142. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Private Meeting with Rumanians


  • United States
    • Governor Harriman
    • Minister Crawford
    • Philip H. Trezise
  • Rumania
    • Mr. Gaston-Marin
    • Mr. Macovescu
    • Minister Balaceanu

Gaston-Marin began an extended statement by expressing his appreciation for the invitation to the representatives of the Rumanian People’s Republic “in order to analyze,” as he put it, “with representatives of the United States new ways of broadening Rumanian-American relations.” He offered special thanks to Governor Harriman for his helpfulness in making the visit possible.

He went on that the Rumanian leaders had noted with great interest his report of his conversations with Governor Harriman in November,2 particularly the thought that it would be possible gradually to develop US-Rumanian relations along constructive lines. Gaston-Marin considered the invitation to make the present visit the first specific response of the new Administration in Washington. He had found that there had been much interest here in developments within the RPR and in Rumanian economic development. He was confident that the American authorities understood what the RPR stood for within the Socialist camp and on the world plane: a policy of national independence and a policy of [Page 390] maintaining a Rumanian position on all problems in accordance with Rumanian national interests.

If this was the American understanding of Rumanian policy, as Gaston-Marin was sure it was, then it corresponded with reality. Independence is indeed the foundation of Rumanian national policy. The regime has always been devoted to Rumanian independence and to the development of Rumania in the interests of its own people. This has never been an easy policy to conduct, and there was a time under Stalin when they were badly inhibited. However, they have been taking steady steps in this direction. True independence, nevertheless, cannot be achieved without acquiring an independent economic base. This they are now pursuing, and we can help.

Today, the principles of Rumanian policy in relation to both Socialist and Western countries, have been made quite clear. The recent declaration on the part of the authorities of the RPR laid out certain fundamentals:

On the major international problem—that of the relationship between the communist and capitalist world—the RPR stands squarely with the USSR in favoring peaceful coexistence and the solution of all international problems through negotiations. But Rumania does not consider itself a passive participant, merely ratifying or rejecting positions taken by larger powers. It considers itself an active member of the world community, able to present its own points of view, and to argue them to the extent of its own capabilities. At the UNGA and at Geneva, for example, the RPR has recently offered its quiet independent notions on a nuclear free zone and on the question of broadening international trade.3
The RPR does not favor a break between Communist China and the Soviet Union. It considers that such a break would worsen the international situation. Rumania has no illusions about the possibility of eliminating differences within the Socialist camp, but it hopes to contribute to the possibilities of a settlement by a negotiation of the major problems within the Socialist group.
In the field of economic relations, the RPR has declared itself in favor of the principles of non-interference, equality, mutual respect, and the defense of national sovereignty and independence. These principles are considered general in their application. If they are not observed, there can be no political independence for Rumania. The RPR has established a [Page 391] substantial modern industrial sector, which Minister Crawford had observed. It now intends to modernize and improve its agricultural sector; for this task it has already learned much from the US. But agriculture, Gaston-Marin observed, “does not give us a big headache” (presumably, unlike the USSR and other Eastern European states).
The RPR line for the future is to continue to develop its economy rapidly and on a broad scale. It intends to exploit Rumanian raw materials intensively so as to raise the Rumanian standard of living, which still lags behind, not only the U.S. but also Rumania’s European neighbors.
Foreign trade is expected to have an important part in Rumania’s economic development. The RPR intends to orient its economic relations in a diversified way so as to avoid possible pressure or difficulties. The development of economic relations with the US is seen in this context. Earlier talks with American officials have given the Rumanians hope that we can make progress in this respect.
Gaston-Marin recalled that Governor Harriman had said that the US had no desire to harm the relations between Rumania and the Soviet Union. This opinion had been noted approvingly by the Rumanian leadership. He wishes to say that two sets of realities must be considered in dealing with Rumania. First, that Rumania is a Socialist state, has reached a certain level of Socialist development and cannot turn back, and will continue to pursue friendly relations with the USSR. Second, that “the great power to the East” is a very strong power, and “not only a friend of Rumania but a neighbor.” The US, Gaston-Marin thought, understood realistically what this meant.

Gaston-Marin went on to say that his group was in Washington to promote expanded trade with the United States. Rumania wishes to import certain industrial items and to further consolidate Rumania’s independence. It wished to be granted only the conditions granted to other countries. If trade was to be expanded, export licenses would be needed, of course. Also necessary, would be the possibility of greater Rumanian exports to the US, so as to earn the means of payment of import from the US, and financial credits, such as were available from other Western countries.

At this point, Gaston-Marin turned to the question of publicity about Rumania in the United States. It is important, he said, not to make “too much noise” for that “could affect certain people.” It is desirable not to exaggerate events in Rumania. In particular, the less publicity about Rumanian independence at this juncture, the better. Overattention to this in foreign press could harm rather than help our future relations. For the moment, Rumania would like to be placed after Yugoslavia and Poland among the Eastern European countries, in the public eye. “Our aspirations for independence can best be achieved not by noisy and insistent publicity but by a quiet and constructive development in [Page 392] Rumania’s relations with the US and the West.” The important thing, Gaston-Marin concluded, is cooperation with Rumania in the field of economic affairs.

