Secretary’s Memoranda, lot 53 D 444

No. 506
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

top secret


  • Visit of Soviet Ambassador Panyushkin


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Alexander S. Panyushkin, Soviet Ambassador
  • Mr. Walworth Barbour, Office of Eastern European Affairs
  • Mr. Alexander Logofet, TC
  • Mr. Anatoli G. Myshkov, Soviet interpreter

Ambassador Panyushkin called, by appointment made at his request, at 12:30 p.m., June 6. He stated that he is being recalled to take up another assignment and in leaving Washington wished to pay his farewell courtesy visit.1 I expressed my appreciation for his call and wished him well in his future appointments. I added that the President had just given his agreement to the appointment of Mr. Zarubin, the Ambassador’s successor, and that Ambassador Kennan in Moscow was being instructed appropriately to notify the Soviet Foreign Office.2 I inquired whether the Ambassador intended to inform the press that he was departing permanently or merely on leave. He thanked me for the expeditious action on Mr. Zarubin’s agreement and suggested that in the circumstances he should inform the press that his departure is permanent. I said that we would probably confirm Mr. Zarubin’s appointment to the press shortly after Ambassador Kennan had had time to notify the Soviet Government.

[Page 986]

I then said I had one further word.3 While we desire that a friendly atmosphere prevail between our two countries, unfortunately the situation at present is not what we could wish. In particular, I would appreciate it if he would inform his government that we are deeply concerned at the virulence of the present anti-American campaign now being waged by the Soviet Government. The campaign is of such unprecedented violence as to indicate unusual significance and, while we are unaware of what lies behind it, its significance seems clearly to have serious implications. At any rate, it is inconsistent with the various Soviet statements to the effect that the Soviet Government desires to improve relations between our two countries. Rather it clearly has the effect which it appears designed to have of increasing tensions.

The Ambassador asked whether I could specify exactly what I had in mind. I noted the charges in the Soviet press and other propaganda media that the US is employing bacteriological and chemical warfare in Korea.

The Ambassador said he would inform his government but if I wished an expression of his views he could say that the Soviet press is a free press and confines itself to factual reporting; that various commissions had examined the charges under reference and that on its part the American press, as well as other Americans holding official positions, was equally critical of the Soviet Government. He expanded his remarks, mentioning especially the efforts in which certain Congressmen are engaged to place the blame for the “Hitlerite Katyn massacre” on the Soviets. He added, however, that it is the policy of the Soviet Government to foster friendly relations with the US and, with reference to some of my recent speeches, stated that the Soviet Government believes differences could be settled by negotiation.

I said that I would like to be able to accept his statement as to the attitude of the Soviet Government but that unfortunately I was unable to do so. I said, however, that I also favor the negotiation of issues but reiterated my request that the specific matter I had raised with him be brought to his government’s attention together with my view that we could not but regard it as of serious significance.4

  1. Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Zorin called Ambassador Kennan to the Foreign Ministry on the afternoon of June 4 and informed him that Ambassador Panyushkin was being withdrawn as Soviet Ambassador and that the Soviet Government requested agrément for Georgiy Nikolayevich Zarubin, then Soviet Ambassador to the United Kingdom. (Telegram 1931 from Moscow, June 4; 601.6111/6–452)
  2. Ambassador Kennan was so informed in telegram 847, June 6. (601.6111/6–452).

    At his news conference on June 13, President Truman was asked why the appointment of Zarubin had been accepted before it was clear whether he had been involved in the Katyn massacre of Polish officers. The President explained in reply as follows:

    “It is customary, though, when a country asks the acceptance of any ambassador, he is accepted. There is never a question of any we send to them. It’s a matter of courtesy. The country has a right to pick its own representatives. We don’t pick them for them”. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1952, p. 418)

  3. The points that follow were raised first at the Secretary’s daily staff meeting on the morning of June 6 and were refined in a memorandum by Barbour (EUR/EE) for the Secretary. (611.61/6–652)
  4. A summary of the last paragraphs of this memorandum was transmitted to the Embassy in Moscow for Kennan in telegram 858, June 10. (611.61/6–1052)