79. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Mr. Kozlov’s Call on The President


  • U.S.—The President, The Secretary of State, Mr. J.M. McSweeney and Mr. A. Akalovsky
  • USSR—F.R. Kozlov, M.A. Menshikov, A.A. Soldatov, and V.M. Sukhodrev (interpreting)

The President opened the conversation by saying that he had just come from his press conference.1 He explained that the President’s press conference is similar to the questioning of prime ministers in countries with parliamentary systems. He indicated that some of the questions asked by the newspaper men may be embarrassing.

Mr. Kozlov replied that press conferences are also used frequently in the Soviet Union and that Soviet leaders, particularly Mr. Khrushchev, have frequent press conferences. He added that during Marshal Stalin’s time this method of acquainting the population with current developments had not been used and that he thought that this was unfortunate, since he believed that the public at large should be informed.

The President said that during the press conference the question of the paintings to be sent to the Moscow Exhibition2 had been raised. He said that those paintings, or at least most of them, represented an extreme form of modernism and that some of them are even unintelligible to the average eye; some of the paintings were satirical or even lampooning. The newspaper men had asked him why he personally had not participated in the selection of paintings. The President observed that the committee that had selected the paintings was apparently not much interested in public taste. The public at large, at least 95 per cent of the population, would approve the type of paintings he had seen at the Soviet Exhibit. He said that the committee represented a thin stratum of artists, or at least of people who call themselves artists and who believe [Page 291] that they are the ones who interpret America. The President asked Mr. Kozlov what his view was on this subject.

Mr. Kozlov replied that he would certainly see the paintings in question in Moscow and that he would inform the President of his reaction to them. As far as modern art was concerned, in the Soviet Union as in the United States, the public cannot understand it, and even artists themselves frequently cannot understand it. He recalled that when he had visited the Brussels Exhibition3 he had seen an abstract painting. He had asked the woman guide to explain what the painting represented, but she could not. It was someone else’s decision, she said, to show the picture. Of course, Mr. Kozlov said, he was not an expert on art and could not judge the value of modern art, but he could say that the general public does not understand it. He also recalled that in Brussels he had seen some “normal” pictures and he liked them; because such pictures can be understood by the average people.

The President said that the opinion of the masses would probably be the same both in the Soviet Union and in the United States, because Mr. Kozlov represented the non-artists in the Soviet Union, just as he represented the non-artists’ opinion in the United States. So he thought that he knew what Mr. Kozlov’s reaction would be.

The President then recalled that in his early youth he had lived on a farm, in a beef and grain area. When he was in the Soviet Union in 19454 and visited some collective farms he talked the same language with the workers because their problems at that time had been the same as he had experienced at his farm in his youth. As a result of the war the farms in the Soviet Union had been deprived of farming implements and the workers were very much concerned with improving the yield, raising the number of cattle, etc.

Mr. Kozlov agreed that immediately after the war the collective farms in the Soviet Union did not have much mechanical equipment but observed that now agriculture in the USSR is mechanized. For instance, 100 per cent of wheat is harvested with mechanized equipment and harvesting of corn is also being mechanized. In this connection he noted that corn in the United States is of excellent quality.

Mr. Kozlov admitted that there had been a defect in Soviet agriculture which now has been corrected, i.e., crops had been prescribed from above. At Mr. Khrushchev’s initiative free crop planning has been introduced; in other words, everyone is free to cultivate the type of crop that is most suitable for his land. As a result of this, the peasants now live [Page 292] better and are much happier. Mr. Kozlov also noted the fact that 3.6 million hectares of virgin land have been cultivated in the Soviet Union and that this had saved the Soviet Union during the drought in 1957, when the Volga and the land in the south of Russia were very dry. He recalled the big famine of 1921, when the Soviet Union had to buy wheat from the United States with gold taken from churches, because it was the only way out.

The President commented that the Soviet Union might find itself one day in the same situation in which the United States is now. That is, where the United States has great surpluses of wheat, corn, tobacco, peanuts, cotton and other agricultural commodities. The storage alone of these commodities costs $1,000,000,000 a year. The President said that one of our biggest problems was what to do with these surpluses, how to supply other countries that are in need of such commodities without undermining the markets of other exporting countries. For this reason, the United States’ exports of agricultural surpluses are limited to such countries as do not have the means to buy such commodities from, for example, Canada, Argentine, etc.

