bandit raid" this afternoon on the Soviet Embassy and an attempt
to set fire to the Embassy. He called this criminal persecution which could
have the gravest consequences. He demanded that the criminals be apprehended
and punished severely. He also demanded that all necessary security measures
be taken to protect the Embassy. He concluded that he was reporting this affair
The Secretary questioned Mr. Smirnovsky at some length and learned the following
rather confusing details. According to Mr. Smirnovsky, they had discovered
the fire in the Ambassador's quarters on the third floor of the Embassy
at 4:45 p.m. No one had been seen to enter the Ambassador's quarters, but
entry had been made through a window which was broken and he thought that
those responsible might have come over the roof from the adjoining Washington
Post building. He remarked he had been told some correspondents were taking
pictures. The fire had been set in many places, including against the curtains
and the Ambassador's bed. It was not a big fire and they had not informed
the police or the fire department, but had extinguished the fire through
their own means. He did not know if there had been any attempt to steal anything.
At one point, he made reference to finding apples half eaten in the Ambassador's
In response to the Secretary's question about when Soviet Embassy personnel had last been in the Ambassador's quarters before the fire was discovered, Mr. Smirnovsky merely replied he was not sure, but it could not have been a long time. No one had been seen to enter, but when they found the fire, the room was ablaze.
The Secretary expressed regret that this incident had happened and assured
Mr. Smirnovsky that our authorities would do everything to apprehend the criminals
and to bring them to justice. He asked if our investigative authorities could
inspect the scene of the fire in order to try, through fingerprints, etc.,
to discover those responsible. Mr. Smirnovsky agreed that the authorities
could investigate at the Embassy provided there was someone present from the
/2/On September 13 Tyler sent Rusk a memorandum on the subject of "The Case
of the Blazing Bedroom or Arson at the Soviet Embassy" in which he stated
that investigation of the fire made clear that it was an inside job for
which there was no clear probable motive. (Ibid., 601.6111/9-1361) Two days
later Davis informed Smirnovsky of these findings, but he rejected them. (Telegram
788 to Moscow, September 15; ibid., 601.6111/9-1561)
117. Memorandum of Conversation/1/
Washington, September 12, 1961.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/9-1261. Confidential.
Drafted by Talbot and approved by the White House on September 26 and by S
on September 27.
Presidential Talks between President Kennedy and Presidents Sukarno and
President Sukarno of Indonesia
President Keita of MaliVarious members of their entourages
The Secretary of State
The Under Secretary of State
Asst. Sec Phillips Talbot
White House Special Assistant Walt W. Rostow
Mr. Arva Floyd, Desk Officer for Mali (Interpreter)
After an exchange of amenities President Sukarno explained that the mission
on which he and President Keita had come to the United States and on which
others had gone to Moscow was to persuade President Kennedy and Premier
Khrushchev as soon as possible to meet together. He hoped that President Kennedy's
reply would be "OK". He believed that Premier Khrushchev himself was ready
for a meeting with President Kennedy. He had learned this from Mr. Sulzburger's
interview with Premier Khrushchev and also from a message he had received
from Prime Minister Fanfani of Italy. If asked, the nations which had participated
at the Belgrade Conference were also quite willing to give their assistance
to bring the two leaders together.
President Keita told President Kennedy that their mission was extremely important given the tension in the world today. The key to peace lay in the hands of the big powers. Hoping that they would use it, the nations represented at Belgrade had asked President Sukarno and him to present this appeal.
President Sukarno then presented the appeal addressed to President Kennedy and signed by the representatives of the states participating at the Belgrade Conference./2/
/2/For text of this appeal, which was also presented to Khrushchev by Nehru
and Nkrumah, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961,
President Kennedy referred to comments that this is a time of transition.
That is correct. Societies are changing and this introduces tensions. We in
the United States desire change--in a peaceful way. We know quite well that
nuclear war would mean widespread destruction at the cost of the lives of
a great many people. We are a rich country, as is the USSR. Naturally, therefore,
we want to solve issues peacefully. The problem is how to do this.
Describing his talks with Khrushchev in Vienna, when Khrushchev had advanced
views which to the best of the President's knowledge he had not yet changed,
and recent speeches of Ulbricht, President Kennedy explained the United
States' view of the problems of Germany and Berlin. Our real interest
is that the German people should be free to decide what kind of government
they want. We do not believe Ulbricht represents the German people, but to
ascertain what the people of East and West Germany and East and West Berlin
really want, we are willing to have a plebiscite under any impartial international
group--the UN or any other--and would be glad to accept the verdict so obtained.
In other words, we favor self-determination in Germany and in Berlin just
as we do in Indonesia, in Africa or anywhere else. We do not want a settlement
imposed upon the Germans by us, by Khrushchev or by any one.
If a plebiscite is not an acceptable proposal then the question is what solution
can be reached to permit the people of Berlin to live out their lives peacefully.
We are not insisting on rights that happen to have been derived from our participation
in the war, but on the rights of the people to live as they wish. We know
that Khrushchev has the power to sign a "peace treaty" with East Germany.
