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45. Memorandum of Conversation Between the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) and the Soviet Ambassador (Dobrynin)1

I had a long and cordial lunch with Ambassador Dobrynin in which we touched lightly on a large number of topics of only casual interest. The points of principal importance are as follows:

The Ambassador told me that he had conveyed to Chairman Khrushchev my private warning against intervention in the political [Page 107]campaign,2 and that the Chairman fully understood the message. I told him that David Rockefeller had reported the Chairman’s remark that he was impressed by Scotty Reston’s argument to the same effect, and the Ambassador indicated his own belief that his message from me had been more influential (I’m not so sure myself).
The Ambassador’s principal preoccupation was with the MLF. While he did not come to the topic until near the close of the lunch, he rang all the changes on the subject, representing his views as not only those of his government but his own personal deep convictions. Perhaps the most interesting formulation was his claim that the U.S. was damaging its own best interests and allowing itself to be dragged along by the West Germans. I made the usual argument-and to me the fundamental one-that if the Germans were not kept solidly tied to the U.S., very strong political pressures would develop for another line of policy that would be dangerous both to the Soviet Union and to us. I found it interesting that the Ambassador simply did not comment on this possibility. I also pressed upon the Ambassador that if the Soviet Union really found the MLF dangerous, it was quite free to move in two directions that would promptly undermine the pressure for the MLF: (1) it could reduce the number of rockets aimed at Western Europe; and (2) it could give the Germans a real prospect of reunification. Without saying so directly, I implied strongly that the plan for the MLF was a reply to Soviet nuclear deployment and Soviet political intransigence. The Ambassador did not appear to be persuaded.
My own principal effort was to direct the Ambassador’s attention to the problem of Communist Chinese nuclear weapons. I made it very plain that in our judgment the Chinese nuclear weapons would be real dissemination, while the MLF was nothing of the sort. I also made it plain that we would be ready for private and serious talk on what to do about this problem if there were any interest in the Soviet Government. The Ambassador gave no direct reply, but he gave me clearly to understand that in the thinking of the Soviet Government the Chinese nuclear capability was already, in effect, taken for granted. He argued that Chinese nuclear weapons had no importance against the Soviet Union or against the U.S., and that therefore they had only a psychological impact in Asia, and he implied that this impact had no importance for his government.
On China in general, the Ambassador admitted and indeed emphasized the depth and strength of the existing split between Moscow and Peking, but he took the view that the primary cause of this split was the personal megalomania of Mao. He said that Stalin at his worst [Page 108]had never insisted upon the kind of personal worship which was now accorded to Mao. He said that while in the Soviet Union younger men (like himself) were coming into positions of responsibility, and were able to argue openly and honestly with Khrushchev, in Communist China the older generation and, above all, Mao himself, were still in full charge and were inaccessible to reasonable argument. He told me at some length of the dismal experience of Soviet advisers trying to warn against the technological nonsense of the Great Leap Forward. But he asserted calmly, but strongly, his conviction that in the long run there would be a restoration of harmony between the two countries. And at one point, in discussion of our American differences with Communist China, he gently remarked on the continued existence of the treaty between the USSR and the Chicoms.
The Ambassador was much interested in knowing what I thought would be the timing of renewed U.S. diplomatic activity after the election-would it wait until January, or would it come in November? I told him that while we would not be in any spectacular rush, neither would we be forced to wait until after the inauguration. I indicated my own belief that discussions within the Western alliance would be necessary before anything very serious could be done between East and West (though at the same time I made clear our benevolent attitude toward an early meeting between Khrushchev and Erhard).

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR, Dobrynin Conversations, Vol. 1. Secret. Prepared by Bundy on October 1.
  2. See Document 39.