760C.60F11/3–347: Telegram

The Chargé in Czechoslovakia (Bruins) to the Secretary of State

top secret   priority

190. Zenkl, Deputy Prime Minister and head of National Socialist Party, informs Embassy that Govt has just received through Soviet Ambassador in Praha personal message from Stalin asking Czechoslovakia to immediately sign with Poland treaty of alliance similar to those Czechoslovakia has already concluded with Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.1 It is specified that this treaty should be concluded before signature of projected Czechoslovak-French treaty.2 Principal argument advanced by Russians for this step is that Czechoslovakia needs outlet through Polish ports for Czecho foreign trade since outlets through western German ports may be is severely restricted by US insistence that transit charges be paid in dollars. Proposed Czecho-Polish treaty would apparently include economic clauses which would provide Czechoslovakia with special advantages in shipping through Polish ports.

Prime Minister Gottwald has this morning called special meeting of Presidium of Cabinet to consider this matter and meeting of full Cabinet is scheduled for this evening. It appears that Gottwald desires to push matter to a conclusion with greatest rapidity.3 Zenkl states he intends to attempt to stall but fears that he will not receive support either from Social Democrats or from Slovak Democrats. The latter he considers will be fearful of opposing the Russians in view of President Benes’ recent threat that Slovakia might be absorbed by Soviet Union.4 [Page 198] It is interesting to note that both Masaryk5 and Duchacek moderate Chairman of National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee are at moment absent from Praha.

Zenkl was hopeful that this Embassy might give him some assurance in regard to favorable treatment for Czecho traffic through western German zones which would assist him in stalling on Polish treaty. Embassy stated that it could give him no such assurance. We hope to receive from Zenkl prompt reports of outcome of abovementioned Presidium and Cabinet meetings as well as fuller details of contents of Stalin’s message. Zenkl has proved in past to be reliable source of information.

If Zenkl’s report is accurate this constitutes most glaring example of Soviet intervention in Czechoslovak affairs since cession of Ruthenia.6 Though economic argument has been stressed to Czechs as reason for concluding a treaty with Poland now extreme haste with which Soviets are apparently proceeding makes it seem probable that their principal motive is to bring about a Czecho-Polish alignment before Moscow Conference and thus to strengthen Poland’s hand on question of its western frontier.7

Sent Dept 190; repeated Moscow 2, Warsaw 4, Berlin 19.

  1. The references here are to the Soviet-Czechoslovak Treaty of Friendship, Mutual Assistance, and Postwar Collaboration of December 12, 1943, and the Yugoslav-Czechoslovak Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance of May 9, 1946.
  2. Telegram 145, February 15, from Praha, not printed, reported that the Czechoslovak and French Governments had announced the previous day their intention to begin negotiations aimed at strengthening cooperation between the two countries (751.60F/2–1547). It was envisaged that these negotiations would involve the revision of the existing French-Czechoslovak Treaty of Alliance and Friendship of January 25, 1924. For United States policy with respect to the negotiation of a Franco-Czechoslovak agreement, see telegram 1847, May 21, 1947, to Paris, included in documentation on France in volume iii .
  3. A Czechoslovak Government delegation headed by Prime Minister Klement Gottwald traveled to Warsaw on March 9, and on the following day a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance between the two countries was signed.
  4. In a speech in mid-February to the Czechoslovak Society (a cultural organization), Czechoslovak President Eduard Beneš discussed the current problems in relations between the Czechs and the Slovaks and condemned those who would propose the establishment of an independent Slovak state. Despatch 1890, February 21, from Praha, not printed, transmitted the following extract from Beneš’ speech:

    “Slovakia would never emerge from such a crisis as an independent State and would most probably become part of Russia. I would not consider such a solution a happy one, either for the Czechs, the Slovaks or the Russians nor for the European situation as a whole. The Czechs can under no circumstances accept an independent Slovakia in the future. The Czechs with 70 million Germans as their neighbors cannot risk to deprive themselves of the neighborhood of Russia and therefore could not agree to an independent Slovakia between themselves and the Russians. (860F.00/2–2147)

  5. Jan Masaryk, Czechoslovak Foreign Minister.
  6. On June 29, 1945, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia signed a treaty concerning the incorporation of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia (Transcarpathian Ukraine) into the U.S.S.R. For documentation on the interest of the United States in this cession, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. iv, pp. 509 ff.
  7. According to telegram 375, March 6, from Warsaw, not printed, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Leszczycki told Chargé Gerald Keith that the Polish-Czechoslovak Alliance was the “logical step to strengthen Polish position prior to Moscow Conference”. (760C.60F/3–647) For documentation regarding the Moscow Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, March 10–April 24, 1947, see vol. ii, pp. 139 ff.