37. Memorandum of Conversation0
- Presentation of Credentials to President Eisenhower by the Soviet Ambassador
- The President
- The Ambassador of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Mikhail A. Menshikov
- The Chief of Protocol, Wiley T. Buchanan, Jr.
President Eisenhower received Ambassador Menshikov at 10:00 a.m., February 11, 1958, at which time the Ambassador presented his credentials.1 The President opened the conversation by telling the Ambassador he was pleased to welcome him here and hoped he would find his work interesting and assured him of the cooperation of all of the officials with whom he would be dealing.
President Eisenhower then asked the Ambassador what his most recent post had been and something of his general background. The Ambassador answered that he had been in India and then began a detailed account of his background, which started with his graduation from the Moscow Institute of Economics through his entire employment record, describing in some detail his work with UNRRA when he was stationed in Washington and later in Europe. This outline of his background consumed 15 minutes of the 33 minute appointment.
The President and the Ambassador agreed that they hoped during the Ambassador’s time in the United States that the tensions between our two countries would be relieved. Both agreed that this was of great importance to both nations. The President commented that the mutual objective of both countries was a rise in the standard of living, better health, education, etc. He stated that it was foolish for such great amounts of money to be spent on missiles, bombs, etc., with each nation becoming more and more powerful, and glaring at each other across the ocean and the north pole.
The Ambassador stated that the heads of his Government were sincere in their desire for an easing of tensions and he hoped there could be [Page 150] a meeting of the top leaders. President Eisenhower commented that when you use the word “summit” for a meeting that all peoples of the world (and he further commented that he believed all peoples in the world were under tension today) expected something immediately to be forthcoming from such a meeting. The President then stated that it was very important in his opinion that much of the spade work and many of the details must be worked out in advance of the meeting, because as President of the United States it was impossible for him to delegate any authority—that every commission and paper requiring his signature must be done by him personally—consequently, it is impossible for him to ever be gone for more than a few days, possibly 4 or 5. The President stated that he did not expect the other government leaders to come the great distance to the United States, and that at a meeting which lasted for any great length of time it would be necessary for him to send his Vice President.
The President then commented to the Ambassador that he realized that the Russian leaders had certain reservations about dealing with Secretary Dulles. The President then stated, “and I simply state this fact to you. That I have lived with this man for five years, and nowhere in the world is there a more dedicated, a more intelligent and more fair and honest, negotiator than John Foster Dulles. Possibly because of his appearance, and I admit that he does not smile much in his negotiations, you have gotten the impression that he is an unusually hard negotiator. Secretary Dulles attended the Versailles Peace Treaty meeting and from that time on has been working in every way possible for world peace. He is a very experienced and capable man. I am sure, after you have had meetings with Secretary Dulles, that you will agree with what I tell you.” The President then commented, “After all, you do not expect me to fire my Secretary of State.”
At this point the Ambassador interrupted and stated that the top Russian officials had a very high regard for Mr. Dulles and his ability and there was nothing personal in their desire to have a summit meeting. However, the Russian leaders actually had a complex about meeting at lower levels because they had had so many disappointments over a period of years when time and again nothing had been achieved at lower levels.
The Ambassador then commented to the President that in reporting to his Government he would be completely objective in his views. The Ambassador again stated that his earnest desire also was to see if they could not reach some area of agreement and that he favored as many contacts as possible. He also stated that he hoped that he would, from time to time, be able to see the President. President Eisenhower replied that he would be glad to see the Ambassador, that he had never considered himself to be a person who felt he knew it all, and that he [Page 151] would be very happy to have any position explained to him that the Ambassador might feel he had not understood. At any time that such a situation might arise, the President said he would be very pleased to have to the Secretary of State and the Ambassador call on him.
The President then commented on his relations with Marshal Zhukov2 in 1945 and stated that he and the Marshal at that time believed Russia and the United States would make good allies and cooperate, but that he had been greatly disappointed in the results.
The President commented that at various times when he was in Europe in 1945, he had spoken through interpreters to various peoples and found that in general the people throughout the world like and are pleased by the same type of things. He commented that in his opinion if a poll could be taken in Russia and the United States that not more than one-half of one percent of the people in either country actually want war. The Ambassador again touched upon his desire and his Government’s desire for peace and stated that he felt certain that Khrushchev and Bulganin were sincere in their efforts to ease tensions.
The President said that one difficulty had been that when we present a bill of particulars to the Russian Government, it is turned down without any discussion. By the same token, they present us with a list of items for discussion which are not things that we wish to talk about at the time and that never is there any opportunity to gain any points of agreement during any of these negotiations.
These conversations lasted the other 16 or 17 minutes of the appointment. The President then asked me if arrangements had been made to have pictures made, and I said they had not. He then asked his Appointments Secretary, Mr. Gray, to get the photographers. The President said to the Ambassador, “We will have our pictures made here and maybe we will start some sort of new era of friendliness and cooperation.” The photographers completed the pictures and we departed from the President’s office at about 10:37 or 10:38.3
After leaving the President’s office, Ambassador Menshikov made a brief general statement to the press.4
- Source: Department of State, Presidential Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149. Confidential. Drafted by Buchanan and approved by Goodpaster on February 15.↩
- Menshikov succeeded Georgiy Nikolayevich Zaroubin as Soviet Ambassador. On February 10, Buchanan sent a letter to Robert Gray, Acting Secretary to the President, enclosing a translation of the remarks Menshikov would hand to the President upon his presentation, a copy of the suggested reply, and a short biographical sketch of Menshikov. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File)↩
- Marshal Georgiy Konstantinovich Zhukov.↩
- President Eisenhower summarized his meeting with Menshikov for Secretary Dulles in a telephone conversation at 10:38 a.m. The President indicated that he had stressed to Menshikov his trust in Dulles, and added that Menshikov “is the first one he has seen smile except Zhukov.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation; Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations)↩
- Menshikov’s statement to the press was published in The New York Times, February 12, 1958.↩