241. Editorial Note

The subject of a summit conference was discussed frequently in the first 6 months of 1958 by the United States and the Soviet Union. Beginning on December 10, 1957, with a proposal by Premier Bulganin in a letter to President Eisenhower, the Soviet Union developed the position that a Heads of Government meeting on subjects which it wanted to discuss was the only way to ease international tension. In a reply on January 12, 1958, the President agreed to hold a summit conference, but only after substantive preparations had been made that would assure advancement of the cause of peace.

Further exchanges of letters between the President and the Premier and exchanges of aides-mémoire beginning at the end of February led to agreement that the three Western Ambassadors would begin limited substantive discussions with the Soviet Foreign Minister on May 5. These talks proceeded in a desultory fashion with the Foreign Minister meeting individually with each Ambassador and covering the same ground. On May 28, the Western Ambassadors transmitted to the Soviet Government their understanding of the procedures necessary for the preparations for a summit conference and a draft agenda for the meeting. This proposal drew immediate criticism from Premier Khrushchev, who had replaced Bulganin, in a letter to President Eisenhower on June 11 which rejected the Western proposal. On July 1, the President responded with some elaboration of the proposals and asked that they be reconsidered. The outbreak of the Middle East crisis in mid-July diverted attention from further pursuit of this series of exchanges.

For texts of the various documents exchanged between the Soviet Union and the United States beginning with the December 10 letter, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1958, pages 696 ff.; for the British side, see Documents on International Affairs, 1958, pages 1 ff. The texts of the notes and aides-mémoire, documentation relating to their drafting, and the reports on the Ambassadorial meetings at Moscow are in Department of State, Central File 396.1.