Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference at Bonn

August 27, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, before we start the conference proper, I should like, through you, to express to the German people my grateful thanks for the warmth of the welcome you accorded me last evening, one I assure you that was almost overpowering in its intensity and its volume. And I want to make quite clear that I am aware of the fact that this is not a welcome given by a people to an individual, no matter what the importance of the position he might occupy. As I see it, this is an attempt on the part of the German people to say to the American people that with you the words liberty and freedom mean exactly the same thing as they do to us, and that we both stand to support the concepts that are implied by those two words, with all our strength and with all our lives.

I shall now try to answer any questions you may have.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, can you tell us whether, in your first round of talks with the Chancellor, you have agreed on or discussed any new proposal to settle the Berlin problem?

THE PRESIDENT No, there has been no new proposal advanced. We have had only a brief 2 or 3 hours for these conversations on many subjects, and in fact, because of the importance of the questions being discussed, I am trying to delay my departure to the last minute that I can have with the Chancellor.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, do you think there is any lesson that Mr. Khrushchev might possibly draw from the enthusiasm the German people showed you when you arrived here yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know whether he will get a lesson, but I am quite sure he cannot miss the meaning of one people trying to say to another people: "we believe in individual liberty, human dignity, and freedom."

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Are you able to tell us, sir, some of the subjects that you have discussed with the Chancellor?

THE PRESIDENT. I should think, so far as talking with you about details of conversations, that whatever the informal communiqué will have should be the answer, and I should not try to discuss them at this moment. After all, I have stolen this half-hour right from the very middle of these conversations and it wouldn't be proper for me unilaterally to tall what they are about.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, I wonder if you can account for the fact that allied unity seems to have weakened since the announcement of your proposed exchange of visits with Premier Khrushchev, and whether you discussed ways of strengthening unity among the Western allies with the Chancellor this morning?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't been reading the European press, but I have seen some comments or speculation in the American press that our unity has been weakened. I have seen no evidence of it, that is certain. And there has certainly been no evidence of it in the conversations I have had with the Chancellor and with his associates. On the contrary, I haven't heard one single dissident word when we come to the subject of the readiness of all free people, and particularly those of the NATO group, to stand firmly behind the principles that are stated in the charter of that alliance.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: We understand, Mr. President, that in view of the Chancellor, the field which offers the greatest prospect in the conversations with Mr. Khrushchev is that of disarmament. Do you share that view, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I did not quite understand--what did you say?

Q. Mr. Belair: The impression here is that the Chancellor believes that that field of discussion offers the best hope for progress.

THE PRESIDENT. I did not hear him express it in those words. There is no question that he, with the rest of us, believes that the general subject of disarmament is one that has got to be discussed very seriously by us, by the United Nations, and everybody else who believes there is any prospect of lessening tensions. Because only as you go along with the progress of disarmament can you really produce with confidence in the world.

May I make a remark here? I notice that almost everybody that has asked a question so far are people I talk to in Washington all the time. So far I haven't heard a question from a stranger.

Q. Robert C. Young, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, on the basis of conversations so far with the Chancellor, could you tell us, does he share your hope that the forthcoming exchange of visits with Mr. Khrushchev will, as you put it, help to melt some of the ice in this cold war?

THE PRESIDENT. I think so. Certainly that was the impression I got.

Q. (In German; as translated): Mr. President, have you also discussed with Federal Chancellor Adenauer any French problems?

THE PRESIDENT. I should like to say this: if I start to answer questions about detail, then I necessarily have to go into every one. Now of course we have to talk about France because we are talking about NATO, and France is a very important factor in the whole NATO complex, so I assure you that France has been talked about considerably.

Q. (In German; as translated ): Mr. President, have you been discussing with the Federal Chancellor the adherence of Spain to NATO?

THE PRESIDENT. No, that was not--that has not been suggested at all. But let me again please ask this, not to go into details of my conversations which are not completed, and indeed may I remind you, the Chancellor can answer these questions for himself, for what he wants to say, so don't ask me what he said. I am ready to talk about problems and my slant on things, but I don't like to talk about conversations with another man who isn't here to answer them himself.

