Skip to main content

CWIHP e-Dossier No. 10 

Author Douglas Selvage is a historian with the Office of the Historian, US Department of State, Washington, DC.

Poland and the Sino-Soviet Rift, 1963-1965[*]

by Douglas Selvage[†]

During the Cold War, many analysts thought of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union not as an alliance, but as a monolithic and indivisible "bloc." According to this view, the choice was simple: Either the East European countries toed Moscow's line, especially with regard to foreign policy, or else they followed Yugoslavia's example and risked defecting from the bloc. If there were disputes between Moscow and its East European allies behind the scenes, many orthodox Sovietologists believed, Moscow forcefully reimposed its will through political and economic coercion, through the removal of "deviationist" leaders, or, if necessary, by military intervention. Any differences between Moscow and its East European allies, the orthodox view went, were short-lived and ultimately resolved in Moscow's favor.[1]

The opening of East European archives after the Cold War has permitted a reexamination of the relationship between the Soviet Union and its East European allies. The new sources show that although the Warsaw Pact was never an alliance of equals, let alone an "alliance" in the traditional sense of the word, it was more than a mere transmission belt for Moscow's directives. The new sources have confirmed the "polycentric" view of the Soviet bloc: By the 1960's, if not before, the Warsaw Pact was on the path to becoming a true alliance and its members "junior allies" of the Soviet Union. The East European states could and did influence Moscow's foreign policy and the foreign policy of the Soviet bloc as a whole.[2]

In this paper I will discuss a particularly telling case of a smaller Warsaw Pact state not only resisting Moscow's foreign policy dictates, but in the end, successfully pressuring Moscow back to change its policy. My paper will focus on a previously-unknown chapter in the history of the Warsaw Pact: a feud between Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev and Poland's communist leader Wladyslaw Gomulka over policy towards the People's Republic of China during Khrushchev's last year in power, 1963-64. While Khrushchev adopted an increasingly confrontational stance towards China, even to the point of seeking accommodation with the West, Gomulka insisted that the Soviet leader take steps to repair relations with the PRC. Specifically, Gomulka resisted three major initiatives by Khrushchev that might have sparked a direct confrontation between Moscow and Beijing and undermined Communist Poland's security: an initiative by Khrushchev in 1963 to grant Mongolia membership in the Warsaw Pact; the Soviet leader's attempt in 1963-1964 to conclude a nonproliferation treaty with the United States that would have arguably been directed against China; and Khrushchev's efforts to call a conference of the world's communist parties with a view to expelling the Communist Party of China (CPCh) from the international communist movement. Khrushchev responded to Gomulka's opposition by putting economic and political pressure on Poland and threatening to remove Gomulka from power. Gomulka, however, succeeded in holding out against the pressure, and in the end, it was Khrushchev, not Gomulka, who fell from power.

The first sign of major differences between Gomulka and Khrushchev over policy towards China came in July 1963. Khrushchev officially proposed to Gomulka and the Polish communists that Mongolia be admitted into the Warsaw Pact.[3] The Soviet leader's proposal came at a time when the rift between Moscow and Beijing had entered a new and more volatile phase. The two communist giants were engaging in open polemics, and China had gone so far as to call into question its borders with the Soviet Union.[4] If Mongolia had joined the Warsaw Pact, Beijing would have interpreted it as a hostile act. An analysis prepared for Gomulka by the Polish foreign ministry stated: "The acceptance of Mongolia into the Warsaw Pact at this time will of course be discerned both in the socialist states of Asia and in the West as a step whose thrust is directed against the PRC.... The military significance of such a decision for the security of Mongolia and the interests of the Warsaw Pact... [are] practically indiscernible. The political consequences for the short and the long term are dubious and risky." The overall conclusion: Mongolia's admission into the Warsaw Pact would not enhance the security of the European socialist states because it would further inflame the Sino-Soviet conflict. Moreover, Mongolia's admission to the Pact would in fact undermine Mongolia's security; China would likely respond to such a step by putting its own pressure on Ulan Bator. More importantly, acceptance of Khrushchev's proposal would have changed the nature of the Warsaw Pact from a European defense organization directed against NATO and West Germany to an alliance directed against China.[5] Faced opposition from Poland and others allies, Khrushchev dropped his proposal at a Warsaw Pact summit in Moscow from 26-27 July 1963.[6]

