Message From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy
Moscow, March 3, 1962.
//Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. No classification marking. Other copies are in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence, and ibid., President's Office Files, USSR. A different translation is printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1962, vol. I, pp. 75-81.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I have carefully studied your message of February 25 last./1/ Having thought about the considerations advanced by you concerning the forthcoming negotiations in the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee, I continue to adhere to the conviction that personal participation of the most responsible state officials would be particularly necessary in the initial stage, and I repeat--precisely in the initial stage of negotiations, when their direction is being determined and, consequently, their outcome is being predetermined to no small degree.
/1/See Document 38.
You know that disarmament negotiations have been continuing for a good fifteen years, now becoming active, now dying out again, as if only to raise the hopes of peoples to destroy these hopes again. All sorts of methods of conducting such negotiations have been used: creation of various committees and subcommittees, commissions and subcommissions, discussion of disarmament questions in the halls of the UN, and exchange of views through diplomatic channels, but, as they say, the cart is still stuck.
To what conclusions, then, does this lead? First of all that it would be at least short-sighted again to rely on those methods that have already proven their uselessness in the past and, secondly that it is the direct duty of the states participating in disarmament negotiations to find new, more reliable methods for conducting such negotiations. This is what the Soviet Government did in addressing the Governments of all the countries included in the 18-Nation Committee with the suggestion that the work of that Committee be initiated at the highest level, with the participation of the Heads of State or Government.
Our proposal was dictated by only one thing: by the desire to free disarmament negotiations from the routine in which those negotiations became entangled as soon as they started and to pave the way for an agreement on general and complete disarmament. It would seem incontestable that those state leaders who are vested with the broadest authority and occupy the most responsible position in their country also have much greater possibilities of coping with these difficult tasks. Therefore we regret that our proposal to begin the work of the 18-Nation Committee at the highest level has not met with understanding on your part. The arguments advanced in your message are not capable of affecting the weighty and serious considerations which speak in favor of the fact that the course proposed by the Soviet Government is the best course.
You yourself note the necessity of approaching the forthcoming negotiations in the 18-Nation Committee with the utmost seriousness and purposefulness and have come out in favor of the leading state officials devoting undeviating attention to these negotiations. You also recognize that personal participation of the heads of state in disarmament negotiations may prove to be useful, although you adhere to the view that such participation should be deferred to a later stage in the negotiations. In this connection you express the hope that developments in the 18-Nation Committee and internationally will make it useful to arrange for the personal participation of the Heads of Government before June 1 of this year.
Thus, as a result of the exchange of messages among the leading officials of states, general agreement has emerged with regard to the significance which the disarmament negotiations in the 18-Nation Committee are acquiring. It is no less important that everybody has now recognized the personal responsibility of the Heads of Government and State for the success of these negotiations and the necessity of direct participation by state officials of the highest level in the work of the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee. We take this as a definite step toward our position. In as much as the United States and some of our other partners in the forthcoming negotiations are not prepared for the time being to have the leading state officials participate personally in the work of the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee from the very beginning, we shall proceed, Mr. President, on the basis that we both, as well as the leading state officials of the other states members of the committee, will do that somewhat later.
The most important thing, of course, is to achieve results, to reach agreement on general and complete disarmament, and, at every stage of the negotiations, we shall do everything that depends on us in order to ensure their success. Of course, we are in favor of fully utilizing the possibilities of the Foreign Ministers, who can play their useful role if all the participants in the 18-Nation Committee demonstrate the desire to reach agreement on disarmament. The situation has developed in such a way that the ministers are to be the first to set sail after the creation of the 18-Nation Committee. Well then, let us wish them success! Of course there is no objection to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the United States and the United Kingdom meeting, as you have proposed, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR before the 18-Nation Committee begins its work.
Your message also touches upon some questions relating to the substance of the disarmament problem. In this connection I would like to make some comments of my own.
First of all, a few words about verification. You believe that the considerations set forth with regard to this point in my preceding message are based on an "incorrect understanding of the United States position".
I would only be glad if the position of the United States Government on the question of control were actually to prove different from what we have understood it to be until now. Unfortunately, however, there are no facts which would provide grounds for such a conclusion.
The attitude of the Soviet Union toward the question of control has already been covered in my preceding message of February 21 last./2/ Is it really necessary to repeat that the Soviet Union is for an honest agreement on disarmament under strict international control. I can confirm once more our repeated statements to the effect that the Soviet Union is prepared to accept any proposals of the Western powers for control over disarmament if the Western powers accept our proposals for general and complete disarmament. If the United States Government is really concerned about how to reach agreement on the establishment of control over disarmament, then this readiness of ours removes a priori all difficulties, and there remains no room for substantive differences.
Now about nuclear weapon tests. Let us talk plainly. I have just familiarized myself with your statement in which you said that you had decided that the United States would conduct, beginning in the latter part of April of this year, a series of nuclear tests in the atmosphere. No matter how you try to justify this decision, there cannot be two views about the fact that it represents a new expression of the aggressive course in international affairs, a blow to the 18-Nation Committee which is just about to begin its work, and a blow to the forthcoming disarmament negotiations. No matter how much you may try to prove the contrary, the shock wave from the American nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean will reach to the Palais des Nations at Geneva.
You state that it is absolutely necessary for the United States to conduct nuclear tests in order not to lag behind the Soviet Union. But you failed to utter even one word about the fact that the United States and its NATO allies have conducted many more nuclear test explosions than the Soviet Union. That is a fact, and everyone who does not have as his specific objective to misinform world public opinion must be aware of the fact that, if the United States and its allies add to the nuclear tests already conducted another series of such tests for the purpose of perfecting their nuclear weapons, then the Soviet Union will be faced with the necessity of conducting such tests of new types of its nuclear weapons as may be required under those conditions for the strengthening of its security and the maintenance of world peace. Several months ago the Soviet Union was already compelled to conduct such tests by the aggressive preparations of NATO states.
