211. Memorandum of a Conversation, New York, December 14, 19561


  • Hungary


  • Mr. V. V. Kuznetsov, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, USSR
  • Mr. M. M. Potrubach, USSR
  • Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, US Delegation
  • Mr. Richard Pedersen, USUN

Following is a complete chronological summary of conversation between Senator Humphrey and Mr. Kuznetsov on Hungary, which began with Kuznetsov’s remark at the end of a conversation on Security Council enlargement:2

Kuznetsov said he was not very pleased things had turned out this way between our two countries. He had spent a couple of years in the United States in the 1930’s and had met lots of people—scientists, workers, etc. He had the highest respect for American people. There were no reasons for the USSR and the US not to be friendly. This was a problem we would have to work on.

Humphrey said there was much good will among American people for the people of the USSR. Recent visits and exchanges of delegations had shown this. It was unfortunate that recent events had disrupted progress toward more friendly relations. Perhaps Kuznetsov had noted friendly comment about the USSR in the US press until [Page 510] recently. Unfortunately the situation in Central Europe needed to be reconciled. He had a feeling that maybe there was some desire on the part of others that this was also the case.

Kuznetsov said the USSR was also not happy about the situation in Europe. Many problems might be solved if there were certain approach and desire to reach solutions. He recognized there were different approaches and opinions about these questions. This should not stop us from talking and meeting about them. Maybe we could reach something. If we did not meet we could never understand one another and get closer. It was a tragedy there was so little exchange of opinions. Some people wanted a divided world but the world could not be divided now. This was impossible. The US and the USSR must fight against this.

Senator Humphrey said that problems had to be met in a spirit of responsibility. He pointed out that he was a member of opposition party and did not share many of Eisenhower’s views on domestic policy. But the President was a man of peace. He had shown this by his actions and his willingness to sit around the table with the Soviets last year.3

Kuznetsov said the USSR had the highest respect for Eisenhower. He was very popular in the USSR among the people themselves. The slightest step of the US officially or unofficially, “I assure you”, toward better understanding of situations or expanding of relations will be met with sincere desire on the part of the Soviet people. We would do our utmost to meet this. Unfortunately some developments have prevented this.

Humphrey said that tragic developments in Hungary had had much to do with this. He was talking now not as a representative of the Government but as a citizen of the United States, and as a Senator. He was not unmindful that the USSR was concerned about friendly states on its borders. There had been a year and a half of progress on better relations between the US and the USSR, including advancements on peaceful uses of atomic energy, exchanges of scientists and students. Then came the Hungarian tragedy. He can’t help believe there must be some who want to get this resolved. This cannot be done by force on either side. Hungarian people have to have a responsible Government; they have to live. Great responsibilities rest on our two countries on such problems.

Kuznetsov said he was glad Humphrey had touched on this question. Maybe there was not enough time to discuss it in detail but he was glad to give some opinions. In a short time he could not say much but he would give brief comments. With respect to the previous situation in Hungary and concerning present Hungarian events, he thought [Page 511] the question had to be looked at from several sides. The problem was difficult, complicated and delicate. General Assembly discussion showed delegations accusing the USSR would not listen to other sides of the question. It was like a discussion of deaf people who would not listen to each other. If we analyze the preceding situation in Hungary and subsequent events we can then try to find certain recommendations which would be useful, to the Hungarian people first of all. The matter was not so simple as some people made out. It happened that the US and the USSR were most active on this question. The US put it before General Assembly at least once a week or sometimes less. Perhaps some other delegations were glad that USSR and US relations were becoming more severe; they want to put us more apart. They try to play on this and put both delegations on the spot. I am glad you touched on this. It would be a good idea to find time to discuss it further without an official meeting and records.

Humphrey said he thought this might do a great deal of good. He was the type of person who wanted to seek answers rather than headlines. You had said this was a difficult problem and it is. You do understand that the American people are very much concerned about the Hungarian situation. There is considerable friendship among the American people and the Soviet people. This can be destroyed by the failures of their Governments. If we cannot handle a problem such as that in Hungary, what would happen if the situation broke out in Germany? (Kuznetsov exclaimed “yes, yes”). Humphrey said he was Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Disarmament. Disarmament Committee had handled every USSR proposal seriously. We had looked into every means for approach to disarmament. At least there might be some approach if only on a piecemeal basis. Kuznetsov said we have to start somewhere. Maybe we can start on small things.

Humphrey said maybe unofficial conversations on the Hungarian situation might help in relations. At least we could put forward views to each other on a quiet basis. Kuznetsov said he would appreciate conversations on this and also on disarmament. Humphrey said there was some chance of making advances on disarmament. Kuznetsov said they also thought we might get something, even at this session. Humphrey said the disarmament problem was much conditioned by a solution to the Middle Eastern and Central European questions.

Kuznetsov said in international affairs he recognized that all questions were linked together but he thought a start could be made on some without others. Many political problems would have to wait for a considerable time for solution. But if we put them together this would put progress on disarmament in a difficult position. He did not think, for example, that the German problem could be solved very soon, at least not this year. But we could do something right away on disarmament. We should not wait for a solution of other international [Page 512] problems. We must break the vicious circle. If people want to delay they can always find reasons. To swim one must start sometime and jump into water. You could talk about swimming for a long time and never learn. You have to jump.

Humphrey said that that was true but you also sometimes had to know how deep the water was and how cold. He regretted that sometimes we got to the point where we could not visit. Maybe we could get together again on an informal basis as well as on official business (referring to the enlargement of the Security Council). He wanted Kuznetsov to know that any move the USSR made to rectify the situation in Hungary without endangering Soviet security would be a great relief to the people of the world. People were looking for the UN to work reasonably well, and whether the great powers would uphold the Charter. I really feel when the USSR violates the Charter it is of benefit to the USSR and everyone for the UN to do something about it. We may disagree on many questions, but in the Senate we often hope to disagree without being disagreeable. Kuznetsov said he understood.

