85. Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy0

Dear Mr. President, In our recent correspondence related to the events in the Caribbean area we have touched on the question of cessation of nuclear weapon tests. Today I would like to come back again to that problem and to set forth my views concerning possible ways of its speediest solution which would be mutually acceptable to both our sides.

It seems to me, Mr. President, that time has come now to put an end once and for all to nuclear tests, to draw a line through such tests. The moment for this is very, very appropriate. Left behind is a period of utmost acuteness and tension in the Caribbean. Now we have untied our hands to engage closely in other urgent international matters and, in particular, in such a problem which has been ripe for so long as cessation of nuclear tests. A certain relaxation of international tension which has emerged now should, in my view, facilitate this.

The Soviet Union does not need war. I think that war does not promise bright prospects for the United States either. If in the past after every war America used to increase its economic potential and to accumulate more and more wealth, now war with the use of modern rocket—nuclear weapons will stride across seas and oceans within minutes. Thermonuclear catastrophe will bring enormous losses and sufferings to the American people as well as to other peoples on earth. To prevent this we must, on the basis of complete equality and with just regard for each other’s interests, develop between ourselves peaceful relations and solve all issues through negotiations and mutual concessions.

One of such questions with which the governments of our countries have been dealing for many years is the question of concluding a treaty banning all tests of nuclear weapons.

Both of us stand on the same position with regard to the fact that national means of detection are sufficient to control banning experimental nuclear explosions in outer space, in the atmosphere and under water. So far, however, we have not succeeded in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of cessation of underground tests. The main obstacle to an agreement is the demand by the American side of international control and inspection on the territories of nuclear powers over cessation [Page 235] of underground nuclear tests. I would like to believe that you yourself understand the rightness of our arguments that now national means are sufficient to control also this kind of tests and be sure that agreement is observed by any side. But so far you do not want to recognize openly this actual state of things and to accept it as a basis for concluding without delay an agreement on cessation of tests.

Striving to find a mutually acceptable basis for agreement the Soviet Union has made lately an important step toward the West and agreed to installing automatic seismic stations. This idea, as is known, was put forward not by us. It was introduced by British scientists during the recent meeting in London of the participants of Pugwash movement. Moreover, it is well known to us, that when this idea was proposed, it was not alien to your scientists who were in London at that time.

We proposed to install such stations both near the borders of nuclear powers and directly on their territories. We stated our agreement that three such stations be installed on the territory of the Soviet Union in the zones most frequently subjected to earthquakes. There are three such zones in the Soviet Union where these stations can be installed: Central Asian, Altaian and Far Eastern.

In the opinion of Soviet scientists the most suitable places for locating automatic seismic stations in the Soviet Union are area of the city of Kokcnetav for Central Asian zone of the USSR, area of the city of Bodaibo for Altaian zone and area of the city of Yakutsk for Far Eastern zone. However, should, as a result of exchange of opinion between our representatives, other places be suggested for locating automatic seismic stations in these seismic zones, we will be ready to discuss this question and find mutually acceptable solution.

Beside the above said zones there are two more seismic zones in the Soviet Union—Caucasian and Carpathian. However these zones are so densely populated that conducting nuclear tests there is practically excluded.

Of course, delivery to and from international center of appropriate sealed equipment for its periodic replacement at automatic seismic stations in the USSR could well be made by Soviet personnel and on Soviet planes. However if for such delivery of equipment to and from automatic seismic stations participation of foreign personnel were needed we would agree to this also, having taken, if necessary, precautionary measures against use of such trips for reconnaissance. Thus our proposal on automatic seismic stations includes elements of international control. This is a major act of good will on the part of the Soviet Union.

I will tell you straightforwardly that before making this proposal I have consulted thoroughly the specialists and after such consultation my colleagues in the Government and I came to a conclusion that so far as the Soviet Union is concerned the above said considerations on the measures [Page 236] on our part are well founded and, it seems to us, they should not cause objections on the part of the American side.

You, Mr. President, and your representatives point out that without at least a minimum number of on-site inspections you will not manage to persuade the U.S. Senate to ratify an agreement on the cessation of tests. This circumstance, as we understand, ties you and does not allow you to sign a treaty which would enable all of us to abandon for good the grounds where nuclear weapons are tested. Well, if this is the only difficulty on the way to agreement, then for the noble and humane goal of ceasing nuclear weapon tests we are ready to meet you halfway in this question.

We noted that on this October 30, in conversation with First Deputy Foreign Minister of the USSRV.V. Kuznetsov in New York, your representative Ambassador Dean stated that, in the opinion of the U.S. Government, it would be sufficient to carry on 2-4 on-site inspections each year on the territory of the Soviet Union. According to Ambassador Dean’s statement, the United States would also be prepared to work out measures which would rule out any possibility of carrying on espionage under the cover of these inspection trips including such measures as the use of Soviet planes piloted by Soviet crews for transportation of inspectors to the sites, screening of windows in the planes, prohibition to carry photo-cameras, etc.

We took all this into account and, in order to overcome the deadlock and to arrive at least at a mutually acceptable agreement, we would agree, in those cases when it would be considered necessary, to 2-3 inspections a year on the territory of each of the nuclear powers in the seismic areas where some suspicious earth’s tremors might occur. It goes without saying that the basis of control over an agreement on underground nuclear test ban would be the national means of detection in combination with automatic seismic stations. On-site inspections could be carried on with the precautions mentioned by Ambassador Dean against any misuse of control for purposes of espionage.

We believe that now the road to agreement is straight and clear. Beginning from January 1 of the new year of 1963 the world can be relieved of the roar of nuclear explosions. The peoples are waiting for this—this is what the UN General Assembly has called for. With the elimination of the Cuban crisis we relieved mankind of the direct menace of combat use of lethal nuclear weapons that impended over the world. Can’t we solve a far simpler question—that of cessation of experimental explosions of nuclear weapons in the peaceful conditions? I think that we can and must do it. Here lies now our duty before the peoples of not only our countries but of all other countries. Having solved promptly also this question—and there are all the preconditions for that—we shall be able to facilitate working out an agreement on disarmament and with even more confidence [Page 237] proceed with solving other urgent international problems, which we and you unfortunately are not short of.


N. Khrushchev
  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. No classification marking. The Russian-language text is ibid.: Lot 77 D 163. The source text is apparently a Soviet translation. Other copies of this message are ibid., and in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence. Also printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1962, vol. II, pp. 1239-1242, and American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1306-1308.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.