Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy - History

Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy - History

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Moscow, June 8, 1963.

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I have received your message of May 31/1/ on the question of cessation of nuclear tests and, it goes without saying, have studied it with due attention. I received an analogous message from Prime Minister H. Macmillan.
In your letters, you and Mr. H. Macmillan repeat your proposal to send to Moscow high-ranking representatives of the USA and Great Britain, who would be empowered "to discuss ways of overcoming existing differences between us" regarding conditions of agreement on the cessation of nuclear tests. Well, in my previous letter I already expressed my readiness also to try such a method of negotiation. The whole question is where and in what direction to seek for a way of overcoming those differences between our positions, which really exist.
It is our profound conviction that success of any further negotiations on the cessation of tests, wherever these negotiations may be conducted--in Moscow, in Geneva, or in any other place--depends completely, as I wrote to you, on whether both parties are ready to agree on the realistic and equal basis which is prompted by life itself. And that basis is well known. In resolving the question of the cessation of tests, as well as any other international question, it consists of necessity in strictly following the principle of equality of parties and of taking into account the interests of each of them. This means that the attainment of agreement on the cessation of nuclear tests can only be arrived at if neither of the parties attempts to receive any special advantages at the expense of the other party, and, consequently, does not insist on demands which are unacceptable to the other party.
However, we have recently become more and more convinced that those with whom we are negotiating are not inclined to conduct negotiations by proceeding from the principle of equality of parties, and still want to receive from us some kind of bonus for the cessation of nuclear-weapons tests. It is not possible otherwise to understand their stubborn attempt to obtain our consent to the conduct of inspections which would open up the possibility of peeping into the places at which the stranger's eye should not look.
The fact that the Soviet Union will not consent to the conducting of espionage inspections has been mentioned in nearly everyone of our documents on the question of the cessation of tests, and this question, it would seem, should be clear to the utmost degree. For, under present conditions, when the problem of disarmament has not only not been solved, but the nuclear-armaments race is taking on ever greater proportions and, day by day is being spurred on more and more by the leading NATO powers, we are compelled to display particular concern in order not to endanger the security of our country in any way. And permit me to note, Mr. President, that steps recently undertaken on the creation of a NATO nuclear fist in Western Europe, with the participation of the West German revanchists, can in no way stimulate us to relax our vigilance; the opposite is rather the case.
You write that the goal of espionage is not being pursued by the Western powers in the question of inspections of the cessation of nuclear tests. But, unfortunately, most recent facts which have been scrupulously verified and have become public knowledge, have shown with all possible certainty how strong is the interest of the intelligence services of some powers in secrets of our defense and, at the same time, how unscrupulous they are in the choice of methods. One would have to have an exceptional share of naivete to rely on the possibility that appropriate agencies in NATO countries--which, it may be said, day and night devote themselves to the study of, and as they themselves put it, the selection of targets on the territory of the Soviet Union and other peace-loving states for nuclear strikes--would shrink from using for these same purposes the channels which would be opened up if we were to agree to the demands of the Western powers on inspection. If we displayed such naivete, it would not be difficult to image what attitude the Soviet people would take towards such leaders.
Therefore, when you say that representatives of the USA and Great Britain would be prepared to discuss with us in detail guarantees which should remove our doubts concerning inspections, I do not think, to tell the truth, that this would settle the matter. The root of everything is not in guarantees with which inspections might be surrounded, but in why such insistence is displayed by the Western powers on the question of inspections, when actually there is no need for them, when, indeed, there is in fact no need for them at all, if one bears in mind only the interests of control in the fulfillment by states of their obligations under an agreement on the cessation of nuclear tests.
In your message of May 31, you seem to wish again to urge us to start discussion on whether national means of detection of underground nuclear explosions are sufficient or insufficient for controlling the fulfillment of such an agreement. But what is there here to argue about, and what is there to discuss? Facts which confirm complete sufficiency of national means are at hand. And you, too, it seems, have no doubts about, for example, the fact mentioned in my message--namely, that seismic tremors from the French underground nuclear tests in the Sahara were registered by national means of states at a distance of many thousands of kilometers. And nevertheless, for some reason, you do not consider it possible to accept as proof even such indisputable data.
