92. Editorial Note

Vice President Richard M. Nixon made an unofficial visit to the Soviet Union July 23–August 2. The main purpose of his visit was to open the American National Exhibition in Sokolniki Park in Moscow on July 25. Yuri Zhukov, Chairman of the Soviet State Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, invited Vice President Nixon on December 5, 1958, to open the exhibition. A memorandum of that conversation is in Part 2, Document 7.

Nixon later recalled that Abbott Washburn, Deputy Director of the U.S. Information Agency, who was then working on the cultural exchange program with the Soviet Union, first suggested to Nixon the idea of his visit to the Soviet Union. (Six Crises, page 255) No further record of their discussion on this matter has been found, but when Nixon brought up the possibility of opening the American National Exhibition in Moscow with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Under Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, both of whom supported the idea, Herter also noted that USIA endorsed the proposed trip. (Telegram 1626 to Moscow, April 8; Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/4–859)

When the views of Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson were solicited, he responded that Deputy Foreign Minister Valerian Aleksandrovich Zorin had just referred on his own initiative to Mikoyan’s conversation with Nixon in January in which Mikoyan had received the impression that the Vice President might be interested in visiting the Soviet Union, possibly in connection with the opening of the Exhibition in Sokolniki Park, and he wondered whether the Soviet Government should extend an invitation. Thompson, who had been present at this Mikoyan-Nixon conversation, told Zorin that he was sure that Nixon would like to visit the Soviet Union but advised against a formal invitation. He emphasized instead that whenever the Vice President decided on the visit, he was sure the appropriate arrangements could be made without difficulty. Thompson advised the Department of State that he favored Nixon’s visit, opposed a formal Soviet invitation, and suggested that the United States try to obtain a commitment from the Soviet Government for a broadcast of a speech by Nixon nationwide to the Soviet people either at the opening of the Exhibition or on some separate occasion. (Telegram 2025 from Moscow, April 9; ibid., 711.12/4–959) The memorandum of Nixon’s January 6 conversation with Mikoyan is printed as Document 61.

In a memorandum to the President, April 9, Acting Secretary Herter forwarded Thompson’s response in telegram 2025 along with his [Page 327] own and Secretary Dulles’ recommendation that they favored the idea of Nixon’s visit and, if the President approved, recommended that George V. Allen, Director of the U.S. Information Agency, make the announcement as soon as possible in order to dissociate the proposed visit from a possible summit conference. A handwritten notation by Goodpaster on this memorandum reads: “President indicated he strongly approved. State notified.”

A memorandum from Foy D. Kohler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, to Livingston T. Merchant, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, April 13, attached to telegram 2025, noted that Abbott Washburn argued that USIA was refraining from publicity concerning the Exhibition to avoid giving it a propaganda aspect and much preferred that the announcement of Nixon’s visit come from James C. Hagerty, the President’s Press Secretary. For text of the press release issued by the White House in Augusta, Georgia, on April 17, which announced Nixon’s forthcoming trip to the Soviet Union, see Department of State Bulletin, May 18, 1959, pages 698–699.

When Vice President Nixon asked Secretary Dulles for suggestions in connection with a possible meeting with Khrushchev during his trip, Dulles responded, as summarized in a memorandum from Joseph N. Greene, Jr., Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, to the Executive Secretariat, April 20:

“Secretary Dulles told Mr. Herter today that the Vice President had asked him whether he had any suggestion as to the line which he, the Vice President, might take with Khrushchev during his visit to Moscow. Secretary Dulles said he had suggested that the Vice President task Khrushchev with the crisis he has artificially created with respect to West Berlin along the lines that Khrushchev and the Soviet leaders profess their desire for peaceful coexistence and peaceful competition. West Berlin is geographically, ideologically and economically a test case of these professions; if they were sincere, it is hard to see how the Soviet leaders could insist on allied withdrawal from West Berlin and the consequent destruction of all or most that the West has helped the West Berliners to accomplish. West Berlin is in fact no threat to the Soviet empire and, in the situation which has been created, there could be a living example of both peaceful coexistence and peaceful competition. The Soviet demands for West withdrawal strongly suggests that the Soviets do not in fact want either.” (Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/4–2059)

