24. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 0

2846. Following for delivery is letter from President to Prime Minister Macmillan. Advise date time delivery.

“October 9, 1959.

Dear Harold: You will recall that in my account to you of my conversations with Mr. Khrushchev 1 at Camp David I said that I had made it clear to him that as far as a Summit conference was concerned I could make no commitments without prior consultation with the others concerned. Accordingly I should like very much to learn your present thoughts with respect to Mr. Khrushchev’s proposal that a Summit meeting be held before I visit the Soviet Union in the Spring. I am also writing in this same vein to President De Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer.2

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As a result of my discussions with Mr. Khrushchev at Camp David I now have, as I indicated to you earlier, fewer objections to a Summit conference. The appearance of threat and duress in negotiating on the Berlin problem has in my opinion now been sufficiently altered that I, for my part, would feel able to meet jointly in such a conference with the Soviet Chairman. Although Mr. Khrushchev certainly did not modify any of the substantive positions of the Soviet Government regarding Berlin, German reunification, disarmament or other major international questions during our talks, there was sufficient indication of a change of tone to lead me to believe that further exploration would now be desirable. Indeed I believe we would be assuming a heavy responsibility if we now refused to meet him at the Summit.

I know you will agree with me that in such a meeting we on our side must clearly be united regarding the limits which our national interests place upon us. There is a possibility that we will find ourselves under severe pressure to accept proposals dangerous to our interests under the threat of a total breakdown of negotiations. This is a pressure under which we were placed at Geneva. I have no doubt about the West’s ability to resist it. If it proves that no acceptable agreements can be worked out at the Summit, however, I now believe we will be better able to win world support of Western positions than if we refused to meet at all.

Knowing that you feel that a Summit meeting should be held, we must therefore now consider the complicated question of a timetable which will permit the preliminary inter-allied consultation clearly required.

I feel that there would be some advantage to a Summit meeting in December, which, if agreements in principle are reached, would make it possible to hold more detailed negotiations at the Foreign Minister or expert level before the Spring. If a meeting is held in December it would have to precede the NATO Ministerial Meeting scheduled for December 15, and therefore should probably commence near the beginning of the month.

I believe that we should meet with our French and German colleagues before a Summit meeting. For my part, I should be delighted to act as host to a pre-Summit meeting in the United States with our Western colleagues but would be prepared to go to Europe before the conference with the Soviets depending on the site selected for that conference and on what seems to be the most convenient arrangements for the others.

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I await with the greatest interest your views on these questions, including possible sites for our meetings.3

With warm regard,

As ever, Ike.”

Observe Presidential Handling.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1/10–959. Secret; Priority; Presidential Handling. Drafted in EUR, cleared by Goodpaster and in draft by Herter, and approved by Calhoun.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 18.
  3. Texts of these letters were transmitted in telegrams 778 to Bonn and 1548 to Paris, both October 9. (Ibid., 611.62A/10–959 and 396.1/10–959)
  4. On October 12 and 13, respectively, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor replied to Eisenhower’s proposal. Both agreed with the idea for a summit meeting by December and the need for prior Western consultation. (Ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204) In a letter dated October 8, De Gaulle addressed himself to the question of a summit, noting that if future Soviet behavior indicated a desire to improve international relations, he would be prepared to meet at the summit. (Ibid.)