183. Telegram 2720 from Moscow, April 241
Khrushchev was not unfriendly, but relatively subdued throughout conversation, only infrequently displaying characteristic animation.[Typeset Page 504]
We began with mention of his recent vacation, in response to which he embarked on disquisition about this being a good year for Soviet agriculture, although spring had come so late. Referring to “nonsense” written in Western press about “crisis” in Soviet agriculture, he said, among other things, that Soviets would develop their agriculture as they had their industry. He paid tribute in familiar terms to highly capitalized US agriculture and said Soviets were making large investments in livestock-raising, chemical-fertilizer and herbicide production.
When Kohler noted resemblances between rural Ohio of his boyhood and contemporary Soviet agriculture, particularly difficulty of getting farmers to use modern methods, Khrushchev said this was one of their principal difficulties, because they were trying to accomplish it on “democratic” basis and had to convince peasants. He added they were satisfied and that process was going well. He also referred to difficulties Soviets saw in prospect having to reduce sown area as productivity rises and to plans for increased livestock-raising in northwestern USSR. Khrushchev then asked what there was to discuss other than agriculture.[Facsimile Page 2]
Kohler replied that President and Prime Minister had given to Ambassadors identical instructions and identical letters which they wanted to have handed to Khrushchev personally in order to emphasize their personal interest in trying to find a way to enter into serious negotiations directed toward nuclear test-ban agreement.
Trevelyan added Prime Minister had asked him to say that this was not a propaganda effort, but a genuine attempt to find a way to break the deadlock at Geneva. PriMin thought this approach was the best way to emphasize his seriousness and to find a way to solve at least one important East-West problem. The letter contained practical proposals designed to accomplish this.
Khrushchev thanked the Ambassadors and said Soviets would study letter. However, he had lost hope of reaching agreement on this question. He had concluded that US and UK were playing with Soviets. When he sent President his letter agreeing to two to three inspections, he was sure that matter was solved. But then Soviets were given cold shower. In Giorno interview, he had said Soviets were thinking about withdrawing their offer of two to three inspections. It had turned out that this offer was not enough for Western partners, who insisted on enlarging upon it in such fashion as to give them opportunity for spying on Soviet territory. He could not permit this. Soviets are ready to sign agreement based on national means, which are sufficient.
Khrushchev then asked how many inspections we offered in letter, and whether we accepted Soviet offer of three. He demanded to know what sort of fool he should be if he were to permit espionage organizations to enter Soviet Union. Gromyko told him on side letter did not accept three, but mentioned seven.[Typeset Page 505]
Trevelyan said letter did not set out specific number, but rather represented attempt to find best possible procedure to solve problem.[Facsimile Page 3]
Khrushchev said it was not a matter of procedure. When Soviets offered inspection, West wanted to expand upon this and deploy inspectors so as to encompass half the USSR. Soviets had offered three inspections as symbolic inspections and not ones of substance. Then West would want to fly around country, and go wherever it pleased. But Soviets are masters of their own land and these are things only they can do. There was a lack of seriousness in such an approach.
Trevelyan repeated this was a very serious approach.
Sukhodrev then began translating Macmillan-Khrushchev letter. When he reached words “than annual quota would permit”, Khrushchev said, “we won’t agree to that”. Sukhodrev continued translating. When he reached words “disposed of”, Khrushchev said, “then there will be no agreement”.
When Sukhodrev had finished, Kohler explained that, by very senior envoys, President had in mind either special envoys or the Secretary and Lord Home.
Trevelyan said British were ready for either variant.
Khrushchev said he had stated more than once that Soviets wanted agreement very much. But on these conditions, there could be no agreement. Soviets could not agree to such conditions. They did not want to have their representatives on our territory and did not want Western representatives on their territory. He was cursing himself, because it had been his initiative to make offer of three inspections “and that had ruined everything”. Initially, they had believed national means alone were enough. Then the scientists began to talk about two to three automatic stations. It was on this basis that he had approached President. “I made a fool of myself”. Soviets could not agree. It had been a mistake to offer two to three inspections as symbols. West had then built upon this in such a way that McCone could have his [Facsimile Page 4] representatives on Soviet territory. He could not make such proposals to USSR Government; let him make them to his wife if he liked (this clause was not translated). Soviets are masters of their country and will not let anyone crawl around in it. National means were sufficient. West knew whenever Soviets conducted tests whether they were in atmosphere, above ground, or underground. Underground testing was very expensive and Americans could do it if they wanted to. Soviets had only done one, to show Americans could detect it.
(During translation, Kohler interjected to say that this was one good reason for concluding agreement; tests were indeed very expensive.)
Khrushchev continued that, if their military and scientists proposed atmospheric tests, they would allow them to make them. Such tests [Typeset Page 506] were cheaper. But Soviets were not now testing and would sign an agreement that they would not test. Why wouldn’t West believe them? They were honest people. But Soviets would not agree under conditions we had set. He was ready enough to meet President and PriMin. There might be some use in that, but there would be no agreement on nuclear-testing on these terms.[Facsimile Page 5]
Kohler said he hoped Khrushchev would give further consideration to proposal. He would see that a serious method of proceeding was proposed here. We wanted to find ways to do this privately in order to reach agreement on this subject. He and Trevelyan were not experts to discuss substantive issues here, but they hoped that people with a high degree of knowledge in these matters could discuss it.
Trevelyan said he wished to support Kohler’s statement. These letters represented real, serious and honest attempts to find agreement. We must find a way out of the deadlock and consequently hoped that serious study would be given to this proposal.