Potential opposition from Poland or other Warsaw Pact allies could not prevent Khrushchev, however, from concluding a limited nuclear test ban treaty with the United States and the United Kingdom on 25 July 1963—the eve of the Warsaw Pact summit. Khrushchev scheduled negotiations on the nuclear agreement for mid-July, during the visit of a high-level Chinese delegation to Moscow. Talks between the Soviet and Chinese delegations, ostensibly seeking to resolve ideological differences, broke down. The Chinese took Moscow's simultaneous negotiations with the Americans and the British as an affront. The Chinese stormed out of the talks, and Beijing denounced the test-ban treaty as a "dirty fraud." It publicly accused Moscow of trying to thwart China's program to build an atomic bomb.[7]

Although communist Poland publicly supported the test ban treaty, Gomulka believed that Khrushchev should have consulted with Beijing before concluding the agreement.[8] In effect, this meant that Gomulka opposed the treaty. He knew that Beijing would have never agreed to support it. Still, there was some advantage in the test-ban treaty for Warsaw. Ever since the late 1950's, Poland had been leading the struggle within the Warsaw Pact against West German access to nuclear weapons, and the United States compelled the government in Bonn to accede to the agreement.[9]

Poland's struggle against West German access to nuclear weapons helps explain Gomulka's shock when he received a memorandum from the Soviet foreign ministry at the beginning of October 1963 about Moscow's ongoing talks with Washington over a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Moscow, he learned, was planning to drop its demand that a non-proliferation treaty prohibit the establishment of joint nuclear forces. The Soviets were willing to settle for a mere commitment from the United States—in the treaty or elsewhere—not to allow nuclear weapons to come under the FRG's direct command. Such a compromise, the Soviet memorandum read, would still serve the Warsaw Pact's larger goal of denying Bonn access to nuclear weapons.[10] The memo clearly rattled Gomulka. He did not agree that Moscow's plans conformed to the common "line of the socialist community in the international arena."[11] The proposed concession, he feared, would lead the West to conclude that the Warsaw Pact no longer opposed NATO's plans for a multilateral nuclear force or MLF, which would have granted Bonn "access" to nuclear weapons. Just as importantly, Gomulka worried about a nonproliferation treaty's impact upon Sino-Soviet relations. Beijing's reaction to the test ban treaty suggested that a nonproliferation treaty would lead to a final breach between the communist giants.[12] If the Soviets signed a treaty that did not prohibit the MLF, it would confirm that they were more interested in preventing a Chinese nuclear capability than in preventing West German "access" to nuclear weapons.[13]

Upon receiving the Soviet memorandum on 3 October 1963, Gomulka sprang into action. After an emergency Politburo meeting, he phoned Khrushchev and asked the Soviet leader to convene a Warsaw Pact meeting to discuss the memorandum. In the meantime, he would dispatch a letter to Khrushchev explaining his objections.[14] Khrushchev demanded to know the letter's contents. Gomulka replied that it had to do with the Chinese and German questions. Khrushchev snapped: Send it to the Chinese. Gomulka responded: It would not be pleasant for Moscow if such a letter ended up in Beijing. The Soviet leader reluctantly received an emissary with Gomulka's letter during the second week of October.[15]

Gomulka's letter, dated 8 October 1963, consisted of two parts. In the first part, the Polish leader warned Khrushchev that a failure to prohibit joint nuclear forces in a nonproliferation agreement would be a "unilateral concession" to the West with grave political consequences for the entire Warsaw Pact. The U.S. and West Germany, he wrote, were the only NATO members who truly supported the MLF. If Moscow conceded the issue in a non-proliferation treaty, it would undermine the already significant opposition to the MLF within NATO. Second, if the MLF was established, Bonn would be able to engage in "nuclear blackmail" against the GDR and the entire Warsaw Pact. Its proposed financial contribution -- 40% of the MLF's cost, vs. 40% from the U.S. and 20% from the other NATO allies -- would allow Bonn to assume second place within the Western alliance and increase its political influence. Moscow's plans, Gomulka implied, were not in keeping with the Warsaw Pact's stance on the MLF.[16]

In the second part of the letter, Gomulka expressed his "personal views" on China. Even if the U.S. did agree to ban joint nuclear forces, he wrote, Moscow still should not sign a nonproliferation treaty. The West only sought such an agreement in order to sow discord between Moscow and Beijing. Gomulka scolded Khrushchev for his China policy. "I assume that if the Soviet Union would consult and coordinate its more important political initiatives in the international arena with the People's Republic of China," he wrote, "then the Communist Party of China would refrain from attacks against the CPSU in its propaganda, and a closer standpoint could be achieved on a number of controversial matters." The European socialist states could not afford a permanent split within the socialist camp. "An understanding with the Communist Party of China on the basis of a sensible compromise," Gomulka wrote, "... [is] necessary from every point of view." Gomulka did not even oppose a Chinese nuclear capability. In fact, if the West proceeded with the MLF, he wrote Khrushchev, then Moscow should form its own joint nuclear force with Beijing.[17]

