Foreign Relations of the United States
May - July 1960 : The U-2 Airplane Incident
Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State

Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State

Moscow, May 9, 1960, 7 p.m.

2771. At beginning of Czech reception today Khrushchev greeted me warmly, took me aside, and before I could make any remark said he was sure not only that I knew nothing about this overflight but that I was opposed to such operations. He said they could not help but suspect that someone had launched this operation with deliberate intent of spoiling summit meeting. He explained they had not protested overflights because on an occasion when they did do so we had blandly denied any knowledge of them. He expressed resentment at Department statement about incident, particularly suggestion that because they had closed areas and secrets this was justification for overflights. He said they had known of these activities for very long time and said to me and later repeated publicly that day after General Twining left Moscow where he had been courteously received as guest, one of these planes had been sent far into Soviet Union. He referred to Senator Mansfield's remarks(1) and said that in due course they would probably let us see pilot. He indicated they would produce their evidence at press conference including [garble] Ambassadors tomorrow or next day. In this connection I referred to Litvinov agreement.(2) He said this incident showed bombers were useless and they had no plans to send bombers to US and should occasion arise would only use rockets. He also said, if I understood him correctly, that they were no longer producing medium-range rockets, apparently because they had already sufficient stock. I said I had no instructions in matter but hoped they did not in fact intend to take this case to Security Council since this would certainly worsen atmosphere as we would be obliged defend ourselves. He said nevertheless they had decided to do so and added that if situation were reversed he was sure we would do same thing.

Khrushchev remarked that the one thing that bothered him, and he was telling me this only personally, was that Soviet public opinion was concerned and it could be that during President's visit some people might show their resentment. He said of course they did not want any such thing to happen and when President came here as guest they wanted him received as such. Throughout conversation Khrushchev was very affable, said he sympathized with my position but "what could he do about it?"

I am reporting his public remarks separately.(3)

Although it could be simply a desire to get in best negotiating position against US I cannot help but interpret his public remarks and appeal to Security Council as a determination to go through with separate treaty unless he gets some satisfaction on Berlin at summit meeting. He obviously intends to exploit this incident to hilt with our allies, particularly Norway, Pakistan and Turkey. Although he denied wanting to add fuel to flames during his public speech, he seemed to be doing exactly that. Nevertheless press and other treatment has been restrained.

In reply my question Khrushchev said as far as they were concerned Vershinin would proceed with his visit.


Source: Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/5 - 960. Confidential; Niact; Limit Distribution.

(1) Reference may be to Senator Mansfield's remarks on May 5 and 8 in which he said he believed Eisenhower had not been told of the U - 2 flight. For text, see The New York Times, May 6 and 9, 1960. Back

(2) In the exchange of letters between President Roosevelt and Soviet Commissar Maxim Litvinov, which established diplomatic relations between the two nations in November 1933, the Soviet Union agreed, among other things, that requests by U.S. consular representatives in the Soviet Union to visit U.S. nationals detained in Soviet jails would be granted without delay. Back

(3) See Document 151. Back

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