My dear Prime Minister,
I have returned from Moscow1 with a revised opinion of the Russian leaders. This is a result of meeting with Mr. Kozlov and Mr. Mikoyan and hearing their expression of friendship for Canada. Also as a result of conversations with our own Ambassador, Mr. Johnson, who has been there for over three years, and with the Ambassadors of India and France who have been there for many years and who are familiar with Russia as it was under Stalin.
Their main points were that there has been a marked relaxation of tension and of rigid controls and restrictions; that Khrushchev, Kozlov and Mikoyan are “moderates” in contrast with Stalin and his colleagues and that their desire for peace and friendly relations is genuine. Mikoyan is a survivor of the old régime but, in their opinion, has survived because he has not been ambitious for leadership but has been the most reliable expert in the fields of economics, trade and development.
Kozlov, Mikoyan, Patolichev, Saborov and various officials talked with enthusiasm about their plans for development. They have a seven-year plan and are framing a twenty-year plan. They are rebuilding Moscow, widening the streets, tearing down the old sections, erecting large apartment buildings. Mr. Johnson told me that similar activity is evident in other parts of Russia. They spoke of the need for factories, hydro-electric plants, general industrialization and agricultural improvements to meet the needs of a population of two hundred million increasing by three million each year. They showed a genuine interest in developing trade and Mikoyan in particular stressed the fact that they do not expect to become self-sufficient.
They made light of economic warfare obviously aware of Western fears which they said were groundless. They themselves mentioned the incident of aluminum “dumping” of two years ago.
Tourist visits to Russia are on the increase. Last year five hundred Canadians and five thousand Americans visited Russia. This year they expect twenty-five thousand Americans. Mr. Johnson believes that any limitations that may be imposed with regard to the number of visitors will be because of lack of hotel facilities. Outside of the major cities he said that hotel facilities were incredibly primitive. In the larger cities hotel accommodation is very limited. A new hotel of 2000 rooms is under construction in Moscow.
I now doubt very much many of the stories that we have read about Russia. As the Indian Ambassador, Mr. Menon said, the West is still thinking of the Russia of Stalin’s day.
I entertain doubts also of American opinion concerning Russia and our impressions of Russia are likely derived largely from American accounts.
The purpose of this letter is to suggest that you give serious consideration to making a visit to Russia. It was not mentioned while I was there and I did not raise the subject but I recall that you said to me that the Russian Ambassador had already suggested a visit.
There is no doubt about the unique position that Canada occupies in international opinion. I was deeply impressed by Mr. Mikoyan’s tribute to Canada at the luncheon following the signing of the protocol. It was so unexpected and so obviously sincere.
Mr. Mikoyan was greatly impressed and touched by the reception he received at Halifax.2 He expected that he would be there for a few hours in a transit hotel and be afforded only a perfunctory welcome. He mentioned with obviously sincere appreciation his reception by Angus MacLean, Premier Stanfield and the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia. Canadian hospitality surprised and delighted him. In particular he mentioned the telegram that you sent and which he read en route to Mexico.
For these and other reasons I believe that Canada can play a very important role in easing the tension between Russia and the United States. A major break-through is required and it may be that you could effect it.
I consider that a visit by you at an appropriate time this year should be considered. A period of ten days would be the shortest that should be planned, for the Russians, although very proud of Moscow, have an immense pride and love for Leningrad and the Black Sea area which they repeatedly mentioned to me and would expect you to visit those places as well as some of their industrial areas.
Although I may be wrong about the Russians and although their friendly attitude and their expressed desire for peace may be misleading, nevertheless in this period of oppressive international tension I believe that we must be prepared to go half-way at least. I freely admit that this is a changed point of view for I have been anti-Russian but I have so many reservations in my mind concerning American foreign policy and Big Four meetings that I consider that something further should be done.
Your position of leadership in Canada has been firmly established, your standing in the international field is very high, this is the type of enterprise for which no one is better suited, and Canada is free from suspicion as to ulterior motives.
1Churchill était à Moscou pour signer le Traité commercial Canada-URSS. Voir Recueil des traités du Canada, 1960,no 4.
Churchill was in Moscow to sign the Canada-USSR trade treaty. See Canada Treaty Series, 1960, No. 4.
2Voir/See Volume 26, document 351.