84. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 1
323. McCloy met with Khrushchev at latter’s dacha in Putsunda, south of Sochi, July 26 and morning 27th.2 Most of conversation centered on Berlin although McCloy repeatedly emphasized he not in position discuss officially any subject except disarmament and could express views on Berlin only as private citizen. Khrushchev generally in good humor, displaying fits of temper only when he referred to what he called US threat of war over German peace treaty and to President’s speech.3 Fol highlights discussion both days. Memcon will follow as soon as available.4
Berlin (July 26). Khrushchev raised subject and expounded SOV position essentially in same terms as in Vienna, emphasizing his determination go through with peace treaty under any conditions. Deplored talk in US about possibility war and stressed Sovs did not want war but if war imposed on them they had means destroy all Europe. Said Sovs would match each US division sent Europe with two of their own. Re German reunification claimed no Western power sincere about it; requesting this info be kept confidential, claimed de Gaulle had told him [Page 232] he wanted preserve two Germanies and had confirmed this position last week when he received Amb Vinogradov. Stressed German unification not negotiable and strictly internal matter of Germany. Referred SOV proposal for entering agreement on Germany and contended Sovs wanted no clashes with US but rather friendship and good relations. Lancing West Berlin boil would clear atmosphere since no disputes except Germany exist between two countries. At same time fully realize dangerous moment being approached but peace treaty would still be signed, and nothing could intimidate him. Referred to exchange aides-mémoire on Berlin and said Sovs now preparing reply to ours. Compared this exchange with kicking football back and forth and said this would probably continue until peace treaty signed when US might kick ball different kind and Sovs would do same in return. However, US as well as UK appear willing negotiate; therefore situation should not be inflamed and common sense should be used. Invited West advance its own proposals or [for?] peace treaty and claimed Sovs did not wish impose their own conditions. Negotiations on peace treaty would be open and each side could express its views. Expressed agreement with thesis better have difficult negotiations than war. Pleaded for understanding Sov position and asked McCloy convey best wishes to President. Said believed President displaying restraint and dignity in Berlin matter; true he sometimes engages in polemics but always leaving door open for negotiations. Said if President had proposals Sovs would be happy consider them and perhaps suggest counter proposals. Such exchange might take place on confidential basis. Re-affirmed willingness guarantee freedom and independence West Berlin once peace treaty signed and went so far as to say he thought any Western proposal for such guarantees would be accepted.
McCloy recalled his long background German affairs and stressed danger German problem and need for its solution. Emphasized Berlin symbol US good faith which extended beyond actual territory that city. Said Sov intention sign peace treaty would cause many difficulties and expressed personal view artificial truncation any country fraught with great danger; therefore Germany should be unified and its east borders guaranteed as compensation for damages caused by Germans; this might be followed by non-aggression pact between East and West to prevent Germany from breaking loose. Emphasized US would not go to war if Khrushchev signed peace treaty although we believed such act would be unwise. US concern is over contention that peace treaty would cut off our rights which we had gained by shedding blood and that we and all our commitments would be relegated to whims of East Germany and Ulbricht. Referring to possibility negotiations said anybody prepared negotiate but negotiations should be unrestricted and not on a pre-determined basis as Sovs seemed to suggest. Said horrors modern [Page 233] war obvious to all and inquired why then Sovs disturbing existing situation which no threat to peace. Khrushchev’s statement said sign treaty come hell or high water very dangerous. Appealed for statesmanship and expressed hope no situation would be created where weapons would have to be used. Stressed when US public opinion begins to move it has great power behind it which becomes difficult to deflect. Stated President cool and reasonable in this crisis but is also a courageous man who would not surrender vital interests his country.
