209. Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy1
Dear Mr. President: I have read your letter of October 162 with great attention. It is good that you had an opportunity to write it in a quiet atmosphere, in your family circle, far from the turmoil of the capital. I received your letter on the very eve of the opening of the 22nd Congress of our Party, at a time when Moscow, and in fact all our country—was living an especially elated and exciting life.
You have had probably an opportunity to get acquainted with the published reports on the proceedings of the Congress and you can imagine how much energy, time and attention on my part and on the part of my colleagues that work required. The Congress has adopted a program of material and spiritual development of the Soviet peoples’ life—a program unprecedented in its scale.
However joyful it was to work out concrete plans for building communism in our country we could not but think of today since it is vitally important for us that these plans are carried out in the conditions of peace. That is why so much attention was given at the Congress to international problems and, first of all, to the security of peaceful coexistence of countries with different social and political systems which has now been included as a corner stone in the program of our Party. Our present struggle against the consequences of the cult of personality, is, if you wish, at the same time a struggle for a consistent realization of the principles of peaceful coexistence.
However I am not going to dwell especially on the importance of our Party’s Congress. We may, of course, have a different point of view on this matter. It would seem to be more difficult for us to come to a common view on this point than on the German problem.
Now the Congress is over and my friends and I believe that it was quite a success. Now I am able to reply to your letter and express my views on the points you raised in it.
You ask what advantages the West would get if it agrees to the changes resulting from the solution of the German problem. In your letter you even gave a comparison asserting that the Soviet Union wants to trade an apple for an orchard. I do not intend to argue that—such a comparison [Page 568] might be good by its picturesqueness, but in this case, I think, it is absolutely out of place.
What is the orchard which we are allegedly seeking, what is meant by that and what is the apple which, as you say, we are suggesting to trade? Let us consider it.
Let us look first at the proposals of the Soviet Union. The proposals, as you know, are—to conclude a German peace treaty and on this basis to transform West Berlin into a free city. Does the realization of these proposals require any concessions on the part of the Western powers? No, and, once again, no. The Soviet draft peace treaty is based only on the necessity to consolidate and legalize the situation created as a result of the war, to consolidate and legalize the German borders. Have another look at this draft and you will see that we suggest to consolidate by this treaty what had already been sanctified by the signatures which the leaders of our states put in their time under the Potsdam agreement. We demand no changes in these agreements.
This means that nobody gives anything and nobody takes anything from anyone, and that the only point is to fulfill the obligations which the four powers solemnly took upon themselves in Yalta and Potsdam.
Now, what is the position of the Western powers. If there is anyone who wants to get the whole orchard giving nothing in return—that is you and your allies. Let me show this with the facts.
It was stated in the Potsdam agreements that Germany should not be armed, that an end should be put forever to German militarism and revanchism. In spite of that the United States, Britain and France have made West Germany their ally, are arming it—and arming it rather intensively.
One cannot find a single line in the allied agreements which would allow to regard West Berlin and West Germany as one entity. In reality the Western powers as early as in 1948 introduced in West Berlin the West German mark and even made attempts to spread the FRG laws on this city. Together with the FRG the Western powers are now actively using West Berlin against the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic and other socialist countries.
These facts alone show that the Western powers in their present demands are stepping aside from the allied agreements and are seeking for themselves such advantages which would have been unthinkable 16 years ago. But the list of such facts does not end at this.
In 1945 the four powers pledged to do their utmost in order that Germany would never be able to threaten its neighbours and the world peace. But now West Germany with your assistance has acquired such strength that it is openly encroaching on the territory of neighbouring countries and starting to grasp its NATO allies by arms and feet.[Page 569]
It is not an exaggeration to say that the FRG hinders also the US Government in the free conduct of the policy which the latter believes to be reasonable and which corresponds to the interests of your country as well as other countries. You and I have agreed to establish and maintain contacts in order to search jointly for mutually acceptable solutions to the German problem. But actually that has not been accomplished yet. And we understand quite clearly that it is first of all Adenauer who resists it, being zealously supported by French President de Gaulle.
