170. Memorandum of Conversation0


New York, September 19–24, 1960


  • US
    • The President
    • The Secretary
    • General Goodpaster
    • Mr. Foy D. Kohler
    • Mr. Charles E. Bohlen
    • Lt. Col. John Eisenhower
  • Yugoslavia
    • President Josef Broz Tito
    • Leo Mates, Secretary General to the President
    • General Koca Popovic, Foreign Minister
    • H.E. Marko Nikezic, Ambassador to the U.S., Washington


  • Visit by President Tito

There was an exchange of greetings, in which President Tito expressed his appreciation at being afforded the opportunity to meet the President, which he had desired to do for a long time.

The President said he was particularly glad also of the opportunity to make the acquaintance of President Tito, and asked how long he expected to be here and when he had arrived.

President Tito replied that he had arrived on the 20th, but expected to be here only for a very short time.

The President said that he remembered that some two or three years ago there had been a possibility of a visit by President Tito to the United States, but that some difficulties had arisen. He said he always regretted that he had never had an opportunity to visit Yugoslavia, but that when he was at SHAPE he had to avoid visiting any neutral countries, mentioning particularly Yugoslavia, Sweden and Switzerland. He remembered, however, that at that time Yugoslavia, Turkey and Greece had joined in the Balkan Pact, but still as Commander-in-Chief of NATO he did not feel it possible to visit neutral countries.

The President then inquired how the Yugoslav economic development was progressing. President Tito replied that their economy was [Page 456] progressing very satisfactorily, that their industrial production was rising, and that they had made a breakthrough in agriculture so that Yugoslavia was now self-sufficient in grain. He mentioned that industrial production was increasing at a rate of from 13 to 15 percent per annum.

The President expressed particular interest in the development of Yugoslav agriculture, and there followed an extended discussion of various aspects of agricultural problems in both the United States and in Yugoslavia. The President mentioned particularly the problem of our surpluses and the difficulty of using wheat for livestock feeding. He also described the extent of the chief wheat-and-corn-growing areas of the United States and the widespread use in this country of concentrates, such as dessicated alfalfa and oil cake.

President Tito said he believed that Yugoslavia exported frozen baby beef and some canned meat to the United States. He also outlined certain of their agricultural problems and the methods they were taking to overcome them.

The President inquired about the development of hospitals, schools and roads in Yugoslavia.

President Tito said that considerable progress was being made in his country in all these three fields, pointing out that Yugoslav roads before the war had been very bad, but that now they were improving, referring in particular to two main highways—one running to Trieste and the other to Greece. He mentioned in this connection the large number of tourists visiting Yugoslavia.

The President said he would like to see more tourists in the United States, explaining that Americans were great travelers and visited almost every country in the world and spent large quantities of American dollars in the process. He would like to have more foreigners visiting the United States. He felt that this tourism was a good thing since it permitted people to see for themselves that foreigners were not devils. The President said he had read in some newspapers that the Yugoslav delegation might be in New York to act in some way as a mediator between the East and West; that he understood the neutral position of Yugoslavia, but expressed the hope that as the old saying went, it would be neutral on our side. He went on to say that the economic costs of the arms race were so great that there was every economic reason to try to do something about it, quite apart from the fear and anxiety that these excessive armaments generated. He mentioned that the United States spent in one form or another 46 billion dollars on armaments and that if this could be reduced to what was needed for domestic order, there would be an immense amount of money available for other purposes, and we would be in a position to lend much greater financial assistance to the underdeveloped countries; that even if the cost of armaments was [Page 457] reduced by one-third, this would release more capital than the underdeveloped countries could possibly absorb.

President Tito said that they believed that if it were not possible to reach complete agreement on disarmament now, it would be well to take some initial practical steps and that the savings thus effected could be used for less developed countries in Asia and Africa, which would increase confidence and good will in the world. He said he would like to see any such savings earmarked in advance for this purpose.

The President said he would be delighted if it would be possible to so earmark a certain amount for this purpose.

Secretary Herter pointed out that the President had made a proposal to this effect in 1953.1

The President then observed that it seems as though mankind had to learn the hard way, recalling that the Delphic League in ancient Greece to keep the peace between the city states had not been successful.2 It seems as though human nature was the most constantly unpredictable and dangerous factor in human history.

President Tito remarked that it would be a mistake to base ourselves on past history, since we should deal with the world as it is now, particularly since technological advance at the present time had rendered the problem of armaments more dangerous.

The President agreed, adding that at the present time any great nation had enough power to destroy the whole northern hemisphere. He went on to say that he was not one to assert that all good was on our side and all bad on the other, although we did think that we did better in this regard than the other side. He said that we were ready to deal with anyone who was sincerely desirous of discussing these matters reasonably, with a view to finding some solution.

President Tito said he understood the particular problems which confronted the United States, but that he felt that despite all obstacles and feelings he could understand somehow, at some time the obstacles would have to be overcome, and contact and negotiation established without too much delay, because otherwise the situation would become extremely dangerous.

The President agreed, but felt that only in convocations such as the United Nations would it be possible to get this matter off dead center. He said he would not recite all that we had tried to do in good faith but [Page 458] without success. He mentioned that there would be almost 100 nations represented in the United Nations, many of whom were new and stumbling young nations, but all of whom he felt were hungry for peace. He believed that this general desire would have a good effect. He agreed that it would not be possible to wait too long for a start. He mentioned that if each country could know what the other was doing in the field of armament, this would be very helpful as a start. He said that he was getting on in years, but he hoped that his grandchildren would be able to be more optimistic about the state of the world than was now possible.

