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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 03, 1958


This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    Record of conversation between Khrushchev and Mao, regarding the testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the possibility of an attack from the West. They also discuss the relative merits of Eisenhower and Nixon as politicians.
    "Fourth Conversation of N. S. Khrushchev with Mao Zedong in the Qinzhendian Hall in Beijing," August 03, 1958, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, APRF, f. 52, op. 1, d. 498, ll. 151-6, copy in Volkogonov Collection, LC, Reel 17; translation from Russian by David Wolff. Published in CWIHP Working Paper No. 30.
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3 August, 1958, in the Qinzhendian Hall [date handwritten on typescript]

Present: Comrades Khrushchev, Malinovskii, Kuznetsov, Ponomarev, Antonov Comrades Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Chen Yun Lin Biao, Deng Xiaoping, Peng Dehuai, Peng Zhen, Chen Yi,

Wang Jiaxiang, Huang Kecheng, Yang Shangkun, Hu Qiaomu

MAO ZEDONG: I would like to clarify two minor, but important questions.  First, about the moratorium on atomic weapons’ testing.  You unilaterally stopped, but the West continues. Don’t you think it will be necessary to renew testing?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: They liberated us from obligations by not stopping [their] testing. We carried out our tests. Now we are continuing to work on atom and hydrogen bombs. As soon as we need to, we’ll renew testing, if, of course, there is no agreement on a test-ban by then.

MAO ZEDONG: That’s clear.  You said that intercontinental rockets fly through space. Don’t they burn up when they reenter the atmosphere?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: No, this problem has been solved.

MAO ZEDONG: How do you evaluate [the fact] that the US has placed its military bases around the Soviet Union?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: It’s bad for us.  The bases are close to us.  But the main bases are far away, in America.  It’s hard to get to them with bombers. But now with rockets, the balance of forces has evened out [vyravnialos’]. We’re having troubles now in long-distance rocket tests. Our own territory is not enough for this.

MAO ZEDONG: Can’t you fire over the North Pole?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: That is exactly the shortest distance and in case of war we will fire over the pole.  That is why the Americans are suggesting inspections in the Arctic zone in order to cut off [zasech’] our missile bases and defend itself [obezopasit’ sebia].

MAO ZEDONG:  I read Eisenhower’s answer to your offer on the prevention of surprise attacks [vnezapnoe napadenie].  Not a bad answer, it seems he is ready for an experts meeting on this question.  It appears they fear a surprise attack.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I still haven’t seen that letter.

MAO ZEDONG: We’d like to consult regarding the delegation’s departure. Maybe we should change the send-offs, gather a crowd at the airport, have an honor guard, invite the diplomatic corps?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I thought we agreed yesterday to organize the departure to be the same as the arrival. Let’s let our agreement be firm.  In this way, we’ll give less food for the gossipers [krivotolkov ], otherwise in the West they’ll say that the arrival was secret, because we hoped for the success of the negotiations, and clearly there are some contradictions between China and the Sovie t Union, and then after meeting, they decided to organize showy [pyshnye] send-offs. Rather let them guess, let the very fact of our meeting have its effect.

MAO ZEDONG: I thought it necessary for your arrival to be in secret, so the imperialists couldn’t take advantage of your absence to carry out a surprise attack.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I don’t think they are decided on this, the correlation of forces is not in their favor.  And now they have to swallow another bitter pill – recognizing Iraq. Even if they were 50 percent ready for war, they wouldn’t start one.

MAO ZEDONG: Yes, of course, England wouldn’t start [a war].

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: And neither France or Germany would dare [osmelilis’]. They know we would dust them [steret’ v poroshok ].  If the British suffered from the German V-1 and V-2, that is now nothing compared with rockets. They know it.

MAO ZEDONG: But they have bases all around. In Turkey alone there are over 100 bases.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: No, there are fewer in Turkey and they are all in our sights [pod pritselom]. They’re planning to build bases in Greece, but that’s even easier. Throw a rock down from the Bulgarian mountains and they’ll be gone.  Even America is under the gun now. [pod udarom]. We must thank our scholars for the creation of intercontinental missiles.

MAO ZEDONG: And the Germans?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: No, they took part only at the beginning.  You couldn’t entrust such an important task to Germans.  Now they’ve returned to Germany and told about what they worked on.  Using their stories, the Americans concluded that we did not have intercontinental missiles. When we announced [successful] testing, they did not believe us. But afterwards we put up a satellite. Now the Americans are saying that the Russians themselves created the intercontinental missile. In the papers, we read that Germans also worked in America, but America did not send up the first satellite.

MAO ZEDONG: I still think that your travels abroad to summits are dangerous.  I would recommend to you the naming of a deputy during your absence.  We are all worried when you travel.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes, there is a certain risk, especially if the meeting is in New

York. There are a lot of angry [ozloblennye] Hungarians and other enemies there.

[Khrushchev then tells a lo ng story about how Eisenhower’s armored car in Geneva had secret service guards running alongside, but Khrushchev and Bulganin rode in a convertible.]

MAO ZEDONG: Stalin refused to even go to Geneva, but I didn’t mean that kind of danger.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: That was senility [starcheskii defekt uma]. We do not consider the outbreak of war possible now. Sometimes we ask our military to prepare situational analyses based on their data. Recently they reported that there is presently no basis to consider the danger of war to be near.

MAO ZEDONG: What do you think, will Dulles remain at his post?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: No, it seems he’s leaving, although it would be better for us if he stayed.  Better to deal with a fool than a wise man.

MAO ZEDONG: Do you think Stevenson could become president? KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: He’s better [bolee polozhitel’naia lichnost’].

MAO ZEDONG: If the Republicans keep power, probably Nixon will be president.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes, more than likely.  That will be worse than Eisenhower. Eisenhower came on the political stage as a national war hero. As a politician, he’s not among the best. He doesn’t have any political experience.  He doesn’t shine as a military man either.  In the Ardennes at the end of the war, the Germans almost knocked him out. Churchill asked Stalin to help the Western allies.

MAO ZEDONG: You shouldn’t have helped them. Maybe without that, we wouldn’t have a West Berlin or a West Germany now.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes, maybe we’d now be visiting Thorez [in power]. But that was a different situation then. The Germans were giving up to the Americans without a fight, but kept stubbornly resisting us. The situation could have prevented us from taking Berlin.  At that point, Stalin reached an agreement with Eisenhower and he let us take Berlin.  In the battle near Vienna, the Germans also ran from us to Eisenhower, but he wouldn’t take them prisoner. You see, Eisenhower was not without some measure of decency [ne lishen nekotoroi poriadochnosti]. But now he does what the American monopolists recommend.

MAO ZEDONG says that all is ready for the signing of the communique. KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Good. Let’s sign.

On this the meeting ends.

Conversation recorded N. Fedorenko

A. Filev