192/1676: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

491. Your telegram No. 131, August 29, 7 p.m. Notwithstanding the repeated courtesies extended by this Embassy and the Department to the Soviet authorities during the past years the deliberate refusal of the Soviet authorities to reciprocate or to extend even common courtesies to the Embassy and the members of its staff persists. I discussed the matter at length with Oumanski54 2 days ago who made it quite clear that he and the Soviet authorities take the position that we should continue as in the past to immediately extend [Page 851]every possible courtesy and facility while expecting nothing in return under pain of being accused of retaliation, the consequences of which, he tells me, will be the irritation of the Soviet authorities and a complaint by him to Mr. Hull in person on his return. It is my opinion after discussing the subject at length with the members of the Embassy staff that unless we take a firm position at the present time we must expect a steady encroachment resulting in increased demands upon us and further curtailment of the meager courtesies now accorded us. A general review of the courtesies heretofore requested on both sides satisfies me that the vast preponderance of requests emanates from the Soviet Embassy in Washington to the Department and from the Foreign Office to this Embassy and, as but few are ever granted this Embassy in return, I cannot see how this Embassy could be subjected to suffer any substantially greater inconvenience than it has been suffering for years and continues to suffer. I am convinced that the request made to the Department by the Soviet Chargé d’Affaires in respect of the Kim which request had first been addressed to this Embassy which advised the Foreign Office that no action would be taken pending a final decision in respect of Dr. Nelson is an attempt either to drive a wedge between this Embassy and the Department or more likely an attempt to ascertain whether I now have and will continue to have the full support of the Department in taking what Oumanski was pleased to call “retaliatory measures”. As the Soviet authorities are aware of the contents of the Embassy’s No. 481, of August 28, 5 p.m., the prestige of the Embassy would undoubtedly be seriously undermined by passing the Kim through the Canal unless properly documented. I urge that the Canal authorities be given the necessary instructions to refuse entry to the Kim until properly documented or until allowed to enter at the State Department’s request. Assuming in the last analysis and in order not to delay his departure Dr. Nelson must submit to the requirement made of him, I believe that the compensating inconvenience to the Kim and particularly the demonstration of a firm attitude by the Department, in supporting the Embassy, will result in greater caution by the Soviet authorities in the future in refusing common courtesies to the Embassy.

I am anxious not to draw the subject of visas into the present controversy for there is evidence that as a result of my insistence action has already been taken to put the granting of visas on a more reciprocal basis. Several officials of the Foreign Office have stated to me that strict instructions have been issued along the lines suggested by me to expedite the granting of visas to Americans and there has been evidence during the past 10 days of a marked improvement in this respect. I regard the visa matter as satisfactorily disposed of for the time being and therefore consider it unwise to inject the subject of visas into the present situation.

[Page 852]

As to the Red Army troupe I would suggest that the granting of customs facilities be not withheld although I trust that matter is disposed of satisfactorily, but that in the meantime the Soviet Chargé d’Affaires be told that the Department has the granting of facilities to the Red Army troupe under consideration.

I shall be glad to be advised telegraphically of the action taken by the Canal authorities with respect to the Kim.

  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. Temporarily in the Soviet Union.