200. Editorial Note

Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson had a 2-hour conversation with Chairman Khrushchev in the morning of July 25, 1962, followed by a 3-hour conversation with him the same afternoon at Khrushchev’s dacha. These conversations covered several subjects in U.S.-Soviet relations. Records of their discussions on Berlin are printed in volume XV, [Page 497] pages 252–255. Following a discussion of military matters, Thompson reported, “Throughout conversation K made many references to U-2.” Thompson continued:

“In discussing disarmament I said I could not understand why Soviets had not given serious consideration to our zonal plan of inspection. I said this was serious effort on our part to meet their preoccupation with secrecy and to meet their insistence that amount of inspection be related to amount of disarmament. Our whole effort in this field seemed breaking down because of Soviet obsession with secrecy which I believe based on outmoded analysis. I cited Telstar as latest evidence world shrinking and said whatever advantage they had from secrecy wasting asset. K responded it might be true they gave too much attention and importance to secrecy but said on our side our military obsessed with desire acquire ever more information. He said of course every country had spies but sending U-2 across frontier was essentially act of war. We wanted to know where their rocket bases were but these like anything else could be camouflaged. I said it was natural human trait to fear unknown but pointed out this not to their advantage since it caused our military to prepare to meet threats which might not exist. K said he was more concerned now with use of outer space than with planes but said his own people had shown him photos (not clear whether from planes or satellites but I inferred latter) showing airfield or factories and even planes on field, but not showing what purpose of planes was or what factories produced. Always possible conceal essential information.

“With regard to our zonal proposal K said there were only limited number of Soviet rocket bases and we knew where they are. It would therefore be simple for us to arrange to inspect them all. He did not seem convinced by my counterarguments that if disarmament were 30 percent in first stage, only 30 percent of zones could be inspected. He said essence of disarmament problem was that we wanted to take away weapon with which they could hit us while preserving our overseas bases for use against them. I pointed out that in our first stage they would retain 70 percent of their missiles but he said in order know what 30 percent reduction was we would have to know what their total strength was, and pushed aside my argument that this would not involve inspection of all of them.

“K began discussion of test ban by asking Sobolev whether their announcement of resumption had been published. When answered in affirmative he said they would begin about August 5 or 6—he could not remember exact date. Soviets had resumed testing only because of our actions in military field. He added however somewhat cryptically that he understood President’s action. He hoped that as result of our experiments we would now be able to conclude test ban, implication being after their next series was completed. I observed there appeared to be [Page 498] hope that as result of our new studies it might be possible to agree not to have permanent observation posts but it would still be necessary to have verification of suspicious events. K brushed this aside saying that we could detect anything from outside and he cited fact that Soviets had conducted unannounced underground test in last series which we had detected and publicized. He said same true of French test which I gathered Soviets had detected. He said test agreement could be reached but he did not think Pentagon wanted it.

“From nature of conversation I gathered K has little hope that disarmament agreement can be reached.

“He said, for example, that greatest problem was fact that we have many invested interests in arms race and our monopolists would prevent agreement. I replied this was absurd and that what he called monopolists knew as well as anyone else that arms race was dangerous and war would hit them as well as anyone else. I added we had many interesting projects and needs which would require all our resources. It was true sudden disarmament would cause dislocations but we were confident we could deal with them. I expressed opinion military people on both sides responsible for security of country prudently always tended give other side maximum capability and worst intentions but it would be tragic if we let this determine our overall policy, and that arms race was not only vast economic waste but also cause of dangerous tensions.

“K said Soviet 7-year plan would be fulfilled whether or not there was disarmament and said plan had been based on assumption there would not be. If disarmament achieved they would probably complete plan by end of five years.

“I brought up subject of prevention war by accident or miscalculation saying we had taken many unilateral steps in this field but others called for which required cooperation of both sides and I hoped Soviets would pursue this problem with us. I indicated agreement but did not pursue matter.” (Telegram 227 from Moscow, July 26; Department of State, Central Files, 600.0012/7-2662)

On July 27, Thompson, who was to be replaced by Foy D. Kohler as Ambassador to the Soviet Union, left Moscow to return to the United States. During a stop en route in Copenhagen, Thompson transmitted further reflections on these talks. Following his comments on Berlin, Thompson added:

  • “(2) Even if we are willing to give up insistence upon having control posts inside Soviet Union I do not think Khrushchev will agree to more than one or two verifications of test ban a year and probably none. He is obsessed with idea we want to locate his missiles but probably more important he wants to conceal his relative weakness.
  • “(3) The mere fact that Khrushchev asserted he could achieve his seven year plan without disarmament convinces me that the opposite is the case but I doubt that we will get anywhere on real disarmament at this time. I got impression, however, that Khrushchev will be prepared seriously to consider steps to prevent war by accident or miscalculation. If we can get over the Berlin hump and then let him know our intelligence capabilities we might make progress on GCD.” (Telegram 76 from Copenhagen, July 28; ibid., 762.00/7-2862)