4. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • U.S. Cultural Exchange Agreement with the Soviet Union


  • Dr. Hollington Tong, Chinese Ambassador
  • William S. B. Lacy, Special Assistant to the Secretary (S/EWC)
  • Mr. Clough, Director, CA

Amb. Lacy said that he was pleased to have an opportunity to explain to Dr. Tong the reasons we had entered into the cultural exchange agreement with the Soviet Union last January. There are two primary advantages we hope to obtain from the agreement—one you might call propaganda and the other intelligence. The first we can talk about publicly, but the second, although known to the Russians, we cannot discuss except within Government circles or with close friends—like the Chinese.

The older generation of Soviet intellectuals, technicians, bureaucrats and industrial managers, who recall the pre-Bolshevik days, recognize the falsity of the description of the outside world which appears in the Soviet press. However, this generation is rapidly being displaced by a new elite, increasing in numbers and importance, very few of whom have ever had the opportunity to go abroad. Because of the increasing dependence of the regime upon this elite group, it is essential to influence them in every way we can. Amb. Lacy said this had been personally impressed upon him by an elderly Soviet doctor who was here recently with a visiting group from the Soviet Union. This doctor had urged the importance of exposing the younger men, such as the other doctors in his group, to life outside the Soviet Union. Only in this way could they acquire an independent basis on which to judge the truth and falsity of the present Soviet press.

With respect to the intelligence purpose of the exchange, Amb. Lacy printed out that since the Russians also hoped to exploit it for this purpose, it became a battle of wits in the negotiations to see who could gain the greatest net advantage. We consider that, since the Soviet Union has access to tremendous quantities of printed technical materials in this country while we have no comparable source, we have obtained the balance of advantage. We sought permission from the Soviets to send our experts in those fields which were most important to us for intelligence purposes and about which we knew the least. The Soviets, of course, formulated [Page 10] requirements on a similar basis. However, they were handicapped by having been tricked into the negotiations in the first place. Having assumed that our fingerprinting laws were an insuperable barrier to cultural exchanges, they presented a list of some 30 categories, including some which they did not at all want. They were shocked to discover that we were prepared to make changes in the fingerprint law which would permit exchanges, but by that time it was difficult for them to back out of the negotiations.

In deciding what types of cultural activities we will offer the Russians, we try to estimate the relative propaganda value. For example, we do not intend to send a ballet to the Soviet Union, because American ballet is not up to the Soviet level. Instead, we sent a symphony orchestra which is far better than any the Russians have. We think we have obtained a net advantage from this exchange. Although the Moiseyev Ballet Company has had a successful tour in this country, it is confronted with competing attractions wherever it plays, whereas the Philadelphia Symphony is likely to be the only entertainment in a given city in the Soviet Union and therefore has attracted tremendous attention. As to the people we sent to the USSR, we, of course, select our representatives very carefully for this exchange program, in order not to send people who might be unduly influenced by Soviet propaganda.

Amb. Tong inquired whether the Soviets would not soon realize they were not losers by the arrangement and therefore back out of the agreement. Amb. Lacy replied that this risk was always present, but so long as they are willing to continue we shall seek to have exchanges on a basis giving us the balance of advantage.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.613/6–2458. Confidential. Drafted by Clough.