Gomulka's efforts did affect Moscow's diplomacy— at least on paper. At the end of October 1963, Moscow informed its allies about the latest round of talks in Washington. Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, a Soviet memorandum claimed, had returned to Moscow's original stance on nonproliferation. He had informed the Americans about the "dire consequences" of "allowing the West German revanchists de facto access to nuclear weapons." President Kennedy and U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk had responded that one of Washington's goals in proposing the MLF had been to prevent Bonn from someday producing its own nuclear weapons or gaining access to them through France. At this juncture, Gromyko asked whether the Americans "could not possibly agree" that the MLF would not, in fact, be realized. If the U.S. merely promised to drop the MLF at some future date, he implied, Moscow would sign a nonproliferation treaty that did not ban joint nuclear forces.[18]

Gomulka was appalled by the Soviet memorandum. In the margins of the memo he wrote: "Who is Kennedy trying to fool—Bonn or us?" Gromyko, he concluded, despite Poland's opposition, had been ready to make a concession on the MLF.[19] Fortunately, the Americans had rejected the offer.[20] What would happen to Warsaw's concerns, however, if the Americans revisited Gromyko's proposal?

At the beginning of January 1964, Gomulka and Khrushchev met secretly in eastern Poland to air their differences.[21] The meeting ended in acrimony. First, Khrushchev seemed to buy the Americans' argument that the MLF would prevent other Western countries, including the FRG, from developing their own nuclear weapons.[22] Second, on the subject of China, Khrushchev told Gomulka that there was no turning back. The Chinese, having questioned the Soviet border, were massing forces along it. If they crossed, he would order a nuclear strike.[23] Third, Khrushchev informed Gomulka that he wanted to reach a modus vivendi with Bonn. When Gomulka opposed the idea, an argument broke out, and Khrushchev reminded Gomulka that his hold on power was not eternal.[24] Relations between the two leaders had reached a new low, and Gomulka's suspicions were confirmed. Khrushchev was more interested in improving relations with the West, including West Germany, than in repairing relations with Beijing.

After the January 1964 meeting, Khrushchev began to turn the screws on Gomulka. His main tool was economic pressure. Reneging on existing economic agreements, Moscow ordered Warsaw in March 1964 to maintain and increase its coal deliveries to the GDR.[25] This new demand on Poland's economy followed an announcement by Moscow that it would not be able to meet its economic commitments to Poland and the other socialist countries with regard to grain and cotton. When Gomulka led a party delegation to Moscow in mid-April 1964 to protest the uneven economic burden being placed upon Poland, Khrushchev refused to budge. Indeed, he increased the economic pressure on Gomulka by announcing that Moscow would not be purchasing a series of fighter aircraft from Poland, even after the Polish communists — at Moscow's insistence — had invested large sums of money in a special factory. The Soviet Union was the only potential market for the aircraft.[26] The combined impact of Khrushchev's decisions for Poland's economy would be devastating; they threatened to undermine the stability of Poland's communist regime.

By the end of the April 1964 meeting, Khrushchev believed that his pressure on Gomulka was beginning to work. Gomulka agreed to a final communiqué for the meeting that condemned the Chinese communists for deviating from "the Leninist line of the international Communist movement."[27] Two months later, Khrushchev told East German leader Walter Ulbricht that the Gomulka who came to Moscow in April was "a different Gomulka," a "better Gomulka." Gomulka, Khrushchev claimed, had given up his "vacillating position" with regard to China.[28]

If Khrushchev believed that economic pressure would silence Gomulka's criticism of his Chinese and German policies, he was sorely mistaken. Proof of Gomulka's continuing resistance to Khrushchev's China policy came in the summer of 1964. Responding to repeated demands from Gomulka, Khrushchev consented to attend the 20th anniversary celebrations of the People's Republic of Poland, held in Warsaw from 23-24 July.[29] In the presence of Ulbricht and Novotný, Gomulka dissented from Moscow's plans for convening an "editorial commission" to prepare for a world conference of communist parties. Despite Moscow's frequent denials, the assumed goal of a world communist conference was to expel the Communist Party of China from the international communist movement. Not surprisingly, Beijing had bitterly condemned Moscow's plans to convene an editorial commission as an attempt to dictate the policies of other communist parties. Although Gomulka did not question Moscow's plans to convene an editorial commission, he tried to convince Khrushchev to slow down the process and leave a door open to the Chinese. Gomulka proposed that the editorial commission proceed in two stages. In the first stage, it would meet and draft proposals for submission to the world's communist parties. Then, after the commission obtained the comments of the world's parties, it would proceed to a second stage of deliberations, in which all the other parties would be allowed to participate. Proceeding in two stages, Gomulka argued, would help Moscow win the support of parties that were wavering between Moscow and Beijing, and perhaps even China would then agree to participate in a world communist conference.[30] Khrushchev, who was apparently in a more conciliatory mood, agreed to Gomulka's proposal to proceed in "two stages" towards a world communist conference, although he doubted that Beijing would participate anyway.[31] One can imagine Gomulka's sense of betrayal when, less than a week later, the Soviets sent a letter to the world's communist parties announcing plans to convene the editorial commission by no later than December 15, 1964. In the letter, there was no mention of two stages.[32]

