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Documents on Germany, 1944-1959 : background documents on Germany, 1944-1959, and a chronology of political developments affecting Berlin, 1945-1956

Letter from President Eisenhower to Premier Bulganin, on Germany, European security, and disarmament, January 12, 1958,   pp. 228-236 PDF (3.9 MB)

Page 229

defense efforts of free world nations; and your specific proposals. I
shall respond in that same order and make my own proposals.
Peace and good will among men have been the heartfelt desire of
peoples since time immemorial. But professions of peace by govern-
mental leaders have not always been a dependable guide to their actual
intentions. Moreover, it seems to me to be profitless for us to debate
the question of which of our two governments wants peace the more.
Both of us have asserted that our respective peoples ardently desire
peace and perhaps you and I feel this same urge equally. The heart
of the matter becomes the determination of the terms on which the
maintenance of peace can be assured, and the confidence that each of
us can justifiably feel that these terms will be respected.
In the United States the people and their government desire peace
and in this country the people exert such constitutional control over
government that no government could possibly initiate aggressive
war. Under authority already given by our Congress, the United
States can and would respond at once if we or any of our allies were
attacked. But the United States cannot initiate war without the
prior approval of the peoples' representatives in the Congress. This
process requires time and public debate. Not only would our people
repudiate any effort to begin an attack, but the element of surprise, so
important in any aggressive move, would be wholly lacking. Aggres-
sive war by us is not only abhorrent; it is impractical and impos-
The past forty years provide an opportunity to judge the compara-
tive peace records of our two systems. We gladly submit our na-
tional record for respecting peace to the impartial judgment of
mankind. I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that in the United States
the waging of peace has priority in every aspect, and every element,
of our national life.
You argue that the danger of war is increased because the United
States and other free world nations seek security on a collective basis
and on the basis of military preparedness. Three times in this cen-
tury wars have occurred under circumstances which strongly suggest,
if indeed they do not prove, that war would not have occurred had
the United States been militarily strong and committed in advance
to the defense of nations that were attacked.
On each of these three occasions when war came, the United States
was militarily unprepared, or ill-prepared, and it was not known that
the United States would go to the aid of those subjected to armed
aggression. Yet now it appears, Mr. Chairman, that you contend
that weakness and disunity would make war less likely.
I may be permitted perhaps to recall that in March 1939, when the
Soviet Union felt relatively weak and threatened by Fascist aggres-
sion, it contended that aggression was rife because "the majority of
the non-aggressive countries, particularly England and France, have
rejected the policy of collective security", and Stalin went on to say
that the policy of "Let each country defend itself as it likes and as
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