October 11, 1955
Report by [Canadian Minister of External Affairs] Pearson on His Talk with Mr. Khrushchev
This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)
Report by Mr. Pearson on his Talk with Mr. Khrushchev on October 11, 1955
The talk which I had with Khrushchev and Bulganin on the last night of my visit was undoubtedly the most interesting, both on account of the two Soviet personalities involved and the frankness with which Khrushchev in particular put forward the Soviet attitude to such important matters as NATO and the security of Europe.
Khrushchev, who is as blunt and volatile as only a Ukrainian peasant turned one of the most powerful political figures in the world can be, came straight to the point before we even sat down…
…This gave me the chance to say that I might be willing to agree that the Soviet Union was justified in its fear of Germany of NATO were not a purely defensive organization. I was about to explain why NATO should be so regarded, when Khrushchev broke in with the remark, “You should let us into NATO – we have been knocking at the door two years.” I replied that if the world situation were such as to permit entry of the USSR into NATO, it would also, presumably, permit proper functioning of the United Nations in the security field; that NATO was resorted to by the Western powers because the United Nations was not given a chance to do work intended for it. I suggested beginning with implementation of Article 43 of the Charter. I also pointed out that if the Soviets were in NATO, they would have to accept integrated defense systems and unified command. If they were prepared to accept that, why not make the UN security system work?
This seemed unfamiliar ground for Khrushchev, who returned to the charge against NATO, with the remark that the Soviets could afford to wait for the break-up of NATO owing to over-spending on armaments and inter-allied disagreements…
…I asked Khrushchev if he would clarify the Soviet attitude to the German problem. His reply could not have been more categorical: “So long as the Paris agreements exist and Germany remains in NATO, we shall do everything possible to prevent the reunification of Germany”…
…Referring to the UK proposals put forward by Sir Anthony Eden at the “summit” meeting for a security guarantee, Khrushchev said that so long as the Paris agreements and NATO remained in effect, a guarantee by the Western powers would be regarded as humiliating for the USSR and unacceptable. In reply to my question – why they would not regard membership in NATO involving mutual guarantees as equally humiliating? – Khrushchev said that Soviet membership in NATO would put them on a footing of complete equality with the other powers in the matter of security and they would not then have to depend upon the favors or goodwill of the four powers envisaged in the UK proposals. Getting quite excited at this point, Khrushchev said that the USSR would prefer to “exist by ourselves and impose co-existence on other.” “After all,” he said, “we have to co-exist don’t we, or else fly away to Mars?”
Then more soberly, Khrushchev (after prompting from Bulganin) said that the Soviet Union does not reject the Eden proposals completely. If they could be altered, for instance, to include not four other powers but, say, 8 or 10, they might be made acceptable. Khrushchev idea for the composition of such a group which might undertake mutual guarantees included: The US, Fr, UK, both Germanies, USSR, Poland, Czech, Belgium, Denmark (and then added, “even Canada”).
If the obstacle to agreement to such an approach were the two Germanys, perhaps it would be better to keep them both out of the mutual guarantee arrangement, he said, but at the same time restrict their armaments. They would be indirectly associated with the guarantee arrangement through their association respectively with NATO and the Warsaw Pact. To my question whether it would not be better to let a united, free Germany decide by free choice how best to provide for its security, Khrushchev abruptly said, “We want either both Germanies in the European security system or else neither” – as to reunification, he said the USSR could wait – “why the hurry?” he said.
Canada's Minister of External Affairs Lester Pearson provides a summary of his talks with Khrushchev and Bulganin. In context of July's Geneva Summit, the main topics discussed are NATO, the German Question and European security. Wh
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