54. Report Prepared in the Department of State0


US-USSR Political Relations

Khrushchev repeatedly posed the question of what could be done to improve US-USSR relations. He and Mr. Stevenson agreed that non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries is a highly desirable step in this direction. However, Khrushchev’s manifest resentment of Stevenson’s expressed interest in Soviet actions toward Yugoslavia and Hungary and the sharp attack on US “intervention” in Lebanon, Guatemala, Cuba, etc., revealed the broad discrepancy in meaning attached to “non-interference.” Khrushchev also repeated the usual Soviet objections to US foreign bases. Mr. Stevenson was impressed with Khrushchev’s statement that “If a country wants to go to war, then it can ignore public opinion. But if one does not want war, then one must take account of public opinion. Mr. Stevenson interpreted this statement as an indication that Soviet leaders must now consider public opinion in formulating foreign policy because they now rely more on persuasion and less on coercion than was the case in the Stalin regime.

Mr. Stevenson emphasized to Gromyko that the US public firmly supports its Government in the current Middle Eastern crisis. Khrushchev, Mikoyan and Gromyko all repeated the standard Soviet line that Chamoun’s1 request for US troops was unconstitutional and [Page 183] unsupported by the Lebanese people and that the despatch of US troops to protect US citizens was a classic pretext of imperialists for armed intervention. Khrushchev stated the Soviet Union would never reconcile itself to US troops remaining in the Middle East and expressed the view that Arab dislike of the US would continue to grow as long as troops were present.

Mr. Stevenson interpreted Khrushchev’s vigorous expression of distaste for sitting with Chiang Kai-shek2 as an indication that the Chinese Communists had vigorously objected to this but also felt that the Soviets considered the General Assembly a better forum for mobilizing public opinion than the Security Council, particularly when the Secretary had excluded private talks unless, as Khrushchev said, “they took place by accident in the men’s room.”

US-USSR Trade Relations

Khrushchev said that the USSR had not expected US credits but told the Governor that the “secret” motivation of Khrushchev’s trade letter3 was to demonstrate to the Soviet people that US expressions of concern over the welfare of Soviet consumers was politically motivated and not genuine. Khrushchev and Mikoyan characterized the President’s reply as a “rather good,” “generally favorable” one.4 In reply to Mr. Stevenson, Khrushchev conceded equivocally that the lend-lease account must be settled before a substantial expansion of trade could take place. Khrushchev also remarked about the failure of American papers to publish his letter in full.

Mikoyan said that the USSR could allocate 500 million to 1 billion dollars of its 8 billion dollar trade volume to trade with the US. He referred to Khrushchev’s letter as indicating what US goods Soviet trade monopolies would be interested in and added that USSR could buy excavators over the period of a year or two and so avoid creating domestic productive capacity to meet a short-time need.

While disclaiming economic autarky, Mikoyan said the Soviet Union must be “independent of the capitalist world in the basic questions.” However, Soviet purchase of 5 to 10% of a given type of machine from foreign sources would not impair this independence. The USSR desired to expand output and export of items it could produce more cheaply, such as timber, paper, cellulose and oil.

Mikoyan said the abolition of US discriminatory practices was a prerequisite to trade expansion. He mentioned the high US tariff on Soviet [Page 184] manganese, restrictions on US import of raw furs, US disapproval of the export of an oil drilling cutting edge in return for the Soviet turbo-drill, US refusal to export some medical equipment and supplies and some other equipment for the IGY.

Khrushchev remarked that Secretary Weeks5 had said the US Government would not hinder deals with private firms and that “apparently we will consider the propositions made by these firms with a view to inviting their representatives to come here for talks.”

US-USSR Cultural Relations

Soviet Minister of Culture Mikhailov demonstrated the sensitive Soviet amour propre in discussing the film negotiations. Noting the US reluctance to take as many films as the Soviets did, he said “This experience had shown disrespect for the Russian films.” Mikoyan vigorously and emphatically defended Soviet jamming of the Voice of America, attributing it to American cold-war policy and gave no indication of Soviet willingness to make concessions in its travel restrictions.

