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

2653. Eyes only Secretary. Re Embtel 2637.1 Following is verbatim text of Thayer’s notes of that portion of Harriman’s conversation with Khrushchev relating to Berlin and Germany.

“You may tell anyone you want,” Khrushchev said in some heat, “that we will never accept Adenauer as a representative of Germany. He is a zero. There is a current joke in Russia that if you look at Mr. Adenauer naked from behind, he shows Germany divided. If you look at him from the front, he demonstrates that Germany cannot stand.

“We will not agree to your taking over Western Germany. We will not agree to a united Germany that is not socialist. In fact, no one wants a united Germany. De Gaulle told us so; the British have told us so; and Adenauer himself when he was here said he was not interested in unification. Why, then do you insist on talking about it?

“You state you want to defend the two million people in West Berlin. We are prepared to give any guarantees you desire to perpetuate their present social structure, either under the supervision of neutral countries or under the UN. However, we are absolutely determined to liquidate the state of war with Germany. It is an anachronism. Furthermore, we are determined to liquidate your rights in Western Berlin. What good does it do you to have 11 thousand troops in Berlin? If it came to war, we would swallow them in one gulp. We will agree to your maintaining them for a limited period but not indefinitely. If you do not agree to a termination of the occupation, we will do it unilaterally. Furthermore, we will put an end to your rights in Berlin. If you want to use force to preserve your rights, you can be sure that we will respond with force. You can start a war if you want, but remember it will be you who are starting it, not we. If you want to perpetuate or prolong your rights, this means war. You recognized West Germany on conditions contrary to those agreed upon during the war. We do not recognize the right of Adenauer to determine our position in Germany. If you continue to operate from a position of strength, then you must decide for yourselves. We too are strong and we will decide for ourselves.”

[Page 942]

Governor Harriman pointed out that this position was appallingly dangerous and suggested that the great achievements and the internal development of the Soviet Union would be sacrificed by any war.

Mr. Khrushchev retorted that this was his position and that Mr. Harriman could tell Mr. Eisenhower. Mr. Harriman replied that he would carry no messages to Mr. Eisenhower as he was a private individual. Mr. Khrushchev retorted that “If I see Mr. Eisenhower, I will tell him just as I have told you.” Mr. Harriman expressed a hope that Mr. Gromyko would prove more amiable with the Foreign Ministers’ Conference reconvened on the 13th of July in Geneva. Mr. Khrushchev retorted that Mr. Gromyko was reflecting the views of the Sov Government and that if he did not, he would be fired and replaced, and the views of the Sov Govt were what he had just said. “We have had German troops twice in the Sov Union and we know what it means. This the United States does not know nor has it experienced the tears that the Ukraine suffered under occupation.” When it was suggested that Russia brought the Germans on them by the Ribbentrop–Molotov Pact, Mr. Khrushchev scornfully rejected the argument as a “cheap” question. “We know England and France wanted to turn Hitler against Russia. Stalin did right in making a pact with Hitler and we would do it again. History”, he said, “may not repeat itself, but the day may come when Germany will turn against the West.” “Are you sure,” he asked, “that they won’t? Of course, Adenauer could not, but maybe Strauss or some other German would. West Germany knows that we could destroy it in ten minutes. If Germany faces the question of whether to exist or not, its decision may be different from that of today.” When it was suggested that Moscow and Leningrad were equally susceptible to destruction, Khrushchev retorted that Leningrad is not Russia. Irkutsk and other Siberian cities would remain, but “one bomb is sufficient to destroy Bonn and the Ruhr, and that is all of Germany. Paris is all of France; London is all of England. You have surrounded us with bases but our rockets can destroy them. If you start a war, we may die but the rockets will fly automatically.”

Governor Harriman suggested that if the Sovs hindered the legal rights of supply of our troops in Berlin, it would be dangerous.

Mr. Khrushchev replied heatedly that “We would do just that. We would liquidate your rights. We will permit the troops now there to remain but not any troops to enter. If you speak from a position of strength, we will answer with the same strength.” Governor Harriman stated that the American determination to support two million Berliners should not be underestimated. “We will never permit their being sacrificed,” he stated.

Mr. Khrushchev answered, “Don’t think that the Soviet Union is all ill-shod (lapki) as it was when the Czars sold Alaska to you. We are [Page 943] ready to fight. We are not aggressive,” Mr. Khrushchev said. “We will let Berlin have its social structure and guarantee it. We don’t need West Berlin. What are two million people to a bloc of 900 million people? If we took West Berlin, we would simply have to feed it. We would rather let you feed it.” Governor Harriman suggested that Soviet decisions with regard to Berlin should not be taken too lightly. Mr. Khrushchev replied that it had all been carefully thought out. “Don’t you think otherwise,” he said. “Your generals talk of tanks and guns defending your Berlin position. They would burn,” he said. “We don’t want war over Berlin. Perhaps you do if you want to prolong the current position.” Mr. Harriman stated that West Berliners were now perfectly satisfied. Why change the situation? Mr. Khrushchev replied that he would guarantee the situation in West Berlin in any manner we saw fit, “but we must end the state of war and the consequences of war and not interfere in the internal affairs of Germany.” Mr. Khrushchev said, “We cannot tolerate the condition any more and this is a historic fact. Furthermore,” he said, “Adenauer is the most unpopular man in Germany.” Mr. Harriman pointed out that there had been many possibilities to throw out Adenauer but the Germans had not done so. On the other hand, there had never been any possibility to throw Grotewohl out. Khrushchev retorted, “What you and I think about freedom and slavery is quite different. We, for instance, consider the choice of Rockefeller impossible to understand, but we will let you decide for yourselves in the United States. You may have millions, but I have grandsons.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/6–2559. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Charles Thayer who accompanied Harriman to the Soviet Union. Harriman met with Khrushchev at 1 p.m. in his office at the Kremlin. For Harriman’s account of the meeting, see Life Magazine, July 13, 1959.
  2. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/6–2459)