Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with William A. Crawford
CRAWFORD: On the contrary, he was absolutely on his toes, asking all kinds of questions, and obviously terribly interested in the whole thing. And he was also very much abreast—much more so than I had expected—of some of the broader implications of Eastern European developments. I think this may be partly because, as I found later, the Export Control Review Board, which consisted of the secretaries of State and Commerce and Defense, had weighed in on August 9, just a few days earlier, with a report and recommendations to the President as to what ought to be done. And these, in turn, were in response to a Presidential memorandum they had received earlier that spring asking them to consider what steps we could take to encourage trade with Eastern Europe. So that all this apparently was very much on his mind when I saw him. In my talk with FDR, Jr., I was also made more aware of this—something that I hadn't really fully realized—that a good deal of consideration was actually being given to what could be done about furthering our trade with Eastern Europe. So when we met, the President apparently had under consideration the memorandum of August 9 with its recommendations from the review board, one of which specifically envisaged developing programs for a sort of step-by-step approach to furthering trade with each country, in the light of the particular situations in those countries. And, as learned later, these recommendations were subsequently approved by the President several weeks after he saw me. They were approved in his memorandum of September 19 to the Review Board, with a statement not only strongly endorsing the recommendations made, but expressing the added hope that they would be pursued even more energetically than proposed. In other words, by his memorandum of September 19, he gave the program a real fillip of his own. And in so doing, he referred to the fact that the recent test ban treaty had given him some encouragement regarding developments with the Soviet Union, and that now we also had to think of the progress being made by our allies in dealing with Eastern Europe, and that we couldn't be left behind. So when he saw me in August, his approach was very much in character with what he was to sign several weeks later and encourage the Export Control Review Board to pursue.
I think he also recommended in his memorandum that authority for directing this program should be vested in one person, and he wanted suggestions as to who would be the best man. I even remember hearing the subject raised while I was in Washington, and some thought that FDR, Jr. might be the likely candidate, placed as he was at Commerce and bearing a name reflecting our old wartime relationship with the Soviet Union. Well, apparently nothing ever came of it because nobody was ever appointed to do this kind of thing, and the President died several months later. But I always felt that the successful talks which we had with the Romanians just a few months later owed much to my talk with the President. The Romanian picture had crystalized, Dej had made his pitch, and I happened to be in Washington (although ironically I was called back for something else). Malitza was here, but we were able to get together with Harriman. And I was able to see the President. And I do think my meeting with the President must have contributed in some degree to his expressing himself as strongly as he did in his memorandum of September 19, which really set the wheels in motion for our future negotiations with Romania.