27. Memorandum of Discussion at the 277th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, February 27, 19561

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting]

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

The Director of Central Intelligence said that he would like to comment at some little length on developments at the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party which was concluding today at Moscow.2 The composition of the new Presidium (Politburo) had not yet been announced, but it seemed unlikely that there would be significant changes in the top personnel. 60% of the new Presidium consisted of members who had been re-elected; 40% were newly elected. Of the latter group, Khrushchev had obtained a large number of his own supporters. Mr. Dulles commented that it would be interesting to see whether Molotov would continue in the roster of the eleven full members of the Presidium. That he would was likely, although his position was weakening and he might disappear from power in a year’s time.

At this point the President interrupted to ask who would be Molotov’s successor if he did disappear, and would this successor be even more anti-Western than Molotov. Mr. Dulles replied to the President by stating that a successor to Molotov would be more in line with the Soviet “new-look”. He added that Molotov’s speech before the Party Congress3 had been one of the briefest and most colorless of the many addresses. It was actually possible to deduce the rating of high Soviet officials by the length of the speeches they had made.

Mr. Dulles then held up to view copies of the full texts of all the speeches made at the Party Congress. He observed that Mikoyan’s speech4 was among the most interesting; in short, Mikoyan charged that the United States was setting up an Iron Curtain. Mr. [Page 60]Dulles then indicated that the CIA was preparing complete texts of all the speeches. These would prove, he believed, very significant guides to Soviet intentions. We had somewhat neglected these speeches in the past, just as we had unfortunately neglected Hitler’s Mein Kampf. There was no intention now to repeat this error. The President asked Mr. Dulles to brief down these speeches and send copies of the briefs to all interested members of the National Security Council.5

Secretary Dulles agreed with Mr. Allen Dulles on the importance of trying to find out what the Soviets were actually circulating as guides for the conduct of members of the Communist Party. We must pay close attention to what they are teaching to their subordinate party members. It was this kind of information which would provide real indications of possible changes in the Soviet Union. Such indications were far more significant than what the Soviet leaders said to the outside world.

Mr. Allen Dulles then went on to sum up the significance of the Party Congress. In the first place, the present collective leadership of the Soviet Union is accomplishing a peaceful evolution to replace Stalinist control. They were dropping the idea of absolute dictatorship; they were minimizing the threat of military power to accomplish their ends; and they seemed to be abandoning the dogma of the inevitability of war with the imperialist powers. Three main anti-Stalinist ideas had been spelled out at the Party Congress. First, the idea of collective leadership; second, stress on peaceful coexistence rather than on the inevitability of war; and third, peaceful transition to socialism through parliamentary mechanism. This latter point seemed to indicate a strong Soviet drive in the direction of establishing popular front governments in other countries.

Mr. Dulles predicted that many old-line Communists outside the USSR would find it extremely difficult to accept the new doctrines set forth at the Party Congress. There will be widespread dangers of Titoism. Indeed, Tito believes that the Soviet Union has bought his doctrines lock, stock and barrel.6

[Page 61]

[Here follows the remainder of the memorandum.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on February 28.
  2. The Congress concluded on February 25. Dulles may have been referring to the plenary session of the Communist Party Central Committee held on February 27.
  3. Molotov’s speech, published in Pravda on February 20, was analyzed in telegram 1871 from Moscow, February 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.00/2–2056) An English translation is in Gruliow, Current Soviet Policies—II, pp. 98–103.
  4. Mikoyan’s speech of February 16, published in Pravda on February 18 was analyzed in telegram 1861 from Moscow, February 18. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.00/2–1856) An English translation is in Gruliow, Current Soviet Policies—II, pp. 80–89.
  5. Not found in Department of State files.
  6. According to a memorandum of the discussion at the 278th meeting of the National Security Council on March 1, the following comments were made:

    “Turning to the final situation in the new Soviet Politburo, Mr. Allen Dulles pointed out that there had been no change respecting the full regular members of this group. Marshal Zhukov, however, had been elected a candidate member of the Politburo and, so far as Mr. Dulles could recall, Zhukov was the first Army officer ever to attain this height in Soviet history. Secretary Dulles turned to the President and said that Marshal Zhukov had the President to thank for his honor (laughter).” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)