740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 285
Briefing Book Paper1
top secret

Recommended Policy on the Question of Establishing Diplomatic Relations and Concluding Peace Treaties With the Former Axis Satellite States

Information received from our representatives in Rumania and Bulgaria indicates that the Soviet authorities and the local Communist parties are actively engaged in establishing regimes based on the one-party or “one-front” system, thus excluding from political life all democratic elements which do not subordinate themselves to the “popular front” organizations which now hold governmental power. These organizations include several parties and groups, many of which bear the names of established popular parties, but they are dominated by the Communists and exclude important democratic groups which have a consistent record of opposition to the Nazis. A similar situation appears to be developing in Hungary although the government there is still a fairly representative coalition and not a “Communist-controlled” leftist bloc. The Soviet authorities have effectively prevented the American and British representatives in these countries from exercising any appreciable influence on this course of events. The proposals which we made in Moscow on the subject of the change of regime in Rumania2 and the forthcoming elections in Bulgaria,3 with a view to application of the Crimea Declaration on Liberated Europe,4 were curtly rejected by the Soviet Government. In view of these developments our military representatives on the Allied Control Commissions in Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary, as well as our informal civilian representatives there, have consistently and unanimously urged that we make strong efforts to carry out the Declaration on Liberated Europe and use our full influence to prevent the crystallization [Page 358] of the present situation into a system of one-party governments to the exclusion of democratic elements and in contradiction to the obligations assumed by the three Allied Governments at Yalta.

The Soviet Government has proposed that diplomatic relations be established immediately with Finland, Rumania and Bulgaria, and at a later date with Hungary.5 We would welcome the resumption of relations with Finland and have so informed the Soviet Government. [Page 359] Such a step would in the case of the Balkan states, however, represent Allied approval of the present unrepresentative governments in those countries and would entrench them in power. The British Government has suggested to us6 that it would be desirable to proceed immediately with the conclusion of peace treaties with the ex-satellites. It is the British belief that the conclusion of peace will bring about the withdrawal of Soviet troops and give democratic elements a chance to assert themselves. In reply to these proposals the Department has agreed in principle that it is desirable to conclude peace and establish diplomatic relations with the ex-satellites as soon as possible, but has stated that we are not convinced that democratic principles and the interests of the peoples involved would be best served by recognizing or concluding peace with the present governments; furthermore, we are unwilling to abandon our proposals for real participation in the Allied Control Commissions and an improved status for our representatives. We have indicated our expectation that the question will be discussed at the forthcoming tripartite conference.7

There appear to be three main courses of action open to us:

1. To accept Stalin’s proposal and establish relations with the present governments.

This policy would involve abandonment of the attempt to put into practice the Declaration on Liberated Europe and tacit approval of the Soviet policy of installing in those countries Communist-dominated unrepresentative regimes which will look only to the east and will cut to a minimum all contacts with the United States. It would discourage democratic elements in those countries and probably pave the way for their elimination from the political scene. While this policy might contribute to the easing of our relations with the U. S. S. R. at the moment, it might well encourage the repetition of the same process in countries farther to the west.

Since Stalin’s proposal did not mention peace treaties, it is presumed that the Soviet Government would expect the armistice regime to continue, as in Italy, after the exchange of diplomatic representatives. Under such an arrangement we would have deprived ourselves of a [Page 360] means of pressure on the local governments, and at the same time the Soviets would be able to act both through the local governments and through the Control Commissions and to continue in military occupation of these countries.

2. To support the British proposal for the immediate conclusion of peace treaties with the present governments.

The British proposal is based on the theory that the restoration of normal peacetime relationships will put an end to the direct Soviet influence exercised by virtue of the presence of Soviet troops and the powerful position of the Soviet representatives under the armistice agreements, and that the present governments would then find it impossible to survive. It is by no means certain that the present predominant Soviet influence would be greatly weakened by the conclusion of peace treaties and the withdrawal of troops, since the present pro-Soviet regimes would have acquired great authority and prestige merely by having signed the treaties and thus brought their countries back into the community of nations. If there has been no basic Allied agreement on these countries, it is doubtful that the Russians would allow themselves to be maneuvered out of their predominant position just because they had signed peace treaties and withdrawn all or most of their troops. It is possible that they may insist on keeping some troops in Rumania until all reparation obligations are fulfilled.

