183. Message From Prime Minister Macmillan to President Eisenhower 0

I promised to send you a further message today giving you my impressions.1 Although I have only been here 48 hours some of these are already quite clear. From the way in which Khrushchev talked to me throughout yesterday when we were out in the country it was borne in on me that in spite of their great new power and wealth the Russians are still obsessed by a sense of insecurity. The old bogey of encirclement has not yet been laid. Like a poor man who has suddenly made a fortune they feel uneasy in their new situation and they are resentful and nervous of their neighbours. Whenever Khrushchev mentioned the Germans it was possible to sense his hatred and distrust of them.

I believe that these feelings of apprehension are just as real as are their misconceptions about Western policy. Khrushchev treated me to a diatribe about mistakes which the West had made in the past and about evil intentions which it had nurtured towards Russia. He said that we had made a wrong assessment of the situation after Stalin’s death. We had counted on internal difficulties to enable us to extract concessions. We had even thought “Liberalism” might appear in Russia. We had tried to impose conditions and had followed slogans of containment, roll-back and liberation. Such concessions could not be wrung out of the Soviet Union. He did not accuse us of actually wanting war but said we had created an atmosphere of war.

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On Germany and Berlin I detected no signs that there was any weakening in their purpose. Khrushchev said that there was no room for manoeuvre or retreat from the position they had put forward. He repeated all the usual logic-chopping arguments in support of his proposals for a free city and for a peace treaty with the two sides of Germany. He said that they insisted on this position “because they saw no other way out”. Berlin, reunification, peace treaty, European security were different questions. Some were more ripe for settlement than others. But in our reply of January 102 we had tried to bring them all together. He distrusted our proposals which looked to him like an attempt to draw the Soviet Government into a labyrinth of negotiation which might last for 9 or 10 years. I tried to explain why it was impossible for us to accept their proposals. I said that if the Soviet position was altogether inflexible as Khrushchev had indicated the situation was very serious indeed.

For the next day or so I propose to leave it at that and to turn discussion to other topics. We have made a start on disarmament on which they seem ready to be a little more forthcoming. They are at least prepared to discuss in practical terms questions now at issue at a nuclear tests conference. Their attitude is dominated by their conviction that we shall exploit inspection for purposes of acquiring military intelligence; but even so they are open to argument on procedures of control.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Secret.
  2. In a message delivered on February 22 Macmillan promised to give the President a report on his visit to Moscow following his first formal meeting with Khrushchev. (Ibid.) For Macmillan’s account of his visit, see Riding the Storm, pp. 592–632.
  3. Apparent reference to the Western response of February 16 (see Document 176); the Soviet note on Germany is dated January 10 (see Document 124).
  4. Printed from an unsigned copy.