Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Chief of the Division of Southern European Affairs (Barbour)


The Hungarian Minister1 called on March 11 by appointment made at his request. Referring to an article which appeared on March 11 in the US press and had originated with John MacCormac2 in Budapest, the Minister inquired whether we had any information to confirm the report that the Hungarian Prime Minister had publicly branded as “unfortunate” the US note of March 5 regarding the Hungarian political situation.3 The Minister indicated, if the Hungarian Prime [Page 282] Minister proves to be unable to withstand Soviet pressure and is coerced into contradicting the US estimate of the Hungarian situation, the Minister would consider issuing a public statement to the effect that the Hungarian Government could no longer be regarded as a free agent.

I told the Minister that we did not have confirmation of any public statement by the Prime Minister terming our note “unfortunate”. I added that, while I appreciate his feelings in the matter, it seems to me that a public announcement that the Hungarian Government is no longer a free agent would be premature at this time. Such action would presumably make it impossible to restore the constitutional position of the Hungarian majority under the Prime Minister’s leadership and so long as any hope of such a restoration remains it appears inadvisable to concede that the Prime Minister’s authority has disappeared.

The Minister said that he has no means of confidential communication direct with the Prime Minister, his secret messages to the Foreign Office being subject to scrutiny by Communist elements in that Ministry. He inquired whether the Department could make its facilities available to transmit a message from him to the Prime Minister urging fortitude in the present situation. I agreed that I would raise the question of the transmission of such a message with the higher authorities in the Department but I pointed out my own feeling that such a course would involve the risk of a boomerang. We are not absolutely certain of the Prime Minister’s strength of purpose nor the course he will pursue under Soviet pressure and if he should inform the Soviets for one reason or another that we were acting as his channel of communication with the Hungarian Minister here, the Soviets would have grounds to charge us with intervention on behalf of the Smallholders similar to their intervention in support of the Communists to which we object.

  1. Aladár Szegedy-Maszák.
  2. Correspondent for the New York Times.
  3. Telegram 378, March 11, from Budapest, not printed, which reported on recent political events within Hungary, read in part as follows:

    “We are also reliably informed that Nagy, in confidential discussion March 8, Smallholder editors, characterized our note as ‘unfortunate’ stating that it would have no direct effect on Hungarian politics except to align in the eyes of the Left Bloc the Smallholders ‘stiffening’ with American note. Nagy also stated Hungary now becoming a focal point in world affairs, and battle will be fought over Hungary by Great Powers without referring to Hungarians.” (864.00/3–1147)