253. Memorandum of Conversation0
- The President
- The Secretary
- Ambassador Thompson
- Mr. Hillenbrand
- Mr. Akalovsky
- Foreign Minister Gromyko1
- Mr. Semenov
- Ambassador Dobrynin
- Mr. Sukhodrev
After a discussion on Germany and Berlin, Cuba, and the cessation of nuclear tests,2 Mr. Gromyko said that he wished, with the Presidentʼs permission, to make some observations on certain other points.
Continuing to read from his prepared text.
Mr. Gromyko stated that the Soviet Union continued to base its policy on the premise that differences in ideology were not a barrier to peaceful coexistence and peace. As Mr. Khrushchev had stated, Americans and the Soviet people were different from the standpoint of ideology; the US was capitalist, and the Soviet attitude toward capitalism was well-known. The USSR was socialist and it was building Communism. The question of who would win must not be resolved by force but by peaceful competition, and the Soviet Union had adhered to this principle ever since Leninʼs days. The Soviet Union was against the use of arms in resolving ideological differences. Competition in the economic field and [Page 534] in the satisfaction of spiritual and material needs of the people was a domain where the question of which system would gain the upper hand must be resolved. He said that he wished to reaffirm these views on behalf of the Soviet Government.
Toward the very end of the conversation, after having touched upon the possibility of Mr. Khrushchevʼs visiting the United States, Mr. Gromyko said he wished to thank the President for this opportunity of discussing with him questions of interest to our two states, since those questions related to very important aspects of the foreign policies of the US and USSR respectively. The Soviet Government had always believed that it would be a historical achievement if the US and the USSR found common language on these questions.
The President said he agreed with Mr. Gromykoʼs last point. As he had said in Vienna, the US was a large country, and the Soviet Union was also a large country. Both had many things to do at home. As to the outcome of the competition between the two systems, history would be the judge. The President emphasized that neither he nor Mr. Khrushchev must take actions leading to a confrontation of our two countries. He said that since he had assumed the office of President, the US had attempted to adjust US/USSR relations. Laos had been a success so far, but there had been no success with respect to Germany and West Berlin until now. What was inexplicable in the light of what he had thought to be Mr. Khrushchevʼs understanding of the United States was what now happened in Cuba since July. Since Laos, that particular situation had been the most serious one. Finally, the President asked Mr. Gromyko to convey to Mr. Khrushchev his appreciation of the opportunity Mr. Khrushchev had given Ambassador Kohler and other American visitors to meet with him and have discussions.
Mr. Gromyko concluded his conversation with the President asserting that the Soviet Unionʼs policy had been and still was aimed at strengthening peace and eliminating international differences, first and foremost the differences existing between the US and the USSR; Soviet policy was aimed at living in peace and friendship with the United States. This applied to Cuba as well; after all it was not the USSR that had invented this problem. It also applied to the question of a German peace treaty and the normalization of the West Berlin situation on the basis of such a treaty, as well as to other questions on which there was no common language between the US and the USSR. He said he would of course convey the Presidentʼs remarks to Mr. Khrushchev and that he was sure that Mr. Khrushchev would be happy to receive them.
The meeting ended at 7:20 p.m.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series,USSR, Gromyko Talks. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Akalovsky and approved in the White House on October 23. The meeting was held at the White House.↩
- Gromyko was in the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly session.↩
- In the discussion on Germany and Berlin, the President emphasized that the U.S. was anxious to work out mutually satisfactory procedures on Western access to Berlin. However, the greatest concern was Soviet insistence on the withdrawal of Western forces from the city. For text of the memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XV, pp. 370–376. On the subject of a nuclear test ban, Gromyko accused the U.S. of “seeking ways and means of continuing the build-up of nuclear weapons.” The President responded that the “US had sought a test ban agreement for a long time and it wished to end tests.” But “the problem today was a technical one, because there was no assurance that underground tests would not be carried out while the treaty was in force unless there was some means of verification.” For text of the memorandum of conversation, see ibid., vol. VII, pp. 589–592. For text of the memorandum of conversation on Cuba, see ibid., vol. XI, pp. 110–114. A memorandum to the President from Rusk containing talking points on all these topics is in the Department of State, Central File 033.6111/10-1762.↩