Memorandum by the Director of the Office of European Affairs ( Hickerson ) to the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State 1



To determine the nature and the rank of the representation the US should establish in Bulgaria upon the coming into force of the peace treaty and the termination of the armistice regime in that country.

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action taken

With the Secretary’s approval, the Department instructed Sofia on January 28, 1947 (Deptel 33 January 28, Attachment A2) that, provided the situation in Bulgaria had not deteriorated in the meantime, the Department would, following Senate consent to the ratification of the peace treaty and prior to the deposit of such ratifications, inform the Bulgarian Government of US readiness to reestablish diplomatic relations. It was tentatively decided that we would accredit a Minister as US Representative to Bulgaria. On the same date, we informed the British of our intentions in this matter (aide-mémoire to the British Embassy on January 28, Attachment B3). It was also anticipated that when the accreditation of a Minister should take place we would issue a public statement indicating that such action does not constitute approval of the activities of the Bulgarian Government.

Action on this decision has not yet been taken owing to the delay which intervened in Soviet ratification of the treaty. It is now contemplated that ratifications wall be deposited, and the treaty consequently come into effect, on September 15.

The President has approved the selection of Mr. Donald R. Heath, Foreign Service Officer Class I to be US Minister to Bulgaria when relations are established.


It is recommended that, within a few days of the coming into force of the treaty of peace and, if such action is not too long delayed, after we know the outcome of the appeal of Mr. Petkov and the nature of any steps affecting him that the Bulgarian Parliament may be disposed to take,

the US Acting Political Representative in Sofia be instructed to request the agreement of the Bulgarian Government to the appointment of Mr. Heath as US EE and MP. The Representative should also be instructed to point out to the Bulgarian Minister for Foreign Affairs in this connection, as was done in the case of our establishment of relations with Rumania, that our action does not imply that Ave condone the present activities of the Bulgarian Government,4
that upon receipt of the Bulgarian Government’s consent to such appointment, Mr. Heath be given a recess appointment as Minister, and, in making his appointment public, a suitable press statement be made concerning our reasons for such action, as we also did in the case [Page 181] of Rumania. In that press statement we would make clear that we do not condone the attitude or actions of the Bulgarian Government in denying its people fundamental freedoms or in supporting on its territory guerrilla activities directed against Greece as determined by the UN Balkan Commission; but that in establishing relations we desire to indicate our intention 1) to maintain our interest in the welfare of the Bulgarian people, 2) to continue our efforts to protect American interests in Bulgaria and 3) to keep ourselves informed of developments in that country.5
It is further recommended that the British be informed in regard to this proposed course without delay.6


The situation in Bulgaria has been steadily deteriorating since January, with increasing oppression of democratic opposition elements which has now culminated in the trial of Mr. Petkov, the leader of the Agrarian Union, and in the dissolution of that Party. Bulgaria has also been found by the UN Balkan Commission to have been supporting on its territory guerrilla activities directed against Greece.7 Despite these developments, it is the considered view of all concerned that the US should proceed to establish diplomatic relations with Bulgaria following the termination of the armistice period. A contrary policy of non-recognition, which would entail the withdrawal of American representation from that country, would play into Soviet hands and would deny us the means of continuing our efforts 1) to make our weight felt in Bulgaria, 2) to protect American interests there and 3) to obtain information with regard to events in that strategically important area. Such action would also make impossible fulfillment of certain duties in regard to enforcement and implementation which, under the peace treaty, devolve upon the three heads of the diplomatic missions of the USSR, the UK and the US.

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There is question, however, as to the rank which should be given to the US Representative to be accredited. It is argued that the appointment of a Minister fully accredited to the Bulgarian Government involves the implication of a measure of approval of the Bulgarian regime which would not be the case were we to appoint in the first instance a Chargé d’Affaires. The example of the United Nations in respect of Spain where it was agreed to remove Ambassadors as a mark of disapproval of the Franco regime is cited in support of this argument and it is added that the appointment of a Minister to Bulgaria in the face of the complete disregard by the Bulgarian Government of its basic obligations, in the face of its action in Greece, and immediately following our strong protests in the Petkov case, would damage US prestige. However, I am not convinced that the impact of the distinction intended in the appointment of such a Chargé d’Affaires as compared to a Minister will be appreciated by public opinion here and abroad. I feel that the action in establishing relations will itself evoke major comment, rather than the rank of the incumbent chosen as our representative, and it is my view that the traditional authority attaching to the position of Minister as distinct from an individual of lesser rank will increase the effectiveness of the representation sufficiently to warrant the appointment of a full Minister. As regards the clarification of our position in the matter, we have established precedents for accrediting Ministers or Ambassadors to Governments of whose actions we disapprove both in the case of Poland and in the case of Rumania. In Poland we changed Ambassadors at the same time that we issued a strong protest denouncing the Polish elections. In Rumania we nominated a Minister almost simultaneously with the submission of a protest against oppressive activities of the Rumanian Government. In each case we made our position clear in a public statement as is recommended in this instance.

As to timing, the Bulgarian Parliament is scheduled to meet on September 15 and is rumored to be likely to abolish the death penalty in Bulgaria with effect in regard to the Petkov case. Also, Mr. Petkov’s appeal will be heard on September 16. Consequently, since there is the possibility that uncertainty as to our action on the establishment of relations might tend to influence the Bulgarian authorities toward commuting his sentence, it seems advisable to postpone informing the Bulgarians of our intentions, at least for a few days thereafter, in the hope that some mitigating action will have been taken.

  1. The source text is initialled by Under Secretary Robert Lovett.
  2. The telegram under reference here is printed on p. 144.
  3. The aide-mémoire under reference is not printed.
  4. Instructions along the lines set forth here were sent to Sofia in telegram 379, September 16, not printed (123 Heath Donald R.). The agrément of the Bulgarian Government was obtained on September 27.
  5. At his press conference on October 1, Acting Secretary of State Lovett announced that the question of diplomatic relations between the United States and Bulgaria had been settled, explaining that President Truman had appointed Donald R. Heath as American Minister to Bulgaria. For the text of the Acting Secretary’s statement, which did not include all the specific points set out in this paragraph, see Department of State Bulletin, October 12, 1947, p. 746.
  6. A marginal note in the source text at this point indicates that the British Embassy was informed on September 15 of the proposed course.
  7. The Commission of Investigation to ascertain the facts relating to the alleged border violations along the frontier between Greece on the one hand and Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia on the other, established by the United Nations Security Council in December 1946, made public its report on June 25, 1947. The majority conclusion of the report was that Yugoslavia and, to a lesser extent, Albania and Bulgaria, had supported the guerrilla warfare in Greece. The report is described in detail in Yearbook of the United Nations 1946–47 (Lake Success, New York, 1947), pp. 365–373. For additional documentation regarding the role of the United States in this Commission and the concern of the United States over the violations of the Greek frontier, see volume v .