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Letter to Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U.S.S.R., on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests.

April 20, 1959

[Released April 20, 1959. Dated April 13, 1959]

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Today the Geneva negotiations for the discontinuance of nuclear weapons tests are resuming. During the recess I have considered where we stand in these negotiations and what the prospects are for the successful conclusion which I earnestly desire. I have also talked with Prime Minister Macmillan, who reported to me of his frank discussions on this matter with you.

The United States strongly seeks a lasting agreement for the discontinuance of nuclear weapons tests. We believe that this would be an important step toward reduction of international tensions and would open the way to further agreement on substantial measures of disarmament.

Such an agreement must, however, be subject to fully effective safeguards to insure the security interests of all parties, and we believe that present proposals of the Soviet Union fall short of providing assurance of the type of effective control in which all parties can have confidence: therefore, no basis for agreement is now in sight.

In my view, these negotiations must not be permitted completely to fail. If indeed the Soviet Union insists on the veto on the fact finding activities of the control system with regard to possible underground detonations, I believe that there is a way in which we can hold fast to the progress already made in these negotiations and no longer delay in putting into effect the initial agreements which are within our grasp. Could we not, Mr. Chairman, put the agreement into effect in phases beginning with a prohibition of nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere? A simplified control system for atmospheric tests up to fifty kilometers could be readily derived from the Geneva experts' report, and would not require the automatic on-site inspection which has created the major stumbling block in the negotiations so far.

My representative is putting forward this suggestion in Geneva today. I urge your serious consideration of this possible course of action. If you are prepared to change your present position on the veto, on procedures for on-site inspection, and on early discussion of concrete measures for high altitude detection, we can of course proceed promptly in the hope of concluding the negotiation of a comprehensive agreement for suspension of nuclear weapons tests. If you are not yet ready to go this far, then I propose that we take the first and readily attainable step of an agreed suspension of nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere up to fifty kilometers while the political and technical problems associated with control of underground and outer space tests are being resolved. If we could agree to such initial implementation of the first--and I might add the most important--phase of a test suspension agreement, our negotiators could continue to explore with new hope the political and technical problems involved in extending the agreement as quickly as possible to cover all nuclear weapons tests. Meanwhile, fears of unrestricted resumption of nuclear weapons testing with attendant additions to levels of radioactivity would be allayed, and we would be gaining practical experience and confidence in the operation of an international control system.

I trust that one of these paths to agreement will commend itself to you and permit the resuming negotiations to make a far-reaching response to the hopes of mankind.



Note: This letter was released at Augusta, Ga. In the first paragraph the President referred to talks with Prime Minister Macmillan, held in Washington, March 20-23.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U.S.S.R., on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235489

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