156. Telegram From the Embassy in Yugoslavia to the Department of State0

1076. From Rankin.1 Department’s 721 to Belgrade and 5032 to Paris.2 I saw Tito for just over an hour this morning and began by following statement: [Page 411]

We appreciate obvious sincerity of President Tito’s May 17 statement3 on universal desire for peace. US recognizes and shares that desire.
It is well established technique of Moscow and Peking regimes to label as aggression any effort by US or other independent country to protect itself against Sino-Soviet imperialist expansion. This is continuing challenge we must meet. Record of US is ample evidence we have no aggressive intent toward other nations. Nor are there groups or individuals of any significance in our government, or outside among American public, who favor aggression or increasing tensions. Notwithstanding various statements appearing in press, there is essential unity among American public on this point.
Khrushchev’s actions in Paris and subsequently have not and will not affect basic US foreign policy objectives. These are (1) security for ourselves and for other nations desiring independence and freedom from foreign intervention, and (2) establishment of just and lasting basis for peace.
Our objectives demand that US continue to deal positively with Soviet Government. We have no desire to see cold war renewed.
We wish to cooperate with all countries seeking peace with security. Like Yugoslavia, we believe UN has role of unique importance in reducing world tensions. We hope Yugoslavia will use its influence objectively to help UN in this task.
Unfortunately, failure of Paris conference prevented progress on two problems of vital importance to peace: Disarmament and Germany. Secretary Herter recently discussed these questions in some detail with Ambassador Nikezic,4 but following points might be noted:
Disarmament. US sincerely seeks safeguarded disarmament. We shall continue our efforts at Geneva to reach meaningful agreements on nuclear tests and general disarmament. Our concern is to avoid undermining security of independent nations through unrealistic agreements with insufficient safeguards. Such safeguards, applying equally to US and Soviet Union, would remove any basis for complaints that they were intended for espionage. We are prepared discuss details of phased disarmament program with adequate inspection and control, which should not be too difficult. Anything approaching complete disarmament, however, would require prior creation of international police force. Otherwise smaller nations would be at mercy of nearby great powers.
Germany. US continues to favor reunification of Germany, with adequate provision for the security of all nations concerned, out we would not seek reunification by force or threats of force. We remain ready to discuss Berlin with Soviets in interest of clarifying question and reducing friction, but we shall not accept the compromise of West Berlin’s freedom and viability by Soviet intimidation, (end of statement)

I then remarked that President’s more recent speech at Subotica May 285 was being interpreted in some circles as indicating distinct shift in Yugoslavia’s foreign policy in favor of east (“you know also who is chiefly to blame for this—case of unfortunate plane6—in difficult situation when any thoughtless gesture might cause catastrophe—here is plane which might be carrying atomic bombs”). Tito replied there was no change in Yugoslav policy. He was simply proposing toast (by intimation extemporaneously) and his remarks would be clarified.

President said he must tell me quite frankly he thought our plane had done great disservice to all nations. However he repeated his opinion expressed May 17 that case should not have prevented Summit conference. He continued consider Khrushchev our best hope. By urging Summit meetings and visiting US he had demonstrated desire for peace and relaxation and had raised his prestige accordingly. He was under great pressure from other elements in Soviet Union, also from China. Khrushchev’s statements in Berlin and subsequently show he still desires rapprochement. We must make allowance for his outburst, table-pounding et cetera, as evidence of pressures on him.

Tito said it was being noted Yugoslavia replied rather mildly to public criticism from Soviets and sometimes not at all. He had been attacked for his May 17 speech and probably Moscow would criticize his May 28 remarks. Even when Khrushchev himself attacked Yugoslavia, Tito was willing to regard matter leniently in general interest.

Reverting to plane incident I observed we had simply been unlucky. Such flights had been made from time to time for several years. Soviets knew about them but said nothing, perhaps because they had no means of bringing them down. It seemed quite likely in present case plane came down to low altitude due mechanical trouble rather than as result of Soviet missile. In any case, flight was undertaken due weather favorable for reconnaissance without specific authorization from Washington. I assumed Soviets had not suspended their intelligence operations [Page 413] for several weeks prior Summit conference, but they had been luckier than we. He nodded agreement.

Tito then turned to relations between US and Yugoslavia. He brought up various economic matters which will be covered in airmailed memo of conversation,7 and observed our relations in general remained good. I agreed but noted continuing problem a little like that existing between Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. Executive branch of US Government did not engage in public criticism of Yugoslavia, but latter felt free to criticize US. We did not object to criticism and stated we understood Yugoslav motivation. But rather difficult to explain to public and Congress how much greater utterance [tolerance?] shown by Yugoslavia toward Soviets, as compared with US, squared with policy of non-commitment.

President replied it was not his policy to speak out on matters which did not directly concern Yugoslavia unless they were of genuine international concern. Sometimes Yugoslavia was forced to speak on latter, as for example about Algeria, despite displeasure of France.8

Responding to my question about what should be done next, Tito thought we had all learned lessons from Paris failure. He believed there had not been sufficient preparation and that perhaps meeting should have been held on lower level. He agreed with my observation that Summit conferences should be held chiefly to ratify agreements already reached in detail, besides creating better atmospheres.

In conclusion Tito reiterated Yugoslav policy of independence had not changed, adding that his public opinion would not permit such a change. I said this was exactly what I told our conference in Paris last week.9

Tito wished me bon voyage and asked that his greetings be conveyed to President Eisenhower. He was sure that throughout remainder of his term Eisenhower would continue do all he could to contribute to peace. He thought that the general situation should not be regarded pessimistically.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.68/5–3060. Confidential. Repeated to Moscow.
  2. Ambassador Karl Rankin left Yugoslavia and was en route to Washington for consultations.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 155. In telegram 5032, May 25, the Department of State provided Rankin with instructions for his meeting with Tito. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.33/5–2560)
  4. Following the acrimonious breakup of the Paris summit meeting (May 16), Tito issued a statement that condemned U.S. handling of the U–2 incident but also stressed that the incident should not provide a pretext for breaking up the summit meeting. Tito called on the nonaligned nations to take the lead in improving international relations through the mechanisms of the United Nations.
  5. See Document 154.
  6. In this speech Tito announced that he would seek to unify the smaller nations in an effort to utilize the United Nations to ensure continued world peace and denounced the United States for the failure of the Paris summit.
  7. Reference is to the U–2 reconnaissance aircraft that was shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1.
  8. Document 157.
  9. Yugoslavia supported the Algerian Provisional Revolutionary Government, which was waging a guerrilla war for the independence of Algeria.
  10. Reference is to the Eastern European Chiefs of Mission meeting on May 26.