151. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Press Secretary (Salinger) to President Kennedy0

Following is a report of my meetings with Mikhail Khalarmov, Chief of the Press Division of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, in Paris on Sunday and Monday (January 28-29, 1962). The meetings were arranged to discuss a television show featuring the President and Chairman Khrushchev.1

The first meeting on Sunday night was a social affair at the home of Cecil Lyon, Minister at the United States Embassy in Paris. Also present were: Pierre Baraduc, Chief of the Press Office of the French Foreign Ministry; John Mowinkle, the Public Information Officer for USIS in France; Jack Hedges, Press Officer for USIS at our Paris Embassy; and Mr. Kondrashev, Press Attaché of the Soviet Embassy in Paris. The evening was largely a social affair but Khalarmov did make these points:

Molotov is not going back to Vienna. He is remaining in Moscow. Khalarmov described him as a “political cadaver” who has no significance [Page 361] and to whom no one pays any attention in the Soviet Union. He says the news that Molotov is going back to Vienna was in error; someone with the International Atomic Energy group in Vienna bought him a ticket thinking he was returning to Vienna.
People in the west should not take any stock in the story that there is a crisis in the Kremlin. There is no such crisis. Khalarmov pointed out that Khrushchev had been on vacation in the country; Mikoyan had been in Africa; other Soviet officials were traveling in the Soviet Union. He said if there were a crisis these movements would not have been possible.

Khalarmov and Baraduc exchanged a long series of statements on the subject of censorship. This was opened by Baraducʼs expression of unhappiness upon the barring from the Soviet Union a French correspondent named Sascha Simon of Le Figaro. Khalarmov replied this did not seem to be a practice limited to Communist countries and pointed to French government statements on the exclusion of NBCʼs John Rich from Paris.

On Monday, Mr. Murrow and I met with Khalarmov at the Soviet Embassy. We were accompanied by Mr. Burton an interpreter from the American Embassy. Khalarmov also had an interpreter with him. We immediately got down to the subject of the television exchange. Khalarmov brought up the subject of the amount of time each of the Principals could expect and asked whether our 7-1/2 minute proposal was one to which we were wedded. Mr. Murrow and I expressed the belief that it was not a hard and fast proposal. Khalarmov asked if we could extend the time. We then proposed 15 minutes for each and he assented to this.

It was also decided the Chairman and the President would be simultaneously translated. The translation would be done by someone of each governmentʼs choice, i.e., Khrushchev would be translated by someone of Soviet choice; Kennedy would be translated by American choice. In addition, each side would provide the other with an authorized translation of the Principalsʼ statements. This would obviate any charge of changing the meaning through translation. Khalarmov pointed out the problems of translation by citing the Kennedy-Adzhubei interview, which had been given in English to five different people, then translated by them into Russian and in turn given to five other people who translated it back into English. He said the result was five different interviews.

We next discussed the order of appearance of the two Principals. It was determined that each of the two countries could exercise its own decision as to what order to broadcast the Principals. In the subsequent world-wide distribution of the program the order could be determined by the country in which it was shown.

Khalarmov then brought up the point of exchanging drafts. He said he thought it would be helpful if each could exchange drafts before finally filming the show. Mr. Murrow stated we did not want the exchange [Page 362] of drafts to become a stumbling block to the actual filming of the program through the continuous exchange of drafts until both sides were satisfied. Khalarmov agreed that there would be only one exchange of drafts. Following that exchange each Principal would be free to say what he wanted to say. Mr. Murrow suggested that they address themselves to the general topic of “What Kind of a World I Would Like to Live In.” Khalarmov agreed the first discussion should be a general one but that neither Principal should be tied down to the substance of his discussion. Khalarmov also stated he hoped after the first general exposition of views by the President and the Chairman that it might be possible to have future programs in which they could discuss specific problems.

Khalarmov also said—and we agreed—that the television show should be used to advance relations between the two countries and that neither side should use it to restate well-known polemics of the cold war.

Khalarmov said the only matter on which he would have to check with the Chairman would be the timing. He asked if we had a time in mind. We opened by offering March 15, 1962. In a subsequent discussion on the simultaneous showing of the film in the United States and Moscow, we decided to propose the date of Sunday, March 18th with a release time in Moscow of 7:00 p.m. and a 12:00 noon release in Washington; there, of course, being no bar to the replaying of the program. It was further decided that the drafts would be exchanged by March 1st with the filming to be done around March 9th or 10th.

