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Letter to Nikolai Bulganin, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U. S. S. R., Regarding Proposed Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.

January 28, 1956

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I wish to thank you for your letter of January twenty-third, delivered to me by Ambassador Zaroubin. I have given it careful thought.

Let me say at the outset that I do indeed believe that the present international situation requires all states, particularly the great powers, to seek to lessen international tension and strengthen international confidence and cooperation.

As the power of destruction grows, it becomes imperative not merely to strive to control and limit that power, but also to do away with antagonisms which could tempt men to use that power. That view, I can assure you, is held by the people of the United States and by their political leaders without any exception whatsoever.

I am confident that that view is also shared by all the peoples of the world, and that those who have been entrusted with political authority have a high duty to respond to the universal longing of the peoples for peace.

As you are good enough to recall, I have more than once alluded to the immensely valuable asset we have in the historic friendship between our peoples. I profoundly believe that upon that foundation better political relations could be established. I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that there is in the whole world no people more sincerely dedicated to building a structure of peace than the American people. Our whole nation longs for a cessation of the strains and dangers now present in the international situation. There is indeed no honorable thing that we would not do if we were convinced that it would promote a just peace in the world.

It is from this viewpoint that I have examined your present suggestion that the cause of peace would now be served by the conclusion between our countries of a treaty of friendship and cooperation of twenty years duration.

I first observe that our countries are already bound to each other by a solemn treaty--the Charter of the United Nations. The treaty which you now propose would consist of three substantive articles. I observe also that each one of these is already covered by the explicit provisions in this United Nations treaty between us.

The first article of your draft would bind our two countries to develop friendly relations between our peoples on the basis of equal rights, mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs. As members of the United Nations we are already bound through that organization "to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

The second article of your proposed treaty would bind us to settle our international disputes by peaceful means alone. This is an undertaking to which our two countries are already bound by the provisions of Article 2 (3) of the Charter of the United Nations which specifies that "all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means."

The third article would bind us to the strengthening of economic, cultural and scientific cooperation. Chapter IX of the Charter of the United Nations dealing with "International Economic and Social Cooperation" pledges us to work for "solutions of international economic, social, health and related problems," and to "international cultural and educational cooperation."

The Charter of the United Nations constitutes a solemn treaty not only between your country and our own--it is a treaty among many countries, all of whom are bound to us and to each other, and all of whom are concerned with world peace. The American people sincerely desire to help make reality of these Charter goals.

But the present state of international tension was not prevented by the words of the Charter. How can we hope that the present situation would be cured merely by repeating those words in a bilateral form?

I wonder whether again going through a treaty-making procedure, and this time on a bilateral basis only, might indeed work against the cause of peace by creating the illusion that a stroke of a pen had achieved a result which in fact can be obtained only by a change of spirit.

Friendly collaboration between states depends not solely upon treaty promises but upon the spirit that animates the governments of the states concerned and upon actual performance.

It was in the hope of promoting such a spirit and such performance that I went to Geneva last July, a course which had no peacetime precedent in American history. Despite the doubts of many that the mission would, in fact, serve any useful purpose, I felt that the existing situation was so serious that no chance for improvement, however slight, ought to be neglected. In Geneva you expressed similar views and aspirations.

I had earnestly hoped that out of that meeting with you and with the Heads of Government of France and the United Kingdom would come a bettering of international relations, especially as between the four nations there represented and in relation to particular problems for which our four nations had a particular responsibility.

Unhappily, the American people have had sadly to conclude that the events following our meeting have not given substance to their hope.

Permit me to recall to your mind a short record of recent events.

At Geneva we directed our Foreign Ministers to propose effective means for the solution of three specific problems.

The first of these problems was that of European security and Germany. We explicitly agreed that the settlement of the German question and the reunification of Germany by means of free elections should be carried out in conformity with the national interests of the German people and the interests of European security. However, despite constructive proposals put forward by the three Western powers for German reunification and European security, your Government felt that it could not at this time entertain any proposal dealing with the reunification of Germany by means of free elections.

The second problem was that of disarmament. In our Geneva discussion of that problem I made my "open skies" proposal in the hope that we might actually do something to convince the world that we had no aggressive purposes against each other. But this proposal your Government rejected at the Foreign Ministers meeting.

The third problem was the development of contacts between East and West. The Western Ministers proposed many concrete measures to bring about closer relations and better understanding, none of which was accepted by your Government. Despite that fact there has, as you point out, recently been some improvement in contacts between the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

A further deterioration has taken place because to us it has seemed that your Government had, in various areas of the world, embarked upon a course which increases tensions by intensifying hatreds and animosities implicit in historic international disputes. I share your conviction that an improvement in Soviet-American relations is urgently needed. But frankly, our people find it difficult to reconcile what appears to us to be the purposes of your Government in these areas with your present words--words which so rightly emphasize the special responsibility of our Governments to lessen international tension and strengthen confidence and cooperation between states.

I deal with the history of this past year solely for the purpose of enabling us with better prospect of success to chart our future. This nation holds out the hand of friendship to all who would grasp it in sincerity. I have often said, and I now repeat, that there is nothing I would not do to promote peace with justice for the world. But we know that it is deeds and not words alone which count.

Consider, Mr. Chairman, what a vast change would be effected not only in our relations but throughout the entire world if there were prompt measures to reunify Germany in freedom within the framework of security; if there were carried out our wartime pledge to respect the right of peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; if there were arranged such mutual opening of our countries to inspection that the possibilities of surprise attack would vanish and if reduction of armament were made practical, with the release of productive power for the betterment of mankind. Consider, also, the mountain of distrust and misunderstanding that would disappear if our peoples freely exchanged news, information, visits and ideas.

These are all matters which you and I have discussed together at Geneva. They are results to which my nation remains dedicated and toward which we are prepared at any moment to move in a spirit of conciliation. May I hope, from your letter, that you, too, are dedicated to these great ends?

I shall look forward to receiving a further expression of your views.



Note: Mr. Bulganin's letter of January 23, 1956, and the proposed treaty of friendship and cooperation between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States are published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 34, P. 193).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Nikolai Bulganin, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U. S. S. R., Regarding Proposed Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233324

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