97. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

334. Subject: Cultural Exchanges.

1. Ambassador and DCM had long discussion current situation re cultural exchanges with Dobrynin and Kornienko at Spaso lunch July 19.

2. Ambassador made strong plea that Dobrynin use his influence see Cultural Exchanges Agreement2 does not go down drain as it is in danger of doing thanks to Soviet actions. He referred to recent Soviet cancellation of plans participate in Los Angeles track meet and to go through with basketball games here.3 He said decision had to be made literally now on hand tools exhibit scheduled to open August 1 in Kharkov. Visas had to be issued and permission given for forwarding exhibit materials held up at Soviet border. Amb Kohler noted exchanges were just about all that was left that was not frozen into immobility in U.S.-Soviet relations and thought it important they not be allowed to dry up. He noted Exchanges Agreement had been signed only few months ago and that nothing had changed in international field in interim despite contrary Soviet claims. Furthermore, these exchanges should be divorced from politics and continued on their merits. Even from Kremlin’s point of view—which he tried to understand—contin [Page 298] uation of broad program of popular exchanges seemed consistent with distinction they always professed to see between “ruling circles” and people.

3. Dobrynin was neither very specific nor very encouraging in his reply. He said we would get our reply (presumably on hand tools exhibit) “rather soon” but general tenor of his comments suggested we would not be pleased with reply. At one point, he indicated exchange program would be carried out on a reduced basis. He said that problem was being debated at present time with some for and some against continuation. Dobrynin of course echoed Gromyko’s line that what happened in cultural field was “up to you”. He insisted that such program could not be divorced from political developments. In this connection, both Dobrynin and Kornienko showed considerable sensitivity to Ambassador’s charges Soviet Government directly responsible for decision to cancel USUSSR sports meets. Dobrynin argued at some length (but unconvincingly) that Soviet public opinion was responsible for attitude of Soviet Government in this matter.

4. Dobrynin said that every night VOA (Russian) very conveniently totals up numbers of U.S. aircraft involved in raids over North Vietnam. Soviet listeners, who remember very well Nazi bombings during World War II, cannot but react with revulsion at such news. This is having cumulative effect in slowly but surely drying up reservior of good will toward U.S. which he did not deny existed there. Amb Kohler commented that even if this were the case, VOA has a policy of telling the truth.

5. Comment: Seems clear to us Dobrynin’s advanced recall on consultation connected with this problem and as Dept will realize from above, he carefully avoided committing self as to where he stood in debate over future of exchanges.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Director’s Subject Files, 1963–1967, Entry UD WW 101, Box 3, Field—Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1966. Confidential. No time of transmission is indicated; received in the Department on July 21 at 6:31 p.m.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 82.
  3. The Soviets cancelled these sporting events in protest of the U.S. war in Vietnam. (Peter Grose, “Soviet Athletes Spurn U.S. Meet in War Protest,” New York Times, July 12, 1966, p. 1)