90. Editorial Note

On June 5, 1961, Secretary of State Rusk, who had returned to Paris the previous evening, briefed the North Atlantic Council and President De Gaulle on the meetings in Vienna. At the restricted meeting of the Council at 10:15 a.m. Rusk circulated copies of the two Soviet aides-memoire, reviewed in some detail the progress of the talks, stated that they were not intended to be negotiations but rather a preliminary exchange of observations on U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations, and concluded that they had produced no surprises. (Polto Circular telegram 7, June 5; Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/6-561)

At 3 p.m. the Secretary of State briefed De Gaulle at the Elysee Palace. After brief reviews of the discussion of Laos and disarmament, Rusk went into some detail on the conversations on Berlin, stating that Khrushchev had been “quite firm on all questions dealing with Berlin,” and adding that it seemed to be the main one for the Chairman. The Secretary added that Khrushchev had become quite emotional at some points in the discussion of Germany and seemed “to greatly fear a unified and rebuilt Germany which would be an ally of the West.” When asked why he thought the Chairman wanted to see President Kennedy, Rusk speculated that there was some curiosity on both sides, and that the President wanted to show that the United States was prepared to defend its interest. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 1901)

On June 5 Assistant Secretary of State Kohler went to Bonn to brief Chancellor Adenauer. After an initial report on the Presidentʼs talks in Paris with De Gaulle, Kohler immediately noted that the discussions at Vienna “had scarcely contributed towards détente,” and added that it had been a “hard” meeting. The Assistant Secretary then summarized the talks on Laos and disarmament before concentrating on Berlin. He concluded by stating:

“If any conclusion could be drawn … it was the possibility of a developing crisis on Berlin, probably after the Soviet Party Congress in October. This was, however, pure speculation. The tone of the meeting was civil and reasonably courteous, but the substance of what was said was hard on both sides.” (Ibid., Central Files, 611.51/6-561)

While Rusk and Kohler were in Paris and Bonn, the President had flown to London to brief the British. The President explained the Soviet view on Berlin and also gave Prime Minister Macmillan an extensive account of his talks with De Gaulle on the future of Europe. (Notes on a Private Discussion, June 5; ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 1901) At a second meeting the President and the Prime Minister discussed how to proceed on Berlin. For a record of this conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XIV, pages 98102.