186. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Nuclear Test Ban and Germany


  • USSR
    • N. S. Khrushchev
    • Andrei Gromyko
    • S. G. Lapin
    • Viktor Sukhodrev—translator
  • US
    • Under Secretary W. Averell Harriman
    • Ambassador Foy D. Kohler
    • Mr. Michael V. Forrestal
    • Mr. William H. Sullivan

In response to Khrushchev’s request for Harriman’s “advice”, the Governor suggested that the USSR come to an agreement on a nuclear test ban. This would enable them to devote more of their resources to civilian production. He assured Mr. Khrushchev that the President wanted this very much.

Mr. Khrushchev replied soberly that the Soviets have been thinking about this for some time and they want it too. He added that they are now preparing their position and the President could expect an answer in the near future. He said, however, that the Soviets attach greater importance to the German question, although he was not saying these two subjects were linked.1 Harriman asked what aspect of the German situation: Berlin or an independent nuclear capability for the Germans.

Khrushchev said that the Soviets want a normalization of Europe. The Americans should free themselves of Adenauer’s influence. The socialist countries have gained more in Berlin from the wall than they would have gained by a peace treaty, which would have provided that no wall could be built. “Berlin is no longer a source of any trouble.” He said they raised the German question only because a settlement there would contribute to the alleviation of tensions. The Soviets seek no advantages in that country. If there were a German peace treaty nothing would change; the only result would be that the current situation involving two Germanies would be legitimized.

[Page 511]

Harriman said that since the Soviets were satisfied with the current situation in Berlin, why do they not wish to get on with other important things such as a test ban agreement? Khrushchev replied: “We’ll sign one right away, but, with no espionage inspections, ever.”

Harriman said he wished to raise one aspect of nuclear proliferation which concerned him and, he assumed, was of concern to Chairman Khrushchev. He said Khrushchev had expressed his worry about the Germans. Why hadn’t he said anything about the Chinese and the possibility that they may have nuclear weapons in the near future. Khrushchev suggested Harriman take that up with the Chinese. The Soviets and the United States could talk about Germany because we were mutual victors in the war against Germany, but China was one of the Soviet’s allies and Harriman should treat them as equals. Harriman said he had personally wanted to go to talk with the Chinese a few years ago but that Mikoyan would not cooperate. Khrushchev replied that Mikoyan was not the Foreign Minister of China and could not get Harriman into China.

In response to Governor Harriman’s invitation to luncheon the Chairman regretted that he would be especially busy for the next two days and would not have time. He stressed that he and his colleagues regard Mr. Harriman with the highest esteem and would like to return our relations to the state they were in during the period when Mr. Harriman was Ambassador. He proposed: “I will give my word that I will find a basis for a test ban agreeable to both sides provided you agree to work out the basis of a German settlement which would recognize the two Germanies as they now exist”.

Harriman replied he could not buy a “pig-in-a-poke”. The United States is always ready to talk about both the test ban and about the German settlement. Khrushchev remarked with a smile that Harriman was an old diplomat who knew how to talk without saying anything. He asked the Governor to convey his best wishes to the President and his family, and to tell the President that he wanted to continue to cooperate with the United States in finding reasonable language and in the search for a solution to all the world’s problems. In closing, he also asked the Governor to convey his best regards to Secretary Rusk.

Governor Harriman thanked the Chairman for these words and said he would convey them to the President and the Secretary.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18–8. The source text bears no drafting information, but it was approved in M on May 6. The source text is labeled “Part IV of IV.” The meeting was held in Khrushchev’s office in the Kremlin. Harriman was in Moscow for talks on Laos.
  2. In the telegraphic summary of this conversation a parenthetical notation states “(Although, in fact, he linked them twice).” (Telegram 2771 from Moscow, April 28; ibid., POL 7 US/Harriman)