186. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 0

1687. I find it difficult to judge what is maneuver in Khrushchev’s speech1 and what is his genuine and firmly held position. From toughness of his speech it would appear that he has judged Macmillan visit and such developments as Mansfield speech2 as signs of weakness and he is evidently convinced he can exploit Macmillan visit to his advantage. There have been many indications that Khrushchev is so determined upon a summit meeting that he is deliberately building up tension with a view to bringing this about. Whether at such a meeting, if it took place, he would be willing to make genuine effort reach reasonable settlement is certainly open to question but I think it is quite clear that he will not reveal his hand on any lower level. In judging his speech suggest the following considerations should be taken into account.

I believe Khrushchev is genuinely convinced Foreign Ministers’ meeting would not resolve any major problems and would be used by US to probe Soviet position and drag out negotiations interminably. I believe he is also convinced that if Germany remains tied to West and no [Page 391] agreement is reached on prohibition atomic tests it will eventually obtain atomic weapons and be in position to threaten Soviet Satellites and possibly involve US and USSR in military conflict. Even though this may be true of West Germany alone he believes his possession of East Germany reduces threat and particularly threat to instability of Communist regime in Poland. As indicated by Mikoyan in US3 and by Kosygin to me yesterday,4 Soviets apparently believe that by raising standard of living in East Germany they can consolidate hold of Communist regime there in next few years particularly if Berlin problem can somehow be resolved. At any rate he doubtless considers that reunification at later date would be less damaging to Communist Bloc than now, as not only would they be able to show progress in East Germany and build up support for Communist Party, but also by that time Soviet Bloc will in his opinion have further successes and be better able to accept a retreat if this should become necessary. A further factor in Khrushchev’s thinking in my opinion is that he is convinced that neither British, French nor West Germans genuinely desire German reunification and basing himself on this he assumes West will in the end accept continued division and settlement of Berlin question in manner which will consolidate this division. It would also appear that he has taken our willingness to have East Germans present in Foreign Ministers’ meeting as further indication we are prepared accept continued division. As he puts it “if you accept a you must accept b.”

French Ambassador informs me that in conversation with him last night Khrushchev confirmed main points his speech but with three additions. He mentioned that Poles and Czechs should participate but without “voix deliberative”.5 He also said that if they did not succeed in obtaining our agreement to a peace treaty they would proceed to conclude one with East Germany just as we had done with Japan. He also indicated that Foreign Ministers’ meeting could follow summit meeting.

Macmillan’s conversations should throw further light on Soviet tactics and policies but before Soviets have made formal reply to our note it would seem advisable that if we express any reaction it should be strong one and it would be preferable for it to come first from Macmillan rather than from us. From what I have heard however this appears unlikely.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 761.13/2–2559. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, and Berlin.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 184.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 175.
  4. See Documents 121 and 135137.
  5. Thompson discussed Khrushchev’s speech and the Berlin question with Kosygin at a reception the night of February 24. (Telegram 1686 from Moscow, February 25; Department of State, Central Files, 761.13/2–2559)
  6. “The right to speak and vote”.