711.61/4–1248: Telegram

The Minister in Bulgaria (Heath) to the Secretary of State


474. Deptel 179, March 17.1 Clarifying policy towards Soviet’s Balkan satellites and announcing definite steps to implement policy were under urgent consideration was heartening and helpful.

It now seems timely to review our analysis of Bulgarian sector general Soviet problem and propose practical steps which we feel should now be taken.

Obviously our problem is not with Bulgaria but with Moscow. Political independence Bulgaria not even good fiction. It is Soviet province ruled by extremely small group Bulgarians by birth but blindly obedient to Moscow thru fanatic conviction and training there. There not slightest sign any centrifugal tendency in this regime. There no impulse towards any independence from Kremlin such as we understand occasionally observable in Belgrade. Bulgarian Politburo posts must be occupied by men with Moscow “education”.

Our concern here is therefore with Kremlin policy as evidenced by behavior and utterances its local agents. Certain of its Balkan objectives are obvious. One cannot observe events and top officials here and not be sure latter are thoroughly briefed as to Kremlin’s implacable design to seize Greece—presumably preparatory to domination Turkey and Straits—and pending seizure to keep Greece in disorder through unrelenting partisan activity (reasons why Soviets momentarily use Bulgarian base against Greece more covertly than Yugoslavian and Albanian bases are: (a) move open aid might alarm Turkey to counteractions; (b) Bulgaria most vulnerable of Soviet provinces owing geographical position and internal situation; and (c) circumstance of peace treaty which on paper at least gives Britain and America certain rights and arguments is somewhat hampering).

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However, since possession of unassailed bases is sine qua non of prolonged and successful guerrilla warfare and since territory in which Markos operates seems made to order for partisan activity it seems impossible that Greek problem can be finally solved by action in Greece alone. Long as our policy permits Markos have bases in bordering satellite area we do not see that he can be forced to anything but uneasy truce.

But it is believed that a practical coordinated program against bases themselves can be put under way with good prospects of success and less danger bringing about open war than by continuing allow Russia’s satellite agents pursue their subversive aggression against troubled Greece with no other check than that of intermittent verbal remonstrance. Soviet employment of Markos carries its own danger since it is game that can be played by others with even greater chances eventual success and with moral and legal justification.

As we see it from here our policy in Greece is correctly that of letting Greece settle her own problem giving her aid and encouragement to extent necessary to counter effects hostile Soviet intervention. With regard to connected problem of Bulgaria (and doubtless that of other satellites) our policy should be same—aid should be given to extent necessary to enable Bulgarians themselves to begin to stand up to alien police tyranny under which they live. But initially at least aid and actions of Greece seem nearly as important to this end as anything US probably prepared under take at this time on Bulgarian problem.

While the ninety percent of Bulgarians who hate regime seem cowed and helpless under increasingly pervasive and modern technique of Soviet terror and control absence of resistance organization essentially due to very sensible conviction that any opposition would be hopeless since Soviet Russia, unless opposed by determined foreign stand, would step in to quell any revolt. But political vulnerability of Bulgaria perhaps more thoroughly realized by Kremlin’s governors here than by Kremlin itself and is manifested by their obvious nervousness. Very apparently they know their steadily tightening control, however efficient, is stretched thin over population which hates them and now hates Russia to extent of forgetting its traditional enmity with Greece and Turkey. They know that Bulgarian Army weak in equipment, training and morale. Purge of officer corps has not progressed to point where its loyalty or that of troops is certain. Prior to war there were about 30,000 Communists in Bulgaria. Best local guess is that of 300,000 nominal Communists now, there might possibly be as many as 20,000 but not more who would stand by their regime if it encountered adversity.

