Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State


I met Mr. Trygve Lie in the President’s outer office and talked with him for ten or fifteen minutes while waiting for our appointment.1 In the course of our talk he gave me the attached memorandum,2 which he said had been prepared by him with the assistance of the Assistant Secretaries General,3 including the Russian, and had the approval of all of them. Also Mr. Feller4 had worked on it and approved it. He said he was going to leave another copy with the President, which he subsequently did. He said he would expect no comment from either of us at this time and that perhaps after his return from Europe he might request us to comment upon it.

I read the memorandum hurriedly while I was sitting with him. The only comment I made was to draw his attention to the sentence at [Page 372] the top of page 4, “Clearly disarmament requires an atmosphere of confidence in which political disputes are brought nearer to solution.” I said that all the problems and difficulties we had required for their solution an atmosphere of confidence, which clearly could not exist so long as the Soviet system was engaged in aggressive designs to subvert, giving as illustrations Eastern Germany, Austria, and Indo China. He did not dissent from this, but seemed to believe that in some way the steps suggested by the memorandum would help. I did not debate the matter with him.

In our talk with the President, he said the following:

1. The UN was getting three portraits and it wished to get a fourth to hang in its new building. It had already arranged for portraits of Roosevelt,5 Churchill,6 and Stalin.7 They very much wished to obtain a portrait of the President. His request, which he asked the President to consider, was that the President should select an artist and that the UN would then employ the artist to paint a portrait of the President. The President said that he would be glad to consider this suggestion.

2. Mr. Lie then gave the President a copy of the memorandum which he asked the President to read at his leisure. He said that nothing could be done along the lines of the memorandum until the question of Nationalist member as the Chinese representative was terminated. He discussed this matter along familiar lines.

I asked him whether it was his view that merely terminating Chinese membership would solve the question or whether he was also implying the positive action of seating the Communist member would be necessary. He was inclined to think that the first would lead to the return of the Russians to the UN. I told him that I had understood that he had understood from Mr. Malik8 that they would return only for the purpose of voting in the Communists. He said that it was his impression that Mr. Malik had changed his view on this, but Mr. Lie was not sure.

3. He then went on to discuss how important a part the UN had played in stopping Communism in Greece, in Korea, and Indonesia. I did not say, but I thought, that he had left out the most important element, which was American economic and political and military help.

4. He then said he thought Stalin was misinformed about American policy and intentions and that he had once said this to Stalin, who then sent for and showed him a large bundle of clippings from the American [Page 373] press to indicate that he was up to date on American thought. Mr. Lie still thought, however, that he was misinformed and that a meeting with President Truman would be of great help.

The President said that he had met with Stalin at Potsdam;9 that he had gone there with every desire to work out problems, and that he had been completely disillusioned on the usefulness of such meetings. Mr. Lie said that the President’s power and prestige in 1950 was very different from his position in 1945. The President said that on numerous occasions he had said he would be willing to invite Stalin, as he had invited other Chiefs of State, to be his guest in Washington, but that he was not going anywhere else to meet him.

I said that the nature of our difficulties with the Russians was of such a character that it did not seem to me that changing the level of discussion was going to produce solutions. We had to change the environment in which the difficulties were discussed.

5. Mr. Lie and the President then agreed on what Mr. Lie should say to the press, which was merely that he had come to call on the President, whom he had not seen since the laying of the cornerstone, in order to have a general talk about UN matters before going on an extended trip. He said he would not add anything else. The President agreed to this statement.

  1. The Secretary-General was scheduled to leave for a visit to certain European capitals on April 21; for his account of the genesis of this trip, see Trygve Lie, In The Came of Peace (New York, 1954), pp. 262–264 and pp. 275–283 passim. Mr. Lie had requested an opportunity to see President Truman before leaving, to explain to the President his views on the “present situation” in the United Nations. This referred to the existing impasse in the Security Council and other United Nations organs occasioned by the “walk-outs” of the Soviet Union beginning with the Security Council on January 13 over the question of Chinese representation; for documentation on this subject, see pp. 186 ff. A briefing memorandum prepared for the President on this matter is not printed (memorandum for the President, April 19, File No. 330/4–1950). The memorandum also included a brief consideration of the impending problem of the appointment of a new secretary-general, Mr. Lie’s term being due to expire in February 1951; for documentation on this subject, see pp. 87 ff.
  2. Infra.
  3. The Assistant Secretaries General included Constantin E. Zinchenko, Department of Security Council Affairs; David K. Owen, Department of Economic Affairs; Henri Laugier, Department of Social Affairs; Victor Hoo, Department of Trusteeship and Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories; Benjamin Cohen, Department of Public Information; Ivan S. Kerno, Legal Department; Shamaldharee Lall, Conference and General Services; and Byron Price, Administrative and Financial Services.
  4. Abraham H. Feller, General Counsel and Director, Legal Department of the United Nations Secretariat.
  5. Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, 1933–1945.
  6. Winston L. S. Churchill, British Prime Minister, 1940–1945.
  7. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Generalissimo. Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union.
  8. Yakov A. Malik, Representative of the Soviet Union on the Security Council.
  9. For documentation on the Potsdam Conference, July 16–August 2, 1945, see Foreign Relations, 1945, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 2 vols.