58. Memorandum of Discussion at the 285th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, May 17, 19561

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

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows Allen Dulles’ briefing on unrelated subjects.]

With respect to the Soviet satellites, Mr. [Allen] Dulles said that Poland had been most seriously affected by the development of the de-Stalinization campaign. This campaign had gone to greater lengths there than in any other satellite, and Mr. Dulles expressed the view that the United States should take particular pains to see what it could do to exploit developments in Poland in our national interest. Mr. Dulles added that he hoped to present to the Council next week the text of the now famous statement made by Khrushchev before the Twentieth Party Congress in Moscow. The text that we have is the one allegedly transmitted by Moscow to the governments of the Soviet satellites. It was a very interesting document, although it was not clear whether the present version had been expurgated or not. At any rate, it purports to contain just what Khrushchev had had to say at the Moscow meeting.

Secretary Dulles said he understood that Khrushchev had spoken extemporaneously on this occasion. Mr. Allen Dulles replied that he spoke both from a prepared text and extemporaneously. Secretary Dulles then indicated his view that whatever text we got would have been “doctored” before being sent out of Moscow.

[Here follow the remainder of the Allen Dulles’ briefing and agenda items 2 and 3.]

4. United States Policy on Soviet and Satellite Defectors (NSC 86/1; Progress Report, dated April 18, 1956, by OCB on NSC 86/12)

Mr. Anderson briefed the Council on the highlights of this Progress Report, and emphasized in his conclusion the problem represented by Soviet successes in their newly launched redefection campaign. (A copy of Mr. Anderson’s brief is filed in the minutes of the meeting.)3

In response to Mr. Anderson’s last point, the President inquired whether it was the influence of family and friends at home which had induced Soviet defectors to return to the USSR. Mr. Allen Dulles [Page 164] replied that this was so, and that the defectors got many letters from their families urging them to return. The defectors sometimes suspect these letters to be faked.

Secretary Dulles stated that in the last few days the Government of Communist China had issued a decree requiring all citizens of Communist China to register with the Government if they had any relatives living in the United States. Secretary Dulles predicted that this move would be the basis for an elaborate redefection campaign to induce Chinese in the United States to go back to China. As far as he was personally concerned, Secretary Dulles said, he could perceive no objection to these Chinese returning, provided they were not coerced into doing so. Why do we care whether or not they go back if they go back freely? In point of fact, this was our actual policy on this issue.

The President said he agreed with Secretary Dulles’ view, and Mr. Allen Dulles pointed out that in any case we had no legal means of restraining Chinese in the United States from returning to Communist China if they so desired. Secretary Dulles repeated his question as to what reason there was for the United States to try to keep any of these Chinese from going back. Secretary Humphrey also added that it could make no possible difference to us. Mr. Allen Dulles, however, pointed out the serious morale effect if large numbers of defectors voluntarily went back to slavery in their Communist homelands. Mr. Dulles added parenthetically that he was by no means sure that the five redefecting “Tuapse” sailors had not decided on their own to return to the USSR.4 It was significant that if they had wished to avoid returning, there were at least three places between New York and Moscow that they could have got off their plane and sought asylum. They had not taken advantage of these opportunities.

Mr. William Jackson stated that our trouble in the matter of redefection stemmed from the fact that we tried to take too much credit for the original defections. Accordingly when some of the defectors redefected, the United States was placed in an embarrassing position.

The President insisted that he still did not know why Communists who had escaped to this country would want to return to Communism when they were free to stay here. What appeal could there be to any rational mind to go back to a life behind the Iron Curtain? Secretary Humphrey added that in any case he still could see no reason for keeping any of those who wished to return from leaving the United States.

The Attorney General stated his agreement with the point just made by Mr. Jackson, and suggested that language to cover Mr. Jackson’s point be inserted in the policy paper, NSC 86/1.

[Page 165]

The President again sought an answer to the question he had posed. Mr. Allen Dulles replied by pointing out that many of the Soviet defectors became lonely in the unfamiliar environment in the United States, and were as a matter of fact often unstable people who took to drink and were a considerable nuisance. Secretary Wilson added that of course there were people in the world who simply did not relish the responsibilities of freedom.

