188. Memorandum of Conversations at the President’s Dinner, President’s Villa, Geneva, July 18, 1955, 8–10 p.m.1


The following are non-consecutive accounts of certain exchanges which were heard at the President’s dinner for the leaders of the Soviet Delegation on July 18th:

[Page 377]

Before dinner, the Secretary and Mr. Bulganin, together with Mr. Bohlen, took a short walk in the garden. The Secretary said he realized that there were some subjects which had been brought up by the US at this conference which the Soviet Government objected to. He named in particular the situation of the satellite countries and international communism. He said that these subjects were ones which were of great interest to the people of the US who had many persons of Eastern European origin and who felt very strongly on the question of the satellites. He said that the US realized very well the natural geographic interest that the Soviet Government had in this area and that there was no intention on our part to see established governments hostile to the Soviet Union or a recreation of the cordon sanitaire. He thought there might be something in between the present situation and the other extreme which we certainly did not desire, mentioning in this connection Finland as an example. Mr. Bulganin said he thought that that was not a question which could be “realistically” dealt with at this stage and felt that the formulation of the problem as set forth by the President this morning was not realistic. He added that this was a question which time alone would settle.

On more general subjects during the same conversation, Mr. Bulganin said one of the tasks before the four powers, and particularly the USA and the USSR, was to correct the errors of the past. At this point, the rest of the party came into the garden and the conversation was broken off.

During dinner, the Secretary mentioned to Mr. Khrushchev that one of the great obstacles towards the development of normal relations with the Soviet Union had been the activities of international communism in every country of the world and that insofar as the US and the Soviet Union, the country, were concerned there were really no problems of a major nature. He pointed out in this connection that the US had never had any major dispute with Russia and it was one of the few occasions in history between major powers where there had been no war. Mr. Khrushchev replied he thought there had been here a confusion between the Soviet Government and the international communist movement. He said that since the abolition of the Comintern in 1943, there had been no physical apparatus in the Soviet Union for giving direction and exercising control over the communist parties (by this statement, Khrushchev admitted that prior to 1943 such control had been exercised). He said that the Cominform was something different and since 1949, there had been no meeting of this party. He said that the Soviet Union was a highly centralized state but that it would not and could not direct the affairs of other countries in the socialist camp; to attempt to do so would be to turn the Kremlin into a madhouse. He concluded by saying that a [Page 378] distinction should be made between sympathy and moral support, which as a communist, he would not deny was forthcoming from the Soviet Union in regard to communist movements abroad on the one hand and the question of direction (rukavodtsoo) on the other.

At another stage of the conversation, Mr. Khrushchev said that the main purpose of this conference was to “sort out” the various questions which were points of division at the present time and deal with those which were susceptible of reasonable negotiation while leaving for a later date those which clearly could not be settled now. There was considerable discussion with Marshal Zhukov across the table concerning the fact that war had now reached the point where it was not advantageous or profitable for any country to undertake.

The Secretary pointed out that his initial diplomatic experience had been in 1907 when Mr. Carnegie, at the time of the Hague Peace Conference, had given an income of $10 million which would be sufficient to insure a lasting peace. The Secretary cited this as an example of how much more complicated matters had become. After hearing the Secretary describe the complicated ceremonials at the 1907 Conference at the Hague, Marshal Zhukov remarked that ceremonials had become simpler but that substantive questions had become more complicated.

In a conversation with Mr. Bohlen, Khrushchev said that there could be no greater mistake than to believe that the Soviet Union was now in major economic difficulties. He said their industrial picture was better than it had ever been and that in several years agriculture would be in a really satisfactory state. In reply to Mr. Bohlen’s question concerning the current agriculture year, he said the winter and the new lands were not too satisfactory since in certain parts there had been drought and that in the Ukraine, Kuban and Volga and central Russian regions, there had not recently been such favorable prospects for a bumper crop [this was the preliminary impression of the Agricultural Attaché of the Embassy concerning the Kuban and the southern Ukraine].2

Charles E. Bohlen3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–2355. Top Secret. Drafted by Bohlen on July 23. For three other accounts of the dinner conversations, see supra, infra, and Document 190.
  2. Brackets in the source text.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.