62. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US-Soviet Relations


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

The Secretary began by asking Mikoyan’s reaction to the reception he had received in the United States. The Secretary said that we believed in the right of peaceful demonstration but there were some people who did carry on activities which might seem offensive to guests. He hoped that Mikoyan has recognized that the American people are friendly as well as curious.

Mikoyan said that he had had a chance to know something about the American people 22 years ago. He had received a good impression this time in spite of the activities of some immigrants. He felt the Russians and Americans could live together in peace and friendship. Twenty-two years ago he had traveled without a bodyguard, this time there was a great deal of security precaution. It would have been better without this, but apparently this had been impossible.

The Secretary remarked that it showed how important he was now.

Mikoyan rejoined by saying that it showed the change in times.

Mikoyan remarked that he had gotten on better with the press than he had expected—either they had become better or he had been able to talk better with them. Businessmen had also been interested in his proposals. 22 years ago he had seen only a few officials of General Motors and Ford. This time he had seen many influential business leaders who had shown great interest. He had met Henry Ford the last time. This time he had met Henry Ford III,1 who was also a pleasant man. He had met David Rockefeller,2 who had expressed his regrets that the Moscow press and some people there seemed to think his family was war-mongering and wanted a deterioration in Soviet-American relations. Rockefeller had told Mikoyan that his family wanted an improvement in these relations no less than any other.

The Secretary said he, himself, was tarnished with the charge of being a leading warmonger. Mikoyan remarked that he would not use the word “tarnished”. The Soviets considered the Secretary as the leading strategist of the cold war. The Secretary suggested that when Mikoyan returned to Moscow, he might review the Soviet propaganda line and might well find several respects in which it could be improved. Mikoyan said he would do this on the basis of reciprocity.

[Page 227]

The Secretary made the point that in the conversation with Mikoyan he might have to dwell on unpleasant topics. It was important to have a full and frank exchange of views. his attitudes were not personal ones but were basically shared by the people of the United States. Under our form of society the individualistic viewpoint was not the governing one and individuals did not hold public office forever. This might give some satisfaction to the Minister but it would be short-lived because our policies would continue to go on.

Mikoyan said he understood the Secretary was referring to our Constitutional provision for a four-year incumbency by the executive.

[Here follows discussion of Berlin and Germany, printed in volume VIII, Document 135.]

The Secretary said he wanted to talk about two other zones in which danger of war could arise. One was the Far East. There the Chinese Communists were supported by the Soviet Union in the objective that the US must be expelled by force from Taiwan and the West Pacific. Such a policy could have very serious consequences. The United States would not be expelled by force or pressure from its collective security associations in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. China, like Korea, Vietnam and Germany, was divided. The US was friendly with one part, the Soviet Union with the other. Unification sought by force would almost surely lead to general war. We had exerted great influence for restraint on President Rhee3 who wanted to unify Korea by force. On our part, we could not be expelled by force where we were present by invitation or in fulfillment of formal agreements.

Mikoyan said there was no analogy in the situations mentioned—historically, juridically or in substance. In Germany and in Korea zones of occupation had been set up by victorious allies. In Korea troops had been withdrawn at different dates, then war had occurred—there was no analogy with Germany. As to Mr. Rhee, the Soviets were not sure our professed restraint would always hold. North Korea was now one big reconstruction site and might be envied by South Korea. The former had no intention to fight but if South Korea started, it would fight well, as it had shown. In general it was a good idea to withdraw troops. There was a need for exchanges between the Koreans in the fields of culture and trade as a gradual means of bringing about reunification.