President Tito replied that the outlook for grandchildren would depend upon the wisdom of the present generation.

The President agreed, and repeated that it was important to be able to understand the point of view of others.

President Tito recalled that the President had made some reference to mediation. There was something to this, but he wished to point out that not only Yugoslavia, but others, had a desire to be helpful in this respect.

The President said he agreed, and mentioned his conversation this afternoon with the Lebanese Foreign Minister,3 who had remarked on the disparity of size and power between his country and the United States. He said in regard to spiritual and moral matters there was no distinction between the size of countries. That a small country could have as big an effect in this field as a large one and that this, in effect, was the spirit of the United Nations. He added that we all need more faith at the present time.

President Tito stated that he did not think the word “neutral”, which connotated a passive attitude, applied to Yugoslavia. It was applicable if it meant not taking sides.

The President said, as he had already remarked, he hoped Yugoslavia would be neutral on his side, adding that there was no neutrality in moral questions of right or wrong.

President Tito then inquired as to what the President’s opinion was as to the possible results in this General Assembly.

The President said he thought that something would be accomplished with all of the nations gathered together here with the spotlight of world opinion on them. He didn’t expect any dramatic sudden agreement or the throwing into the Atlantic Ocean of missiles and bombs, although he would like to see that done, but rather a start which would give more hope to peoples everywhere. He added that we must never lose hope, and that he was not a pessimist.

[Page 459]

President Tito agreed, and said that he was more of an optimist than a pessimist.

The President said he expected to be back in New York on the 26th, since he had two meetings that morning—one in Philadelphia and one in New York.4 He wanted to have the opportunity of meeting some of the representatives of countries which he had not previously met.

President Tito mentioned that he had met Khrushchev in the lobby of the United Nations this morning, and expected to see him again, mentioning with a smile that it was some time since he had talked to Mr. Khrushchev.

The President said that during and after the war he had met most of the leaders of Europe, except for President Tito and Franco; he was looking forward to the opportunity of meeting some of the new leaders.

President Tito remarked that he was more hated by the Chinese than was President Eisenhower.

The President remarked that this was one thing that they had in common.

President Tito said that despite the fact that the Chinese hated the Yugoslavs, he felt it would be in the interests of the United Nations for the Chinese Peoples Republic to be represented there; it might make them more responsible, which was extremely important in regard to a country that had over 600 million people, with an increasing population and steadily arming, with the prospect of obtaining the atomic bomb in the future. He said that in such circumstances any disarmament agreement without Chinese participation would not succeed in its purpose.

The President pointed out that the hatred in the United States for the leaders of Red China was so strong that any eager politician that suggested recognition had better start swimming for London. He said that Chinese holding of American prisoners, their subversive activity throughout Asia, and threats of armed force against Formosa all contributed to the strength of this feeling, which he said was indescribable. However, he agreed that a country of over 600 million people, increasing like flies, constituted a very big problem. He want on to say that a year ago when he was in the United States5 Khrushchev had asked if he wished to discuss this problem. He had replied that since their views were so diametrically opposed, there was no point of even discussing it, [Page 460] to which Khrushchev agreed. However, he added that on a subsequent visit to China Khrushchev had made a very conciliatory speech.

President Tito then said he was afraid of taking too much of the President’s time, and felt he should take his farewell.

The President said he had one more question he would like to ask, and that was what was the present population of Yugoslavia.

President Tito replied about 18 million, as compared to an immediate post-war population of some 16 million, pointing out in this connection that Yugoslavia had lost 1/10th of its population—1,700,000 people dead—during the war.

The President said he very much regretted that he had never been able to get to Yugoslavia. During the war he had been in command up north, where he had gone in January, 1944, instead of the southern front, where he had expected to be; and for this reason he had not been in the vicinity of Yugoslavia during the war. He said in conclusion he wished to assure President Tito that the people of the United States wished the people of Yugoslavia the best of everything and a prosperous and happy future. He said that President Tito should understand this, despite the fact that there was a small stratum of our population that had just cause for anger against their regime; but the people had only the friendliest feeling.

President Tito wished to assure the President that the people of Yugoslavia were animated by the most friendly feelings toward the United States and did not forget what the United States had done for Yugoslavia both during and since the war. He was confident that this friendship would develop further. He said he hoped that when the President had somewhat more time at his disposal he would come and visit Yugoslavia. He would like to show him Brioni, in particular.

The President, in saying goodbye to President Tito, said that this was a date.6

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Records, International Series. Secret; Presidential Handling. Drafted by Bohlen. The meeting was held at the Waldorf Astoria.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Eisenhower was referring either to the Delian League (478–404 B.C.), an Athenian-led group of states that opposed Persia and later Sparta, or the Corinthian League, established in 338 B.C. by Phillip II of Macedonia, which confirmed Macedonian dominance over Greece.
  4. A memorandum of this conversation is in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199.
  5. On September 26 Eisenhower addressed the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Philadelphia and a dinner for the National Conference of Catholic Charities in New York.
  6. Khrushchev visited the United States September 15–28, 1959; for documentation, see Part 1, Documents 108139.
  7. Eisenhower never visited Yugoslavia.