249. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Yugoslav Ambassador (Mates), Department of State, Washington, May 23, 19551

The Yugoslav Ambassador called on the Secretary at 2:30 this afternoon at the latter’s request. The Secretary opened the conversation by saying that whereas, as the Ambassador knew, there were certain difficulties in connection with the operation in Yugoslavia of our military aid program (which Ambassador Riddleberger had discussed with Marshal Tito and the Foreign Minister), the Secretary did not want to get this matter mixed up with the visit of the Soviet leaders to Belgrade. Accordingly we were not raising this matter further at this time though it was a matter which we felt was important to work out and one to which we would revert in the future.

The Secretary then went on to say that he felt that the visit of the Soviet leaders to Belgrade was a real triumph for Marshal Tito and testimony to the soundness of his policy of independence which he had pursued since 1948 with such great courage and despite great risks. We had, as the Ambassador knew, attempted to mitigate that risk by our relations with the Yugoslav Government and in particular by our contribution of economic and military aid. As he had said recently in another connection, the Secretary felt that proof of the success of a policy was the worst of all possible reasons to abandon it and consequently he would be gratified by the assurances from Belgrade that the Yugoslav Government had no intention of modifying its existing independent policies which the Secretary felt had been of benefit not only to Yugoslavia but to others.

Ambassador Mates responded by saying that he appreciated what the Secretary had just said. He wanted to reaffirm that the initiative for this visit had come from the Soviets. The Yugoslav Government considered this visit as a beginning rather than an end in the sense that they did not expect important decisions to be reached but that they hoped further normalization of their relations with the Soviet bloc would follow. There was no agenda for the talks but the Yugoslavs would plan to bring up certain matters such as their claims for damages against the Soviets. Marshal Tito had made clear that there would be no secret agreements arising from the talks and that [Page 653] he would keep the United States Government and other friendly governments fully informed of their results.

The Ambassador then said that he was aware in a general way of the difficulties which had arisen in the military aid program. He indicated that he felt confident the difficulties could be straightened out. His impression was that the problems were with the Army rather than either with the Air Force or the Navy and he made a somewhat cryptic remark to the effect that he thought personalities might enter into this. Mr. Merchant explained that our law required that we satisfy ourselves that military equipment turned over by US be put to the use for which it was intended and that we must satisfy ourselves that it was properly used and maintained. The Ambassador gave the impression of understanding the problem and again indicated that he thought it could be worked out to our mutual satisfaction.

The Ambassador then asked the Secretary if there was anything he could be told concerning the impending meeting of the four heads of government. The Secretary explained at some length the philosophy underlying our concept of the meeting and emphasized that insofar as this country was concerned the two major causes of tension with the Soviets were, first, the captivity of the satellite people (who had million of relatives in this country) and the conspiratorial activity in friendly countries of Communist parties dominated and controlled by the Soviets. He gave a general indication of the range of subjects which might come up though he said, like the meeting in Belgrade, it would presumably be one without an agenda.

The Secretary then asked if the Ambassador had any objection to his issuing the attached statement to the press after the Ambassador departed.2 The Ambassador readily agreed and said that he would confine his remarks to the press to the statement that he had had a long and friendly talk with the Secretary and that he had nothing to add to the statement which the Secretary had issued.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.68/5–2355. Confidential. Drafted by Merchant.

    In a May 18 memorandum, Merchant had advised Secretary Dulles that Riddleberger could not meet with Tito, who was on the island of Brioni, to discuss the recently-announced top-level Yugoslav-Soviet conference. He suggested that Dulles meet with Ambassador Mates to inform him of U.S. concern regarding the proposed meeting and to request that the United States be informed of the discussions at the meeting. (Ibid., 611.68/5–1855)

  2. For text of the press release, see Department of State Bulletin, June 6, 1955, p. 933. The press release errs in naming Vladimir Popović as the Yugoslav Ambassador.