Even worse, at the beginning of September 1964, the West German press announced that Khrushchev was planning to visit Bonn.[33] The announcement came after a series of denials by Khrushchev that he had any such plans. Both Gomulka and Ulbricht were worried that Khrushchev, given his concerns about a potential conflict with China, might compromise their security interests in order to reach an agreement with West Germany. The visit by Khrushchev's son-in-law, Alexei Adzhubei, to Bonn at the end of July 1964 confirmed their worst fears. Polish and East German intelligence, concerned that Khrushchev might be planning a radical departure in his West German policy, closely followed Adzhubei's movements.[34] They did not have to look far to find disturbing information. The West German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel, reported some of Adzhubei's more heterodox statements. Throughout his trip, he constantly warned against the "yellow peril."[35] China, he declared, would be Moscow's "first front" from now on. In order to have a free hand for dealing with the Chinese, Moscow sought a modus vivendi with Bonn in the "spirit of Rapallo."[36] In a private discussion over Bavarian beer with the bête noire of Soviet-bloc propaganda, Franz Josef Strauss, Adzhubei put it more bluntly. "We'd just as soon give you Germans a hundred hydrogen bombs, form a corridor through the Soviet Union, and let you mop up the Chinese."[37] When discussions turned to Ulbricht, Adzhubei stated point-blank: He would not live much longer, he suffered from cancer.[38] Polish intelligence succeeded in obtaining tapes from "Western journalists" of some of Adzhubei's choicer comments. The famous son-in-law apparently declared on tape that when his "papa" came to the FRG and saw how friendly everybody was, he would tear down the Berlin Wall.[39] Of greater interest to the Poles was his comment that under favorable conditions — for example, if Warsaw tried to leave the socialist bloc—land could be sliced off and returned to Germany, beginning with Szczecin.[40]

After listening to the tapes of Adzhubei's comments, Gomulka was furious.[41] He fired off a protest to Moscow. On 30 September 1964, Yuri Andropov, the Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee responsible for relations with the socialist states, arrived in Warsaw to discuss the situation.[42] Gomulka's trusted lieutentant, Zenon Kliszko, played for Andropov the Polish tape of Adzhubei's conversations. Andropov considered the tape to be authentic; he returned to Moscow with a transcript.[43] The fallout from Adzhubei's visit could not have come at a worse time for Khrushchev. In September 1964, his opponents in the Soviet leadership were already plotting to overthrow him.[44] The tape was used to further discredit Khrushchev and his policies and to help justify his removal from power in October 1964.

In the end, Khrushchev's opponents in the Soviet politburo vindicated Gomulka and his policies. At the Central Committee plenum that removed Khrushchev, Politburo member Mikhail Suslov, who spearheaded the attack against Khrushchev, suggested that Adzhubei's visit and his comments reflected a lack of judgment on Khrushchev's part. "[O]ne found out ... from foreign newspapers," Suslov lectured the Central Committee, "that Alexei Adzhubei had made totally unrealistic predictions and unacceptable judgments about the future evolution of the Soviet Union's policy towards the German Democratic Republic, as well as the Bonn government, and also about possible negotiations over a settlement of the Berlin Question." He pointed out that Adzhubei's remarks had damaged Moscow's relations with both Poland and the GDR. Suslov even criticized Khrushchev for his condescending attitudes toward the other socialist states. He singled out Khrushchev's decision not to purchase fighter aircraft from Poland as particularly damaging to Polish-Soviet relations. Suslov summed up: "One should not offend the leaders of the fraternal parties. They are experienced and hardened people..."[45]

More importantly, the new Soviet leaders, Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin, reversed course and adopted a number of Gomulka's suggestions. Gomulka's perseverance under Khrushchev's pressure paid off at the January 1965 Warsaw Pact meeting in Warsaw. The assembled leaders, with the exception of Romania, approved a draft nonproliferation treaty that forbade joint nuclear forces, including the MLF.[46] More importantly, the Soviets reluctantly acquiesced in Gomulka's suggestion that preparations for a world communist conference proceed in two stages.[47] The new Soviet leaders even tried to repair relations with Beijing, but to no avail. Despite Gomulka's best efforts, the Chinese still refused to participate in preparations for a world communist conference.

