An Immodest Proposal: Nikita To Adlai


“While it was not included in the formal presentation of Mr. Khrushchev’s message, it was apparent that they were quite aware of the effect on the Presidential election of the [forthcoming] Summit Conference and Eisenhower’s visit to Russia; that a ‘success’ would redound to the benefit of the Republican candidate which seems to leave them in some dilemma. [This summit conference, scheduled for the coming May in Paris, was cancelled by the Russians after they shot down an American U-2 spy plane over their territory.]

“Mr. Menshikov concluded by saying that this interview was the best evidence of the confidence reposed in me by the Premier and his colleagues and that he had no misgivings about my keeping it in confidence.

“At the conclusion, I made the following points:

(1) My thanks for this expression of Khrushchev’s confidence.

(2) My thanks for this proffer of aid.

(3) However, I was not a candidate for the nomination and did not expect to be a candidate for the Presidency in 1960.

(4) My grave misgivings about the propriety or wisdom of any interference, direct or indirect, in the American election, and I mentioned to him the precedent of the British Ambassador and Grover Cleveland. (He in turn implied that President Eisenhower was not above intervention in the British election last fall; nor Dulles in behalf of Adenauer vs. the Social Democratic party in Germany.)

(5) Finally, I said to him that even if I was a candidate I could not accept the assistance proffered. I believe I made it clear to him that I considered the offer of such assistance highly improper, indiscreet and dangerous to all concerned.

“In thanking Khrushchev for his expressions of respect for my ‘realism and understanding of the Soviet Union’ I said that I hoped that I did have some understanding beyond the ordinary, and that I was sure Menshikov and Khrushchev had come to understand the U.S. much better, about which I found so much ignorance in the Soviet Union.

“I said that I was aware of some of the difficulties of the Soviet Union, especially with respect to China. At this point, Menshikov said with a wry smile: ‘Yes, we may be allies again.’

“His manner was extremely amiable but very serious during his presentation of Khrushchev’s message, which was done in a low voice, in a parlor adjoining the family dining room on the third floor. On two occasions when a waitress appeared with food, etc., he interrupted his conversation.

“On January 22, 1960, I wrote Mr. Menshikov the attached letter:

‘“I am most grateful to you and Premier Khrushchev for the splendid gift you delivered to me at the Embassy in Washington last week. So much delicious Russian caviar and wine may not be good for me—but I like it! I hope you will extend my very warm thanks to Premier Khrushchev, and also my best wishes for his health and happiness in the New Year and the New Decade. That the year and decade will see ever closer and constantly improving relations between our great countries is my highest hope, and I am sure you and Mr. Khrushchev have similar sentiments about our common future.

‘“The confidence expressed in me during our conversation and Premier Khrushchev’s interest in my views were flattering and I wish I could thank him in person. But I must repeat that I will not seek the nomination for President again and that I do not expect to be a candidate of the Democratic party this year. Even if I was, however, I would have to decline to take advantage in any way of the confidence and good will I am happy to enjoy among your compatriots. I am sure you and Premier Khrushchev will understand, and I hope respect, my feelings about the proprieties in the circumstances we discussed, and I trust that my reaction will not be misconstrued as discourteous or ungrateful.

‘“With renewed thanks to you and the Premier, together with my hope that we may have further talks from time to time, I am