INT: Can I just ask you that one more time, and if you could say that "the American attitude of rolling back Soviet control..."
(Addition to this question in b/g)
OT: Certainly I think the US policies of containment or roll-back, or whatever other terms were used in those years, was regarded as a threat to Soviet political interests, strategic interests in Eastern Europe, because, the several wars which took place in the past, rolled through Poland back in the early 17th century; then the Napoleon... invasion of Russia; then the First World War, the Second World War; and the Soviet leadership always thought that they had to have some buffer west of the Soviet Union. And...... the need for some sphere of influence in that part of the world seemed apparent, perhaps even to the public in general. Furthermore, when the Americans were against the Soviet Union having a sphere of influence in that part of the world almost at the same time that Truman made his Truman Doctrine public, he said that "We will not allow any European country to meddle in the Western hemisphere." And, as I read somewhere, your then Ambassador to Washington, Lord Halifax, wrote to Churchill saying: "What is this but not a sphere of influence?" - the Western hemisphere and the Monroe Doctrine. So the feeling was that this was a natural sort of sphere of influence. But on the other hand, as I think I said before, the way this was handled was very tragic, because those countries had their own traditions, their own way of life, and the attempt to impose upon them a way of life which was quite different from what they were used to, was quite counter-productive. It's interesting that the Soviet policies after the war in regard to Finland were quite different; and in fact, throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union had no difficulties with Finland. Whereas, as far as Poland or Hungary or what not were concerned, there were always some options taking place.
INT: ... We spoke earlier... and it would help probably if you try not to refer back, because this will be used in a slightly different way... about West German rearmament. Did the Soviet leadership believe that it could prevent rearmament? And if so, what were they trying to do about it?
OT: Well, I don't think they had any hopes of preventing West German rearmament. But they thought that at least they could prevent West Germany being armed with nuclear weapons, which was a very sensitive spot. And furthermore, there were some hopes that perhaps West Germany might not be part of NATO also. In fact, ... was it '54 or something?... some Western politicians were saying that NATO is an open organisation, and that anyone who wants can enter it, the Soviet Union sent a note saying "We want to enter NATO." (Laughs) This was taken to be a joke of sorts in the West, and I don't think it was taken seriously in the Soviet Union. But it was done to show that this is a closed alliance and not open for anyone who wants to enter.
QUESTION IN B/G: There were different views among the Soviet leadership after Stalin's death, regarding Germany and the German question; Beria had a certain view, and others. Could you perhaps talk a little bit about that, and the position on what would happen to Germany, whether there would be a chance to keep Germany as a unified Germany, whether there would be a chance to have a neutral Germany, like Austria was...?
OT: After Stalin's death, when Beria was almost the number one man in the leadership, among the proposals he made was that there should be no attempt to build socialism in East Germany. I find it a little difficult to explain what his motives were. It might have been to sort of try to change his image in the West, perhaps. But he was heavily criticised for that by the others - Molotov particularly. And of course... I don't know whether the West would have ever agreed to a unified West Germany being neutral. I find it doubtful. But perhaps some sort of an attempt like that might have been made by the Soviet Union in the early days of the Cold War. ... another thing which we should not disregard was that the leaders of East Germany were not complete puppets, as has been presented. Some of the documents which have been published now, show that they were constantly pressurising the Soviet leadership to take a tough stand, for their own reasons and their own interests. And... whereas, if we go on to the issue of the Wall in Berlin - whereas for Khrushchev this was a way out, and a possibility of getting out of the sort of quandary he got himself into with the ultimatums on West Berlin, I think for the East German leadership this was just a step to be continued with other steps.
INT: When did the Soviet leadership first consider a strategic partnership between itself and its Eastern European allies, resulting in the formation of the Warsaw Pact?
OT: Well, I think the reason that the Warsaw Pact was set up, was a clear answer to the establishment of NATO. And in fact it happened almost simultaneously. I think the Warsaw Pact was set up very shortly after NATO was set up.
INT: Could you explain what the thinking was behind the willingness to end the four-power occupation of Austria, with Britain, France and theUSA in '55?
OT: Well, this was a very ambiguous situation, because Austria was regarded as having been invaded by Germany, although that was not quite the case, if I may put it that way. But nevertheless, Austria was regarded as having been liberated by both the West and the Soviet Union. And therefore, the fact that up to '55 the occupation was still continued...... was... how shalI put it?... something strange and difficult to explain. Although, as far as I know, Molotov was against taking any hasty steps regarding the conclusion of an Austria treaty - perhaps because he thought that it should be linked up with the German question in one way or another. And it was Khrushchev who took upon himself the role of the chief negotiator with Chancellor [Rab] of Austria, and thought that this was one of the steps that necessarily should be taken if the Soviet Union wanted to bring about some relaxation of tensions.
INT: So who was really in charge of foreign policy in the '53, '54, '55, '56 period - was it Khrushchev or Molotov, or was it different factions?
OT: No, I would say that by '54, certainly, Khrushchev was the number two man, and being Secretary General of the Party, he had the upper hand. But Molotov was Foreign Minister; he had his points of view, which he defended very energetically, and that led to one of the reasons why the clashes occurred which led to the attempt in '57 to topple Khrushchev.
INT: Could you tell me a few of your recollections of the attempts to defuse the Cold War tensions in the '55 Geneva Conference?
OT: Well, at the Geneva Conference there were two main issues. For the West it was the issue of German unification. For the Soviet Union, it was the issue of setting up some collective security system in Europe. And there was a lot of argument about that: which should be the priority, unification of Germany or the collective security system in Europe? And even when the final document was being argued about, discussed at the Conference, there was a great deal of discussion and argument about which of those two issues should be the first issue to be mentioned in the communique. And finally, after a lot of talk, some compromise was arrived at which made mention of both unification and collective security, which led to the Conference not producing any result after all.
INT: A few more questions. ... From sort of 1954 onwards, did the emerging Third World nations, such as Egypt and Syria - were they thought of in the Soviet Union as potential allies within the Cold War?
OT: Well I don't think they were ever regarded as ideological potential allies. I recall one meeting in the Foreign Ministry, when Gromyko was Foreign Minister, and our ambassador in Syria was reporting on his work, and he said something to the effect that "In Iraq they're on the road to socialism," or something like that. And Gromyko asked, "Could you cite one example of that development?" And the poor ambassador could cite no examples whatever. And therefore, I think it was mostly a game in the Cold War. Whenever some of these leaders wanted assistance in some form, from say the Soviet Union, they would start talking about socialism. Whenever any other leader wanted to get something out of the Americans, they would say they were anti-Communist. So that game went throughout Africa or the Middle East, in fact. As far as the Middle East is concerned, I recall that Khrushchev, on a number of occasions, referring to Stalin saying that we should not meddle in the Middle East, or the British would fight if we did. (Laughs) And in fact, when we were in London in '56, in April of '56, the whole visit was very smooth, except for a meeting with the Labour people, which was a big row. But with Eden, it was very smooth, except for one instance when Eden said that "If our positions in the Middle East were threatened, we would fight," he said. And Khrushchev got very angry - or perhaps it was also play-acting - but he said, "These things should be settled by negotiation and not through fighting," something to that effect. But in general, I would say that this was more a game, part of the Cold War game.
INT: ... Two more questions, sir...