98. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • Vice President’s Kremlin Conversation with Kozlov

PARTICIPANTS

  • United States—Vice President Nixon, Ambassador Thompson, Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN; Mr. Akalovsky (interpreting)
  • USSR—Mr. Frol Kozlov, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR
  • Mr. V.V. Kuznetsov, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Mr. S.R. Striganov, Deputy Chief of the American Countries Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Mr. Lepanov (interpreting)

The conversation took place in the Kremlin, Moscow, USSR.

After an exchange of greetings Mr. Kozlov expressed his regret that the Vice President and his party would stay only one day in Mr. Kozlov’s home city of Leningrad. The Vice President began by explaining why he had invited Admiral Rickover to accompany him on this trip. He pointed out that Mr. Kozlov and the Admiral had had a delightful day together in Shippingport and that the Admiral is a top US leader in the field of atomic energy. The Vice President expressed his appreciation for the opportunity that would be given him to visit the Soviet icebreaker Lenin and stated that both the President and he strongly believe that atomic energy should be utilized for peaceful purposes. He said that he wanted to explore with Mr. Kozlov in what specific areas exchanges [Page 354]of information on atomic energy or on peaceful uses of atomic energy could be arranged. For this reason Admiral Rickover had been asked to explore as representative of the President and the Vice President, what might be done in this area that had not yet been done.

Mr. Kozlov replied that Admiral Rickover could get in touch with Glavatom, the Soviet atomic energy agency, and discuss the subject. However, he said, he wanted to observe that Admiral Rickover’s activities are not in the area of peaceful uses but rather are in that of submarines.

The Vice President replied that he knew that Admiral Rickover had an effective answer to this remark. However, he wanted to say that we know the destructive power of atomic energy and that this is why we want to develop its peaceful uses. This development would reduce international tension.

Mr. Kozlov agreed that peaceful uses of atomic energy should be developed and stated that the Soviet people have been working in that direction. Cooperation in that field is a very desirable thing since work in isolation might lead to such curious situations as the one which he had encountered during his visit to the University of California laboratory in Berkeley. Mr. McMillan,1 who had received him there, had told him about the laboratory’s plans for building an accelerator. As it happens, Veksler,2 a Soviet nuclear scientist, who had visited the United States, had been working on the same problem. The solutions Veksler had reached turned out to be the same as those of American scientists. This incident points up the need for and the usefulness of exchanges in this area.

The Vice President said that he wanted to emphasize that it was important, in addition to just talking, to lay a basis for action. For this reason he was asking Admiral Rickover to say what, on the basis of his authority, could be done in that area. The Vice President pointed out again that the Admiral had authority from the United States Government. He pointed out that the occasion of Admiral Rickover’s presence in the USSR offered a rare opportunity where a technical expert was available for detailed discussions.

Admiral Rickover said that he wanted first to note that the work done by him was not limited to nuclear submarines and surface ships but that it also included peaceful uses of atomic energy. For example, he had been responsible for the design of the Shippingport reactor which was entirely devoted to peaceful uses. He recalled his meeting with Mr. [Page 355] Kozlov at the nuclear power station at Shippingport and his statement to Mr. Kozlov that the United States was prepared to release all the information on that installation for a suitable exchange.3

Mr. Kozlov replied that information on the Soviet nuclear power station near Moscow had also been made public. He said that if the Admiral was interested, he would be welcome to go there and visit it. However, he said, he agreed with the statement made by the Admiral at Shippingport that electric power from nuclear reactors is too expensive now and that much work should be done to develop this source of energy in order to make it as cheap as hydroelectric and thermal power stations.

Admiral Rickover stated that he was authorized to make arrangements for exchanges on all reactors including those for use in aircraft. The United States would be willing to exchange information on reactors in return for similar or other information from the Soviet Union.

Mr. Kozlov said that this was a very interesting proposition and that it could be considered by the Soviet Government.

Admiral Rickover stated that the United States has plutonium-producing reactors at Hanford and the Savannah River plants. The United States would be willing to exchange information on all types of reactors so that the Soviet Union could see for itself that the United States is willing to turn to peaceful utilization of atomic energy. The United States would like to have quick results in the matters of such exchanges and it is offering them in a spirit of true sincerity. Also, the Admiral continued, the United States is developing at Hanford a dual purpose reactor for the production of plutonium and electric power. The Soviet Union seems to be also designing such a reactor and the United States would be prepared to exchange information on all reactors, including the one just mentioned. The United States would be prepared to open the information and technology on all reactors located on land.

Mr. Kozlov replied that the Soviet Government would consider this proposition and inform the United States of its views.

Admiral Rickover observed that it would be very helpful if at least tentative exchange arrangements could be made before the Vice President’s departure. He said that it would be desirable if the Soviet Government designated a person to deal with him without authority to act but only to develop an outline which would then be referred to the principals for decision. Admiral Rickover also expressed willingness to [Page 356]change his itinerary if this should become necessary in connection with his suggestion.

Mr. Kozlov said that it would be difficult to act so fast. Firstly because the Soviet Government must consider the US suggestion and secondly because he believed that our two countries must work primarily on creating confidence between them. He reiterated, however, that the Soviet Government would consider the American suggestion.

The Vice President said that the difficulty was to find a way to develop trust and confidence which, as Mr. Kozlov himself had said, is so necessary. The US had thought that the area suggested by Admiral Rickover was one where a very good start could be made. The Vice President emphasized that he was not suggesting that classified projects should be disclosed to the US but rather that discussions on these exchanges be held at a high level so that the confidence desired by both sides could be created.

