Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 03, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. I asked this morning for this special press conference on the subject of the impending exchange of visits between Mr. Khrushchev and myself.

Now, while in Europe this has been for the past few days one of the worst kept secrets of a long time, still I think there may be enough special interest in the matter as to justify you people taking your time to come here this morning.

First of all, a little bit of the history:

Some time back, I suggested to the State Department that I believed in the effort to melt a little bit of the ice that seems to freeze our relationships with the Soviets, that possibly a visit such as I now have proposed would be useful. We studied this thing, and in early July I initiated the correspondence that finally ,brought about an agreement. Some of the details, exact details, are yet to be agreed between the diplomatic agencies of our separate, several governments.

Now, at this identical time, an identical statement is being issued in Moscow. The statement is as follows--and there will be copies at the door when you leave, so that you don't have to take the time to write it down:

[Reading] The President of the United States has invited Mr. Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., to pay an official visit to the United States in September. Mr. Khrushchev has accepted with pleasure.

The President has also accepted with pleasure Mr. Khrushchev's invitation to pay an official visit to the U.S.S.R. later this fall.

Mr. Khrushchev will visit Washington for 2 or 3 days and will also spend 10 days or so travelling in the United States. He will have informal talks with the President, which will afford an opportunity for an exchange of views about problems of mutual interest.

On his tour of the United States, Mr. Khrushchev will be able, at first hand, to see the country, its people, and to acquaint himself with their life.

President Eisenhower will visit Moscow and will also spend some days travelling in the Soviet Union. This will provide further opportunity for informal talks and exchange of views about problems of mutual interest with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R.

On his tour of the Soviet Union, President Eisenhower likewise will be able at first hand to see the country, its people, and to acquaint himself with their life.

Both Governments express the hope that the forthcoming visits will help create better understanding between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and will promote the cause of peace. [Ends reading]

That is the end of the quoted statement.

Now, one or two other items.

We have, of course, been consulting for a couple of weeks through the foreign ministers about this possibility--our Western foreign ministers; they have, of course, agreed.

And then, the heads of state were notified just recently about this impending visit, and some of them have been able to answer. All of them have agreed--I think all of them have been able to answer; all have agreed that the matter is one that should produce plus rather than negative values. In other words, on balance, they think it's a very good thing to do.

In the meantime, I might tell you that this morning I have taken considerable trouble to inform some of the leaders of Congress, and those that I've heard from have been quite favorably disposed toward this plan.

I want to make this clear: by no means am I intending to be or can I be any spokesman for the Western powers in my talks with Mr. Khrushchev. I can be a spokesman only for America and for its Government. Nevertheless, I have already suggested that prior to these meetings, I go to meet our friends in Europe and to discuss with them problems of mutual interest.

The visit itself has no direct connection with any possible later summit meeting. I of course would hope that the mere announcement would inspire the foreign ministers to a greater activity, and probably some greater effort at conciliation, so that there might be results before Wednesday, when they temporarily adjourn at least, that would justify the scheduling of such a later meeting, at what time I don't know.

But in any event, even if they have to reassemble, I would hope that they could do that, if they found it reasonable and proper.

So, I merely want to make clear that this is a personal visit for the purposes that I have outlined and are given in the statement, but with the hope that it will do something to promote understanding and possibly progress toward peace in the world.

Now, as long as we talked on this one subject, because this is a special conference, I am perfectly ready to take 10 minutes or so for questions.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, Governor Meyner, who is one of the nine Governors who called on you the other day after their return from Russia, was talking about the possibility of a Khrushchev visit and he said there was the possibility of what he called "incidents," brought on by refugees in this country, and he thought that Premier Khrushchev should be told that there are such people, and that we didn't try to stifle people in this country.

Have you given some thought to the possibility of incidents, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Naturally, because this is always a possibility in our country, as is evidenced by the fact that we found it so necessary to provide protection for the members of the President's family.

