The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


NEW YORK, Friday —It is interesting to note that after blasts against George F. Kennan as an enemy, the Kremlin has accepted him as the United States Ambassador. That can mean only that the Russians do not look upon any ambassador as a friend. They have respect, I think, for someone who is forthright and unafraid of them, and, on the whole, I doubt if they will make life any more difficult for Mr. Kennan than they have for any other ambassador we have had in Moscow. For that matter, he won't be any more uncomfortable than any other ambassador from any other country except such as are either completely under Kremlin domination or those whom they hope to win over in the near future.

I am more and more convinced of one thing, and that is that where ever the Soviets direct the policy nothing is gained at any time by trying to be conciliatory. We should always be scrupulously fair and just. Where they make offers of any kind we should be prepared to meet them. But it is rare indeed that an offer made by us, which can possibly be construed by them to mean an uncertainty or a weakness in our position, will bring us any kind of concession or agreement on their part.

The pattern of the Korean resistance should teach us what the pattern of all dealings with the Soviet Union is going to be.

Whenever we concede something their reaction is to demand something more. When we take a firm stand on any point they refuse at first and then just before they think our patience is exhausted they concede something. That is the way I think all dealings with the Russians are going to be like for a long time.

We are an impatient people; we do not like things hanging in midair; we want them finished one way or the other. But since the alternative to playing this waiting game seems to be an all-out war, I think we are going to learn a great deal of self-control in the next few years.

I understand why our government offered to pay Hungary a ransom for our four fliers. Quite naturally, we could not allow private funds to be collected. The men were in the United States service, and if any money were going to be paid for them the government was going to pay it. I suppose that had to be made clear at once.

First, however, I am sorry our announcement to the controlled government of Hungary carried with it the implication that we are accepting the accusations they had levelled at us, since we are willing to pay instead of fighting for the just release of our men. Second, no one, whether on public or private business, will dare go near the Satellite countries and even people in nearby countries will have to walk with care. From now on it will pay to kidnap U.S. citizens and get the American government to pay a ransom for them.

I am still sure that we can talk with the Russians successfully only when we feel entirely sure that our position is correct and that we have made up our minds to go through with whatever we have undertaken and that, if necessary, our people are prepared to back us up.

None of us, neither our people nor our government, wants war. We would like to see everything, no matter how complicated, settled around a conference table. That will not happen, however, until the men who sit around that table know that each one there will say what he really means, that he isn't bluffing, that he isn't being diplomatic, that he has consulted with his allies and that what he says is the truth and must be accepted at its face value.

There can then be negotiations because everyone knows just where the other person stands, and there won't be any doubt that what has been agreed upon is going to be lived up to.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 29, 1951

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University Old Main Building, Suite 406 1951 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20052

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.