104. Telegram From the Embassy in Yugoslavia to the Department of State0

614. Embtels 486, 498.1 I received this morning invitation to call at noon on Mujalko Todorovic, aide-President of the Executive Council and one of Tito’s four senior deputies. He does not frequently see diplomats, and I had not previously met him. He received me in presence of newly appointed head of American desk at the Foreign Office, Yaksa Petric, and proceeded to say in substance the following.

The Yugoslav Government greatly regretted the recent deterioration in Yugoslav-United States relations. It had not wished anything of this sort, but could not avoid conclusion that it had taken place. In substantiation of this view he pointed to: (1) The attitude and tone of the American press, unfriendly to Yugoslavia in a degree not seen before. They considered that Yugoslavia was being incorrectly portrayed. People were being given a wrong opinion about it. (2) Hindrance to economic cooperation. In recent years such collaboration had taken a constructive course and had been mutually advantageous. It had recently [Page 218] been enriched by new forms of cooperation in new spheres of activities. In addition to arrangements between Governments there had been growing contacts between enterprises, private companies, etc. However, recently the whole program of cooperation was being blocked. Because of the atmosphere created by the press, individuals and banks had been hesitant to proceed with these arrangements. (3) Cancellation of Humphrey visit. The visit had been agreed to, the program fixed and visits arranged with the President and other leaders. Now all of this had been abruptly canceled. (4) An article had appeared in the Herald-Tribune (by query I elicited this was from the pen of Rowland Evans) which accused Yugoslavia of being anti-Western and dragged up episodes from the past. The manner in which this article had appeared was offensive. (The hint, I think, was that I had put Mr. Evans up to this.)

Todorovic went on to say that he could continue this list of evidences of deteriorating relations but thought it unnecessary. They had carefully considered my oral representations to Foreign Minister Popovic (see Embtel 486) and also our aide-memoire2 and had analyzed recent developments in our relations. They had come to conclusion there had been change in US policy toward Yugoslavia and wanted to know what it meant. Yugoslav policy toward US had not changed. It remained that of an unaligned country. Why was the US interested in a change of policy? The Yugoslavs felt entitled to an early answer. After all, the program of mutual economic cooperation was blocked on a wide scale. It was an important factor in their own plans. They were now working on their economic plan for the coming period. This was soon to be presented to Parliament. They needed to know where they stood. If the US Government did not want to continue collaboration they would have to look elsewhere, also they would have to inform their public which they had thus far refrained from doing. They considered on basis of experience of recent years that this collaboration was on an equal basis, was mutually advantageous, fruitful and useful, not only economically but politically, and that it had strengthened the forces of peace. It was, they thought, a good thing and ought to be continued. If it was not continued Yugoslavia would have economic difficulties but she had known such difficulties in the past and would not shrink at facing them. She had, however, herself done nothing to damage relations. To restore their harmony would be contributing to peace. What the Yugoslavs could not do was to change their foreign policy. They had a debt of consistency to themselves. He asked me to inform my Government and the President of what he had said.

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I replied that since my presentation of the aide-memoire to Mates on September 15 (Embtel 498), I had received no further indication of the policies of my Government either on the political side or with respect to economic collaboration. I understood the importance of these matters to them and undertook to transmit his statement to my Government and President at once and to urge an early reply. I emphasized that we had no information here of any restrictive measures taken with regard to economic collaboration except that earlier this week we had heard something of a tightening of controls on export licensing, but did not have full information. With regard to Senator Humphrey I pointed out that it had been our understanding that if he came to Yugoslavia he would not be received by President Tito or any other senior official. In these circumstances I had been unable to encourage the Senator to believe that a visit here at this time would be pleasant or profitable for him. I particularly regretted the cancellation of his visit. I knew the Senator as a man of outstanding intelligence and knowledge of international affairs, and as one who had been favorably disposed in the past toward our collaboration with Yugoslavia. I thought it a shame he had not been able to come here and said if the Yugoslav Government had second thoughts I would be glad to try to see whether the misunderstanding could not be cleared up and the visit arranged after all. To this he made no comment.

On Herald-Tribune article I said I had not seen the article and was unable to comment on its content. I pointed out that Mr. Evans and his two companions had also not succeeded in making appointments with any of the senior Yugoslav officials while here. To this he said they had descended on Yugoslavia too suddenly and appointments could not be arranged in so short a time.

I then said that while I could not respond to his statements at this time on behalf of my Government I would like to make some private observations. Anticipating his observations, I had already prepared handwritten notes, from which I talked. These I left with him at the end of our talk as a reminder. They are transmitted in the following message (Embtel 615).3 I embroidered on them somewhat. In conclusion I emphasized that if we reacted as sensitively as we did to Yugoslav attitudes on world affairs it was because our understanding for the unusual position of this country and our regard for experience and personal qualities of President Tito made it impossible for us to take these differences casually.

Todorovic ended the interview by saying that my remarks had confirmed him in the belief that US policy had changed. He wanted to stress [Page 220] that it was with us, not with them, that the change had occurred. Their policy was still one of positive unalignment based on their own free judgment and independence, and was aimed at good relations with the United States in the interests of world peace.

In addition to this message containing text of notes (Embtel 615) I shall send another shortly commenting on this demarche and possibilities for our response.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.68/10–1261. Confidential; Priority.
  2. Telegram 486 from Belgrade, September 13, reported Kennan’s discussion with Popovic regarding U.S.-Yugoslav relations. (Ibid., 396.1–BE/9–1361) Telegram 498 from Belgrade, September 15, reported that Kennan had delivered the text of a U.S. aide-memoire to the Foreign Ministry that day. (Ibid., 396.1–BE/9–1561)
  3. The aide-memoire was given to Nikezic by Kohler on August 29. Telegram 254 to Belgrade, September 1, informed the Embassy. (Ibid., 762.00/9–161)
  4. Dated October 12. (Ibid., 611.68/10–1261)
  5. In telegram 617 from Belgrade, October 13, Kennan forwarded his suggestions for a reply to Todorovic, urging that the United States avoid linking its criticisms to economic aid. (Ibid., 611.68/10–1361)