285. Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant (Jackson) to the Secretary of State1


  • Recommendations for US Position at Geneva Conference on East-West Contacts

The United States approach to negotiations at Geneva on Agenda Item III “Development of Contacts Between East and West”2 should be guided in the first instance by the fact that President Eisenhower, in his statements at the Summit Conference and in his subsequent report to the nation,3 took a most positive stand favoring the lowering of barriers which now impede free travel and the interchange of information and ideas between peoples. This stand was welcomed throughout the world as an encouraging sign indicating a general relaxation of tensions. Our position at the Foreign Ministers Conference must be consonant with the spirit of the President’s statements. The greatest risk in connection with Item III at the conference is, I think, that caution on our part may be exploited publicly as a rejection of the spirit of Geneva, a repudiation of the President’s expressed hopes and even a reflection of the diminished influence of the President himself due to his illness.

There are, of course, risks in proceeding too rapidly in the field of East-West contacts. There is the risk of misunderstanding of the implications of our actions which the President sought to correct in his address at Philadelphia.4 The spirit of Geneva did not involve acceptance of the status quo, including such things as the division of Germany, the domination of captive countries, and the existence of an international political machine operating within the borders of sovereign nations for their political and ideological subversion.

“Very probably,” the President said, “the reason for these and other violations of the rights of men and nations is a compound of suspicions and fear.”

In your statement of August 15, 1955, on United States Post Geneva Policy5 it was again made clear that the spirit which the United States contributed to produce at Geneva is designed to change conditions by depriving the Soviet leaders of the former “security” excuses for their present policies.

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To the extent that fear, suspicions or feelings of insecurity are causes of the conditions the President deplored, then improved contacts between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., presumably reducing fear and suspicions, might be openly sought without acceptance of the status quo or condonation of any conditions of slavery or subversion.

The U.S. position on East-West contacts thus does not present an insoluble dilemma in which we must either refuse to develop further contacts with the Soviets or condone the conditions they have created. Nevertheless, closer and more cordial contacts between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., based on apparent American acceptance of Soviet good faith, can be, and in fact have already been, taken by satellites as steps toward abandonment of their interests. Our actions can also be misunderstood in the free world, for example in Latin America where we have continually warned our neighbors against contacts with the Communists.

In addition to the danger that closer contacts between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. may give rise to misunderstanding in other countries, it also must be kept in mind that the Executive Branch cannot itself bring about any immediate lowering of the legal barriers impeding visits and travel of aliens from the Soviet bloc in this country, since action to remove such barriers is the responsibility of Congress. There are also risks that concessions to Soviet citizens visiting this country in delegations or as individuals, such as waiving fingerprint requirements, may cause adverse political reaction here.

Despite these risks and these factors which counsel caution in our approach to East-West contacts, they should not be accorded disproportionate weight in our planning. In the first place the risks of misunderstanding or of political objection to action taken in the field of East-West contacts are relatively minor weighed against risks relating to the national security or defense. We have much to gain in developing certain types of contacts with the Soviet bloc. … Granted that nothing has occurred to justify the free world in relaxing its vigilance or altering its programs of collective security, the recent conciliatory trend in Soviet policy insofar as it may extend and so long as it may last can perhaps be exploited to our advantage. On the basis of the past ten years it is obvious that we cannot trust Soviet officials. Nevertheless, the Soviets could be sincere in now seeking closer contacts with us. We should be willing to probe the extent and depth of this sincerity by making specific proposals. It can at least be hoped that some of the barriers to free communications can be removed at Geneva and some arrangements for exchange of persons and freer travel can be made. This hope must then be parlayed into the more remote hope that the trend toward better understanding thus engendered may not be easy for the Soviet Government to reverse.

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These considerations lead me to the conclusion that we should advance at Geneva a positive program for increasing East-West contacts. However, the heart of this program should be the elimination of barriers to freedom of information and communication. This theme, which is a vital part of our own heritage, is one which the three powers could all support, each taking a different aspect of the theme but ending up with the same conclusion—that barriers to information and communication should be removed. The elimination of such barriers is an objective which can be pursued by the U.S. without possibility of misunderstanding and with few if any of the risks incident to exchange of persons and freer travel. Furthermore, except for our laws applicable to subversive material, there should be no difficulty in our reciprocating to the fullest extent any Soviet elimination of barriers to free communications. Finally in this field, as distinct from exchange of persons, we might properly join with the French and British in pressing for a specific four party agreement covering particular points involved in freedom of communications and information, such as jamming, censorship and distribution of publications.

While concentrating in our presentation on the freedom of communications theme, we cannot lose sight of questions concerning the exchange of persons. We can derive value from certain types of exchanges, and we can expect that the Soviets will present proposals for exchanges. In this field, we should formulate specific projects on the basis of their feasibility under our laws and on the assumption that expansion in this field should be positive but gradual.

Attached are brief papers on specific points which, if you concur, could be included in our presentation at Geneva.


  • Tab A—Jamming
  • Tab B—USIA Center and Related Activities
  • Tab C—Radio and Film Exchange
  • Tab D—Exchange of Publications
  • Tab E—Exchange of Persons
  • Tab F—Travel and Tourist Facilities
  • Tab G—Special Problems

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 606. Secret.
  2. Reference is to Item 3 of Document 257.
  3. For text of President Eisenhower’s address to the nation, July 25, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pp. 726–731.
  4. For text of President Eisenhower’s address to the Annual Convention of the American Bar Association, August 24, see ibid., pp. 802–809.
  5. Document 267.
  6. None printed.