Summing up, Poland's communist leader Wladyslaw Gomulka succeeded in blocking a number of key initiatives by Khrushchev aimed against China. Mongolia did not join the Warsaw Pact; Moscow did not concede the MLF to the United States in a nuclear non-proliferation treaty; and the Soviets agreed to proceed towards a world communist conference in two stages. In a speech to the Polish Central Committee explaining Khrushchev's removal in October 1964, Gomulka, voicing his support for the decision, described all his differences with the former Soviet leader over policy towards China and West Germany. He concluded with an assertion of communist Poland's right to be consulted on all major foreign policy initiatives by the Soviet Union. Gomulka declared: "It is clear that both Poland as a country and our party are not the main creative force for the foreign policy of the socialist camp, and it is unthinkable that Poland would force something in this regard or that we could conduct some sort of independent [samodzielna] foreign policy. It is also unthinkable that even when we do have reservations to the policy of the Soviet Union, that we would express them openly, that we would reveal some shades of difference in our stance, because the enemy would immediately detect it and use it…. At the same time … in certain matters in which our party, our government, our country, is deeply and directly interested … we demand, have the right to demand, and always will demand that these matters be discussed with us and coordinated…"[48] Gomulka would continue to fight for close consultation within the Warsaw Pact until his fall from power in December 1970.


"Note from the Session of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the [Polish United Workers' Party] CC on October 26, 1964" (Excerpt)

"Stenographic Protocol of the II Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party," November 20-21, 1964 (Excerpts)


[*] A version of this paper was presented at the conference, “New Evidence from Central and East European Archives on the Cold War in Asia,” sponsored by the George Washington Cold War Group, the Cold War Research Center in Budapest, and the Cold War International History Project, held from October 30 to November 1, 2003, in Budapest.

[†] The author is a historian with the Office of the Historian, US Department of State, Washington, DC. The views contained herein are purely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

[1] See, for example, Malcolm Mackintosh, “The Warsaw Treaty Organization: A History,” in The Warsaw Pact: Alliance in Transition?, ed. David Holloway and Jane M.O. Sharp (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984), 42; Andrzej Korbo_ski, “The Warsaw Pact After Twenty-Five Years: An Entangling Alliance or an Empty Shell?” 18-19, and Jorg K. Hoensch, “The Warsaw Pact and the Northern Member States,” 48, in The Warsaw Pact: Political Purpose and Military Means, ed. Robert W. Clawson and Lawrence S. Kaplan (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1982), 18-19; Robert L. Hutchings, Soviet-East European Relations: Consolidation and Conflict, 1968-1980, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 4; Richard Löwenthal, “Vormachtkontrolle und Autonomie in der Entwicklung des Sowjetblocks,” in Der Sowjetblock zwischen Vormachtkontrolle und Autonomie, ed. Richard Löwenthal und Boris Meissner (Köln: Markus Verlag, 1984), 11.

[2] Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict, 2nd Revised and Enlarged Ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), 433; J.F. Brown, “Relations Between the Soviet Union and Its Eastern European Allies: A Survey,” Rand Report R-1742-PR (November 1975), 11-12; Robin Alison Remington, The Warsaw Pact: Case Studies in Communist Conflict Resolution (Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 1971), 6, 8; David Holloway, “The Warsaw Pact in Transition,” in Holloway and Sharp, The Warsaw Pact, 19.

[3] Letter, Khrushchev to Gomulka, 15 July 1963, in Archiwum Akt Nowych (AAN), KC PZPR, XIA/103, pp. 523-24. My English translation of the document can be found on the website of the Parallel History Project at http://

[4] As early as 1962, China had begun to question its borders with the USSR, as demonstrated by over 5,000 incursions – orchestrated by Beijing – of Chinese men, women, and children to the Soviet side. In March 1963, China expressed its determination to renegotiate “unequal” treaties from the tsarist era regarding the Sino-Soviet border. Gittings, Survey of the Sino-Soviet Dispute, 158-59; “Soviet Army Invoked in Border Controversy,” 6 August 1964, Radio Free Europe Research Reports: USSR, 1964, Fiche 062.

