21. Diary Entry by the President’s Press Secretary (Hagerty)1
[Here follows the beginning of the entry.]
Zaroubin was in the President’s office for fifteen minutes and left at 11:45. He declined any comment at all to the reporters in the lobby other than to say that he thought the President was looking fine. This was in accordance with the President’s wishes and the agreement that Zaroubin had made in the President’s office. When the Ambassador left, the President called for me and I went into his office through Ann Whitman’s office. Dulles was alone with him. As I walked in, the President said, “Well, Jim, it wasn’t what we thought. There is no mention of the balloons.”
Dulles said that he was quite surprised that it had not been balloons but then laughed and said, “Maybe that’s what you get for having somewhat of a guilty conscience.” The President replied that he was sure that the Russians knew about the balloons and that they might bring it up at some later date. The President then told me that he had agreed that there would be no publication now of [Page 49]the letter but that he had also told the Soviet Ambassador that I would make a short statement. He then said, “Why don’t you say something like this: “Intermittently since the Geneva Conference the President and Premier Bulganin have been exchanging correspondence. The Soviet Ambassador brought in a letter containing certain ideas which the Premier has asked the President to study.”
Dulles interrupted to say that he thought the letter should be described as “friendly” and the President said Yes, I should put that in. He then told me that he thought I should add that the Premier had asked the President to study the ideas further in the interest of promoting world peace. The President agreed to this and I revised my statement accordingly.
I then asked the President and the Secretary if they thought there was any danger of the message breaking from Moscow. The President said he did not think so, at least at this time, since he had raised that point with Zaroubin and said that it probably should be released at a later date. Zaroubin said that he would check with his government and let Dulles know.
I held my press conference on the statement and declined to answer other questions. Speculation throughout the day was on almost every subject conceivable, ranging from a story by the New York Daily News that Khrushchev and Bulganin had invited themselves to this country to others more near the mark on the renewal of the “Spirit of Geneva.”
I talked to Dulles later in the day, and we both agreed that it was a very clever letter which the Soviets would undoubtedly use for propaganda purposes. The idea of a 20-year Treaty of Friendship with the United States, Dulles told me, was not a new one. Molotov had discussed it with him at Geneva. There is nothing proposed in the Treaty which cannot be done through the machinery of the United Nations to which both the United States and the USSR have pledged themselves.
Dulles said that his guess is that the Russians have realized since Geneva that they have given the impression to the free world, and to much of the neutral world, that they have broken agreements which they made at Geneva and are desperately trying to get back into the “big smile and friendly neighbor” attitude. At any rate, the proposal for a treaty will be sure to touch off a very lengthy debate in this country, and Dulles believes that we should turn it down politely, pointing out that we want deeds not words.
Later in the day I got a query from the British press as to whether we were going to wireless a copy of the letter to Eden on board the Queen Elizabeth and I called Dulles again and told him of my query and he said I had better duck that one, that we could not [Page 50]officially send anything like that to the British without including the French and possibly the Italians and Germans.
I received a copy of the translation of the letter, the memorandum of conversation in the President’s office and the proposed text of the Treaty at my home at 8:30. I wanted it in case the news broke from Moscow or leaked from Washington. Radio Moscow played it perfectly straight that evening and merely said that the message from Bulganin had been delivered to the President and that the American press showed great interest in it.
I had only one call during the evening, that from Bob Clark of INS, checking on the Daily News story of a Bulganin–Khrushchev visit to this country. I told Bob that I could not comment but if I were in his place, I would advise the INS not to pick it up.
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Hagerty Papers.↩