In asserting that the United States can in no way do without new nuclear weapons tests, you leave much unsaid. After all, the effect of the action planned by the Government of the United States cannot be limited merely to those nuclear explosions that have been planned by the United States itself or its allies in military blocs. No, you are beginning a new round of competition in the creation of ever more lethal types of nuclear weapons and you are unleashing, as it were, a chain reaction which, what is more, will become ever more violent. And this is what you called in your message a "reasonable policy!"
Where then, Mr. President, is logic? On the one hand you have repeatedly said in your statements that the United States is superior to the Soviet Union with regard to the power of nuclear weapons stockpiles. And your military are openly boasting that they can allegedly wipe the Soviet Union and all the countries of the Socialist camp from the face of the earth.
On the other hand, you now say that the United States has to conduct nuclear weapon tests for the alleged purpose of not lagging behind the Soviet Union in armaments. These two things clearly do not jibe.
Your entire logic, Mr. President, adds up to the fact that you have now announced the beginning of a new series of nuclear weapon tests by the United States. But quite recently you and the entire Western press argued--and argued correctly--how harmful such tests are. How much was said at that time about the fact that nuclear tests contaminate the air, soil, and vegetation, that radioactive fallout, together with contaminated plants reaches the organism of animals, and particularly cows, and that such fallout is transmitted through milk consumed by children.
But now it turns out that all these arguments were directed only against the Soviet Union and were used merely for the purpose of enabling the United States to preserve its superiority in certain types of armaments. And now that you yourself have come to the conclusion that you need to conduct such tests, where did those arguments go, where is that humanitarianism with which you were so generous in your statements and messages? After the United States has been accumulating huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons throughout the post-war years who is to profit from new nuclear tests? Apparently this is to the advantage of the monopolists who profit from the arms race, in whom the desire for profit outweighs all the dangers connected with the contamination of the atmosphere, the water, and the soil by radioactive fallout.
Yet the people of the United States of America, just as all the peoples of the world, are merely victims of the policy conducted in the interests of monopolistic capital. On the one hand, nuclear weapons are being produced, and the monopolies are profiting from their accumulation. On the other hand, by intimidating the world and not lastly the people of their own country with these weapons, the monopolists profit from the construction of shelters against such weapons and in this manner the monopolies trim the income of the population and mercilessly exploit the peoples.
It appears that all the talk about humanitarianism and love for one's fellow man ceases immediately as soon as the question of the monopolies' profits arises.
You and your allies in aggressive blocs justify your decision to begin new nuclear tests with references to the Soviet Union's having conducted such tests. This argument does not stand up because the whole world knows it was the United States of America which was the first to make the atom bomb and that the first nuclear tests were also conducted by the United States of America. Moreover, the United States has not only tested in the atmosphere but has also exploded atom bombs over the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It was precisely the United States and no one else who compelled the Soviet Union to embark on the creation and accumulation of nuclear weapons for the purpose of ensuring its security. Therefore, if one is to be logical and if one is to strive sincerely for mutual understanding and agreement on disarmament on the basis of equality, it is necessary to recognize that the Soviet Union should be the last to terminate nuclear weapon tests. The tests conducted by the Soviet Union were from the very beginning merely actions in response to the nuclear arms race imposed by the Western powers.
In your statement, Mr. President, you said that the United States would begin tests in the atmosphere in the latter part of April. But in fact you have already given the order to begin tests and you are delaying them by six or eight weeks apparently only for the purpose of somehow preparing the world public to swallow this bitter pill.
Of course you yourself understand that, if the United States begins experimental explosions of nuclear weapons, then the Soviet Union, in the interest of ensuring its security and world peace, will unquestionably be compelled to respond to this too by conducting a series of new tests of its own, And we do have the technical capabilities for this, and they are at least equal to yours.
Consequently, with your tests you will start a new stage in the race in the creation of deadly weapons. But we would like to compete with the United States and other countries in the creation of better conditions for the peaceful life of mankind, and we would like to unite efforts with you in the cause of ensuring peace throughout the world.
The decision of the United States Government to conduct a new series of nuclear tests spurs on the perfecting and the stockpiling of precisely those types of modern weapons which represent the greatest danger: atomic and hydrogen bombs, nuclear warheads for rockets, and rockets themselves. But, one may ask, what is then to be negotiated in disarmament negotiations? Is it perhaps how many machine guns and rifles should be scrapped, or by how many soldiers we should reduce the guards around the arsenals where ever greater stockpiles of nuclear and rocket weapons will continue to accumulate?
Perhaps the Soviet Union is expected to give an answer as to whether it is prepared, before the United States begins its nuclear tests in April, to agree to the provisions already rejected by us--of a treaty that would, under the guise of international control over the cessation of tests, lead to the creation of a ramified system of intelligence and espionage? I hope that this is not expected of us; otherwise that would very much smack of atomic blackmail. I am sure that you yourself know full well that such methods in dealing with the Soviet Union have not yielded any results today, nor will they tomorrow.
Thus, as a result of the decision of the United States Government to conduct a new series of nuclear tests, state officials, particularly of those countries which bear the main responsibility for the preservation of peace are faced with very serious questions including the question of the prospects which await the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee. I consider it my duty to tell you frankly about all this.
I am convinced that an end can be put to the unrestrained increase in the power of nuclear weapons. It is precisely this objective that we pursue in our recent proposals for the cessation of nuclear weapons tests, with which you are familiar. It is conclusion of an agreement on the cessation of nuclear tests, not their resumption, that would be a demonstration of the reasonableness in policy of which you speak in your message.