18. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Exchanges of Information


  • Yuri Zhukov, Chairman of the State Committee for Cultural Relations with
  • Foreign Countries
  • Yuri Volski, Counselor, Soviet Embassy
  • Soviet Interpreter (name unknown)
  • S/EWC—Ambassador W. S. B. Lacy
  • CU—Mr. Robert H. Thayer
  • CU/EWC—Mr. Frederick Merrill
  • SOV—Nathaniel Davis
  • USIA—Mr. George V. Allen, Director
  • USIA—Mr. Turner B. Shelton, Motion Picture Service, Director
  • USIA—Mr. Joseph B. Phillips, Assistant Director for Europe
  • USIA—Mr. Walter R. Roberts, Deputy Assistant Director for Europe
  • USIA—Mr. James L. Halsema, Director of Planning
  • USIAC. Robert Payne, Special Assistant to the Director
  • LS—Mr. Daniel Wolkonsky—interpreter

Mr. Zhukov called on Mr. Allen at 4:30 PM Tuesday following an earlier conversation in Ambassador Lacy’s office.1 Mr. Zhukov opened the conversation by referring to the radio and television aspects of the exchanges. He said that the Soviets were ready to make forward strides and try new ideas and informed Mr. Allen that, from today, the Voice of America was not being jammed. He said that this was an experiment—whether [Page 42] the Voice of America would cease pursuing the cold war and be the real voice of America. Mr. Zhukov then mentioned Radio Baikal, Radio Free Russia and Radio Caucasus. In this regard he said that the Soviet Government hoped the American Government would put a stop to these transmissions and, if so, the Soviets were ready to stop jamming altogether. Mr. Zhukov said: “We are ready to establish altogether normal relations in radio.” He observed that jamming and broadcasting efforts designed to break through jamming were a waste of money on both sides. Mr. Zhukov amplified his conception of normal relations by describing them as like the exchanges of information between the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries or as between the United States and its allies. He said such normal relations would enable the US and the Soviet Union to send objective information to the other country in the other country’s language in the same way it is sent to other countries throughout the world. He referred to the exchange of Amerika and USSR magazines as a pattern which might be followed in radio broadcasting.

Mr. Zhukov said the Soviet Government was also prepared to implement the so far dormant article in the exchange agreement concerning radio-television exchanges on political subjects. Mr. Zhukov said that he envisaged an exchange of broadcasts from time to time between the Soviet and American Heads of Government. He said that these recorded speeches might be presented on television, on the radio and in newsreels. Mr. Zhukov also indicated Soviet willingness to show American newsreels.

Mr. Zhukov said that the Soviet side was prepared to accept the American proposal to increase the circulation of Amerika and USSR magazines to 77,000. He also said that the Soviets were prepared to accept the American proposal to open library centers to the extent of reading rooms in the Moscow and New York public libraries with American and Soviet books on deposit. In this regard he made it clear that these books would be non-political and selected by the host government from lists submitted by the other government. He also said that the centers would be managed by the host government.

Mr. Zhukov summed up by asserting that the thought in all these proposals of his was that it was time to stop the cold war. He suggested that the American side should think over these Soviet proposals and weigh them during the period when the Khrushchev party was on tour. Mr. Zhukov suggested that the American side might then give its point of view to him when he returned from the tour. Mr. Zhukov said that if the American side preferred to continue the cold war that would be “O.K.” with the Soviets as well. Jamming would go on and each would call the other bad names. This, said Mr. Zhukov, would not be profitable for either of our countries. If the American side was ready to normalize [Page 43] relations in the field of exchanges of information, however, the Soviet side was willing to go very far.

