The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

No. 2391

Sir: I have the honor to refer to previous reports, particularly this Embassy’s airgram No. A–104 of February 21, 19471 concerning the declining influence of Foreign Minister Masaryk in Czechoslovak internal affairs and to transmit as an enclosure1 to this despatch a summary of a speech which Mr. Masaryk recently delivered to the students of the Praha School for Foreign Trade Officials, which well illustrates his efforts to make the best of two worlds.

There can be no doubt that Mr. Masaryk sincerely believes that it is essential that Czechoslovakia remain on good terms with both East and West and that any Czech who becomes an exclusive partisan of either camp is working against the best interests of his country. From this premise Masaryk derives the tactic, which he consistently pursues, of attempting not to antagonize the domestic supporters of either school of thought and of refusing to take a firm stand on any point which is a subject of hot dispute between the two schools. To these sincere in tellectual convictions must be added Mr. Masaryk’s temperamental predisposition to laisser oiler and dolce far niente and a not unnatural desire to retain a job, which offers both personal prestige and frequent opportunities to visit the fleshpots of the West.

“Nevertheless, as the Embassy has previously reported, the actual effect of Masaryk’s policy, however reasonable it may appear intellectually, has been to destroy his influence in Czechoslovak domestic politics and to deliver his Ministry into the hands of his Communist Under Secretary Clementis. The fact is, as a more clear-headed leader [Page 207] such as Dr. Zenkl of the National Socialist Party well understands, that in a country such as Czechoslovakia, where Slav blood, propinquity to the Soviet Union, fear of Germany, and the strong position of the Communist Party already weight the balance heavily in favor of the East, only a firm resistance to the aggressive Soviet influence can preserve for Czechoslovakia even that neutral intermediary position which Masaryk seeks. In spite of the fact that Masaryk, because of his father’s name and his own genial personality, is still very popular with the Czech public generally, his effective political influence is negligible because the moderate party leaders know they cannot count on him to stand up and fight on their side.

Rumors that he might be called upon to assume a leading position in the Social Democratic Party or any other non-Communist party, rumors which he himself appears to treat seriously, are therefore quite implausible. It may well be indeed that he retains his own Ministry only because no one wishes to upset the delicate balance of the National Front at this time and because the moderates fear that his fall from office might be misinterpreted by the West as evidence of a further retreat by Czechoslovakia into the Soviet orbit. It is altogether likely that, should the moderates make substantial gains in the national elections projected for next year, Masaryk might be faced with the embarrassing choice of withdrawing from the Government or entering it as an outright Communist.

That this latter possibility is not quite so fantastic as it at first appears is indicated by the manner in which the Soviets now seem to be pushing Masaryk forward as their candidate for strategic office in United Nations affairs. It was clear from Gromyko’s2 enthusiastic public statement two weeks ago that Masaryk was the Soviet candidate for President of the United Nations Assembly at its present extraordinary session. Presumably only the fact that domestic criticism of his frequent and prolonged absences from Praha forbade his going as far as New York at this time prevented his candidacy from being vigorously pushed. As the Department is aware, he was the Soviet candidate for Chairman of the Economic Commission for Europe at its current session in Geneva which he is attending.3

The fact is that the combination of his high reputation in the West with his pliability to Communist pressure makes him an almost ideal instrument from the Soviet viewpoint. It may be anticipated therefore [Page 208] that he will be increasingly employed to play this role on the international scene unless or until he is either openly disavowed and perhaps forced from office by the Czech moderates or, a less likely alternative, he himself is no longer able to stomach the anomaly of his position.

Respectfully yours,

Laurence A. Steinhardt
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister; Soviet representative at the First Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York, April 28–May 15, 1947.
  4. The Economic Commission for Europe held its first session from May 2 to May 15, at Geneva.