311.6115/8–1348: Telegram

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

confidential

1615. Our handling of alleged “abduction” cases of two Soviet school teachers demonstrates we still have a long way to go in terms of tempo and efficiency before we can meet these people in the propaganda field. While all of the elements of this case appeared to give us an immediate opportunity to expose the inquisitorial terror of this police state, I was obliged this morning to hear over BBC only the fantastic [Page 1040] Soviet corruption of this story.1 Their version, which is published in all Soviet papers this morning and was broadcast by Radio Moscow during the night, is in the form of an official Soviet communiqué, containing the text of Molotov’s protest handed me Wednesday2 midnight (Embtel 1592, August 12) plus the following misleading excerpts from my response: “Mr. Smith promised to bring to the attention of the Government of the United States the declaration of the Soviet Government and assured Mr. Molotov that a strict investigation of the facts set forth in that declaration would be undertaken by the American authorities.” Note that this omits categorical denial of any official involvements US authorities, as alleged by Molotov (Embtel 1590, August 12),3 and implies that we accepted as “facts” the absurdities in the Soviet document.

This case is now some days old. We received no official word about it until Deptel 940 arrived this morning, although it could be assumed from the beginning that Soviet Government would build it up; that probable Soviet retaliation would eventually jeopardize Embassy’s non-diplomatic staff (they were warned of this danger Wednesday morning); and that we would be called on to deal with case here.

It seems to me we should do better than this. Part of blame belongs to me, as I should have soundeda note of warning as soon as the matter was first mentioned on radio. But we have been swamped—realize that Department is, too—and probable Soviet tactics in any given case should now be as easy to estimate at home as they are here. We cannot of course control what is printed in Pravda, but with 30 hours notice we should have been able to reach friendly organs like BBC, if not before, at least on the heels of the Soviet release.

Smith
  1. Ambassador Smith reported in telegram 1606 on August 12 that the Soviet press had sprung the school teachers “abduction” story in three columns of Tass (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union) despatches, and that there was a one column editorial in Pravda (811.42700 (R)/8–1248). He further stated in telegram 1619 on August 13 that the Soviet press editorials continued to condemn the “abductions.” (800.9111 WR/8–1348) Later on, however, he indicated in telegram 1712 of August 22 that the further developments in the Kasenkina case were being ignored in the Soviet press (311.6115/8–2248).
  2. August 11.
  3. Not printed; but see footnote 1, p. 1035.