This does not mean, he said, that importance is not granted to other bilateral problems. Rumania is ready to find for these problems solutions acceptable to both parties.

Gaston-Marin ended his comments which had been based on extensive written notes, by referring to the nuclear power plant included on the list of installations that Rumania had provided us. He said that the RPR had asked the Soviet Union for a nuclear power plant but had been told that delivery would not be possible until after 1970. The Rumanians had had preliminary but inconclusive conversations with the UK as well. The RPR five-year plan calls for a 500 megawatt nuclear station. Their present power grid is too much dependent on oil and gas, raw materials needed for the chemical industry. Rumania has uranium which it prefers to put into electric power rather than into fissionable material. It would be an important contribution to the power sector of the Rumanian economy if the US could see fit to sell Rumania a nuclear power plant.

Governor Harriman responded that US policy favors a friendly relationship between Rumania and the Soviet Union, as between all states. We have disliked the evidence of dependency within the Eastern European Bloc, and therefore we welcome what we have seen of Rumanian statements and Rumanian actions leading in the direction of national independence. President Kennedy had said last June in an important speech that the cause of world peace would be advanced if all countries would stop interfering in other countries.4 Mr. Khrushchev had spoken very favorably of President Kennedy’s remarks about non-interference but Governor Harriman observed that he had heard Soviet protestations about non-interference for many years and had found very little substance in them. Perhaps now Soviet relations with small states of Eastern Europe were changing, or the Soviets were allowing greater independ-ence to them. If so, we welcomed the change.

Turning to the US-Rumanian relations, Governor Harriman made the following points:

The US understands that Rumania has a Socialist system. That is a matter for the Rumanians. It is no secret, however, that we believe in an open society, in which people are free to move as they please and to speak as they please. We understand that some of the other Eastern European states, including Hungary, have moved ahead of Rumania in terms of permitting personal freedom. We think that extension of freedom to the individual cannot fail but be helpful to international relations.
The US is ready to consider ways and means of increasing trade with Rumania. We will be able to take a broader view than in the past on export licenses, although no decisions can be taken in advance of discussion. Credits also can be discussed. We will need assurances from the Rumanian side about re-exports and about the end use of certain kinds of American equipment.
As far as imports from Rumania are concerned, the USG, of course, does not engage in purchases itself. It can only create the climate and environment in which trade is possible. The American authorities recognize that the absence of MFN treatment for Rumania can handicap Rumanian trade with the US. Governor Harriman said that it was necessary to be very frank, that there could be no early grant of MFN to Rumania. He did not wish to prophesy what might happen next year or in the future. He did observe that Poland and Yugoslavia now enjoyed MFN and that the US action toward these two countries might indicate something of the direction in which we could go.
As for press treatment of Rumania, the US Government, of course, has no control over newspapers and other media. He suggested that the Rumanians should understand that in a continental country like the US, public opinion often lags behind the reality of events. It had taken the American people a long time, for example, to fully grasp the deep difference between the US and the Soviet Union. Once public opinion had come to understand this difference, it was difficult to adjust to new situations. In these circumstances, we must expect that statements will be made in the US which are not always happy ones for our external relations. The Rumanians could be sure in any event that the USG had no wish to complicate relations between the USSR and Rumania and that authoritative comments to the press would reflect this basic position.
As for Soviet-Communist Chinese relations, Governor Harriman said, they are not our affair. We considered realistic Mr. Khrushchev’s frank statement that Soviet policy is to avoid nuclear war, if at all possible. The Chinese Communists seem to be less realistic and we can only view this as unfortunate. We are unhappy over Communist Chinese attitude over the test ban treaty.

The meeting ended with a brief exchange on trade matters.

Gaston-Marin mentioned that because export licenses could not be obtained in the US, Rumania had bought rubber, synthetic fabric, and petroleum installations in Western Europe. In some cases, however, the European producers were less competent in mass production than were Americans and Rumania would like to talk seriously with a range of American firms about possibilities for buying plants and equipment here.

[Page 394]

Governor Harriman repeated what he had said earlier to the effect that we were willing to examine Rumania’s requests and to make a positive beginning on improved trade relations.

It was agreed by both sides that further private conversations might be desirable.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Romania, Cables, Vol. 1. Confidential. Drafted by Trezise and approved in M.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XVI, Document 26.
  3. Regarding Romanian participation in disarmament discussions, see U.N. doc. A/5371, “Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament for the period January 21 to September 17, 1964.” Regarding Romanian participation in trade discussions, see Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva, 1964 (8 volumes).
  4. For text of President Kennedy’s address in Frankfurt on June 25, 1963, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 516–521.