- President’s speech (July 27 ). In strong emotional tone, Khrushchev stated President in effect had declared preliminary war on Sovs because he had presented Sovs with ultimatum and had said if ultimatum not accepted that would mean war. Sovs regretted President took this course, but accepted challenge and would not change policy directed at signing peace treaty and solving West Berlin problem on basis freedom and independence West Berlin. History would judge us if war should occur and would also determine who would survive, but he was quite sure Soviet Union would survive. Said he would talk to General Staff and Defense Minister and ask them to review situation and strengthen Soviet defenses. Said he would be back Moscow Monday and hear their report. If necessary, would publicly inform Soviet people that US presenting Sovs with ultimatum which tantamount to war. US actions confirmed his January 6 thesis that when capitalists and imperialists lost confidence victory on basis peaceful coexistence they would resort to war. Contended war would not be over Berlin but rather war of monopolist imperialists against Socialist countries. US trying assume role international gendarme, something Hitler had aspired to. Reiterated whole Europe would be destroyed in war. As to US, USSR would have to compete with it and probably neither side could wipe out the other. US would survive, but there would be no Wall Street any longer because people would not tolerate system unleashing wars. Said President’s intention “mobilize” armed forces and industrial potential might not be followed by similar action on Soviet part because war bound be thermonuclear and Sovs have enough bombs so no need take people away from industry. Said modern war would be decided not by infantry but by rockets and nuclear bombs. Kept emphasizing his rocket commands and implying his great superiority in this field. Reiterated would consult with General Staff and Soviet Govt and draw proper conclusions. Also would inform people US would start war if peace treaty signed because people should know about inevitability of war; war seems inevitable because Sovs will sign peace treaty. Sovs will counter any US action and will respond to war with war. Only a mad man can declare war today. President’s statement there was threat to freedom West Berlin fallacious because Sovs proposed guarantee keep freedom that city. Expressed view President reasonable, young man full of energy [Page 234] and wishes display that energy. However, if war should occur he would be last President because no one knows what would happen after war. Said he had made all these statements because it would be strange if, having seen President’s speech, he were simply to talk about Soviet willingness disarm while President requesting another $3.5 billion for arms. It would be strange if he should ask McCloy merely convey greetings to President or if he were to “try jump into President’s throat without scratching it.” Sov prickly and quite difficult to digest. However, he still believes in President’s reason. President will have to consult with his allies and uncertain whether they would want war. In any event, SOV proposal for negotiations on peace treaty remains valid and open. Sovs wish resolve this problem peacefully, remove this rotten tooth, and develop US/USSR relations but on basis of peace treaty and not on basis of ultimatum. Said after thunderstorms people cool off, think problems over and resume human shape, casting away threats.
McCloy said had no chance read President’s speech but believed President had not threatened war over peace treaty. President believes Khrushchev will sign peace treaty and there is nothing we can do about it if he insists. However, President deeply concerned about our loss of rights and our people firmly convinced soul and honor of our country represented by these rights could not be surrendered in face of threats. It is this aspect that has developed this serious situation and has led to actions President has taken. Stated would convey Mr. Khrushchev’s views to President and said that as private citizen he thought there was community of interests between two sides on German problem and that both governments should study this situation. Said on basis of what he had heard about President’s speech and of his talks with President believes way could be found avoid this rock in sea. Khrushchev’s charge against capitalists unfounded and there no great difference between capitalists and Communists because all of them in first instance human beings. Nobody stupid enough to want war and our people not afraid of competition with Soviet Union. On contrary, our people impressed by Soviet achievements in such areas as industry, space, and sports. However, US people would not lie down and let Sovs walk by US in this peaceful competition. Expressed view US/USSR cooperation peaceful endeavors would be great boon. Stressed American people sure and tenacious. Expressed hope sunshine will follow storm and would show us way past this obstacle.
[Here follows discussion of Laos and disarmament.]
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/7-2861. Confidential; Priority; Limited Distribution.↩
- McCloy had been in Moscow since July 17 for talks on disarmament, and at Khrushchev’s invitation he flew to Sochi on July 26.↩
- See Document 81.↩
- McCloy’s 25-page memorandum of this conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/7-3161.↩