It seems to me, that de Gaulle’s position is rather accurately described by an allegory which is well known among our people. Once a peasant, so the story goes, boasted that he would go to the forest and catch a bear; he was warned that it was a dangerous undertaking, that bear is a strong beast. Never mind, I’ll handle him—said the peasant, and went to the forest. Some time has passed but the peasant still has not come back. The people started looking for him. Where are you?—they cried. The peasant cried back: I am here, I have caught a bear.
—Well, bring him here.
—He won’t go.
—Come here yourself.
—But he won’t let me go.
More or less the same has happened to France. de Gaulle embraced Adenauer to lean on West Germany and to increase with its help the weight of France in European affairs and, may be, even to try to conduct the events in the whole world. It is an open secret that de Gaulle considers himself to be the most qualified person to determine the political destiny of Europe and not only Europe. Actually it has turned out that West Germany has so squeezed de Gaulle in her arms that he is not able any longer to escape from the embrace. In fact France has been forced to follow in the wake of the policy which is being carried on by Chancellor Adenauer.
That is why de Gaulle is saying now not the things which are helpful for ensuring peace and, consequently, helpful for France and other nations, but whatever pleases Chancellor Adenauer.
There seems to be no need to go back to the question of how and why it has happened that the Potsdam agreements remained to a considerable degree unfulfilled and what effect this fact had on the situation in Germany and in Europe as a whole. This has been stated more than once before. And life itself demands that we should look forward, not backward. It is important now to single out what brings us closer, what will help us to restore the spirit of cooperation and goodwill which was characteristic of the relations between the USSR and the USA during the hard years of war. In our opinion this can be easier and better achieved by a mutually agreed solution of the problem of a German [Page 570] peace treaty. The Western powers not only would not have to sacrifice in any way their interests, they would gain and, indeed, not less than the other states.
To use your comparison, it can be said that by the conclusion of a German peace treaty we would have planted an orchard the fruits of which would be enjoyed by all the states, all the peoples.
It is true that we have to settle this problem in a rather unusual way. At the time when the Potsdam agreement was being signed nobody could have foreseen that two independent states, with different ways of life, would emerge on the territory of Germany. However, it has happened. What can we do? Should we use force so that Germany will again become united? But nobody seems to be anxious to fight for this. President de Gaulle told us frankly that France was not interested in reunification of Germany. And one can understand his position since he fears and, evidently, not without a reason, that a united Germany—if one has in mind the basis for its unification which is advocated by Adenauer—would be a militarist state with all its widely known distinctive habits.
The world public opinion has obviously no sympathy with the idea of reunification of Germany. Such opinion prevails in France, Britain, in wide enough circles of the USA and even in West Germany itself.
The situation existing in Germany is recognized everywhere in the West, but many persons prefer to keep silent. They do so, naturally, not because of a desire to help the reunification of Germany, but because of dislike for the way of life established in the German Democratic Republic. They do not like, of course, the social and political system not only in the G.D.R., but in other socialist countries as well, including, naturally, the Soviet Union. However just as we are not free to establish our systems in capitalist countries, the Western powers have no right to impose one or another way of development on the socialist countries.
I fully agree with you that it would be useless to argue about the advantages of our social systems. We will not find a common language here. That is why the Soviet Government proceeds from the necessity of recognition of what exists in reality; two German states and two systems in the world—capitalist and socialist. Any other approach would inevitably lead us to collision, to war.
We have got an impression that you also want to achieve a mutually acceptable solution of the German problem which would not lead to the deepening of the differences and, eventually, to collision between our countries.
