89. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin
- Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson
I had lunch today with Ambassador Dobrynin pursuant to an invitation which he had issued last Friday. In the course of the conversation, I said I was still baffled by what had triggered the Soviet decision to invade. He said he was also curious but doubted if he would find out until the next time he was in Moscow. I said that it was clear that there had been a Politburo meeting on the weekend but there was some doubt [Page 260] as to whether there had actually been a meeting of the Central Committee. He replied that it was quite clear that it had been and that a decision of this sort would require such a meeting. I said that I assumed that some of the members would not have been able to get there on time, and he replied that obviously the people on the other side of the country had been unable to be present.
When I remarked that I thought that their military had carried out their side of the operation more effectively than the political side, he said, “You better not say that around Moscow.”
When I inquired how he would interpret the word, “temporarily,” with respect to the length of stay of the Soviet troops, he replied that he thought this would depend entirely upon how successful the Czechs were in carrying out the agreement. The Soviets would obviously like to make this period as short as possible.
He stated that he thought the basic problem was the Soviet concern that the Communist party was losing control and mentioned in passing the type of thing that was appearing in the Czech press as well as the activities of non-Communist party groups. I said that speaking frankly and personally there seemed to have been a serious misjudgment of the situation. He referred to the fact that the Soviets under Stalin had suffered much more than the Czechs ever had from the cult of personality but that the recent outcry in Czechoslovakia had been quite different from the reaction in the Soviet Union after the denunciation of Stalin. The Czechs were beginning to blame everything that had happened on the Communist party and to say that there had been nothing good accomplished.
I pointed out that there was an element of nationalism involved in the case of Czechoslovakia that was absent in the case of the Soviet Union. He admitted that this was true.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–1 COMBLOC–CZECH. Secret; Limdis. Drafted by Thompson and approved in S/S on August 28. The meeting was held at the Soviet Embassy.↩