Mr. Kozlov stated that the Soviet Union would not reach such a stage very soon, if ever. He said that the Soviet Union is a very large country and that all of its resources can be utilized by converting one commodity into another so as to raise the standard of living of the people. However, the Soviet Union always has reserves of grain and other foodstuffs for emergency cases. The Soviet Union has now started a big program for increasing the production of milk and butter. The Soviet Union wants to compete with its great and mighty partner, the United States, in the production of milk, butter, and meat. For this reason it intends to treble its livestock. Great emphasis is also placed on corn. In this connection good contacts have been established with one of the outstanding American farmers, Mr. Garst.5 Mr. Kozlov expressed the hope that Secretary Herter will not exert any pressure on Mr. Garst because of his contacts with the Soviet Union.

The President observed that he loves corn, and that it is his favorite cereal. He said that he loves corn bread, corn cakes, and all other products of corn.

Mr. Kozlov retorted by saying this made the President a great friend of Mr. Khrushchev’s who also is a great lover of corn and who always mentioned it, whatever the topic of his speech. Therefore, the President should meet with Mr. Khrushchev and discuss corn directly with him. True, Mr. Kozlov observed, he could not say at what level this [Page 293] meeting should take place but still this common interest would be a good basis for a meeting.

The President said that if only the United States and the Soviet Union, which both are great powers, could work [in] parallel rather than engage in disputes because of their different ideology, this would be a great force for the betterment of the entire world. The genius and inventiveness of the Russian people can be seen at the New York Exhibition, while Mr. Kozlov would see the genius and inventiveness of the American people on his trip. So the problem was to direct the minds of our two peoples toward the same objective. The President noted that he was not putting the blame on anyone or assessing the blame but rather making an observation.

Mr. Kozlov stated that life would be indeed wonderful if our two countries could revive their World War II comradeship-in-arms. He recalled his visit on the previous day to the construction site of the United States atomic ship Savannah6 and said that American engineers there had expressed great interest in the achievements of Soviet technology. He suggested that by exchanging the experience gained from such projects as the Savannah and the Soviet atomic icebreaker Lenin a great deal of good could be done to both countries. There were many things in common between our two countries, and the struggle for peace was one of them. Of course, there were differences of opinion between our two countries on certain problems but if we adopted a realistic approach they could be resolved. For instance, the Berlin question could be resolved peacefully, through negotiation. However, he did not want to elaborate on this question because he had done this in a conversation with Mr. Herter earlier in the day.7 Mr. Kozlov continued by saying that it was a horrifying thought that our two countries could use their military potential to destroy each other; this would be a catastrophe for mankind. Therefore, he wanted to associate himself to the President’s view that our two countries should work parallel. The Soviet Union realized that certain differences do exist between our two countries: the Soviet Union is a socialist country while the United States is a capitalist country. However, they are far apart geographically so that our peoples can live under their respective systems. One way to broaden the cooperation between our two countries would be to expand trade. However, the United States seems to be unwilling to do that. For instance, American chemical industry is willing to sell to the Soviet Union but the [Page 294] Department of State has refused to issue the necessary export license. Mr. Kozlov stated that he wanted to emphasize the principle on which the policy of the Soviet Union is based is that of peaceful coexistence and to that principle the Soviet Union will always faithfully adhere.

The President expressed concurrence with Mr. Kozlov’s statement and that he was delighted to hear it. He said that many American groups returning from the Soviet Union come to him and report that the Soviet people are very friendly and cordial. Many American groups have been in the Soviet Union—groups of professors, educators—and now there is a group of governors touring the Soviet Union.8 All of these groups tell us that the people of the Soviet Union are just as devoted to peace as the people of the United States. Everybody knows that the American people do not want war. Therefore, our two countries should break this log jam in their relations and deal with each other in conciliatory terms.

Mr. Kozlov said that he fully agreed with what the President had said and that this was not only his personal view but also that of the entire Soviet people. The problems existing between our two countries can be resolved only through negotiation and not through force. After all, what are our countries fighting about? If we take West Berlin, there are some 2.2 million people in that city and if they want the capitalist social order, that is all right with the Soviet Union. But the occupation regime in that city that has lasted for fourteen years should be terminated.

