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Correspondence

Letter from Nikita Khrushchev to Linus Pauling. October 27, 1961.
Khrushchev writes to explain, at length, the Soviet Union's rationale in continuing its program of nuclear weapons tests.

Transcript

Translation from Russian

Dear Mr. Linus Pauling:

I received your letter in which you voiced your concern that the Soviet Union was compelled to conduct experimental explosions of atomic and hydrogen weapons.

We have already set forth the reasons which forced us to take such a decision. I wish only to emphasize once again that we have taken this step after a long consideration and not without a pain in heart, not without a sense of bitterness understandable to everyone who holds dear the ideals of securing peace among the peoples. Try to imagine yourself placed in a position in which our country has found itself - faced with sharp increase of war preparations which are being carried out by the NATO powers in sight of everyone, and that, perhaps, will help you better understand that the Soviet Government had no other alternative.

The Soviet people who in the life of one generation were twice subjected to bandit attacks by the hordes of German militarists, know war not by hearsay, they saw it in their homes. In all fairness, no other people, no other nation suffered in World War II such heavy losses, such vast devastations as did our people and our nation. And is it necessary to explain that the sacrifices and loss of homefolks and relatives are irretrievable, and almost every Soviet family suffered such losses.

Realizing better than many others what war is like and in particular a modern war with the use of rocket and nuclear weapons we have made and are making every effort to eliminate war from the life of human society, to achieve an agreement on general and complete disarmament. For that we have spared no effort. But unfortunately our efforts have not so far been successful.

We have proposed most peaceful of all the peaceful things that can only be thought of in the present situation - to put an end to the vestiges of World War II, to conclude a German peace treaty. And what was the response of the Western powers? Have they accepted our proposal to meet and sit down at a round table to jointly work out a German peace treaty? Have they stated that they share our desire to work out a peace treaty on such a basis which would contribute to the elimination of the main source of friction between the powers, to the prevention of military conflicts, to the prevention of World War III? Not at all. As you know, our proposals have not been accepted by the Western powers.

In response to our proposal that a peace treaty be concluded at last, after 16 years that passed since the end of the war, with Germany, with the two now existing German states, we hear almost daily this or that statesman of the United States, France, Britain, West Germany and their other allies in agressive military blocks remind us that if a German peace treaty is signed and on this basis the situation in West Berlin, which will get a status of a demilitarized free city, is normalized, then the NATO powers will respond to this with force. And they are not merely threatening war, they are saying it will be a thermonuclear one.

Try to understand, dear Mr. Pauling, what the Soviet Union would be like if it continued to refrain, as if nothing at all has happened, from taking additional measures to strengthen its defense capacity including measures to perfect nuclear weapons while the NATO powers are responding with threats to its proposal that a German peace treaty be concluded. If we had not taken those measures, we would have committed an act which could not be justified either by history or - even less so - by our people and by the peoples of those countries which fell victims of invasion by the Hitlerite hordes. Have we acted otherwise, there would have been no excuse for us, on the part of any of the peoples who struggle for peace and wish to secure it.

We cannot but take into consideration the fact that our country is encircled by American military bases and those bases are now being strengthened. The USA is sending its troops and military equipment to Europe. Since the beginning of this year the US military expenditures have been increased by more than six billion dollars; "strategic armed forces" which are nuclear forces are being expanded at a growing rate; the number of "Polaris" submarines is being rapidly increased; the number of the strategic bombers at the end of runways has been increased by 50 per cent; the long-range air force has been expanded, additional contingents of reservists have been called up and measures have been taken to bring the Army, Navy and Marine units to full strength in terms of personnel and equipment. Needless to say states usually resort to such measures, as is known, only when they are driving toward war.

The West German revenge-seekers - and Chancellor Adenauer and Defense Minister Strauss set the tone in their chorus - are more and more persistent and noisy in their demands for nuclear weapons for the Bundeswehr which even now is the biggest army in Western European countries.

And with all that the NATO powers want us to give up strengthening our armed forces and their perfecting. If we acted that way this would turn against all honest people who really want peace and condemn war; and so this would turn against us and against those who appeal to the Soviet Union not to weaken its efforts in consolidating peace.

