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

1244. Completed March 14 visit to Croatia and Slovenia during which had informal discussion not only with number of prominent cultural figures but also with President Bakaric of Croatia, Vice President Vilfan of Slovenia, and at Brioni, political secretary to President Tito Crnobrnja, and finally Tito himself. Will submit my much more detailed accounts discussions with political leaders.1 Following are certain general impressions gathered from all these encounters:

Yugo ComParty is seriously wracked at this moment by internal differences primarily over problem of decentralization. While most [Page 337] acute aspect of this problem is question as to whether new investment should be directed to highly developed or to underdeveloped republics, it also raises basic political issue of dictatorial centralization versus liberal decentralization in political sense, and thus produces growing bitterness and divergence between hard-line Communists on one side and liberal Marxists on other. This conflict is probably intensified by everyone’s awareness of importance of personnel problems about to be raised by entry into effect of new constitution, with attendant implications for entire question of eventual succession to Tito’s position of leadership.
In close connection with internal party struggle, partly as cause and partly as result, there has been serious aggravation of nationality problem, particularly in Slovenia, where tendencies toward economic centralization are especially strongly feared and where local national feeling is now running higher than at any point since World War II. So acute is this situation that Slovene ComParty finds itself faced which choice between identifying with Slovene national feeling or losing most of such moral influence as it still possesses.
In these internal differences, Tito’s position has been ambivalent. He does not seem to be leader of hard-line centralized element. In some ways, he favors old-fashioned Communist approaches, but on vital issue of investment policy, his mind appears to be moving towards concept which would give communes and enterprises wide freedom to invest surplus funds in other regions and in other branches activity, thus creating some freedom of movement on investment capital within country. This would, if realized, constitute important shift of Yugo economy in Western direction.
Unable to ascertain what connection if any exists between these internal issues and foreign policy, presumably, hard-line element generally more favorable to development relations with USSR, but here, in contrast to internal centralization, lead seems clearly to have been taken by Tito personally. It is noteworthy that in course much discussion of development Yugo economic and social system, nowhere did I find faintest trace of intention to be guided by Soviet patterns or even to take account of Soviet views in charting future course.
Tito pleaded strongly with me for understanding of his position vis-à-vis Chinese-Soviet conflict. He stressed tremendous importance in his eyes of assuring that international Communist movement should not come under influence of Chinese, whose position on problem of war and coexistence he described as literally insane. Yugoslavia, he said, could not as socialist country show itself indifferent to outcome such dispute within socialist camp. Hence his support for Khrushchev. In general he professed inability to understand our underestimation of [Page 338] momentous importance Chinese-Russian rift as compared with various points of conflict in our relations with Russia.
It is clear from this and other discussions that Yugoslavs believe change in Soviet outlook has been real and significant; that strong anti-Western tone taken by Khrushchev is designed only to protect his flank against Stalinist critics and conceals far-reaching readiness to compose differences with West. Impressions gained by Tito and others in Moscow appear to have changed nothing in their conviction that Khrushchev is faced with a “Stalinist majority” within Presidium on certain key issues of policy and ideology. This impression has intensified Tito’s feeling that he must at all cost vigorously support Khrushchev.
Tito declined to be drawn out beyond a point on my question as to how far rapprochement with Russia could be expected to carry. He assured me that Yugoslavia will not enter into any military pacts with anyone. (Whether this would preclude less formal arrangements of military collaboration, is another question. His silence on this point did not reassure me.) He professed himself well aware of dangers implicit for Yugoslavia in any composition of Chinese-Soviet differences. He did not know what would happen in such an event; Yugoslavia would in any case not allow herself “to be put into circulation like a coin.”
Tito was fully prepared to agree that certain balance of relations as between East and West was vital necessity for Yugoslavia. He has no intention of sacrificing present good relations with Italy and other Western neighbors to his relations with Russia.
On US-Yugoslav relations, it is clear that for Yugoslavs MFN problem is basic. (I think it likely my visit was helpful in stalling off any early reactions of impatience; but clearly this cannot be strung out indefinitely.) In addition to this, Tito has unquestionably been stung personally by anti-Yugoslav outbursts in our public discussion, by what he considers our government’s general complacency in face of boycott movements and Yugoslav emigre activities, and by reluctance our government to contemplate high level exchanges of visits. On other hand, he volunteered expression of understanding for President Kennedy’s position vis-à-vis public opinion. He knew, he said, that there were things President was not in position to say, and that President could not give guarantees to US public for Yugoslav behavior. He only wished that President would also show understanding of his own problems as a statesman. (He had in mind, I am sure, problem presented for him by Chinese-Soviet conflict.) He reaffirmed his disinclination to see Yugoslavia accept any further aid from US, except possibly dollar loans for industrial development and occasional long-term credit for wheat purchases. Anything else, he said, they felt as humiliating.
Tito will never free himself from his ingrained Marxist views, his preoccupation with Communist bloc affairs, and his tendency to tailor [Page 339] his words to Eastern ears with little comprehension or concern for effect in West. As such he will always be problem to us. However, he is determined to maintain Yugoslavia’s independence; he seems to appreciate vital importance of preserving some balance in his policy; and he is not by nature unapproachable. If MFN could be straightened out, if numerous self-appointed architects and critics of policy toward Yugoslavia in our country would subside and give appointed authority a chance, and if we could hold out some prospects of Tito’s cordial reception as official visitor in US at proper time, I would not despair of influencing him usefully in limited but not wholly unimportant ways. I have impression, however, that behind him there are certain other highly placed figures who are even more hostile to good relations with us and are doubly dangerous because they act anonymously, are hard to identify, and cannot be led into open and responsible discussion on government-to-government level.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL Yugo. Confidential. Repeated to Moscow, Hong Kong, and Zagreb.
  2. The more detailed accounts have not been found.