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G. Frederick Reinhardt Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
G. Frederick Reinhardt

During the administration of President Harry S. Truman, was a Foreign Service officer at Moscow, 1945-47; Consul General, 1947; Chief, Division of Eastern European Affairs in the Department of State, 1948-50; Director, Office of Eastern European Affairs, 1950; and Counsellor of Embassy, Paris, 1951-55.

Zurich, Switzerland
June 13, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened October, 1981
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Oral History Interview with
G. Frederick Reinhardt


Zurich, Switzerland
June 13, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson


WILSON: A sort of general question to begin would be to ask you about your service in Moscow, to ask you about Russian reaction to the UNRRA business. You were in Moscow in 1946?

REINHARDT: Yes, I went back to Moscow in the summer of '46.

WILSON: How much of a furor was there about the UNRRA question and the demands of the American Congress for publicity about UNRRA operations in the Ukraine?


Do you recall anything about that?

REINHARDT: Very vaguely. I don't think that we got involved in that so much in Moscow probably as people did at the other end. This is often the case. Moscow, you know, can be a very quiet place even when things are boiling in some other area with Russian involvement. Moscow does not have a society in the sense that Western countries do where people go to cocktail parties and dinners frequently, and eat and talk and discuss these things. Normally you only get reactions from issues in the form of official, stereotyped ones in the press, or what you get when you go and talk to an official. But to speak of public opinion, in a Western sense, is, of course, short of the mark.

WILSON: Maybe another way of getting at this would be -- when did you as an individual say, if you ever said, "Here's where the cold war began."


REINHARDT: Of course, I never thought it had stopped. From my point of view a cold war is inherent in the Soviet approach to foreign relations, and it just gets dampened off at one time, and then heated up at another. I think most people whose experience in Russia, like mine, had started before the war, never had any illusions about that. I think it's fair enough to say, though, that the official declaration of the cold war, or the resumption of the cold war, was that famous speech of Stalin's, in January '46.

WILSON: Yes. You placed no stock in the interpretation that for a time during the war the Russians, as well as Roosevelt and the Americans, believed that there could be reasonable cooperation?

REINHARDT: I didn't find this believable; I think Mr. Roosevelt did. But a person's beliefs are related to his philosophy. Mr. Roosevelt had a philosophy that called for the nations of the world to live in peace together, but that's not


inherent in the Leninist-Stalinist philosophy.

WILSON: Looking at the events of 1947, from Moscow, what was the American view of Russia's policy at that time? The people I've interviewed here, as well as most people I've interviewed in the United States, state, bluntly, that the decision of the Russians not to cooperate in this conference called by [Ernest] Bevin and [Georges] Bidault in June of 1947 after Secretary Marshall's speech was utter stupidity. They say that this offer of all-European cooperation had been put forth by Secretary [George C.] Marshall in good faith, even though he was concerned about what the Russians might do. And if the Russians had come in they could have messed up the entire thing, and yet they didn't. Was this Stalin's paranoia; was it that it would possibly lose them control over the satellite countries?

REINHARDT: I think that second point is the one that occurred to me; that he was afraid if large Western


resources were put into the reconstruction of the economies of the countries he had just taken over, it would be much harder for him to integrate them into his economy, and to lead them the way he did in the years that followed.

WILSON: Was there a Soviet psychosis about contact with the West?

REINHARDT: Most certainly, and there always has been. I think it's older than Soviet; I think it's Russian psychosis, because many writings dealing with certain periods well before the Bolsheviks show a similar psychosis. I suppose the best known writings were the letters of the Marquis de Custine* that were published in 1843; full pages of them, describing the activities of Russian imperial bureaucrats, could be transliterated into modern times and not just the Bolshevik era. So there was a national psychosis, at least an official national psychosis. I don't think that the individual Russian cared so much, but those in responsibility

* "La Russie en 1839" by Le Marquis de Custine, first published in 1843.


in Russia have always felt that way.

WILSON: With regard to Russian control of the satellites, what was the view then of Russian intentions and of the extent of control? Once Czechoslovakia fell, it was as if the Red Army was doing everything, at least from the point of view of the United States Congress. Was that the view from Moscow in 1947 and '48?

REINHARDT: As a matter of fact, I left Moscow before Czechoslovakia was fully incorporated; the process was under way. Oh, I think that most people shared the view that Russia was out to create a frontier with the Western World, as far west as possible, and that the practicalities were that that frontier would more or less reflect the positions of the armies at the end of the war. Of course, that's what really happened. It's true that you got a little variation in Czechoslovakia because the American Army went in as far as Pilsen, but elsewhere the line between the West and East, 25 years in the past, had been pretty much the line that marked the cessation of hostilities.


WILSON: You came back before the coup in Czechoslovakia in '48?

REINHARDT: I returned to Washington in the summer of 1948.

WILSON: And then you were going to be chief of the…

REINHARDT: Eastern European Division.

WILSON: Was it one of your responsibilities to deal with the question of potential trade with the Eastern bloc countries?


WILSON: Might I ask for you to comment about this? I've got the suggestion that the State Department was rather more reluctant to clamp off -- to cut off trade entirely, than perhaps Commerce and some other departments were, and was there conflict about this?


REINHARDT: I think there was a difference of view. I recall being involved in one of the first papers that was written on this whole question of trade control. In fact, we sent from Moscow, in '47, a couple of reports recommending that Washington establish some sort of trade control. But it became apparent after awhile, after the idea was accepted and implemented, that it went much further than we had had in mind, those of us who were developing the idea. What we had sought was truly strategic control, not control that affected the totality of trade, but affected highly strategic items, and which was sufficiently flexible so that if the Soviet Union developed its own source of something that had been previously in short supply, and had become self sufficient in it, you'd take off the control, serving no purpose. Instead, as you know, what happened, sort of an "Encyclopaedia Britannica" control was built up over the years, everybody getting in everything he wanted. I think it's probably fair to say that


the State Department view throughout was one of more restraint than the view of Commerce, and particularly in the Defense Department, which I think frowned at almost any product with some defense meaning.

WILSON: What was the kind of reaction you were getting from the Eastern bloc countries about this? Did it seem that this matter was crucial to them, or did they just use it as propaganda?

REINHARDT: I don't think it was crucial; they didn't have that many items to trade in during that early period.

Really the issues that used to come to my attention, of course, were when the strategic controls began to restrict the export of specific items that they were interested in -- maybe locomotives for Czechoslovakia, or something else for Poland, something for which they had a critical need. Then, of course, their unhappiness was quite apparent.


WILSON: What was the view o£ the purpose and the motives of the Commerce and Defense Departments? Perhaps those of Defense are fairly simple to understand, but how about Commerce and Agriculture? Were you aware that there was considerable public pressure for not trading with the enemy, as the Eastern bloc could be viewed?

REINHARDT: I don't think so. I don't think that in those years there was that much pressure. I think it probably developed in time, but I think it's fair to say that in the early postwar period the concept that the Soviet Empire represented a hostile dangerous factor only came gradually