420. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State0

2665. Fol luncheon for Harriman yesterday he, Khrushchev, Kozlov, Mikoyan, Gromyko and I had nearly two-hour discussion which centered mostly on Germany and Berlin. Following are highlights; full text by despatch.1

Khrushchev was serious but genial and repeatedly asserted his desire for a peaceful settlement of their differences with us. He suggested we should draw appropriate lessons from history which US did not appreciate as much as Soviet Union which had twice been invaded by Germany. I replied historic lesson we drew was that we should not repeat error following First World War of giving Germany grounds for thinking she was being mistreated. Khrushchev said he was not impressed by this argument. He expressed his contempt for Adenauer who had tried to flatter him and was trying to stir up trouble not only between Soviet [Page 951] Union and West but also between Western allies, particularly France and Britain. I said our experience with Adenauer had shown that he genuinely wanted to prevent a recurrence of German militarism and had wholeheartedly supported plans for European integration which would prevent this. He said we must face German problem seriously and recognize that Ulbricht and Adenauer could never agree. West would never consent to a Communist Germany and he would never agree to Adenauer’s absorbing East Germany. Best plan was to conclude a peace treaty and liquidate remains of war. When I pointed out we had recognized present situation by providing for a phased plan he said we had allowed 2 and one-half years whereas he would prefer 250 years. When Gromyko pointed out our plan based on elections Khrushchev said West would not allow Vietnam to be absorbed through free elections and how could we expect Soviet Union to allow Adenauer to absorb far more important area of East Germany. It was clear that a reunited Germany would join NATO. West wanted them to allow greater population of West Germany to decide issue. He had no good answer to my argument that our plan provided for possibility separate vote in two parts of Germany. Khrushchev asked me if we would ever allow West Germany to opt for socialism. I said he would doubtless not believe me but I was sure that if West Germany took such a decision in a supervised election that was not under pressure of threats, we would abide by the decision. Khrushchev said I had best be careful and was I so sure that this might not one day happen after Soviets had continued to improve their own economic position and standard of living in East Germany had been raised. He said that Adenauer did not want German reunification for fear Germany would go socialist.

Khrushchev said it was clear German question could not be settled now and he had therefore put forward his Berlin proposal. He had developed the free city solution personally although his associates agreed with him. He was prepared to give almost any kind of guarantee for the free city. He emphasized importance that Soviet Govt, which came to power after death of Stalin, attached to keeping its word and that it would faithfully fulfill any guarantee given. We should know that when discussions were resumed in Geneva we should not expect change in Soviet position as they could not go beyond proposals already put forward. He understood our position to be that if there was no agreement in Geneva there would be no summit conference. If this were so, very well, but he would then conclude separate peace treaty and our occupation rights would cease to exist. He kept his temper when I inquired how he could reconcile this statement with his previous remarks about the importance the Soviet Govt attached to keeping its word. This led to a long and inconclusive argument about who was to blame for breakdown of four power cooperation in Germany. He pointed to our conclusion [Page 952] of separate treaty with Japan. When I said we had reserved Soviet rights he replied that they had been kicked out of Allied Council and we had established military bases in Japan. Mikoyan interjected they would give us same deal on Germany as we had given them on Japan.

Khrushchev asked what was wrong with Soviet proposal. He emphasized that West Berlin and its population were of no importance to Soviet Union. I said I could believe this but Berlin was clearly important to East Germans who wanted to absorb it and Soviet proposals seemed to us clearly designed to facilitate this objective.

Khrushchev referred to Secretary Herter’s speech2 which he characterized as an incorrect statement of the position. Gromyko had not intended to make public statement but would now be obliged to put record straight.

I referred to his earlier statement that Soviet Union had made its maximum offer and said I thought same was true of West although various combinations of essential elements of our offer were possible. He then suggested that perhaps we should cancel the meeting. I replied that I was not conducting negotiations with him but merely trying to explain my understanding of my govt’s position. I explained this in some detail referring to Soviet action in disposing of East Berlin and now trying to move in on West Berlin. When I outlined the concessions we had made and the distance we had gone to meet his position he said he had carefully examined our proposal which did in fact contain many constructive elements. It was not bad except for one fact and that was that it was to operate until German reunification which was completely unacceptable. It might be all right as an interim arrangement to operate until a peace treaty could be drawn up and concluded.

I referred to a remark he had made that our troops in Berlin had no military value and that even if we had 100,000 there they would be wiped out immediately in the event of war. I asked why was he then so anxious to get rid of them. He replied that while they would have no military value in the event of war they did have a military value now. Gromyko explained that subversive organizations in Berlin operated under the protection of Western troops. If peace treaty were signed they could no longer fulfill this function. I said this indicated that Soviet Union or GDR would decide which organizations were legitimate and which were not. This would constitute interference in internal affairs of Berlin and showed clearly where Soviet proposals would lead. Khrushchev said this was an exaggerated interpretation.

[Page 953]

I also referred to the lack of reciprocity in Soviet proposals on propaganda etc. Khrushchev said it was obviously impossible to control activities in East Germany and allow Bonn to be free to continue them. I said we recognized this and were prepared to deal with it but could not accept arrangements on this matter that applied to West Berlin but not East Berlin.

Khrushchev referred to holding of presidential election in West Berlin as a provocative act but not in any manner suggesting Soviets intended to do anything about it.

Khrushchev then told anecdote to illustrate theses I was merely repeating old arguments.

Harriman emphasized strongly that both parties in US supported President’s position on Berlin. Khrushchev suggested that while political parties might be in agreement some of our people were not but he recognized they had to deal with our govt. Khrushchev concluded conversation by saying we should work out an interim arrangement that would lead to a peace treaty and he suggested this could be done in a way to avoid any aspect of an ultimatum.

Unless Dept perceives objection I propose inform my French, British and German colleagues of this conversation.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Records, International Series. Secret; Limit Distribution. Transmitted in two sections and repeated to Paris, Bonn, and London.
  2. Despatches 739 and 741 from Moscow, June 29. (Ibid., Harriman Trip)
  3. For text of Herter’s address to the nation on June 23, see Department of State Bulletin, July 13, 1959, pp. 43–45 or Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 342–346.