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The President. I think we should have not only an agreement between our countries, but take those steps which make peace possible. I don't think that paper, and words on paper, are as significant as looking at those areas which provide tension between our two systems and seeing if we can dispel that tension.
One of those areas now is the problem of Germany and Berlin. If we could
make progress there, then in my opinion it would provide a most important
step in improving our relations in other areas.
I stated that if we had been able to get an agreement on the nuclear tests
cession, that would lead to other agreements on disarmament. If we can make
an agreement successfully which provides peace in Central Europe, if we
can conclude our efforts in Laos and insure a government and a country which
are neutral and independent, as Chairman Khrushchev and I agreed at Vienna,
then we would be able to move into other areas of tension. I believe, as I
have said, if we can now make an agreement on a satisfactory basis on Berlin
and Germany, which is the most critical area--because it represents a matter
of great interest to both our countries, and great concern to our peoples--then
we could take other steps. If we can solve the problem of Germany and Berlin,
I believe we can find our relations substantially improved.
Mr. Adzhubei: Thank you, Mr. President, this is a most worthy thought. Especially
because, as I understand you, you intend to talk seriously on these problems
with our government. Let me say that the German problem is of great importance
to our country, for many reasons. Not only for strictly political reasons,
and not only because of prestige considerations. As you know we have allies--Poland,
Czechoslovakia, and a number of other countries. However, to date we haven't
heard any sober voices from the West affirming the integrity of the borders
existing in Europe and it would be very important to hear that. But there
is also another aspect to the German problem. In our country, in the Soviet
Union, there is not a single family that did not lose some kin in the war.
You know we are trying to put out the smouldering coals of the last war in
Central Europe. But we do not wish only to play the role of a political fireman,
as it were, though it is very important. In the heart of every Soviet citizen,
in the soul of every Soviet citizen, there are, as you know, coals still burning
from the last war and they are burning his soul and does not let him sleep
quietly. Thus, solution of the question of a peace treaty is the hope and
tranquillity in the heart of every Soviet man. After all we are still singing
songs about those who did not come home from the war. I know that you participated
in the war, that you are a hero of the war, and this is why I am talking to
you in such lofty words. But this, if you wish, is a side-line.
Mr. President, in 1958, if I am not mistaken, our government suggested to
the government of the United States--of course, the previous administration
was in power then--that the trade relations between our countries be normalized.
Now, as you know, the trade relations between our countries are in a very
lamentable condition. Before I left for the United States, I had a conversation
with my friends from the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and they asked me to
inquire with you whether there are any prospects of improving the trade relations
between our countries. After all there is a very old truth: together with
goods, together with the exchange of goods, there also come better relations
The President. Let me say that I know that the Soviet Union suffered more
from World War II than any country. It represented a terrible blow, and
the casualties affected every family, including many of the families of those
now in government.
I will say that the United States also suffered, though not so heavily as the Soviet Union, quite obviously. My brother was killed in Europe. My sister's husband was killed in Europe.
The point is that that war is now over. We want to prevent another war arising
out of Germany. I think the important thing between the United States and
the USSR is not to create the kind of tension and pressure, which in the name
of settling World War II increases the chances of a conflict between the Soviet
Union and its allies on the one hand and the United States and its allies
on the other. What we should attempt to do is work out a solution through
negotiation which will make it possible to keep the peace in Central Europe.
And that is the aim of this government.
Now in regard to trade, one of the first things I did on becoming President
was to change governmental policy which provided for the admission of crab
meat. This was not a matter of great dollar value, but had some symbolic importance,
and was a matter which Chairman Khrushchev had spoken about on several occasions.
My own judgment is that, if we can solve the problems that we are now talking about, particularly in Berlin, and ease the general tension, trade will then increase. What has diminished trade in recent months has been the difficulty which we have experienced in Germany and Berlin. I would hope that trade could be expanded, and in my judgment it would expand immediately, if we can bring about a peaceful and satisfactory solution to the interests of all in Germany and Berlin.