[5] See Khrushchev’s two letters to Gomulka in Russian, 10 and 15 July 1963; the letter from Yu. Tsedenbal, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Mongolian People’s Republic, to Gomu_ka from 15 July 1963; and the memorandum from the Polish foreign ministry, “W sprawie ew. przyst_pienia Mongolskiej Republiki Ludowej do Uk_adu Warszawskiego [Regarding the Possib[le] Accession of the Mongolian People’s Republic to the Warsaw Pact],” 20 July 1963. AAN, KC PZPR, XI A/103, pp. 521-30. The documents, along with my translations, can also be found on the Parallel History Project’s website at

[6] The typed notes for the portion of Gomulka’s speech to the PZPR Central Committee in November 1964 regarding Khrushchev’s fall read in part: “Mongolia’s acceptance into the Warsaw Pact would have had an anti-Chinese tone. We could not agree to this. Com. Khrushchev agreed to our arguments against including Mongolia in the Warsaw Pact, and the matter was not officially raised at the time at the session of the Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Pact states. As far as we know, Romania also raised objections at the time.” AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. XI A/82, p. 445. In contrast, Hungary’s communist leader, Janos Kadar, claimed that Khrushchev decided to drop the offer of Warsaw Pact membership to Mongolia because the United States might interpret it in the wrong light following the limited test ban treaty. Likely, this was only the official excuse. “Excerpts of the Report to the Hungarian Politburo on the PCC [Political Consultative Committee] Meeting by the First Secretary of the HSWP [Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party], Janos Kádár (English Translation),” Parallel History Project website, “Sixth Meeting of the PCC, Moscow, 26 July 1963,” at php/documents/ collection_3/PCC_docs/1963_2_transl.htm.

[7] Gordon H. Chang, Friends and Enemies: United States, China, and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 246. On the test-ban treaty and the Sino-Soviet split, also see John Gittings, Survey of the Sino-Soviet Dispute: A Commentary and Extracts from Recent Polemics, 1963-1967 (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), 184-89; Walter C. Clemens, Jr., The Arms Race and Sino-Soviet Relations (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Publications, 1968), 56-7, 66. Averill Harriman, Kennedy’s chief negotiator with the Soviets in the limited test-ban talks, came to the same conclusion: that Moscow sought such a treaty in order to undermine China’s nuclear ambitions. Telegram TOSEC 195 from Harriman, 18 July 1963, in Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Averill W. Harriman Papers, Box 540, “JFK-LBJ, Trips and Missions, 1963-64, Test Ban Treaty (6)”; and telegram TOSEC 277 from Harriman, 23 July 1963, in ibid., “Test Ban Treaty (7).”

[8] Letter, Gomulka to Khrushchev, marked “Wersja Ostatnia,” 8 October 1963. AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2637, pp. 267-82.

[9] On Poland’s diplomacy, see Piotr Wandycz, "Adam Rapacki and the Search for European Security," in The Diplomats, 1939-1979, ed. Gordon A. Craig and Francis L. Loewenheim (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).

[10] Once Bonn’s “hands were bound” by a nonproliferation agreement, the memo continued, the Warsaw Pact could resume its struggle against the MLF from a more advantageous position. Moscow would also insist upon a withdrawal clause, which it would not hesitate to use—the memo read—if a “transfer” of nuclear weapons to the “West German revanchists” ever took place. See the memo in Russian marked “Strogo doveriitel’no [Strictly confidential] in AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2639, pp. 335-7.

[11] Gomulka put a question mark after this particular passage in the Soviet text. Ibid.

[12] Letter, Gomulka to Khrushchev, marked “Wersja Ostatnia,” 8 October 1963. AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2637, pp. 267-82.

[13] The Chinese had voiced their opposition to a nonproliferation agreement as early as October 1962. In a letter distributed to all the socialist states, the Soviets had responded by warning that if Beijing developed its own nuclear capability, it would lead to a “chain reaction” of nuclear armament in the West. The Soviets had cited as their key example Bonn’s alleged efforts to gain possession of nuclear weapons through the MLF. See the memorandum entitled, “Antwort der Sowjetregierung auf das Memorandum der Regierung der Volksrepublik China vom 20.10. 1962,” 20 April 1963, in Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv (SAPMO BA), J IV 2/202-284. In a similar letter from July 1963, the Soviets had declared in reference to the FRG and the MLF: “The standpoint of the Soviet Union with regard to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons does not leave open any backdoors for the imperialist states to distribute these weapons within their own camp -- for example, with the help of the aggressive NATO military bloc.” See the Soviet memorandum addressed to the “Government of the People’s Republic of China,” 17 July 1963, in ibid. In their memorandum from October 1963, the Soviets tried to gloss over the issue of China’s probable reaction to a nonproliferation treaty. Although France and China, the memo read, would “probably not agree to become parties to a declaration on nonproliferation,” this would still “not detract from the advantages that will flow to the socialist commonwealth from the conclusion of such a declaration.” See the memo in Russian marked “Strogo doveriitel’no [Strictly Confidential]” in AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2639, pp. 335-7.

