157. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Call of Romanian Prime Minister Maurer on President Johnson

PARTICIPANTS

  • Romanian Side:
    • Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer
    • Foreign Minister Corneliu Manescu
    • Mr. Stefan Nastasescu, interpreter
  • U.S. Side:
    • The President
    • Under Sec. Katzenbach
    • Ambassador Jas. Symington
    • Mr. Francis Bator, Dep. Spec.Asst. to President
    • Mr. Walter J. Stoessel, Jr Dep. Asst. Sec., EUR

The Prime Minister began by expressing his great appreciation to the President for taking time from a busy schedule to receive him. He noted that he had recently had a long discussion with Secretary Rusk in New York on matters of common interest and that these talks had been very successful.2

The Prime Minister said that he had talked in the first instance with Secretary Rusk about the Middle East, where they seemed to have found a similarity of views due to the fact that both felt that everything possible should be done to obtain peace in the Middle East and that this was a question which must be approached in a realistic spirit, avoiding excessive claims.

They had also exchanged views about Viet-Nam. The Prime Minister had told the Secretary very frankly of the Romanian desire to have the Viet-Namese question settled. It is troublesome to Romania and to everyone; it is, in fact, particularly troublesome for the smaller countries. Viet-Nam is a hot-bed of danger, which the Prime Minister felt could do damage to Romanian desires for freedom and independence. The Prime Minister said he would be pleased if the President could understand the special interest of Romania in settling the Viet-Namese problem.

The Prime Minister wished to make his views quite plain. He believed that a way had to be found for American troops to be withdrawn from Viet-Nam. He understood that, in this, Romanian attitudes were different from those of the United States; however, he had the impression that the Secretary had understood the Romanian viewpoint, [Page 431]which sprang from the desire of Romania for freedom and independence. Tension anywhere in the world creates difficulties for smaller countries and the possibilities for achieving independence become more restricted. The Prime Minister commented that he thought there was less similarity between the U.S. and Romania on Viet-Nam than there was about the Middle East.

The Prime Minister had taken up a third subject with Secretary Rusk, that of relations between our two countries. He had pointed to the Romanian desire that these relations expand, particularly in the sphere of economic relations and scientific and technical cooperation. He was well aware that the U.S., as a large country, had nothing to gain from exchanges with such a small country as Romania. On the contrary, Romania would stand to gain and that, indeed, was the Romanian purpose, since the economic development of Romania was a most important element in her striving for independence. However, even if economic relations with Romania were not especially important for the U.S., perhaps Romania’s political independence would be something of interest to the U.S.

The Prime Minister said that some of the Secretary’s views on bilateral relations had been encouraging, while some had not been so encouraging. He had told the Prime Minister of the desire of the U.S. to develop relations with Romania, but he had pointed out difficulties in this regard which derived from the present international situation. These concern certain agreements which had been concluded between our two countries several years ago on the basis of mutual advantage. These had contemplated the use of credits, either short or long term. With regard to one of the projects which was dear to the Prime Minister’s heart, the purchase of a glass plant from the U.S., the Secretary had said that there might be problems because of the danger that the Congress might not make it possible for the Export-Import Bank to extend credit to socialist countries.

The Prime Minister could understand that there might be some problems about which nothing could be done. However, he very much hoped that the glass plant project could go through, since this was an important element in Romanian planning. The Prime Minister said that, to the extent that the President could contribute to developing U.S-Romanian relations, he thought this would be a useful step in the context of improved international relations generally and fulfilling obligations toward the human community.

The President said that the Secretary had reported to him on his talk with the Prime Minister and he could not add very much to what the Secretary had already said. The President regretted that Romania and the U.S. had different approaches to the problem of Viet-Nam, although he appreciated the reasonable position of Romania. The President said that [Page 432]those closest to the problem feel differently about it than those farther away. This might make us understand the problem better but, on the other hand, it might also make us less objective. In any event, the President appreciated the candid and frank remarks of the Prime Minister.

The President said that we are very anxious for U.S. troops to leave Viet-Nam, which they will do as soon as the North Viet-Namese troops leave the country. We do not feel that we can run away and leave the South Viet-Namese to face the aggressors. We have an alliance with South Viet-Nam and we will help to defend the country when it is attacked. So far as the political structure in South Viet-Nam is concerned, we favor elections which could be supervised by any objective group. We do not believe that we have the right, even though an ally, to tell the people of South Viet-Nam what kind of government they should have. They should have the right to vote freely and to choose their own leaders. Whether we like the leaders or not is unimportant; the main thing is that there should be honest, free elections.

We do not wish to fight North Viet-Nam. It takes two to make a fight. If North Viet-Nam would stay behind the line, if they would stop sending troops and supplies into South Viet-Nam and stop the violence there, then we would turn the buildings, hangars and construction that have been built in South Viet-Nam into schools and hospitals, and we would bring our troops home within six months, as we have said we would do. We know that no country wants troops of a foreign power on its soil. If the North Viet-Namese troops would stay on their own soil, then our troops would stay in the United States. However, if North Viet-Nam insists on using power and on saying that “might makes right“, then we will resist.

The President said that we are not trying to reform the North Viet-Namese Government, but they are invading South Viet-Nam. Four or five divisions are ready to enter South Viet-Nam as soon as we stop bombing. We are not trying to destroy North Viet-Nam nor to invade their land. All we ask is that they stay in their country and we in ours. If anyone can get Ho Chi Minh to send his troops home and cease the infiltration and violence, then the Americans will go home, but we are not prepared to raise the white flag of surrender and to let the aggressors win.

