66. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union 1

144. For Ambassador From Secretary. Your 279.2 Our 131 was on the assumption based on prior messages from you that you could develop a quite informal confidential approach to high level Soviet officials and at that time express informal views, ostensibly personal but which would be understood by the high authorities as in fact being authoritative.

We still see no reason why we should attempt to disguise the fact, generally known, that the British and French have favored immediate strong military action and that we have been the protagonists of the conference method. Just as we have exerted influence in that direction with our friends, so the Soviet Union if it wants peace should exert comparable influence with those governments with which it feels it has any special influence.

Of course, this divergence of initial approach between us and the British and French does not by any means imply that we will not be solidly with them if the conference method breaks down. It would be a grave delusion if the Soviets thought that we would stay divided upon further measures which might be taken and we cannot imagine that they are so deluded. Experience in the First and Second World Wars should have taught them that whatever may be initial divergencies, the U.S. has become inevitably involved when the chips are down.

With this further background, we reaffirm our belief, unless you see strong objection that you should try to find an appropriate informal way of chatting about this situation with the highest available Soviet authorities without in any way formalizing the matter.

It is my personal belief that this matter is of the utmost seriousness and that unless the conference which has been called is [Page 150] held and its result is substantially accepted by Egypt, the result will be forcible action with grave risk of its becoming enlarged.

The Soviet leaders have from the beginning pretended to treat their action in the Near East as not having a grave international consequence, although we have pointed out the contrary from the beginning. See in this connection the President’s message to Bulganin of October 11.3 It is now demonstrable that they have started a chain of events, which we foresaw, which may lead to hostilities of unpredictable proportions unless they reverse their course.

We are advising the British and French of substance President’s personal message to Bulganin 4 but this cable and any action there under are secret.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–456. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted and approved by Dulles. At 8:32 that morning, the Department of State received telegram 288 from Moscow. In it, Bohlen advised that the British and French Ambassadors in Moscow (Hayter and Dejean) agreed with Bohlen that it would be suitable to discuss the Suez situation with Bulganin when Bohlen delivered a recent message from Eisenhower to Bulganin concerning disarmament. Bohlen proposed that his comments to Bulganin be based upon circular telegram 90 (Document 63) and upon telegram 131 (see Document 58). Telegram 288 from Moscow is in Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–656. Eisenhower’s message to Bulganin concerning disarmament, dated August 4, was written in response to a message from Bulganin of June 6. Both are printed in Department of State Bulletin, August 20, 1956, pp. 299–301.
  2. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–456)
  3. Vol. XIV, p. 576.
  4. The text of the message, as transmitted in telegram 141 to Moscow, August 6, reads as follows:

    “Dear Mr. Chairman: I understand that Ambassador Bohlen may be seeing you within the next few hours to deliver my reply to your letter of June 6 on disarmament. I have asked Ambassador Bohlen in this connection to let you know personally how seriously I regard the situation precipitated by the Egyptian Government’s effort to seize the operations of the Suez Canal. The United States is strongly exerting itself in favor of a solution by the peaceful conference method, as has been proposed, and I hope that you will do the same. I also greatly hope that the Egyptian Government will not reject this approach.

    “The prospect of any good progress in the field of disarmament would indeed be dimmed unless those primarily concerned with the Suez international waterway can meet, as proposed, to seek peacefully an acceptable solution. With assurances of my best wishes, Sincerely, Dwight D. Eisenhower.” (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–656)

    The message was drafted by Dulles. The President added the phrase, “with assurances of my best wishes” and approved the text of the message. (Telephone call from the President, 11:16 a.m., August 6; Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations and ibid., Whitman File, International File)