296. Memorandum of Conversation0




  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Irwin
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Mr. Malik
    • Mr. Zorin
    • Mr. Pervukhin


  • Prospects for Foreign Ministers’ Conference and Nuclear Testing Agreement

Immediately following lunch the Secretary and myself were herded into a corner by Mr. Gromyko who indicated that he wished to [Page 690] have some serious conversation. He started off by asking how the Secretary thought the conference would go. The Secretary replied that the Soviets had made certain proposals with respect to Berlin and a peace treaty. We would present early in the conference comprehensive proposals covering not only Berlin and a peace settlement but reunification of Germany by stages and attendant security measures. He felt that this proposal when the Soviets examined it would be found to meet many if not all of the points on which they had expressed concern and that he was hopeful they would study it carefully to see if it was not a basis for agreement. Gromyko said they would study it and then gave the usual line on Berlin and the treaty as being ripe for settlement now.

There was considerable discussion back and forth with no ground given on either side. Gromyko did mention that Khrushchev had told him before departure that he wanted him to do all possible to reach agreement at Geneva. He also acknowledged in principle the desirability of ultimate German reunification. The Secretary concluded this aspect of the conversation by stating that if we can reach agreement on reunification as an attainable objective then it will be relatively easy to solve on an interim basis Berlin which disappears as a problem when the unity of Germany is achieved. He added that the United States has no territorial or other ambitions. Its sole interest and the fundamental basis of its policy is to secure an enduring and just peace. Gromyko immediately professed an identity of aim for Soviet foreign policy.

The Secretary then raised the question of the nuclear test talks by saying that he understood a recess had been agreed1 and that Ambassador Wadsworth would be returning to Washington for consultation unless Gromyko intended to raise this subject in the present Foreign Ministers conference. Gromyko said that he thought it would be well for Wadsworth to remain here for the next two weeks since he thought it useful to discuss this matter with Lloyd and the Secretary. The French, he said, are obviously not concerned. (Subsequently a date for such discussion was made for Thursday, May 14.) Gromyko said that they were all pleased and encouraged in Moscow by the President’s latest letter2 on this subject to Khrushchev. They thought it very constructive and that the gap between us had now become very slight. In fact he said the only outstanding problem was to decide on the number of tests which would not be automatic in the sense that justification for them would have to rest on some objective evidence from instruments.

[Page 691]

The Secretary said there were other matters than the question of number of inspections which stood between the Soviets and ourselves. The veto, for example, has not been clarified and is of course unacceptable to us. He said also there was considerable scientific data which the experts would have to study. He expressed the hope, however, that progress could be made rapidly toward agreement with adequate inspection provisions. He referred to the difficulties inherent in detection of underground explosions and shots remote in space.

Gromyko said that he was prepared to sign the treaty while they were here in Geneva. He said if the Secretary was not prepared to go that far then he would suggest that he and the Secretary and Lloyd initial an agreement in principle with the details to be left to the experts to be worked out to the extent that they were still unagreed. The Secretary again expressed a desire to achieve agreement as soon as possible but gave no indication that he thought it could move as fast as Gromyko seemed to think.

The Secretary at this point said that he had a 3 o’clock engagement which he must meet.3 Neither Gromyko nor the Secretary raised any substantive or procedural points relating to the afternoon’s forthcoming session of the conference. Throughout the conversation Gromyko seemed at great pains to establish a conciliatory and even friendly atmosphere.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1338. Secret. Drafted by Merchant and approved by Herter. The conversation took place at the Soviet villa following lunch at 1 p.m.
  2. Documentation on Phase III of the conference on nuclear weapons tests, April 13–May 8, is scheduled for publication in volume III.
  3. For text of Eisenhower’s letter to Khrushchev, May 5, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1959, pp. 1309–1310.
  4. Herter was scheduled to meet with Brentano, Couve de Murville, and Lloyd at 3 p.m., presumably to prepare for the second Foreign Ministers meeting at 3:30. No record of the four Western Foreign Ministers meeting has been found.