50. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • General US-Polish Relations

PARTICIPANTS

  • Jozef Cyrankiewicz, Polish Prime Minister
  • Jacob D. Beam, United States Ambassador to Poland
  • Interpreter from the Council of Ministers
[Page 104]

(On November 24 I mentioned to the Foreign Office Chief of Protocol that I would like to hold myself at the disposal of the Prime Minister to make a farewell call and asked that he be informed accordingly. Hearing nothing further, I mentioned to Foreign Trade Minister Trampczynski in my call on him the day before my departure (November 29) that I regretted I had not been able to see the Prime Minister and asked him to transmit my farewell greetings and regards to Mr. Cyrankiewicz. I said I was especially sorry to have missed the Prime Minister since our President had received Polish Ambassador Spasowski on his departure.

At the Foreign Office luncheon given for me the same day, the Protocol Chief and the Head of the American Desk were called away for a long telephone conversation. On their return they asked me whether I would be free to call on the Prime Minister at 4:30 that afternoon. I replied I would be honored to do so. My ensuing talk with Cyrankiewicz reported below lasted just over an hour.)

After an opening exchange of amenities, I commented US-Polish relations were good but required further improvement, especially after the events of the current year. It was our feeling Poland was perhaps apt to take its relations with the US too much for granted and was not fully aware of our problems.

We had been trying to help Poland and the Polish people but this had recently proved difficult. Certain statements and press articles had been published which affronted the dignity of the US and had provoked a vivid reaction in Congress and among the American people. Furthermore our economic programs did not seem to be appreciated and it had been noted in Washington that no publicity whatsoever had been given to the extent of US economic assistance to Poland. A goodwill visit of some of our Congressmen to take part in the cornerstone-laying ceremonies for the Krakow Hospital had been cancelled from the Polish side and this step was resented in influential Congressional circles. I said I was hopeful that some relaxation of international tensions might soon occur and that we would be able to go ahead with some of our plans for Poland. I sincerely trusted the Polish Government would take advantage of these possibly favorable opportunities and would devote closer attention to US-Polish relations and to meeting our needs for their maintenance and improvement.

The Prime Minister replied he would be happy to comment on some of the difficulties which arose on the Polish side. President Eisenhower had stated US assistance was being given to break Poland away from its Soviet ally. This objective was unacceptable. As to the Krakow visit, the Polish Government understood that some Congressmen were to be included who were unfriendly to Poland and who hoped to exploit their trip to make hostile propaganda at a time when international relations [Page 105]were already tense. An economic program for this year had earlier been discussed with the US but had been abruptly cancelled because of Poland’s supposed misdeeds over Berlin. Such political pressure was unacceptable. As to publicity, the Government had sent its Deputy Prime Minister to Krakow with me to inaugurate the new galvanizing line at Nova Huts. The Prime Minister was happy to learn that discussions had been reopened in Washington on a curtailed economic program for this year but two principal obstacles had to be overcome. Because of the break-off of the previous talks, Poland had been forced to assign large quantities of foreign exchange to the purchase of wheat abroad. Now it was being required by the US to buy 200,000 tons with its own dollar resources. The money could not be provided in the established plan. Furthermore Poland was being asked to alter its exchange rate in accounting for the local currency deposits. This simply could not be done.

I replied as follows. Secretary Dulles in October 1957 had made it clear the US did not wish Poland as a military ally and Poland was free to make such arrangements for its security as it found necessary, although of course we hoped it would be able to act of its own free will. Any other idea would be unrealistic.

With respect to the Krakow visit by our Congressmen, this had been proposed as a goodwill gesture which might ease relations by concentrating attention on a common humanitarian objective. It had been my experience that unfriendly persons usually left Poland with a better feeling after witnessing Polish achievements and experiencing its hospitality. It was still regrettable this opportunity had not been seized by the Polish Government but I would do my best to alleviate the misunderstanding on my return.

With further regard to the Nova Huts ceremony, I reiterated my appreciation for the Deputy Prime Minister’s participation but observed that, as had already been mentioned in Washington, no mention had been made of those portions of my speech reporting that the total of our credits to Poland now amounted almost to half a billion dollars—a very sizable figure and a substantial benefit to Poland’s economy.

As regards the history of this year’s economic negotiations, the Prime Minister ought to realize this. We did not attach political conditions to our assistance. Poland was free to come to its own decisions regarding the German question but must realize we meant business over Berlin and that if our rights were infringed a most dangerous crisis would ensue. Perhaps Poland in its own interest should consider the problem further and suggest moderation from the Eastern side.

The point I wished to stress with the Prime Minister was that while we did not make political conditions we were forced, because of the pressure of public and Congressional opinion, to take account of political [Page 106]conditions as they are. My country’s good faith had been directly attacked in statements from which I had to disassociate myself on occasion by leaving diplomatic receptions where I was a guest. Although I respected, while disapproving, Polish feelings over Cuba, our Consulate at Poznan had been smashed up in a manner strongly resented by the American people.1 As to our economic programs, we were not asking for thanks but simply for the type of recognition which it was in Poland’s interest to provide if such programs were to continue. I knew that Congressional feeling was especially strong on this point. Again I hoped that tensions would soon ease and I asked the Prime Minister to help those of us like myself and our Government authorities, who were favorably inclined, to go on helping Poland. In speaking frankly I sincerely believed this aspect of our relations had been neglected on the Polish side.

The Prime Minister said he had also spoken frankly but thought our discussion had been useful. He had some kind words to say about my contribution to the furtherance of better US-Polish relations.

We reverted briefly to the current Washington economic negotiations which I said I would look into on my return home. I referred to the very favorable Polish trade balance with the US and said it was not unreasonable to ask that Poland supplement credits with free currency purchases. The Prime Minister said the Polish Government would be happy to do so next year and in future years, but the request, coming after so much delay this year and Polish purchases of grain for hard currency was unfair. He referred to the Polish textile industry’s preference for, and to a certain extent dependence on American cotton and thought we should do more to encourage this stable market. As to the exchange rate, I suggested it should be possible for the financial experts to find a solution but the Prime Minister was skeptical.

  1. Source: Department of State, Polish Desk Files: Lot 67 D 238, PL 480 General. Confidential. Ambassador Beam dictated the memorandum of conversation in Washington on December 2.
  2. The Consulate was attacked by a mob directed by Polish Communist officials on April 19. The incident was reported in telegram 1519 from Warsaw, April 19. (Ibid., Central Files, 748.00/4–1961) The United States formally protested on April 20. (Telegram 1526 from Warsaw, April 20; ibid., 122.732P/4–2061)