55. Memorandum of Conversation0

SecDel MC/41


  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Foy Kohler
    • Mr. Raymond Garthoff
  • Poland
    • Mr. Adam Rapacki, Foreign Minister
    • Mr. Marian Naszkowski, Vice Foreign Minister
    • Mr. Henryk Sokalski


  • General Exchange of Views
In a return visit to that paid by the Secretary, Mr. Rapacki came to the US Mission on March 21 for a meeting of approximately one and one-quarter hours. Underlying general differences and problems in East-West and Polish-US relations formed the chief subject of discussion.
The Secretary noted that disarmament involves many problems. For example, our own constitutional practices require us to proceed in a certain way. We have used the term “treaty or treaties” for general disarmament because there are limits on what long-range commitments our Senate can ratify. Our trade agreements are only made for two or three years. We are for general and complete disarmament, but once Stage One has been agreed and put into practice it will be much easier to see the detailed form for the later stages. Rapacki indicated that he understood, but he seemed to interpret the reason for a cautious approach on our part in political rather than juridical terms, and said that he understood that while our general interest was disarmament, special interests in the US were opposed and had to be convinced and overcome. He made no comment on the specific form a disarmament agreement should take (though in his speech earlier at the plenary session he had spoken out for the Soviet draft treaty as the only approach).1
The problem of the economic problems and consequences of disarmament was briefly discussed. Rapacki stated that Poland had for her part disarmed to a degree in 1956–1957, without serious economic difficulties. The Secretary noted that with due time economic adjustments occasioned by disarmament were no problem for the US. And the US would like nothing better. In individual cases, such as the locality around a large aircraft plant, there were of course some short-run problems. Rapacki raised the question of economic aid to other countries. The Secretary noted that this depended in part on the readiness of the recipient countries to absorb aid. Rapacki pressed on the question, mentioning India as an example, and discussion followed on the economic, social and health context of effective aid.
The Secretary remarked that he would like to note in this private discussion that a sophisticated understanding was needed on both sides of the peculiar problems impinging on US-Polish mutual relations. On the one side, we recognize that Warsaw has only limited influence on relationship between Warsaw and Moscow. On the other side, we hope they will realize that internal US political situation and the imperatives of internal political debates compel us to take public account of Poland’s membership in the Communist Bloc. We base our relations with Poland, however, on the basis of bilateral interests rather than simply with Poland as a member of the Communist Bloc. When Rapacki had clarified that the Secretary was not seeking an agreement on reciprocity of these considerations, but rather noting them as illustrations on each side of matter requiring delicate understanding, he agreed.
The Secretary asked Mr. Kohler to speak of any problems in bilateral relations between our countries. Kohler noted the improvement and satisfactory state of such relations, and Rapacki agreed. Rapacki noted hopes for increased trade, including Polish interest in capital investment goods as well as in consumer goods. The Secretary reiterated that the US understood that Warsaw was not able to ignore broader US-USSR differences, but that we did not hold Warsaw responsible for them.
The Secretary asked Rapacki what he considered to be the biggest change in Soviet policy since the death of Stalin. Rapacki replied that peaceful coexistence, the “reconstruction” of the general line of Soviet foreign policy under Khrushchev, was clearly the major change. As specific points, he mentioned meetings with Western leaders, travel and opening up of contacts between peoples. The Secretary stated that we were concerned over such indications of non-peaceful interests as the declaration of the communist parties in November 1960,2 and Khrushchev’s speech of January 6, 1961,3 on spreading communism. If these were declarations of faith and expectation, that was one thing; if a program of action, that was another. It often appeared to us that it was the latter. Rapacki replied that it was a matter of belief, and of action in striving to win economic competition, which they saw as the main arena. The Secretary pressed for clarification of such declarations, and Rapacki responded with the same explanation, adding that Khrushchev had never said that they would force communism on anyone, that forceful imposition of socialism was not possible. Naszkowski added that Khrushchev had in fact asserted that force would not be used.
Rapacki said that Khrushchev had said not only in public but in closed session (apparently in November, 1960) that peaceful economic competition was the only means to victory for communism. He also said that in closed session Khrushchev had declared that communism would not come until they had more sausages than the West. (Later in the discussion, in an apparent allusion to this figure of speech, Rapacki said the Chinese Communists had been rushing too fast—and their table was bare.)
The Secretary remarked that he hoped relations between the US and the USSR could be on the basis of state interests rather than ideologically motivated political action. The Secretary added that he thought the Soviets were beginning to see this too, and that one of the issues of dispute between the Soviets and the Chinese was on this basis. Rapacki [Page 116]replied that the Soviets, and Chinese too, did act on the basis of national interests. They shared the same general aims. The US, declared Rapacki, has been placed in the unsought position of potential arbiter between the USSR and Communist China. The Secretary expressed surprise. Rapacki commented that the US, by demonstrating the possibility and success of the peaceful coexistence policy, can bring the Chinese and Russians together on the basis of such a policy. The Secretary remarked that having us as a common foe was one of the chief elements holding the USSR and China together. The Secretary asked about Communist pursuits of world revolution, as perhaps against their national interests. Rapacki dismissed “world revolution” as a discredited Trotskyite slogan, and reaffirmed the belief of the Communists in victory through demonstration of a superior economic system.
The Secretary noted that there were those who saw some possibility of a gradual evolutionary merging of our widely disparate systems. Thesis and antithesis (of present systems) might lead to a new synthesis. In the US, large corporations paid 75 percent of their profits in local state and federal taxes. There was some planning involved in import-export arrangements. The Secretary said that Ambassador Galbraith had once written that in “Socialist” India there was more free enterprise than in the US. Rapacki noted that there were different kinds of “socialism”. India and Cuba don’t have socialism in the sense they understand it. There are differences between Polish, Soviet, Chinese socialism. When India does have socialism, it will be its own form.
  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Confidential. Drafted by Garthoff and approved in S on March 22. The meeting was held at the U.S. Mission.
  2. For text of the Soviet draft treaty, see Documents on Disarmament, 1962, vol. I, pp. 103–127.
  3. For text of the statement, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, December 28, 1960, pp. 3–9, and January 4, 1961, pp. 3–8.
  4. Extracts of Khrushchev’s speech are printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1961, pp. 1–15.