Mr. Zhukov then mentioned two or three American proposals which he said the Soviet Government had for the time rejected because it was necessary to go step by step. The first of these was the elimination of travel restrictions, which Mr. Zhukov characterized as an internal matter. The second was the unrestricted distribution of magazines and newspapers. In this regard Mr. Zhukov noted that the Soviets were importing over 554,000 copies of American publications already each year. Another such issue was that of censorship for correspondents’ outgoing news despatches. Mr. Zhukov said that he could provide many examples where the free opportunity to report had been wrongly exploited. At this point Mr. Allen asked whether Zhukov meant the correspondents accompanying Nixon, and Zhukov replied that these were not the only examples he could cite. In conclusion, Mr. Zhukov reiterated the Soviet desire to stop the cold war.

Mr. Allen thanked Mr. Zhukov for his presentation and promised to study his proposals seriously. He requested clarification concerning some of Mr. Zhukov’s proposals including the possibility of a radio-television-film exchange between Heads of Government, asking whether Mr. Zhukov envisaged special programs or the transmission of primarily domestically-oriented or generally-oriented statements and materials. As an illustration, Mr. Allen asked whether Mr. Zhukov would have in mind the exchange of remarks which had just taken place at the airport. Mr. Allen mentioned his concern that the unpleasantness concerning exchanges of translations that had occurred at the time of the NixonKhrushchev exchange be avoided.

Mr. Zhukov said newsreels of the exchange at the airport could be exchanged tomorrow. He went on to say that what he had in mind was perhaps a speech to the Soviet Union by the President after his visit and by Khrushchev to the American public summing up his impressions. An alternative idea might be an exchange of speeches on New Year’s Day.

Mr. Allen mentioned that USIA was preparing a 30 minute color film concerning the Khrushchev visit and would be happy to exchange films on this subject. Zhukov replied that the Soviets were also making a film about the Khrushchev visit, but would be interested in seeing the Americans’ work.

Mr. Allen asked whether Mr. Zhukov had any particular subjects in mind for the exchange between the Heads of Government. Zhukov replied that that was for the Heads of Government themselves to decide. He added that we should take the initiative on the lower level as well and cited the “Youth Wants to Know” television exchange as an example of a good one. In this regard Mr. Allen mentioned “College Press Conference” as reaching a more adult audience than “Youth Wants to [Page 44] Know”. Mr. Zhukov said what he wanted at this point was not a discussion of details but an understanding in principle as to what each side was ready to do. Mr. Allen commented that both sides seemed to be coming close to agreement.

Mr. Zhukov then reverted to his thesis that the cold war should be ended, adding that the Soviets should not use their opportunities to promote the establishment of communism or the Americans the establishment of peoples’ capitalism.

Mr. Allen then reverted to the question of reading rooms and asked whether they would be rooms in public libraries. Mr. Zhukov said that it was necessary to go step by step and that a reading room in an established library would be the first one. Mr. Allen pointed out that it would be difficult on the American side to have the Soviets passing on the suitability of books and alluded to our difficulties in the Sokolniki Exhibition which we wished to avoid in the future. In reply Mr. Zhukov said that certain books at the US Exhibition called for the extinction of the Soviet system and their leaders and another book accused Mr. Khrushchev of having killed 100,000 Ukrainians. Apparently this was a book by Varshavski (spelling uncertain) of the Chekhov Publishing House. “You would not have tolerated similar books in our Exhibition in New York.” Mr. Zhukov said that both Ambassador Thompson and Mr. McClellan had agreed to take out these books when they were drawn to their attention. Mr. Allen suggested that a way around this difficulty might be to have the Soviet libraries request certain American books. Mr. Zhukov replied that his idea was that the Embassy of each country would present certain offerings. Mr. Allen commented that the idea was interesting but perhaps not very important as the Library of Congress already had at least 50,000 Soviet books. Zhukov replied that Soviet libraries had millions of books in the English language but that new publications were needed. Mr. Allen asked in what language the offering should be. Zhukov replied that either Russian or English was acceptable but that translating books into Russian would be expensive, while many Soviet readers could understand English.

Mr. Allen asked whether the Life magazine on his table would be acceptable. Zhukov replied that when Life stops running propaganda, it would be accepted. He went on to indicate that at the start the exchange should be limited to books. Mr. Allen noted that the US Government cannot tell Life what to print and Zhukov responded that this was one reason why he proposed that only Government-controlled channels of information should be used in exchanges.