The division in Vietnam, according to Mikoyan, was the result of agreement reached at Geneva by all concerned.4

[Page 228]

Turning to China, Mikoyan said that the United States had been party to agreements that Taiwan should be returned to China along with the other islands. At one time it had not interfered in Chinese affairs—a reasonable policy, useful for the United States. China would win in any case and this would be worse for the United States. After the remnants of counter-revolution had settled on Taiwan the United States had entered into a bilateral agreement5 and regarded Chiang Kai-shek as representing China. Treaties with him had not been accepted by the real China. No state would accept such unilateral actions. The Soviets were surprised by Chinese patience. Neither China nor the Soviet Union had ever sought to have the United States leave all the islands in the West Pacific. The United States had a treaty with the Philippines, and troops there,6 it had allies in Singapore, it had bases on Okinawa. They did not like this but were not attacking it. In general the Soviet Union wanted all foreign troops withdrawn and peaceful settlements guaranteed by the United Nations. If the United States left Okinawa, it would not be leaving the West Pacific. Since the United States did not want to leave under pressure of force, it should use the respite to leave voluntarily. It would not lose, but gain moral, political and military prestige if it broke with Chiang Kai-shek and recognized the CPR. The latter did not menace the United States, nor did the Soviet Union. The American position gave rise to more anti-Western feeling and tension in the area.

The Secretary said Mikoyan had referred to the violation of the armistice in Korea as breaking up the possibility of reunification. This is what had happened at Taiwan.

Mikoyan replied that he had been misunderstood. The Soviets did want reunification of Korea. He had made his remarks as information only and had had no specific purpose in making them.

The Secretary said the Near Eastern situation was complex and he doubted whether he and Mikoyan could agree on any of the elements in the situation. The area was vital to Western Europe as a source of oil and as a means of communication between Asia and the West. The United States had not believed that the military action by the UK, France and Israel in 1956 had been the right way to protect their interests. This attitude should not, however, be interpreted by the Soviet Union as reflecting any United States indifference to what took place there.

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We were concerned about apparent efforts of International Communism to gain control of the area, particularly about its activities in Iraq. Although the Soviets had been suspicious of American and British motives in responding to the appeals of Lebanon and Jordan, our withdrawal of troops had proven that we had had no intention of working to sustain Western influence in Iraq from outside. Mikoyan said the Soviets believed, on the contrary, that that had been indeed our objective but that we had not been able to bring it about—public opinion had prevented us. When the Secretary objected, Mikoyan said that both sides would undoubtedly retain their own ideas about this. The Secretary said he was sorry about the Soviet view—it had been disproved by our words and deeds. As soon as a UN formula had been found, we had withdrawn our troops. He said that, on the other hand, he hoped we could feel reasonably confident the Soviet Union did not desire to extend its control in Iraq and other Arab states.

Mikoyan said the Soviets recognized the importance of the Middle East to the West as the source of Arabian oil and as the means of communication to Asia. Bulganin and Khrushchev had made this point directly. The Soviets had, on several occasions, advanced proposals for a Big Power meeting to work out common steps to prevent a further deterioration of the situation and to eliminate outside interference in the area. They had also made proposals about arms shipments.7

The Secretary said we had no quarrel with general principles but the area suggested in the Soviet proposals appeared too broad—stretching from Pakistan to Morocco. Mikoyan said the Soviets had been more interested in the Arab world and in Iran and Turkey in this connection. The Secretary said he had asked Gromyko in October 1957 for clarification of Soviet thinking about the scope of the area covered by their proposals but had not gotten it from him. Mikoyan said they had been talking about the Near and Middle East—certainly not Morocco—the Near East was the main hotbed of tension here. They had acted on the assumption that the three Western Powers wanted to act in the area just as they pleased, without asking the Arabs and without accepting the presence or interests of the Soviet Union.

Mikoyan said the Secretary was wrong in suggesting there had been Soviet interference in Iraq. The Baghdad nations8 all had active [Page 230] intelligence services. They knew there had been no Soviet citizens involved. The Soviet leaders had not foreseen the revolution nor had they even heard of Kassem.9 The Secretary said he could be persuaded that the Soviet Union had played no active part in the overthrow of the Nuri Government,10 but he was talking about activities that had taken place since then. Mikoyan observed that if they had not interfered before the revolution it was strange to suggest that they were interfering now. They were glad that the revolution had occurred because it undermined the Baghdad Pact. But, it was not the Communist Party alone but other forces in Iraq as well who were supporting the legal government of Kassem. On the other hand, in the UAR, Nasser was arresting Communists. The Soviet Union had good relations with both countries. Its policy of non-interference was paying off for it in the Middle East. The Soviets had assured the Shah of Iran11 that they would not interfere in Iranian affairs, although they didn’t like his regime. He had given them assurances that Iran would not engage in any military arrangements directed against the Soviet Union nor allow foreign bases to be set up on Iranian soil. However, since the split in the Baghdad Pact there had been certain developments and his policy seemed to have changed. Iran was providing military bases for the United States. We were thus interfering in the area, not they.

