45. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Courtesy Call of Minister Kuznetsov


  • The Secretary
  • EUR—Mr. Foy D. Kohler
  • EE—Mr. J.A. Armitage
  • V.V. Kuznetsov—First Deputy Foreign Minister of the USSR
  • Mikhail Menshikov—Soviet Ambassador to the USA
  • Anatoli Myshkov—Second Secretary of the Soviet Embassy

Mr. Kuznetsov opened the conversation by stating that he was on his way home from a visit to Argentina and had wished to pay a courtesy call on the Secretary. He expressed appreciation at the opportunity to meet the Secretary, adding that the Soviet Union believed that contacts were useful in promoting understanding and perhaps even in clearing up some points of difference. However, he had no instructions or specific points to bring up.

The Secretary expressed his appreciation for the call, agreed that it was useful to become acquainted and exchange views and asked Mr. Kuznetsov to give his regards to Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko whom the Secretary has known for 13 years. (Mr. Kuznetsov transmitted the regards of Gromyko to the Secretary.) The Secretary said that the Department was working actively on many matters relating to the two countries. He said that he was gratified that it now might be possible to work through experts in studying the question of control of nuclear test cessation. We would have preferred it if the expert study could have covered broader questions of disarmament but this was a start. We are also actively working on the reply to Chairman Khrushchev’s letter regarding this matter.1

The Secretary stated that he was more than a little distressed to hear that the Soviet Government had declared Embassy Secretary Baker persona non grata.2 Apparently it was charged that he had violated the norms of standard diplomatic conduct and, as far as we could gather, [Page 165] this referred only to the fact that he had attended and made friends at the Moscow University. The Secretary added that he would be glad to have some statement as to what the Soviet Union held the proper diplomatic norms to be. On our side, we are trying to give all appropriate facilities to the Soviet Ambassador to have contacts and get to know persons in this country. If the Soviet Union has a different concept of what constitutes the norm of diplomatic behavior, the Secretary assumed that this should apply to diplomats in both countries.

Mr. Kuznetsov said that we had many problems between us and that the Soviet Union believed that we should start with smaller ones and find a way to approach the broader questions. With regard to test cessation, he believed that we may have come to the point where agreement may be reached. The needed action is simple and we may agree on this. With regard to the application of the idea of expert studies to broader questions of disarmament, Kuznetsov had nothing to add to Chairman Khrushchev’s letter. The Soviet Government believes that it is most important to agree on what should be controlled and then to proceed to a discussion of how the controls would operate. This is the normal procedure, Kuznetsov insisted, adding that two firms decided on what product one wanted to sell to the other before they set up controls to test the product. The same approach should apply to disarmament but the last letter of Chairman Khrushchev, taking into consideration the United States proposal, had agreed to accept our approach in the instance of test cessation.

Regarding Baker, Kuznetsov himself disclaimed knowledge of the details but assured the Secretary that the Soviet Union was trying not to exaggerate cases like this. He could not believe that there were no reasons behind it and said that perhaps Ambassador Menshikov knew more about it. The Soviet Union desires to assist Embassy personnel to meet people. For example, if the Ambassador wants to meet with people, every attempt will be made to facilitate this. He knows of no instance in which a request of the American Ambassador to make Soviet contacts has been rejected. The USSR felt that the cultural agreement was a good step forward and is trying to observe it scrupulously.3 (Ambassador Menshikov said he had nothing to add on the Baker case.)

The Secretary said that he was sorry indeed that our proposal on inspection of the Arctic Zone had been rejected by the USSR.4 He knew [Page 166] that Gromyko had said that it was a propaganda gesture, but the Secretary assured Mr. Kuznetsov it was not. The Secretary had been on his way to Copenhagen when this proposal was vetoed, and he felt sad when he heard the news. Certainly it has propaganda value that the Soviet Union turned the proposal down, but we hadn’t wanted to use it for that purpose. We felt that if we could get some assurance against Soviet attack and they could have some assurance against the possibility of a US attack, this would be a good first step in reducing tensions. The President will write Chairman Khrushchev further on this subject, but the Secretary emphasized that we had missed a chance to allay distrust. The Secretary expressed the hope that Kuznetsov will urge his Government not to have a closed mind in this respect. There are other areas too, to which inspection could be applied. We must get started, though, and we had hoped that if the Soviet Union felt the Arctic Zone particularly important—and Khrushchev had remarked that it was the shortest distance over which missiles could be launched at the United States—we could agree to start here. The Secretary repeated his wish that Kuznetsov take back to Moscow the thought that our proposal was not a propaganda gesture, but that it was an opportunity to do something that would have a great effect on our relations. Admittedly it was only a beginning, but we badly need to begin. We have no objection in principle to extending the idea of inspection to other places, including all bases. The Arctic area proposal, however, is relatively simple and does cover the area of the shortest distance between the two countries. The Secretary noted that he was not asking for Kuznetsov’s comments but that he would want Kuznetsov to draw the impression that we were sincere in making the proposal.

