119. Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Johnson0
Dear Mr. President: I am writing this message to you at a moment that holds a special place in the history of your country. The villainous assassination of Head of the American State John F. Kennedy is a grievous, indeed a very grievous loss for your country. I want to say frankly that the gravity of this loss is felt by the whole world, including ourselves, the Soviet people.
There is no need for me to tell you that the late President John F. Kennedy and I, as the Head of the Government of the socialist Soviet Union, were people of different poles. But I believe that probably you yourself have formed a definite view that it was an awareness of the great responsibility for the destinies of the world that guided the actions of the two Governments—both of the Soviet Union and of the United States—in recent [Page 312]years. These actions were founded on a desire to prevent a disaster and to resolve disputed issues through agreement with due regard for the most important, the most fundamental interests of ensuring peace.
An awareness of this responsibility, which I found John F. Kennedy to possess during our very first conversations in Vienna in 1961, laid down the unseen bridge of mutual understanding which, I venture to say, was not broken to the very last day in the life of President John F. Kennedy. For my own part, I can say quite definitely that the feeling of respect for the late President never left me precisely because, like ourselves, he based his policy on a desire not to permit a military collision of the major powers which carry on their shoulders the burden of the responsibility for the maintenance of peace.
And now, taking the opportunity offered by the visit to the United States of my First Deputy A.I. Mikoyan to attend the funeral of John F. Kennedy, I address these lines to you, as the new President of the United States of America in whom is vested a high responsibility to your people. I do not know how you will react to these words of mine, but let me say outright that in you we saw a comrade-in-arms of the late President, a man who always stood at the President's side and supported his line in foreign policy. This, I believe, gives us grounds to express the hope that the basis, which dictated to the leaders of both countries the need not to permit the outbreak of a new war and to keep the peace, will continue to be the determining factor in the development of relations between our two States.
Needless to say, on our part, and on my own part, as Head of the Government of the Soviet Union, there has been and remains readiness to find, through an exchange of views, mutually acceptable solutions for those problems which still divide us. This applies both to the problems of European security, which have been handed down to the present generation chiefly as a legacy of World War II, and to other international problems.
Judging by experience, exchanges of views and our contacts can assume various forms, including such an avenue as the exchange of personal messages, if this does not run counter to your wishes.
Recently we marked the Thirtieth Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. This was a historic act in which an outstanding role was played by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. We have always believed that, being a representative of one and the same political party, the late President John F. Kennedy to a certain extent continued in foreign policy Roosevelt's traditions which were based on recognition of the fact that the coinciding interests of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. prevail over all that divides them.
And it is to you Mr. President, as to a representative of the same trend of the United States policy which brought into the political forefront [Page 313]statesmen, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, that I want to say that if these great traditions could go on being maintained and strengthened, both Americans and Soviet people could, we are convinced, look optimistically into the future. We are convinced that this development of events would meet the sympathy of every state, and indeed of every individual who espouses and cherishes peace.
I would welcome any desire on your part to express your ideas in connection with the thoughts—though they may, perhaps, be of a somewhat general nature—which I deemed it possible to share with you in this message.1
- Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Confidential. The source text is marked “unofficial translation.” President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22.↩
On November 24 President Johnson also wrote to Khrushchev. After thanking the Chairman for his letter of condolence, Johnson wrote:
“I should like you to know that I have kept in close touch with the development of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and that I have been in full accord with the policies of President Kennedy. I shall do my best to continue these policies along the same lines and hope that we can make progress in improving our relations and in resolving the many serious problems that face us.
“May I say that I am fully aware of the heavy responsibility which our two countries bear for the maintenance and consolidation of peace. I hope that we can work together for the achievement of that great goal, despite the many and complex issues which divide us. I can assure you that I shall sincerely devote myself to this purpose.” (Ibid.: Lot 77 D 163)↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