92. Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy0

Dear Mr. President, I received your reply to my message of December 19, 1962.1 I am satisfied that you have appraised correctly the Soviet Government’s proposals set forth in that message as directed to securing in the very near future a ban on all tests of nuclear weapons.

We understand your answer as meaning that you do not object that national means of detection together with automatic seismic stations should be the basis for control over an agreement banning underground nuclear tests. We note your agreement that installation of automatic seismic stations will prove useful from the point of view of increasing the effectiveness of control over cessation of underground nuclear explosions. During the Geneva talks it was justly observed, also by your representatives, that installation of such seismic stations would serve as good means of verifying the correctness of functioning of national seismic stations. It is precisely by these considerations that the Soviet Government was guided in proposing that the idea of installing automatic seismic stations put forward at the Pugwash meeting of scientists be utilized.

In my message of December 19, 1962, I indicated those three areas where in the opinion of our scientists automatic seismic stations should be set up on the territory of the Soviet Union. Those areas were selected after a thorough study with comprehensive consideration being given to geological and seismic conditions in those places.

In the areas of Kokchetav and Bodaibo automatic seismic stations would be located, according to our suggestion, at the exposures of crystalline rocks while in the Yakutsk area—in the zone of eternal congelation [permafrost]. As is known on crystalline rocks and on grounds frozen deep down always only minor seismic hindrances are noticed which facilitate reliable detection of underground nuclear explosions. In combination with seismic stations abroad, on territories adjacent to the seismic zones in the Soviet Union automatic stations located in the above mentioned points will be adequate means capable of removing possible doubts of the other side with regard to the correctness of functioning of the national seismic station network.

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You did not make any comments on the location of an automatic seismic station for the Altai zone in the region of the city of Bodaibo, and thus we could consider this question as agreed upon.

However, you have doubts as to the location of automatic seismic stations for the other seismic zones in the Soviet Union—Far Eastern and Central Asian ones. As far as those zones are concerned, in your opinion, it would be expedient to place such stations in the Kamchatka area and in the area of Tashkent. In the opinion of Soviet scientists placing automatic seismic stations in the areas of Tashkent and Kamchatka would be a worse variant as compared to the one that we propose because in those areas functioning of automatic stations will be seriously handicapped by seismic hindrances. But if you believe it more expedient to relocate those stations we will not object to that. In my message to you I have already pointed out that the Soviet Union is prepared to seek a mutually acceptable solution also in the question of location of automatic seismic stations. We would agree to relocate the automatic seismic station for Central Asian zone of the USSR to the Tashkent area placing it near the city of Samarkand and for the Far Eastern zone—to place the automatic station at Seimchan which is part of the Kamchatka seismic area.

Location of an automatic seismic station on the Kamchatka peninsula itself seems, in the opinion of Soviet scientists, clearly unacceptable in view of strong hindrances caused by the proximity of the ocean and strong volcanic activity in the peninsula itself which will inevitably hamper normal functioning of a station. It appears to us that thus we could consider as agreed upon also the question of the location of automatic seismic stations for the Central Asian and Far Eastern zones of the USSR.

The Soviet Government having consulted its specialists came to the conclusion that it is quite enough to install three automatic seismic stations on the territory of the Soviet Union. The more so that in your message, Mr. President, a possibility is envisaged of setting up automatic seismic stations on territories adjacent to the seismic zones in the Soviet Union—on the Hokkaido, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, naturally with the consent of respective governments.

The Soviet Government has named definite areas for the location of automatic seismic stations on the territory of the USSR. Moreover, Mr. President, taking into account your wishes we agree to relocate two stations to new places. We are entitled to expect therefore that your side also will name definite areas where such stations should be set up on the territory of the U.S. and that in reaching an agreement on the sites where stations are to be placed the American side will take into account our wishes.

Mr. President, we are convinced that all conditions exist now for reaching an agreement also on the question of inspection. It is known that all the recent time we heard not once from the Western side—agree [Page 249] in principle to inspection and then the road to agreement will open. We believed and we continue to believe now that, in general, inspection is not necessary and if we give our consent to an annual quota of 2-3 inspections this is done solely for the purpose of removing the remaining differences for the sake of reaching agreement.

As you see we have made a serious step in your direction. The quota of inspections on the territory of each of the nuclear powers that we propose is sufficient. Indeed, in the negotiations your representatives themselves recognized that there is no need to verify all or a greater part of a significant suspicious phenomena to restrain the states from attempts to violate the treaty. And they gave figures of annual inspections practically equaling the quota proposed by us. Naturally it is most reasonable to carry out inspection in seismic areas where the biggest number of unidentified seismic phenomena may occur. However if you consider it necessary we have no objection to inspection being carried out also in non-seismic areas provided such inspections are conducted within the annual quota indicated by us.

I noticed that in your reply you agree with the necessity of taking reasonable measures of precaution which would exclude a possibility of using inspection trips and visits to automatic seismic stations for the purpose of obtaining intelligence data. Of course, in carrying out on-site inspection there can be circumstances when in the area designated for inspection there will be some object of defense importance. Naturally, in such a case it will be necessary to take appropriate measures which would exclude a possibility to cause damage to the interests of security of the state on the territory of which inspection is carried out. In this respect I fully agree with the considerations expressed in your message.

Mr. President, in your message you suggest that our representatives meet in New York or in Geneva for a brief preliminary consideration of some of the problems you touched upon. We have no objections to such meeting of our representatives. The Soviet Government for that purpose appointed N.T. Fedorenko, USSR Permanent Representative to the U.N., and S.K. Tsarapkin, USSR Representative to the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee, who could meet with your representative Mr.William C. Foster in New York on January 7-10. We proceed here from the assumption that meetings of our representatives should lead already in the very near future to agreement on questions still unsettled so that upon the reopening of the 18-Nation [Disarmament] Committee Session our representatives could inform it that the road to the conclusion of agreement banning all nuclear weapons tests is open.


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. Other copies are ibid., and in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence. Also printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1963, pp. 1-4, and American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 940-942.
  2. See Documents 87 and 85.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.