Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert A. Martin
So in the autumn of 1962, some of us stayed in Geneva. In the autumn of 1963, it was decided that we would not have test ban subcommittee meetings in Geneva, the ENDC would close down entirely and all the activity would move to the UN First Committee in New York. So I was detailed from Geneva to New York to be involved with the US mission group that would support the discussion of arms control and disarmament issues in the First Committee. It was during that period that the assassination occurred. So I was in New York at that time.
There was no particular impact on the delegation or in the process of discussing arms control and disarmament issue, it was all part of the larger process that... I am sure we all recall very vividly the total sadness and great shock at what had happened. Many people say that anyone who was alive knows where he or she was on December 7, 1941 and the same is true for people with respect to November 22, 1963.
Q: Did you have any contact at your level with the Soviets at all?
MARTIN: Absolutely. Not in early days in the beginning of the conference in 1962, but over the years as we got into the early summer, etc., I was involved, among other things, in drafting the reports that the co-chairmen would send on behalf of the eighteen member conference to the UN on activities of the conference. That was US-Soviet, so I had the beginnings of a fair amount of interactivity with the Soviets through that process. And, of course, I went to all the meetings and was charged in many cases to doing the reports on the meetings. It was interesting, the Soviets have a manner of speaking, and I don't speak Russian so I couldn't listen in Russian but would listen to the English and the translation would occasionally be “Life itself teaches, history shows,” and whenever you heard that you knew something special was coming so you would sort of come out of your revery and take a couple of notes.
Another amusing point between Russian and English, we would say, “from time to time” and in Russian it comes out “to time from time.”
Q: As people got to know each other more did things become easier?
MARTIN: Certainly it was easier in terms of personal relationships and people understood one another pretty well as to where they were coming from and what they stood for and the limits of wiggle room that they might have, etc. But, as I mentioned earlier, it was perfectly clear that unless and until we and the Soviets made a political decision at the same time we wanted something, nothing was going to happen. If that great coming together were to occur than anything was possible.
Q: How about the Cuban missile crisis, did that put things on hold?