7. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • The Vice President
  • Yuri Zhukov, Chairman of the Soviet State Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries
  • Mikhail A. Menshikov, Soviet Ambassador
  • Mr. Vakhrushchev, Interpreter
  • Andrew H. Berding, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
  • Edward L. Freers, Director, Office of Eastern European Affairs, Department of State

Mr. Zhukov thanked the Vice President for the courtesies he and his wife had received from the many Americans they had met during their trip throughout the country.1 He said that he was impressed by the fact that the treatment given to Soviet visitors in the United States was generous and friendly, in marked contrast to what was written about the Soviet Union in the American press.

The Vice President said that Americans in Russia had had the same experience. The important thing today was to reduce tension between our countries and find the path for working toward a resolution of our differences.

Mr. Zhukov asked if the Vice President had noticed Premier Khrushchev’s response to the Vice President’s remarks in London2 about competing with the Soviet Union to abolish poverty rather than competing with it in war.

The Vice President said that Premier Khrushchev’s remarks had been drawn to his attention but he had not yet been furnished with the actual text.

Mr. Zhukov said the text was published in Pravda on November 28. He pointed out that Premier Khrushchev fully endorsed the idea that the United States and the USSR should engage in economic competition, not in competition of armaments.

The Vice President said that statements made by Soviet leaders and positions taken by them appear very belligerent to the American people. [Page 20] These are things that create tension. He did not intend his remarks to Mr. Zhukov in a critical way and realized that our statements and positions might also appear belligerent to the Soviet people. It is possible that the latter have the impression that we place too much reliance on power just as we have the impression the Soviets do. The important thing was to remove these belligerent attitudes. Mr. Zhukov agreed.

Mr. Zhukov mentioned that he had talked with a number of economists during his stay in the United States and was interested to learn that they were talking about programs of economic development projected 10 or 15 years in the future much as the Soviet planners were doing in connection with the new Seven Year Plan and the plan following that. All this formed the basis for peaceful economic competition and the elimination of the dreadful waste of expenditures for armaments. In the next 15 years both sides would spend something over 400 billion dollars for this purpose. This was appalling. If expenditures were cut off now, all these funds would go into economic development and the armaments already produced would in the space of the 15 years time be obsolete and needless. That is why it is important to hold high level meetings. Mr. Zhukov said friends he had talked with in America asserted that it was not possible to hold meetings behind closed doors. He did not believe this. What has happened is that we have been talking in other ways for two years and no progress has been made. A great deal of money has been spent by both sides during these two years.

The Vice President said that we fully appreciate the value of top level meetings for dealing effectively with basic problems. We certainly would not rule out this means of a peaceful settlement. However, we were concerned about the fact that if such a meeting were held and were unsuccessful, the state of tension in the world would be increased rather than decreased. This is why we held to the view that there should be preliminary negotiations to determine whether or not there were reasonable prospects of reaching agreement. This does not mean that we would expect to solve all the problems at one swoop, but we must be reasonably sure that agreement on some basic problems appeared likely. If there were any thought in Mr. Zhukov’s mind that this meant waiting until 1960 for a top level meeting, such a notion was incorrect. If a reasonable formula were found which would offer prospects of success, we were willing at any time to consider the idea favorably. The Vice President said that he spoke for the President in saying this and that he knows that our NATO Allies felt the same way.

With regard to the disarmament problem, we placed great emphasis on control and inspection in a situation where mutual trust does not exist. Control and inspection would guarantee for us that the Soviets would live up to their agreement, and for them that we would, and this was the most reliable means of building confidence between us. This [Page 21] was a two-way street. We would allow the same facilities for inspection to the Russians as they would accord us. The operation of control and inspection should be conducted in such a way as not to interfere with internal affairs. If there were agreement on inspection and control, this could lead not only to a cessation of nuclear tests but also to general disarmament measures as well. It was our hope that this would come about.

Mr. Zhukov said that it looked as if we would be proceeding along the lines we are following now. In any event, we would be engaging in economic competition. This itself would be helpful provided there was no interference in internal affairs of other countries.

The Vice President pointed out that we stood for no interference in the internal affairs of other countries. We realized that we had been charged with interference by others. On our part, we considered that the Soviet Union was interfering in other countries as, for example, in the Middle East where events are occurring as a result of stimulation from outside. Whether he should refer to the Soviet Government in this connection he was not sure—perhaps he should say, the Soviet Communist Party. In objecting to such interference, we were not working to maintain the status quo anywhere. It was our view that changes should be brought about by the working of internal forces and not as a result of outside stimulation.

Mr. Zhukov nodded and said this was the Soviet attitude also. Passing to another point, he said that if a top level meeting were not possible, it was useful in the Soviet view to continue the exchange of views at what he termed a middle level. He referred to the talks which Mr. Eric Johnston and Senator Humphrey had had recently with Premier Khrushchev.3 (It was clear he considered his own talk with the Vice President as in this category.)

The Vice President agreed that this was useful but observed that in addition to these talks with persons who could put forward only their private views, such as those mentioned, it was necessary to discuss issues on an official level.

Mr. Zhukov remarked that that is why Ambassadors Menshikov and Thompson occupy their posts. He mentioned that the opening of the Sokolniki Fair in Moscow next July would provide an occasion for an official visit to the Soviet Union and this would furnish another opportunity to exchange views. He hoped the Vice President could come.

[Page 22]

The Vice President remarked that Mr. Zhukov was carrying out a very important task in developing East-West exchanges and that he hoped his visit here had been an additional contribution to this work. The Vice President said that he had been the first in the administration to come out for a broad exchange of persons and ideas with the Soviet Union in his speech at Lafayette, Indiana, in 1955.4 The President fully supported this concept as well. The Vice President asked Mr. Zhukov to convey his personal greetings to Premier Khrushchev. He said that he admired the way Premier Khrushchev put forward his point of view and the way he handled the press.

Mr. Zhukov repeated his thanks for American hospitality and for the Vice President’s courtesy in receiving him.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.6111/12–558. Secret. Drafted by Freers and approved on January 6 by Brigadier General R. E. Cushman, Jr., Executive Assistant to the Vice President. A copy of a briefing paper for the Vice President to use for his conversation with Zhukov was sent to Cushman as an enclosure to a December 3 memorandum from Macomber. (Ibid., 611.61/12–358)
  2. Zhukov was in the United States on an unofficial visit.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Regarding Johnston’s October 6 conversation with Khrushchev, see Part 1, Documents 56 and 57. Senator Humphrey’s conversation with Khrushchev on December 1 is described in despatch 347 from Moscow, December 18. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–HU/12–1858) Senator Humphrey’s version of the conversation regarding Berlin is printed in vol. VIII, Document 84.
  5. Nixon was apparently referring to his speech delivered at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, on June 7, 1956. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, June 25, 1956, pp. 1043–1047.