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Moscow, September 8, 1960, 5 p.m.
698. Eyes only Secretary. Following is that part of my conversation with Khrushchev which he did not want me to report.(1) He said he was convinced that there was no possibility of resolving our problems during rest of current administration. He had been much attracted to President who perhaps suffered from fact he was too kind a person and was basically military man who did not fully understand politics. He was quite sure if President had been asked to authorize U-2 flight on May 1 he would not have done so even though he doubtless knew in general of these flights. He said he had tried to leave way out for President to disavow U-2 flight but he did not do so. He said of course he realized President had gotten into almost impossible position since it would have been difficult for him to go before American people and admit he had not known what was going on. They would wait until after our elections to make new effort to reach understanding. He frankly had not been charmed by Nixon who he thought was a careerist but they had no desire interfere with our elections and would stay out of them. He mentioned Nixon's speech in New York before Dentists' Convention(2) and said that had been stupid thing to do just before he, Khrushchev, was to visit US. However they were prepared to deal with Nixon if he were elected by American people. He knew little of Kennedy whom he had only met when he visited Foreign Relations Committee(3) and exchanged few words with him but he indicated both our parties represented our system including our monopolies. This however need not prevent agreement on subjects relating to peace.
I replied to effect he misjudged President. I said I would admit, although I did not have facts and it was probably indiscreet to say so, that in my opinion President had probably not specifically authorized U-2 flight. (Khrushchev interrupted to say "I will never exploit that remark against you.") I pointed out however that he himself had just made clear that he had not really left way out for President. I said moreover that at Paris he had immediately upon arrival given French written memo(4) which he knew would eventually become public knowledge and that this action had been interpreted by us to mean he did not really wish to settle U-2 affair. I said this was of course painful affair for me to have to discuss and there was no question but that plane had violated Soviet frontier. However, it seemed to us they had gone very far in over-exploiting it and this cast doubt on their intentions.
With respect to VP I wanted to make two remarks. In first place he had referred to VP's speech before dentists. While neither VP nor anyone else had ever mentioned this to me, it was common knowledge that shortly before this the VP had appeared before American veterans' organization and persuaded them not to pass resolution calling for demonstrations against Khrushchev during his visit to US.(5) This had caused many people to attack VP on ground he was pro-Communist. VP was politician and I personally thought his Dentists' speech should be regarded in light this background.
My second remark was that VP was as staunch an opponent of Communist system as Khrushchev was of capitalist, but I thought they would make mistake if they concluded from this that VP did not wish to reach agreements with Soviet Union in matters where it was to our mutual interest. I said I made these remarks not in any partisan manner as I knew both candidates and regarded them highly. I was equally sure that Kennedy would be prepared endeavor reach mutually satisfactory agreements. It was at this point that I referred to importance of Soviets not pushing either candidate into position which would jeopardize future negotiations. I said we already had number of acute problems and mentioned specifically Congo and Cuba. Khrushchev said they had no intention of increasing tensions but it was obvious from whole conversation they will maintain their present line at least until after our elections.
In discussing economic matters Khrushchev referred to conversations and arguments he had had with Harriman and Humphrey,(6) both of whom he characterized as intelligent men though he indicated he had not been pleased with the way Humphrey had handled matter of their conversation upon his return.
He referred to dissensions within US and in West and boasted theirs was monolithic system. (He did not mention China.) He said he had heard of discussions in West about dissensions within Soviet regime but said they were united not only in party but also in government, and pointed out he was head of both party and government. He said reports of his disputes with Suslov(7) and others were completely untrue and there was full agreement not only with him but with Mikoyan and Kozlov and others. He said even with Molotov there had not been basic disagreement over his policies,(8) particularly coexistence, but said Molotov carried burden of his age and background in his thinking. He said coexistence was Leninist policy and even Stalin had agreed with it.
Throughout this conversation and to some extent last night(9) Khrushchev emphasized great importance he attached to fact that U-2 flights were made after his visit to US and especially his friendly conversations with President. He has thus indicated that not only was Soviet military prestige an important factor but also his own personal prestige in view of favorable remarks he made about President after his return to Soviet Union.
Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/9 - 860. Secret; Priority.
(5) Apparently heeding Nixon's plea not to jeopardize the Khrushchev visit to the United States in 1959, the delegates to the American Legion convention in Minneapolis in late August 1959 killed resolutions condemning Khrushchev's presence and passed resolutions urging acceptance of his visit. Back
(8) During a shakeup in the Soviet Communist Party leadership in mid- 1957, Molotov was removed as a member and Presidium member of the Central Committee of the party and from all other duties and was then appointed Soviet Ambassador to the Mongolian People's Republic. Back
(9) Thompson reported his conversation with Khrushchev on the U-2 incident, which Khrushchev initiated in the presence of the entire diplomatic corps during a Kremlin reception for the Vice President of the United Arab Republic on September 7, in telegrams 686 and 688 from Moscow, September 7. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/9 - 760) Back