NEWS

Tito woos the Russian bear; keeps a foot in Western camp

Yugo-Soviet relations slowly normalized after the death of Stalin in 1953, and in June 1955, a high-ranking delegation visited Belgrade. The USSR then granted economic and commercial aid to Yugoslavia and even wrote off debts of 2 billion rubles owed by Tito. But relations were still marked by suspicion. After the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, Tito feared Red Army tanks would roll into his country as well. Letters and visits were exchanged at the highest levels. The Soviets wanted to detach Yugoslavia from the USA. Tito kept a foot in both camps, receiving military aid from the West while also trying for closer relations with Moscow. Minister of Defense Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov wrote to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev from Belgrade about his talk with his Yugoslav counterpart. OCTOBER 17 1957 TOP SECRET/URGENT FOR THE PERSONAL ATTENTION OF COMRADE NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV Today, on comrade Gosniak’s initiative…, I had a confidential meeting (…). [He] said: «We’d like closer ties with the USSR so you can help us free ourselves from American and Western… ‘military aid.’ «Even now, they are… offering us new [military] technology… But we… desire the… friendship of the Soviet Union.» I believe… the Yugoslav comrades are motivated by a wish for our friendship and not by opportunistic calculations. Clearly, there has been a sea change in their outlook, to which our successes… have contributed… (…) In the Yugoslav air force, American planes… have pride of place. (…) Some are already obsolete but their equipment is of interest…