Kuznetsov said the USSR wants to solve the Hungarian problem. This depended not only on the USSR. Others could make a contribution. One of the things to do was to bring a stop to interference. There was considerable propaganda and groups of people who wanted to intervene. Humphrey said, “Do you really believe that type of thing you speak of made that much difference in Hungary?”

Kuznetsov said he could not speak of details, but take the radio station of Free Europe. He could not repeat many things they had said but they had been broadcasting day and night and had instigated people to take hostile position toward the present regimes. Take for example the hundred million dollars and additional money Congress had allocated for subversive activities.4 This does not create happy feelings and implies that the US does not want to have closer relations with the USSR. The USSR distinguished between official policy and attitudes of people. Some actions of the US Government showed the USSR must deal with another point of view from that of the people, a view which was a hostile attitude toward the USSR and people’s democracies. Maybe he was mistaken. Maybe the US did not intend to change the system and “liberate” people from the “communist yoke”.

Humphrey said he had not quite realized that we were as successful as Kuznetsov seemed to think. He also pointed out that as far as the hundred million dollars was concerned much of it had never even [Page 513] been spent. He said the problem of Hungary was serious and that something had to be done about it. Other problems had been settled including that of the Berlin Airlift.

Kuznetsov said we are not happy about Hungarian situation. Humphrey noted that not only had some problems been settled through UN but India had helped on some problems such as China,5 and that individuals could sometimes be of assistance. Kuznetsov said yes sometimes individuals could help very much.

Humphrey said USSR had lost great good will in US overnight. President had been building good will between Soviet and American peoples in sense that he was restrained in attitude and an agent of peace and understanding. This all went down the drain with the Hungarian situation. It would be of advantage to both to see a change.

Kuznetsov said USSR appreciated position of the President on some problems. These were sincere feelings of himself and Soviet people. Some problems and actions had created unhappy feelings. Many things needed to be discussed unofficially and frankly. Recently US had officially cancelled program for exchange of technical and cultural delegations. Maybe this was due to the influence of some groups but it was not a friendly step. Take US position on foreign trade of USSR. USSR had shown it could live and do quite well without foreign trade but the way US considers and announces its attitude toward trade relations creates unhappy feelings. Closer trade relations would be better for both countries. I was in the iron and steel business before I became a diplomat and I know you are ahead of us on these matters. Still we are doing something. Perhaps we can learn from each other. I have been to China and you might say it is very backward, but I found it is still possible to learn something from them, even in questions of industry. China had some very backward installations, old blast furnaces that you see only in text books. Still they had the most modern equipment also. When one nation separates itself from others this is not good.

Humphrey said US certainly did not want to isolate itself. There had been many references to an iron curtain, both coming in and going out. There had been slight opening of this and US had wanted it open even more. This went pretty well until recently. The closing off of exchanges took place because you did something. This was in response to something for which the American people held the USSR responsible.

Kuznetsov said that general attitude in USSR after war was that US policy was to isolate it, that we did not want to develop economic relations, expand trade, exchange experiences. We have been trying [Page 514] utmost in last few years to bring people to USSR. We had allowed congressmen and senators to come and even Hearst.6 Many people said things we did not like when they left but we continued to allow them to come. We made some steps and we expect the same from the US.

Humphrey said these exchanges were going quite well but this new problem had now arisen. Kuznetsov said he regarded important part his function in General Assembly to explain to American people real policy of USSR. He said US press gave greatly distorted view of USSR and that attitude toward it had become more hostile in recent months. Humphrey said he sort of had impression USSR press gave pretty bad picture of US. Kuznetsov replied immediately not nearly so bad as US press of USSR (he gave an impression of sincerity on this point and was joined spontaneously by his adviser with a similar remark). Kuznetsov said he had noticed big difference in US press attitude between this year and last, that it was more hostile than before. He said US press makes USSR look like “horror”. Humphrey said we should deal with these problems as fellow human beings. He thought it was urgent responsibility of USSR to do something about Central Europe. He did not speak as judge. He simply felt that sometimes certain countries, like individuals, could be irresponsible but at least two countries have greater responsibilities than others—US and USSR. Kuznetsov said you are right there. Humphrey said he hoped we were never too proud to talk with you. Kuznetsov said we should talk more.

As we were going toward the door, Humphrey said he had been interested in proposal that SYG visit Moscow because he thought this might help find way to solve the Hungarian problem. He asked Kuznetsov what his feeling was. Kuznetsov said (with feeling) this was “wrongest” thing that could be done. SYG was always welcome in Moscow but not on this question. Humphrey said he was glad he had asked question because frankly he had been of opposite opinion, that SYG’s trip might have proved very useful.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/12–1456. Top Secret. Drafted by Pedersen.
  2. On this occasion, Humphrey emphasized that he was speaking as an individual and not as a representative of the U.S. Government, and Kuznetsov stressed that his comments were unofficial. (Delga 354 from USUN, December 15; ibid., 764.00/12–1556)
  3. At Geneva in July 1955.
  4. Reference is to the Kersten Amendment (so-named after Republican Congressman Charles J. Kersten of Wisconsin) to Public Law 165, the Mutual Security Act of 1951. (65 Stat. 373)
  5. India served as an intermediary in securing the release of U.S. airmen imprisoned in China; see volumes II and III.
  6. Newspaper editor William Randolph Hearst, Jr. visited the Soviet Union in January 1955.
  7. Lodge informed Hoover and Wilcox in Delga 354, cited in footnote 2 above, that further bilateral conversations with Kuznetsov were possible.