INT: How differently were the views of John Foster Dulles and Eisenhower seen in the USSR? Was Dulles seen as someone who was controlled by Eisenhower, or was it the other way round?
OT: Well, there was a feeling that Dulles' influence was very strong in Washington. And in fact, Khrushchev commented on the fact. I recall that when they met at the Geneva Conference in 1955, Dulles sometimes would whisper things in Eisenhower's ear. It was difficult to say whether Eisenhower followed the advice that was given him, but the very fact that the Secretary of State was whispering to the President during the conference, didn't show up too well.
INT: In that period, was Khrushchev getting a lot of intelligence from the West? Was it useful intelligence coming out of the West that was helping the stances that he was taking?
OT: Well, of course in Britain there were Philby and the others, which passed on some intelligence. But it's difficult for me to say how much, and how useful, that intelligence was.
INT: Towards the middle of the Fifties, the Americans started to panic about the possibility of, first of all, a bomber gap. But it was around that time that Khrushchev decided that bombers were not the way to go forward. Could you tell me a bit about the reasoning behind that?
OT: Well, Khrushchev was so... how shall I put it?... enthusiastic about missiles, and the fact that missiles could destroy any warship or what not, that he thought warships were getting to be obsolete and that there should be a big change-over from bombers to missiles. I don't think our navy men were very happy about that, (Laughs) obviously; and probably also the aircraft people too.
INT: There's one famous statement that Khrushchev made, where he said, "We are making missiles like sausages."
INT: Could you tell me about that, and whether this was part of his overall strategy to bluff?
OT: Well, there was some bluffing about it, certainly, because even in '62, during the Cuban crisis, the Americans had an overwhelming superiority in missiles, particularly intercontinental missiles. So there was some bluffing there. But then Khrushchev was also so enthusiastic at the fact that we had the first man in space at that time, that he felt we could handle that and catch up with the Americans.
INT: Could I just ask you that question again? It would again be a great help - I apologise for this - if you say "Khrushchev said..."
OT: Yes. ... Khrushchev... Excuse me, where should I start from?
INT: That Khrushchev said, around that period, that...
OT: Well, Khrushchev, around that period, came to the conclusion that missiles were the weapons of the future, and that warships were getting obsolete, bombers were getting obsolete, that we should concentrate everything on missiles; and as he said somewhere, that "We are on the point of producing missiles like sausages." And I don't think our navy men or our aircraft people were very happy about that.
INT: Was it true that missiles were being made like sausages?
OT: No. (Laughs) Well, not at the beginning, no, no. In fact, when we were in Britain... Oh, I should have picked up on that... (Laughter)
INT: I'll ask you again. Was it true that missiles were made like sausages?
OT: Well, I wouldn't say so - not during that period. We were in Britain in '56, April of '56, and at some point, publicly, Khrushchev said something of that... Oh, yes, he said that "By now we can hit any spot in the world with our missiles," which was not true; it was a bit of bluffing, perhaps anticipatory bluffing, if I may say so.
INT: Was bluffing part of Khrushchev's strategy?
OT: Well, bluffing was part of Khrushchev's strategy. There was some bluffing when he delivered those ultimatums about Berlin, because he didn't quite know where we go from there. And by the way, I can tell you a rather amusing story. When Senator Humphrey came to this country, he had a long talk at dinner, I think, with Khrushchev, and Khrushchev started bluffing a little bit about how strong we were in missiles, and he said, "What's your home town, Senator?" And Humphrey said, "It's Minneapolis, Minnesota." So Khrushchev went to a big map he had in his office, and drew a ring around Minneapolis and said, "I must not forget that we shouldn't hit that town." (Laughs) And Humphrey said, "Where is your home town?" Khrushchev said, "Moscow." And Humphrey said, "Oh, sorry." (Laughter)
INT: Excellent story. ... Before the U-2 incidents, how did Khrushchev and Eisenhower get on almost socially - could they speak as friends to each other?