Mr. Kozlov replied that the atmosphere during his visit to the United States had been better than it is now. He said that the Congressional resolution on captive nations has introduced an element of deterioration in the relations between the US and the USSR. This resolution is resented by the Soviet people and it cannot contribute to the lessening of tension.

The Vice President observed that Mr. Kozlov was probably aware of the fact that this subject had been discussed at length with Mr. Khrushchev yesterday.4 Therefore he felt that no useful purpose would be served in discussing it at length again.

Mr. Kozlov agreed but said that the resolution included such states as the Ukraine, Turkestan, Kazakhstan, etc., and said that the United States could not treat the peoples of the Soviet Union in this manner. The peoples of the Soviet Union are not captive, they are freely building a new life. Actions such as this resolution put the Soviet Union on guard.

The Vice President pointed out that the President’s proclamation did not specifically include any areas forming a part of the USSR and that under the American system the final act is the President’s act. The Vice President said that he had no illusion regarding what the Soviet Government terms a revolution in the USSR; furthermore, he wanted to say that he had received a friendly reception by people he had met in the Soviet Union and he was very much impressed by their pride in their work, their love for their country and their friendship for him and his group.

Referring to Mr. Kozlov’s remark that this resolution had worsened the situation, the Vice President said that this was all the more reason for [Page 357]concrete action in the field of exchanges as proposed by Admiral Rickover, so that a feeling of confidence could be created. The Vice President recalled his statement during his meeting with Mr. Kozlov in Washington to the effect that both sides should realize that both of them are strong, will have to deal with each other, and will be around for a long time.

Mr. Kozlov commented on the friendly reception he had had in the US on the part of the common people in factories, research centers, and scientific establishments. Therefore no such action as this resolution should have been taken after his trip because it harms US-USSR relations and does not contribute to a lessening of tension. As far as exchanges are concerned, Mr. Kozlov continued, he felt that exchanges of parliamentary and medical delegations, as suggested by the USSR, should be carried out. Such exchanges would be a very proper step after Mr. Mikoyan’s and his own visit to the US. Such exchanges are greatly favored by the Soviet Government because it believes that they contribute to a lessening of tension rather than worsening the situation. On the other hand actions like the resolution in question, which are contrary to what the Vice President and the President have often said, lead only to estrangement between our two countries.

Then Vice President inquired why Mr. Kozlov seemed to object to the exchanges proposed by Admiral Rickover.

Mr. Kozlov replied that he did not object but that he had simply said that the question would have to be studied and a reply would be given.

The Vice President observed that both the US and the USSR, as every big country, have a great deal of red tape, which is an element of bigness, but which should be cut where important and far reaching decisions are to be made. The purpose of high level diplomacy is precisely to cut red tape.

Mr. Kozlov agreed that both the US and the USSR have a great deal of red tape but recalled that the USSR had proposed an exchange of parliamentary delegations as far back as in 1955 and a friendship pact in [Page 358]1956.5 These were very good proposals from the Soviet point of view, but the Soviet Government has yet to receive an answer from the US. The Soviet Union could not understand why these two steps, which would greatly contribute to the establishment of friendly relations between the two great nations and would also improve the climate throughout the world, had been left unanswered by the US for several years. Apparently American bureaucracy stands still.

The Vice President rejoined by saying that Mr. Kozlov, being a frank, reasonable man, would realize that the US could also list several proposals of its own, proposals which the US considers to be reasonable and useful, that had not been answered by the Soviet Union. The Vice President again suggested that the way to make progress in diplomacy is to take positive actions and cited as an example the exchange of exhibits. He also said that he wanted to point out that what the US had suggested today was extremely important from the point of view of world public opinion and that such an action would not only contribute to the knowledge of our two respective peoples but also show to the world that the two great atomic powers are willing to embark upon the road to peaceful cooperation in the field of atomic energy.

Mr. Kozlov said that he agreed that the Soviet exhibition in New York and the American exhibition in Moscow had no doubt a positive effect on the situation. As to the suggestion made by the US today, it would be studied.

Before leaving, the Vice President suggested that Admiral Rickover meet with a top level Soviet official so that a general layout rather than detailed arrangements could be done while the Admiral is in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Kozlov again repeated that this question would be taken under advisement.

The meeting ended at 11:15 a.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/7–2559. Confidential. Drafted by Akalovsky and approved by Kohler on August 31.
  2. Edwin M. McMillan, Director of the Radiation Laboratory, University of California.
  3. Vladimir Iosefovich Veksler, head of the high Energy Laboratory, Dubna Joint Nuclear Research Institute.
  4. An extensive summary of Admiral Rickover’s meeting with Kozlov at Shippingport on July 11, including quotations from their conversation, was published in The New York Times, July 12, 1959. This account notes only that Rickover told Kozlov that all the information at the atomic power plant would be made available to Kozlov, and he gave him a packet of books on the construction, operation, and operating history of the plant.
  5. See Document 95.
  6. At the Foreign Ministers conference in Geneva on October 31, 1955, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov referred to the invitation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, which resulted in visits to the Soviet Union by parliamentary delegations from several nations, not including the United States. (The Geneva Meeting of Foreign Ministers, October 27–November 16, 1955 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1955), p. 237) This invitation has not been further identified.

    For texts of Bulganin’s letter to Eisenhower, January 23, 1956, proposing a treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two nations; a Soviet draft treaty on the subject enclosed with this letter; and Eisenhower’s responses to Bulganin of January 28 and March 1, 1956, see Department of State Bulletin, February 6, 1956, pp. 191–195, and March 14, 1956, pp. 514–515.