Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Eastern European Affairs (Thompson)

The Ambassador1 said that he was very much disturbed at the course which Polish-American relations were taking and that he wished to talk quite frankly about them. In the course of a very long discussion the Ambassador expounded the thesis that there was a division in the Polish Government. One group felt that if Poland tied itself to the Soviet Union economically it would be brought down to the economic level of that country and that Poland should therefore develop its relations with the west to the maximum extent possible. The other group, and he observed that this included many non-communists, felt that Poland was already so far in the Soviet orbit that it would be impossible to hope for any assistance from the west and that the only possibility was for Poland to throw its lot in completely with that of the Soviet Union. The Ambassador observed that the [Page 422] recent developments in American-Polish relations furnished ammunition to the latter group. He mentioned specifically the following:

Polish inability to secure American assistance for the purchase of American cotton.
The difficulty in purchasing ships under the Ships Purchase Act.
The fact that former Ambassador Lane had held a press conference at which he bitterly attacked the Polish Government, at the State Department, in circumstances which implied that his remarks were inspired and supported by the Department of State.2
Indications which he had received in discussions with Congressmen that Poland might not even be able to obtain food relief.
Our failure to sign the agreement on compensation for the nationalization of American property in Poland. His government had thought that the negotiation of this agreement would be one of the most useful things it could do to diminish friction between the two governments but we had not ratified the agreement because of some legal technicality.

The Ambassador said he was fully aware of our position that the Polish elections had not come up to American standards but that he felt they had been as fair as possible in view of the necessity, imposed by circumstances, of preventing violent anti-Soviet elements from gaining control.

He added that he felt it was his duty as Ambassador to do everything possible to improve relations and he asked my opinion as to whether I though it would be useful for him to have a frank discussion of these problems with Mr. Acheson.

In reply, I confined myself chiefly to commenting upon the specific points the Ambassador had raised.

I said that with respect to the Polish desire to purchase ships, I understood that the Polish Government now desired to purchase one of these ships for cash. I said that one of the factors in determining which of the claimants should have priority was the extent to which the tonnage of the country’s shipping had already been restored. I said that in this respect Poland was comparatively not badly off. I said, however, that I understood that the Polish request was under active consideration and that there appeared to be a very good possibility that the only ship now available would be allotted to Poland.

With respect to Mr. Lane’s remarks, I pointed out that Mr. Lane had carefully explained to correspondents that he was receiving the press at the State Department solely as a matter of convenience because [Page 423] he was keeping his office there for a few days in order to clean up some of his affairs. I agreed that it was unfortunate that, despite this, the press had played up the fact that the conference was held in the State Department.

With respect to relief, I said I did not think I needed to assure him of the genuineness of the humanitarian feelings of the American people and government. I pointed out that the Department had included Poland in the countries for which authorization to grant relief had been requested, but said that of course actual relief would depend upon need and, in any event, this was now a matter for congressional action. I remarked that there were many people in Congress and a large part of the American public that thought that, because of the abuses that had taken place and the political misuse of American relief funds, we were frequently played for suckers and that there was therefore a natural tendency to wish to insure that no one took advantage of our humanitarian instincts.

With respect to the question of the compensation agreement, I said I could assure him of our desire to complete this agreement and that the legal point that had arisen was not a pretext. I showed him a copy of an opinion from the Legal Adviser in this matter that had just reached my desk, and said that we were holding almost daily meetings in an effort to see how this difficulty could be overcome. I said that despite our anxiety to complete the agreement we felt that we were obliged scrupulously to live up to our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.

With respect to the general question of Polish-American relations, I said I thought their improvement would depend largely upon two things. The first was the trend of developments in the general international situation, and the second was the course of developments within Poland itself. Pointing out that I was now speaking personally, I said that our policy was based upon a genuine interest in the Polish people and that if the Polish Government would succeed in winning the support of the Polish people and develop within Poland the individual liberties to which this country was so attached I was sure it would have a favorable effect on Polish-American relations. I said I did not think that this country would be willing to try to “buy” Polish orientation to the west but rather that it was up to Poland, by its actions, to merit assistance from this country.

I said that while I would be glad to request an appointment with Mr. Acheson for him at any time my personal opinion was that it would be better to defer the conversation until somewhat later.

The Ambassador said that while he would regard my remarks as personal he would be glad if I would bring his remarks to Mr. Acheson’s attention.

Llewellyn E. Thompson
  1. The Polish Ambassador, Jozef Winiewicz.
  2. On March 25, the Department of State announced the resignation of Ambassador Lane effective March 31. For the texts of Ambassador Lane’s letter of resignation to President Truman, dated March 21 and the President’s reply of March 25, see Lane, I Saw Poland Betrayed, pp. 301–302. The Ambassador’s personal press conference at the Department of State referred to here occurred on April 1.