244. Telegram From the Embassy in Yugoslavia to the Department of State1

870. Deptel 857.2 Following are principal points of interview with Tito today which lasted one and one-half hours with Vilfan as interpreter. I found Tito in more realistic mood than was case with Roberts3 but cannot say that his answers were satisfactory.

Tito indicated that he would prefer to hear me first and I, therefore, took advantage of this opening to recite our present difficulties with military aid program and some past history on economic aid. This consumed considerable time as difficulties on military aid are highly technical and as I gave copious illustrations to buttress various complaints. (Defense fully informed on these problems.) I pointed out that although these questions are for the most part technical, they do have political overtones particularly at this time when there have been doubts about the direction of Yugoslav foreign policy. Tito did not attempt to reply to my specific complaints but promised me that he [would] discuss at once with general staff the questions that are now pending and he thought many of them could be resolved. He told me, incidentally, that Dapcevic4 was going to enter Parliament and that there would shortly be a new chief of staff. In saying so, he seemed to imply that this change in itself would lead to some improvement. I made it altogether clear that the pending questions in the military aid field were urgent and that if solutions were not found we would soon find ourselves in the position of having to suspend various shipments on technical grounds. Re economic aid, I recited the difficulties on the L/C question and pointed out that this long delay had clearly complicated the decision on additional wheat. Tito gave the impression of agreeing with us on this matter but did not himself raise the Yugoslav need for additional wheat at this time.
Tito then said he wished to give me an explanation of present Yugoslav foreign policy. It is aimed, he said at the relaxation of tension in the world which is useful to all but basically Yugoslav Government has not changed the direction of its foreign policy. Yugoslav Government is particularly interested in improving its relations with US not only now but over long term. This is a fundamental postulate of Yugoslav Government policy and we should not think there has been any change. Normalization has not really gone very far although [Page 642] though in Tito’s opinion it is essential to talk with eastern bloc at this time. Many outstanding difficulties still exist between Yugoslavia and eastern bloc and it will take a long time to erase them. USSR seems to have certain illusions about independence of Yugoslav foreign policy and these will have to to be eliminated. There have been, of course, certain benefits from normalization which Tito was sure that we would recognize, such as lessening of frontier pressure, cessation of propaganda, etc. I said we would and that were not unduly apprehensive over normalization developments.
On Austria, Tito said that Yugoslav Government was naturally gratified at developments and hoped that we would agree. Contrary to the case with Roberts, he went out of his way to explain that neutralization of Austria will not disturb the defense plans of the Western world. He was not in favor of “isolation of Western world”. On the other hand, West should not consider defense problems solely in terms of “line of bunkers” and that we should be aware of feeling amongst peoples of Europe that things were changing and that there were possibilities for future understanding. It was hope of Yugoslav foreign policy that eventually a united and peaceful Germany would emerge and West should perhaps now consider the possibility of discussions between the eastern and western Germanies through which a solution might be found to the primary problem of preventing a revival of German nationalism and militarism. At this point, I interrupted to give recital of all the efforts the West has made to attain this united and peaceful Germany and how these had been blocked by Soviet intransigence. Tito did not disagree but neither did he attempt to reply. He agreed with me, however that the German problem must be approached with prudence and caution and that Austria is not a model for a solution.
Tito said that Yugoslav foreign policy today is based upon the idea of not joining any bloc. It is true that Yugoslav press has put Soviet bloc and NATO on same level and of course that is not strictly accurate. Nonetheless NATO does deserve some criticism on ideological grounds as it is important to remember that things are changing in the Soviet Union and the West should not lag behind. This does not mean that Yugoslavia should have any illusions about Soviet policy which certainly has a number of mental reservations in what it proposes.
Tito then mentioned the idea of neutral bloc and in response to my observations on Germany said that he agreed any such neutral bloc raised great problems. He thought that eventually the German problem could only be settled after some resolution of disarmament problems. In considering all this, Yugoslavia which is so close to the satellite countries had a basic interest in long-term prospects of good relations with the West. It was of primary importance to Yugoslavia [Page 643] to maintain and develop these relations with the West and again he repeated that in this respect Yugoslav foreign policy has not changed.
I then made my comment following very closely paragraph 1 of Deptel 857. I shall not repeat argumentation here but am certain I left him in no doubt as to our attitude on aid and military coordination. I made it clear that in our opinion it was essential to have a clear understanding of the fundamentals of future Yugoslav military relations with West and I said that we had reason to think this point was clearly understood at the time when Bebler had made his original proposal. I emphasized the congressional emphasis on defense criteria for European aid and explained how difficult it would be to continue our programs unless there were some progress in the field of military coordination.
Tito replied by saying he realized there could be a different appraisal of the present international situation and indeed it was obvious that such differences do exist. However the situation was in a state of flux and perhaps the time would shortly come when we should sit down together and talk about how each of us appraised the present situation. As he seemed to imply that this should not be a purely Yugoslav-US meeting I asked him if he were proposing conversations with other powers as well. He then said that he thought we should discuss how such a meeting should be arranged and that in his opinion it should probably not be held before June. At this point I reminded Tito again that we had many urgent problems to resolve in the field of military aid and that we had certain duties and obligations under our laws and the bilateral agreement which we must execute. I said that too much delay was certain to create the impression that Yugoslavia had lost interest in the military aid program and that its attitude coupled with difficulties on economic aid was certain to influence Washington. He rejected most strongly the idea that Yugoslavia had lost interest in the military aid program but said he understood how the question of priorities might arise. I said I could not see much point in a “purely technical conference” which might be confined to matters of additional military aid when we had been unable to resolve a number of urgent questions based upon our present aid program. Tito replied that we could expect the general staff proposals on a “technical conference” within the next few days.
I then raised the question of military planning under the Balkan alliance and tried to ascertain his thinking on future developments. On this he was evasive and said he understood we did receive the information. I then cited some technical problems to illustrate again how military aid was linked to planning but I did not succeed in eliciting much information. Tito finally said that he recognized this problem was closely related to that of larger military coordination.
In conclusion, I once more reiterated my belief that at some point the military assistance program must be related to joint planning and that if it were not done the question of priorities on aid would certainly arise. Again I indicated our position on military coordination was flexible but progress was essential. The atmosphere of interview was friendly with no recriminations on either side. I had strong impression however that Tito was more than a little unhappy at some of my observations on US policy but I think this interview served the purpose of clearing the air.
More comment to follow. Informing UK and French Ambassadors.6
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 768.5–MSP/4–2555. Secret; Priority.
  2. Supra.
  3. See footnotes 2 and 5, supra.
  4. Colonel General Peko DapČević, Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff.
  5. François Coulet, French Ambassador to Yugoslavia.