243. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Thompson) to Secretary of State Rusk0

SUBJECT

  • Memorandum of luncheon conversation with Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, USSR, Soviet Embassy, Wednesday, October 10, 1962, 1:00 p.m.

Dobrynin asked me to lunch alone today. In discussing inadequacies of his Embassy, he pointed out that the last time Mr. Khrushchev visited the United States, he stayed at Blair House, and had not been aware of the need for better accommodations. Dobrynin said he was hopeful that this time Khrushchev would stay in the Embassy and realize the need for a better one.

This gave me the opportunity to ask when he was likely to come. Dobrynin said this had not yet been decided in Moscow. When I said the rumors seem to indicate the latter part of November, he added “or early December.”

Dobrynin then asked for my personal opinion as to the wisdom of such a visit at this time. I said I found this difficult to answer, to which he interjected that this was a difficult question which was why he was asking my opinion. I went on to say that frequent contacts between the President and Mr. Khrushchev would be helpful as I was convinced that many misunderstandings existed and that at least some of these could be cleared up through closer contact. On the other hand, I said he must be aware of the feeling aroused in this country by developments in Cuba, which did not provide a very good background against which to discuss other questions. I also said that I could not observe, in the exchanges which we had had so far, much hope for a successful settlement of the Berlin question.

Dobrynin indicated he agreed with this view and said that such a meeting was bound to generate hopes which might result in disappointment. He also mentioned the imminence of American elections.

I pointed out that Secretary Rusk had told Mr. Gromyko1 that our elections need play no role in negotiations about Berlin, but said that the Republican Party apparently intended to exploit the Cuban issue in the coming campaign, which might further arouse public sentiment. Mr. Dobrynin [Page 509]said that purely from the point of view of elections, he assumed that next Fall would be the ideal time for a meeting, but then went on to indicate his own view that early December of this year might be an appropriate time. My impression is that he will recommend against any visit at this time but that if Khrushchev insists on coming, it should be some time in early December.

Dobrynin then asked me for my opinion as to what area I thought there was the most hope for some progress in improving our relations. In reply, I said it seemed to me the logical way to approach this question was to seek areas in which our interests in the settlement of a problem coincide most closely. I said that in theory, it seemed to me that an agreement on atomic testing best met this criterion. On the other hand, from my talks with Mr. Khrushchev before my departure from Moscow, I had been obliged to conclude that there appeared to be little hope of an agreement on this problem and had so informed the Secretary. I said I thought this was due to the firmness of their position on the inspection issue. I said I could not see why they could not accept a ban on atmospheric, outer space, and underwater tests. Dobrynin said they could not agree to this as long as we took the position we were going to test underground, and said he did not see why we could not agree to a moratorium of several years. In reply, I referred to Congressional and public opinion as well as the fact that we had a particular problem in keeping our scientists engaged in this work in the absence of any indication that the work would go forward.

Dobrynin observed that we could always have a program of tests prepared for us in case it became necessary. He also suggested that we could educate Congressional and public opinion. I said I understood there was also a considerable division of opinion within the Administration and among the experts. I cautioned him, however, that I was not really in touch with people competent in this field and he should not, therefore, attach much importance to my expressions of personal opinion on this subject.

When Dobrynin indicated that the Soviet military were strongly opposed to an agreement which would leave open the possibility of underground tests, I said this seemed strange to me since I assumed that underground tests would mainly be valuable for the development of small arms, and that we were probably ahead of them in this field. It therefore seemed more to their advantage than ours, from a military point of view, to leave open the possibility of underground tests. Dobrynin replied that if this were, in fact, the case, then we should be able to agree to a moratorium. He also referred to the possible use of automatic unmanned seismic stations, and argued that these should be able to establish whether an explosion was due to an earthquake or an atomic device. He said that earthquakes did not spread their effects evenly, [Page 510]whereas an atomic explosion did, and that by comparing the readings on various stations around the location of the disturbance, one could easily tell its nature. I observed that this would require a considerable number of stations, and I did not know enough to judge how reliable such a system would be, but understood that our experts considered that some inspection of doubtful cases would, in any case, be necessary.

Turning to general disarmament, I referred to my conversation with Mr. Khrushchev on our zonal inspection plan,2 and said that since this met most of their objections to our proposals and was in accord with their principle, that the amount of inspection should be commensurate with the amount of disarmament, I could not understand why they had not more seriously considered our proposals. Dobrynin did not seem to have any answer to this but merely observed that he had to admit that we had at last produced a fairly comprehensive disarmament program.

On the Berlin question, Dobrynin asked me if I did not think that our principals, meaning Secretary Rusk and Mr. Gromyko, had at least made some little progress in their last talk. I said that there had been some little movement in the talks between us; that anything new, no matter how slight, looked important. He said he did not have a full report, but was going to New York shortly to see Mr. Gromyko. Dobrynin observed that of course no progress had been made on the principal question, which was the removal of our troops, but as the hour was late, we did not pursue the matter further.

  1. Source: Department of Sate,S/AL Files: Lot 67 D 2. Secret. Drafted by Thompson. Copies were sent to Bundy, Tyler, Foster, and Martin J. Hillenbrand (Director of the Berlin Task Force and of the Office of German Affairs).
  2. For a record of Ruskʼs conversation with Gromyko, October 6, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. XV, pp. 348351.
  3. See Document 214.