Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Martha Mautner


INT: If Khruschev appeared to be seeking détente, how seriously did you take his search for détente?

MM: In one respect very seriously, because he began understanding the Soviet Union, if it was going to build up its strength in the world and to fulfil its Communist destiny, it had to develop economically and to do that it had to have more interchange with the outside world and to do that it had to have better relations with the outside world. That was the basic element. On the other hand, the existence of Berlin was a constant irritant to the Soviet sense of security. Berlin was always the gap in the defence line. Berlin was always the hole in the control of the empire, it made it impossible for the Soviets ever to consolidate their hold over East Germany, and it made it also possible that the other satellite states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, had the opportunity to... not only for defections vis à vis Berlin, but also to utilise that leeway that the undecided situation in Germany gave them to do more what they wanted to do vis à... against Soviet interests. So in all of this, for the Soviet sense of security, and one should remember that Khruschev was a protégé of Stalin, and he shared the Soviet security sense, the leadership sense at that time that security was only a total thing, you had to have total control of your own area before you felt secure about anything else and as long as Berlin existed, he never could feel that kind of security. There was an allied force sitting inside the Soviet empire and it was always a constant threat. So, that, I think, is the problem one had there. We had to balance off these senses of Soviet security versus the sense of esteem that they had gotten by their Sputnik achievements and their military achievements against the desire for a serious détente, which would ease tensions between the East and West. And that's a complicated mix.

INT: Whilst the Berlin splinter is always nagging at Khruschev and yet he's prepared to try and achieve a certain amount of détente, how much was achieved at Camp David in consolidating the idea of détente with the West?

MM: I think it gave him a sense of equality, that he was no longer dealing with the outside world from a position of inferiority. The Soviets have always been... suffered from a severe inferiority complex, in that sense. If he was riding the wave, the Soviets were convinced that they were the wave of the future and the... I mean, there was gainsaying that fact and their military achievements were beginning to underscore that point and to register in the West, in the sense of fear of the Soviet Union was a plus on their side. So, Khruschev was a very complicated character and it was very hard to separate out the new from the old there. I mean, he was part of the old traditional mould and at the same time, he glimpsed a different future and the outsiders who watched the situation were trying to cope with this difference, to encourage the détente aspect, but not give up anything that was basic to Western security positions and Western security positions again were tied into the integration of West Germany into the Western alliance structure and that, of course, was the one thing that the Soviets did not want to see.

INT: Would it ever have come to a war over Berlin? Was there ever the possibilities that the Soviet threats of a nuclear attack would actually take real form?

MM: That depended on who you talked to. If you talked to the Berliners and the Berlin Mafia, if you want to call them that, or the hard-liners, there was never any real threat of war. If you talk to the people who were dealing with security issues, the numbers of troops, the very vulnerability of the Western military position in Berlin, er you realised you were on a very, very weak stand in case of a show-down and that the Soviets were surrounding you with not only twenty divisions in Europe, but the whole might of the Soviet army very close by. So, you're starting from a vulnerable position and yet, at that the same, it was the vulnerability that was a threat to the Soviets themselves and so it's very hard to say what the attitude was on this one, it depended on your own viewpoint on the subject.

INT: What was the reality of the threat of nuclear war and could you give examples of what Khruschev threatened and how seriously that was taken?

MM: Well, Khruschev played on the Soviet military achievements as part of his er arsenal of weaponry against the West, propaganda weaponry, and he used the nuclear threat, he played it to a fairly well. He told the Italians, as far as I recall, about the threat of the... to the orange groves of Italy. He talked to the Greeks about the Acropolis would be just subject to obliteration if war ever came. He took... used the same line to the Third World people, who were, of course, very much obsessed with the idea of nuclear dangers. He threatened the British and the French, but I think told the Fren... the British ambassador in Moscow was told that it would only take about six rockets to obliterate the British Isles and the French got the same treatment. I mean, everybody... it was... it was a very useful thing. At the same time, the Soviets... of course the whole Communist apparatus was playing up the peace movement and anti-nuclear sentiments all over the world, it was part of the concerted campaign. That was just one side of the coin, those on the inside were the inside, those who were dealing with this situation more realistically knew that the Soviets no in... had no intention of ever fighting a nuclear war, chiefly because they knew they couldn't win one and despite all of the talk about a missile gap in this country, the American arsenal was so much greater, and the Soviets knew it, that they had no intention of provoking, but they knew they could play the public opinion.

INT: What was the consensus in America of...

(END OF ROLL #10298)