66. Memorandum of Visit0


  • Secretary Strauss
  • Mr. Mikoyan
  • U.S. Ambassador Lacy Thompson
  • Russian Ambassador Menshikov
  • Interpreter
  • Commercial Attache—Russian Embassy
  • Under Secretary Mueller
  • Acting Assistant Secretary Marshall Smith

Mr. Mikoyan remarked again that he was getting used to the photographers in this country.

The first matter brought up was about our highways. Mr. Mikoyan was greatly impressed by the multiplicity of good roads. Secretary Strauss thanked him for the “advertisement” inasmuch as the road program is under the general direction of the Department of Commerce. They fear that it will be a long time before Russia can catch up with us in the development of such a road system. While they have paved highways connecting Warsaw and Moscow and many of the principal capitals of the satellite countries they have a great lack of highways throughout their nation serving the smaller communities. There are some roads in Siberia but they are very primitive.

Mr. Mikoyan remarked that it is high time we get more closely together and agree to cooperate on all matters of mutual interest to ourselves and to them.

[Page 253]

Secretary Strauss remarked that 38 years ago when he was associated with former President Hoover in relief work he had been of some assistance in helping Russia during a period of great famine. Secretary Strauss mentioned that he would like to go to Russia sometime and was assured of a hearty welcome. As a matter of fact, Mr. Mikoyan said he would be pleased to have him as his personal guest.

Mr. Mikoyan was asked if the newspaper people, especially at the press conference this noon, bothered him. He said especially on “Meet the Press”1 he felt like losing his temper. He said he was not afraid of sharp questions but he could and would bite back. He stated they did not give him sufficient time to answer questions. He brought up the point that in the Middle Ages, when fighting duels, no honorable man would attack when an adversary was not ready. If done, the violator lost honor and was not accepted even by his own associates. Such a man often committed suicide.

Secretary Strauss mentioned that we have become used to the press in this country—that Mr. Mikoyan provided them with a number of headlines during his trip in this country. It was apparent that Mr. Mikoyan was somewhat annoyed at the lack of time given him to answer some of the questions, especially at the National Press Club. He said the president of the club made a speech of considerable length and then he was short of time for his answers.

He is not particularly enamored of former President Truman. He feels that Truman’s policies, both at the time of his incumbency and since, have not helped our two countries ability to get together and that his recent comments in the press would not help the situation.2

When asked if he felt he accomplished what he came for the answer was in the affirmative. While he said that he had no practical purpose for making the trip but merely to exchange opinions and try to feel out the pulse of this country, the results that he has achieved are beyond his expectations.

Secretary Strauss asked why 7 year periods were taken instead of 5 or 9. The answer was that while 5 year periods have usually been taken, they felt that in these changing times and conditions 7 years was a better length of time to accomplish their program. For instance, he mentioned that they had previously emphasized coal production, but in the last two years they have begun to develop their natural gas potential—gas [Page 254] being more efficient than coal. They have postponed their hydro-electric stations, mainly to save capital and to utilize their capital for power stations where power would be most efficiently and cheaply developed.

While they have atomic power plants, the efficiency of such plants is very low compared to thermal plants. Secretary Strauss asked if he could tell us the percentage efficiency difference between atomic power development and that from thermal type, but Mr. Mikoyan could not give an exact percentage except to say it was much less efficient and required more investment and therefore costs considerably higher. Further development in this area is mainly experimental.

When asked if their natural gas had a helium content the answer was in the affirmative “in a small degree”. This was not followed up and cannot be assured as to its veracity because of the somewhat hesitant manner in which the answer was given.

Secretary Strauss mentioned that over the portals of the Department of Commerce building is a quotation from Benjamin Franklin, approximately “fair and equitable trade between nations is our goal”. He stated he hoped that this could be accomplished between our countries and Mr. Mikoyan said he was of the same opinion.

Russian economic development, he stated, has to be at a much slower pace than they had hoped to achieve because they have so many areas to develop that it is a difficult problem.

He stated that in talking with Mr. Dillon this morning3 he felt that he did not accomplish a great deal—that he was somewhat hurt at Dillon’s adamant attitude and that it “smells of cold war”. He stated that diplomats, and he does not claim to be one, are very cold in their attitude and spend a lot of time “beating about the bush”.

