9. Memorandum of Discussion at the 407th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1–6.]

7. East-West Exchanges (NSC 5607)1

At the conclusion of the discussion on Iraq, the President adverted to the problem of trying to increase the understanding of Soviet [Page 26] methods among the peoples of the nations in what the President described as the hinterland. The President thought that in recent conversations with foreign diplomats he had detected some slight evidence of greater independence of view on the part of the Soviet satellites. This, continued the President, reminded him that some two years ago he had made a suggestion that it might be desirable for the U.S. to invite perhaps 10,000 young Russian undergraduate students to the U.S. at our expense.2 As he recalled, said the President, this suggestion received no support whatsoever except from Mr. J. Edgar Hoover. Nevertheless, the President said he really believed that one of the major problems in Iraq and other such countries was to find ways and means of getting the ordinary run of the people to put their trust in the U.S. He wished that we could do something along this line which was truly spectacular although he was glad to hear that it was proposed to bring 100 Iraqi students to the U.S. in the near future.

The President continued by stating that he still thought rather well of his idea of inviting some thousands of young Russians to study in the U.S. The President thought it was essential that we find some means of achieving a break-through to the Russian people. He expressed the opinion that we were overinsuring ourselves on our deterrent military capabilities. Our vast military expenditures are actually weakening our economy instead of enabling it to expand. On the other hand, some little money spent as the President suggested on these Russian students would add up to very little and might do some real good. Even Secretary Dulles had come round to some degree to sympathize with the President’s idea. The Vice President reminded the President that he had also supported the President’s idea when it was originally suggested two years ago. The President agreed.

Mr. Allen Dulles pointed out that the Soviets would probably not dare send 10,000 run-of-the-mill Soviet citizens to the U.S. for study. The President agreed that the Soviets might indeed fear the results of such an extensive visit but pointed out that even if the Soviets refused our invitation, the move would have great propaganda value. Furthermore, added the President, he was sure that there would be 7500 U.S. families willing to take these Russian students in.

The Vice President commented that the President’s statement caused him to think that the time might well be at hand to re-examine the basic principles on which our policy with respect to East-West exchanges had been developed. According to the current philosophy of our East-West Exchange policies, all exchanges were conducted on a [Page 27] strict quid pro quo basis. We would accept a single Russian exchange provided the Russians would accept in return a U.S. exchange of some sort. It seemed, however, to the Vice President now that we should consider departing from this quid pro quo basis and make an offer to the Soviets on our own initiative. Of course, he continued, such an offer must not be too obvious in character. Nevertheless, it would be well to re-examine our East-West Exchange policy and take a new initiative now. The Vice President said that he had discussed this matter with Ambassador Lacy who was in charge in the State Department of the East-West Exchange Programs and Lacy has certainly been doing a fine job. Nevertheless, if we offered and the Russians refused to send us say 2000 of their students, such a refusal would put them on a very hot propaganda spot.

The President said that he was quite excited at the possible effect of an American indoctrination of 10,000 young Russian students in any given year.

The Vice President said that along with the idea of inviting the Soviet students, it might also be worthwhile to consider the feasibility of inviting a certain number of members of the Soviet managerial class who, he understood, were not as dedicated to the Communist ideology as many other Soviet citizens. If members of this managerial class could be invited to visit the U.S., on a selected basis, the results might be very effective.

The President commented that we have got to remember this fact. He said he believed that there would be sufficient concessions made at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers at Geneva3 to insure a subsequent meeting at the Summit. History might suggest that no results would derive from such a meeting but we would get at least some mileage out of it as we had at the last Summit meeting in Geneva in terms of the effect on world opinion of our “open skies” proposal.4 Could we not, continued the President, get some similar effect now if we were to try out his suggestion of bringing over some 10,000 Soviet students. This would constitute a counterpart to the “open skies” proposal at the last Summit Conference. The President expressed his conviction that Congress could be persuaded to provide the kind of money necessary to bring the Russian students over at our expense in our ships and he concluded that even as an experiment this would be worth a good deal of money.

Secretary Anderson suggested that the President’s proposal should be enlarged to try to bring over 10,000 young Soviet students year after [Page 28] year instead of confining the matter to a one-shot attempt. The President agreed but said that he would settle gladly for a one-shot visit by these Russian students. Perhaps if the first visit were successful, plans could be made for follow-up visits in later years. After all, said the President, when he had originally made this proposal for a single year, only the Vice President and Edgar Hoover had seen any merit in it.

The National Security Council:5

Noted and discussed a suggestion by the President that consideration be given to the feasibility of bringing increased numbers of Russian undergraduate students to U.S. colleges and universities; and a suggestion by the Vice President for consideration of inviting, on a selected basis, increased numbers of members of the Soviet “managerial class” to visit the United States.
Requested the NSC Planning Board promptly to review existing policy on “East-West Exchanges” (NSC 5607).

[Here follow the remaining agenda items.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by Gleason on May 21.
  2. For text of NSC 5607, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XXIV, pp. 243246.
  3. Presumably reference is to the suggestion that the President made to Secretary of State Dulles on January 17, 1958; see footnote 1, Document 1.
  4. For documentation on the Foreign Ministers Meeting at Geneva May 11–August 6, 1959, see volume VIII.
  5. President Eisenhower advanced the “open skies” proposal at the Heads of Government meeting at Geneva July 18–25, 1955.
  6. Paragraphs a–b constitute NSC Action No. 2091, approved by the President on May 25. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)