124.612: Telegram

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

secret   niact
us urgent

139. Personal attention Hickerson.1 More than two weeks have passed since my last effort with Vyshinski on customs question, and no reply to this or subsequent follow-up letters received. Durbrow will visit FonOff today or tomorrow and inform that our supplies have dwindled to point where we must act one way or another and if no decision reached within ten days we be obliged assume our requests for reconsideration refused. If, as I anticipate, no reply made by end ten-day period or if our appeal refused, believe I should then see Molotov and, after reviewing consideration given in Deptel 1953, November 18,2 [Page 797] inform him that my Government has reluctantly come to conclusion that representation our respective countries should be on basis equal strength,3 same considerations applying as in our previous conversation regarding consulates. Maximum working strength it has been possible for us to maintain in Soviet Union is 120, and it is expected that total Soviet personnel US (including Amtorg4 et cetera), will be reduced to same number within 60 days; that recent additional restrictions which we have protested may necessitate further reductions of US representation, and when decision made FonOff will be informed.

I am sure FonOff is waiting to see if we are bluffing, and I feel first reduction Soviet personnel to equivalent our present strength should be carried out whether subsequent reductions are made or not. However, this is a matter on which it is easy to get “localitis”, and I want to be certain our action here is completely in accord with Department policy and can be supported at home. Please advise.5

Department note our figure 120 includes Vladivostok] and 18 working wives, without whom we would require working replacements.

  1. John D. Hickerson, Director of the Office of European Affairs.
  2. Secretary of State George C. Marshall reviewed in this telegram, not printed, the lack of reciprocity in the treatment of the respective diplomatic missions. The Soviet Government had failed for a long time to “make available offices and quarters sufficient [to] enable us [to] maintain adequate staff” or to obtain adequate services and facilities for the American Embassy. Recently the Soviet Government had “instituted customs procedure which has been so applied as to make almost impossible maintenance” of the already inadequate staff in Moscow, quate services and facilities for the American Embassy. Recently the Soviet authorities “that unless steps are taken promptly by Sov[iet] Gov[ernment] to insure facilities, goods and services required for efficient operation” of the Embassy in Moscow, then the United States Government “will reluctantly be obliged to consider requesting [the] Sov[iet] Gov[ernment to] reduce its representation here to [the] size [of] our representation [in the] Sov[iet] Union.” The Secretary concluded: “This step has President’s concurrence.” (124.611/11–1847)
  3. On November 19, 1947 the Ambassador reported in telegram 3236 from Moscow, not printed, that he had called upon Foreign Minister Molotov and had discussed with him the difficulties specified in this telegram and the future implications. He added that “we had no intention of applying restrictive measures to Soviet personnel in US so long as there was reasonable prospect [of] our arriving at some equitable arrangement” with the Soviet Union. Molotov promised to “look into matter personally, but stated that rules were rules and some people like them and others did not.” A marginal comment here reads: “This doesn’t sound encouraging.” (124.611/11–1947)
  4. The Amtorg Trading Corporation was the official purchasing and sales agency in the United States of the Soviet Union.
  5. The Department approved the procedure here suggested in telegram 120 to the Embassy on January 30. In telegram 150 on February 4 Ambassador Smith was told that it was believed desirable to prepare the American public for developments before he informed Molotov of the decision to place representation on a reciprocal basis. The Department thought that he should brief the American correspondents in Moscow on the background, and that it would be preferable to have the stories originate there because he could supply details not available in the Department. (124.612)