Kuznetsov said that he would communicate these remarks to his Government.

The Secretary said that Khrushchev had made a point in his last letter that we had not made clear how the Arctic inspection system would reduce the possibility of aerial attack through the Arctic region. There was also a question in the Soviet note regarding the broader application of the concept of inspection zones, and we hope that we can make our viewpoint clearer in a future letter. The Secretary hoped that clarifications on these points might act to relieve whatever considerations impelled the Soviet Union to reject our proposal on Arctic zone inspection.

Kuznetsov said that in the USSR people don’t understand why this proposal is viewed as the only possible step in the betterment of relations. People ask why US planes are dispatched to fly towards the Soviet Union. The USSR is trying to improve relations with the US but, with regard to disarmament, one must keep in mind the security of both sides. A look at the map indicates that the proposed inspection zone includes substantial sections of the USSR and only a strip of Alaska of US [Page 167] territory. (Mr. Kohler corrected Kuznetsov by remarking “all of Alaska and large parts of Canada.”) Kuznetsov said that there were many Soviet proposals, some of which had been advanced to meet US points of view and the idea of the inspection of areas to avoid surprise attack could also apply in Europe or the Far East. The US takes only the Arctic and the Soviet people consider this step leads to further misunderstanding, Kuznetsov concluded.

The Secretary said that, while he could not speak for the Soviet Union, acceptance of the proposal would certainly lead to a great relaxation of tensions in the United States. The Secretary knew that he was credited with wanting war in the Soviet Union and he hoped also that Mr. Kuznetsov realized that this was not true.

Mr. Kuznetsov said that the Soviets understand that the Secretary is a good servant of his Government.

The Secretary said that his grandfather had returned from his experience in the Civil War dedicated to the cause of peace. This dedication had become traditional in the Secretary’s family. For the Secretary it became an active force as early as 1907 when his uncle, the Secretary of State at the time,5 had taken him to the Hague Peace Conference. The Secretary had been imbued with this dedication ever since and he would consider it a major calamity if he took any steps that might lead to war. The Secretary was aware that his ideas of peace did not coincide with those of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union thinks that peace could be achieved if it controlled all the world. The Secretary rejected the idea that military weakness on our part would lead to peace and cited historical precedents when weakness may have invited attack. Though Mr. Kuznetsov would not agree with his theory, the Secretary did not want Kuznetsov to doubt his purpose.

Mr. Kuznetsov said that people all over the world were concerned about peace and want their governments to do something about it. He related some bits about Soviet history and then asserted that history had taught that international problems, when approached through a policy of force, could lead only to catastrophe.

The Secretary remarked that we had nothing in the way of armed force in 1914 and very little in 1939. Our weakness had certainly encouraged the Kaiser and hitler in their designs.

Kuznetsov said that there were some difficult and some simple international problems. The Soviets considered it more expedient to start with problems that we can solve, thus creating confidence and then [Page 168] proceeding to solve more difficult problems. He knows that we think the USSR is a threat and therefore we arm. Why does the US then not want a friendship treaty? We have had our periods of cooperation in the past and could have them again.

The Secretary stated that friendship is not achieved by a treaty or any signature to a paper but by acts of friendship between two countries.

As he was leaving, Kuznetsov requested the Secretary to transmit regards from Chairman Khrushchev to President Eisenhower and to inform Mr. Kuznetsov if the Secretary considered there were other courtesy calls he should pay.

The Secretary said that he would inform Mr. Kuznetsov if other courtesy calls were deemed appropriate.

(In reply to questions from the press as he was leaving, Mr. Kuznetsov replied only that he had paid a courtesy call on the Secretary and declined any response to questions concerning substantive matters which might have been discussed.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 601.6111/5–1958. Confidential. Drafted by Armitage on May 22.
  2. Reference is to Khrushchev’s May 9 letter to Eisenhower printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 9, 1958, pp. 940–942.
  3. A Department of State press release, dated May 19, summarized the U.S. protest of the Soviet action in declaring John A. Baker, a second secretary in the Embassy in Moscow, persona non grata on May 14. For text, see ibid., June 16, 1958, pp. 1005–1006.
  4. For text of the joint communique containing the agreement on exchanges in the cultural, technical, and educational fields between the United States and the Soviet Union, January 27, see ibid., February 17, 1958, pp. 243–247.
  5. Regarding the U.S. proposal on inspection of the Arctic Zone, see Document 43.
  6. Reference should be to his grandfather, John W. Foster, who was Secretary of State 1892–1893, and served as the representative of China at the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. Dulles served as secretary of the Chinese delegation at that conference. Dulles’ uncle, Robert Lansing, served as Secretary of State 1915–1920.