Mr. Adzhubei: I shall communicate your words to our readers with a feeling
of satisfaction. We have always thought and still think of the Americans as
the realists. It is your energy, your realistic approach, that has helped
you to create such a wealthy country. But now I would like to ask you frankly,
Mr. President, because this idea was expressed by you in several instances,
whether you seriously think that the social changes which are happening in
the world today are the result of actions in which Moscow has its hands? I
would like to remind you of one thing. You know, in France when the bourgeois
revolution won, the aristocratic Europe accused France of every mortal
sin. When the October revolution won, all the world of the rich condemned
that revolution. But this revolution won! You mentioned that a Marxist came
to power in British Guiana. Do you think that events occurred there according
to our instructions? Of course, we can't give you any assurances that there
won't be social changes in the world, although you will call it the result
of the "hands" in Moscow.
The President. Let me say, as I indicated, if the people of these countries
make a free choice, that they prefer the communist or socialist or any other
kind of system, then the United States and the people of the United States
accept that. That is why I gave the example of British Guiana. But of course
I do not hold and I do not say that the Soviet Union is responsible for all
the changes that are coming in the world. For example, since the end of World
War II, the British Empire has been turned into independent states, I think
15 of them. The French community has been turned into 21 independent states.
There are many changes in the world. Western Europe has joined closer together
in the Common Market. These are not the result of the communists' efforts.
There are many changes, as I have said, throughout the world. People want
to live in different ways. That is what we want, also. If they have a fair
opportunity to make a choice, if they choose to support communism, we accept
that. What we object to is the attempt to impose communism by force, or
a situation where once a people may have fallen under communism the communists
do not give them a fair opportunity to make another choice.
We had been under the impression that the Yalta Agreement and the Potsdam Agreement provided for a free choice for the peoples of Eastern Europe. They do not, in our opinion, today have a free choice. You may argue that they may want to live under communism, but if they do not they are not given the opportunity to change.
We believe that if the Soviet Union--without attempting to impose the communist system--will permit the people of the world to live as they wish to live, relations between the Soviet Union and the United States will then be very satisfactory, and our two peoples, which now live in danger, will be able to live in peace and with a greatly increased standard of living. And I believe we have such vast economic opportunities now in both of our countries that we should consider how we can get along, and not attempt to impose our views, one on the other or on anyone else.
Mr. Adzhubei: Of course, Mr. President, I did not expect in such a short
period of time I would succeed in converting you to another belief--just as
you did not expect to convert me. You have talked with our Chairman, the First
Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union, and he did not succeed in convincing you, nor did he try to do so.
This, as you know, is a matter of personal outlook. One man may consider certain
elections to be free, while another would consider those elections non-democratic.
For example, in a number of countries of Latin America, great revolutionary
changes are taking place. For a long period of time you considered that Trujillo/5/
was elected in a democratic way. You have been saying the same about the regime
of the Shah of Iran as well. But let us not engage in an argument and let
us turn to the next question.
/5/Generalissimo Rafael L. Trujillo y Molina, Commander in Chief of the Dominican Armed Forces.
Mr. President, may I ask you the following question? It is well known that
the Soviet government has declared its readiness to accept any proposal of
the Western powers on international control and inspection, if agreement on
general and complete disarmament is reached. At the same time, the Soviet
government does not exclude the possibility of reaching agreement on a number
of measures which may decrease the danger of war and which could be effected
in the nearest future. Such proposals are, for instance, the proposals on
the freezing of military budgets, renunciation of the use of nuclear weapons,
the conclusion of a non-aggression pact between NATO and the Warsaw Pact
countries, withdrawal of foreign troops from the territories of other countries,
the establishment of a nuclear free zone, or measures against the danger of
surprise attack. What, in your views, are the prospects of general and complete
disarmament, and of decreasing international tensions?
The President. Inasmuch as the Soviet Union and the United States agreed
in the declaration of principles in September,/6/
at the end of the McCloy-Zorin talks, on the goal of general and complete
disarmament, the problem now becomes an attempt to implement that goal, stage
by stage. The Soviet Union and the United States have a basic disagreement
which must be resolved on this question. We believe that there must be adequate
inspection, to make sure that each side is disarming and staying in accordance
with the agreements which they make. The Soviet Union has stated that it will
permit us, or the international body, to inspect those weapons which are destroyed
but will not permit us to carry out an inspection to see what weapons remain.