The British proposal, which necessarily involves diplomatic recognition is open to the principal objections made to the Soviet proposal, namely that it requires acceptance of the present governments as the legitimate representatives of the peoples of those countries and implies approval of the methods by which they came to power and have since exercised governmental authority. It would leave the responsibility for consulting the people on the question of basic governmental institutions in the hands of these unrepresentative governments, since it would be more difficult for the Allied Governments to act under the Declaration on Liberated Europe after concluding definitive peace treaties with them.

3. To insist on the reorganization of the present governments or the holding of free general elections at an early date as a condition precedent to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the conclusion of peace.

In order to attain at least the same position for which we have consistently striven in the case of United Nations now in the Soviet zone of military control (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Poland), where there are some elements not completely subservient to Moscow, it could be made clear to Stalin that we cannot accord diplomatic recognition to regimes such as those in Bulgaria and Rumania until [Page 361] they have been fundamentally changed in line with the Declaration on Liberated Europe. Such a policy would be consistent with our public declarations and with our recent representations to the Soviet and British Governments. We cannot accept the Soviet contention that the present regimes are coalitions of all democratic groups and are “truly representative of the broad masses of the population”, or that they can be relied upon to hold free elections.

Whether the desired reorganization of the Governments is brought about by Allied consultation and agreement on an interim regime which would then conduct elections, or by the holding of elections, with adequate guarantees that they would be free, under the present governments, probably would be immaterial. Under the first alternative we might be willing to establish diplomatic relations and conclude peace before the elections: under the second we would wish to postpone this step until after new governments were formed on the basis of the elections. In either case, should it be decided that Allied observation or supervision of elections was necessary as a means of assuring the freest possible choice on the part of the people, we should be willing to assign our quota of observers. It might be that the elections would be “rigged” any way, but we would at least have the reports of [our] own observers on which to base subsequent decisions. The supervision of elections by the Allied Governments, including France, is definitely envisaged by the Declaration on Liberated Europe and would be a procedure well calculated to clarify our position with respect to the ex-satellite countries.

It is not a matter of great importance whether diplomatic relations are established before or after the conclusion of peace. The essential point is that neither should take place with puppet governments which have neither a representative character nor a mandate from the people.


It is recommended that the third alternative be adopted, and that the following proposals be made:8

[Page 362]
That the three Allied Governments agree in principle9 to the reorganization of the present governments in Rumania and Bulgaria, and should it become necessary, in Hungary, and to the postponement of diplomatic recognition and the conclusion of peace treaties with those countries until such reorganization has taken place.
That provision be made for tripartite consultation (later to include French representatives)10 to work out any procedures which may be necessary for the reorganization of the governments to include representatives of all significant democratic elements, with a view to the early holding of free and unfettered elections.
That these governments consider how best to assist the local governments in the holding of such elections, bearing in mind that while it may be preferable to have the actual conduct of elections in the hands of the local governments themselves rather than in those of Allied representatives, there must be adequate assurances that all democratic elements will have the opportunity to present candidates and that the voting will be in fact free.
  1. Annex 4 to the attachment to document No. 177.
  2. See document No. 288, footnote 6, and document No. 301, footnote 1.
  3. See document No. 286.
  4. See vol. ii, document No. 1417, section v.
  5. This proposal was made in a message from Stalin to Truman dated May 27. See Stalin’s Correspondence, vol. ii, p. 239.

    On June 7 Harriman delivered to Molotov the following reply from Truman to Stalin (file No. 711.60/6–745):

    “I have given considerable thought to your message of May 27 in which you propose that our Governments should establish diplomatic relations with Finland, Rumania and Bulgaria at this time and with Hungary at a later time.

