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149. Editorial Note

On April 4, 1958, Soviet Chairman Nikita S. Khrushchev, who succeeded Marshal Nikolai A. Bulganin as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, sent President Eisenhower a letter reiterating the Soviet intention to discontinue unilaterally tests of any kind of atomic and hydrogen weapons as of March 31, 1958. Khrushchev called upon the United States and the United Kingdom also to renounce further tests. For text of the letter, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1949, pages 980–982.

On April 7, President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles discussed the response to Khrushchev. Dulles stated that a draft response had been sent to London where British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had revised it and made minor changes which were incorporated into the draft. Neither draft has been found. Dulles then mentioned a proposal by Press Secretary James Hagerty for a high-level conference at the United Nations to agree on a nuclear testing ban and the cessation of the production of nuclear weapons. Eisenhower thought Hagerty “might have something” and that this “new approach” might “make Khrushchev squirm.” Nevertheless, Hagerty’s proposal was not included in the draft letter to Khrushchev. (Memorandum of telephone conversation, April 7, 8:30 a.m.; Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations) Hagerty’s proposal, in the form of a draft proposal to the President, is ibid. Both documents are in the Supplement.

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In his letter to Khrushchev, April 8, President Eisenhower noted that the Soviet Union was calling for a suspension of nuclear testing after just concluding a series of tests “of unprecedented intensity.” He cited past U.S. calls for disarmament, which the Soviet Union had failed to heed, and noted that the reduction of nuclear weapons was the real issue. Nevertheless, Eisenhower stated, the United States would be prepared to work with the Soviet Union in anticipation of an agreed disarmament program on technical problems involved in international control for discontinuing atomic testing. For the full text of Eisenhower’s letter, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, pages 982–985. According to a memorandum of a telephone conversation on April 8 at 10:48 a.m., Eisenhower and Dulles discussed whether the statement meant that the United States would be willing to have technical studies on inspection for a suspension of testing without also having technical studies on a cutoff of production of atomic weapons. Eisenhower thought the matter was “not an easy one,” and he and Dulles agreed that “supervision and control in any field, that is a step forward.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations) See the Supplement.