150. Letter From Representative Chester Bowles to the Counselor of the Embassy in Yugoslavia (O’Shaughnessy)0

Dear Elim: My visit with Tito was well worthwhile although nothing particularly momentous came out of it. I doubt that you would have learned enough from it to justify your taking the long trip from Belgrade and return. Moreover, I believe Tito may have talked a bit more freely with me than he might have done if a State Department representative had been present.

Because the visibility at Belgrade airport delayed our takeoff, we arrived at Brioni two hours late. This reduced the length of our actual conversation to a little over an hour. As you know, Tito can speak simple English, and he apparently understands English well. He spoke in Serbo-Croatian, however, when we discussed complicated topics. Then the translation was handled by Mates, his Secretary General, who met us at the dock at Pula and stayed with us throughout.

Tito appeared well and strong, and was most cordial. I stated at the beginning that I had come to see him in a non-official capacity, that on some points my views might differ from our official American position, that I would speak frankly, and that I hoped he would do likewise. I added that I had no intention of publicizing our discussion in any way.

I opened the conversation by reminding him of a talk that I had had with him in March, 1957, on my way back to the States following a visit to the Soviet Union. I commented that he had then noted the changes [Page 392] that were taking place within the Soviet Union, and that although events in Budapest might slow down further changes, the slowdown would be only temporary. I also reminded him that during this visit he had agreed that China might represent a bigger question mark for the long haul than the USSR itself.

Tito replied that changes had taken place within Russia as he had assumed they would, and that even greater and more fundamental changes might lie ahead. He then asked what I felt Khrushchev’s reaction might be to his recent trip to the United States.1

I said that one thing at least must have been clear to Khrushchev and that was our inherent good will towards all people and our strong hope for a more durable peace.

Tito immediately added that he was glad that President Eisenhower was going to India, because it was important to assure India that she has good friends.2 However, he hoped that this did not indicate a long postponement to the summit meeting.3

I replied that although some of our allies were rather cool to a summit meeting, I assumed that one would be held, perhaps in the early spring. Tito said that he hoped this was the case, as it was vitally important not to allow the world situation to deteriorate again.

I mentioned in passing that many people I had talked to in his country and ours hoped that sooner or later—possibly on his way to Moscow in the spring—President Eisenhower would visit Yugoslavia, and that after the 1960 election furor died down, Tito himself might come to the United States. He offered no comment.

I then changed the subject to China. What did he think of developments there?

Speaking with considerable vigor, Tito said that he was very concerned about China and felt that the situation there was politically very dangerous. He thought that the Soviet Union was also concerned and that it would exert increasing influence on China through economic pressures to patch up the conflict with India. It was difficult for him to understand why the Chinese could be so foolish as to destroy the goodwill that they had worked so hard to create in India.4

I suggested that a very profound difference existed between the Russian and Chinese situation. Russia is a relatively satisfied nation [Page 393] economically, with few serious, internal, non-political pressures to expand. By contrast, China with 650 million dynamic people will be faced with a basic inadequacy of resources over the years and with tempting economic, political and military vacuums in Southeast Asia containing the very resources of land and minerals which China herself lacked. I said that many of us found an alarming similarity here with the situations which set Nazi Germany and imperialistic Japan on the road to open aggression. Tito noddded his head and interjected: “Of course, Lebensraum”.

I added that many of us felt that this situation called for a dual policy on the part of the United States and other like-minded nations: first to make it clear to the Chinese that we would vigorously oppose any attempted military aggression with whatever forces were required; second, to consider as conditions enable us to do so, what measures we might take to make it easier for China to live within her present boundaries.

I suggested that possibly we had as much to fear from the failure of China’s present economic efforts as from their success, and asked whether he thought it might be possible gradually to develop some degree of mutual Soviet-American understanding and even coordination in dealing with the problem.

Tito commented that this was an interesting analysis which might under certain circumstances prove to be valid. At the moment he did not feel that within China the economic pressure for expansion could be as great as I suggested. Russia no doubt was worried, but it was unlikely that the Chinese at this stage would totally ignore Soviet desires for stability in Asia, although they seemed at the moment to be making a show of independence, and even intransigence.

What concerned him more was another long-range problem. China was seeking to maintain her ties with the overseas Chinese and assert their status as Chinese citizens. Was this not an effort to recapture the vision of an all-powerful, imperialistic China?

Tito went on to say that our China policy had contributed to the present danger by isolating China and creating an opportunity for Mao to establish America as the enemy. This was dangerous for everyone and could lead to war. The answer for us was to accept China as a fact and gradually to attempt better relationships. That was why Yugoslavia had always recommended recognition of Peking and her admission to the United Nations.

When I asked if he thought the Kremlin was any more anxious than our own government was to see China in the UN, he laughed. Until recently he suspected the answer was “no”, and the proof was that the USSR always brought up the question when it was least likely to be [Page 394] soberly discussed. However, he now felt that the Kremlin sincerely wanted the Peking government admitted to membership in the UN because it would have a sobering effect on Chinese policy.

I pointed out that the China issue in America was a highly emotional one for very understandable reasons. We have had a long record of friendship of China—our missionary efforts, the Open Door Policy, Wilson’s rejection of Japan’s demands, and indeed the Pearl Harbor attack itself which to a degree was Japan’s reaction to our refusal to accept Tokyo’s domination of the China mainland.