Secretary Dulles then recommended that NSC 86/1 be re-examined by the NSC Planning Board in the light of this discussion. The President agreed, and indicated that this reexamination should include discussion as to why the United States should be so concerned about redefection. Mr. Allen Dulles again pointed out the very considerable intelligence benefits which we derived from defectors from behind the Iron Curtain. A good start had been made on inducing such defections, and he hoped that further progress would be possible.

Governor Stassen emphasized the fact that the Soviet redefection campaign was world-wide in scope and intensively pursued. This indicated that defections must be a matter of very great concern to the Soviet leaders. Moreover, it reflected a grave weakness in the Soviet system.

The President pointed out that in any review of the policy in NSC 86/1 there should be a clear definition of the advantages and disadvantages to the United States of defection and redefection.

Admiral Strauss thought it would be very dangerous if word got about that the United States Government would not protect defectors from being shanghaied and forcibly returned to the Communist countries of their origin. If such views became widespread, we could anticipate a cessation of the flow of defectors. Secretary Dulles hastened to say that he was making no suggestion that we would not protect defectors from forcible return. He had only meant to suggest that if defectors voluntarily wished to return, he could see no sense in our trying to keep them here in the United States.

Governor Stassen said he agreed with the warning statement of Admiral Strauss. It is widely believed that the five “Tuapse” sailors were in fact shanghaied. This belief is dangerous for the United States and gives the public a completely erroneous impression. On the other hand, Governor Stassen agreed that it was all right to send defectors back if they decide of their own free will that they wish to return. Secretary Wilson said that above all, we must take care that no coercion is exerted by the U.S. authorities.

Secretary Dulles said that we should frankly face the fact that as more and more changes occur in the Soviet Union in the direction of liberalization, more and more defectors will wish to return. Some of [Page 166] the changes in the Soviet Union which had occurred in recent months were obviously genuine changes. If the Soviet Union proceeds to liquidate labor camps and to cease to compel its citizens to be tied to their jobs, defectors will desire to go back. We should take great pains not to let such a return movement be signalled as a defeat for the United States in the cold war. After all, it is one of our great objectives to induce Soviet Russia to become a decent member of the society of nations. There is now evidence that the Soviet Union is moving in that direction. We should welcome and facilitate such developments, and make no issue whatever of voluntary redefection. To do so would be to create a false issue. The tendency underlying the current policy paper is that we should undertake to try to prevent defectors from returning to their Communist homelands, and that failure to prevent their return must be regarded as a defeat for U.S. policy. This was fundamentally erroneous.

The President expressed agreement with the points made by Secretary Dulles, as did Secretary Wilson. The latter pointed out that it would be quite wrong to regard these very hopeful recent developments in the Soviet Union as evidence that the United States is being licked in the cold war.

Admiral Strauss asked whether there was any firm evidence that the Soviet Union was adopting a more enlightened labor policy and would no longer compel citizens to remain in jobs against their will. Secretary Dulles replied that all he knew on this subject he had learned from George Meany, who seemed to believe that the recent decree permitting freedom of movement in jobs was genuine enough. Governor Stassen also thought that it must be a genuine move, for the simple reason that the decree had been so widely publicized within the Soviet Union.

The President said that this was quite enough to indicate the desirability of reviewing the policy stated in NSC 86/1. The Attorney General said that there was one last aspect of the problem which he would like to bring up. It related to the activities of representatives of the Soviet Government assigned to the United Nations headquarters in New York. These agents of the Soviet Government were certainly molesting and bringing pressure on Soviet defectors and escapees. Furthermore, they were involved in espionage activities. Accordingly, the Attorney General wondered whether our policy respecting these individuals was sufficiently established to enable us to proceed effectively against them. He invited comment on this problem from the Secretary of State. Secretary Dulles did not comment.

[Page 167]

The National Security Council:5

Noted and discussed the reference Progress Report on the subject by the Operations Coordinating Board.
Directed the NSC Planning Board to review the policy in NSC 86/1 in the light of the discussion at the meeting.

[Here follow the remaining agenda items.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on May 18.
  2. Document 54.
  3. Not found.
  4. See footnote 12, Document 35.
  5. Paragraphs a–b that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1553, approved by the President on May 24. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)