My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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CINCINNATI —I questioned Nikita S. Khrushchev, chief of the Communist party in the Soviet Union, in my interview with him at Yalta on the Soviet position in the Near East and he accused the United States of first selling arms to countries in that area.

Here is a continuation of the interview from my two previous columns:

ROOSEVELT: Cannot we come to a reconsideration of our whole attitude in the Middle East?

KHRUSHCHEV: Mrs. Roosevelt, you don't know about the proposals that were made by the Soviet Union, that no country should sell arms to any country in the Near East. The U.S. refused.

(Dr. David Gurewitsch, breaking in: We only refused after arms had already been sent to Egypt and Syria by the Soviet Union, so the balance had already been destroyed.)

KHRUSHCHEV: Are you the head of military supply, Dr. Gurewitsch? I don't think you know the exact situation.

ROOSEVELT: I don't think any of us knows the exact situation, but it might, however, be brought up in the disarmament conference or in the United Nations.

KHRUSHCHEV: I ask you: Who first started selling arms to the countries—we or you? How about Pakistan?

ROOSEVELT: I think you did. Pakistan is not the Near East. It is further away.

(Dr. Gurewitsch, breaking in: The question was: Who first sold arms?)

ROOSEVELT: I would say that we believed the Soviet Union first began to send arms to other countries. I think the only thing to do about the situation today is to bring it up in the U.N. and try to come to some agreements.

KHRUSHCHEV: You haven't answered my question. You do not like Communists, and I have nothing against this because I may not love the people who stand on other platforms. But people might be honest. That is why my question: Who were the first to sell arms to other countries and not only sell but supply free of charge? Who was the first?

I respect you greatly and I appreciate the activities of your great husband, Franklin Roosevelt, but the whole world knows that the U.S.A. started first the supply of arms, so I hoped to have an honest talk, otherwise we cannot be sure of the interpretation of this talk.

ROOSEVELT: Are we going back to the Marshall Plan?

KHRUSHCHEV: It is no matter whether it is the Marshall Plan or any other plan. I know the U.S.A. supplied all our enemies with arms.

ROOSEVELT: The emphasis of the Marshall Plan was on economic development within the countries.

KHRUSHCHEV: Arms are also economic aid?

ROOSEVELT: I agree that many countries in the West received arms, and I see how the Soviet Union could feel that those were provided against them, but we in the U.S. would say that we had reached a point where we had begun to feel that the Soviet Union had military intentions against the West.

KHRUSHCHEV: What were the arms supplied for? We never had them for tea parties.

ROOSEVELT: I think our first suspicion rose at the time of the Berlin airlift when the Soviets seemed to be trying to push us out. I will grant that we may have made mistakes, but I also think that you made mistakes. Having been here, I realize that your people do not want war.

KHRUSHCHEV: If you say the people do not want war, who wants war—their representatives?

ROOSEVELT: The government, perhaps. For they do things on both sides which they believe are for the defense of the people. This happens in our country and it probably happens in yours.

KHRUSHCHEV: It takes place in your country.

ROOSEVELT: If so, it also takes place in yours.

KHRUSHCHEV: Definitely not in my country.

ROOSEVELT: Oh, it does. Governments are much the same.

KHRUSHCHEV: There are signs. There is logic; there is experience, so we may check up. Whose troops approach the borderline? Do the Soviet troops approach the U.S. border? It is the American troops who approach the border of the Soviet Union. Yes, they are there.

ROOSEVELT: We are not trying to enter the Soviet Union.

KHRUSHCHEV: They do try.

ROOSEVELT: We are not trying. But it can be only a defensive attitude if we are to have any kind of amicable coexistence. We cannot go on with arming both sides. Could we work for a greater interchange of people on every level in order to get greater understanding?

KHRUSHCHEV: I am surprised, Mrs. Roosevelt. Maybe you are not informed quite well what the situation is. We never refuse. We always allow people to come here, but you never give a visa to our citizens.

ROOSEVELT: We don't always allow Communists to come to the U.S. Neither do you always allow people to leave your country, even if we manage to get visas for them.

KHRUSHCHEV: Tell us anyone we haven't allowed to come here.

ROOSEVELT: I am not saying you don't allow people to come to the USSR , but you take a very long time to grant their visas.

On your side, you did not want to accept our fingerprinting. We did not feel there was any harm in fingerprinting. Having been here, I understand your feeling and so I am glad that provision can now be waived. The thing that disturbs us is the difficulty the people have who want to leave the Soviet Union, even for visits.

KHRUSHCHEV: We allow everybody to come here, no matter how he blames the Soviet Union. Still, we allow him to come here and see what is going on here. We are not afraid.

ROOSEVELT: I would sum up the feeling of the people in the U.S. by saying that it was what the Soviets did in Berlin that started our suspicions. North Korea, North Vietnam , Egypt, and Syria added to them. Misunderstandings have grown and there is fear on both sides. We will have to do things to create confidence. One thing that can be done is a broader exchange of people.

KHRUSHCHEV: I fully agree, Mrs. Roosevelt.

ROOSEVELT: Have you any suggestions to make, or any questions to ask me?

KHRUSHCHEV: We have stated many times our purposes. But the U.S.A. is used to speaking, to dictating, so they only speak about conditions which they will accept. I want to explain what are the words and what are the deeds. Where are the troops and whose troops are they?

ROOSEVELT: If we could stop thinking for a moment about atomic weapons, we would still have in the USSR a very great standing army which could quickly move across Europe, and this makes Europeans fearful if they have no defense.

