49. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State0

201. At Polish Embassy reception last night my wife and I were seated at small table with Italian, Iranian, Canadian and Netherlands Ambassadors. Khrushchev and other members of Presidium were seated in large circle composed mainly of satellite representatives and such countries as Egypt, India, etc. Shortly before 8 o’clock when party should have broken up, Khrushchev ostentatiously came over to join [Page 176] our table bringing Indian Ambassador and later we were joined by Mikoyan and Polish Ambassador. Despite several attempts on part of Mikoyan and myself to break up the party Khrushchev insisted on staying until half past nine. In view composition of party and that of other tables within earshot I thought it best to avoid serious conversation and deliberately contrived to put my wife between Khrushchev and myself. Although most of the evening was spent in largely trivial conversation between him and my wife, following subjects came up in general conversation.

Khrushchev looked me straight in the eye and asked bluntly why Secretary Benson had cancelled his visit.1 I immediately replied that I was sure the reason given in his letter was correct one. When he expressed skepticism I went on to say that we had an approaching election and that agricultural policy was one of the most important issues and as I developed my personal knowledge of Benson’s great interest in the visit, Khrushchev appeared convinced. In this connection he said Soviet Union would have a bumper crop this year including the new lands. When my wife remarked that she had seen a large party of youth preparing to depart for participation in the harvest Khrushchev said this was a bad system which they had to employ due to lack of adequate machinery but that they hoped within two or three years to remedy this and abolish the system.

Subject of civil aviation came up and Khrushchev asked me why we had never carried out the agreement to establish civil airlines.2 I said I thought we had great interest in this but was entirely uninformed as to why negotiations had not been started. (I should be grateful if Department would inform me of current status this question.)3 Khrushchev proposed that he and I start the negotiations next day to which I said I [Page 177] knew nothing about subject and would have to get help. He remarked somewhat contemptuously that this was a typical diplomatic answer.

When I asked him when we were going to get a vacation he said he was leaving for Kiev about August 16 and was going on to the Crimea about August 20. He renewed an invitation he had on a previous occasion extended to my wife that I bring my family to Crimea and that we spend our vacation together there where he promised some good hunting. My wife explained her plans were fairly well advanced to leave for Austria and Italy August 11, mentioning children’s need for carrying on dental work already begun in Vienna. Khrushchev indicated he considered this evasion and that he was serious in invitation. He said he realized of course that I would have to obtain authorization from State Department. Matter was left in such manner that it could easily be pursued or dropped. When my wife asked where we would stay he said he thought he had some influence with mayor of nearest town and could find us accommodations. At one point in conversation I said I thought if we could rid world of propaganda, problem of establishing peace would be easy. Khrushchev immediately said “let’s make an agreement to do it at once.” The various toasts he composed were completely inoffensive.

In the later conversation with my wife she asked what had happened to end our wartime collaboration. Khrushchev replied that our establishment of a large fund for subversion of the Soviet system was largely to blame. He told her that it was Bulganin who had brought him the news of his son’s death during the war and he spoke of former in affectionate terms. When he expatiated on role of India as a go-between my wife remarked she did not understand why we could not talk directly to each other and he agreed there was no valid reason.

During this time I was talking to Mikoyan who was close to being drunk, the conversation relating mostly to wartime reminiscences. He paid me some extravagant compliments, saying among other things that although our relations had probably never been worse they found it always possible to talk to me. When he said the role of being American Ambassador in Soviet Union must be an extremely difficult one, adding that he could say anything he pleased while I had to be careful, I replied I was very glad that he realized this. I also remarked that an American Ambassador had to be adept at ducking flying glass, which he took in good part. When he started to make a crack about Arab problem I said that if he wanted to maintain atmosphere which this conversation had hitherto had I would advise him not to open up this subject. He laughed and changed subject.

Throughout conversation I endeavored to maintain as reserved an attitude as circumstances permitted. My general impression is that Khrushchev was worried although I suspect Indian Ambassador may [Page 178] have taken initiative to suggest he join our table. Whole performance was an eerie one, perhaps best expressed by fact that throughout evening gramophone was playing number of American jazz songs including repeated renderings of “Why Must You Be Mean To Me?”.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/7–2358. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution.
  2. Telegram 75 to Moscow, July 11, requested the Embassy to inform Soviet Minister of Agriculture Vladimir Vladimirovich Matskevich that Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson had to delay his proposed trip to Europe and the Soviet Union indefinitely because of the extreme pressure of legislative and agricultural policy matters. (Ibid., 033.1161/7–1158)
  3. Section XIV of the agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union on exchanges in the cultural, technical, and educational fields, signed in Washington on January 27, provided for agreement in principle to the establishment on the basis of reciprocity direct air flights between the two nations and the commencement of negotiations on terms and conditions “at a mutually convenient date to be determined later.” For text of the agreement, see Department of State Bulletin, February 17, 1958, pp. 243–247.
  4. In a letter to Ambassador Thompson, August 27, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Thomas C. Mann wrote that bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union on a civil aviation agreement might begin after the airline industry and the Civil Aeronautics Board had formulated a U.S. position for the talks. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.6194/8–2758)