[14] Letter, Gomulka to Khrushchev, “Wersja ostatnia,” 8 October 1963. AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2637, pp. 267-82.

[15] According to Gomu_ka’s discussion with Jan Ptasi_ski, his former ambassador to Moscow, on February 6, 1972. Jan Ptasilski, “Moje rozmowy z Wladyslawem Gomulk_, 1960-70,” Instytut Dokumentacji Historycznej Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej (IDH-PRL), PII/71, pp. 74-5.

[16] Letter, Gomulka to Khrushchev, “Wersja Ostatnia,” 8 October 1963. AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2637, pp. 267-82.

[17] Ibid.

[18] See the Russian memorandum, “Strogo doveriitel’no: Voprosii germanskogo mirnogo uregulirovaniya i normalizatsii polozheniya v Zapadnom Berline,” marked “Podano do wiadomo_ci, 31/X.63r,” AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2639, pp. 345-60. On the U.S. desire to prevent Bonn from developing its own nuclear capability or attaining a bomb from France, see Seaborg, Stemming the Tide, 83-4. Seaborg indirectly confirms Gromyko’s proposal. He reports that in 1965, McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor to both Kennedy and Johnson, “suggested that perhaps the Soviets would go back to a position they had seemed to adopt in 1963: they would consent to a nonproliferation treaty more or less on our terms and then withdraw from it if an MLF actually came into existence.” Ibid., 159.

[19] In the margins of the Soviet memorandum, Gomulka wrote: “[D]espite our opposition, the Sov. U. proposed to conclude the Treaty without . . . a prohibition . . . against the creation of a NATO multilateral nuclear force.” Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] On the meeting in _a_sk, see Nicholas W. Bethell, Gomu_ka: His Poland and His Communism (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969), 242; Sergei Khrushchev, Khrushchev on Khrushchev (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1990), 49; “Stenogram II Plenarnego Posiedzenia Komitetu Centralnego Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej,” 20-21.XI.64. AAN, KC PZPR, PZPR 1265, p. 341.

[22] “Stenogram II Plenarnego Posiedzenia,” pp. 337-39.

[23] It seems most likely that the two leaders discussed China, given the situation at the time and Gomu_ka’s subsequent statements about his meetings with the Soviet leader. See “Stenogram Plenarnego Posiedzenia,” p. 340. On Khrushchev’s threat regarding China, see “Notatka z posiedzenia Biura Politycznego i Sekretariatu KC w dn. 26 paldzierniku 1964r.,” 26 October 1964, in AAN, KC PZPR, p. 131, t. 120.

[24] Bethell, Gomulka: His Poland and His Communism, 242; Andrzej Albert [Wojciech Roszkowski], Najnowsza historia Polski, 1914-1993, 5th ed., Volume II (London: Puls Publications, 1994), 461. Also see “Stenogram II Plenarnego Posiedzenia Komitetu Centralnego Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej,” 20-21 November 1964. AAN, KC PZPR, PZPR 1265, p. 341.

[25] If Poland refused to increase its coal deliveries to the GDR, Khrushchev was threatening to curtail Moscow’s supply of oil to Poland in favor of the GDR. Ibid.; Ulbricht to Khrushchev, 9 January 1964, and ZK SED to ZK KPdSU, 7 April 1964, in SAPMO BA, J IV 2/202-41; “Protokól Nr. 98 posiedzenia Biura Politycznego w dniu 12 marca 1964r.,” AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 1731, pp. 2-4 and attachments.

[26] “Notatka z rozmów delegacji partyjno-rz_dowej PRL podczas pobytu w Moskwie w dniach 13-15.IV.1964r.,” AAN, KC PZPR, p. 113, t. 30, pp. 158-217. Also see Henryk Rólalski, Spojrzenie na RWPG: Wspomnienia, dokumenty, refleksje 1949-1988 (Warsaw: Pa_stwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1990), 190-91. Rólalski, then Poland’s Deputy Representative to the Comecon, was present at the meeting.

[27] Airgram, Embassy Warsaw to Department of State, 23 April 1964, in NARA, RG 59, DOS Central Files, 1964-66, Box 2591, POL 2-1 POL.

[28] See the notes from Ulbricht’s talks with Khrushchev on 11 June 1964 (“Besprechung am 11. Juni 1964”), in Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes (PA/AA), Ministerium für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten (MfAA), C 843/75, Frame 106.

[29] S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev on Khrushchev, 77.

