15. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Rusk at Geneva 0

Tosec 121. Eyes only Secretary and Ambassador Thompson. Following is unofficial translation letter from Khrushchev which Menshikov handed President at White House today:

Begin Text

Dear Mr. President:

I would like, although with a certain delay, to thank you for the message which was delivered to me by Ambassador Thompson in Novosibirsk on March 9.1 I welcome the spirit of cooperation in which this message was composed, and I think I will not be wrong if I say that it [Page 19]cannot be a bad beginning for our personal contacts and mutual exchange of opinions. We share the considerations, which you expressed in the course of your recent conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, A.A. Gromyko, 2 concerning the necessity of avoiding dangerous complications, creating a threat to peace, and to assure peaceful co-existence and the peaceful development of our countries.

Unfortunately, the international atmosphere has recently become somewhat heated in connection with the well-known events relating to Cuba, and a certain open falling out has taken place in the relations between our countries. There is no need to repeat now what I have already said in the name of the Soviet Government concerning the position of the USA in the Cuban events.

Speaking frankly, we regret that these events took place in general. However, we hope that the differences of opinion which have recently arisen will be eliminated with time, that the relations between the Soviet Union and the United States will improve if, of course, a mutual desire for this is demonstrated. Now, as never before, it is necessary without losing time to build and expand the bridges of mutual understanding with the help of which it would be possible to improve relations between our countries, which, if one speaks frankly, are still divided by a muddy stream of mistrust and hostility born of the “cold war.”

I consider it necessary in this connection to emphasize especially our positive attitude toward the opinion, which you expressed in your message, about the necessity of deciding international problems and differences of opinion between our countries by peaceful means. I think that the bilateral exchange of opinions between the leaders of the USA and the USSR, so fruitfully carried out during the time of Franklin Roosevelt, can also now contribute to the achievement of this aim to a significant degree. We also, even as you, Mr. President, attach great significance to this. Indeed, the question of easing international tension and consequently the creation of favorable conditions for deciding virtually all important international problems depends to an enormous extent on the improvement of Soviet-American relations.

Ambassador Thompson explained to me your deliberation about the expediency of a personal meeting between us for an exchange of views on questions of mutual interest. Your initiative concerning a meeting has found a favorable response among us and we agree with you concerning the usefulness of such an exchange of views. I confirm by this letter that I accept your proposal for a meeting. The time and place of the meeting which you have proposed, namely June 3-4 in Vienna, are acceptable to me.

[Page 20]

One of the problems which, as is apparent from the exchange of views, gives rise to our mutual concern is the situation in Laos. The Soviet Union hopes that at the International Conference in Geneva a peaceful and just solution of this problem will be found. We consider that at the present time there is every possibility to guarantee the establishment of peace in that region and to spare the people of Laos as well as other peoples from the danger of the broadening of the present conflict. For this it is necessary only to proceed steadfastly along the indicated correct path, and not to undertake anything which could lead to a complication of the international situation. If, on the part of all participants of the conference there is revealed a sincere desire for the creation of a truly neutral and independent Laos, I think that from the moment of our meeting with you we could with pleasure state that the settlement of the problem of Laos had become a fact.

There is also a series of other vitally important problems requiring solution. Among these, first of all, is the problem of disarmament. You, Mr. President, naturally are familiar with the views of the Soviet Government and its concrete proposals on this question. Therefore, it seems to me that there is no necessity to repeat all of these considerations in this letter. I wish only to underline that according to our firm conviction a practical implementation of disarmament is the most urgent and important problem in the sphere of international life in our time. Speaking figuratively, the solution of this problem could be compared to the seizure of the highest height which has been unattainable up to this time by mankind, after which it [Page 21]would be significantly easier to solve other unresolved problems. I should like to express the hope that our meeting can create the necessary premises for the success of the bilateral talks which are scheduled for June-July of this year between our countries on the problems of disarmament. We would only welcome this.

There is another international problem which urgently requires a solution. It is important both for the strengthening of peace in Europe and for the support of general peace. This is the problem of a peaceful settlement with Germany, including the question of Western Berlin. I believe that you have at your disposal complete information concerning the views of the Soviet Government in this regard. In conversations with your Ambassador, I have set forth our position in complete frankness. It is to be hoped, Mr. President, that you will approach this position with understanding: we do not demand any unilateral advantages of any sort for ourselves. We propose a peaceful settlement, which proceeds from the actually existing situation and which is directed toward the liquidation of a dangerous source of tension in the very heart of Europe. We seek only that finally the line should be drawn under the Second World War. The signature of a peace treaty with Germany, I am deeply convinced, would be a significant landmark in the improvement of relations between our countries.

In your letter, you, Mr. President, speak of the fact that we should recognize the fact that there are problems concerning which we cannot agree and concerning which in our governments there can be a different point of view. I agree with you. In the solution of international problems, large or small, there are, and will be, not a few difficulties. But it is our task, as heads of state, to strive to overcome them and to do everything possible for the attainment of agreement concerning questions which are ripe for solution.

I hope that at our forthcoming meeting we will be able to continue the exchange of views both on problems which have been touched on in our letters and on other problems and to indicate the path or, if you wish, the direction for their further examination and settlement.

Respectfully, N. Khrushchev

Chairman of the Council of Ministers, USSR.3

May 12, 1961.End text.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence. Secret; Niact; Verbatim Text. Repeated to Moscow. Another copy is in Department of State, Central Files, 761.13/5-1661. A copy of the Russian-language text is ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204.
  2. See Document 7.
  3. See the March 27 memorandum of conversation in volume V.
  4. Following transmission of the text of this letter to Thompson, the Department of State informed him that he should seek an appointment with the Acting Soviet Foreign Minister to say that, subject to Austrian approval, a meeting on June 3 and 4 was agreeable. (Telegram 1980 to Moscow, May 16; Department of State, Central Files, 711.11-KE/5-1661) In a separate telegram the Department of State instructed Ambassador Matthews to ask the Austrian Government if a meeting on June 3 and 4, despite the short notice, was agreeable. (Telegram 1984 to Vienna, May 16; ibid.)