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281. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Thompson) to Secretary of State Rusk0

It seems clear from the Cousins interview1 and Khrushchev’s remarks to Kohler and the British Ambassador2 that Khrushchev is not going to move on the test ban issue at this time. This and other evidence suggests that Khrushchev has probably given his agreement to further tests by the Soviet Union. This would be consistent with his indication that the Soviet Union was going in for a new generation of weapons.

Khrushchev’s remark to Cousins that he could not meet the President at this time could, as you suggest, indicate that the “egg he is hatching” is of such nature that he knows it would make a meeting with the President impossible. It may, however, mean that the quarrel with the ChiComs is taking precedence at the present time over other issues. An agreement to meet the President, or an agreement on a test ban would both be provocative to the Chinese. I suspect that this, in itself, would not bother Khrushchev, but that it is important to him at this juncture not to do anything which exposes him to further Chinese attack, both for internal reasons and in connection with the struggle for control of other communist parties.

It is too early to tell whether under pressure from the Chinese and his internal and external problems, Khrushchev is embarking on a major change of policy or whether these are maneuvers of a transitory nature.

It is interesting that speeches by Soviet officials during the past week have fairly consistently stuck to Khrushchev’s old line on most questions at issue with the Chinese.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 USSR. Secret; Eyes Only. Initialed by Thompson. Copies were sent to Ball and McGeorge Bundy.
  2. Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review of Literature and disarmament activist, interviewed Khrushchev at Putsunda on April 12. His account of the interview appears in the Saturday Review of Literature of November 7, 1964. Before his trip, Cousins had a brief telephone conversation with Rusk on April 6 on test ban issues. (Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations) Cousins stated in his account of the interview that President Kennedy “had asked me to try to clarify the Soviet misunderstanding of the American position on the test ban.” No memorandum of conversation between Cousins and Kennedy before or after the meeting has been found.
  3. See Document 280.