196. Telegram From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to the Department of State1

4720. Secun 5. For Secretary from Under Secretary. Subject: My meeting with Tito.

Burke Elbrick and I met with Tito today for one hour and a half.
I began by giving him President’s warm regards, coupled with a word for word repeat of statement issued by President after Elbrick had seen him (“President has made very clear his continuing interest in Yugoslavia’s independence, sovereignty and economic development”).2 I emphasized to Tito that this was what President had released following Elbrick call.
Tito then ran through his impressions of Soviet intentions, from time of his April visit to Moscow through Cierna meeting (this scenario has already been reported by Embassy).3 Tito said that he had told Soviets in Moscow that an invasion of Czechoslovakia would be a “catastrophe“; that he had been worried Soviets would move against Czechs until Cierna meeting, but that after that he decided Soviets had given up any ideas of use of force; ensuing invasion which occurred within fortnight of Bratislava meeting had shocked him. He spoke indignantly of “absurdity” of Soviet attempts to justify invasion, saying that charges that counter-revolution was taking place were completely unfounded.
I tried to draw Tito out on who players had been in Soviet Politburo, but he was not responsive. (Later in conversation he did say that there had been some “disagreement” within Soviet Government over Czech invasion.)
Tito said that while he was still worried about Soviet intentions toward Yugoslavia, he did believe situation had “eased somewhat.” (He seemed more relaxed about situation than had Acting Foreign Secretary Pavicevic in earlier conversation today.)4 He said only help Yugoslavia needs right now is economic, emphasizing necessity of carrying through Yugoslav economic reform with its important political and social implications. He also said that Yugoslavs had sufficient arms to equip 1.2 million men.
I tried to draw Tito out on Jarring Mission5 and possibilities for an ME settlement but, although we talked about ME for some time, I got little new. At one point Tito said that Soviets have more influence on Nasser than he (Tito) does. He took usual GOY line on the ME, saying Israelis have not accepted UN resolution and that a solution should be imposed. I told him I thought Israelis had accepted resolution, and that an imposed solution simply would not work. At conclusion of this portion of conversation, Tito admitted that Jarring Mission may be vital to solution of ME problem. He expressed concern about what he interpreted to be signs of renewal hostilities, and said it is most important for Mediterranean area, the Balkans in particular, that problem be solved speedily. At this point he digressed somewhat, and said that no one wanted Balkans to again become a “powder-keg“, referring with some heat to Bulgaria’s pretensions to Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia which, in his view, were obviously inspired by Soviet Union to discomfit GOY.
He inquired about Viet-Nam negotiations, saying he thought Viet-Nam solution is vital to resolution of other world problems. I told him I had seen Averell Harriman who was not able to report any progress to date.
Comment: In addition to conversation with Tito visit provided opportunity for me to exchange views with leading Yugoslav officials, including prominent members of legislative and executive branches of government. All have stressed long-term rather than immediate aspect of threat. They seem to recognize that situation does not call for classical variety of aid program and have asked for no commitments. They have shown special concern over Soviet plans for Balkan and Mediterranean areas, particularly with regard to foothold Soviets are gaining in Eastern Mediterranean. As emphasized by Acting Secretary Pavicevic in talks this morning Yugoslavs welcome any action on our part which would have a deterrent effect on Soviet aggression in this area of world. In this connection it seems pretty clear that Yugoslavs evaluate positively signals we have given Moscow this week beginning with statement made by Ambassador Elbrick after seeing President Monday and culminating in my visit today.
Yugoslavs naturally seeking to dramatize importance of visit to their own people but without saying anything specific re its significance. In this connection today, shortly after my talk with Tito, Office of President telephoned to ask if statement could be released that I had called and [Page 523] delivered personal message from President Johnson. I said I would prefer release to say I had conveyed President’s warm greetings to President Tito but if they felt strongly about their formulation we would not object. In press backgrounder later this afternoon I emphasized that my visit was followup to earlier Gligorov visit to US and that my Paris speech6 gave me a good opportunity for a short visit to a country I had always wanted to see. I told them that I had presented President Johnson’s regards to President Tito and that no commitments had been asked or offered.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Yugoslavia, Memos, Vol. 2. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Katzenbach was in Europe to attend a meeting of the Western European Union.
  2. The October 14 statement is summarized in The New York Times, October 18, 1968.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. See Document 197.
  5. Between January and May 1968, Gunnar Jarring, U.N. Special Representative in the Middle East, met with Arab and Israeli officials in Nicosia. After his return to New York, he continued secret discussions relating to a Middle East peace settlement at the United Nations.
  6. For text of Katzenbach’s October 15 address to the Western European Union, see Department of State Bulletin, November 11, 1968, pp. 489–493.