255. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to the Ambassador to Yugoslavia (Kennan)1

Dear George : I was much interested in your letter of December 262 and appreciated a chance to see it. I hope you and your family had some real relaxation in Switzerland.

I do not pretend to be an expert on Soviet affairs but your long paragraph on page 2 reminded me of a Khrushchev remark at Vienna. He told the President, in words that sounded familiar to politicians, that he was under great pressures from his military and scientific people for more and more money because the Americans were doing X, Y, or Z. He then referred to similar pressures on Kennedy and the race goes on. His manner at the time indicated he was just exchanging impressions with a member of the trade union of political leaders and not trying to work up [Page 729] to any particular point. I suppose that he is subject to regular and pressing demands from his military and nuclear people for more resources and that he must think very hard about saying “no” if he is given a lot of information about the Americans “getting ahead”. Whether these military demands are more insistent than that, related to his own position and support, I would not know.

I won’t go into detail on your comments on Berlin. If this were largely a bilateral problem between the Russians and ourselves, we could largely ignore our allies. But it seems to me that it is, in its most fundamental aspect, a European problem. The Europeans might settle it without us, but I can’t see how we can settle it without Europe; this is especially so in a period when Western Europe is recovering its power to act in the European interest. As to what we are going to talk about with the Russians, the clue is in your third paragraph on page 3. If the Russians were ready “to let things go on as they are” there would be no crisis and no need for discussion. They are proposing to change matters, including their own most solemn commitments, in such a way as to injure our vital interests. Any change to our advantage is simply brushed aside as not negotiable. What they want to talk about is a diminution in our position, with every prospect that they will try to charge a very high price merely for leaving us alone. The talks are to find out whether there is any possibility of improving both our positions or, alternatively, of insuring our essential interests without a conflict. Thus far they have not shown “a complete absence of interest in discussing the Berlin problem with us at all.” If they do take this line, I suppose it would mean that they have decided either to leave us alone or to take us on at a frightful cost to them as well as to the rest of us. This is terribly oversimplified, for brevity’s sake, and I apologize for commenting so inadequately about so serious a matter.

I don’t rule out the possibility of your visiting Moscow, but I would suppose it would be better, as your timing suggests, to wait until after Tommy has had this series of talks. Let’s take it up a bit later.

All the best to you and your family,


Dean Rusk 3
  1. Source: Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Chron. Secret; Informal. Drafted by Rusk.
  2. Document 246.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.