Mr. Kozlov reiterated that the Soviet Union has all natural resources, all chemical elements as indicated in Mendeleyev’s chart; it is a country of colossal wealth. It is true, however, that the United States has developed the harnessing of its resources on a larger scale. Today there is a great deal of work to be done in the Soviet Union, particularly in Siberia, work which could take hundreds of years. Mr. Kozlov then recalled Mr. Averell Harriman’s visit to Siberia9 where we went to see the 3.5 million k.w. power station on the Angara River that is now being constructed. Mr. Harriman had received permission to go to that area in spite of the fact that this is a closed zone. Mr. Harriman could see personally how this power station is being built and he was very much impressed with what he had seen. The power from that station would be used for the production of cellulose, synthetic fibres and aluminum.

If we take the Middle East, Mr. Kozlov continued, the cotton that is produced in Egypt is inferior to that produced in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union also has great reserves of oil and needs no oil from that area. Moreover, it could sell oil to the United States, but unfortunately [Page 295] the United States doesn’t need it. The main problem of the Soviet Union is that it has no sufficient means to harness its natural wealth fast enough. It is also true that the living conditions in Siberia are more difficult than those in the United States, but people are used to them.

For all these reasons, Mr. Kozlov went on, why should our two countries fight each other? If we take the Berlin problem, it should be resolved by the Germans themselves. After all, it was they who twice imposed war on us, so why should we fight because of them? The Soviet Union is investing thousands of billions of rubles in the development of its industry; 104,000,000,000 rubles are being invested in the chemical industry alone. Therefore, if both of our countries should work in the same direction, wonderful relations between them would exist.

The President said that if this happened, this would open great prospects for advance for the entire world. Mr. Kozlov said what the Soviet Union is trying to do for its country could be done for the entire world. In other words, the Soviet challenge must be translated into concrete measures to improve the welfare of the people throughout the world. Therefore, the President said, he wanted to echo Mr. Kozlov’s phrase, that our two countries have no reason, no excuse for war because they have so much to do. What has to be done now is to find a way how to do it better.

Mr. Kozlov expressed full agreement with the President’s words.

The President expressed his hope that Mr. Kozlov would convey his good wishes for health and happiness to Mr. Khrushchev and his hope that ways could be found for fruitful negotiations as Mr. Kozlov had mentioned. The President also asked Mr. Kozlov to convey the same message to the Soviet people. Mr. Kozlov replied that he wanted to take this opportunity once again to convey to the President Mr. Khrushchev’s best wishes for health and for the prosperity of the American people.

The President said that Mr. Kozlov would have a good time in the United States and that everybody would be ready to talk freely to him. In this connection he expressed satisfaction that Mr. Kozlov would visit Bohemian Grove in California, which is located in beautiful surroundings.10

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Records, International Series. Secret. Drafted by Akalovsky. The meeting was held at the White House. Another copy of the memorandum indicates that the White House approved it on July 14. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.6111/7–159)
  2. For the transcript of Eisenhower’s July 1 press conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959, pp. 488–497.
  3. Reference is to the American National Exhibition that was scheduled to open in Moscow in late July.
  4. Reference is to the Brussels Exhibition held April 17–October 19, 1958.
  5. Regarding Eisenhower’s visit to the Soviet Union in August 1945, see Crusade in Europe (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1948), pp. 459–467.
  6. Roswell Garst, an Iowa farmer, had played a leading role in organizing exchange visits between Soviet and U.S. farmers and had met Khrushchev in Moscow.
  7. On June 30, Kozlov visited the Ideal Toy Corporation in Jamaica, New York, and the construction yards of the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, where he inspected the nuclear-powered freighter Savannah.
  8. A memorandum of Herter’s conversation with Kozlov on July 1 is printed in vol. VIII, Document 422.
  9. Nine U.S. governors toured the Soviet Union in early July. They had an interview with Khrushchev on July 7, reported in The Washington Post on July 8 and 9.
  10. See Document 74.
  11. A memorandum for the files, dated July 1, signed only “a.” (presumably Ann Whitman) and initialed in the margin by Goodpaster, gave Eisenhower’s reactions to this interview as follows:

    “The President, in talking of his conversation with Deputy Premier Kozlov, said that first of all he liked the man—that he was frank and willing to state clearly the Russian positions. The President said what we have to do is to thaw out’ the Russian defenses. About Berlin we say we will never have our rights there diminished. The Russians say this is an illogical position. We admit it is illogical, but we will not abandon our rights and responsibilities—unless there is a way made for us to do so.” (Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Records, USSR)