60. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • U.S.-Soviet Relations


  • Anastas I. Mikoyan, Deputy Premier of the USSR
  • John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State
  • Mikhail A. Menshikov, Soviet Ambassador
  • Livingston T. Merchant, Assistant Secretary of State
  • Oleg A. Troyanovski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, USSR
  • Llewellyn E. Thompson, American Ambassador to Moscow1
  • Edward L. Freers, Director, Office of Eastern European Affairs

Mr. Mikoyan opened the conversation by recalling that he had been to the United States before on an unofficial visit and had talked to Secretary of State Cordell Hull in the company of Mr. Troyanovski’s father.2

The Secretary recalled that he had been at a dinner in Moscow in April 1947 at which Mr. Mikoyan was present but he was not sure whether or not they had met each other on that occasion.

Mr. Mikoyan said that they had met but had not had the opportunity to have a conversation.

The Secretary said that he was happy that Mr. Mikoyan had come to visit the United States. He thought these unofficial visits were extremely useful as a means of eliminating misunderstanding and affording a better appreciation of what were real differences between us and what were not. He said there are real problems, but there is no reason for making them worse and sharpening our differences by creating imaginary and fictitious problems.

Mr. Mikoyan agreed and said it was important to continue these visits. It was always better to avoid differences and reach solutions to problems. This was understood back home and hence Prime Minister Khrushchev had asked him to convey his greetings to the Secretary as had Foreign Minister Gromyko. The Prime Minister had even asked Mikoyan to tell the Secretary that although they two exchanged strong words in the press and otherwise, this was not the main thing. The main thing was to work for peace.

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The Secretary recalled the contacts he had had with Prime Minister Khrushchev in Geneva in 19553 and Mikoyan remarked that Khrushchev had indeed told them about this.

Mikoyan said that there was one thing which was not quite clear to them. At one time the United States accused the Soviet Union of following a hard line. It charged the Soviet leaders with saying “nyet, nyet, nyet” all the time. Now when the Soviet Union seemed to be following a more flexible line, it was the American Government which said “no, no, no” all the time. There had been a change in roles.

The Secretary interrupted to say that Mikoyan would be given the opportunity to say “da, da, da” if he so desired.

Mikoyan made the rejoinder that he would like this to correspond to the real position.

The Secretary made the point that he did not understand that Mr. Mikoyan was here to carry on negotiations on any particular topic, but he did hope that there would be an opportunity to exchange views on the matters that divide us.

Mikoyan said that this was the case.

The Secretary said that he had just been saying to his associates in the Department that ever since he had come into contact with Soviet officials—that is since the San Francisco meeting in 1945—he had found it extremely difficult to have a serious discussion with any of them on the matters that gave rise to tension and even involved risks of war. For example, one thing that concerned us very greatly were the goals and ambitions of the International Communist Movement and the extent to which this movement was supported by the Soviet Union. When he had talked to Molotov4 about this, the latter had said that there was no such thing as the International Communist Movement. The Secretary found it hard to carry on a conversation in such a situation. We have no quarrel, he said, with the Soviet Union as a State. We were delighted to see it grow in power and welfare—this would give us no concern at all. It is the extent to which that power is placed at the disposition of the International Communist Movement, which has goals incompatible with our own safety, that causes concern on our part.

[Here follows discussion of Germany and Berlin, printed in volume VIII, Document 121.]

Mr. Mikoyan then reverted to the Secretary’s remark about his conversation with Molotov. Mikoyan said that since Molotov had not explained the matter of International Communism to the Secretary, he [Page 212] would explain it. The Secretary interjected the remark that Molotov had not only not explained it, he had said it didn’t exist. Mikoyan said it was not a subject for discussion between states, but since this was an informal talk, he would elaborate on the matter. The Communist movement had been in evidence wherever a working class existed, even before the USSR came into being. The Soviets believed, he said, that the ideas of Communism will continue to strengthen. Experience showed that the ways in which it would develop would be different. They believed that this was an affair for each country, its working class and its people. They did not conceal the fact that they sympathized with this development. They do not, however, interfere in the internal affairs of other Communist parties and of other countries. The United States had an intelligence service, with the Secretary’s brother at its head. Perhaps he understood this. Several million people voted for the Communist parties in Italy and France. In England, there wasn’t a single Communist member of Parliament. In the United States there was no Communist member of Congress. Why was the United States so fearful—even more than France or Italy—although Communist strength in the United States was negligible? In order to understand the Soviets correctly, he continued, it must be recognized that there is a difference between the Communist Party and the Soviet State. There are examples which illustrate this. The Soviet Union has good relations with the UAR. Khrushchev met and talked with the President and Vice President of the UAR, even though they not only do not protect Communists but they attack them and put them in prison. In the USSR there are no political prisoners. The Soviets cannot sympathize with Nasser for arresting political prisoners, especially Communists, but they do consider this an internal matter. Conditions call for this. The Soviet leaders had had many friendly talks with the President and Vice President of the UAR, but there had been no talks about this. This is regarded as an internal matter. The Soviet leaders had very good relations with Afghanistan—with the King and Prime Minister—although there are no Communists in that country. They have good relations with Nepal and its King, although they have never heard of any Communists in that country. They have good relations with Kekkonnen, the President of Finland, where there is a large Communist party. Mikoyan said he had good relations with Mr. Hansen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, which is a member of NATO. He had tried to prevail on him to leave NATO but had had no success. Mikoyan said that he wanted the Secretary to believe that this was the truth. Had they acted in any other way, the Soviets would have been the enemies of Communism.

[Here follows discussion of Germany and Berlin (printed in volume VIII, Document 121) and disarmament.]

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The Secretary said that he hoped Mikoyan would discuss economic and trade questions with Mr. Dillon while he was here. Ambassador Menshikov said that he would get in touch with us and make the arrangements for this.

The Secretary said that he was glad to have this exchange of views with Mr. Mikoyan. He recognized that the latter’s visit to the United States was concrete evidence of the desire of the Soviet Union to establish a more understanding relationship. Mikoyan remarked that this was quite true. The Secretary said that after Mikoyan toured around the country for two weeks he expected him to come back to Washington Americanized. Mikoyan replied that he had come here for a different purpose and that he hoped for acceptable specific proposals from Secretary Dulles.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1183. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Freers. A note on the source text reads: “Sec saw.”
  2. Thompson, who thought it would be advisable to be present during Mikoyan’s talks with U.S. officials, had returned to the United States.
  3. During Mikoyan’s visit to the United States in 1936, Troyanovski’s father, Alexander A. Troyanovski, was Soviet Ambassador to the United States.
  4. Reference is to the Heads of Government meeting at Geneva in July 1955.
  5. Vyachaslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Soviet Foreign Minister, 1939–1949 and 1953–1956.