KHRUSHCHEV: There was a time when in Germany, England and France there was no American army and our army was much bigger, but we did nothing. We are not so stupid to make tricks. We have never made any attempts against these countries.

ROOSEVELT: When you read a paper in the Soviet Union, you find very little news about the outside world. Every mention of the U.S. is about something bad which has happened there. For instance, the only news I have seen is on what occurred in Little Rock, Ark., on integration of schools, but this problem affects about seven out of 48 states.

KHRUSHCHEV: But the seven states are the U.S. of America.

ROOSEVELT: Only a small part.

KHRUSHCHEV: We also have small republics. They make up the whole state of the USSR and they are equal in rights.

ROOSEVELT: We do not have central control, so our states have certain rights.

KHRUSHCHEV: In our country, every republic has its own rights. They are independent. But let us come back to the question of what you say about the USSR. Do you say anything good in your newspapers?

ROOSEVELT: I think there has been improvement, and there is not quite the vilification that I find in your newspapers here. But I would like to add that I don't find antagonism towards us among the people. They have been kind and welcoming.

ROOSEVELT: Are you anxious, sir, for more mutual economic interchange?

KHRUSHCHEV: Yes, we are. Not because we need it but because economic intercourse is the best way to improve relations. You don't want to have trade with our country because you don't want to give us military secrets. But it doesn't matter, because we have atomic weapons. We are not going to buy arms from you, but we shall be pleased to trade with you.

(Here Dr. Gurewitsch broke in and said: What else is there to do to improve our relations?)

ROOSEVELT: That is what I am most anxious to find out.

KHRUSHCHEV: Tell the truth to the people of the U.S.A. Tell the truth about the Soviet government and about our country. You hate Communists.

I don't hate Communists as people. I happen to believe that through a free democracy you actually develop a more independent and stronger people and give them the opportunity to achieve more. That is a personal belief and I can quite understand the socialist belief, but that does not mean I want to see their belief spread by methods of propaganda that are not always open and above board—by hidden methods.

I am quite willing that both of us should do our best to prove that our way is the best for the future. But I feel we will have to find a method for going forward toward more amicable relations or we will end in a war that none of us want.

(Dr. GUREWITSCH, breaking in: Sir, you just said: "We love peace but we are convinced that communism will spread over the world." How is that to be done peacefully? You either acknowledge that an opposite idea has a chance or you simply wipe out the opportunity for coexistence. You must accept that two things can go on even though they may not lead to a complete meeting of minds at any point.)

KHRUSHCHEV: Many people believe that Communism is better than the system that exists at present.

(Dr. GUREWITSCH again: Isn't there a contradiction in what you are saying? We talked before about coexistence and in the same breath you say that you are convinced that communism will spread throughout the world. Aren't you doing everything possible to speed up that process?)

KHRUSHCHEV: Oh, no, there is no contradiction. What I said about the spread of communism is like telling about the law of nature. I am firmly convinced this is the natural course of history and has nothing to do with our living peacefully together and stopping the threat of destroying each other.

ROOSEVELT: We both know then that the bombs are dangerous and can annihilate the world.

KHRUSHCHEV: We are in favor of full disarmament. We don't need any arms if you accept our existence and stop interfering wherever you can.

ROOSEVELT: But we, too, are for disarmament, but there has to be some international inspection.

KHRUSHCHEV: We are for international inspection, but there first has to be confidence and then inspection. Mr. Dulles wants inspection without confidence.

ROOSEVELT: I think the confidence and the inspection have to come together. We have to start and gradually increase our plans.

KHRUSHCHEV: Quite right. Only gradually it can be done.

ROOSEVELT: Would you agree to limited inspection if we could make a beginning?

KHRUSHCHEV: But I quite agree. That is what we proposed. We propose inspection in ports, on highways, on roads, at airports, and it is to be an inter-nation inspection. But in answer to our proposal, Mr. Dulles makes a statement which sounds as though he was making propaganda for the atom bomb, trying to make it palatable. He talks of a clean bomb as if there were such a thing as a clean bomb. War is dirty thing.

But you refused our suggestion. You insist on this flying business and looking at our factories. You know those rockets made the situation more frightful. Now we can destroy countries in a few minutes. How many bombs does it take to destroy West Germany? How many for France? How many for England? Just a few. We have now H-bombs and rockets. We do not even have to send any bombers.

ROOSEVELT: And soon small countries will have atomic bombs.

KHRUSHCHEV: Why not? Research goes on. They learn about it. Let's get together so there shall be no war. We are ready to sign such an agreement now.

ROOSEVELT: Your people certainly want peace, and I can assure you that our people want peace, too.

KHRUSHCHEV: Do you think we, the government, want war?

ROOSEVELT: Not the people, but governments, make war. And then they persuade the people that it is in a good cause, the cause of their own defense. Those arguments can be made by both your government and by ours.

KHRUSHCHEV: That's right. Can we say we had a friendly conversation?

ROOSEVELT: You can say we had a friendly conversation, but we differ.

KHRUSHCHEV: Now, we didn't shoot at each other.

This was really the end of what I can give you of actual quotations.

There was, however, a very interesting discussion on a subject that is of great general interest because it touches on the Near East situation. So I will devote my next column to this part of our talk, though I will not be quoting Mr. Khrushchev's exact words.

(NOTE TO EDITOR: Because Mrs. Roosevelt is being pressed continually to disclose information obtained in her interview with Nikita S. Khrushchev and she does not want to do that until it has appeared in her column, the remainder of her interview is covered in this column. Therefore, it runs considerably longer than usual.—UFS.)

E. R.

(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Cincinnati (Ohio, United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 5, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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