793.02/1–2150: Telegram

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


219. Embassy has given most careful consideration to request contained Deptel 8, January 51 for views and recommendations regarding reciprocal restrictive treatment Soviet bloc officials.2

Seems to us that problem, and consequent possibilities obtaining principal objective of ameliorating current conditions or deterring imposition further restrictions (particularly in the satellites, China, etc.) by resort to reciprocal sanctions, involves assessment fundamental Soviet concept diplomatic relations between East and West under existing or evolving circumstances. Bearing in mind historic Russian and Slavic suspicion foreign emissaries to which is now added the avowed hostility toward the free world of the progressively resurgent imperialism of the present Soviet dictatorship, obtention in the USSR of general operating conditions for foreign representatives comparable to accepted international free world standards looms as a major undertaking. A measure of the depth of Soviet opposition to be overcome may be reflected in Vishinsky’s3 remarks at last GA taking pride in fact that Soviet secretiveness had materially confused Hitlerite military planning. Principal impact this attitude on diplomatic missions is felt in relation to movements officials, size staffs, availability information, etc., where Soviets see security risks. Less essential in eyes Soviets to containment mission activities probably are such matters as housing, customs arrangements, etc., where situation now doubtless attributable as much to immediate reaction atmosphere animosity and gross Soviet inefficiency as to deep-seated estimate conflict of interests.

Essential magnitude of problem based our appraisal its engrained origins does not, however, in our view suggest that it should not be faced nor that under given circumstances some alleviation of restrictions now in force might be obtained or at least the imposition of additional ones deterred by reprisal. Broadest approach might be effort to convoke within UN framework international body to formulate comprehensive code to govern rights and immunities diplomatic and consular officials, and it is submitted that recent developments in China would appear likely to make free world peoples particularly receptive such project this time. On level direct reprisal, believe maximum [Page 1082] achievable in all probability might be improvement living conditions mission personnel with appreciably less likelihood alteration for better of possibilities for execution mission’s observational activities.

With regard to nature and method application reprisals, if instituted, presumably imposition of restrictions reciprocally comparable in all respects to those in effect in Soviet bloc would necessitate legislation. It can be argued that the submission of request for broad legislative authority to be exercised at the President’s discretion would have the advantage of placing the issue squarely before the country and obtaining Congressional support for funds to implement restrictive program. On the other hand, from standpoint effect on Soviets, Embassy inclines feel appearance such action as major policy determination likely magnify Soviet estimate extent engagement its prestige and consequently harden Soviet attitude. On balance, therefore, Embassy believes that at outset effort should be made confine countermeasures to those matters concerning which administrative action can be taken with minimum official publicity but with maximum practical effect.

View divergencies between treatment various respects several satellites Embassy does not believe uniform countermeasures on Soviet bloc basis can be contemplated but that counterrestrictions should be applied reciprocally light measures in force USSR and each satellite separately. At same time seems desirable consult other free nations with view their taking parallel counteraction were [where?] their missions similarly restricted.

As regards Soviet Union under present conditions, counterrestrictions on (1) housing, if feasible, (possibly through requesting Soviet Embassy personnel to reside in D.C.) and (2) free customs entry, and (3) the imposition of exit visa requirements, would seem have best chance achieve ameliorative effect. Countermeasures (1) as to travel outside D.C. and (2) denying automobile drivers licenses to Soviet officials might deter further restrictions here. In taking measures this nature believe should be made clear orally to Soviets that action predicated uncooperative attitude by Soviets in providing housing Moscow (have obtained no additional housing since 1945, six additional apartments have been promised for year and half) and willingness remove as soon as appropriate Soviet remedial steps taken. As to customs, Department aware quota system now in effect USSR. Presume we would have to determine in advance whether Soviet Embassy imports US exceed our customs duty quota level here which amounts about $150,000 annually.

Perhaps desirable conclude note caution. Department will, of course, appreciate that, with Soviet regime currently feeling its oats, impossible entirely exclude danger that imposition any direct countermeasures [Page 1083] could result additional restrictions here seriously compromising present marginal operation Embassy.

Whatever decision urge that prior to initiation of any contemplated direct action, proposed measures be communicated Embassy for study and further recommendation.

Service attachés generally concur this telegram, although would stress desirability institution this time such countermeasures as are determined to be feasible and appropriate, and request pass defense.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For more detailed documentation on the general policies and problems in the relations of the United States with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, see pp. 1 ff. Concerning the problems of the reduction in the size of staffs and the restrictions on travel movements of official representatives, see also the documentation on relations with the Eastern European satellite countries.
  3. Andrey Yanuaryevich Vyshinsky was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and at times led the Delegation of the Soviet Union at the United Nations.