Secretary Strauss stated that the Patent Office is a part of the Department of Commerce and how our patent system has proven to be the bulwark of our whole industrial development. The patent system is an incentive to scientists and assures them of a reward for their initiative and ideas for a reasonable time. He stated that if Russians can take our inventions, without adequate compensation, it is unfair whether it is done directly or indirectly. Mr. Mikoyan stated that something must be worked out and claims not to be informed on this particular situation. He knows that there are contracts in which licenses to use processes are agreed upon and for which payment is made. Secretary Strauss emphasized that he was not talking as much about that but had reference to the copying [of] individual items or procedures without any license. Again, Mr. Mikoyan stated that this must be worked out, but had never been [Page 255] called to his attention. He could not assure us of a change of attitude in this area as he doesn’t know.

his attention was called to the international conference regarding patents,4 which he had heard about and should be further studied. He feels that all obstacles to normal trade should be eliminated and that “fair and equitable” should be put into effect.

Secretary Strauss stated that there was a large list of items on which there were no restrictions as to purchase and that it was only strategic items to which we denied them access. He was rather amused that newspapers quoted Mr. Mikoyan as saying they could not even buy toothpaste in this country, but it was denied that such a statement had been made. He did say, however, they were perfectly willing for them to buy laxatives and other items of this character that were rather ridiculous. He was assured there had been a rather substantial increase in available items and that there was a large list available to them. As a matter of fact we buy much more from Russia than we sell them even though the total foreign trade between the two countries is insignificant. In 1957 they sold us $16 million dollars worth of goods and bought $10 million, however, they claim they paid United Nations $6 million which, they feel, came to this country, and also paid $7–1/2 million for obligations incurred at the end of World War II.

They are particularly disturbed about restriction on importation of furs to this country5 and also the high duty on manganese. They stated that since 1950 the trade with other capitalist countries had increased three times, while the trade with the United States had even declined. Mr. Mikoyan said, “let us work together to eliminate this distrust”.

He asked Secretary Strauss whether employees in the Department of Commerce heeded his “commands”. Secretary Strauss stated he did not issue commands. He also said that in a democracy only in the military were commands used, but he could assure Mr. Mikoyan that everyone in the Department is in accord with policies as enunciated by him.

The Secretary presented Mr. Mikoyan with a copy of “Washing-ton’s Farewell Address” in which he had marked a specific part—this was covered in the press release just issued.6

An interesting discussion was had on the difference between our religious backgrounds and beliefs, and that of an atheistic country like [Page 256] Russia. The answer was “we do not believe in God but in morality, but let us not discuss whose morality is the highest”.

Secretary Strauss said it is the American’s belief religion is much more than morality. Mr. Mikoyan brought out that a number of them lost sons in the war who had given their lives for their country. Secretary Strauss stated that love of country is not religion—that while an admirable motive we did not confuse it with religion. Mr. Mikoyan stated that “equality” and “brotherhood of man” was their religion, and again Secretary Strauss stated that this is not our belief. Mr. Mikoyan mentioned that for thousands of years our religion has taught the brotherhood of man but that it still has not been accomplished.

They stated that they will fulfill contracts—how could they continue on and have confidence of their people without keeping their contracts. Mr. Mikoyan claims they have kept their obligations to a tee—not naming them. He would like to see a warmer climate between our two countries.

He presented the Secretary with a present which the Secretary graciously accepted.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1183. Official Use Only. Drafted by Frederick H. Mueller, Under Secretary of Commerce, on January 19. The meeting was held at the Department of Commerce.
  2. For the transcript of the interview with Mikoyan on “Meet the Press,” an NBC television news program, on Sunday, January 18, see The New York Times, January 19, 1959.
  3. Truman’s “recent comments in the press” may be his two syndicated articles that criticized Soviet policy on Berlin as well as U.S. “diplomatic tourists” to the Soviet Union and U.S. hosts to Soviet visitors like Mikoyan for their eagerness in soliciting the attention of Soviet leaders. (Ibid., December 1, 1958 and January 19, 1959)
  4. See Document 65.
  5. Reference is to the Diplomatic Conference for the Revision of the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which convened at Lisbon, Portugal, on October 6, 1958.
  6. See footnote 10, Document 65.
  7. Not found.