In my opinion we have already passed the stage of sounding out each other’s positions. We should now start solving problems, otherwise contacts and negotiations will lead to nothing but marking time.[Page 571]
When I sent you my latest letter3 I hoped that we would use this line of communication for concrete discussion of still unsettled issues and, first of all, of the German peace treaty as the most complex and urgent one. If both of us departed from concrete discussion and confine ourselves to repeating generalities our confidential correspondence could have been substantially depreciated.
In my recent letter I tried to set forth in detail our position on concrete questions and, I will not conceal, I expected you to do the same. There were, it seemed to me, some grounds for that in the light of the discussions which our Foreign Minister had had in New York and in Washington with you, Mr. President, and with the US Secretary of State. We understand, of course, that you needed some time to study and think over all that had been said. That is why, having found no concrete suggestions in your letter, we expected that Ambassador Thompson would state them on your instructions. So far this has not happened, either.
A certain apprehension is caused by an obvious dissonance between realistic notes which we hear while talking with American statesmen on questions of Germany, and conservative, extremely negative comments on these talks, which are published on the pages of influential newspapers in the United States.
I will not go back to a detailed statement of our position, and will dwell only on the main points. When we talked with you in Vienna you said that the question of Germany should be solved in such a way that the prestige of any of our counties was not hurt. I agreed with you then and I agree with you now. Indeed, the Soviet Union and the USA are great powers and the matter of prestige is important to them. We understand it.
But how the interests of the parties can be taken fully into account when the goal is to draw a line under the past war? It is clear—by the conclusion of a peace treaty on an agreed basis. The conclusion of a peace treaty is a natural way of the completion of war which is accepted by both—civilized and uncivilized peoples. Such a treaty makes it possible to juridically secure the cessation of the state of war and, at the same time, to legalize the changes which resulted from the war. It is in complete agreement with considerations of prestige.
The signing of a German peace treaty would help to liquidate the state of “cold war”, to create better conditions for cooperation between our countries, for the development of trade, for the exchange of scientific achievements etc. On the basis of the peace treaty the question of West Berlin will be solved.[Page 572]
It was said that the time, suggested by us, for the conclusion of a peace treaty sounds like an ultimatum and this hurts the prestige of our partners in negotiations. We have, of course, made no ultimatum. But in order to create the best possible conditions for the achievement of an agreed settlement the Soviet Government has decided not to insist that the peace treaty be signed till the end of this year.
We do not dictate any firm terms for the solution of the German question and you probably know it well. The best way, in our opinion, would be the signing of a peace treaty between all countries which fought against Germany and the two German states which have appeared on the ruins of the Hitlerite Reich and the normalization of the situation in West Berlin on this basis. But it is also possible to sign two peace treaties—with West and East Germany, and the texts of these treaties should not necessarily be identical.
There is also a third possibility which I mentioned to Mr. Spaak—to agree before signing a peace treaty with the GDR by the Soviet Union and other powers on a status of West Berlin and on the indispensable solution of certain important questions of the post-war settlement in Europe.
What could constitute a special agreement on West Berlin which would then be annexed to a peace treaty and thus would acquire the full juridical force? There can be, certainly, only one thing in it—again the status of a free demilitarized city, in other words West Berlin must become independent politically, live in accordance with its internal laws, freely without any external interference, with the most widely developed ties with any state of any continent.
The situation which has developed in that city is absolutely abnormal. You yourself spoke about it as of a heavy heritage. Consequently it is necessary to liquidate this “heritage” lest it—as an abscess—spoil the relations between our countries and cause inflammation on a healthy body.
You do not need West Berlin if, of course, it is not considered as a base for subversive activities against the socialist countries. And even in this capacity it hardly justifies the hopes of those who would like to preserve the vestiges of World War II in the center of Europe and to thoroughly drive a wedge between great powers. Those who think that it is possible to weaken the socialist countries by organizing subversive activities from West Berlin against them are deceiving themselves. West Berlin does not fit for that under present circumstances—it is a rotten basis. The preservation of the situation which exists there can only generate conflicts and cause anxiety in the world.[Page 573]
Recently, through Mr. Robert Kennedy,4 you yourself let me know of your concern with regard to the situation in Berlin. I must say we were also grieved by the incidents which took place on the border between West and East Berlin during the last ten days of October and caused the tension that nobody wanted.