As I recall, Mr. President, in one of your press conferences you stressed that a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear tests must give assurance that, if any country carries out a series of secret underground tests, these tests will be detected. Recently I had occasion to become acquainted with a statement on the question of the cessation of tests, made by a group of well-known American scientists representing scientific centers and universities of the USA known the world over. I think that you read it too. What did these American scientists have to say, what ideas did they come out with, these American scientists who, as they say, know what they're talking about, if one takes into account that it is precisely the USA which has great experience in carrying out of underground nuclear explosions? They declare that, given contemporary means of detection, it is impossible to conceal a series of underground nuclear explosions, even one of small yield. Consequently, those means of detection already in existence satisfy the principal demand which you make for a treaty.
If one considers that national means of detection can be supplemented by automatic seismic stations, how can one fail to admit that all this is more than sufficient for a most reliable control over the cessation of all nuclear tests? Under these conditions no state would undertake secretly to violate an agreement, since such a step would be fraught for it with the risk of being exposed and of receiving such a blow to its prestige on the international scene from which it would be difficult for any state to recover. National means of detection, combined with automatic seismic stations--this, certainly, is a fully reliable guarantee against any attempts to produce secret nuclear explosions in circumvention of an agreement on the cessation of tests. And we are agreeable to the installation of automatic seismic stations; you know this.
In the light of all this, is it necessary for me to repeat once more that, if in December of last year we agreed to the conducting of a certain minimum number of inspections on the cessation of underground tests, we did so only and exclusively out of political considerations, with a view to making easier for you, Mr. President, the ratification of a treaty on the cessation of tests by the Senate of the USA. But as a matter of fact, however, the resolution of the question of the cessation of tests could be handled perfectly well without any inspections. That was true in December 1962, and is all the more true now as well.
Thus, it is completely possible to conclude an agreement on the cessation of nuclear tests on the basis of equality, if only all the participants want this. We are, of course, prepared to discuss this, too, with high-ranking representatives of the USA and Great Britain, whom you and Mr. Macmillan propose to send to Moscow. You express the desire that these representatives should have the opportunity to talk with me personally. I agree to this too, if it can be hoped that such meetings would provide useful. With regard to the time of arrival in Moscow of representatives of the USA and Great Britain, it would be most convenient for us, taking into account other, previously planned, arrangements of foreign-policy character, for them to come, if this is suitable for you as well, let us say, on July 15, 1963. The question of an appropriate announcement in this regard may be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.
We should like to count upon the success of the planned exchange of opinions in Moscow on the question of the cessation of nuclear tests. The Soviet Union sincerely wishes to reach agreement as quickly as possible on this question, and is prepared even now to sign an agreement which would prohibit forever the conducting of any and all tests of nuclear weapons. People throughout the world desire the conclusion of such an agreement. Consequently, I cannot be silent about the fact that heavy responsibility would be assumed by those who might continue to impede the achievement of an agreement and, at the same time, in connection with the forthcoming exchange of opinions in Moscow, might sow deceptive illusions among peoples to the effect that the matter was now already approaching a solution of the question of the cessation of tests.
Quite recently we have already had experience on this score which cannot be called anything other than painful. You recall, Mr. President, that after the Soviet Union in December of last year had taken an important step to meet the Western powers in that it agreed to a certain number of inspections, a proposal followed from the Government of the USA to send representatives of the USSR to the United States for talks directed toward the most rapid achievement of an agreement. We immediately responded to that proposal and sent our representatives to the USA. The whole world expected that, under the favorable conditions which had developed as a result of our December step, the talks in the USA would be the final step before the signing of a treaty on the cessation of tests.
But it turned out quite differently. The Western powers did not wish, as it is our custom to say, "to meet us half way," but remained on the old, notoriously unacceptable, positions, and, instead of serious political talks, attempted to draw our representatives into discussions of technical details, which could not fail to remain pointless until political questions of principle had been agreed upon. What is more, your representative declared to our representatives that he would have no occasion at all to cross the ocean if the Soviet Union did not intend to accept the demands of the Western powers. It was this sort of position on the part of those with whom we were negotiating which led at that time to the break-down of the talks, which consequently left nothing but disillusionment behind them.
A repetition of this sort of experience would only harm the cause, and I should like to express the hope that you are aware of this also. Success now depends only upon the question of what baggage representatives of the Western powers bring with them to Moscow.
I am sending a similar message to Prime Minister H. Macmillan.
N. Khrushchev

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