Monday, Sep. 17, 1951

Russian Rout

From the start at San Francisco, the Russians left no doubt that they were out to wreck or delay the peace conference. Even before Conference President Dean Acheson finished his opening remarks from the stage of the gilt and red plush Opera House, Andrei Gromyko was demanding to be heard. Why, he wanted to know, had Red China not been invited? Calmly, Acheson declared that the Russian delegate was out of order. Two hours and eleven Red protests later, Gromyko's chance for a filibuster was gone. The conference had adopted a rule limiting each delegation to a one-hour speech.

Shades of Groton. Icy Dean Acheson also cooled off sputtering Polish Delegate Stefan Wierblowski, who had five minutes to speak. When his time was up, Acheson recognized British delegate Kenneth Younger, but the Pole went right on.

Acheson: The delegate will please take his seat . . . Will you please take your seat.

Wierblowski: My country is a sovereign nation.

Acheson: Will you please take your seat . . . You will please take your seat.

Wierblowski: I am asking that the conference—

Acheson: The delegate will kindly take his seat. He is out of order.

At that point Britain's Younger walked to the platform, began speaking somewhat sheepishly, while the Pole still muttered protests. Finally, like a rebuked school boy, Wierblowski returned to his place.

Dean Acheson, who made the show run like clockwork, was in his element. Urbane and unruffled, he dealt with the Communists as a Groton football coach with a bunch of interloping ruffians who don't know the rules of the game. He out-talked the Reds without raising his voice, lectured Gromyko on parliamentary procedure, without once getting hot under his immaculate collar or ruffling the tips of his mustache.

The Jokers. Where Acheson was icily superior, John Foster Dulles, No. 2 U.S. delegate, was in turn passionate, sharply logical, humorous. Dealing with a Russian proposal that, if accepted, would have given the Russian navy a strategic advantage in the Sea of Japan, Dulles explained the details while pointing to a map of the area, added: "That is the kind of thing-the jokers that are contained in the series of [Russian] proposals. That is the kind of thing we have had to face all around the globe . . ." The non-Communist delegates and the public in the gallery applauded enthusiastically.

Between sessions, Acheson and Dulles did excellent corridor work, lining up wavering delegations. Their chief worry: the Asian and Middle Eastern nations, which Russia worked hard to win over. Nehru's refusal to send an Indian delegation infuriated Dulles (he once got up in the middle of the night to draft a reply to the Premier). But one by one, the Asians sided with the U.S. Said Crown Prince Savang of Laos (IndoChina) : "This document can bring friendship back to the heart of peoples." Ablest Asian spokesman at the conference was Ceylon's delegate, Finance Minister J. R. Jayewardene, a slim, soft-spoken man with a razor-like tongue. It was interesting, said Jayewardene, that Russia wanted to "insure the people of Japan the fundamental freedoms of expression, of press, religious worship—freedoms," he added acidly, "which the people of the Soviet Union would clearly love to possess and enjoy."

Walkout in Reverse. On the appointed day, right on schedule, the spokesmen for 49 nations of the non-Communist world walked one by one to a bright yellow modernistic table on the stage and, using gold pens, put their signatures to the peace treaty. Last, clad in the only morning coat and striped trousers at the conference, came 72-year-old Premier Shigeru Yoshida of Japan. His face set, he scrawled his name in Japanese characters. A decade after Pearl Harbor, a generation after Japan began its career of aggression in Manchuria, almost a century after Commodore Matthew Perry opened the island empire to the modern world, Japan was again at peace.

Gromyko and the Czech and Polish delegations stayed away from the signing. Just before the ceremony, Gromyko held a press conference in which he repeated his familiar tune. After half an hour, newsmen began to walk out on him in disgust. Gromyko was heard to mutter: "There is nothing in it for us."

With that the Soviets, including satellites, secret police and gold-braided admirals, prepared to quit San Francisco.