No. 743

711.5622/12–2251: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union ( Cumming) to the Secretary of State

top secret

1076. Re Embtel 1068, Dec 221 and Deptels 435 Dec 202 and 441 Dec 21.3 Dep FonMin Zorin recd me 1:30 p.m. today for half hour conversation. I cut initial amenities to bare minimum and opened by saying that while my instructions directed me to call on Gromyko because of gravity of matter which I was instructed to take up, matter was also very urgent one and therefore I was seeing him since no indication had been given me as to when Gromyko wld be available. I said that my govt had been gravely concerned at the implications of certain statements made by FonMin Vyshinsky in his speech on Dec 19 in GA Comite One4 and that unfortunately events of past 24 hours had fully justified my govt’s initial concern. I continued slowly and emphatically along lines set forth in ref Deptels. At end of my interview I left with him a summary of my remarks on plain paper reading as follows:

US Govt gravely concerned at whole course of developments in matter Amer airplane and crew which were forced down in Hung by Sov milit planes and detained by Sov, and later Hung auths. Sov Govt by now shld have been able to satisfy itself that plane was unarmed transport on innocent flight from Ger to Yugo with normal cargo and standard equipment; that it became lost apparently due navigational error and was over Hung wholly inadvertently. While action of Sov mil auths in forcing plane land and callously detaining crew incommunicado for 2 weeks had been noted, and Sov Govt cannot escape responsibility therefore, US Govt has therefore been negotiating with Hung Govt for return of crew and plane, inasmuch as Hung had confirmed reports that plane and crew had eventually been turned over to them. Despite irregularity of Sov and Hung failure to do so expeditiously, it had been assumed that return of crew and plane would be accomplished at early date without introduction of further obstacles.

However, Mr. Vyshinsky’s speech Dec 19 in Comite One of GA which US Govt had assumed was made in heat of debate and without [Page 1477] mature consideration, has gravest implications not only in its effect on Hung auths, but also because it is already evoking most adverse reaction from people of US.

In note addressed to Amer Leg at Budapest on Dec 21, and in public statement of same date, Hung Govt announced its intention bring flyers to trial. This rash step can only increase seriousness of sit.

Amer Leg at Budapest, acting upon instructions, has informed Hung FonOff of fact that Amer Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow has instructed discuss this matter with act Min Fon Affairs of USSR. Leg at Budapest has further urged that Hung Govt release and return airplane and crew without further delay.

If 4 innocent USAF flyers shld in fact be brought to trial on basis of such preposterous allegations as have been made in their case Amer people will be incensed and their reaction will be literally incalculable. It is obvious how harmful, indeed reckless, it is for Min for Affairs of Sov UN to speak publicly as Mr. Vyshinsky has done.

US Govt assumes that Sov Govt shares its interest in reducing serious tensions which already exist. Sov Govt must surely recognize grave danger inherent in rapidly worsening sitn arising out of arrest and contnd detention 4 Amer flyers. US Govt hopes most earnestly that Sov Govt will bring its influence to bear on Hung auth for immed release and return of flyers and airplane before matters deteriorate any further.

I endeavored by my tone to convey to Zorin any flavor of language lost in translation. He listened intently and when I had concluded said he cld not quite understand why I had come to Sov FonOff since US was already discussing matter with Hung which had sovereignty over its own frontiers and responsibility for judging questions of violations these frontiers.

I reminded him that earlier in conversation I had stated that my govt had hoped that its negotiations with Hung Govt wld result in a satisfactory solution and release of the flyers and air plane. This hope had not materialized. Sov Govt was inextricably involved in the case: Sov mil aircraft had forced Amer plane to land and Sov FonMin speaking at Paris used language difficult to believe cld be used by FonMin of any country—language which I myself cld hardly believe except that it was fully confirmed by publication in Sov press—words that cld have served to incite Hung Govt to bring these men to trial. My govt because of these facts in addition to well known relationship between Sov and Hung Govts and our belief and hope that Sov Govt shares US desire to lessen tensions in this extremely difficult period had been moved to take the matter up with Sov Govt.

[Page 1478]

Zorin made usual snide Sov reply to effect my words did not conform to my govts actions; measures US Govt has taken with relation Sov Union and a series of other countries do not lead to lessening of tension; appraisal which I gave of aircrafts “actions” not in accordance with evidence revealed in investigations by Hung and Sov auths; US statements do not correspond with actuality; altho matter within competence of Hung Govt he wld bring matter to attention of Sov Govt.

I re-emphasized earnestness and seriousness with which my govt had instructed me to express its views especially re Amer public reaction which cld increase beyond calculation. Zorin said that especially in the present sitn the possibility of lessening tension rested with US Govt; matter cld have been resolved if US Govt had given Hung satisfactory reply and mentioned something about punishment. Taking him up on this last point I reiterated that flyers had been forced down by Sov auths and detained by Hung auths who recd them from Sovs as result of which they were now held for trial in presumably Hung court. My govt had already made clear facts of matter; it obviously cld not have agreed to punishing innocent men or in fact any man in absence of investigation of facts—this not in accord with Amer system.

When Zorin stated question was one for Hung courts and Hung laws and that “Sovs unlike some other govts do not interfere in internal affairs other states” I inquired if this preliminary observation of his meant Sov Govt was unwilling take any action in matter. Zorin contnd say he saw no basis on which Sov Govt cld interfere but repeated that my communication would be transmitted his govt within competence of which decision rested. I concluded by saying that I wld hold myself in readiness to recv Sov Govt’s reply.

Conversation took place in calm but serious manner. I did not respond to one or two half hearted efforts on Zorin’s part to lighten tone toward end.

Dept please repeat interested posts.

  1. Telegram 1068 reported that Gromyko, with whom Cumming had previously made an appointment, would not be available and Zorin would receive Cumming instead. (711.5622/12–2251)
  2. Document 741.
  3. Supra.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 741.