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

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HYDE PARK—It seems incredible that Russia at this moment should have taken the step to announce that the Soviets would resume atomic tests. This puzzling move came at a time when it looked as though we could have more reasonable meetings with the Soviets over the question of Berlin; and more puzzling that this decision should come at the time of the meeting of neutral countries in Belgrade.

It would seem inevitable that the Soviet move would make these neutral countries feel that the Soviets were approaching the whole situation with a more belligerent attitude than the Western powers. It hardly seems credible that the Soviets would want to turn world feeling, particularly among the neutrals, against themselves, and yet this would seem to be an inevitable result of their announcement.

In the meantime I think we are very wise to hold off from immediately reacting to their threat by insisting on countering their move with a similar move.

I find people every now and then blaming our present difficulties on what they think happened at Yalta and Potsdam. One man from Florida wrote me the other day stating that all our present troubles with the Soviet Union stem from these two meetings when the high officials of the West had been "gullible."

It is always easy when you have difficulties in the present to blame them on the past, but it is not so easy to remember the circumstances and the historical situations that existed. At Yalta, for instance, the overriding objective was to get the Soviet Union committed as soon as possible to participation in the Pacific area of the war. We did not know at that time that we would have the atom bomb and we thought we would need the cooperation of the Soviet Union to finally subdue Japan.

There still persists the foolish idea that promises were made that no one knows anything about. As a matter of fact, any student can find out what happened at both Yalta and Potsdam, and our people were not gullible. They faced the situation as it was at that time. They knew that Stalin would keep his word when doing so served his purpose.

It is the same today; we know that the Soviet and its satellites will keep their word when it is to their advantage. And perhaps we cannot expect anything different. There's not much doubt that many of us would be displeased if any of our agreements were not to work out to our advantage.

That is why in diplomacy men have to make compromises so that both sides can have some advantages. Otherwise, being realistic, they know that no treaty will hold any people forever, which is to their disadvantage. Stalin broke some of the promises which he made in the Yalta meeting, and there were immediate protests from Great Britain and the United States. Yet, I doubt very much whether anything different could have been done at the time or would have changed the present situation in any way.

We have to live through the situation of today and deal with it as best we can with the limited knowledge of the future that we have. No one is a prophet. We can only hope that the Soviet leaders are as conscious as we are of the destruction that would inevitably come from nuclear war. If they are, there will be no war. Their people are no more anxious for a war than are ours.

Probably one of the most important events that has happened to strengthen our position in the world today was the passage in the House and Senate of the foreign aid bill with its five-year loan plan.

As was to be expected, the request of the President for the total amount was cut, but the authorization for appropriations was made for this year and through 1966. Borrowing from the Treasury was not authorized. Now it will remain for the Development Loan Fund to get its m/oney by annual appropriations and this, of course, does jeopardize these loans to some extent. Sen. J. William Fulbright, however, said that the Congress would be "morally committed to support the President with appropriations."

Still left uncertain, though, is the problem of those countries that want to start long-term projects, for they cannot be absolutely sure of continued appropriations to cover the U.S. commitment. This was, of course, what the President hoped to obviate by having the right to borrow for these developments from the Treasury.

Congress, however, is jealous of its control of the purse strings and one can only hope the "moral obligation" will give the countries sufficient assurance so they will feel they can go ahead on the development of essential long-term projects.


(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 4, 1961

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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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.