Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Patience and the Moscow Council of Foreign Ministers - Sam Welles (1948)



Last week I posted an excerpt from my grandpa's book, Profile of Europe (1948), which explained the purpose of the work - to illustrate to the West that war with the Soviet Union was avoidable if we were willing to be "patient, firm and above all consistent". 

In the excerpt below, my grandpa continues on to illustrate the 
value of patience in matters of foreign policy by citing the example of East-West negotiations 

Sam Welles wrote in 1948:

          I spent eight months of 1947, early March to late October, in Europe and the Middle East. My first ten weeks were in Russia. One episode before I started the trip was to me symbolic of the whole complicated Soviet-American relationship.
         Molotov, wishing to have the Council of Foreign Ministers meet in Moscow, promised that reporters could cover the session as fully and freely as they were then covering the autumn - 1946 meeting of CFM in New York. Two months after Molotov's promise, Russia limited the American reporters' group to twenty. After a violent argument, the State Department got the group raised to thirty-six - less than half the reporters who had arranged to go. The State Department arranged even this small concession only by cutting its own official delegation and by yielding some of its allotted Moscow office space to be used as bedrooms.
        This episode shows how Russia negotiates. Promise a principle (full press coverage) to get a specific (agreement to meet in Moscow). Once you have the specific clutched safe in your bosom, slash the principle to the least you could get away with (not full coverage, but only twenty U.S. reporters). If the other fellow not merely objects but fights long and hard, yield a little more of the principle you promised (thirty-six, instead of the far greater number who believing you made arrangements). Never yield all the original promise if you can avoid doing so, and yield a bit above minimum only if you get further specific concessions (a smaller U. S. delegation and less space for it).
        This explains why negotiations with Russia are slow. It also indicates that Russia does negotiate, in its way, and doubtless always will. The Russians know that Americans are impatient people. That encourages them to be slow. They know they can take advantage of American impatience to get this or that matter settled, even if not on the terms we would like. Yet there is seldom if ever a good reason why America should be in any greater hurry than Russia to settle any given issue. Just as long as we are patient, the talks will go on - and we can simultaneously use the time to get the non-Russian world back on its feet.



On Back of Book:

Sam Welles 
          Author of Profile of Europe is an associate editor of Time and one of its top foreign news writers. During the war he served for three years in the State Department and in our London Embassy, where he was the Special Assistant to Ambassador Winant.
          At Oxford University, on a Rhodes Scholarship after Princeton, he took an honors degree in modern history. Ever since 1935 has spent a considerable part of his time traveling over Europe. In one thirty-nine month period he logged more than 100,000 miles from Connemarra to Constantinople; and during the Conference of Foreign Ministers in Moscow he walked more than 300 miles through that city and its suburbs. In the months that followed, he visited sixteen other countries, making his way across most of them by car. His equipment-including extra cans of gas, spare tires, tools, food and mountains of documents- would almost have outfitted a polar explorer.

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