INT: Excellent. So what was the Russian philosophy in terms of particularly nuclear defence strategy - was it first strike, was it containment? What was the feeling during Khrushchev's regime of the best way to move forward, or to maintain stability perhaps?
OT: I don't think the idea of a first strike was ever discussed seriously. But there was always the possibility of the first strike coming from the other side. And I believe that in Eisenhower's time, a few times in the internal discussions he did mention that "a situation might arise when we might have to use nuclear weapons."
INT: Did Khrushchev believe that the theory of MAD - mutually assured destruction - maintained stability?
OT: Yes, I think so, I think so. And the fact that he... particularly at the end of the Fifties and during the Sixties, he spoke very often about the fact that nuclear war would be destructive for everybody around. This showed that he impressed on the public that idea, which he thought would be sort of a containment idea.
INT: In 1960, Eisenhower's presidency was coming to an end, the elections were coming. What did Khrushchev feel about the incoming presidential candidates?
OT: Well, by the time the election campaign started, Khrushchev's feelings about Nixon were very negative. I don't think it was so much because of the kitchen debate or the fact of the conversations they had when Nixon came to this country, but more because of Nixon's past and the fact that he was very anti-Communist and not too far from Senator McCarthy. And therefore, Khrushchev was very much hopeful that Kennedy would win. And when they met in Vienna a year later, he said to Kennedy, "We voted for you during the elections." And Kennedy said, "Yes, I know that - although I'm sure, whatever position the Soviet Union took in the news... in the public media or what not, I don't think it affected the elections in any way."
INT: What was Khrushchev the man like? How was your relationship with him?
OT: Well, he tended to be rather rude sometimes, particularly towards the end of his stay in power, with some of the other members of the Politburo even, which they resented, I think. But as far as his immediate entourage was concerned - I, for instance, never had any difficulties with him, nor did any of the other three assistants he had. ... in general, I'd say that he was, by nature, a very intelligent man but very badly educated - although he tried to make up for it as he went. But one of his deficiencies was that he sometimes got carried away by some idea which in its origins might have been very sound; but if you carry any idea to an extreme, it becomes counter-productive: as with this idea about corn being planted - or maze, as you would say in Britain -... being planted that was a very sound idea, certainly, but when they started planting corn in the north or in places where it can never grow, that became absurd really. And there were other instances too, I think. For instance, the idea of missiles in Cuba...... he got carried away by this idea, although it was not sound at all, obviously. But he was a very humane man, I would say. He tried to present Communism with a human face, as they said later. About his lack of education, I remember one instance: we were in Bulgaria, and he was talking to a group of Bulgarians about Stalin and the things he did, and suddenly I heard him quote from Pushkin: that genius and evil are incompatible. And I was sitting pretty close to him, and I sort of raised my eyebrows. (Laughs) And later on, he came up to me and said, "I saw you were surprised by my quoting Pushkin. You think I have not read anything." (Laughs) And he was a courageous man, I would say, both physically - which he showed during the war, for instance - and morally, if one may put that, because to make that speech at the 20th Party Congress about Stalin needed a lot of courage really. Another instance when we were in New York during the General Assembly, in 1960, wasn't it?... yes, in 1960. We were staying at the Soviet Mission on Park Avenue, and he would go out on the balcony there, and the newspaper people would gather around, and he would give a sort of a press conference there. So after a while, some of the American correspondents said, "Mr Khrushchev, this is very dangerous: there are cars driving past all the time, and you're in the light, and someone might start shooting." ... But nevertheless, he gave that up after that. (Laughs) So,... on the whole he was an intelligent man, but [as] I said, rather given to these sometimes outbursts also, which very often were play-acting, very often - although I would say there was one or two instances when it was for real. But more often than not, it was play-acting. And these big-shot politicians, they're all actors in a way, aren't they? (Laughs)
INT: What was for you the worst moment of the Cold War?
OT: The worst moment of the Cold War, there is no question about that: the Cuban missile crisis, because then there was a real danger of a war starting. Are we going into that?
INT: No... (Laughter - rest of sentence inaudible)... A difficult question, but do you think the Cold War was necessary?
OT: No, I don't think so. I don't think you can lay the blame for the Cold War on either side really. , some people say that it started with Truman; others say that it started because of Soviet policies in Eastern Europe. But I think it just went this way, as things go sometimes. I don't think it was necessary. For instance, I can give you one instance. The Truman Doctrine in '47 was announced to protect Greece and Turkey from the Soviet Union, but at the same time, there has now been published some statements by Stalin, in his conversation with Dimitrov, who was... although the Comintern had been disbanded already, but Dimitrov sort of looked after the other Communist parties or left-wing parties. And in that conversation, Stalin said that "Those left-wing people in Greece, they should stop those activities, military moves" or whatever, "they should join the Papandreou Government." Whereas the feeling on the American side was that Moscow was heating up atmosphere there. ... and also, actually the first elections which took place in some of the East European countries... for instance in Hungary, the Farmers' Party won a clear majority in Parliament. But then, certainly the policies in Eastern Europe began to harden up. And the policies were such that no attention was given tothe fact that these countries had different traditions, different situations in those countries, that they should not have copied the Soviet Union's way of life.
INT: Good answer.
INT: Some of these questions will now really go back slightly in time, because they will cover another programme, but I hope you won't find it too confusing. Did the Soviet leadership see that Stalin's death was an opportunity to reduce the Cold War tension, particularly in relationship to the USA?
OT: Well, I can't say whether the realisation that something should be done to remove the tensions, or to lessen the tensions of the Cold War, whether that realisation came immediately after Stalin's death, or whether it came up a little later. But certainly, very shortly after Stalin's death it was realised that something should be done, because the two camps were standing on the verge of something... if not war, but something very, very tragic, if I may say so. ... and... well, as I said earlier, steps were taken to assuage the situation.
INT: What was your reaction, and the reaction of your colleagues, to Khrushchev's speech at the 20th Party Congress?
OT: I wasn't at the 20th Party Congress, but as far as I know, the audience was stunned by this speech. No one expected it, I don't think. ... although, of course, probably most of the delegates knew of the things, terrible things which were done in Stalin's time, but still, when Khrushchev gathered all that together and presented it to the Congress, they were stunned, as I would say even the public in general was stunned. It was never published, as you know, the text of the speech, but it was read out in various groups or party groups; and the reaction was different, I'd say. Some took it pretty hard. I remember the wife of one of my colleagues saying, "This is terrible. I have lived by idealising Stalin all my life, and now I hear about all these terrible things." And then, at about that time, Stalin, I would say, was... well, close to his death, I mean... his rating was very high because of the victory in the war, and the victory sort of pushed away all the terrible things that happened before the war. So the reaction was... different, I would say.
INT: Did the Soviet leadership regard the US policies of containing and rolling back the Soviet control of Eastern Europe as a threat to the Soviet interests, and in fact way of life?
OT: Well, I don't know about the way of life, but certainly as far as Soviet geopolitical interests were concerned, that was regarded as a threat.