In the ensuing weeks, Ambassador Thompson had numerous conversations with representatives of the Soviet Foreign Ministry concerning Nixon’s expected arrival, length of stay, itinerary, the number and names of members of his party as well as accompanying journalists, Nixon’s special requests on places he might wish to see, and other arrangements. Telegrams to and from Moscow on these details from late April to late July 1959 are ibid., 033.1100–NI. Nixon requested, [Page 328] among other things, the Soviet Government’s permission to leave the Soviet Union on his plane via Siberia on his way to visit Alaska, which had recently attained statehood. (Telegram 2222 from Moscow, May 7, and telegram 1855 to Moscow, May 7; both ibid., 033.1100–NI/5–759) The Soviet Government, however, claiming that the Siberian aviation route was “not suitable for flights of foreign planes,” denied Nixon’s request. (Telegram 2482 from Moscow, June 8; ibid., 033.1100–NI/6–859) More positively, the Soviet Government indicated that Nixon’s address at the opening of the American National Exhibition as well as a later speech during his visit would be broadcast nationwide on radio and television. (Telegram 2163 to Moscow, June 22; ibid., 033.1100–NI/6–859)

Because Frol Kozlov, First Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, had expressed personal satisfaction for the treatment he received during his visit to the United States and had told Nixon that “all doors in Soviet Union open to you,” Nixon renewed his request to visit Siberia in U.S. aircraft and to exit eastward to Alaska. (Telegram 27 to Moscow, July 2; ibid., 033.1100–NI/7–259) The Soviets denied these requests, and Nixon regretfully accepted the use of Soviet aircraft for his visit to Siberian cities. (Telegram 69 to Moscow, July 8; ibid., 033.1100–NI/7–859)

Nixon also asked to visit a Soviet missile launching site, saying he had personally arranged for Kozlov to visit a U.S. missile launching site, although Kozlov declined the invitation, as well as a production line of Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missiles, comparable to the Thor missile line, which Andrei Nikolaevich Tupolev, Soviet aircraft designer and member of the Kozlov party, visited in California. (Telegram 98 to Moscow, July 10; ibid., 033.1100–NI/7–1059) The Soviets did not respond to these requests (requests 267 from Moscow, July 22; ibid., 033.1100–NI/7–2259), and Nixon did not visit a missile factory or launching site during his trip.

As late as July 2, Nixon had no plans to visit any other nation en route to or from the Soviet Union. (Telegram 37 to Vienna, July 3; ibid., 033.1100–NI/7–259) However, once the Soviet Government denied his request to leave from Siberia, he began to explore short visits to other nations during his return to the United States. He finally accepted a longstanding invitation from Poland to visit that country following his departure from Moscow. (Telegram 59 to Warsaw, July 17; ibid., 033.1100–NI/7–1759) Regarding the background of the Polish invitation, see Part 2, Document 73.

President Eisenhower’s letters of greeting and of introduction of Nixon to Chairman Nikita Khrushchev and to Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, both dated July 20, are printed in Toward Better Understanding, pages 1–2. The [Page 329] memorandum of a July 22 conversation between Eisenhower and Nixon on the Vice President’s impending trip is printed as Document 93. A detailed itinerary of Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union and Poland, July 22–August 5, is attached to a memorandum prepared by John A. Armitage (EUR/SOV) on October 16 on the administrative aspects of his trip. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/10–1659) Also attached is a list of the people accompanying Nixon. These included his wife Pat, the President’s brother Milton S. Eisenhower, Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Foy D. Kohler, George V. Allen, and Herbert G. Klein, the Vice President’s Press Secretary.

Briefing books prepared for the Vice President’s trip are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1413 and 1414. CF 1415 is a miscellaneous file on the trip. CF 1416 contains a detailed chronology, including copies of memoranda of conversation between Nixon and Soviet officials.

Nixon left Friendship Airport in Baltimore on July 22 at about 9 p.m. and arrived at Vnukova Airport in Moscow on July 23 at about 3 p.m. For text of his arrival statement, see Department of State Bulletin, August 17, 1959, pages 227–228, and Toward Better Understanding, pages 2–4. He then drove to Spaso House where he resided during most of his stay in Moscow.

On the next morning, July 24 at about 9:30 a.m., he met with Voroshilov; see Document 94. He then met with Khrushchev; see Document 95. Nixon and Khrushchev then went to Sokolniki Park for a preview of the American National Exhibition. A transcript of Khrushchev’s remarks at the American exhibit at a model television studio, which featured a new type of color television tape, is in Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/7–2559. For some unexplained reason, Nixon’s remarks during this exchange with Khrushchev were omitted from the transcript. The videotape of this exchange including Nixon’s remarks, was broadcast in the United States by the American television networks on the late evening news on July 25. Nixon and Khrushchev had agreed during this exchange that the tape and kinescope of their conversation would be released simultaneously in the United States and the Soviet Union after the translations had been checked, but the networks aired the exchange before Nixon had given his approval. Documentation on the agreement, the networks’ actions, and the repercussions of these broadcasts on Soviet-American relations is ibid., 033.1100–NI.