Q. Robert Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, do you believe that resumption of disarmament talks with the Russians may come out of your trip to Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I couldn't say that. As you know, I have a special committee now organized within the State Department to review all of the issues that have been made in America, in order to achieve some progress in disarmament, and to criticize what we have done so far, both in sins of commission and omission, and to see whether we can get further along with the problem. 1

1 The President referred to a Joint Disarmament Study Group established for the purpose of conducting a review of U.S. disarmament policy on behalf of the Department of State and the Department of Defense. On July 29 the White House announced that with the approval of the President the Secretary of State had named Charles A. Coolidge of Boston to head the group.

Q. Ray Scherer, NBC News: Mr. President, in Washington on Tuesday you spoke of the strong feeling that we must do something to help underdeveloped nations. Would you indicate how West Germans might be brought into that effort?

THE PRESIDENT. It is a question we have so far adverted to, but I am quite sure we will speak about it more, more thoroughly. And I am certain of this, that the Chancellor himself feels exactly as I do about this necessity.

Q. (In German; as translated): Do you think, sir, that the time has come for certain changes in western policy toward east European states, especially Poland?

THE PRESIDENT. You are asking me a question that opens up a very vast field of discussion, and I assume that you are talking in terms of the suggestions that have been made in public print, time and again, that West Germany should seek some special relationships with Poland, or possibly one or two other countries. That, I would say for the moment is within the province of special problems for Germany, and I would not want to comment further on it.

Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: This has to do with Poland, and could we have your slant on a special problem? In the demonstration yesterday there were signs appealing for your personal support regarding the lost German provinces behind the Oder-Neisse line. What is your feeling on that problem, in case unification does take place in the future?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, again I must say, we are trying today, all of us, and not only among the conversations among allies, but with my forthcoming conversations with Mr. Khrushchev, to melt a little of the ice--an expression I used before in Washington. We are not, at this moment, complicating the matter by talking about the Oder-Neisse line or any other specific question that will merely complicate or draw the conversations down to a particular or detailed problem. We are trying to get a little bit better atmosphere.

Q. Roderick MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting: Mr. President, would you characterize your trip and your talks with the European allied leaders as informative talks, or ones coordinating common Western policy?

THE PRESIDENT. It is not my function to coordinate Western policies. All the nations of NATO, now 15, have banded themselves together as equal partners, so far as their moral support of the principles for which we commonly stand is concerned. Now what is necessary--here you have certain countries, notably France, Britain, and ourselves, and Germany affected in a different way, that are particularly involved with problems that came out of World War II. Without any attempt at coordination, it is quite clear that only through detailed personal conversations, carried out in the utmost frankness and friendliness, can we be sure we are following the sum of the directions that are pointed out by our common dedication to that charter and to the problems that we have to solve as the result of World War II. So that is about as much detail as I can give in an answer to that question.

Q. John Edwards, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, pursuing Mr. Young's question just a little further, you said a moment ago that you felt Chancellor Adenauer agreed with you that there is some hope for melting the ice a little in the Khrushchev meetings. Can you say that you feel that the Chancellor has no misgivings about this exchange of visits?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean, you think the Chancellor feels that I am going to do something to weaken the German position or our common determination to stand for the principles that I have mentioned already several times this morning? I have certainly seen no indication of that. Now I did not say that, in terms of any expectation. Hope is a different thing from an expectation; certainly we hope that some good will come out of these conversations.

Q. (In German; as translated): Mr. President, may I come back again on the Polish question and ask you, in connection with the relaxation of tension you are certainly going to talk about with Mr. Khrushchev on his forthcoming visit, whether in that connection it would, according to your opinion, be a good thing and would be helpful to have diplomatic relations between Germany and Poland?

THE PRESIDENT. I attempted to answer that question a few minutes ago by saying primarily that this is a German question and one that I think I have no right to comment upon in detail.

Q. (In German; as translated ): Mr. President, was the subject of the political integration of Western Europe touched upon in your conversations with Mr. Adenauer?

THE PRESIDENT. The integration of Europe has been a subject that the Chancellor and I have talked about for a good many years. I don't have to come back into this morning's conversation. It could not escape any conversation in which he and I are involved, because both of us believe that in the closer union of Western Europe is really the salvation of the world, almost. And while we did not discuss it at all, the political integration, we are certainly supporters of the economic and other types of union that are being developed within the area.

Q. (In German; as translated): Mr. President, has there been any talk about the vested German war assets in the United States, in your conversations with the Chancellor?

