761.00/5–3052: Telegram

No. 504
The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Department of State


1906. Department has by now received detailed accounts of Soviet releases on hate-America meeting held last night in Hall of Columns, most solemn of Sov settings for public events, only one block from Embassy. At this meeting anti-American campaign reached a new crescendo. Its tenor and violence can be judged from my 1902 May 30,1 and require no further comment from me. This meeting will presumably be followed by corresponding meetings in communities thruout Sov Un, which means that we are in for some days and weeks more, at minimum, of this intense abuse.

This raises again the question of whether, and if so how, our govt should react to this development. I have reviewed this situation again today with senior officers of the Emb and in looking at it we have tried to leave aside the personal feelings with which no American can fail to be affected who has to live under immediate impact of this incredible torrent of abuse and falsehood. Even then, I cannot be sure that our opinions are wholly unaffected by this experience.

We are aware that there is probably strong element of provocation in this campaign and that it is vitally important for our govt at this stage to remain utterly calm and not play in any way into hands of people who would love to provoke us into an angry or defensive posture. There is much to be said for thesis that it would be best to ignore situation in belief that these acts will operate to condemn their authors more strongly than their objects. However, campaign is surely beginning to have real effect and this revelation [Page 982] of the incredible lengths to which the Kremlin is prepared to go in poisoning minds of Sov populations is an important factor, new in degree if not in character, which I feel we will have to weigh carefully in all our calculations about the Sov Un. This being the case, it seems to me we must say something to indicate this, if our policy is to be wholly understandable to other people. In whatever we say it is important that we manage to elevate both the tone of our utterance and the platform of its delivery to a plane which will wholly distinguish if from what is being said on other side, also that we allow it to appear not in nature of an answer to Sov propagandists on charges they have raised, but rather as a reminder to the world of the significance this slanderous campaign must assume in the mind of any thoughtful person. My own preference, therefore, would be for a public statement to be made by the President on specially arranged occasion and surrounded with maximum solemnity, in order that it may carry as far as possible. Its force should not be diminished by too much interpretive fill-in at lower levels in our govt, but we should see to it that all mass media are well provided at time of statement with texts of Sov statements illustrating nature of campaign, which speaks for itself.

As for content, I have in mind something along following line:

“In past three months leaders and govt of Sov Un have seen fit to direct against people, armed forces and Govt of US a propaganda campaign of a violence, scurrilousness and shamelessness without precedent even among the numerous sorry examples that the world has had in recent years of deliberate and unscrupulous governmental propaganda. They have done this not only thru propaganda outlets for which they might attempt to disclaim formal responsibility, but also thru statements of prominent Sov figures and thru organs of press and radio for which their responsibility cannot possibly be denied. They have taken no steps to check truth of their charges before advancing them. On the contrary, they have advanced them in the full knowledge that they were false, misleading and unjust. Finally, they have chosen to do all this at a moment of great seriousness and delicacy in world affairs, altho they cannot but have been aware of the unfortunate affect their action would be bound to have on world situation.

The Govt of the US has taken most careful note of all these circumstances, and has not failed to draw from them the only conclusions of which they admit: namely, that the Sov leaders are not only contemptuous of the national feelings of the US people, but have taken a deliberate decision to do all in their power to create maximum confusion, hatred, and nervousness among Sov population and in world opinion generally at just this present time.

US Govt must leave it to peoples of world to imagine what reasons could bring men to such a decision in present state of world affairs. It will be evident to everyone that whatever these reasons are, they could not possibly be ones compatible with any real concern [Page 983] for world peace or with any desire to improve the international situation generally.

For its own part, the US Govt cannot ignore the significance of these actions on the part of the Sov leaders. On the other hand, it will not permit itself to be provoked by feeling of irritation or disgust into departing one jot from the path it has been successfully following in its resolve to see that peace is preserved and that the free world remains free.”

If a public statement should be made, a copy of it should be officially communicated in some manner or other to Sov Govt, possibly thru Sov Amb Washington, with appropriate oral comments.

We feel that in view of high level Sov propaganda which will presumably follow this Moscow mass meeting any statement by us should be made promptly if it is to strike while iron is hot. Therefore, unless step could be promptly taken, this recommendation would lose its validity.2

  1. Not printed.
  2. In telegram 1909 from Moscow, May 31, Ambassador Kennan observed that Department telegram 829, May 30, had been partially answered by the message printed here. Telegram 1909 continued as follows:

    “Our initiative unlikely increase intensity and extent new version ‘hate-America’ campaign which would seem to have achieved unsurpassed heights virulence. It would be difficult to imagine campaign being stepped up further unless Politburo or some of its members should join in personally giving it authority their voices which thus far they have not done (except by their uncomplaining presence at Marshal Govorov’ May Day tirade). Our estimate is that campaign will continue much along lines March BW campaign for at least a couple of weeks. This morning’s press, as expected, reports meetings Leningrad, Minsk yesterday. This follows BW campaign pattern. Mass mtgs will probably spread throughout country and be duly reported in central press. If BW routine followed, USSR mass mtgs will provide starting point for spate of articles in all types of journals with radio repeats and probably extension mass mtgs to satellites with consequent reporting here.

    “I do not see any incompatibility between suggestion made my reftel and that of Dept reftel. This, it would seem, would not in any way be detrimental Security Council approach.” (611.61/5–3152)