FOREIGN RELATIONS: Spasibo & Farewell!

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There was not a baggy suit among the lot of them, or a frown, when twelve visiting Russian farm officials showed up at the Department of Agriculture last week for an appointment with Secretary Ezra Taft Benson. Bald and effusive, Russia's Deputy Minister of Agriculture Vladimir Matskevich presented Benson with a couple of souvenir lacquered boxes, one of them showing a family of bears gamboling happily in a forest. Benson asked how to say "thank you" in Russian, said "spasibo," and handed Matskevich a 4-H Club tie-clip, a photograph of the Benson family and a book entitled Plant Diseases. Benson entertained the Russians with a lunch of new foods developed by U.S. scientists (including powdered orange juice and dehydro-frozen peas) and delivered a warm little speech: "Permit me to commend you for the friendliness and good will you have displayed. I believe you have been good ambassadors."

"Closer Together." For four weeks the twelve Russian farm officials have been touring U.S. farms and factories while a group of U.S. farmers toured the Soviet Union (TIME, Aug. 15). Now it was time for the Russians to go home.

At the Agriculture Department, the Russians kept up the momentum of their questioning. They asked for samples of hybrid corn, agreed to exchange seeds; the Russians wondered whether the Department told farm-machinery companies what kind of tractors and combines they should design. When they were informed that the U.S. now has more than 4,600,000 tractors—compared to 1,500,000 fifteen years ago, one of the Russians threw his hands above his head in amazement.

At the Soviet embassy the Russians asked Ezra Benson and just about anyone else who wanted to come to a glossy farewell reception: "Come, of course. And bring your wife. Just mention your name at the door." For the first time, the silken-draped Russian embassy was opened to TV cameras, and beneath the floodlights Matskevich stood sweating happily among 400 guests. Amid the clatter of good will could be heard snatches of U.S.-Russian conversation: "What is the impression after Geneva . . .?" "I was in the infantry myself . . ." "Maybe music can be the language to draw us closer together."

"Too Much Lemonade." At lunch next day, the Russian farm officials got a standing ovation from Washington's National Press Club. Matskevich had been so good at patting babies out in Iowa, said the chairman of the lunch, that "if he stays here much longer he'll be elected to the Senate." One newsman asked Matskevich about Marilyn Monroe. "I haven't seen her farm," grinned he.

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