399. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom0

10996. Please deliver following message from President to Macmillan immediately. Advise time delivery.

“June 16

Dear Harold:

I shall probably want to write you further as soon as we know Khrushchev’s reaction to my letter of June 15.1 As you probably know, it was a most urgent suggestion to him to reconsider the Soviet position at Geneva, which has in fact retrogressed in recent days, and to live up to [Page 909] his own pledge to us last March that the Soviet Government would do everything possible to make a positive contribution to the work of the Foreign Ministers Conference. As to his reaction to my message I am not particularly sanguine but I also do not believe that we have yet necessarily reached an impasse.

As respects the question of a Summit meeting, I reiterated to Khrushchev the formula that we agreed to at Camp David last spring and made it clear that such a meeting ‘would certainly have to take place in an atmosphere in which neither side was posing a threat to the other, and on the basis of such preparatory work by our Foreign Ministers as could give us reason to believe that the Heads of Government would be able to reach agreement on significant subjects.’

From this statement I could not and, in my opinion, should not retreat. One reason for this conviction is that if I should agree, in the absence of the stated prerequisites, to go to a Summit meeting, such a reversal on my part at this time would seriously impair any influence that I might hope to exercise with Khrushchev. Moreover it would be interpreted here as a dangerous exhibition of weakness, as indeed I would interpret it myself.

Frankly, it seems to me that any encounter of the three Western Heads of Government with Khrushchev would, in fact, be a Summit meeting. I think the public would see no difference between an informal and a more formal gathering and I can’t see what advantage there would be in the ‘informal’ formula for us. As you say, we would certainly want our Foreign Ministers. They would want at least a few selected advisers. Adding the clerical housekeeping and security personnel, we would willy-nilly have a full-fledged Summit conference on our hands with world attention focused on it. The presence of a thousand representatives of the press would be the frosting on the cake.

I fully agree that public opinion is a factor of greatest importance and realize that you have some particular difficulties in this respect.

However, I do believe that should Khrushchev face us with a call of a Summit meeting, we are not necessarily limited to a yes or no answer. I think, for example, that we would be in good posture to demand that the Foreign Ministers Conference be resumed after a few weeks recess. Possibly in some way or another we might find an opportunity to impress upon him personally the seriousness with which we regard any failure to bring about a resumption of that conference. For instance, if Khrushchev should decide to replace Koslov in visiting the Soviet Exhibit in New York later this month, I would be ready, assuming no objection on the part of our allies, to meet with him in an effort to get the Foreign Ministers Meeting back on the tracks. While such an occurrence would seem most unlikely, yet it is the kind of thing that could be done without presenting [Page 910] the picture of a ‘summit’ meeting. It would indeed represent only a fortuitous circumstance of which advantage could be taken.

The essential element is of course the continued unity of the West. Above all this applies with special force to our two governments. I am therefore letting Chris Herter know that I believe the Western Foreign Ministers should take no initiative to break up the conference finally but, if necessary, should seek a recess of a few weeks during which we could develop an agreed allied position as to our next moves. I hope you might make similar suggestions to Selwyn.

As I said in the beginning of this letter, I shall want to write you further as soon as we hear from Khrushchev. Meanwhile, I should be glad to have your reactions to the foregoing.2

With warm regard,

As ever,


[Here follows text of Macmillan’s June 16 letter to the President.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Secret; Niact; Presidential Handling. A preliminary draft of the message with the President’s notations is in Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series.
  2. See Document 395.
  3. On June 17 Macmillan replied that he agreed if no progress were made the best solution would be to have a short adjournment of the conference until about mid-July. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)