226. Memorandum of the Conversation at Dinner, Cafe du Nord, Geneva, July 21, 1955, 8 p.m.1
- Ambassador Zarubin
- Mr. Soldatov, Head of the American Section, Soviet Foreign Office
- Mr. Merchant
- Mr. Beam
At Ambassador Zarubin’s invitation, we had dinner with him last night at 8:00 at the Cafe du Nord. Ambassador Zarubin had been quite cordial in issuing the invitation several days ago, but when we arrived last night, he was obviously in a bad humor and remained generally uncommunicative throughout the evening.
He opened the conversation by saying that President Eisenhower’s proposal of that afternoon for the exchange of military information had been a great disappointment and was unrealistic.2 Mr. Merchant replied the President had put it forward with the utmost sincerity and we hoped that the Soviet Government would give it most serious attention. We consider the proposal as the best and simplest approach to the problem of instituting inspection and control of arms. This later question was really central to the issue of restoring trust and confidence.
Mr. Soldatov, who arrived about half an hour late, then reiterated Ambassador Zarubin’s concern over the President’s proposal which he thought would raise difficulties. Mr. Merchant said the Soviet Government must realize it is inconceivable that the United States would ever attack the Soviet Union. The President was a man of peace and in any event it would be utterly impossible for any U.S. Government to launch a war except in self-defense because of the controls of Congress and public opinion. Furthermore, the US and the USSR were bound by the UN Charter to refrain from the use of force.
Mr. Soldatov said that the Charter had been written before the coming into being of weapons of mass destruction, in particular the hydrogen bomb. In the light of these developments he thought it should be reinforced by a declaration that countries possessing these weapons should never use them against each other. Mr. Merchant reviewed the merits of the President’s proposal and appealed for its serious consideration.[Page 462]
Satisfaction was expressed on both sides with the apparent success of the exchange of agricultural delegations. Ambassador Zarubin and Mr. Soldatov said the Soviet Government was encouraging visits3 and as far as they knew had not turned down a single visa application. Mr. Beam mentioned that Mr. Sulzberger of the New York Times had tried unsuccessfully for the last three years to get a visa. The Soviet representatives tried to laugh this off indicating Mr. Sulzberger’s case was exceptional. Ambassador Zarubin and Mr. Soldatov complained about US practices requiring fingerprinting and signature of a declaration on entering the U.S. Mr. Merchant said the Soviets should realize fingerprinting had no criminal implications and was now practically universally applied as a means of identification in the U.S. and other countries. It was mentioned that the U.S. authorities would take under consideration the issuance of official visas to those visitors and delegates for whom the Soviet Government requested that status.
Ambassador Zarubin mentioned incidentally that he had known Khrushchev for many years and had attended secondary school with him. He explained that while Khrushchev had been born in the Ukraine his parents were Russian and Khrushchev apparently regarded himself as such.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–2355. Confidential. Drafted by Beam on July 22. For Merchant’s account of the dinner, which includes a detailed description of the multicourse meal, see Recollections, pp. 42–43.↩
- For text of President Eisenhower’s statement, see Document 221.↩
- Ambassador Zarubin referred in particular to a prospective visit to Moscow by Secretary Dulles. [Footnote in the source text.]↩