195. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • Deputy Prime Minister Kiro Gligorov of Yugoslavia
  • Ambassador Bogdan Crnobrnja
  • Mr. Mirko Mermolja, Interpreter
  • Mr. N. Davis

Deputy Prime Minister Gligorov conveyed Marshal Tito’s greetings, and said he wanted to assure the President of Yugoslavia’s resoluteness in this time and her desire for friendly relations with the United States.

The President said we also want to build better relations. We are distressed at recent events in Eastern Europe. We did all we could before the invasion of Czechoslovakia—which was a tragic act, against a country which only wanted to exercise its independence.

The President said he had spoken out firmly about the situation in Eastern Europe. We had not sought any sort of alliance or pact with any Eastern European country, and the Soviets did not have reason to believe [Page 519] their security threatened. Students of history have noted that when aggressors taste blood, the appetite grows. The recent situation had not been totally unlike a quarter century ago. We are concerned, and determined that aggression not spread.

The President continued that we are more concerned, perhaps, than some of our colleagues and friends. We know the consequences if aggression should win out. We were ready to talk on vital subjects with the Soviet Union just before the Czechoslovak invasion. We had vigorously pursued missile talks, agreed on the time and place, and were ready. The Soviet government fully realized the effect of its invasion.

The President observed that the NPT was also important to the Russians—as well as the missile talks. So was a solution in the Middle East and Vietnam. Rather than move on these questions, however, the Soviets preferred to take the course they did, and to pursue the interest they regarded as more important.

We shall have to wait and see, the President said. The Deputy Prime Minister should take Tito his regards. One of his regrets on leaving office was the fact that he had not had the opportunity to visit with Marshal Tito. The President knows the resolution of the Yugoslav people. They have gone through periods of the greatest difficulty, and they know the price they will have to pay to defend those things most important. The easy way has tragic consequences.

The President said he certainly does not want to see more killing in the world. He had two boys in combat in Vietnam. But he appreciates how the appetite grows with success. The President asked Gligorov if he had any views.

Gligorov said he believed the President’s assessment was correct. Every nation and society must be determined to defend its independence. The Yugoslavs liberated themselves in World War II and know what the price is. Yugoslavia’s President, its government and its nation are resolute, and we need have no doubts on that score. Yugoslavia spoke out immediately to condemn the aggression against Czechoslovakia. This is why Yugoslavia is the object of a campaign of vilification from the Soviet side.

Gligorov said Yugoslavia is ready for any eventuality. Nevertheless, the last thing they wish for is a rupture of Soviet-American contacts—which are good. It is only through dialogue that the greatest powers can seek agreement and find solutions to the hardest questions. The two greatest powers have very great responsibilities.

This is one thing. Another, however, is the importance of not suffocating the freedom of small nations. The Yugoslavs remember America’s role in 1948. They greatly appreciate all we have done. We helped them defend their independence and helped them continue their economic development.

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Gligorov said he realized Yugoslavia and America do not agree on all subjects. Nevertheless, our cooperation and friendship have increased, even if the forms have changed. The President will find Yugoslavia has a policy of peace and cooperation. For that purpose Yugoslavia will pay any price.

Often, Gligorov said, the Yugoslavs haven’t been well understood. But there is no other way. The Yugoslavs believe they have a friend in the U.S. That was why Yugoslavia’s government and President considered it useful to take advantage of Gligorov’s presence in the U.S. to express these feelings. Gligorov said he realized he was not saying anything new.

Gligorov said the Yugoslavs had chosen their own way in development and toward democracy. They are stimulating the initiative of their people. They are developing an economy open to the world. They are members of the Bank and Fund. They want private capital. This year Yugoslavia had ten million foreign tourists, 95% from the West. It is doubtful that there is any more open frontier in Europe than Yugoslavia’s with Italy and Austria. Yugoslavia wants its own society and way of life. It is building and defending an open society.

Gligorov said Yugoslavia is trying to build bridges to the “other world” in the West. This is along the lines of America’s policy toward the East. Marshal Tito greatly appreciates the personal policy of the President.

Gligorov said Marshal Tito appreciates the President’s efforts to find an acceptable solution in Vietnam, and reach a reasonable settlement in the Middle East.

Marshal Tito, according to Gligorov, considers Yugoslavia happy that she is not in the same position as in 1948, when she had to ask for grants of American aid. In the meantime, Yugoslavia has developed—and American aid helped greatly in this process.

Now, said Gligorov, Yugoslavia can talk on the basis of partnership. Yugoslavia wants to develop its commerce. It wants U.S. capital, and welcomes joint ventures. Gligorov said he had put forward certain specific proposals during this visit, but would not bother the President with them. However, these proposals reflect Yugoslavia’s desire to make her own contribution, and for future arrangements to correspond to the interests of both countries. American support would represent support for the independence of Yugoslavia and for Yugoslavia’s independent position.

The President said he could not anticipate events in Eastern Europe, and would not try to answer all Gligorov’s points. We are watching the situation with the greatest care. The President said he was grateful for what Gligorov had to say, and for his visit. The President, in closing the conversation, said he would be happy to have any ideas Marshal Tito would like to give him on the Eastern European situation.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Yugoslavia, Memos, Vol. 2. No classification marking. Drafted by Davis and approved by Rostow. The meeting was held in the President’s office at the White House.