As to Pakistan, Mikoyan said he didn’t know whether there were Communists there or not. He had had good relations with Mirza and had represented the USSR at the Constitution ceremonies. The Soviet attitude towards Ayub Khan was the same as toward the previous government.12 The Soviets saw no constitutional basis for his government, but this was a matter for the Pakistan people. Western policy in the Middle East was mistaken because it did not recognize that the colonial era had come to an end.

The Secretary said there had been much loose talk about the United States putting in new bases under new treaties with Turkey, Iran and [Page 231] Pakistan.13 This was not the case. The United States was engaged in fulfilling commitments already made. It had a Mutual Security Act14 which laid out the terms and conditions for military assistance. What has been going on has been talks about fulfilling its commitments to Turkey, Pakistan and Iran. These talks were designed to determine the measures needed to bring these commitments up to date.

Mikoyan said it would be better to bury them rather than to bring them up to date. The Secretary said that if Mikoyan saw the texts of the agreements themselves he would be reassured. Our recent commitments might result in some improvement in the military capability of Iran but in general all three countries in our view had excessive military establishments in relation to their resources and we favored greater dedication of the latter to economic development. Mikoyan said that the Soviet view was that the United States was to blame for these large military establishments and that we wanted to keep tension high in the area through this policy.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1183. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Freers and approved by David E. Boster on January 22.
  2. Presumably Mikoyan meant Henry Ford II, President of Ford Motor Company.
  3. Executive Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chase Manhattan Bank.
  4. Syngman Rhee, President of the Republic of Korea.
  5. Reference is to the Geneva Conference on Indochina in 1954.
  6. Reference presumably is to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of China, signed in Washington on December 2, 1954, and entered into force on March 3, 1955. (6 UST 433)
  7. Reference presumably is to the agreement concerning military bases between the United States and the Philippines signed in Manila on March 14, 1947, and entered into force on March 26, 1947. (43 UNTS 271)
  8. For texts of Khrushchev’s letters to Eisenhower, dated July 19 and 23, 1958, proposing a meeting of heads of government to discuss possible solutions to the Middle East crisis, see Department of State Bulletin, August 11, 1958, pp. 231–233 and 234–235. A Soviet proposal by Khrushchev for a moratorium on arms shipments to the Middle East, which would be conditional on an agreement of noninterference in the area by the powers, was reported in the London Times, February 1, 1958.
  9. Reference is to the members of the Baghdad Pact, a treaty of mutual cooperation signed at Baghdad on February 24, 1955, between Turkey and Iraq and adhered to later that year by the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and Iran.
  10. Brigadier Abdul Karem Kassem, leader of the army revolt in Iraq in July 1958 and Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Defense in the new Iraqi Government.
  11. General Nuri el-Said, Prime Minister of the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan, who was assassinated during the army revolt in July 1958.
  12. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi.
  13. After Iskander Mirza, President of Pakistan, formed a new cabinet on October 24, 1958, and appointed General Ayub Khan as Prime Minister, he announced that he had decided to resign and hand over all powers to General Ayub Khan.
  14. Reference is to the multilateral declaration respecting the Baghdad Pact, which the United States, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom signed at London on July 28, 1958, and which entered into force the same day. (9 UST 1077) To implement this declaration, the United States subsequently signed agreements of cooperation at Ankara on March 5, 1959, which entered into force the same day, with Iran (10 UST 314), Pakistan (10 UST 317), and Turkey (10 UST 320).
  15. Reference is to the Mutual Security Act of 1954, P.L. 83–665, legislation designed to promote U.S. security and foreign policy by furnishing assistance to friendly nations. (68 Stat. 832) The legislation was amended in certain details by Congress in subsequent years.