168. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Soviet Union Affairs (McSweeney) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Kohler)0


  • Effects of Khrushchev’s Behavior at UNGA

SOV is in general agreement with Mr. Nunley’s penetrating evaluation of Soviet tactics and objectives at the UNGA.1 We concur particularly with his conclusions that Khrushchev sought by his outrageously belligerent behavior to weaken Western influence in the UN by expanding in the course of time the role of the Soviet bloc and of the neutral nations in both the UN constituent organs and in the UN administrative apparatus and to diminish the possibilities of opposition by the uncommitted countries to Soviet objectives, particularly through gaining broadened acceptance of the two-world concept.

SOV offers the following observations which may throw some additional light on Khrushchev’s motivations and on an assessment of his performance.


The central current fact of the Soviet Union’s international relations is the existence of a real and formidable challenge to Soviet leadership of the Sino-Soviet bloc. It is the primary current task of Soviet foreign policy to repulse this challenge and reassert the unquestioned Soviet leadership of the bloc. Furthermore, the Soviets have shown themselves clearly determined to reassert this leadership on the basis of the essential general tenets of Soviet foreign policy: Soviet foreign policy should pursue a relatively low risk course of action; bloc objectives should include disarmament on terms acceptable to the Soviets and [Page 562] should be pursued, when appropriate, through negotiation with the major Western powers; in the current period the bloc should cultivate better relations with all non-NATO countries and for this purpose be prepared to extend economic assistance to non-communist governments of some of these countries whatever their attitude toward domestic communist parties. The Chinese Communist position on many of these points requires a substantially more uncompromising opposition to non-communist political forces. Therefore, as part of its campaign to re-establish its hegemony in the bloc the Soviet Union must show itself as an outspoken and effective champion of anti-imperialism in order to avoid the possibility of its position being undermined by the Chinese Communists. This imperative colors its actions in the international arena.

This is not to say that the Soviet line itself does not accommodate a substantial measure of militancy and belligerence whenever it is deemed to suit Soviet purposes. Given the advent of numerous new African members to the UN, the Cuban situation, the unsettled state of the Congo and the Soviet set-back there and the growing Algerian disillusionment with the prospect of accommodation with France, the Soviets would under almost any circumstances have appeared in the UN as the outspoken and anti-imperialist champion of the formerly colonial areas. However, it would be our conclusion that extremes to which the Soviet performance went on some of these issues, the Soviet de facto recognition of the PAG, and the lengths to which Khrushchev carried his attack on Hammarskjold and the UN structure were importantly influenced by the requirements of Soviet problems within the bloc. Likewise, the future Soviet development of these positions will be to some extent conditioned by the measure of Soviet success with the Chicoms.

Whatever their motivation, Khrushchev’s very excesses in the UN will make any moderation of his conduct more dramatic to less sophisticated observers.


Soviet objectives toward the underdeveloped and newly independent countries have distinct short- and long-term aspects. In the short run, the Soviets are striving in these countries to overcome their fears of Communism, to gain a substantial measure of acceptability and to associate them with the bloc in frequent opposition to the Western powers. In the longer run, the Soviets hope by the force of Soviet example and by the strengthening of local Communist forces to gain political control within these countries. These two objectives are frequently complementary and reinforce each other. However, this is not always the case and it is well to bear in mind that the long-range objective—Communist political control of these countries—is more fundamentally important to the Soviet Union than the shorter range aims and also more fundamentally adverse to our own national interests.

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We make this point because it seems relevant to an assessment of the measure of Khrushchev’s success with these countries at the UNGA. As Mr. Nunley has cogently pointed out, there is small comfort in any revulsion in these countries towards Khrushchev’s behavior if their probable political reaction over the next few years is to incline in the direction of the extreme Soviet position as a means of “seeking accommodation.” However, it is possible that the fright technique may induce these countries to behave on the international scene more according to Mr. Khrushchev’s likes and at the same time make them more wary regarding Soviet intentions within their countries. From some of the reports of Nasser’s conversations,2 it would seem that he gained a deeper appreciation of the fact that Khrushchev’s behavior in sum had said that “those who oppose me I will break.” Quite possibly, other neutralist leaders reacted similarly. Without the felt presence of Communist power within another country, the scare tactic may have limited effectiveness. The reaction may be to take steps to see that the menacing power does not acquire the potential to execute what Khrushchev’s behavior so clearly implied.

Although there can be no immediate conclusions in this regard, there may be indications of the reactions of neutralist leaders in the domestic political field before Khrushchev’s maneuvers on the UN front have run their course.

SOV would doubt that Khrushchev believes that he can best weaken the free world collective security systems “through a process of intimidation”—the British Labor Party notwithstanding. He recognizes the limits of the tactic and seems well aware that a major Stalin mistake was an over-reliance on threats and bluster. We believe it more likely that, having abandoned the prospect of negotiations in 1960, he has discounted the losses involved in greater Western opposition in order to make gains in and with the uncommitted countries and to regain bloc leadership.
We would emphasize what appears already to be an apparent Soviet gain from Khrushchev’s menacing behavior. He frightened most neutrals into not opposing him directly and in the process strengthened the acceptance of the “two-world” concept with a moral equation of the sides. In this context Nehru’s departing statements3 were particularly useful to him. The trend toward neutralism was strengthened with its implied denial of the expansionist nature of Soviet foreign policy.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 761.13/10–2660. Confidential. Drafted by Armitage on October 26 and sent through Davis. Initialed by Armitage, McSweeney, Davis, and Kohler.
  2. The memorandum from William T. Nunley (EUR) to Kohler, October 17, attached to the source text, is not printed.
  3. [Text of footnote not declassified]
  4. On his last day in New York, Nehru stated that both the United States and the Soviet Union were more alike than any two other countries. his remarks were reported in The New York Times, October 10, 1960.