141. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Current United States-Yugoslav Relations and President Tito’s Trip to Near and Far East


  • President Josip Broz Tito
  • Foreign Secretary Koca Popovic
  • Secretary General Leo Mates
  • Ambassador K. L. Rankin

On March 17 I asked for an appointment with President Tito, and one day later word came that he would receive me this morning at 11:00 o’clock in his Belgrade Residence. I arrived one minute early and was shown immediately into a large sitting room. President Tito was there with the Foreign Secretary and his Secretary General, who was Yugoslav Ambassador to the United States until last year. The latter acted as interpreter, although Tito dispensed with his services during the first part of our conversation. The President greeted me affably.

I began by remarking that Yugoslav-American relations were good, and involved no serious problems at the present time (Tito interjected, [Page 372] with a broad smile, “I am glad”), which I said was due no doubt to his able Foreign Secretary and his former Ambassador to Washington. I added, however, that in view of the President’s long absence it seemed desirable to review with him the status of our programs here. Also, I would be grateful if he could tell me something about his trip.

As to Yugoslavia’s economic needs, I said that the deficit in international payments would be about $200 million for the year, and of this American support would cover at least $150 million. In addition, negotiations for loans to finance power projects were under way in Washington. In the field of cultural relations, the Ford Foundation exchanges had begun and I hoped that we might arrange a Fulbright program soon. An Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship1 also had been set up. Regarding military aid, we were not yet agreed on the text of our termination agreement, but I thought that the differences were relatively minor. Meanwhile arrangements had been made for Yugoslavia to purchase needed items and payment terms were being relaxed. I hoped that Yugoslavia would get what was wanted in the way of military aircraft, F–84s and F–86s (Tito said that they also wanted T–33s as well as “Sabres”). In summary, I thought everything was going well.

With regard to his recent extensive travels, I noted that in a speech in Belgrade he had said that the West did not like the trip to the Near and Far East. I said that I knew of no such opposition in the West. Personally I thought the trip was most useful, but of course he couldn’t please everybody.

President Tito chuckled at my reference to opinions of his travels, but before starting a rather lengthy discussion of his trip he agreed that our economic arrangements were indeed on a satisfactory basis; also that such differences as existed were relatively minor and could be resolved.

Tito then discussed his trip, through an interpreter, for perhaps half an hour. He first referred to his general satisfaction with the results and then brought up Indonesia and President Soekarno, with whom he had talked at length. He observed that Indonesia had great natural resources but was under-developed. Scattered among many islands, the country was difficult to govern. He had advised Soekarno to be more lenient with outlying areas, specifically Sumatra which provides so much of Indonesia’s income. Tito said distrust of the West persists in the country; the recent revolt in Sumatra was supported from “the outside” (he avoided being more specific). Indonesia wanted independence and to [Page 373] avoid becoming part of any bloc or interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Tito scouted [discounted] any idea that the Djakarta Government would be overthrown by a military coup; the Army supported the same policy of independence.

In Burma Tito found the same desire for an independent and peaceful policy in international relations. The Army was loyal to this idea. As to India, he thought it unnecessary to comment on policy in view of that country’s well known position and Nehru’s many statements, including recent ones. However, he did mention Indian distress over American military aid to Pakistan. The Indians feared that these arms would be used against them, in connection with Kashmir or otherwise, and Tito was glad that we had somewhat curtailed arms shipments to Pakistan.

Ceylon also wanted independence, as did Ethiopia and the Sudan. Tito believed that we need not be concerned about the latter two if the West followed correct policies.

As to the United Arab Republic, he had many talks with Nasser, whose aim was close cooperation among Arab states rather than further incorporations into the Republic. Nasser had learned much in the past two years, he said, and genuinely wanted good relations with the West. This included Britain and France despite the fact that they were enemies in 1956. Much would depend on how the West responded. Tito was particularly impressed by his visit to Syria with Nasser. The enthusiasm he saw displayed by hundreds of thousands of people made evident their support of the union with Egypt. Syria had been a small, exposed country; now the people felt much more secure.

I asked what Nasser thought about the prospects for Iraq maintaining its independence. Tito replied that much had happened since he saw Nasser and he did not know the latter’s opinion. But Tito himself thought there was no danger of Iraq going against the other Arab states. He believed that Arab feeling was too strong in that country.

At this point Tito remarked that he had described impressions gathered on his trip and had suggested defects in Western policy. There were also defects in “Eastern policy,” he added with a smile, but he would not discuss these.

I said that his views on how to deal with the countries he had visited were similar to my own. We also wanted nations to be independent. I remarked that people often quoted from the Bible, “He who is not with me is against me,” but overlooked the passage where Christ spoke of a man doing good works: “For he that is not against us is for us.” I thought that applied to countries seeking genuine independence.

On departing I expressed regret at having missed President Tito’s annual shoot last fall, since I was returning from the United States at that [Page 374] time. However, I was going bear hunting next week-end. He wished me luck and hoped I would join his shoot this year.

Tito looked very well and seemed in much better spirits than when I talked with him in Brioni last July (see Memorandum of Conversation of July 26, 1958).2 He sat on a large sofa, sometimes upright and sometimes leaning back, with no indication that his back bothered him. His manner toward me was distinctly more cordial than on the previous occasion.

Our conversation had lasted just under one hour. As in our conversation of last July, Tito used the word “communist” once only, in a passing reference to communist parties in the Near East.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.68/3–2159. Confidential. Drafted by Rankin and sent to the Department of State as an enclosure to despatch 419 from Belgrade, March 21. The meeting was held at Tito’s residence.
  2. These grants were established in October 1953 to facilitate extended visits to the United States and abroad for journalists, educators, government officials, and businessmen.
  3. Document 132.