    “The suggestion you have made shows that you feel, as I do, that we should endeavor to make the period of the armistice regimes as short as possible and also give prompt recognition to all efforts which may be made by those countries formerly our enemies to align themselves with the democratic principles of the allied nations. I agree, therefore, that at the earliest feasible time normal relations with these countries should be established.

    “Accordingly, I am prepared to proceed with the exchange of diplomatic representatives with Finland at once because the Finnish people, through their elections and other political adjustments, have demonstrated their geniune devotion to democratic procedures and principles.

    “However, I have not found in Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria the same encouraging signs. Particularly in the latter two countries, I have been disturbed to find governments which do not accord to all democratic elements of the people the rights of free expression and which in their system of administration are, in my opinion, neither representative of or responsive to the will of the people. From Ambassador Harriman’s note of March 14 you already know the reasons why the United States Government considers that the political situation in Rumania should be made the subject of consultation among the three principal allied governments. You are also aware of American concern over the proposed electoral procedures and certain other political manifestations in Bulgaria.

    “It is my sincere hope that the time may soon come when I can accredit formal diplomatic representatives to these countries. To this end I am ready at any moment to have my representatives meet with Soviet and British representatives in order to concert more effectively our policies and actions in this area. This would, I think, be a constructive move towards the restoration of normal peacetime relations with them as independent states ready to assume the responsibilities and to share the benefits of participation in the family of nations.

    “Prime Minister Churchill is being informed of this message.”

    To this message Stalin replied as follows on June 9 (file No. 711.60/6–1145):

    “I have received your reply message on the question of reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Roumania, Bulgaria, Finland and Hungary.

    “It can be seen from your message that you also consider desirable an earliest establishment of normal relations with the said countries. However, I do not see any reasons to give any preference to Finland in this matter, which unlike Roumania and Bulgaria did not participate with its armed forces on the side of the Allies in the war against Hitlerite Germany. The public opinion of the Soviet Union and the entire Soviet Command would not understand if Roumania and Bulgaria, whose armed forces participated actively in the defeat of Hitlerite Germany would be put in a worse position as compared to Finland.

    “As regards the question of the political regime, in Roumania and Bulgaria are no less possibilities for democratic elements as, for instance, in Italy with whom the Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union have already reestablished diplomatic relations. On the other hand it is impossible not to note that lately the political development of Roumania and Bulgaria has entered a calm channel and I see no such facts which could be cause for anxiety for the further development of democratic beginnings in those countries. In connection with this it seems to me that there is no necessity in any special measures on the part of the Allies in respect to the said countries.

    “That is why the Soviet Government adheres to the opinion that a further postponement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Roumania, Bulgaria and Finland would not be expedient and that the question regarding Hungary could be settled somewhat later.”

    For Truman’s reply, suggesting that the question be discussed at the Berlin Conference, see document No. 161. For Stalin’s reply to that suggestion, see document No. 295.

  6. The British suggestion referred to is not printed.
  7. See document No. 291.
  8. In Matthews’ copy of the Briefing Book, recommendation 3 below has been stricken from the draft, with a manuscript marginal notation, “Rewrite”. Manuscript revisions of recommendations 1 and 2 make those paragraphs read as follows:

    • “1. The three Allied Governments should agree on the necessity of the immediate reorganization of the present governments in Rumania and Bulgaria, in conformity with clause (c) of the third paragraph of the Yalta Declaration on Liberated Europe.
    • “2. That there be immediate consultation to work out any procedures which may be necessary for the reorganization of these governments to include representatives of all significant democratic elements, in conformity with clause (d) of the 3rd par. of the Ya. Decl on lib Eur[.] Diplomatic recognition shall be accorded and peace treaties concluded with those countries as soon as such reorganization has taken place.”

  9. The words “in principle” have been deleted in Byrnes’ copy
  10. The parenthetical phrase has been deleted in Byrnes’ copy.