43. Editorial Note

At a news conference on April 18, Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko charged that U.S. nuclear-armed bombers had flown across the Arctic toward the Soviet Union, and he asked for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to consider “urgent measures” to end these flights. Gromyko claimed that the concerns of his government derived “from United Press reports, confirmed by spokesmen of the United States Air Force command, that such flights are made whenever the screens of American radar installations of the so-called advanced warning system show vague shapes which American observers take for guided missiles or ballistic rockets.” Text of Gromyko’s statement at this news conference was published in The New York Times, April 19, 1958. The text of the letter by Arkady A. Sobolev, Soviet Representative to the United Nations, calling for an urgent Security Council meeting on this matter, was transmitted in telegram 1170 from USUN, April 18. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/4–1858) For text of a Department of State categorical denial of the Soviet charges, April 18, see Department of State Bulletin, May 5, 1958, pages 728–729. Memoranda of telephone conversations on April 18 between Acting Secretary of State Christian A. Herter and General Thomas D. White, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, at 11 a.m.; Hagerty and Herter at 11:10 a.m. and 11:25 a.m.; Quarles and Herter at 12:20 p.m. and 2:50 p.m.; Herter and Francis O. Wilcox, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, at 2:55 p.m.; and Herter and Quarles at 2:57 p.m., summarizing discussions on the preparation of the Department of State statement, are in Eisenhower Library, Herter Papers, Telephone Conversations.

A summary and analysis of the background of U.S.-Soviet air incidents before the Soviet complaint on April 18 is contained in a memorandum from Hugh S. Cumming, Jr., to Acting Secretary Herter, April 18. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/4–1858)

Initial instructions to the Mission at the United Nations included questioning of Soviet motives in bringing the question before the Security Council, clarifying the nature of the Soviet threat requiring the strong defense in alert status of free world nations, explaining the role of the Strategic Air Command as a deterrent force, emphasizing previous Soviet rejections of U.S. proposals for measures guarding against surprise attack, and consulting friendly Security Council member states, especially Canada, in obtaining supporting statements for the U.S. position. The instructions were transmitted in telegram 732 to USUN, April 18. (Ibid.)

A memorandum of Herter’s conversation with President Eisenhower on April 20 at 8 p.m. summarized their discussion on the proposed U.S. strategy on this question, debate on which was set in the [Page 162] Security Council for the following afternoon. Herter recounted that Secretary Dulles had sent back to the Department of State from Duck Island, where he was vacationing April 18–21, some suggestions, all of which had been incorporated in the speech prepared for Henry Cabot Lodge, Representative at the United Nations, to deliver to the Security Council. No further record of Dulles’ suggestions has been found. With the exception of two paragraphs, Eisenhower approved the draft speech Lodge had prepared, which was almost identical in substance to a Department of State suggested draft. Herter also discussed three possible resolutions the United States might wish to submit to the Security Council. As summarized in Herter’s memorandum of their conversation: “The President then expressed real distress that releases apparently approved by the Department of Defense should have led up to the protest lodged by the Soviets. He called Secretary Quarles expressing his unhappiness with regard to these approved releases, and apparently Secretary Quarles said he would institute a very thorough review as to what had led up to them. I had told the President I did not think there was any security violation involved but that I thought the release of the type of information which had caused the difficulties should be carefully reviewed with the Department of State and the President in the future because of the international implications involved.” (Eisenhower Library, Herter Papers, Memoranda of Conversation)

At the meeting of the Security Council on April 21, Sobolev introduced a draft resolution (U.N. doc. S/3993) calling on the United States to end its flights by nuclear-armed military aircraft toward the borders of other states. For text of Lodge’s response that afternoon, see Department of State Bulletin, May 12, 1958, pages 760–763. Following debate, the Soviet Representative moved to adjourn the meeting first to the following afternoon and then to the following morning, but the Security Council rejected both motions. Sobolev then charged that Lodge, in his capacity as President of the Security Council for the month of April, had discouraged free discussion and he withdrew the Soviet resolution in protest. For text of Lodge’s statement rebutting this charge, see ibid., page 763, footnote 5.

Khrushchev revived the Soviet charges in a letter to Eisenhower, April 22. For text of his letter and Eisenhower’s April 28 reply, see ibid., May 19, 1958, pages 811–815.

During the meeting of the Security Council on April 29, Lodge referred to the “constructive proposal” of President Eisenhower in his April 28 letter to Khrushchev for an international inspection system for the Arctic zone to guard against surprise attack. For texts of Lodge’s statement and two subsequent ones he made on May 2, see ibid., pages 816–820. For text of the U.S. draft resolution on an Arctic inspection zone as amended (U.N. doc. S/3995), see ibid., page 820. The U.S. resolution, [Page 163] as amended, was favored ten votes to one but was rejected because of the Soviet veto on May 2. The Security Council then rejected, with only the Soviet Union in favor and Sweden abstaining, a Soviet draft resolution (U.N. doc. S/3997) calling for an end to U.S. nuclear-armed military flights toward the borders of other states. The Soviet resolution was published in The New York Times, April 30, 1958.

The debate in the Security Council on this matter is summarized in U.N. Yearbook, 1958, pages 16–18.