The technical problems re the compatibility of American and Soviet equipment was discussed. Mr. Murrow and Mr. Khalarmov agreed that the initial film would be done on 35mm film and that each side would then convert to whatever was most necessary, such as 16mm film or video tape.

Mr. Khalarmov agreed to seek the greatest possible distribution of the film in countries under Soviet influence. He pointed out that there was a direct television cable link from Moscow with Prague, Budapest and Warsaw. He said he would also look into the matter of Rumania and Yugoslavia. Both sides agreed however that the film should be given the widest possible dissemination around the world.

Khalarmov said he would go back to Moscow, arriving in about seven days and would communicate to me the decision of the Chairman in regard to the date. He also suggested that all future communications in regard to this particular problem be conducted through the channel in which the arrangements for our meeting had been made.

At the conclusion of this part of the discussion, Khalarmov asked if there were any other matters which should be brought up. I told him that, through a Soviet source, the question of a direct telephone channel between the President and the Chairman had been raised. I asked him if my information was correct. Khalarmov said it was correct; that someone [Page 363] (an American) a year or a year-and-a-half ago had contacted him about installing such a circuit; there had been some discussion of this subject and great interest evinced. He said, however, that he had never been apprised of the Presidentʼs interest on this matter. I told him I had not discussed the subject with the President and was, therefore, not in a position to report his interest or disinterest; that if Soviet interest reflected any real desire in this connection I would take it up with the President. Khalarmov said he would look into the matter himself and report back to me. He said, however, that in times of crisis it would be most effective to have instantaneous communication between the Chairman and the President.

Mr. Khalarmov then brought up the subject of Laos. He said the United States government should exert further pressure on Boun Oum to bring about a solution of the problem of Laos. I stated that the President and the Chairman had agreed at Vienna that the best possible solution was the creation of a neutral and independent Laos and I said I knew we were working toward that end. Murrow said that any government may, from time to time, have trouble with its own allies and pointed to the present Soviet difficulties with Red China. Mr. Khalarmov replied that this was not the same. Khalarmov went on to say that the Soviet Union agreed that there should be a neutral and independent Laos and the solution on the problem of Laos could lead to the solution of other problems. It would also lead the people of the Soviet Union to believe that the Soviet Union could do business with the people of the United States.

This discussion broke up at around 12:30 p.m. followed by lunch during which the conversation was almost entirely social. A great many barbs were aimed by Khalarmov at Mr. Murrow; accusing him of playing the role of a “master propagandist”. Murrow replied that he wished Khalarmov could testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee for such testimony would no doubt go far in increasing the USIA budget. Mr. Murrow inquired when the Soviet Union was going to stop jamming the Voice of America. Khalarmov said the jamming would stop when VOA presented a reasonable view of the Soviet Union. The meeting concluded with the understanding between Khalarmov and me that no announcement or statement would be made until he had time to check with the Chairman. We agreed the Soviet Union and the United States would make a joint announcement of the broadcast on approximately March 9th or 10th; the texts to be mutually agreed to in advance. I agreed that if questioned by reporters, I would make a general statement to the effect that we had had a general discussion of improving Soviet-American communications; that I would make no statements with reference to the television broadcast.

Pierre Salinger
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/2-162. Secret; Eyes Only. Also sent to Rusk and Murrow.
  2. Following the Vienna summit Salinger had proposed to Kharlamov a series of direct television exchanges between President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev. (Salinger, With Kennedy, p. 181) On January 18 Bolshakov told Salinger that Khrushchev had agreed to the idea, that Adzhubei had invited the Salingers to visit him in Moscow, and that the Soviet Union would be receptive to a visit by Attorney General Kennedy. (Ibid., pp. 208-209) At a subsequent meeting Salinger and Bolshakov agreed to meet with Murrow and Kharlamov in Paris, January 28-29, to arrange the details of the television exchange. Regarding Salingerʼs visit to Moscow, see Documents 193 and 195. The President however, declined the invitation for his brother to visit Moscow, but it appeared in a front page story of The New York Times on January 21, before Salinger could inform Bolshakov. Despite an announcement by the Attorney General of previous commitments, the Soviet Union, according to Salinger, regarded this as a direct affront. (Salinger, With Kennedy, p. 209)