70. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Czechoslovakian Situation
- Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador of USSR
- The Secretary
- Deputy Under Secretary Charles E. Bohlen
The Secretary said he had asked Ambassador Dobrynin to come to see him because he had just been in Honolulu and while there and on the [Page 213] way back had been informed of a series of articles in Soviet newspapers and on Soviet radio which seemed to imply U.S. involvement in the Czech situation. He said he had no paper to give the Ambassador but would merely make an oral statement. The Secretary went on to say that he wished to express the seriousness with which the U.S. regarded accusations of this kind. For example, he referred to an article in Pravda on July 19 in which it spoke of a NATO Western plot against Czechoslovakia involving the Pentagon and CIA. He wished to state emphatically that there was absolutely no truth in this allegation. A further statement in regard to arms caches had appeared in the Soviet press and he had even seen something questioning the authenticity of these arms caches by some Czechs. He referred to a Bulgarian newspaper account which indicated one of the arms caches had been barely concealed, thereby suggesting it had been placed there for easier detection. He referred also to a Moscow radio broadcast of July 22 of an alleged plot by Bonn and the U.S. in regard to Czechoslovakia.
The Secretary went on to say that no one knew better than members of the Soviet Embassy the restraint the U.S. had exercised in regard to Czech developments. He said we had not wished to involve ourselves directly in this matter, that the U.S. had been attempting to develop better relationships with Eastern European countries as well as with the Soviet Union. However, in regard to these current charges he would like to make three points:
- They were emphatically not true;
- They were creating in this country a considerable amount of agitation in political circles in regard to the Czech situation. Congressmen and Senators were making statements and becoming very concerned about them. (Dobrynin here intervened and said—“were we causing this?”) The Secretary said these charges against the U.S. had created a part of this agitation. He mentioned that Mr. Bohlen had been asked to appear in Executive Session of the Sub-Committee on Europe of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the Czech situation.2
- The feelings of the American people were perfectly understandable in matters of this kind. In fact they go back to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence (which parenthetically the Secretary said ante-dated Karl Marx by about one hundred years) that set forth the right of peoples to order their own affairs themselves. The U.S. Government had not sought to involve itself in this situation, but there should be no misapprehension as to the feelings and sympathies of the American people.
The Secretary mentioned that this was the first time that anybody had spoken officially to Ambassador Dobrynin about the Czech situation. He added that the U.S. Government had not wished to point out that undoubtedly the Soviet Government had a highly professional intelligence service which would make it clear that there was absolutely no truth to these allegations. We therefore were entitled to wonder what particular purpose was being achieved in their dissemination and whether or not this might be a pretext to lay a basis for some future action against Czechoslovakia. If this happened we would deeply regret it and it could not possibly have anything but a very negative effect on our relations, all the more so if the U.S. was to be presented as a scapegoat.
The Secretary said that both he and the President took these allegations very seriously and hoped that the Ambassador would be able to obtain from his government an explanation of these totally erroneous charges. He then asked the Ambassador if he had any questions. The Ambassador said he could only say there was no question of any form of pretext or excuse. Beyond that he could only say that he would report this matter to his government.
The Secretary then discussed how it would be handled with the press. (The Secretary had received a telephone call to say the Ambassador’s car had been seen by the press.) He said that we were planning to state that the Secretary had asked the Ambassador to come in to take up with him the charges appearing in the Soviet press, to refute them, and to ask for an explanation. Dobrynin said he thought that this was perhaps a little too detailed but had no suggestions as to how to handle it.
Comment: Dobrynin appeared to be considerably worried, possibly due to the U.S. démarche but most likely by the general state of affairs in regard to Czechoslovakia. He was distinctly not his usual genial self.