Now, we do have these uncontrolled individuals, and of course we talked about that, and they know it. We have not failed to point out this fact to the U.S.S.R. representatives. I am certain, however, that we can control this matter.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald-Tribune: Do you know, sir, whether Mr. Khrushchev will come directly to Washington first, or will he go to New York and then here, or how?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't tell you a thing about details. I can't give you the exact dates, the exact times, the exact schedules, or exactly how he will come here.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: On this schedule, sir, do you know when you will go to Europe--

THE PRESIDENT. No--oh, excuse me. Finish your question.

Q. Mr. Roberts:--to see the allied heads of state?

THE PRESIDENT. Sometime later in this month I would like to; that is my suggestion.

Q. Mr. Roberts: And then you will come back here?

THE PRESIDENT. That is right.

Q. Mr. Roberts: And Khrushchev will come here?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Will you accompany him in the United States as he, you, in the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think it would be feasible for me to go all the way through the United States with him. But certainly, there might be some visiting around. I don't know, the details are just something I just don't know anything about yet.

Q. Mr. Roberts: But you do expect to get to Russia yourself before winter doses in there? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Wall, there, I don't know. I would say, the fall doesn't end until December 22d, so if I stick with my schedule it will have to be before that, but that's about all I can say.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: The impression has somehow been received, Mr. President, that in considering a possible visit by Mr. Khrushchev to the United States, that before you would issue an invitation to him, there would have to be some evidence of give. I mean in the sense of give and take on the part of Mr. Khrushchev, on Western principles. May we take it that there has been some such indication?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think you can say that, Mr. Belair.

This is what I have said: the holding of a summit meeting and negotiation, that that would be, to my mind, absolutely impractical and as the State Department says, counterproductive unless we could count on some positive results.

But I would say these, so far as our discussions of mutual problems, are exploratory rather than any attempt at negotiation.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, were the Vice President's hints in Russia that a visit is possible, with or without your permission; and were they possibly part of your plan for laying the ground for your announcement today?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they were only to this extent: that I told the Vice President the day he left here--before he left, I guess--that these negotiations were in progress in written form and that the prospects were they would take place.

Now, I told him, I said, "so that you will not be astonished or surprised and feel let down by your Government, should they be opened up by the other side; you are not, yourself, and of course will not open this subject." But these offhand remarks about what would be a good thing, that of course was on his own initiative. There was certainly never any prohibition, because everybody else that's gone over there has said whether or not this would be a good thing, and I guess he had the same opportunity.

I think I'd better get over here.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Would you spell out a little further, sir, what you hope to accomplish through your meeting with the allied powers before your meeting with Mr. Khrushchev?

THE PRESIDENT. I think coordination with the allied powers has been remarkably good in the past weeks, but I do think this: that there are a number of problems, some of them not even affecting the U.S.S.R., but some of them touching upon it, that ought to be talked out between heads of government, and since I am to see the other member of the four powers that undertook the control of Germany after the war, I thought it would probably be a good thing to see the other two.

So I am ready in this month to go over and to see these people, if this is acceptable to them. Already I have heard from one, Mr. Macmillan, who will be delighted, so I am quite sure I will be going to Europe sometime in the latter part of the month.

Q. William J. Eaton, United Press International: How long will you stay in Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would doubt that I could give the same amount of time he gives here, but I wouldn't know any details. I'd have to talk about it.

Q. Richard Dudman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Do you intend also to talk to the West Germans?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I'm quite sure that somewhere along the line, if I get over there, I'll see Mr. Adenauer.

Q. Mr. Dudman: I mean in advance of the visit to Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes, yes. I would, of course. When I go over there in August, certainly I will hope to see Mr. Adenauer somewhere along the line, it may not be in Bonn. After all, it takes time to go to each of these places and to go through the certain preliminaries for each talk; therefore, you don't know what the details will be.

Q. Fletcher Knebel, Cowles Publications: Could you say, sir, was it just two items of correspondence, you invited him and he accepted, or was there more than that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'd say it is a little bit more complicated than that. [Laughter]

Sterling F. Green, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and sixty-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 10:45 o'clock on Monday morning, August 3, 1959. In attendance: 139.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235189

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