146. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

23. There could be no doubt of decision of Presidium to attend July 4 reception as spectacular gesture prior to Geneva. First five members of Presidium to arrive, Kaganovich, Malenkov, Saburov, Mikoyan, and Pervuhkin came at 6:15, and Bulganin and Khrushchev came together some ten minutes later, all remaining until 7:40. Molotov is reported due back at midnight tonight.

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There can be little doubt also that Khrushchev came with purpose which had been discussed and agreed in Presidium. Despite crush and other difficulties inherent in reception of this kind, Khrushchev informed me early that he had something to say and notwithstanding crowding and interruptions, he made pre-Geneva speech. As it turned out, Joxe and Teiydra, Dutch Ambassador, were only Ambassadors who were immediate and full witnesses.

Khrushchev, with Bulganin at his elbow at start, said that he had read with great interest President’s latest speech (which by my intervening question was identified as President’s press conference of last week2) and that while he agreed with many of President’s statements he felt he had to disagree with some of them. He went on to say that Western press, and particularly American press, was in large way irresponsible but some portions of it were not. In fact, it was saying many foolish and incomprehensible things and speculating on matters which should be readily known or recognized as truths. This “irresponsible” section of Press had questioned motives of recent Soviet moves designed to ease international tensions. It had conjectured that Soviet Union was going to Geneva because of internal weaknesses. It had related Soviet desire to meet at summit as reflection of failures in industry and in agriculture and internal dissension.

Khrushchev then said that we would be quite wrong to think that we would be negotiating with a Soviet Union with “its legs broken”. If criticisms that we read in Soviet press of shortcomings there are interpreted as failure of its economic programs, West would be sorely mistaken. These criticisms, including his own speeches to various gatherings, and he referred particularly to speech at Builders Conference (last December) are evidence of resolve of Soviet Government to pile success on top of already great success in fulfillment of their economic planning. With what seemed to be characteristic Khrushchev gestures for emphasis, he held my lapels and then my arms while he said that never has Soviet economy been stronger, never has fulfillment of plans been more successful, and never has the party been more united. He ended on note it was entirely unnecessary to go to Geneva if we thought we were going to deal with delegation representing country on its knees.

During this speech Bulganin had been drawn away by Italian Ambassador, and when he had rejoined us Khrushchev turned to him and said that he had been talking to me according to what they had agreed. Bulganin nodded with approval.

I thanked Bulganin and Khrushchev for their frankness and said that I would like to comment first on perhaps least important point [Page 260]Khrushchev had made. I said it was heartening to know that Western press was followed so closely here and that Khrushchev had identified what he considered the responsible and irresponsible press. From this I would be led to understand that Soviet press is fully responsible and entirely represents Soviet Government’s view. There was protest from Khrushchev and Bulganin, and from Kaganovich (who had been standing at my shoulder whole time but who had not said a word) to effect that Soviet press occasionally irresponsible.

Continued along following lines.

1.
As to moves he had referred to by Soviet Union to reduce tensions, I thought he had misunderstood conjectures about Soviet motives appearing in Western press. It was not question so much of moves as of timing, for if we all agreed that steps were necessary it was difficult to understand why Soviet Union delayed them so long.
2.
As to “disagreements”, it would be fatuousness to hold a conference if there were no disagreements among Four Powers. I thought that moving force behind accord to meet at Geneva was to discuss matters of disagreement which were at bottom of world tensions.
3.
Fact that Heads of Government, including President Eisenhower, who is also Chief of State, have agreed to meet should in itself indicate intense interest and enormous importance of conference.
4.
I had not realized, I said, that press speculation in West could have justified observation which Khrushchev had repeatedly emphasized about Soviet Union going to Geneva on its knees. I had imagined that all powers would be meeting on basis of equality. I compared notes afterwards with French, Dutch, British, and Italian Ambassadors who were witnesses to conversation in varying degrees, and we were all impressed by what we might call strong leads from positions of weakness. Also Khrushchev was spokesman and Bulganin made little effort to assert himself.

Joxe told me afterwards of conversation he endeavored to pursue with Pervuhkin when latter had brought up Geneva. Joxe asked what concrete measures Soviet Government had in mind for Geneva. Pervuhkin replied “a détente”.

Then Joxe asked what do you mean specifically. Pervuhkin said “This meeting should lead to others.”

Embassy will be reporting further on matters which came up at reception but I am desirous of getting foregoing before Department while press stories are presumably getting feature play. I might add in conclusion that Bulganin, in answer to my query when he would announce composition Soviet delegation, replied it would be made known in “couple of days”.3

Walmsley
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/7–455. Limited Official Use; Priority. Repeated to London and Paris.
  2. For a transcript of President Eisenhower’s press conference on June 29, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pp. 643–662.
  3. On July 10 and 14, Walmsley reported that similar performances had been given by Khrushchev at receptions at the Argentine and French Embassies. (Telegrams 89 and 118 from Moscow; Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/7–1055 and 762.00/7–1455)