You may have some doubts - would it really be so? But think for yourself - if the NATO powers go on building up their military power and the Soviet Union and the Socialist countries remain inactive, fail to take care of strengthening their security, then - in the conditions created by the saber-rattling policy on the part of the NATO powers - this would undoubtedly lead not to the consolidation of peace but, on the contrary, would almost mean inviting the aggressor to an adventure, to unleashing war with all its consequences.

How can one remain indifferent, for example, to a statement such as one made by Senator Margaret Smith? She actually demanded to use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union in response to the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany. You probably read about the threats which were made in this connection by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, brother of the President, and by Mr. McNamara, US Secretary of Defense. They both stated the intention of the Kennedy Administration to use nuclear weapons. And look what statements were recently made by Lord Home, British Foreign Minister, and Mr. Heath, Lord Privy Seal. All of them are trying to impress upon us the idea that if the USSR and other countries sign a German peace treaty, the NATO powers will in response unleash a nuclear war.

We have repeatedly stated that we wish to sit down at a conference table with the Western powers and to achieve as soon as possible a peaceful solution so that a line could be drawn under World War II. But if the Western powers do not wish to do so we all the same will have to sign a peace treaty, which the interests of strengthening peace in Europe demand, and we will sign it.

Naturally, we cannot ignore the attempts on the part of the NATO powers to resort to threats, but those threats we must say are to the wrong address. If the opponents of the conclusion of a peace treaty choose to fight against it by means of war, we must have no less powerful means to stop any attempts to unleash war.

One cannot but be particularly puzzled to hear threats to ignite flames of rocket-nuclear war coming from those for whom the consequences of such a war would be many times more dangerous than, let us say, for the US or the USSR. The British Lord Privy Seal is threatening us with war. But he is probably forgetting that Britain is a small island and one where an American "Polaris" submarine base and American bombers with nuclear weapons are located and if hostilities start that island can be among the first to experience the crushing might of nuclear blows.

The present policy of the NATO powers leads to a situation where one has to fear not just radioactive fallout but the lethal and destructive power of nuclear weapons themselves. This is the actual choice humanity is facing today. We are carrying out experimental tests and perfecting our weapons in order that mankind should never experience the horrors of nuclear war. The fact that nuclear weapons are in possession of the Soviet state serves as a stern warning to all those who resort to threats in connection with the question of signing a German peace treaty. The Soviet people and the peoples of other Socialist countries engaged in a peaceful constructive labor do not need wars. We proclaimed this to the whole world from the rostrum of the 22nd Congress of our Party which will adopt a grand program for building Communism in our country. We need peace to fulfill this program. We would be happy to sink the most modern and formidable weapons in the ocean. But if our partners in negotiations do not wish to agree to jointly sink the weapons, then, naturally, we, too, need these weapons. We know that peace and security cannot be begged for the peoples from aggressors by preaching love and tolerance. To war threats we have to answer by strengthening the defense of our country - we do not have any other alternative.

All this shows clearly that it is the policy of the Western powers - NATO members - that is the source of international tension and arms race. To care for peace and for prevention of nuclear war, means that the efforts of the governments of all peace-loving countries as well as the efforts of the peoples should be aimed at making the Western powers stop saber-rattling and reach an agreement to put an end to the vestiges of World War II. This is the only reasonable way leading to peace and security. The Soviet Union as before will spare no effort to achieve this noble goal.

As the Soviet Government already explained the way to solution of the question of cessation of nuclear tests is to be found in a solution of the problem of general and complete disarmament. In this case the question of cessation of nuclear tests and of non-use of nuclear weapons would be solved once and for all. To put an end to nuclear weapon tests, to the arms race, it is necessary to achieve without any delay a solution of the problem of general and complete disarmament.

The Soviet Government has repeatedly declared that it is ready to sign a treaty on general and complete disarmament under the most strict international control. We are ready to do so right now.

I would like to express my hope that the peoples of our countries will join their efforts in the struggle for a speediest solution of the problem of general and complete disarmament, for complete and unconditional ban on nuclear weapons, for delivering mankind from the threat of another world war.

Sincerely,

N. KHRUSHCHEV

Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR

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