2. David K.E. Bruce Diary Entry0

[Here follows unrelated material.]

Before Senator Kennedyʼs inauguration, he told Rusk to make me coordinator of the conversations that Soviet Ambassador Menshikov was attempting to hold with various private American individuals. This was quite an assignment. “Smiling Mike” had embarked on a campaign of trying to talk to everybody whom he thought might ultimately have some close association with Kennedy.

I went to the Ambassadorʼs residence on January 5, 1961 and after much drinking and eating, I left and made this report to Dean Rusk:

[Page 10]

“At Ambassador Menshikovʼs invitation, I lunched with him today. He said he welcomed the opportunity to talk unofficially with an American private citizen, and assumed the gist of his remarks would be conveyed to Mr. Rusk. His official contacts were, of course, with Secretary Herter. He recognized the impediments to conversation with Mr. Rusk before the latter was inducted into office. He had seen Mr. Bowles, and would appreciate word being passed to him that he, Menshikov, after reflecting upon their interviews, was now ready to express his reaction to certain points discussed by them. (N.B. Would you please pass this on to Chet Bowles?).

“At another time, the Ambassador referred to conversations that had taken place with Adlai Stevenson and Robert Kennedy. He expects to see Mr. Kennedy again shortly. (He did not mention to me his request for a visit to Senator Kennedy.)

Menshikov observed that he was an intimate acquaintance—indeed friend—of Messrs. Khrushchev and Mikoyan and, to a lesser degree, of Kozlov. He had commenced his career in trade and commercial matters, becoming later a diplomat. He thought that expansion of trade between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. was of great importance, but did not propose to deal with that subject at this time.

“His principals—especially Khrushchev—believed the coming into power of a new American administration presented an opportunity to resolve existing and dangerous differences between our countries. The atmosphere had changed. Psychologically, it would be easier for the U.S.S.R. to deal with the new Administration than with the old one. He realized nothing could be negotiated until the Presidency changed hands, but, as soon as possible thereafter, serious inter-changes should begin. Meanwhile, he hoped to continue informally to set forth Soviet views as he was now doing.

Khrushchev felt that, with due regard to the susceptibilities of smaller nations on each side, no real relaxation of tensions could be achieved until the only two great powers agreed upon a program for peaceful coexistence. There are two outstanding problems: first, in order of importance, is disarmament; second, the German question, including West Berlin. This is not to minimize the necessity of dealing with other sources of contention, which should also be considered as urgent. (He made no allusion to China.)

“What Menshikov later said was so nearly a repetition of his statements in the memoranda on his conversations with Messrs. Harriman, [Page 11] Robert Kennedy, Stevenson and Salisbury1 that I do not think it useful to set down his remarks except as they deviated from the foregoing.

“Regarding disarmament, Khrushchev believed there were no fundamental differences between us, as both nations realized the utter and criminal folly of a nuclear war. Perhaps the quarrel over inspection and control preceding an agreement on general and complete disarmament was due to a misunderstanding, or was a matter of semantics. At any rate, if Khrushchev could have a private conversation with President Kennedy they could reach a compromise on a system of inspection and control synchronized with stages of disarmament.

“Regarding Germany, Menshikov confined his remarks to Berlin, and repeated in essence what he had said to Adlai Stevenson. I told him previous suggestions by his Government did not seem to promise a solution satisfactory to us. He answered that Khrushchev was flexible on the subject, and believed he could work out something mutually satisfactory in private talks with President Kennedy.

“He came back and back to the desirability and urgency of the two Chiefs of State meeting, and hoped this could happen before President Kennedy saw Adenauer and Macmillan, the first of whom had been announced as a visitor to Washington in February, and the second in March. I said the report about Adenauer was incorrect, since his proposed trip had been cancelled. I had no information about Macmillanʼs plans, but was not aware of a definite time having been set for him to come to Washington.

Menshikov agreed that we would have to await the formal taking over by the new Administration before consideration could be given to the possibility of a meeting between the two statesmen. I reminded him of the sentiment prevalent here, of the necessity of preliminary agreements broad enough to warrant a later conference between two or more Chiefs of State. Menshikov replied that Khrushchev thought preliminary understandings could be reached but did not specify how. He said he was sure Khrushchev would be glad to receive a representative of President Kennedy in Moscow to engage in preparatory discussions. I asked if this could be done through normal diplomatic channels. He answered that such a procedure had not been followed in the past, and thought letters between the two Chiefs, and perhaps a special emissary from President [Page 12] Kennedy, might be better. However, he was careful to add this was an entirely personal opinion. He felt himself capable of handling the Washington end, since he had always been kept informed by Khrushchev of the contents of all private communications between Khrushchev and President Eisenhower. He asked whether Ambassador Thompson would remain in Moscow. I answered that I did not know.

“He referred to the difficulties, of which he was aware, on the Western side especially, of bilateral conversations between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Heads of State, but thought, by the exercise of tact, they could be overcome, as would also be the case with disarmament discussions, which would have to receive the eventual approval of a United Nations Committee.

Menshikov started to talk about U.S. mistakes in Laos and Cuba but, after some jocularity over Castro, I told him I thought we better disregard those areas.

“He asked if I would renew this talk on a weekly basis. I said I would see Mr. Rusk Saturday and give him an answer Monday, since it might or might not be preferable to make some other arrangement.

“He then handed me the enclosed paper,2 asked me to read it and, if I wished, to pass it on. It was his personal production and entirely unofficial. I read it hurriedly, and said I would not comment on it today, though, off-hand, I did not personally find his comments on the German question constructive.”

Menshikov sent me a hamper of vodka and caviar and invited me to lunch again. I went a second time, but found his conversation a repetition of what he had said before. During the remainder of my stay in Washington, he suggested I meet him again, but I replied that, since the Secretary of State had taken office I thought I should drop out of any future discussions on the matters with which he was concerned.

[Here follows unrelated material.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Bruce Diaries: Lot 64 D 327. Secret.
  2. Menshikov had talked with Harriman on November 21 and December 14, 1960 (memoranda of conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers); with Robert Kennedy on December 12 (Robert Kennedy memorandum to Rusk; Kennedy Library, Robert Kennedy Papers); with Stevenson on November 16 (memorandum of conversation; Princeton University, Stevenson Papers, Box 832, Menshikov); and with Harrison Salisbury on December 15 (memorandum of conversation; Kennedy Library, National Security Files,USSR). These conversations are also summarized in Beschloss, The Crisis Years, pp. 40-42, and in Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, pp. 439-440.
  3. Not found.