THE PRESIDENT. It has not been mentioned today. I suppose you are talking about the war assets that came into possession of the United States as a result of the war, and by the agreement in 1946? It is a live question in America. We have been doing our very best to solve it. It is not very easy, and we have not done it. But the subject did not come up this morning at all.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, in your talk at the airport yesterday, you said that the United States would stand by the side of West Germany, to see that the free people of West Berlin remained free. Do you think, Mr. President, that hostilities could grow out of what we call the Berlin crisis?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe that no one in the world wants general war. Now the problem of free Berlin, everyone can see, is a real problem. It is separated from the rest of West Germany by 110 miles, and it is something, of course, that annoys the Communist world very much. But when it comes to speculating as to whether that or any other specific problem is going to cause general war, certainly I am not going to be classed as a bomb-rattler. I just don't believe it. I don't believe anyone is stupid enough to want a general war.

Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Press: Mr. President, you are on your way to London tonight, where Prime Minister Macmillan very much wants a Big Four summit meeting. The Chancellor and French President de Gaulle are reported to have opposed it. Have you discussed the possibility of a later summit, after the Khrushchev visit?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we haven't got around to that, but I don't mind telling you, all of you, my conviction about this matter is exactly what I have stated time and time publicly. I believe any summit meeting so called would be a grave mistake unless there was confidence among all of us that real progress of some kind could be achieved. That progress, it seems to me, has to be promised by either further meeting or further consultation or conclusions of the foreign ministers, or in some other way that would give, certainly to the West, all of us, the belief that such a summit meeting could progress, and would not merely be a mill out of which would be ground new kinds of propaganda.

Q. Mr. Richards: I meant after the Khrushchev visit, if the Soviet Premier would give you some assurances that he was ready.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am sure of this, that if such assurance were given, it would be given publicly so that all could understand it.

Q. (In German; as translated): Mr. President, what do you think are the prospects at present of conclusion of an agreement on the final stopping of atomic tests?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am told that the report by the Geneva Convention was just made last evening or this morning--I am not sure. Is that correct? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty] As of this moment there seems to be no great progress.

There, as you know, all countries now have stated their voluntary abstention from testing. There are, of course, all kinds of testing. Some people believe there's nothing wrong with testing, as long as you do it above the atmosphere, or below the earth's surface, so that there would be no fallout. The whole problem is so complicated and so technical that I would merely say this: I see no reason that progress in the discussions should terminate, because they are extremely important to the world.

Q. Michael J. O'Neill, New York Daily News: In that connection, sir, is it our intention to continue the suspension of tests after October?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, there is being released in Washington a statement on the matter, and I don't want to release it now because I may "ball up" the time schedule. 2

2 On August 26 the Department of State announced that the President had directed that the unilateral suspension of nuclear weapons testing by the United States currently in effect be extended through 1959. The release was published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 41, p. 374).

Q. (In German; as translated): Mr. President, before leaving Washington, you have demanded that a new start be made on the German problem. Do you expect, from your exchange of visits with Mr. Khrushchev, that new aspects will be brought into the picture which would effect the question of German reunification?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't recall the statement that I said there should be a new start. What I believe I did say was that there should be hopefully a new attitude in which this whole problem could be considered. If there are, indeed, any propositions made that would seem to be appealing to our associates--America's associates--all those associates will be immediately informed, I assure you. Again I point out, I myself am not conducting negotiations for anybody else with Mr. Khrushchev. I am conducting conversations, trying to explore his mind, to see whether there's any kind of proposal, suggestion, that he can make, that would indeed make him a real leader in the search for peace in the world. If we can do that, that will be a tremendous achievement itself, and therefore specific plans are not something that I am particularly interested in so far as those conversations are concerned.

Q. (In German; as translated): Mr. President, in your Washington press conference, you mentioned special disarmament as distinct from general disarmament. Would it be possible for you to explain the meaning of the term "special disarmament"?

THE PRESIDENT. Possibly I did not use the word "special" very accurately, but there has been often discussed in the press and in political discussions, the possible separation of general disarmament from nuclear disarmament. And I said that no matter what reasonable proposals were advanced here, we would be prepared to discuss them, that was all.

Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and seventieth news conference was held in the Conference Room of the German Foreign Ministry in Bonn, at 12 o'clock noon on Thursday, August 27, 1959.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference at Bonn Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235281

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