Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Armour)

Participants: Mr. Norman Armour, Assistant Secretary of State
Mr. L. E. Thompson, Deputy Director for European Affairs
Mr. Jozef Winiewicz, Polish Ambassador

The Ambassador stated he had not come in on any specific question but wished to have a discussion of the general situation. He said that [Page 517] tension in Eastern Europe had been increasing as a result of the deteriorization in relations between the great powers, and the people were openly talking of the possibility of war between the Soviet Union and the West. He said he thought this was attributable to a number of developments such as the reports concerning the reactivization of the American air field at Mellaha,1 Mr. Bevin’s2 proposal for a Western European Union apparently to include pacts designed to operate not merely against a revival of German militarism but also against another power;3 the despatch of American Marines to the Mediterranean; the pressure in Congress, and in the American press, for an embargo on shipments to Eastern Europe, etc. He pointed out that this tension was a cause for unrest in Poland and gave encouragement to underground activity. He endeavored to give the impression that it was the popular feeling to which he was referring and not the reaction of his Government. He asked if I would comment on these developments.

I said I believed I need not list the long series of developments which he had not mentioned such as the formation of the Cominform which had taken place in Poland; the misrepresentation of the purpose of the program for European recovery and the efforts being made to frustrate it; developments in the Far East, including Korea, etc., as I was sure the Ambassador was familiar with these events. I also pointed out that it was not surprising that the people of Poland were alarmed in view of the interpretation which the Polish press placed upon many of these developments and the astonishing characterizations that were published in Poland of the alleged motives of the United States. I said I could only assure the Ambassador that our motives in Europe were to bring about conditions of stability and to promote the economic reconstruction which was so urgently necessary as a result of the devastation caused by the war.

The Ambassador acknowledged that much of the material published in the Polish press was deplorable but he charged that the American press was also guilty of publishing alarming and tendencious reports. He said that the failure to conclude a mutual assistance pact with France had been a severe blow to pro-Western Poles. He also stressed the fact that he and those persons in Poland who desired to strengthen ties with the West were handicapped because they were now unable to show that Poland was getting any assistance from the West. He mentioned that UNRBA had made a great impression on the Polish people who realized that this aid came chiefly from the US. He said that the [Page 518] UNRRA mission was now gone and unfortunately had not been replaced by the relief mission which he had hoped would demonstrate our continued interest in Poland. He then referred to the proposed World Bank loan and said that negotiations were proceeding at a painfully slow rate. They were held up now chiefly on the term of the proposed credit, the Bank offering up to eight years for amortization whereas Poland was requesting 15 years. With respect to the World Bank loan I pointed out that this was an international institution although I imagined it was difficult for Europeans to understand the extent to which this was true. I could assure him that the officials of the Bank never let us forget it. It was true, however, that the Bank was a financial institution which obtained its funds chiefly by the sale of its securities on the American market. Thus the Bank had to take into account the opinions of the American investor and in this regard the Ambassador must be aware that developments in Poland had not been encouraging to them. I referred the Ambassador to the Secretary’s statements on the European Recovery Program and said that it was clear that the US Government favored the development of trade between Eastern and Western Europe as well as with this country.

The Ambassador also referred to speculation in the press because of the fact that the high-powered Polish Delegation had gone to Moscow for the trade negotiations. He said that, speaking frankly, the reason for this was that in dealing with the Russians they had found, as doubtless we had done, that the only way to accomplish anything was to go straight to the top. He said he had received few details concerning the agreement4 reached in Moscow but undertook to give the Department information as soon as he received it.

It was pointed out to the Ambassador in reply that in addition to UNRRA the US had given Poland an Export-Import Bank loan and a substantial surplus property credit.5 Despite these steps and the very material assistance which had been accorded by this country both officially and privately, political relations between our two countries had deteriorated, partly, it is true, because of the deterioration in the overall political situation, but chiefly because of the actions of the Polish Government itself. I said I referred to developments within Poland, such as the Polish elections, and other developments with [Page 519] which he was familiar. I said I also wished to express the hope that in any weighing up of what the US had done for Poland, I hoped the Polish people would not forget the role which the US had played in their behalf in two wars. When the Ambassador interjected that these factors were well understood by our friends in Poland I pointed out that it would be helpful if these friends were allowed to express themselves more freely.

I took this occasion to tell the Ambassador that there were several problems in our relations which could be resolved by action on the part of the Polish Government which we had been awaiting for some time. These were (1) the conclusion of the lend-lease agreement. I emphasized the generosity of our offer and could not understand the failure of the Polish Government to accept it. (2) The compensation agreement for the nationalization of the American property and (3) the needs of our Embassy for zloty at an equitable rate. I pressed strongly on all three points.

The Ambassador acknowledged that our offer of a lend-lease settlement was generous and said that he had been informed that this matter would be dealt with as soon as the Polish Delegation returned from Moscow. He expected a reply shortly. He pointed out that the nationalization agreement had first been held up by the US because of legal difficulties. He had tried to convince his government that it was only these legal difficulties that had caused the delay but despite his own conviction there had been a feeling in Warsaw that political factors were involved. He had urgently requested a renewal by his government of authorization to conclude the agreement and expected to receive it soon. On the question of funds for our Embassy he expressed great optimism and said he felt sure this would be resolved shortly after Ambassador Griffis returned to Poland.6

The Ambassador also alluded to the activities of the “green international”7 and the fact that Mikolajczyk’s8 articles were being distributed in Poland. He said that these activities encouraged the Polish underground which led the Polish Government to take further measures to repress it and that these police measures caused increased anti-Polish feeling in the US.

I concluded the interview by repeating that the policy and objectives of the US Government in Europe were centered on the European Recovery Program and by stressing that I was sure the Ambassador [Page 520] personally recognized the reconstruction of Europe and not its domination was our aim.

Norman Armour
  1. In January 1948 it was disclosed that the British authorities had granted the United States temporary permission to use Mellaha Air Base outside Tripoli, Libya.
  2. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. For documentation regarding the interest of the United States in the establishment of a Western European Union, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  4. Reference here is to the long-term trade agreement between the U.S.S.R. and Poland and the agreement concerning the delivery of Soviet industrial equipment to Poland on credit, both signed in Moscow on January 26, 1948.
  5. Reference to the United States-Polish agreement on economic and financial cooperation of April 24, 1946, under the terms of which the United States opened an Export-Import Bank credit of $40 million to the Polish Government of National Unity to purchase locomotives and coal cars, and extended credits up to $50 million to Poland for the purchase of U.S. surplus property held abroad. For documentation regarding this agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. vi, pp. 374 ff.
  6. Ambassador Stanton Griffis, who was at this time in Washington for consultation, returned to Warsaw in February 1948.
  7. The reference here is to the International Peasants Union; for documentation regarding the attitude of the United States towards anti-Communist émigré organizations, see pp. 396 ff.
  8. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, leader of the Polish Peasant Party who fled from Poland in October 1947.