OT: Yes. In spite of the "open skies" proposal, and in spite of the fact that at the Geneva Conference in '55, nothing... it didn't produce anything serious, nevertheless, socially they were on good terms; and particularly so during Khrushchev's visit to the United States in September of '59. I recall, by the way, that during their talks at Camp David Eisenhower said something to the effect that "Every now and then our military people from the Pentagon come to me and say the Russians are going to produce some new weaponry, and we must not lag behind, and we need money and what not." And Eisenhower said, "Well, I had to give in." And Khrushchev said, "I face exactly the same situation with our military." So they were, I'd say, on good terms.
INT: And... [on] his tour, what was the reception from the American people to Khrushchev in '59?
OT: At the beginning it was a little depressive, I would say. For instance, when we reached New York, there were huge crowds standing along the streets where our cars were moving, and they were completely silent. And this silence was rather depressive, I would say. Furthermore, every time Khrushchev made a speech at some place, like the Economic Club in New York, or somewhere else, there was someone from the American side who would start arguing with him, which Khrushchev thought was a little rude for a guest of honour... a reception for a guest of honour. And by the time we reached Los Angeles, the mayor there repeated that tactic, if I may put it that way. And when we reached the hotel Khrushchev said, "Look..." this he said to Gromyko... "this can't go on. Either they stop that, or we'll have to cut short our visit." And he said to Gromyko, "You go see Lodge" - Senator Lodge, who was accompanying our party - "and tell him that if this goes on, we'll have to cut short our visit. And Gromyko went and had a talk with Lodge, and the climate changed very quickly, perhaps because whoever was behind that realised that it was a little counter-productive. So the last part of the visit went very smoothly, I'd say. And I think Eisenhower was a little bit nervous about the last press conference which Khrushchev gave in Washington, because he wasn't sure how Khrushchev would act. And after the press conference, he called our residence, Blair , and asked me to the telephone, and asked to tell Khrushchev that he was very happy about the press conference, that it went off very smoothly and very well.
INT: During thattour, you spent some time at Camp David. Although Khrushchev had known that the Americans were flying U-2 spy missions over Russia for quite some time prior to that, it wasn't brought up into the conversation. Why was that?
OT: (Overlap) No, it was not. Well, in fact... I believe several times during those flights, there were suggestions made, probably from the military, that we should protest about it. But Khrushchev said, "Well, this will show our weakness; we can't shoot them down. ... when we start shooting them down, then we can protest and make a hullabaloo about it."
INT: So what happened then, on the 1st of May 1960?
OT: Yes. I'll tell you. We had this traditional parade and demonstration, and I came back to this... we were living here already by that time. And in the evening, Khrushchev's secretary called me up and said, "Nikita Sergeevich asks you to call him." And I called him, and he said, "Have you heard that we have shot down an American spy plane?" And I said, "Yes, I have heard about it." He said, "This might affect the coming summit. Tomorrow I think we should meet and start working on a speech I'll be making to the Supreme Soviet. And so you gather the usual crowd of speech-writers, and we'll meet at some dacha near Moscow at 11 o'clock or something." And I phoned the usual people, and we gathered there, and he came and he dictated part of the speech. And then he said that we should lay a trap for the Americans and not reveal that the plane has been shot down and that the pilot is safe in our hands. And so this was... he made, I think, two or three speeches sort of trapping [the] Americans into some lies, if I may call them that. And I recall that later on, I read in Harold Macmillan's diary, which has been published by... that Khrushchev made... he wrote two or three very amusing speeches, and the Americans were lying incompetently, as they have been spying incompetently. (Laughs) So, during the first couple of speeches, he did not touch upon Eisenhower's role in any way. But then, later on, Eisenhower himself made a statement saying that he agreed to those speeches... sorry, agreed to the flights, that it wasn't done... it was done at his initiative, or something like that. And that put, I think, Khrushchev in some difficulties, because here was the President admitting that he was a spy master or something of that sort.