I would not like to go into polemics with you and, judging by your message, you do not pursue this aim either. I think, however, that the latest incidents could not have taken place if the American military authorities in West Berlin would have shown more desire to act with due regard to the real situation.
I cannot but agree with you that a period of relative moderation and calmness is particularly necessary now. We regard with understanding such a sober approach which will allow to concentrate on the solution of the problems related to the German peace settlement and not to turn away our attention to the settlement of—frankly speaking—secondary questions.
Your letter of October 16 can be understood in such a way that West Berlin is the very orchard which the Soviet Union wants to get for itself. But for us it is not an orchard, rather it is a weed of burr and nettle. We do not want to walk into this weed, we have no business there. We do not need West Berlin. Let West Berlin live and develop in the way its population wants. We are ready to do everything to this end.
If Western powers have no hidden aims with regard to West Berlin, why can we not agree, then, on transforming it into a free city? International character could be given to the status of West Berlin as a free city by registering it at the UN. Such a solution would not be detrimental to any side since it would be based on the recognition of the existing social and political conditions in West Berlin. The balance of power which has developed between the two world systems after the war would not be changed as a result of the transformation of West Berlin into a free city, and the watershed between them would remain in the same place.
We could explain this decision to everybody and any sober-minded person would understand it because he would realize that our countries really want to liquidate the vestiges of World War II and clear the way for peaceful cooperation among all nations.
But what do Western powers suggest to us? There is only one thing behind all their statements about the adherence to the cause of freedom of West Berlin—the desire to preserve the regime of occupation there at [Page 574] any price. They insist that this regime should be preserved even after the signing of a peace treaty. I am not a diplomat and can be completely frank: if it means only to get a confirmation of occupation rights, then it will be difficult to expect not only agreement but even negotiations themselves, since there will be nothing to talk about. You have to understand that the Soviet Union cannot agree to preserve and recognize the regime of occupation in West Berlin, i.e. by its own hands to help Western powers violate after the conclusion of a peace treaty the sovereignty of the German Democratic Republic, its ally.
In essence, the present position of the Western powers reflects the same selfish line which they followed in signing the peace treaty with Japan. At that time the Western powers considered it possible to neglect the interests of the Soviet Union and to conclude the peace treaty without it. Now they “allow” us condescendingly to sign a peace treaty with the GDR provided, however, that the regime of occupation in West Berlin remains intact. To agree to this would be not only the loss of our prestige but the complete surrender.
We would prefer to conclude a German peace treaty together with the USA and other participants of the anti-Hitlerite coalition. It is our ardent desire. But if our efforts to make the positions of the sides closer do not reach the goal, all the same we will sign a peace treaty and will do it certainly not with the purpose of securing the occupation rights of Western powers.
It would be the greatest fallacy to expect that these rights could be saved by threats, that under the pressure the Soviet Union will eventually agree to play the part of a permanent sentry guarding these rights. Despite all the threats on the part of Western powers the Soviet Union will in no case retreat from its principal position.
Certainly, if Western powers adopt unreasonable decisions, the consequences will be extremely sad. I think that not only myself but you also wish that mankind will never taste such a bitter lot. In any case these consequences, if they were caused, would not be graver for the Soviet Union than for the USA. For the allies of the USA, which are comparatively small countries, they will be especially tragic. Besides the voice of these countries can be heard in fact only until the guns start talking. When it comes to direct collision they will be even deprived of physical ability to influence in any way the course of events, which will take place in case the fatal line is crossed.
