Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Webb)1

Participants: The Under Secretary, Mr. Webb
Dr. Peter Voutov, Charge d’Affaires, ad interim of Bulgaria
Mr. Campbell, EE

Dr. Voutov called on me at 5:30 today at the Department’s request. I told him that I wished to talk about the present deplorable situation in relations between Bulgaria and the United States brought about by the conduct of the Bulgarian Government, particularly the attempt to involve the American Minister, Mr. Heath, in the present trial now in progress in Sofia. In my brief remarks to him I made the following points:

Mr. Heath on December 3 made a statement to the Assistant Foreign Minister of Bulgaria protesting against the inclusion in the published official indictment of Kostov and others of manifestly and demonstrably false statements concerning alleged conversations between Heath and Kostov.2 Mr. Heath made clear that the Bulgarian Government was in a position to establish the falsity of these allegations, since no such conversation ever took place, and requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use its good offices to have his denial published in the Bulgarian press. Mr. Heath stated further, on instructions of his government, that the United States took a serious view of the Bulgarian Government’s use of unwarranted and false statements concerning US representatives in Bulgaria and that in these circumstances the United States Government could not be expected to place [Page 374] faith in the Bulgarian Government’s intentions with respect to the maintenance of normal and friendly relations between the two countries.
Heath’s protest of December 3 was entirely justified, because the statements attributed to him were patent falsehoods which the Bulgarian Government could and had a duty to correct.
The purpose of Heath’s statement was not merely to establish the truth concerning the allegations in question but also to impress upon the Bulgarian Government the seriousness with which the United States has viewed its recent actions culminating in the charges against the American Minister in Sofia and the Bulgarian Government’s apparent intention to disregard international law and comity in conducting its relations with the United States.
The Bulgarian Government has ignored Minister Heath’s request to publish his denial. Moreover, its course of action since his statement was made has served only to increase the concern with which the United States Government regards relations between the two countries. The Bulgarian press, which is under the control of the government, has continued its unwarranted attacks on the United States and on the American Minister. The official Otechestven Front published on December 8 an article signed by a responsible official of the Bulgarian Foreign Office directly accusing the United States Government and its official representatives of engaging in espionage in Bulgaria.
The United States Government takes the most serious view of such deliberate actions which must inevitably affect relations between the two countries, already brought to a low state by the restrictions and indignities to which the American Legation in Sofia has been subjected for some time.

I requested Dr. Voutov to communicate urgently with his Government the substance of my remarks. He stated that he was not fully informed on everything that had happened recently in Sofia in connection with the trial and with the position of Minister Heath but that he had seen a good deal about it in the newspapers. He said that when Heath first arrived in Bulgaria two years ago the Bulgarian Government had hoped for normal and friendly relations with the United States and was well disposed toward Heath himself. In regard to the present situation of Mr. Heath in Sofia, particularly in connection with the Kostov trial, Dr. Voutov said that the Bulgarian Government of course had a reasonable basis for its course of conduct. He suggested that it might be better to wait until all the evidence was in and the trial was over before coming to any final conclusions. He said that he would, as I had requested, communicate immediately with his Government and that he would inform the Department in the event that his Government wished to reply through the Legation here. As the conversation came to an end I stressed to him once more the serious view which the Department took of the situation and stated that the US Government could not ignore deliberate and unwarranted actions [Page 375] which were in complete disregard of normal practices in the conduct of international relations.

James E. Webb
  1. The substance of this conversation was the subject of a statement issued to the press by the Department of State on December 12; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, December 26, 1949.
  2. Regarding the conversation under reference here, see telegram 1011, December 3, from Sofia, p. 365.