238. Memorandum From Secretary of the Interior Udall to President Kennedy0

Repeatedly during my Soviet Union trip I found myself asking this question:

What can the United States do to encourage and accelerate those changes in the Soviet system favorable to our own long-term objectives?

Some observers undoubtedly tend to overstate the liberalization that is occurring, but nevertheless there is a consensus that significant changes have taken place in the post-Stalin period. (Perhaps the best recent summary is the Edward Crankshaw article which appeared in the London Observer September 9.)

Some of my own tentative conclusions after eleven days in the Soviet Union were these:

There is an unmistakable and deep-seated respect for American power and American prowess. This means that at all levels the Soviet people are inordinately curious about the American way of getting things done. This is a very healthy condition.
A pattern of economic incentives and awards is developing in the Soviet Union which, in the long run, might also significantly alter the Soviet system. Some of the more interesting things which we observed (although caveats apply to each) were:
double-pay wages for the dam-builders on the Siberian frontier;
ten-year loans for private homes at Bratsk;
the growing attachment of the managers and the elite to what one might call dacha-living.
There is evidence of a growing awareness by the Soviets that their ability to compete is inhibited by the secrecy and suspicion which dominate their thinking. The experience of the Soviets with their exchange programs—and the activities of the vital State Committee for the Coordination of Scientific Research Work—has apparently convinced them that a limited “open-window” policy is beneficial to their own system. It is predictable that this window will be opened wider as time passes.
The Communist Party apparatus will, of course, remain dominant, but much important decision-making power is gravitating towards [Page 502] the scientists, engineers and managers who are the doers who make their system go and also have strong Party ties. For the most part, these are pragmatic men who are far more interested in building their country than in pursuing Marxian theories of revolution. A form of agnosticism, one might say, is showing up.

Therefore, it is my feeling that we have an opportunity to influence this process of liberalization, and I strongly recommend that a fresh study be made of this whole problem to determine what new courses of action might be pursued with profit.

As a starter, it seems to me we are missing a bet in not arranging more high-level exchanges. Visits to the Soviet Union by the Vice President, the Attorney General and selected members of the Cabinet would be very worthwhile. Return visits by men in high places—Kozlov, for example—would be equally effective.

Stewart L. Udall
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev/Udall. No classification marking. A copy was sent to Rusk.