The discussion shifted to Mr. Zhukov’s comments about stopping or continuing the cold war and Mr. Allen observed that he did not like to hear Mr. Zhukov putting the choice in terms of peace or war. Zhukov acknowledged that the situation might continue as at present, but went [Page 45] on to say that the Soviets believed cold war to be outmoded. He alluded to the cessation of jamming of VOA and said that the Soviet people would now judge VOA for themselves. He suggested that the Americans could now see what the Soviets write and say about the Voice of America to judge their reaction. Mr. Allen congratulated Mr. Zhukov on the Soviet decision to lift jamming noting that the American Government had made a decision not to jam 10 years ago and had, of course, never jammed Soviet broadcasts. (At this point Mr. Allen had a radio turned on in order to try and pick up a Radio Moscow broadcast to the United Kingdom, but reception was not good.) He went on to say that what concerned him was Mr. Zhukov’s black and white presentation and observed that it was unrealistic to believe that what Mr. Zhukov described as the cold war would end tomorrow. He noted that either Government would not remain silent if the other Government did something it did not like. Mr. Zhukov replied that he believed the Heads of Government were for cooperation and agreed that the actions of the Heads of Government were not the province of himself and Mr. Allen, whose role was much more modest. Mr. Allen asked if that meant that the Soviet press and radio would never criticize NATO and Mr. Zhukov replied that it would depend on what NATO did. Mr. Allen said that he agreed and his point was that Governments cannot agree to end the cold war unless they can agree on all things which cause a cold war. Mr. Zhukov replied that normalization of State relations is a very big enterprise and, of course, relations cannot be changed overnight. However, a major task of cultural and informational ties is to promote a normalization of relations—and not to worsen them. While the effects might not be radical at first, they could result in a favorable impact on public opinion. Mr. Zhukov said he hoped his proposals would be weighed carefully. He repeated that they were minimum proposals and that he was open to further ideas as the Soviet Government could go still further. Above all, Mr. Zhukov said, we can go further in the field of radio.

In summing up, Mr. Zhukov said that the Soviet Government considered the radio-television exchanges, the Amerika-USSR magazine circulation and the reading room proposals of the United States Government as agreed. Mr. Allen remarked, with respect to the reading rooms, that we at least seemed close to agreement.

With respect to jamming Mr. Zhukov indicated, when asked by Mr. Allen, that the Soviet Government did not envisage a public statement on this subject. The Soviets intended to see what would happen. If the results were negative, jamming would be resumed. Mr. Allen then gave Mr. Zhukov a copy of the USIA news release announcing that the Soviets had stopped jamming VOA Russian-language broadcasts. The discussion then reverted to non-official situations and Mr. Allen asked what the Soviet view was concerning Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberation [Page 46] [Liberty]. Mr. Zhukov said “All these were established for the purpose of overthrowing Soviet power”. Mr. Zhukov returned to the subject of Radio Baikal and Radio Caucasus, saying that Radio Baikal emanated from Okinawa and Radio Caucasus from a ship near Rhodes. In the ensuing discussion, Mr. Zhukov read some excerpts from Radio Caucasus broadcasts which indicated that it was an NTS station, purportedly giving directions to an underground in the Soviet Union. Mr. Zhukov said that Radio Free Russia emanated from Frankfurt and went on to say that he could publish all of the material at hand but did not wish to continue the cold war by doing so. Mr. Allen noted that these stations were not under his control and said he was not certain that the United States had anything to do with these stations. He questioned whether any of them emanated from a ship near Rhodes, as the only ship of that kind was a USIA ship which transmitted only VOA broadcasts.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.61/9–1559. Confidential. Drafted by Davis and cleared in draft by Payne and Halsema.
  2. A memorandum of this conversation, during which Zhukov and Lacy discussed details of a number of exchange programs, is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1472.