103. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 0
390. For President from Vice President. Geneva eyes only for Secretary Herter. I have just returned to Moscow from a strenuous five-day trip through the Russian provinces, with roughly a day in Leningrad, the old Czarist capital; another in Novosibirsk, the rapidly developing capital of the Siberian frontier; over two in Sverdlovsk, the Ural industrial center, and neighboring cities; plus a lot of travel via TU 104 jets. Kozlov accompanied us to Leningrad, since then we have been in the hands of Yuri Zhukov, head of their “cultural relations” organization. Both American and Soviet press have been present throughout. Practically all activities and discussions have been public and I assume have been fully reported at home, so I shall not go into details. Despite the number of Soviet journalists and photographers along, reports in the local press have been sketchy, highly selected and slanted, with emphasis on what has been said to me and little or no report or mention of my responses.
Everywhere the feature of the trip has been a series of what I have come to call “foothill conferences.” At every stop, I have had meetings and discussions with the local officials or plant directors. These have generally been strictly party line affairs, with the same record being played over and over again, from the “captive nations” gambit to “foreign bases.” The best feature has been the crowds of ordinary citizens. During the week I have been in contact with tens of thousands of them and have personally greeted many hundreds. At every opportunity I have brought them your best wishes and presented Milton, with enormously enthusiastic response to the name Eisenhower. Some of the crowds of factory workers had obviously been given advance preparation, were clearly under discipline and had a sprinkling of planted “provocateurs” to heckle me. But even in such gatherings there was great curiosity and friendly interest, which in the case of the crowds along the city streets and in country villages were unboundedly enthusiastic. Ambassador Thompson and the other senior officers with me are greatly encouraged by this favorable popular reaction. They consider it demonstrates the really fervent desire of the Soviet people for peace; the counter-productive effect of Moscow’s constant pounding of the line that the USA is the target to emulate—”to overtake and surpass”—; and the people’s readiness to discount the unending propaganda against the [Page 378] American government and leaders. These tendencies will be stimulated when the hundreds who actually heard what I said here and there—and the additional thousands who will learn of this via the “grapevine” which flourishes in this system of controlled information—compare what they know with the expurgated accounts they read in their own papers.
It is clear that the Soviets have been trying with their needling and planted hecklers to provoke me into some angry and ill-considered reactions. I have resisted the temptation to hit back violently, popular as that might be at home, for the sake of the weighty considerations involved at Geneva and between you and Khrushchev. Even Zhukov, who is probably primarily responsible for the needling effort, yesterday expressed admiration for my patience and restraint.
I let myself go only once, and that deliberately, by telling off a militiaman who tried to stop crowd’s applause and cheers as I came out of the Sverdlovsk City Hall yesterday. The crowd obviously approved my action and renewed its demonstration. Now Khrushchev, in his speech at Dnepropetrovsk of which I learned last night,1 is following the same provocative line on a broader scale. This gives me a problem in connection with my radio-television address Saturday. While I shall deal with his major points, I propose to follow the same restrained tactics and avoid any detailed debate. It is clear that the Soviets have been most sensitive to my emphasis on free exchange and competition of information and ideas. Khrushchev seems in his speech to raise a possibility of not publishing my Saturday television speech and conceivably even of finding an excuse for canceling the broadcast altogether. (On the other hand, this would be a drastic departure from strict adherence to reciprocity in all respects so far.)
On substantive matters, the only thing which merits reporting—for what it is worth—is Zhukov’s comment on Geneva. Yesterday he said to me privately that: “I think your meeting with the Prime Minister last Sunday2 will have a positive effect on breaking the bottleneck at Geneva.” Talking earlier with Ambassador Thompson he made a similar statement but modified its meaning by referring also to the Soviet all-German committee proposal.3 We have been unable to evaluate these remarks, since we have had only fragmentary and insecure communications on this trip and consequently no current reports from Secretary Herter at Geneva.[Page 379]
One message which did get through by telephone from the Embassy in Moscow Thursday night, was your note to me,4 which I greatly appreciate. Pat, Milton, and the rest of our party join in sending you our best.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/7–3159. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to Geneva.↩
- For the condensed text of this July 28 speech, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, August 26, 1959, pp. 13–16.↩
- See Document 99.↩
- Gromyko made this proposal at the June 10 plenary session of the Geneva Foreign Ministers Meeting; see vol. VIII, Document 381.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 100.↩