[30] See Gomulka’s typed notes with handwritten annotations from the PZPR Politburo meeting on October 26, 1964 (“Notatka z posiedzenia biura Politycznego i Sekretariatu KC w dn. 26 pa_dzierniku 1964r.”), in AAN, KC PZPR, p. 131, t.120; IDH-PRL, Jan Ptasi_ski, “Moje rozmowy,” 1992, cz.II, PII/7b, k. 194. Also see the subsequent letters from the PZPR Central Committee to the CPSU Central Committee, calling for two stages (letter, 16 September 1964, and “Notatka,” n.d.), in AAN, KC PZPR, XI A/10, pp. 184-86, 221-31. For more details on the dispute over the editorial or “drafting” commission, see Gittings, Survey of the Sino-Soviet Dispute, Chap. XXVI.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid. For relevant excerpts from the Soviet letter, see Gittings, Survey of the Sino-Soviet Dispute, 225-26.

[33] On the Polish leader’s concern about the September announcement, see Rakowski, Dzienniki, 1963-66, 192.

[34] S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev on Khrushchev, 132.

[35] “Kampf den Mongolen,” Der Spiegel (5 August 1964): 17-20. According to Der Spiegel, Adzhubei had made similar comments to West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard. The documents released to date by the Federal Republic of Germany do not confirm this. State Secretary Carstens repeated a number of statements attributed to Adzhubei regarding China in a telegram to the West German ambassador in France, but he might have gleaned this from Adzhubei's discussions with other West German dignitaries. Telegram, State Secretary Carstens to Ambassador Knoke, Paris, 7 August 1964. AzAP 1964/2: 224-25.

[36] Kosthorst, “Sowjetische Geheimpolitik,” 279. Also see ibid.

[37] In another discussion he proclaimed: “For hundreds of years, we Russians have held the Mongolian storm against Europe in check so that Europe could move forward. China will soon have the atomic bomb. We must be alert and thus have our back free. Naturally, we will have to pay something for this. But speak with them in East Berlin first. We cannot afford to lose face.” Kosthorst, “Sowjetische Geheimpolitik,” 279.

[38] “Kampf den Mongolen,” Der Spiegel (5 August 1964): 17-20. Adzhubei or his colleagues apparently made similar comments to Heinz Lathe, the West German journalist who arranged his trip, in June 1964. Kosthorst, “Sowjetische Geheimpolitik,” 274.

[39] Aleksej Adzhubej, Gestuerzte Hoffnung: Meine Errinerungen an Chrushtschow, transl. Susanne Roedel (Berlin: Henschel Verlag, 1990), 341-42; Sergei Khrushchev, Khrushchev on Khrushchev, 132-33; Kostikow and Rolilski, Widziane z Kremla, 17; interview, Andrzej Werblan, 3 December 1993. In 1964, Kostikow was a referent in the Polish section of the CPSU Central Committee's Division for Contact with Fraternal Countries. Werblan was director of the Division for Science and Education in the Polish Central Committee.

[40] Kostikow and Rolilski, Widziane z Kremla, 17. That Adzhubei tried to deny in discussions with a Polish journalist in October 1964 that he had ever discussed the Polish border while in Germany provides circumstantial confirmation of Kostikow's account. See Szymon Jakubowicz, “Notatka z rozmów z towarzyszem Ad_ubem [Memorandum from a Conversation with Comrade Adzhubei],” 12 October 1964, in AAN, KC PZPR, Kancelaria Sekretariatu, 237/V-532, pp. 46-9.

[41] Rolicki, Edward Gierek, 57-8.

[42] Adzhubej, Gestuerzte Hoffnung, 341-2.

[43] ibid., 341-2. Also see Andropov’s comments to the East Germans in 1969 in “J.W. Andropow zur EinschAetzung der Lage [J.V. Andropov on Evaluation of the Situation],” 17 November 1969, in BStU, SdM 1473, pp. 11-15.

[44] ibid., 341-42; S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev on Khrushchev, 132-33.

[45] See Suslov’s speech to the CPSU Central Committee Plenum, 14 October 1964, as reprinted in “Kak snimali Khrushcheva,” Istoricheskii arkhiv 1993/1: 25.

[46] See Douglas Selvage, “The Warsaw Pact and Nuclear Nonproliferation, 1963-65,” Cold War International History Project Working Paper 32 (April 2001).

[47] “Notatka z rozmów w sprawie posiedzenia Komisji Redakcyjnej, zapowiedzianego na 1 marca 1965r.” AAN, KC PZPR, sygn. 2662, pp. 191-210.

[48] “Stenogram II Plenarnego Posiedzenia,” p. 324 (see note #23 above).


About the Author

Douglas Selvage

Former Title VIII Short-Term Scholar;
Research Associate (wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) at the Institute for History of the Humboldt University in Berlin.
Read More

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more