The Ambassador in Yugoslavia
(Riddleberger) to the Department of State
Belgrade , September 17, 1954—8 p.m.
219. Limit distribution. Defense pass to Hensel and Lemnitzer. From Murphy.
- Our visit with Tito today came off rather better than expected. Riddleberger and I spent about 4 hours with him and his close adviser Vilfan at the summer residence on Brioni. It was not without touch of envy that we noted Tito’s bronzed and refreshed appearance showing benefits of summer most of which he has spent on this salubrious gem of the Adriatic.
- There was lengthy conversation and for us genial lunch during which talk ranged from amiable references by him to our wartime contact in 1944 at Naples and his headquarters on Island of Vis to active discussion of European political situation, the USSR and Far East. This will be reported in separate telegram.2
- During course of this I handed him President’s letter3 adding oral greetings from President and Secretary Dulles. He excused [Page 544] himself for five minutes after lunch to retire to study to read President letter carefully. We then discussed Trieste for an hour.
- Tito succinctly reviewed the Yugoslavia case on Trieste offering nothing really new but in very moderate reasonable terms. He said he wanted a settlement as much as we do. Tito made no charge as did V. P. Kardelj yesterday that we were “repudiating” our May 31 “agreement”.
- He repeated statement by Kardelj that Yugoslavs would be delighted to negotiate directly with Italians. He asked for sympathetic understanding of his governments position internally in Yugoslavia where this political question is loaded with dynamite.
- I then reviewed painstaking effort US–UK have made during eight months not asserting that October 8 procedure was entirely free of defects. I acknowledged concessions Yugoslavs made. I described our unenviable position where we continually are the target of both Italy and Yugoslavia suspicion and artful design (which got a hearty laugh). I emphasized our sole interest of promoting stronger European collective security (which evoked approving nod). Then I broached proposition agreed with Thompson and Harrison at London, outlining on map given me by Thompson deviation from Western end of May 31 line (i.e. line roughly from intersection line 50 and coast to peak Mt San Michele).
- I said I wanted his agreement that we try once again to obtain Italian agreement to May 31 line. We expect that to fail. Then we would try in Rome to obtain their consent to the revision of the May 31 line. I wanted his agreement in principle.
- Tito said he agreed to our proposal but that there would have to be some territorial compensation. I asked him to indicate on map where that would be and he pointed to the rockpile area. He did not say he insisted on all of the rockpile area but generally he contemplated an area reasonably proportionate to concession he was making on Western end of May 31 line. He said details would be worked out. In reply to Riddleberger’s question Tito said that he would not ask for compensation in the Bassovizza area. We thanked him for that. Tito said he would have to consult his advisers about details and was interested in avoiding appearance of unilateral concession. His reasonable attitude here evinced unconcealed desire to conclude and after our Belgrade conversations exceeded our expectations. He of course, gave expression to his limited faith in Italians and his belief they use Trieste domestic political football. There was resigned nostalgia over abandonment of his wartime dream that Trieste would be Yugoslavia’s.
- Our conversation concluded with brief reference to Yugoslavia bad luck having another year of crop failure. He had expected wheat crop of 2,500,000. Now he learns there will only be 1,600,000.
- As I was given to understand he did not wish territorial concession on Trieste directly related to US economic aid I limited my remarks to statement of regret over Yugoslavia bad luck and confidence US would have some good news for him on wheat.
- After repeated requests to extend his warmest greetings to President and the Secretary we departed.
- After confirmatory conversation with Foreign Minister Saturday4 at Belgrade I plan proceed Rome.
- I propose in light of Tito’s willingness to cooperate on territorial question to tell Bebler in strict confidence that Killen will inform Yugoslavs of our willingness to deliver 400,000 tons of wheat under conditions agreed by Stassen, Agriculture etc at my departure from Washington. It is believed that this offer should be held in confidence pending our upcoming discussions with Italians. Killen concurs.5
Please inform Stassen.6
- Repeated for information to London, Rome, and Trieste.↩
- Document 704.↩
- See Document 268.↩
- Murphy’s conversations with Bebler and other Yugoslav officials on Saturday, Sept. 18, are described in telegram 1100 from Rome, Sept. 18, infra .↩
- The question of whether the United States through the Murphy mission used economic pressure on Yugoslavia to obtain a favorable response on the Trieste dispute has been the source of controversy. In his memoirs, Anthony Eden said that, in view of the Yugoslav shortage of wheat, Murphy was sent to Belgrade with authority to offer wheat to Yugoslavia, which injected “a mood of reasonableness” and made possible a minute territorial adjustment, with Yugoslavia giving up a few hundred yards without asking any compensation. (Eden, Full Circle, pp. 208–209) In an interview in August 1972, Murphy said that he always resented Eden’s implication that the United States had “bought out” Tito. Murphy stated that he felt this interpretation to be totally wrong and that he did not believe that Tito would have sold out, “if he really had a conviction that he wanted to do something else, for a batch of wheat.” According to Murphy, “we only got into the cereal thing after the decision had been made.” (Campbell, Successful Negotiations, p. 133)↩
- A handwritten notation in the margin by William E. Knight reads: “Copy of tel. authorized for Mr. Stassen 9–18–54.”↩