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Letter to Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U.S.S.R.

July 22, 1958

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have received your communication of July 19.

May I assure you that the establishment and maintenance of a just peace is the dominant influence in American policy. I cannot agree that the United States has acted in Lebanon in a manner calculated to disturb the peace. Rather it is motivated by the purpose of helping stop acts of violence, fomented from without, designed to destroy the genuine independence and integrity of that small nation. Such a process, if unchecked, would have grave implications for all small nations everywhere.

The manner in which you have chosen to express yourself is hardly calculated to promote the atmosphere of calm reasonableness which, you correctly say, should replace the presently overheated atmosphere.

I am not aware of any factual basis for your extravagantly expressed fear of the danger of general war.

What has happened in regard to Lebanon is this:

On Monday, July 14, the lawful Government of Iraq was violently overthrown. On the same day a comparable plot against the Kingdom of Jordan was discovered and barely thwarted. The Government of Lebanon, which had already for some months been subjected to indirect aggression from without, appealed to the United States for instant assistance. In the light of the developments in neighboring Iraq and Jordan, it felt that nothing less than immediate help would make it possible to preserve the independence and integrity of Lebanon. The United States responded to this appeal. We knew that the plea was based upon solid facts that showed that Lebanon was gravely menaced.

Surely, it is not "aggression" thus to help a small nation maintain its independence.

You speak of "armed conflict in the Near or Middle East". There has been the bloody coup in Iraq, the plot to assassinate those who compose the Government of Jordan, and the civil strife in Lebanon fomented from without. Otherwise, I know of no "armed conflict". Unless those of aggressive disposition are far gone in folly, they would not start war because Lebanon, with a population of about 1 ½ million, is helped to maintain its integrity and independence. The real danger of war would come if one small nation after another were to be engulfed by expansionist and aggressive forces supported by the Soviet Union.

We do not want to see a repetition of the progressive destruction of the independence of small nations which occurred during the 1930's and which led to the Second World War. To be acquiescent in aggression, be it direct or indirect, is not the road to peace.

This does not mean that the United States is dedicated to a perpetuation of the status quo in the Arab world. The United States recognizes and sympathizes with the yearning of the Arab peoples for a greater nationalistic unity. for example, the United States promptly recognized the United Arab Republic, bringing together Egypt and Syria, as soon as it was apparent that the change was accepted by the people concerned and after the new government had undertaken to meet the normally applied international standards.

But it is one thing to change the international status quo by orderly and peaceful processes, and another thing to change it by indirect aggression. Such processes cannot be reconciled with a peaceful world or with the ideals of the United Nations which recognizes the equal rights of nations large and small and the dignity and worth of the human person.

The action of the United States in relation to Lebanon was fully in accord with the accepted principles of international law and with the Charter of the United Nations. The Government of Lebanon was one which had been chosen by freely held, peaceful, nationwide elections only a little over a year ago. The appeal to the United States was made by the President of Lebanon with the full approval of the Cabinet. When last week the Soviet Union introduced in the United Nations Security Council a Resolution condemning our action in Lebanon, that Resolution received only one vote--that of the Soviet Union itself. I also note that efforts were made within the Security Council to provide Lebanon with increased protection from the United Nations so as to preserve its integrity and independence, thus permitting United States forces promptly to be withdrawn. There were two such proposals, each defeated by the one vetoing vote of the Soviet Union.

How does the Soviet Union reconcile its allegation that United States forces in Lebanon endanger world peace with the veto of these two proposals?

Am I to conclude, Mr. Chairman, that the Soviet Union seeks by imputing to others war motives and itself boasting of its nuclear and ballistic missile power, to divert attention from the steady erosion of the independence of small nations? Are we, as civilized peoples, to accept the increasing use of violence, murder and terrorism as instruments of international policy? If so, this constitutes the real danger to peace. The United States will steadfastly oppose that danger and seek to strengthen the established processes of international law and order.

The Soviet Union, by its constant abuse of its veto power in the Security Council--its veto of today was the 85th--would tear down, and not strengthen, the orderly processes which the nations have established for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Your present proposal seems further calculated to derogate from the authority and prestige of the United Nations. What you propose amounts in effect to five nations, without sanction of the United Nations and without conformity with its Charter, reaching what you call recommendations" regarding the Near and Middle East which would then be submitted to the United Nations Security Council. But in reality such so-called "recommendations" would be decisions and the process would in effect make the United Nations into a "rubber stamp" for a few great powers.

Furthermore, Mr. Chairman, when procedures are sought to be improvised to meet what is alleged to be a situation of great urgency, this can scarcely be expected to save time. It raises a whole series of new problems which must be considered by the various nations that might consult together, and by others which might feel that they were improperly omitted and which are deeply concerned with the Near and Middle East.

If, indeed, the Soviet Union seriously believes that there is an imminent threat to world peace, it is bound by the United Nations Charter to take the matter to the Security Council. By Article 24 of the United Nations Charter, the Soviet Union, with other members of the United Nations, has conferred on the Security Council "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," and all the members have agreed that, in these matters, it "acts on their behalf." It is also agreed that that Council has the responsibility to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace" and to "decide what measures shall be taken . . . to maintain or restore international peace and security." Surely this solemn undertaking ought to be respected.

The Security Council is already dealing with certain phases of the problem alluded to by your note. If you or we believe that other aspects of this problem or other problems should be urgently dealt with in the interest of peace, then it lies open to any of us to enlarge the scope of the Security Council consideration. furthermore, under the Charter, members of government, including Heads of Government and foreign Ministers, may represent a member nation at the Security Council. If such a meeting were generally desired, the United States would join in following that orderly procedure.

I do not, of course, exclude the discussion, outside the United Nations, of world or regional problems, not posing alleged imminent threats to the peace. I cannot but deplore the persistent refusal of your Government for so many months to agree to the adequate preparation of a "summit" meeting at which we could exchange considered views on the great problems which confront the world. The Ambassadors of France, the United Kingdom and the United States were negotiating at Moscow with your Foreign Minister to develop a list of topics which might lend themselves to considered and useful discussion at a summit meeting. These negotiations were broken off by your Government on June 16th.

In conclusion, I venture to express in most earnest terms my hope that the Soviet Government will unite with us for real peace. The longing of mankind for peace is too precious to be used for ulterior purposes. I hope that ways can be found to act for peace in accordance with the standards prescribed by the Charter of the United Nations. All the world, I believe, knows that peace with justice is the dedication of the American nation. We have in the past sacrificed greatly for that devotion. We have loyally complied with the pledge we made, by the United Nations Declaration of January 1, 1942, to renounce any aggrandizement for ourselves. Just as we shall resist any efforts to use love of peace to mask aggression, so we shall equally never fail to take any step, at any sacrifice, which will genuinely promote the cause of peace and justice in the world.



Note: Mr. Khrushchev's letter of July 19 is published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 39, p. 231 )

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U.S.S.R. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233774

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