114. Airgram From the Embassy in Yugoslavia to the Department of State0

A–200. Subject: Conversation with Edvard Kardelj and Leo Mates. Ref: Embtel 898, December 14, 1961.1

On December 13, 1961, Mrs. Kennan and I went to tea with Vice President Edvard Kardelj and his wife, at their invitation. Tea was offered at their own home. The only other people present were Mr. Leo Mates, Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Mrs. Mates. After tea with the ladies, the men withdrew and we had a long discussion of Yugoslav foreign policy and Yugoslav-American relations. We remained in conversation, in all, for three hours. While the ladies spoke English, my own conversation with Kardelj was mostly in Russian, occasionally in English.

One of the subjects discussed was American aid. Kardelj expressed the hope that within two or three years Yugoslavia would be substantially self-supporting in wheat and would require no further extensive PL 480 aid. Serious mistakes had been made this year in handling the problem of subventions in connection with agricultural production. They had ceased too early to prime the pump. These mistakes were now being corrected. He was fairly confident the results would be effective. However, the effects of this summer’s drought would be even more severe in 1962 than it was in 1961, so too much could not be expected from the 1962 harvest.

As for the other forms of aid, Mr. Kardelj attached high value to the DLF loans. With respect to the work of private relief organizations, he showed no particular interest. I doubt that he knew what I was talking about. As to Technical Assistance, he thought that this should not be considered a permanent feature of United States-Yugoslav relations. He felt, however, that there was a particular need at this time for Technical Assistance in the field of agricultural economics.

Kardelj did not conceal Yugoslav disappointment with Khru-shchev’s failure to reciprocate the support they had tried to give him in major questions of world affairs. The Yugoslavs had come recently to suspect that he was actually embarrassed by their efforts. He was inclined to regret that Vukmanovic-Tempo had been sent to the WFTU meeting in Moscow. He thought this had been premature.

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Kardelj had the impression that Khrushchev was still lacking in adequate support in the Soviet Apparat. His real strength lay in his sense of touch with the common people. The Soviet-Chinese conflict, he thought, was too profound ever to be entirely healed. It would inevitably become deeper in the future.

I told Kardelj of our unhappiness over the anti-Western and anti-American extremisms of the Yugoslav press. Kardelj did not deny that there had been distortions here. I gathered he proposed to use his influence to improve matters. [The editor of Borba, Dr. Joze Smole, telephoned me a day or so later to say he wished to arrange a dinner for me next week.]2

The Yugoslavs had plainly been stung by the Secretary’s statement on September 18 that Yugoslavia had had a divisive influence on world communism, and was a source of dissension within the communist bloc. Kardelj pleaded that we should regard Yugoslavia as a country with which our relations were worth cultivating for its own sake, and not as an instrument to be used for tactical purposes. I said that this represented my own growing conviction, as I lived and learned in this country. I hoped the Yugoslavs, too, would learn to see in the United States something more than a bargaining backstop for their relations with Russia.

Tito’s speeches were not mentioned. I sensed that the Yugoslavs wished only that these should now be forgotten.

In general, the interview was exceptionally cordial. In my opinion, it unquestionably marks a sincere effort to repair fences in our direction.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.68/12–2261. Confidential. Drafted by Kennan.
  2. Telegram 898, December 14, summarized Kennan’s meeting with Kardelj. (Ibid., 668.00/12–1461)
  3. Brackets in the source text.