Just as we do not wish to destroy North Viet-Nam, we do not want war with China or to change the system of government in China. We hope that China will join the society of nations. We have no designs on her territory or her philosophy. All we want to do is to trade with China and get along with her to the extent that she will permit.

The President appreciated the Prime Minister’s approach to these matters and his desire to talk about them. We wish to be friendly with the [Page 433]Rumanian people. We would like to see the East-West Trade Bill passed as well as the Export-Import Bank legislation so that our relations could be improved.3

The President understood the desires of Romania to seek better living conditions for its people. Although countries may have different views on various matters, there are many things which we have in common. All of us have problems with ignorance, poverty and disease and we should all work together as brothers to fight these enemies rather than each other.

The President commented that Congress sometimes did not have as liberal a view as he did about some of these things, but he thought that if Members of Congress could hear the Prime Minister, or could hear Chairman Kosygin, then they might change their views.

The President was determined to work to improve relations with Romania. He told the story of Charles Lamb who, when asked if he knew the author of a book he had not enjoyed, said that he did not know the author but if he knew him he would like him. The President thought that it had been helpful for the Prime Minister to visit the United Nations, to talk with Secretary Rusk, and to come to the White House. The President said that Mr. Katzenbach would be glad to consider in a detailed way such questions as the glass factory which the Prime Minister had mentioned. The President wished to approach such problems with a desire to reach an understanding.

Even though Romania is a small country, the President said the United States was very interested in its relationship with us. We feel an obligation upon the United States to do what is right in the world. Although we may sometimes make mistakes, we do our best. We would like to improve trade with Romania and to see an improvement in the welfare of Romania. He looked to the day when there were no great differences between us. The President said what we want most from Romania is not trade or approval but that Romania would try to understand the United States.

The President said that the Prime Minister was going to visit other countries and that he was at liberty to describe the conversation he had had with the President and to quote whatever he had said, if this would be useful.

The President said he would like to talk with the Chinese about a non-proliferation treaty and to work out ground rules so that we can avoid nuclear war. He repeated that we would like to bring our troops [Page 434]home from Viet-Nam and he said that if the Prime Minister could persuade Ho Chi Minh to withdraw his troops, the Prime Minister could promise to produce the President the next morning to begin negotiations. However, it takes two to negotiate and we cannot do it all ourselves. Whenever Ho Chi Minh is ready, the President would be ready and he will talk about anything that Ho Chi Minh wants to talk about. The President wants to stop the war but he cannot stop just his half of the war.

The Prime Minister said that he was very pleased with what he had heard from the President. While he might not agree with everything the President had said, he did not wish to argue any points in detail. As the President probably knew, Romania did not limit herself to expressing her views to the United States. She has spoken of her views previously to other countries and will do so in the future. The Prime Minister noted that he would be in Peking on July 3.

The Prime Minister hoped that the President did not think that Romania aspired to playing an important role in international debate. All that Romania wished was to be master in its own house. As it happens, this ideal for Romania cannot be achieved when there is a crisis of tension in the world. Then countries are told to get together, to renounce some of their sovereignty and some of their independence and to obey the command of another state. The Prime Minister said that these actions endanger what Romania has won, and which they wish to preserve at all costs. It is this consideration which causes Romania to interfere in problems which really are beyond her and to try to settle them.

The Prime Minister noted that this was his first visit in the U.S., but he said that since hostilities began in Viet-Nam he had visited there four times. This shows that whatever Romania does springs from a belief that difficult problems should be resolved. He thought this was the President’s belief as well.

The Prime Minister said that it was helpful to him to have heard the President’s views. He did not know what use he would make of them—that remained to be seen.

The President said he understood and that he had been happy to hear the Prime Minister’s comments and to give him ours. He hoped to achieve an understanding based on all the information available, since a man is only as good as his information.

The President said that it would be the height of folly, it would be prehistoric and like a cave man’s approach, for the United States to want to go to war with China. Nothing was farther from his mind.

The President said that about 30 million people in the U.S. live in poverty. He felt we should spend money to help them rather than spending money on bombs. He also hoped that part of our budget now spent on military expenditures could be used for the economic development of [Page 435]the Mekong Delta. We want Indonesia to be free. We wish the same for Japan, Korea, the Philippines and other countries. We do not wish to impose our views on them and we honestly want them to decide their future. The President hoped the Prime Minister would understand the United States better as a result of his visit. Now he knew more about what we were thinking and could tell others.

The visit ended with repeated thanks by the Prime Minister for the President’s courtesy in receiving him.

Following the visit, the President and Romanian party went to the Rose Garden for photographs. During a brief exchange on this occasion, the Prime Minister mentioned that Foreign Minister Manescu probably would be the President of the next General Assembly of the United Nations. The President said that he would be a good man and that we had heard good things about him.

In a brief statement to journalists in the White House press room following the interview with the President, the Prime Minister said that he had presented his respects to the President and that they had had a useful and frank exchange on topical questions. He said that he was leaving with a particularly strong memory of a great leader and a great state.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL RUM–US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Stoessel.
  2. See Document 156.
  3. S–1155, a bill authorizing a 5-year extension of the Export-Import Bank became involved in a 1967 Congressional debate on trade policy. In 1968, Congress approved S–1155 as P.L. 90–267, extending the Export-Import Bank for 5 years. The Congress failed to act on HR–17551, the Trade Expansion Act of 1968.