811.3361/1–1545: Telegram

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

132. ReEmbs 4392, November 16, 4 p.m.2 I have received a letter from Dekanosov3 dated January 10 in reply to Kennan’s letter to him of November 16 proposing a reciprocal agreement for the prompt issuance of visas. Dekanosov says he has ascertained that certain delays in acting on visa applications did in fact occur at one time on both sides, but he is informed that these delays have now been eliminated and the Soviet Government consequently sees no necessity of concluding a special agreement on this subject.

We find this answer singularly unconvincing. Even if it were true that there were at present a momentary lull in our perennial difficulties in this score, this would give us no adequate assurances that such difficulties would not soon recur. Actually it is hard to find substantiation for Dekanosov’s statement that the delays have been eliminated. As recently as January 4 the chief of the consular section of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs called Kennan in and complained to him about long delays on our side in the issuance of visas. He handed Kennan a list of 30 cases in which the Soviet authorities considered that action had been unduly delayed. These were all cases of Soviet Naval personnel or officials wishing to proceed to Alaska. (See my 22 January 3, 4 p.m.4) While our information is not complete, we on our side have record of applications by Commander C. E. Allen of the Dental Corps entered September 18, by Francis E. Flavin, civilian employee of the military mission entered about August 10, and by Sergeant Wilfrey W. Towsey entered at [Page 810] Cairo about December 10, all of which have, to our knowledge, not yet been acted on.

No matter how unsubstantial Dekanosov’s reasoning, the fact remains that the Soviets do not now wish to enter into an agreement such as we have proposed. The interest we have shown by making this proposal will probably suffice to cause them to pull up their socks and treat our applications with reasonable promptitude for a certain length of time. If and when they again begin to lag behind, I think it will be up to us to find tangible means to make it evident that this practice has unfavorable effects on Soviet interests.

  1. Not printed; but see ibid., p. 932, footnote 80. The Counselor of Embassy, George F. Kennan, was then Chargé in the absence of the Ambassador, W. Averell Harriman.
  2. Vladimir Georgiyevich Dekanozov, Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  3. Not printed.