Let us throw away arguments of force and rely exclusively on the arguments of reason. The threats are of no use to us, and I agree with you that we should not talk the language of “cold war”. Such language only prevents us from estimating the situation in the world soberly and seeking the solution of questions which are equally disturbing to both of our peoples. Let us solve these questions in such a way that dealing with [Page 575] them today we would know for sure that the relations between our countries will become better tomorrow and still better the day after tomorrow. This is what is expected from us, you and me—the men invested with great trust and great powers—by all peoples who value peace higher than anything else.
You ask me, who would guarantee that the rights and interests of West Berlin will not be violated and propose that reliable international guarantees should be given to the city. You, Mr. President, and your predecessors have repeatedly made such statements and, naturally, you have bound yourself by those statements before the American and West German public opinion as well as before the public opinion of other countries. But we also are not against guarantees. The Soviet Union and the GDR have no secret plans with regard to West Berlin, and therefore we ourselves propose that guarantees—and the most effective ones—should be given to it.
Thus, we seem to agree with you that there should be guarantees for West Berlin. And here again there are two possibilities. I have already told Mr. Spaak and you about that. The Soviet position is known to you and the Secretary of State also from what was said by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR. I want to give you a short summary of our point of view: if the USA is interested in our guaranteeing the status of West Berlin together, the Soviet Union is ready to assume such obligation upon itself. But it must be recognized that the Soviet Union will have equal rights and equal responsibility which other powers—guarantors will have.
I have already written to you that the most realistic way out is that of placing some symbolic contingents of troops of four great powers in West Berlin. And if the troops of four powers are stationed there, the Soviet Union, naturally, will bear the responsibility with regard to guarantees equal to that of Western powers. Such measure will be understandable to both—the allies of the USA and the allies of the Soviet Union. It will not hurt the prestige of any power concerned. But if you want to have your troops in West Berlin while there will be no [of] our troops there, that will not be equal terms. You want us to be guarantors on some other terms which are different from those of others, of yours, but this is not realistic.
I know that in the West attempts are being made to interpret our proposal on guarantees as an expression of a desire to penetrate into West Berlin and to gain a foothold there. Believe me, Mr. President, we are not intruding into West Berlin. Why should we have our troops there? I think that your troops too are not needed in West Berlin. They are guarding themselves, and somebody’s shadow.
I will not, probably, make a mistake if I say that in the question of keeping troops in West Berlin prestige considerations are the main ones. [Page 576] Since you believe it so important to keep the troops in West Berlin we are prepared to make a concession. It is a definite concession on our part since the occupation rights cease to exist upon signing a peace treaty and discontinuing the state of war. But in order that this concession is not interpreted as a retreat of the USSR under the pressure of the USA—and not under the pressure of reason and expedience—our token troops should be also stationed in West Berlin. What kind of troops, of what size? It is not very important. It might be that the number of our troops will be substantially less but under an agreement the Soviet Union must be in an equal position with the USA. The Soviet Government wishes to take into account the prestige of the USA, but we would like you also, Mr. President, to display an understanding with regard to our prestige. We must mutually spare each other’s prestige. For how long should the token troops remain in West Berlin? At present some people are not quite sure as to how a free city would feel and whether its relations with other countries will run smoothly. But if all the fears that are now being expressed allay, if it turns out that there are no grounds, and we are sure that it is so, for concern about the fate of West Berlin? [sic] Really, it would not be quite clear why it is necessary to keep these token troops in the city forever. And so we propose that an agreement on stationing token contingents of troops of the four powers in West Berlin be concluded for a definite period of time.
If our proposal on stationing the token contingents of troops of the four powers in West Berlin is not acceptable and if you believe that it is really necessary for guaranteeing purposes to keep the troops in West Berlin, well, let them be the United Nations troops. Such a solution should not do any damage to you or to us, France and Britain. The UN troops will see to it that the order as defined by the status of the free city is strictly observed. This would seem to be even better than to keep the troops of the four powers in West Berlin.
I repeat: neither the troops of the four powers nor the United Nations troops should perform any occupation functions. The situation has changed and so another regime corresponding to the conditions of peace time is needed.