One side could destroy a hundred bombers but still have a thousand or two
thousand bombers left. If you are really going to provide for orderly disarmament,
it seems to me you have to inspect not only those weapons which have been
destroyed, but also those weapons that remain. Otherwise we do not have any
guarantee of security for either side. If we can agree to an effective inspection
system so that each country can know that the other is living up to its agreement,
then, in my opinion, we can move into general and complete disarmament.
/6/For text of the agreed principles for disarmament negotiations, September 20, see Documents on Disarmament, 1961, pp. 439-442, or U.N. doc. A/4879, September 20, 1961.
That is why I thought it so vitally important that we make an agreement on
cessation of nuclear testing as the first step, and then proceed step by step
through atomic weapons, through missiles, through the level of ground forces,
the Navy, and all the rest. If we can get agreement on that, then we can
move toward general and complete disarmament.
I think it would be helpful if NATO and the Warsaw pact engaged in a commitment
to live in peace with each other, I certainly believe we should take every
conceivable step to prevent surprise attack. I believe that if the relations
between our countries can be normalized, there will be less military buildup
on both sides, but we cannot now withdraw our troops from Europe, way back
across the Atlantic Ocean, when you merely withdraw your troops to the Soviet
Union which is only a few hundred miles away. This is why we need some understanding
of what is going to be the situation in Berlin and in Germany. And that
is why I hope negotiations will take place between our governments quickly
and will come to a successful conclusion.
The statement has been made on many occasions that we object to the signing
of a peace treaty, that we regard that as a belligerent act. That is not the
point. It is our view that the statement which the four powers made at Geneva
in 1955 providing for the reunification of Germany represents the soundest
policy./7/ To divide a country, to divide a city,
to put up a wall in a city, we believe, only increases tensions rather than
diminish them. And we believe that, if the German people were permitted to
be reunified, adequate steps could be taken to protect the security of all
/7/For text of this Four-Power Directive, July 23, 1955, see Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, vol. V, pp. 527-528.
Now we recognize that today the Soviet Union does not intend to permit
reunification, and that as long as the Soviet Union has that policy, Germany
will not be reunified. The question now is whether the Soviet Union will sign
a treaty with the East German authorities which will increase tension rather
than diminish it. As I said in my speech at the United Nations,/8/
we recognize that the Soviet Union can sign any treaty it wishes with the
East German authorities. What we find to be so dangerous, however, is the
claim that that treaty will deny us our rights in West Berlin, rights which
we won through the war, rights which were agreed to by the Soviet Union, the
United States, Britain, and France at the conclusion of the war, and which
we believe should be continued. But if you sign a treaty with East Germany
and those rights are subject to the wishes of the East German authorities,
it seems to me that that is going to increase tension. If the Soviet Union
attempts in that treaty to turn over jurisdiction over West Berlin to the
East German authorities, against the wishes of the people of West Berlin--if
the lines of communication and access, from West Berlin to the outside world
and the West, are completely under the control of East German authorities
to cut any time they so wish--then this treaty does not bring peace, it only
increases the danger.
/8/For text of the President's address to the U.N. General Assembly, September
25, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F.
Kennedy, 1961, pp. 618-626.
Now I am hopeful that, in the conversations and negotiations which we hope
to have with the Soviet Union, assurances will be given which will permit
us to continue to exercise the rights which we now have in West Berlin, as
a result of the existing four power agreement, and will permit free access
in and out of the city. We do not want to stay in West Berlin if the people
there do not want us to stay. But they want us to stay. When they decide that
they don't want us, we will leave. But as long as they wish us to stay, it
seems to me that the rights which are ours by agreement should be maintained.
I am hopeful that the Soviet Union will agree with this, and in particular
will agree to permit supplies and people to move in and out of West Berlin
freely. Then we can, in my opinion, reach a peaceful settlement in the center
of Europe, and if we can reach an agreement on this question, then I believe
our relations will greatly improve.
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P71