214. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy1

SUBJECT

  • Possible Meeting with Khrushchev in Berlin

In your memorandum of November 8 you asked for my comments on a suggestion made by General Norstad that you might summon Khrushchev to a meeting in Berlin at some stage in the Berlin crisis.

We must distinguish, of course, between the sort of meeting General Norstad suggests, which would be a response to a particular and critical contingency, and the sort that could occur in the course of negotiations on a Berlin settlement. The latter might have occurred prior to a contingency of this gravity, and the meeting in question would then be a second meeting.

In our planning for the Berlin situation we have always had in mind that at some point, in a situation of this nature, a meeting at the highest level with the Soviet Union might be desirable. We have not discussed this extensively with our Allies, but we have included a proposal which could involve such a meeting in our quadripartite planning for the contingency [Page 588]that Allied or German land access to Berlin is blocked. The meeting would be consistent with our planning for other contingencies as well, and there is nothing in existing contingency plans which would be incompatible with the holding of such a meeting.

It is difficult to say this far in advance whether a bilateral meeting would be preferable to one at which other Western statesmen would be present. Our quadripartite contingency planning would normally envisage a Four-Power summit meeting. However, I think it would be well to plan privately for a possible bilateral meeting in the event that this should appear in the circumstances to be the most promising.

With respect to location, Berlin would certainly provide a dramatic site for such an event. A number of considerations must be weighed in the final choice, however, among them the possibility that our Allies would feel that a bilateral meeting would be particularly inappropriate in Berlin, give the Four-Power character of the city. Also, the likelihood of the meeting proving successful would have to be considered, since lack of success in Berlin might have a particularly depressing effect on the Berlin population.

In summary, the idea of a bilateral meeting certainly merits our further consideration. The Department will prepare more detailed plans, of a unilateral US nature, regarding it. This planning will include consideration of site and composition, but the final determination on these points will likely have to be made at a stage closer to the actual contingency.

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin. Top Secret. The source text bears no drafting information, but another copy shows that it was drafted by Day on November 16. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11-2061) The November 8 memorandum is not printed. (Ibid., 762.00/11-861) Norstad made this suggestion at a meeting with the President on November 7; see numbered paragraph 6, Document 205.