868.413/4–954: Despatch

No. 691
The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Riddleberger) to the Department of State

No. 689


  • Department’s instruction A–165, March 26, 1954.1


  • Proposed Catholic Relief shipments to Yugoslavia.

Pursuant to the Department’s Instruction A–165, March 26, 1954, I had a lengthy interview with Mr. Vladimir Popovic on April 8 in which I urged him to influence his government to make a favorable response to the representations made on February 3, 1954 by the Under Secretary in connection with the desire of the American Catholic Bishops to send certain relief supplies to Catholic functionaries in Yugoslavia.2 In presenting this matter forcefully to Mr. Popovic, I took occasion to underline the fact that Congressional hearings on Foreign Aid for the next fiscal year had just commenced and it was important to find a solution for this problem at the earliest possible date. I reminded him that our ability to take a favorable view of Yugoslavia’s needs and requirements would certainly be affected by what I would call political realities in Congress. I said I was certain that Mr. Popovic, as a result of his extensive experience in the United States, would easily comprehend the extent and nature of these political realities and that I thought he was in a good position to explain them to his government. I recalled that according to Yugoslav officials the estimates on cereal requirements for Yugoslavia had steadily increased in the last few months and that to my surprise, in view of the good crop last year, the requirements had more than doubled in the short time I had been in Belgrade and were now estimated at more than 800,000 tons of wheat. I said that the Yugoslav authorities were pressing us almost daily to hasten the wheat shipments under the latest $10 million allocation and that if the needs were as great as explained to us it was difficult to comprehend why the Yugoslav Government should be so rigid on a comparatively small relief shipment by the Catholic Bishops. I emphasized that it would be difficult to defend [Page 1381] additional wheat shipments for Yugoslavia while at the same time his government was refusing to permit the same type of supplies to come in merely because of their destination. It seemed to me it could well be argued that any additional supplies going to designated recipients would automatically free other supplies for general distribution. Therefore, I would urge with the greatest earnestness that an exemption be granted to the customary rules and that this shipment be permitted. I concluded by emphasizing once more that we should not underestimate the influence in Congress of persons who desired voluntarily to contribute to the relief of certain Yugoslavs with whom religious ties existed.

Mr. Popovic replied that he was sure I was familiar with the reasons which had determined the Yugoslav attitude to date. I said I was familiar but that I did not think the reasons were good enough in the light of all the political circumstances. He then said he had not been able to give a reply in Washington before his departure as he had not received instructions from Belgrade. He said that he comprehended the logic of my remarks and that he would immediately take up this matter again with high Yugoslav authorities. In his present capacity he was not in a position to commit the Yugoslav Government but that he thought he could say to me personally that some way would be found to get the proposed shipments to the Catholic functionaries in Yugoslavia. I said in that case perhaps he would be good enough to urge the suggestions which he, himself, had made in the interview of February 3 in Washington. The U.S. Government naturally preferred an exemption so that the shipments could be made as originally proposed but that in any case it was essential in my view to find a solution for this problem. He thereupon promised me he would take up the matter urgently and again said that some compromise arrangement could be found.

James W. Riddleberger
  1. In this instruction, the Department of State requested Riddleberger, in light of the forthcoming Congressional hearings on economic aid for FY 1955, to press the Yugoslav Government for a favorable response on the matter of the Catholic Bishops proposed relief shipments. It suggested that Riddleberger seek out former Ambassador Vladimir Popović regarding the matter. (868.413/3–2654)
  2. A memorandum of the conversation between Smith and Vladimir Popović on Feb. 3 is in file 868.49/2–354.