237. Memorandum of the Conversation at the Buffet, Palais des Nations, Geneva, July 22, 19551
- United States
- The President
- Admiral Radford
- Ambassador Bohlen
- Mr. Anderson
- Premier Bulganin
- Mr. Khrushchev
- Marshal Zhukov
- President’s Conversation with Bulganin et al.
- 1. Exchange of Persons
- 2. Inspection
- 3. Disarmament
In the buffet this afternoon, the President had a further conversation with Khrushchev, Bulganin and Marshal Zhukov. In the beginning it dealt mostly with fishing, and the President offered to send Marshal Zhukov a rod and spinner. The President presented Admiral Radford to the three of them and Zhukov remarked that he had heard a great deal of Admiral Radford. Khrushchev then said, picking up a theme at yesterday’s lunch,2 that he thought it would be a good thing if the US and the Soviet Union exchanged military visits and that that would be very interesting. Bulganin and Zhukov both agreed with this proposal.
Turning to the line he had discussed today at the Heads of Government meeting, the President said that he felt that there were many parts of our immigration law which were outdated and should be changed in order to permit greater exchange of visits between the US and the Soviet Union. He said some of these provisions had been taken by Congress under the influence of concern resulting from the postwar period, but that he was working in order to make them more liberal. He said however it would take some time, since laws were not easily changed in the US. The Soviets said that some of the provisions of the law, particularly that concerning fingerprints were very difficult for them to accept, that in the Soviet Union fingerprinting was connected with criminal activity and it was regarded as offensive by the citizens. Bulganin said imagine if the leading ballerina of the Moscow Opera was to go to the US and would have to give her fingerprints. The President explained that in the US fingerprinting had come to mean merely a system of identification and mentioned that all his grandchildren had theirs taken so in the event of accidents or other difficulties they could be easily identified. Mr. Bohlen at this point pointed out that he had already told Premier Bulganin in Moscow that another reason was the absence of police registration in the US and that when a foreign visitor was within the country, there was no means of checking on his movements, since we did not have a system of passport and police registration, as was prevalent in Europe. The President earlier had mentioned the fact that he felt that informal contact and discussions in many ways were more useful than the more formal proceedings of a conference to which the Soviet agreed.
At one point Premier Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev jestingly said to Admiral Radford that now he would have to give them his military plans, and Khrushchev added, they must be the real plans, war plans, and no substitutes. Admiral Radford said ‘Fifty-fifty”. [Page 480]After a few further exchanges in this light vein, the President said to Bulganin and Khrushchev that he wanted to make it very clear that while he could joke with them about this matter, he was very serious about it and his proposal had been a most serious one.3
Bulganin replied that they knew his proposal had been serious.
After some further conversation about the overflight proposal, Khrushchev interjected that anything along those lines must be accompanied by real disarmament measures. Khrushchev then added in a joking manner that sometimes someone would make a very far-reaching proposition expecting that the other person would not accept it; then if the other person were to accept it, the individual who proposed it would hardly know what to do.
The President quickly asked, “Do you want to try me?”
Khrushchev replied that he had not been thinking of the President and his proposal specifically. Zhukov interjected at this point that Khrushchev was referring to the Soviet disarmament proposals and hoped that the President would agree with them.
The President replied that he did agree with some of them, but that his own proposal should be put on top of them.
The President said that he wanted to get to the heart of the matter and that what he was really talking about was that if both sides could work toward producing a feeling of good will then it would be much easier to arrive at solutions to the really pressing problems. Both Bulganin and Khrushchev agreed. They then reverted to the suggestion that a good way to start would be for the Soviet Union and the US to exchange visits of military delegations. The President, looking at Admiral Radford and Mr. Anderson who were standing near him, said that this might be a way to begin.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–2355. Secret. Drafted by Bohlen on July 23. The conversation took place following the Sixth Plenary Session. A summary of this memorandum was transmitted in Dulte 33 from Geneva, July 23. (Ibid.)↩
- See Document 219.↩
- For text of President Eisenhower’s “Open Skies” proposal, see Document 221.↩