Memorandum by the Representative in Bulgaria (Barnes)1

top secret

United States Policy Considerations With Respect to Bulgaria

For the time being the Communists are in full power in Bulgaria. They have arrived at this state of unhappiness for all other Bulgarians primarily through the force of Soviet occupation and domination of the Allied Control Commission during the Armistice period; also through the disintegrating effect on the so-called masses of Allied pre-Armistice propaganda against the old-established order and through Communist capacity to dupe liberal elements of the country into political, social and economic cooperation with them. The United States and the United Kingdom are, by force of circumstance, about to recognize and enter into normal diplomatic relations with the Communist government of Bulgaria, This state of affairs confronts the United States [Page 146] with the problem of what its policy should be toward Bulgaria from the outset of recognition.2

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But, accepting recognition and the re-establishment of normal diplomatic relations as a foregone conclusion, what should be the course of United States policy in the circumstances set forth? Returning to the analogy of Central Europe following the Napoleonic wars—the last previous great effort at “liberation”—it may be recalled that Palmerston, writing of Austria said, “Italy was to her the heel of Achilles, not the shield of Ajax”. I suggest that this remark contains the grain of a guiding principle for us, with the mutation that we substitute Russia for Austria, and Eastern Europe, from the Baltic to the Aegean, for Italy. It might also be recalled that at the time Palmerston was expressing this view, “his envoy was travelling through northern Italy, talking of constitutions in Tuscany, hinting at the support of Great Britain to the cause of revolutions, and crying ‘viva l’independenza Italiana’ every time he was asked to make a speech”.

I therefore urge that we continue to do our utmost in this area to maintain the Hope and the Morale of the truly democratic elements of Eastern Europe. In my opinion this means, in the case of Bulgaria, that Articles 35 and 36 of the peace treaty should be implemented through our “concerting” only to the extent that circumstances compel. I myself should describe these circumstances as only those occasioned by the need to interpret the treaty in relation to the rights of United Nations for whom in the matter of “execution and interpretation” the three diplomatic agents are to be the “arbiters”. As for all other matters, the conflicting interests of the Three Powers in Bulgaria, the obligation of the Bulgarian Government to fulfill the political and financial clauses of the treaty, to respect the territorial limits set by the treaty, and therefore to refrain from other territorial arrangements—all these, in my opinion, should be dealt with by direct diplomatic pressure on the Bulgarian Government, as individually the three “interpreting” States may decide to act. Futile efforts to “concert” can only lead to frustration—frustration on our own part and frustration for the truly democratic elements of the Bulgarian population. In addition, I would suggest a prompt readiness to haul Bulgaria before the United Nations on the slightest provocation of disregard for the political, territorial and financial clauses of the treaty. In my opinion, too much emphasis cannot be given to the proposition that the outstanding consideration in favor of re-establishing peace is that by the termination of war we shall regain our [Page 147] independence of diplomatic action with respect to the Bulgarian Government, within the limits of our overall relations with the United Kingdom and the USSR.

I believe the United States and the United Kingdom possess another, and perhaps far more efficacious means of influencing political developments in this part of the world. As noted earlier in this memorandum, wherever the Communists have come to power, they have done so largely by duping liberal elements into political, social and economic cooperation with them. Let us not permit recognition and the re-establishment of normal diplomatic relations with the Bulgarian Government to lead us into this same error. The leaders who have chosen the Communist way, have done so as free agents. To them only the “Almighty Soviets” are touchables—the rest of us are to be “used” only for the greater glory of Communism. Let us leave them to stew in their own juices a while. This may be harsh for Bulgarians as a whole, but then a hard period is before them no matter what we may do. To give the present Communist regime of Bulgaria the economic assistance that it hopes for—and it hopes for this not to render us any less “untouchable”, but because it is already manifest to them that Russia cannot supply the aid—would only further batten the Communist regime onto Bulgaria.

The Dimitrov Government is committed to an ambitious program of State electrification, irrigation, transport development and industrialization. To accomplish this it needs almost every product of Western industry. To pay for these, it needs Western credits. If the United States and the United Kingdom do not falter, the Communist Government of Bulgaria will be compelled to broaden its political base, or fall ignominiously. Russia cannot bail it out of this predicament, and the Communist leaders here and in Russia know this. Their only hope lies in deluding us and the rest of the West into providing the wherewithal.

As for the population’s need of consumer goods, especially the needs of the peasantry for the simple articles with which to clothe themselves, to care for their health and to produce the food that they and neighboring peoples must have—these are needs that we can do our share to satisfy without bolstering the Government and without harming ourselves. The Bulgarian people will know where such goods come from if we supply them, and they will have the intelligence to understand why they have been provided, and why the needs of the Government’s ambitious development and industrialization program have not been met.

I do not mean to suggest that Russia’s Achilles heel will be uncovered in Bulgaria. What I mean to say is that if we remain firm [Page 148] in our beliefs and live up to the trust of others in us by a “hard” policy in this part of the world, somewhere from the Baltic to the Aegean, that vulnerable spot will be uncovered and then the fire of regained freedom will spread from one sea to the other.

Maynard B. Barnes
  1. This memorandum was transmitted to the Secretary of State under cover of a letter dated February 14, not printed. Barnes also sent copies of this memorandum to the Embassies in Moscow and Warsaw and to the Missions in Budapest and Bucharest. In telegram 1010, March 25, from Moscow, not printed, Ambassador Walter Bedell Smith expressed his concurrence and that of his senior officers in the Embassy in the ideas expressed in Barnes’ memorandum, particularly those concerned with economic and financial policy. (874.00/3–2547)
  2. The portion omitted here, covering some five typewritten pages in the source text, attempted to show the historical significance of the emergence of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.