The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews)

Dear Doc: My recent conversation with Vyshinski1 in connection with the Polish elections resulted in a rather lengthy and frank discussion on general matters which I did not include in my telegraphic report to the Department because of its irrelevance to the question in hand. However, I believe that it may be of interest to you and possibly some parts of it may be worth extracting for the Secretary.

After I had presented our case against the Polish Provisional Government and recounted the aggressive preelection measures it has taken, Vyshinski took the expected line of counter-attacking by charging Mikolajczyk2 and the Peasant Party with subversive activities contrary to the tenor of the Yalta and Potsdam Agreements, and took the expected line that the United States had previously expressed apprehension prior to the Rumanian and Bulgarian elections, which in his opinion were perfectly fair elections. I replied that our present concern about affairs in Poland was due to our knowledge of what had taken place in Rumania and Bulgaria. That the damage was done before and after the elections and we anticipated the same thing in Poland.

He then complained about the increasingly hostile attitude of certain sections of American Government, press and public opinion, and referred to the unreasonably anti-Soviet tenor of the articles in the Hearst and McCormick papers. I replied that it was for this same reason that I did not read Pravda or Izvestia, and while it was a well-known fact that these two newspapers could not maintain their consistently hostile attitude toward the United States without at least the acquiescence of the Soviet Government, the American newspaper groups to which he referred did not by any means reflect American [Page 520] Government opinion as he well knew and in general were antagonistic to Government policies. He said that at least they must reflect the attitude of a considerable part of American public opinion since American newspapers were published to be sold. I answered that it could not be denied that the attitude of American public opinion toward the Soviet Union had changed sharply since I left the United States a year ago. I reminded him that at the end of the war there was a vast reservoir of good will and admiration for the Soviet Union existing in the United States, much of which was now exhausted, and that in my opinion this change in attitude was due primarily to the policies of the Soviet Government and the utterances of Soviet statesmen. I suggested that in this respect the Soviet Government and its representatives abroad had made serious mistakes. He asked in what way, and I replied that neither the Kremlin nor the Foreign Office had in my opinion an accurate appreciation of the psychology of the Western Nations. For instance, I said, I sat in session after session in Paris and heard Mr. Molotov,3 Mr. Manuilski,4 and yourself to a lesser extent, and other representatives of the Soviet Union and associated nations give speech after speech which could only be characterized as antagonistic, violent and unjustified attacks on the United States, its representatives, and its institutions, and that these tactics of consistent aggression, while probably successful and appropriate during the party battles between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, were not calculated to produce a favorable reaction from Western statesmen or Western public opinion. He replied that in these conferences the Soviet Union was not attacking but was “defending” and had been driven to defense by the policies of the Western Democracies and their consistent attitude of superiority toward the Soviet Union. To this I replied, “For God’s sake, when will you Soviet statesmen get rid of your inferiority complex. There is no reason or excuse for such an attitude on the part of representatives of a nation as powerful as this one.” He answered, “Just as soon as the Western States treat us on a basis of complete equality.” He then added, “However, the atmosphere in New York was much happier than at any of the Paris conferences which you attended and I am sure that in Moscow it will be happier still.” I said, “Do you really think so when we get to the very interesting and important subject of Germany?” He assured me that he did indeed think so, and I left with my fingers crossed.

The interesting thing about this discussion was that several times during its progress Vyshinski took time to remind me that this was a [Page 521] personal and not a diplomatic conversation. He is the only Soviet Foreign Office official with whom one can argue this way. He loves argument and his keen, prosecuting attorney type of mind reacts quickly and sharply—occasionally so quickly that the Party line brakes do not have time to work.


[W.] Bedell [Smith]
  1. Andrey Yanuaryevich Vyshinsky, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union Regarding Ambassador Smith’s conversation with him on January 5, about the Polish elections, see footnote 3, p. 402.
  2. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Land Reform in the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, July 1945–February 1947; Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Polish Peasant Party.
  3. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  4. Dmitry Zakharovich Manuilsky, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.