5. Diary Entry by the President’s Press Secretary (Hagerty)1
[Here follows an unrelated paragraph.]
The big story from Russia broke early this morning. I received a call at 7:30 at my house from Bob Clark of INS reporting that Malenkov had been replaced as Russian Premier and issued a statement2 in typical Russian fashion claiming that he lacked experience [Page 23]to handle the agricultural program of his country. I called Foster Dulles as soon as I got to the office. He was at home, and the shocking thing was that no one in the State Department had called him despite the fact that the story had been out for several hours.
(Dulles later raised all sort of hell in his department, and I don’t believe such a thing will happen again.)
Dulles told me that while he had not anticipated these exact changes (it was later announced that Bulganin would succeed Malenkov) we had got wind of the fact that some big changes were coming up in Russia about a week ago. He said that, of course, this was indicative of dissatisfaction within Russia and recommended that we have no official statement on it at this time. I passed this on to the President with Andy Goodpaster, and the President agreed.
The stories came thick and fast out of Russia after the Malenkov resignation. Bulganin was “elected” Premier. Then Molotov made a saber-rattling speech3 accusing the United States of aggression and saying that the Soviets had developed the hydrogen bomb to a degree where the United States was far behind them. This reversed Malenkov’s statement of several months ago4 when he said that any nuclear war would result in the destruction of civilization. Molotov said it would not but only result in the destruction of the civilization of the decadent west.
Throughout the day the President was informed of these reports by Goodpaster but neither the White House or the State Department had any official comment. Actually, the President told me when he was in his office with Goodpaster that he believed the following:
- That the Russian hierarchy has been having considerable trouble prior to STALIN’s death. As STALIN was becoming weaker in health, the in-fighting and double dealing for power had started. Actually, when Malenkov was named as his successor, it was in effect a compromise and the fighting still continued. This was, of course, evident when Beria was done away with and is more evident now with Malenkov in this post. The President also told me that this was just another reason why he had been resisting the British plea for a four-power conference. “It took an awful long time to get the British to realize that with the trouble going on inside of Russia, it would not be to the advantage of the free world for Churchill and myself and whoever the French man would be to sit down publicly with any given leader of Russia. If we did that, it would serve notice, not only throughout the world but also within Russia that we were recognizing Malenkov or Bulganin or whoever else it might [Page 24]be as the leader. That would give him a great advantage within Russia and would tend to minimize the struggles for power that are going on within Russia. We certainly don’t want to do that arid that’s why I have never wanted to meet with the Russian leader—at least for the time being.”
- I asked the President if he thought that Bulganin’s appointment would mean that Russia was moving toward war. He said that he did not think so; that as a matter of fact, if the Army had more influence in Russia, it would probably be a conservative influence. “You know, if you’re in the military and you know about these terrible destructive weapons, it tends to make you more pacifistic than you normally have been. In most countries the influence of the military is more conservative, and so while I do not know for sure, I would not be surprised if the Army influence would be just that within the Soviet Union. They’re not ready for war and they know it. They also know if they go to war, they’re going to end up losing everything they have. That also tends to make people conservative.”
Later in the day Molotov made a speech in Moscow5 when he really rattled the sword, saying that Russia was way ahead of the United States in the production of the H-bomb and also said if Russia were attacked, it would destroy western civilization. I called Lewis Strauss on the H-bomb charge and he told me that we have no evidence at all that the Russians are as far advanced as we are on the H-bomb although of course we know they have it and have exploded thermonuclear weapons on testing grounds within their country. Strauss said that he was sure this was merely a propaganda speech by the Russians. I told him to send me a memo to this effect6 so I could show it to the President and he did the next morning.
[Here follows the remainder of the diary entry.]
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Hagerty Papers.↩
- Malenkov’s statement, read by someone else before the Supreme Soviet with Malenkov in attendance, was discussed in telegram 1263 from Moscow, February 8.(Department of State, Central Files, 761.13/2–855) Bohlen’s views on the significance of Malenkov’s resignation are presented in greater detail in Bohlen, Witness to History, pp. 368–372.↩
- Molotov’s speech of February 8 is analyzed in Soviet Affairs, March 1955, pp. 4–6. (Department of State, INR Files)↩
- Malenkov made this statement on March 12, 1954.↩
- Hagerty is apparently recapitulating what he said above about Molotov’s speech and is not referring to another speech by Molotov that day.↩
- Not found at the Eisenhower Library or in Department of State files.↩