From Splinter to Bridge

Although the flu, squads of picketers, and a bomb scare marred the recent visit of Yugoslav President Tito, the trip could not be called a failure by either the guest or the host. For many years Tito had wanted an official invitation to enhance the stature of his independent Communism and himself. In addition, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. can, at present, use Tito as a road over some of the rocky morains left by the receding cold war. Instinctively unfriendly attitudes, suspicious of imminent aggression, and trade and travel restriction may now be anachronistic. Reshaping them may take many years, however.

Neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev is willing to embrace the other, but each will at least shake Marshall Tito's hand. By such a gesture Kennedy is able to say tacitly that Communism is not the unmitigated evil it was once thought to be, that some Communist rulers are acceptable to him, and that America's reluctance to liberate the Eastern European "captive nations" does not mean abandoning them to slavery. Premier Khruschev, by his long and amiable visit to Yugoslavia a few months ago, santioned a looser, less ideological, and less beligerent bloc.

Such delicate indirection is necessary is attempting to arrange an accommodation between two mortal enemies. And it is necessary domestically in a country where politicians cannot ignore public opinion. Whatever re-education that development may eventually warrant, will have to be done carefully. With an election approaching, it would have been safer for the President not to extend an invitation to Tito. It would not have been easy, since Tito was determined to visit Latin America and the UN anyway. Nevertheless, adequate precedent for a Presidential snub certainly existed. A proposed visit in 1957 was cancelled outright when protests unnerved Eisenhower. In 1960 Tito came to the UN and was awarded a chat with Ike at the Waldorf-Astoria but not an invitation to the White House.

Tito's reception in Washington this trip was perfunctory rather than friendly. It was, however, considerably more than he would have received from those still calling for severance of diplomatic relations with all Communist nations and victory in the cold war. If the President's action adumbrates the diplomacy rumored to be in prospect for a second term, accommodation with the Russians will proceed much more smoothly under Kennedy than under some of his potential replacements.