During their tour of the American exhibit, Nixon and Khrushchev came to a model American home where they stopped in the kitchen. Here ensued the “kitchen debate” where they conducted a wide-ranging argument on the relative merits of the capitalist and Communist systems. This debate was not carried on television but was observed by many reporters and reported in the press. A reconstruction of their informal exchanges at the model television studio and model American [Page 330] home is printed in The New York Times, July 25, 1959. Nixon’s account of these exchanges is in Six Crises, pages 272–279. For Khrushchev’s recollections, see Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament, pages 364–367. Nixon’s message to the President and Acting Secretary of State C. Douglas Dillon, July 24, on his activities that day is printed as Document 96.

Early that same evening, Nixon and Khrushchev returned to Sokolniki Park for the formal opening of the American National Exhibition. For texts of Khrushchev’s remarks, Eisenhower’s letter of greeting, which Nixon read, and Nixon’s own address on this occasion, see Toward Better Understanding, pages 4–15. Eisenhower’s letter and Nixon’s address are also printed in Department of State Bulletin, August 17, 1959, pp. 228–232.

The next morning, July 25, Nixon met separately with Anastas Mikoyan and Frol Kozlov; see Documents 97 and 98. That evening, Nixon departed Spaso House for the Soviet Government guest house, a dacha about 30 miles from Moscow.

Early the next afternoon, July 26, Khrushchev, Mikoyan, Kozlov, and their wives arrived, and they and the Nixons took a boat trip on the Moscow River. After their return, at a late afternoon picnic, there was a lengthy conversation between Khrushchev and Nixon; see Document 99. Nixon’s message to Eisenhower, July 26, on this conversation is Document 100.

On July 27, Nixon and his party left for Leningrad where they toured a factory and shipyard, and had a boat and automobile sightseeing tour. On July 28, Nixon left for Novosibirsk. After a tour of the Ural Hydroelectric Plant and a boat cruise on the nearby lake on July 29, he flew to Sverdlovsk where he inspected a factory. The next morning, July 30, he went by car to Pervouralsk where he toured a steel rolling mill factory and a copper mine. On July 31, he saw a nuclear power plant before returning to Moscow by plane. his message to the President, July 31, reporting on his 5-day tour is printed as Document 103.

On August 1, Nixon spent the day preparing his speech which he delivered over radio and television that evening. For text of his address, see Toward Better Understanding, pages 16–24, and Department of State Bulletin, August 17, 1959, pages 232–236. He also wrote Khrushchev three letters, all dated August 1. One is printed as Document 104. Regarding his letter inquiring about the fate of the missing crewmen from the crash of the C–130 plane in the Soviet Union on September 2, 1958, see Document 55. For text of Nixon’s thank-you letter to Khrushchev, along with Khrushchev’s reply of August 6, see Toward Better Understanding, pages 32–33. Before leaving Moscow, Nixon received letters from Khrushchev and Voroshilov to Eisenhower, both dated August 1959, which were replies to Eisenhower’s July 20 letters to them. Nixon [Page 331] delivered these letters to the President upon his return to the United States. For texts, see Toward Better Understanding, pages 33–35.

At 10 a.m. on August 2, Nixon held a press conference. For the transcript, see ibid., pages 24–31. An hour later he briefed the French and Canadian Ambassadors and the German and British charges on his visit. This briefing was summarized in telegram 421 from Moscow, August 3. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/8–359)

Documentation on Nixon’s visit to Poland August 2–5 is in Part 2, Documents 7378.

For texts of the exchange of greetings between Acting Secretary of State Dillon and the Vice President upon the latter’s return to Washington on August 5, see Department of State Bulletin, August 24, 1959, pages 272–273.

Ambassador Thompson’s evaluation of Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union was transmitted in telegram 428 from Moscow, Document 105. A memorandum of the Vice President’s conference with the President, August 5, is printed as Document 106. Allen Dulles’ evaluation of the visit given to the National Security Council on August 6 is printed as Document 107.

Nixon published his recollections of his trip to the Soviet Union and Poland in Six Crises, pages 253–314.

Additional documentation on Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union is in Department of State, Central Files 033.1100–NI and Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1413–1416.