13. Telegram 2888 from Moscow, May 241

[Facsimile Page 1]

Geneva for FECON. In conversation with Khrushchev last night he brought up question of test ban negotiations and said they were not going to retreat from their position on tripartite control. The reason for this was that control posts would be merely spying organizations. If we accepted their proposals on general disarmament then they would accept any kind of controls. When I said in this event there would be no treaty he said that if we resumed testing they would do the same. He said in any event a ban on testing was not of such great importance and would not constitute disarmament. I remarked that surely both of us had an interest in preventing the spread of atomic weapons. He replied that the French were already testing. I said he must know that French tests were very primitive and that they did not have real atomic capability. He agreed. I said that apart from the spread of atomic [Typeset Page 74] weapons I thought it would be a great pity if these negotiations failed as such failure would certainly have a very serious effect on general disarmament negotiations. I said I thought full disarmament might be possible if we could create a system of enforceable world law but I did not think they were ready for this and that in the meantime much could [Facsimile Page 2] be done in the field of reducing danger of surprise attack and war by inadvertent war. K neither agreed nor challenged this position.

Making clear that I was expressing purely personal view, I said I had always thought they had made mistake in not accepting our proposals for a ban on tests in the atmosphere, sea and outerspace. I said that on recent trip to US several scientists had told me they were convinced that in view great cost atomic weapons no country could afford to develop real atomic capability without tests in atmosphere. While I gathered all scientists did not agree with this, K must know what tremendous expense was involved in creating atomic capability and I could not imagine any country doing this without certainty of knowledge weapons would work. K replied that we had almost reached agreement on test ban when US had reopened matter of underground tests. He said they were not conducting any tests and asked me to believe him. I replied I did believe him but not all of our people would. He said the reason was that he did not intend to create tactical atomic weapons. These would be enormously expensive and would serve no purpose since their strategic atomic weapons could accomplish the purpose far better. It would also mean dissipating their atomic material. He admitted that Malinsovsky was pressing hard for tactical weapons and he assumed Pentagon was doing same to President. He said that at military parades they showed some tactical weapons but these were only prototypes and about all they had. He also said they had no atomic weapons in East Germany and had no need for them since they could be fired from Soviet Union.

I said we already had tactical weapons and although they could possibly be improved by underground tests this was not of major importance. K replied that if we tested they would do the same and implied they would carry out atmospheric tests by saying that they had prepared plan for weapon which would cut the requirement for fissionable material in half but could [Facsimile Page 3] not be sure it would work until it had been tested. This would enable them to double the number of their atomic weapons. When I said this seemed of little importance since we both had enough already to blow up the world, he said he agreed.

In discussing disarmament he said they had formed high opinion of McCloy when he was in Germany but then he had gone with private firm and succumbed to possibility of making money from arms sales. I replied that nothing could be more absurd. I said that Mr McCloy [Typeset Page 75] had worked for a salary and had no personal interest. On contrary, his wide knowledge of problem had opposite result. K shrugged his shoulders and said this was what they believed.

I said it would seem a tragedy if we should revert to polluting the air with atmospheric tests. Although he did not in any way commit himself, I gained the impression K was somewhat intrigued by idea of limited test ban and by argument which I advanced that this would lead to improved atmosphere talks on general disarmament.

I intend to inform only British and French colleagues and request every effort be made prevent leak.

  1. Khrushchev’s views on tripartite control. Confidential. 3 pp. Department of State, Central Files, 397.5611–GE/5–2461.