94. Memorandum From Attorney General Kennedy to President Kennedy0

Mr. Markov of the Russian Embassy1 called this morning and said that the Russian Ambassador wished to come by and see me. I arranged for him to come in at 3:30 p.m.

We exchanged some pleasantries. He told me that Norman Cousins had asked to see Khrushchev and he had arranged it.2 What was Cousins’ relationship to the President? Then, as is his custom, he handed me a so-called “talking paper.”3 This document was particularly long—approximately 25 pages. It was ostensibly to me from the Ambassador but in fact it was from Khrushchev to the President.

[Page 263]

The paper made five or six major points, among which were the following:

Mr.Khrushchev knew that President Kennedy has children and is concerned about the future. He, Mr.Khrushchev, has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is also concerned about the future. It should be clearly understood, however, that the Soviet Union will not go above their offer of two or three inspection sites. There was absolutely no need to go above that figure as our scientists had clearly demonstrated.

There could not be secret testing without the other country knowing about it. We knew everytime the Soviet Union tested as they knew everytime we tested.

As for obtaining the approval of the United States Senate for a treaty which contained provisions for only two or three sites, if President Kennedy wanted to put his prestige on the line and make the necessary effort, ratification could be obtained. Mr.Khrushchev was tired of hearing first about objections from the Senator from Connecticut and then objections from the Senator from Arizona.

The United States is run by capitalists who are interested only in war profits. They are the ones that were dictating policy. If President Kennedy was not as concerned about the Rockefellers and these capitalists then he would take this step for world peace.

Further, who did we think we were in the United States trying to dictate to the Soviet Union? All that was needed were two or three inspection sites and we were trying to obtain a greater number in order to commit espionage. In these efforts we were treating the Soviet Union as inferiors—as if we could dictate to them. The United States had better learn that the Soviet Union was as strong as the United States and did not enjoy being treated as a second class power. (Virtually, these same words were repeated later on in the letter. This was the thread or theme that ran through the whole document.)

Another point that was made was a sharp and bitter criticism about the raids that had taken place against Russian ships. These were piratical acts and the United States must take responsibility for them. It isn’t possible to believe that if we really wanted to stop these raids that we could not do so. They were glad to hear of the steps that are being taken lately but in the last analysis the specific acts, namely, the arrests that we made would be the criteria by which they would judge our sincerity. The Soviet Union questions whether in fact we wish to end these attacks for our criticism of them has been not that they were wrong but that they were ineffective. The clear implication was that if the raids had been effective they would have had our approval.

Further, our efforts to isolate Cuba, to build a virtual wall around it, was a barbaric act. Our actions to stifle Cuba’s commerce and to create [Page 264] economic difficulties and isolate her from her neighbors in Latin America were completely unwarranted. The support given to counter-revolutionaries and the statements to the barbaric mercenaries in Miami by the President were also bitterly criticized.

The document also stated that the President should understand the continued pressure on the Soviet Union for the withdrawal of troops from Cuba was not going to be effective. The Soviet Union does not respond to pressure. As a matter of fact, they had already withdrawn twice as many troops as the largest number that had appeared in the newspapers here in the United States. However, he said that he was going to refuse to give the actual number that had been withdrawn because then public statements would be issued that they had been withdrawn because of pressure by the United States and “trumpets would have been blown” by us.

This letter took note of the criticism of the fact that the Russian SAM sites remained within Cuba. The author of the letter wanted us to know that those ground-air missiles were going to stay in Cuba for the protection of Cuban people.

The overflights that were taking place were deeply resented by the Soviet Union and by Cuba. He then went on to say clearly and distinctly that these U-2 planes would be shot down and that this had better be clearly understood in the United States. The U-2 plane that Eisenhower sent over the Soviet Union was shot down and they had better understand the same thing would be done in those flights over Cuba.

The document then returned to the theme that we were treating the Soviet Union as inferiors; that this could not be continued; that the statements McNamara and Malinovski were making were not contributing to peaceful understanding; that Malinovski’s statements were brought about by McNamara’s warlike pronouncements. The United States was interested only in making profits from munitions, building up their efforts to dominate the world through counterrevolutionary activity. We were run by capitalists and we should understand that we could not push the Soviet Union around. He also expressed deep concern about the deployment of the Polaris submarines in the Mediterranean, replacing the Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Italy.

At the end of the document it said that Mr.Khrushchev had felt in the past that this confidential exchange had been helpful but he said it had not been used lately because of the provocative statements that had been made by representatives of the United States Government which were offensive to the Soviet Union. However if President Kennedy wanted to reopen this area of contact he would be glad to accept it. He also said that as far as a meeting between Khrushchev and President Kennedy he thought that that might be helpful. This was, however, left in rather enigmatic terms.

[Page 265]

After I read the document I returned it to Dobrynin. I pointed out to him that I had met with him frequently and that he had never talked like this before. He said that was correct. I asked what was the explanation for this document and he said that I should understand that it came from the Soviet Union. I said it demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the United States and President Kennedy and that I thought it was so insulting and rude to the President and to the United States that I would neither accept it nor transmit its message. I said if they had a message of that kind to deliver it should be delivered formally through the State Department and not through me. I said that during our conversations in the past we attempted to work out matters on a mutually satisfactory basis. I said we might disagree but I never insulted or offended him or his country or Mr.Khrushchev. I said I felt that was the only basis for any kind of relationship. I said I thought this kind of document did not further that effort or our mutual interests and I repeated that if they intended to transmit that kind of message that it should be done through the State Department. He said he could understand my position. He was obviously embarrassed.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163. Top Secret. The source text indicates that Rusk saw it. A copy was sent to McGeorge Bundy.
  2. Petr I.Markov, Attache, Soviet Embassy.
  3. Editor of the Saturday Review who met with Khrushchev on April 12 to discuss the nuclear test ban treaty.
  4. See Document 93.
  5. Llewellyn Thompson prepared an April 3 memorandum to Rusk, suggesting possible causes and motives for Khrushchev’s message of April 3. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163)