74. Editorial Note

W. Averell Harriman, former Ambassador to the Soviet Union and former Governor of New York, made an extensive tour of the Soviet Union during May and June 1959. A memorandum of Harriman’s conversation with Foy D. Kohler, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, May 7, on Harriman’s forthcoming trip is in Department of State, Central Files, 032-Harriman, Averell/5–759. A memorandum of his conversation with Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, May 7, on his desire to explore an offer made by Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan for Harriman to visit the People’s Republic of China is ibid. Subsequently, the Department of State acceded to Harriman’s request to travel to China as a “journalist” or “news correspondent” and authorized the issuance of a service passport to him suspending the travel restrictions to mainland China. (Telegram 1955 to Moscow, May 22; ibid., 032-Harriman, Averell/5–1459) Harriman did not visit the People’s Republic, however, because the government did not issue him a visa. (Telegram 2445 from Moscow, June 3; ibid., 032-Harriman, Averell/6–359)

Charles W. Thayer, retired career Foreign Service officer, accompanied Harriman on his tour. On his arrival in Moscow, Harriman had interviews with Mikoyan on May 13, and Minister of Agriculture Vladimir Vladimirovich Matskevich and Defense Minister Rodion Y. Malinovsky on May 14. Notes prepared by Thayer on Harriman’s conversations with Mikoyan and Marshal Malinovsky were transmitted in despatch 654 from Moscow, May 15. (Ibid., 032-Harriman, Averell/5–1559) During the latter part of May, Harriman toured the Soviet Union. He visited some closed areas, including the city of Sverdlovsk and the hydroelectric construction site at Bratsk.

Shortly after his return to Moscow on May 30, Harriman left for a tour of Central Asia. When he returned to Moscow, he had an interview with Nikita Khrushchev on June 23; see Document 75. On June 25, Ambassador Llewelyn E. Thompson gave a luncheon for Harriman, which Khrushchev also attended; see Document 76. Additional details on their conversation concerning Berlin and Germany were transmitted in despatch 741 from Moscow, June 29. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/6–2959)

Harriman returned to the United States on July 8 after short stops in Paris, Bonn, and London. He informed Secretary Herter of his trip to the Soviet Union on July 10; see Document 77. his briefing of the Senate Foreign [Page 269] Relations Committee on the same day is printed in Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (historical Series), 1959, volume XI, pages 733–749. his account of his trip, especially of his conversations with Khrushchev, was published in Life magazine, July 13, 1959. He also gave his observations on various aspects of Soviet life in a series of articles for the North American Newspaper Alliance, which were published in The New York Times between June 1 and July 3. his trip to the Soviet Union also provided much material for his book, Peace With Russia?, published in 1959.

Additional documentation on Harriman’s trip is in Department of State, Central Files 032-Harriman, Averell and 611.61. Much of this documentation for the month of July is on the concerns of Harriman and Department of State officials over the leak to the press of Harriman’s conversations with Khrushchev. Information on the conversations was contained in articles by Joseph Alsop in the Washington Post and Times Herald on July 2, and by Harry Schwartz in The New York Times on July 3. Harriman also expressed “grave concern” over a postscript to his Life magazine article by John L. Steele, Chief of the Time-Life Washington bureau, which revealed Harriman’s report that Khrushchev had given the Chinese Communists atomic rockets for their use in support of a possible invasion of Formosa. (Telegram 125 from London, July 8; Department of State, Central Files, 032-Harriman, Averell/7–850)