Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 204
Notes by the Special Assistant to
the President (Jackson)
on a Dinner at the Residence of the Soviet High Commissioner for
Germany, Berlin, January 29, 1954
After handshakes all around the party remained standing and drank a glass of vermouth. Conversation was sparse and artificial. Gromyko, who looked like death warmed over, tried to be jovial by indulging in some banter with Semenov about his baldness which Gromyko attributed to his long tenure as High Commissioner. High Commissioner Conant’s ample locks could only be explained by the fact that he had held office for only one year. This spirited exchange took place in the center of the large, hall-like room at the far end of which the dinner table was set. In the section of the room where we were standing there were two tables at opposite sides of the room surrounded by exactly the right number of chairs [Page 879] and loaded with fruit, candy, glasses, bottles of Russian cognac, plates and sugar bowls, indicating that after dinner we were to break up into equal sized groups, sufficiently separated to prevent easy overhearing of the other group’s conversation.
Shortly, Molotov led a move toward the dinner table, lavishly set with china, silverware, four wine glasses, a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Georgian wine for every two persons and profusely spread with hors d’oeuvre type cold dishes.
The Russian hosts started the vodka act almost immediately. They all drew special attention to the vodka bottles which have several slivers of red pepper lying on the bottom. They all explained that the red pepper did not increase its intoxicating quality but simply served to give it a sharper taste.
A series of cold dishes, led off by caviar, were served, fish, meat, salads, vegetables.
Secretary Dulles sat between Molotov and interpreter Troyanovsky. Commissioner Conant sat approximately opposite Dulles.
Quite early, Mr. Molotov arose for his first toast, to Secretary Dulles. Molotov, who looked somewhat tired when we sat down, apparently enjoys the toasting ritual. His whole face changes. The downward curving lines of his face seem to develop an upturn and he smiles and twinkles. His humor, even in translation, has a really entertaining edge and never seems heavy.
After toasting the Secretary, Molotov toasted Dr. Conant, Merchant, Bohlen, Jackson and Frank Nash. He was a trifle confused on Nash’s exact status and because of his Defense Department connection assumed that he was a military “character”. Nash disabused him and then the Secretary referred to Nash as a bridge between the Defense and State. This idea started some lively chatter winding up with the suggestion that if Nash continued to do such a good job between Defense and State, he should be given the job of handling the bridge between Washington and Moscow. Molotov commented that in such a job the task of avoiding collisions would be heavier.
The Secretary during the course of the dinner referred to the fact that the President had asked him to convey his regards to Mr. Molotov whom he remembered meeting during the war. There seemed to be a little doubt as to exactly when the meeting had taken place, but Molotov cleared that up, the first time in Washington in 1942 and the second time in Moscow in 1945.
The President and President Voroshilov were naturally toasted and then Mr. Molotov got all wound up in a second toast to the Secretary in which he was laying it on rather thick. All of a sudden he stopped and said “I suppose I should not be speaking this way because I will be accused of polemics”, a reference to the [Page 880] constant appearance of the word polemic during the Conference meetings where almost all speakers announce that they will avoid it and then launch into it.
All the other American guests each got their toast and the Secretary replied for the whole group.
Having no previous experience in such dinners I do not know if the consumption of vodka was up to standard. However, there seemed to be an impressive array of empty vodka bottles and an equally impressive array of erect Americans.1
- For a record of the conversation following dinner, see the memorandum of conversation by Merchant, infra.↩