What concerns us is that Khrushchev has held that when the "peace treaty"
comes into force our rights in West Berlin would be extinguished and all of
West Berlin's external communications would be subject to the control of
President Kennedy told the emissaries of the Belgrade Conference nations
that he would be glad to talk with Khrushchev at any time. There would be
no use in doing so, however, until we could understand in what direction some
agreement could be found. If Khrushchev and he were to meet today without
this understanding, the results would be disastrous. Therefore it would be
best for the Foreign Ministers of the two countries to discuss the various
President Sukarno responded that he understood President Kennedy was of
the opinion that before meeting Khrushchev he would prefer a meeting of the
Foreign Ministers first. If they could discover possibilities of common ground
then President Kennedy would be quite willing to see Khrushchev. He said he
understood further that President Kennedy's main objection to a meeting now
was Khrushchev's standpoint on Berlin.
President Kennedy reiterated that his main objection was not that Khrushchev
had threatened to sign a peace treaty but that in the peace treaty Khrushchev
would hold that our rights in Berlin had come to an end. Access would be controlled
by the East German Government. But we do not believe that the German Democratic
Republic represents the people. Therefore, how could we agree to that? Further,
we feel--and believe that the Soviets would agree--that West Berlin wishes
to be associated with the West. This means that West Germany must have freedom
and you cannot have freedom without communications. We cannot accept any action
by Khrushchev that would strangle Berlin. If we were to agree that we and
the Atlantic Community would be finished. We would be pushed out of Europe.
President Sukarno recalled his own meeting with Khrushchev/3/
and said that the latter had told him he was going to sign a peace treaty
with East Germany. President Sukarno had understood him to say, however, that
access to Berlin would be kept free, but that Berlin would obviously be an
enclave in East Germany and communications should therefore be controlled
by East Germany.
/3/Khrushchev visited Indonesia for 12 days in February 1960.
President Kennedy described this point in effect as the key. If a regime
can control food and supplies and transit, then the people of the city are
At the end of World War II we gave up about one third of Eastern Germany
that our troops had occupied, but on the basis of the Four Power Agreement
that Berlin would be separate until Germany was reunified. If it looks as
if reunification won't happen for a while that does not mean that the USSR
can therefore give away our rights in Berlin. The rights are not theirs to
President Keita observed that their mission to President Kennedy was to
point out the necessity of some kind of talks to reduce tension. Whether President
Kennedy and Khrushchev would talk personally or have their Foreign Ministers
search out the ground was not for the nations represented at Belgrade to say
but it would be difficult for the world if there were no talks at all. The
non-aligned nations were not trying to say what the nature of the agreement
should be. That would depend of course on the discussions.
President Kennedy informed the two Presidents that the Foreign Ministers
of Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States are meeting
this week to discuss the problem of Germany and that Gromyko is expected to
come next week at which time we hope to see what basis may exist for a peaceful
solution. Khrushchev had told Mr. Sulzburger that he himself did not think
a meeting would be useful at present. After talking with Nehru, however, he
said he thought a meeting might help./4/ President
Kennedy believed that Khrushchev would still agree with him that they should
first see what are the real possibilities. Then the two leaders could meet
and examine what such terms as guaranteed access really mean.
/4/In telegram 807 from Moscow, September 7, Thompson reported that in
his interview with Cyrus Sulzberger Khrushchev had initially said the time
was not right for a summit meeting. (Department of State, Central Files,
611.61/9-761) Later the same day Thompson sent another telegram saying that
Khrushchev wanted the record of the interview to show that he desired a meeting
with the President. Thompson assumed that the change in position had been
due to Nehru's intervention. (Telegram 811 from Moscow; ibid.)
President Sukarno said that as far as he knew, Khrushchev had told Sulzburger
that he would be willing to have a "businesslike meeting" with President Kennedy.
Besides, the Italian Ambassador had contacted President Sukarno with a message
from Prime Minister Fanfani who had reported that he had contacted Khrushchev
on the question of a meeting and that Khrushchev had said yes he would be
quite willing to meet President Kennedy.
President Kennedy asked the Presidents whether they thought it would be more
useful for him and Khrushchev to meet now or to examine the outstanding questions
in close detail first. President Sukarno responded that it is the view of
the nations represented at Belgrade that President Kennedy and Khrushchev
should meet. As a preliminary move it would no doubt be fruitful to have contacts
between the Foreign Ministers. But those should be followed as soon as possible
by a meeting of the President and Khrushchev.
President Kennedy said he agreed that this is a very dangerous situation.
If Khrushchev should go ahead and sign a peace treaty and then if there
should be interference with access to Germany then we could have a war before
Christmas. President Kennedy was troubled by the actions of the Soviet Union
in this connection. Why for example had the Soviets fired off another hydrogen
President Sukarno acknowledged that he too was anxious about that. He had understood the President to say however that he was not opposed in principle to meeting Khrushchev.
President Kennedy said he was not opposed in principle: he just did not want
a meeting to occur and to fail. If Ulbricht and Khrushchev could get an understanding
of the real meaning of the promise of access, then we could talk freely. He
emphasized that we want peace. At the same time we want it understood that
if the Soviet Union should sign a peace treaty with East Germany a full
guarantee of the right of free access and communications for the people of
Berlin must be included. That is what we ask.
As the meeting adjourned President Kennedy explained that he planned to give the Presidents a written reply to their message before their departure from Washington./5/
/5/For text of the President's reply, September 14, see Public Papers
of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 602-604;
for text of Khrushchev's reply, September 16, see American Foreign Policy:
Current Documents, 1961, pp. 656-658.
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P64