Governor Stevenson’s efforts to obtain Soviet recognition of American authors’ rights to royalties on works published in the Soviet Union met with a non-committal response from Mikhailov.

Soviet Foreign Trade and Aid

Mikoyan stated that the Soviet Union would “have to expand” its foreign economic assistance and that joint UN economic development programs could and should be expanded.

Mikoyan claimed that recent large-scale Soviet exports of aluminum, particularly to Great Britain, were designed only to obtain foreign currency and that the Soviet Union would not go in for large aluminum exports in the future as its domestic requirements were growing.

Mikoyan said that in the long-range future, the Soviet Government hoped to make the ruble convertible.

Communist China

Governor Stevenson’s talks with Soviet leaders confirmed the impression he had from European leaders that “Communist China bulks very large in Soviet thought, concern and policy.”

Khrushchev emphasized that the pace of Communist Chinese development was “astonishing” and had exceeded even what the Chinese Communists themselves foresaw.

Mikoyan remarked that the USSR, as a matter of policy, bought what Communist China could supply, perhaps reducing its own output of a particular item by 1 to 3 percent in order to do so. He gave rice and [Page 185] silk as examples of this policy. He denied that there was any friction in Soviet-Chinese Communist trade relations, stating that it might be necessary to “talk things over” if the trade imbalance exceeded the 80 million dollar swing fund.

Soviet Domestic Situation

Governor Stevenson’s over-all impression of the Soviet Union was one of concentrated and harnessed energy and industry. Both Khrushchev and Mikoyan stressed that the industrial decentralization was working out successfully and that the local executives were proving highly capable and equal to their tasks. Both men explained the large number of economic regions (which is generally conceded to be uneconomic) are as determined by the existence of given administrative divisions. This is an interesting commentary on the limitations which entrenched bureaucracy places even on a powerful dictatorship.

Mikoyan reaffirmed the Soviet intention to convert all industry to a 7-hour working day by 1960 although this conversion had cost the coal industry four billion rubles in the past twelve months and would cost the iron and steel industry three billion rubles this year.

Remarks Concerning the Secretary

Khrushchev made obvious oblique unfavorable references to the Secretary, terming him “A person who if brought together with a saint would make the saint a sinner.” He said that Communist leaders said they would regret the Secretary’s departure from the State Department because “we’ll hardly get a more helpful opponent than he.” Later Khrushchev said that “that Sputnik of the President is embittered and is artificially keeping up a state of tension.” He implied that the Secretary was motivated by personal feelings and failed to appreciate that politicians’ behavior must be determined by the needs of their own countries.

Mr. Stevenson’s Conclusions

Mr. Stevenson considered that there was little to encourage hope of an early settlement of major issues. He was impressed with Khrushchev’s “desire to avoid war… and his eagerness to talk.”6 He told Khrushchev that “we should proceed from the idea of equality of power on the two sides—Neither rollback by us nor expansion by the Soviet Union.” Mr. Stevenson was struck by Khrushchev’s acceptance of the idea of equality. He tentatively suggested, in one of his articles, that Khrushchev be invited to visit the United States.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/9–1058. Confidential. Drafted by John A. Armitage. An attached memorandum from Kohler to Dulles, September 10, briefly summarized this report. Also attached was a memorandum from Elbrick to Dulles, September 8, that noted Stevenson’s consultation with Ambassador Thompson before his conversations with Soviet leaders.
  2. Camille Chamoun, President of Lebanon.
  3. President of the Republic of China.
  4. For text of Khrushchev’s June 2 letter to Eisenhower on expansion of U.S.-Soviet trade, see Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1958, pp. 200–202.
  5. For text of Eisenhower’s July 14 letter to Khrushchev on expansion of U.S.-Soviet trade, see ibid., p. 200.
  6. Sinclair Weeks, Secretary of Commerce.
  7. Ellipsis in the source text.
  8. Stevenson made this suggestion in the second of his articles published in The New York Times, August 28, 1958.