I know you are concerned with the question of access to West Berlin. Moreover, you, it seems to me, are inclined to consider it as one of the most important and hard to solve questions. I do not know whether I will be able to dispel the uncertainties but I would like to emphasize with all clarity that neither the Soviet Government nor the Government of the GDR intend to impose any restrictions on the ties of West Berlin with the outside world or on the access to that city of these or those states by land, sea and air.
If we propose that the order of maintaining these ties and of using all kinds of communications going through the territory of the sovereign [Page 577] state—the German Democratic Republic—should be the same as accepted everywhere both in the socialist and in the capitalist countries, then, you will agree we do not demand anything special, any limitations or concessions. If some other order is established it would precisely mean creating a special discriminatory regime with regard to the GDR.
Those who cling to the occupation regime in West Berlin would like, evidently, the Soviet Union to assume the responsibilities of a traffic policeman securing continuous and uncontrolled transportation of military goods of the Western powers into West Berlin. Generally speaking no one objects to an access to West Berlin, but naturally, this access should be exercised with the consent of the country through whose territory the communications of West Berlin run. And if the Western powers still want the Soviet Union to perform the functions of a traffic policeman, then, they need it in order not to have simply an access to West Berlin but the access which rests on the occupation regime.
I will permit myself to give an example. At present the USA seems to intend to recognize the Mongolian People’s Republic. How, one may ask, an American Ambassador is going to reach this Republic if he does not obtain our or the Chinese People’s Republic’s consent to go through the Soviet or Chinese territory? Is the USA going in this case also to disregard the generally accepted international norms and threatening with force to demand for itself exclusive privileges?
You will say, of course, look we do not demand it. It is true, the USA does not demand it. But why, then, do you use a different approach with regard to the GDR?
It seems to me that the US Government does not want to sign a peace treaty precisely because it feels its wrongness in the questions of the order of access to West Berlin. It prefers, it seems, to retain for the future such a position: we are not participants of the peace treaty, we have not signed this treaty and therefore we retain with regard to West Berlin all our rights resulting from the surrender of Germany and the establishment of the occupation regime in West Berlin. But it will be clear to the entire world that the Western powers are in the wrong here. The fact alone that 16 years have passed since the war makes groundless all the talks about further maintenance of occupation regime in West Berlin. Whatever turn the events might take, further uncontrolled use of the territory of the GDR will become impossible. And the point here is, naturally, not the observance of appearances but the real respect for the sovereign rights of states.
At the present time most of the passenger traffic and the overwhelming part of commercial freightage between West Berlin and the capitalist countries are carried out on the basis of agreements with the GDR. It does not create any difficulties or interruptions of the ties of West Berlin with the outside world. Therefore it is difficult, frankly [Page 578] speaking, to find reasons which would justify the belief that the situation may change for the worse after a peace treaty is concluded and a free city is created. Rather, everything speaks in favor of the opposite.
In the interests of clarity I would like to point out that in solving the question of access as well as other questions with regard to West Berlin we cannot agree that the FRG be placed in a special privileged position, and we will never agree to it. The Federal Republic of Germany should enjoy no worse and no better conditions than other states.
At present the FRG authorities are openly, without any disguise using West Berlin for subversive activities against the GDR and other socialist countries. It is first of all these illegal and dangerous intrigues that forced the socialist countries to take defensive measures. And it goes without saying that we will object to the continuation of such a hostile activity when the question of normalizing the situation in West Berlin on the basis of conclusion of a German peace treaty is being solved.
Incidentally, sometimes voices are heard—could not East Berlin be separated from the GDR. I would like to note that this kind of talk is simply not serious. The social and political system in the German Democratic Republic and in East Berlin is one and the same. East Berlin is the capital of the GDR, the seat of the government of the Republic. Therefore, when they talk about a separation of the capital of the GDR it is not even a preservation of status quo, but a change, a breaking of the political and social order. No one will allow that the established state organism existing and developing on the same social and political basis be destroyed. And one should think that this unreasonable proposal is being made not in the interests of achieving an agreement.