I added that we had done everything in our power to persuade the Generalissimo5 to introduce reforms within China while he still had time, but that he had greatly underestimated Mao’s military capacity. So indeed had Stalin and we Americans as well. Had their foresight been better, the Kremlin might have preferred a divided China just as they now prefer a divided Germany.

Whatever the possibilities might have been for establishing relations with the new Chinese regime, they were destroyed by China’s entry into the Korean War in 1950.

Nor was the situation any easier now. Even if we agreed to exchange ambassadors and to withdraw our opposition to the Peking government’s entrance into the UN, China would insist on her sovereignty over Taiwan and block Taiwan’s emergence as a separate nation. Thus, I emphasized, recognition was an academic issue and was likely to remain so.

Americans disagree, I said, about our position on Quemoy and Matsu, but there was no disagreement on our all-out commitment to defend Taiwan. Moreover, the 9 million people of Taiwan, regardless of Chiang, have a right to their own future. They are highly literate, relatively prosperous with widespread land ownership, and strongly anti-Communist.

If allowed to vote in a plebiscite, they would undoubtedly choose independence as their first choice with some association with Japan possible as a second choice. With the advent of new weapons and missile systems, Taiwan’s military significance for us will decrease, I added, but the people of Taiwan, like the people of Burma or Cambodia, would remain as important to us as the people of Berlin.

Tito listened to all this intently and asked many questions about the future of Taiwan and the characteristics of the Taiwanese. He said that my view was new to him and very interesting. He remarked, however, that American policies customarily lagged behind events. In Yugoslavia during the war, for instance, it took the United States much longer than [Page 395] it did the British to recognize the potential role of the Partisans. The same lag in American policies appeared in Iraq, Algeria, and elsewhere. Cuba too was an example, although it was easy for the Yugoslavs to identify themselves emotionally with Castro’s guerrilla struggles because of their own experience. Now, he agreed, it is necessary for Castro to show that he can govern.

I agreed that there was something to this criticism and that indeed most Americans would accept it in greater or lesser degree. However, among other things he had overlooked the extraordinary record on land reform, cooperatives and labor organizations which MacArthur had achieved in Japan; the many improvements which we had encouraged on Taiwan; our strong backing of Nehru’s economic efforts in India; and indeed the aid which we had given “socialist” Yugoslavia.

I added that there was a growing understanding in America of the importance of genuine social, economic and political reforms in world affairs, that this was in line with our own revolutionary heritage, and that as a Democrat I could say that this understanding included all the likely candidates for the Republican as well as the Democratic Presidential nominations. I said that the American people had gone through a tense period extending from the stockmarket crash of 1929, through the Great Depression, World War II and the huge demands on us following the war, and that a desire to catch our breath and recharge our batteries was inevitable. Now, I felt, we were emerging from this period of slow-down and that the next few years, regardless of the outcome of the 1960 elections, would see a resurgence of America’s creative energies both at home and abroad.

Tito said he hoped that this was the case, and the friendship and understanding between Yugoslavia and America would deepen.

I concluded by asking him for his view on Germany and his expectations concerning the future of Berlin.

Tito replied that everyone, including the West and East Germans, was becoming adjusted to a divided Germany, that there was no other likely outcome, that this was probably a good thing from the standpoint of everyone’s interest, and that the need therefore was to develop acceptable relations between the two Germanys.

I asked how in this case could we settle the Berlin question since Berlin’s only logical role was the capital city of a United Germany. He agreed that this was difficult but said that Khrushchev’s suggestion that Berlin might become a free city could serve as a basis for negotiation6—if not now, some time in the future.

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I asked him if he thought Khrushchev understood that under no circumstances would we relinquish our position in Berlin until an overall settlement could be reached that was acceptable to all concerned. He said he was certain that the Kremlin understood this and that there would be no reversion to threats. I would have liked to explore his views on Germany and Europe more fully, but at this point we ran out of time.

I brought the discussion to a close by saying that I hoped to be in Berlin itself by midnight and to spend a few days there and in Bonn. He said that he understood the rebuilding of West Berlin had been extraordinary and that he would like to see it.

On the way to the door I told him that our economic experts had high praise for the competence of his economic planners and administrators. He said that he was glad of this, but that much remained to be done.

This is the story. Nothing unusual or unexpected was revealed, but I felt that I was able to improve his understanding of us and to broaden his perspective on several questions.

I hope that ways will be found for more Americans to see Yugoslavia and Tito on both an official and unofficial basis. You know better than I how this can be encouraged, but I am convinced that it is important. If the President had chosen to visit Belgrade he would have received an enthusiastic welcome which might have had important implications further East.

Thank you again for all you did to make my time in Yugoslavia both pleasant and informative.

With my warmest regards,

Chet Bowles7
  1. Source: Department of State, Yugoslav Desk Files: Lot 65 D 121, Field Administration. Secret. Written en route from Brioni to Munich. Chester Bowles (D–Connecticut), member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, served as Ambassador to India and Nepal, 1951–1953.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 149.
  3. Eisenhower’s plans for an 11-nation good will tour were announced on November 4. The President visited India December 9–14.
  4. Khrushchev’s visit to the United States revived prospects for a summit meeting to deal with the Berlin question and other related international matters.
  5. Indian-Chinese differences over their border led to a major incident in Ladakh, October 20–21.
  6. Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Republic of China.
  7. For text of this proposal made in a November 27, 1958, Soviet note, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1958, pp. 591–596.
  8. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.