860F.00/7–1547: Telegram

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


904. In assessing significance of prompt yielding of Czechoslovak Government to Soviet pressure last week1 and in estimating probable Czechoslovak reaction, particularly leaders of non-Communist parties, to future pressure from same quarter, Department may find useful following recapitulation of numerous and powerful instruments of persuasion over Czechoslovakia now in possession of Soviets. Fact that these instruments have so far been outlined only for limited objectives provides no assurance as Czechoslovak moderates are well aware that similar restraint will be exercised in future.

Recapitulation follows:

Presence of Red Army encircling Czechoslovakia except narrow strip facing Bavaria.
Position of Communists as largest party in country and fact that their presence in National Front is considered by Benes and moderates essential to stability of regime.
Control by Communists of Ministries of Interior, Finance, Agriculture, Labor, Information and Internal Trade and substantial if unavowed control of Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Defense.
Effective control of police through Ministry of Interior.
Sufficiently substantial influence in army at least to neutralize any possible action by pro-western elements therein.
Sufficiently preponderant influence in trade union organizations to induce disruptive wave of strikes if desired.
Control of plurality of organs of local government in Bohemia and Moravia.
Substantial control 5 out of 10 daily Praha newspapers with nation-wide circulation.
Increasing economic dependence of Czechoslovakia on Soviets and Soviet satellites as result of net-work of bilateral agreements.
Control by Soviets of access to 2 of chief outlets for Czechoslovak overseas trade, Polish ports and Trieste, coupled with severity of course heretofore pursued by United States Army in Germany towards Czechoslovak transit traffic.
Strong Czechoslovak feeling of dependence on Soviets for future protection against a resurgent Germany.
Dependence on Soviets for maintenance of Czechoslovak territorial integrity not only against Germany but also against Hungary, Poland and Soviet Union itself.

It should be emphasized that until last week Soviet Union had only in very rare instances taken explicit advantage of these powerful instruments of pressure and that as Department aware Czechoslovak moderate parties have proved surprisingly successful vis-à-vis their own Communists in maintaining and strengthening democratic liberties under difficult conditions. Continued use of these instruments of pressure by Soviets, however, might well serve to intimidate moderates who, as split between east and west deepens, feel increasingly isolated and helpless. Prompt yielding of Czechoslovaks in connection with Paris conference may or may not satisfy Soviets that they enjoy effective control over Czechoslovak foreign policy. There are no visible signs as yet that they intend to tighten control over Czechoslovakia at this time. Mindful, however, of present psychology of Kremlin and of pattern which has emerged in other east European states this Embassy will watch with utmost care for indications that some or all of above listed instruments of pressure are being exercised either (1) to carry out more thoroughly Communist policies within framework present National Front Government, (2) to force purge of moderate parties along lines unsuccessfully pressed on Slovak Democrats during recent weeks and such as could easily be directed against leaders of other moderate parties through fabricated charges of conspiracy [Page 223] against state or sabotage of two-year plan, (3) to prepare ground for Communist coup d’état. If harmonious relations existed between east and west there would be no reason to fear any but first of these three possible developments but in light of existing conditions no one of them can be wholly excluded as a possibility.

Sent Department as 904; repeated Moscow 61.

  1. For documentation regarding the decision of the Czechoslovak Government, under pressure of the Soviet Government, not to participate in the Conference of European Economic Cooperation held in Paris, see the section on the political and economic crisis in Europe and the United States response (The Marshall Plan), chapter ii, in volume iii .