It seems that some aspects of the access will have to be settled anew. Whatever is said the allies have never concluded any agreements on commercial and civil air transportation into Berlin and out of Berlin. Due to our oversight such a transportation was put into effect arbitrarily. With the conclusion of a peace treaty that will have to be corrected. Airlines interested in maintaining traffic with West Berlin will have to have a permission of the GDR to fly over its territory.
On the other hand, there are difficulties of a technical nature. How is the air traffic with West Berlin going now? To land or to take off from the airfields in West Berlin planes fly over the city. It is dangerous both for the passengers and, especially, for the population over whose houses planes fly to land and take off. And it is not without reason that airfields are located outside city limits in all countries of the world. Such a practice is prescribed by safety reasons. And if the old outdated practice is still in effect in West Berlin this is explained only by specific conditions which developed as a result of the war.[Page 579]
The government of the GDR is prepared to permit planes flying to West Berlin to land and take off on its airfields located nearby which cannot be considered as worsening of the conditions of access to West Berlin. This is not a far-fetched but quite an actual task if one is to bear in mind that the intensity of air traffic will apparently be increasing year in and year out.
If the token troops of the four powers are stationed in West Berlin, then, the USA and other Western powers will probably insist on the right of free access to maintain communications and to supply their contingents. I think that if it meant flights of a small number of planes defined in an agreement of the four powers to satisfy the needs of the token contingents of troops then the GDR government could agree to that. Apparently these troops would retain those airfields which exist now.
It goes without saying that the German Democratic Republic should be given guarantees to the effect that the air traffic will not be used against its interests. An agreement could be reached that the four powers which would have token troops in West Berlin would exercise mutual control on the border over their transportation into and out of the city. The same control on a mutual basis could be established also for all other military transportation including those for the token contingents of the Soviet Union which would be stationed in West Berlin as guarantors. The GDR would, probably, be satisfied with it. Being its ally we would perform in a sense the functions of the government of the German Democratic Republic, seeing to it that the communications with West Berlin related to the stationing there of the contingents of troops of the four powers should not be used in a way harmful to it.
Such a procedure, as I see it, could not do moral damage to any of the parties concerned.
I am setting forth these considerations in a preliminary strictly confidential order and I hope that they will be met with understanding on your part.
Dear Mr. President, I am writing not to argue with you or to try to play better the next fall-back position as diplomats call it. I have stated to you the first, second and third possibilities. To any of them which you would consider suitable, we are ready to agree. If you have something else to propose—also on the basis of a peaceful settlement—we would willingly exchange opinions with you. But if you insist on the preservation of inviolability of your occupation rights I do not see any prospect. You have to understand, I have no ground to retreat further, there is a precipice behind.
As an optimist, and they say an incurable one, I hope for the better and believe that eventually the solution can be found or, as you write, reconciliation of our interests is possible. And not only possible, it is necessary, [Page 580] for the alternative is a quarrel between the two most powerful nations.
The letter has come out a bit more extensive than I thought originally. But what can one do—the question is complicated and important. You start writing about one thing but some other thing has to be mentioned too.
I have already consumed much of your time therefore, probably, it would be better if I write you another letter on other questions which you raised in your letter.
I will allow myself to express again the hope that our frank, confidential correspondence will help to overcome difficulties however complicated it might seem now.
- Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163. No classification marking. The letter was delivered to Salinger at the White House at 12:15 p.m. on November 11 by Georgi Bolshakov, editor of USSR magazine. (Memorandum for the President, November 11; ibid.)↩
- Document 179.↩
- Document 162.↩
- Presumably Khrushchev is referring to a conversation that Attorney General Kennedy had with Bolshakov on November 7; its substance was communicated directly to Moscow. (Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, p. 521) No record of a conversation between Robert Kennedy and Khrushchev has been found.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