Khrushchev said that he would carefully study the document and there would be a reply in due course, but he could not pretend that he had not understood the essence of it and he saw no possibility of giving the answer we expected. He had been negotiating with the West for nearly eleven years, ever since Stalin died. He had met with President Eisenhower, with Dr. Adenauer, with PriMin Macmillan, President Kennedy, and President DeGaulle. Where had it all led? The West did not want serious talks. It did not want to talk seriously about Europe. He asked, who was interested in maintaining the state of war with Germany, and answered, only the revanchists; the West was being [Facsimile Page 6] led by the nose by West Germany. The real crux was not nuclear tests but the German question. The German question was the knot, which, if it could be cut, could improve everything. He asked what did the British, French or Americans want in West Berlin, and said that they were there in the interests of West Germany; not the German people, but Adenauer, who wanted to heighten tension. He said the Soviet Union would be patient but he did not know what it would lead to. The West must understand the danger.
Khrushchev said that this (i.e., nuclear tests) was not the important issue. It had no significance in reducing tension or limiting armaments. It was simply a humane or moral question. He said that the Soviet Union wanted an agreement on nuclear tests but the West wanted him to permit them to send their spies into his country. “We won’t let you”, he said that he had the impression that the West was not yet conscious of the need for agreement and did not really want one. He said that all this correspondence (indicating the messages) was motivated by some domestic reason. We had exchanged opinions thousands of times without result. Did they want him to bring out the old Soviet docu[Typeset Page 507]ments, write them out again and send them as his answer? He said there was nothing new in the documents. The only new thing was proposal for meeting of senior representatives or foreign ministers, but this was not new either; they had met before. He said he would not agree to inspections, he would not put agreement at the expense of his country’s interests. There should be equal rights on both sides. No right of inspection for the Soviet Union in the West and no right of inspection for the West in the Soviet Union.
Kohler said that he did not want to deflect attention from the problem but wished to remind Chairman that President and Prime Minister had made this approach with serious intentions. It was true that problem had been discussed for many hundreds of [Facsimile Page 7] hours but in that time, as President had said, considerable progress had been made. Positions had moved closer and were now very close. President believed that an agreement would have considerable effect as first step towards increasing trust and reducing tension. Also from a practical point of view, there were perhaps ten to twenty countries capable of developing in the near future their own nuclear capabilities and they would do so if they were not confronted with a nuclear test ban agreement. United States also approached the question of Germany with full seriousness. Both sides had same interest in peace and security in Europe; they differed on methods of achieving it. President’s desire for agreement is genuine. He hoped Khrushchev would consider it seriously. Messages contained a number of new things: question of procedure and pooling of inspection quotas over a number of years. President and PriMin would like to have benefit of Khrushchev’s views.
Khrushchev interjected to say that the quota proposal made it worse, it was going further away from a solution. “We reject it.”
Kohler said that President proceeded from principle of full equality on both sides, as he had said to Mr. Khrushchev at Vienna.
President would not expect Soviet Union to do anything which he was not prepared for United States to do.
Trevelyan said that West was making serious attempt to reach an accord. Their proposals were made not because of domestic considerations but in hope of reaching accord and of proceeding subsequently to other accords.
Khrushchev said that he could only repeat that they would study document and give a reply. Soviet Union would like an agreement but not on these conditions; it could only agree on the basis of no inspections. It would be discussed in the government whether to renounce or retain the offer of two to three inspections, but [Facsimile Page 8] if they did keep their word on this, they would not go a mite further. He asked that this be conveyed to the President and Prime Minister both of whom he held in high regard. He said that he saw no possibility of further concessions, [Typeset Page 508] which would be concessions to Goldwater and the “madmen”. (During translation Kohler interjected, “I can assure you President is in charge”. Khrushchev replied, “I don’t doubt it”.) Khrushchev said most Soviets could do would be to keep to the offer of two to three inspections; personally he thought they should take it back as the Americans had done. He said an agreement would not restrain other countries from making tests; perhaps it might be a very small restraining factor. It would not restrict the Soviet Union in the arms race. Disarmament was needed to do that. They no longer needed tests to develop nuclear weapons; Soviet scientists and military men were not putting forward any claims. As for other countries, they would say you tell us we must not make tests when you have already accumulated a supply of nuclear weapons, and Soviets would have no answer. A disarmament agreement on other hand would solve whole problem. It was probably time to stop the disarmament talks which had been going on for two years. Tsarapkin scratched about and there were no results; he was not justifying his expenses. If there was no basis for agreement, there was nothing to be done. They must submit to fate.
Kohler said that the Ambassadors appreciated time Chairman had given them. They would faithfully convey what Khrushchev had said to the President and Prime Minister. He had hoped Chairman’s response would be more positive and forthcoming. He hoped that after further consideration of the proposals, it still would be. Perhaps after a second look, a more encouraging answer could be made.
Trevelyan said he would still ask Khrushchev to approach proposal in a positive way.
Khrushchev said he could not give any encouragement. The document was politely phrased but contained nothing positive. He said [Facsimile Page 9] he would reply after careful study of the document but unfortunately there was no basis for assuring Ambassadors anything could come out of it on these conditions. Perhaps Representatives or Foreign Ministers would meet, but if they had instructions based on these conditions there was no reason to believe they would reach agreement.
Kohler said US and UK had no intention of publishing the letters nor even of saying they had been delivered. He then presented a draft statement to be made to the press, simply indicating Khrushchev had received Ambs at their request, naming other participants, and saying: “Questions related to banning of nuclear weapons tests were discussed.”
Khrushchev agreed and said Soviets would follow the same line.
Dept repeat as desired.
- Meeting with Khrushchev: agriculture, Kennedy–Macmillan letters, issues related to securing a nuclear test ban agreement. Secret. 10 pp. Department of State, Central Files, POL UK–USSR.↩