83. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between President Eisenhower and Secretary of State Herter0

The President telephoned to say he got a rather tough question in his press conference about what Khrushchev was supposed to have told the Governors yesterday to the effect that he wanted to come and see the United States and that nothing would be better for the world than President [Page 308] Eisenhower going to see Khrushchev.1 The President said he had not known of this statement by Khrushchev2 but that it raised a lot of press query. The President said he had sort of stumbled around; that he didn’t know exactly what to say. However, in this connection, the President said this was what he believed: he felt that if we are ever going to break the log jam, people like the Secretary and himself and Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dillon will have to give serious thought as to whether this might be a good move. The President said if he did this, he would rather go to Russia than have Khrushchev here, but, in any event, he wanted to point out that this question raised a lot of interest. The President said, after giving careful consideration to a question of a meeting between himself and Khrushchev, if we don’t reach any answer we have got to have a good excuse for not doing it. The President said he has talked about misunderstandings with our Allies, the Satellites, etc., and that the people will wonder why he won’t try to resolve misunderstandings with Russia.

The Secretary said Mr. Murphy has always felt the President should have a meeting with Khrushchev, but the business of how to bring it about is a difficult problem. The President said the only person who couldn’t say anything is Macmillan since he saw Khrushchev himself.3 The Secretary said it may well be that the outcome of the Geneva talks will be not a Summit, but a talk between the President and Khrushchev. The Secretary referred to the President’s reference to Quebec as a possible site for a Summit meeting,4 and said should this work out, it might be difficult with Khrushchev so near, not to invite him to the U.S. The President said if he did this he would want to take him to Camp David where the visit would involve a minimum of protocol and their talks could be relaxed and informal.

The President asked that the Secretary give thought to this idea, and asked that for the moment the matter be kept within a very limited group in the State Department. The Secretary said he would hope to discuss this further with the President after NSC tomorrow.5

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Herter Papers, White House Telephone Conversations. Secret; Limited Distribution. Drafted by Herter.
  2. Regarding the visit of the U.S. governors to the Soviet Union, see footnote 8, Document 79. For the transcript of the President’s press conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959, pp. 506–507.
  3. The newspaper accounts of the governors’ meeting with Khrushchev printed in The Washington Post on July 8 were based only on the introductory remarks before their long private conversation and did not mention an exchange of visits. A full report of the interview, including the visit proposal, was published in The Washington Post on July 9.
  4. See footnote 10, Document 80.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. A memorandum of Herter’s July 9 conference with President Eisenhower is printed in vol. VIII, Document 429.