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Our ideas then of steps which should now be undertaken are:

We recommend that justification our Balkan policy be expanded by a publicized moral offensive on Bulgaria’s flagrant violations of human rights and freedoms clause of treaty of peace as suggested Legation’s despatch 11, January 16.2 It is believed that such a step would add persuasive appeal to our policy and make clear that it looks beyond preservation and protection of a strategically situated nation; it would add moral dignity and impulsion to motive of security.
Coincident with such action Greece should, we feel, announce a policy of hospitality and asylum to Bulgarian political refugees similar to that offered on Turk radio last fall which was promptly followed by escape of eight ex-deputies of Agrarian Party across Turkish border. Leading Bulgarian political refugees presently in other countries should quietly be encouraged come together at some point, such as Salonika, and be given opportunity to work and some material assistance. Initially, at least, restriction on their asylum should be that imposed by Turkey—no political activity. If this and other steps proposed have no effect in deciding Soviets sincerely to cease their participation thru Bulgarian and other bases in Markos rebellion then restriction on political activity these refugees should rapidly be given an increasingly “liberal” interpretation.
We believe Greek Government should also make a publicized announcement—again following example Turkey—disclaiming any territorial ambitions regarding Bulgarian territory and should inaugurate radio transmission in Bulgarian—again following example Turkey well as US and Britain—stressing her friendship for Bulgarian people, her willingness cooperate with any Bulgarian regime fulfilling enlightened provisions peace treaty and making clear that her fight against Markos is fight for rights and friendship for Bulgarian people. Such broadcasts would be as sympathetically received as Ankara’s popular Bulgarian language sendings. I realize that such step involves overcoming understandable resentment felt by Greeks toward Bulgaria.
Neither dynamic power, however, that can develop from “moral offensive” recommended in point one, nor collateral action Greece recommended points two and three, will in themselves be sufficient either to deter Soviet Russia from its present aggression against Greece or cause it to relax its illegal and tyrannical control of Bulgaria or impel Bulgarians and other satellite peoples assert their rights and liberties against Moscow police power. There must also be a display international forces visible if possible from Bulgarian border as evidence of moral, not merely oral, determination on part of west aggressively to oppose Soviet imperialism. Without such international forces on display, Bulgarians will believe, and understandably, that there is no hope in efforts towards self liberation nor true safety in political asylum which might be offered by Greece. Only thus will Russia believe that our determination is serious and Moscow definitely does not want such guards near Bulgarian frontier.

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Difficulties both political and military in installing these forces will, we realize, be great. Any risk that appearance such guards might bring about open conflict appears to us slight compared with failure install such deterrent forces. It is, of course, presumptuous for us here to advise what action should be taken in Greece. But two problems are so closely linked that we feel impelled set down our thoughts for whatever consideration they may warrant. From our vantage point ideal solution would seem to be for international guards seal entirely northern borders Greece without taking part beyond necessary action in self defense in internal aspects Communist rebellion there. Some formula for international endorsement (probably under Article 51 UN Charter for despatch international troops Greece and an official Greek request therefor) would, of course, be prerequisite such move. Further justification is found in recent Bulgarian refusal permit border inspections obviously required under Article 12 of peace treaty.

Actually we suppose complete sealing Greek border by international guard should for present at least be impracticable if not impossible. Neither would it seem necessary. Presence substantial guards on selected portions of Bulgarian border would be enough accomplish at least our initial purposes. Obviously guards could not be posted until areas behind their border stations had been substantially cleared of partisans. It thus appears to us that most feasible method of bringing international guards into Greece is begin by assigning British and American troops as guards to observer teams. When and if sections northern Greece reasonably cleared these international observer teams might then move up to observe and seal selected sections of border. I do not know whether driving of partisan bands from areas underlying Bulgaria (Thrace and East Macedonia) is now militarily feasible. Adoption of measures of this character would constitute a shift from defensive to non-military offensive against Soviet aggression. They are thus frankly transitional. We here are not in position evaluate and estimate fully present Kremlin overall attitude on war or peace. However, we do not believe measures recommended would provoke Soviets to overt acts which would lead to general war. They might initially lead to Soviet effort strengthen grip and accelerate weakening penetration in Greece but they would certainly increase strain on Soviet operations here and would, develop potential insecurity and weakness of Soviet Balkan positions. We strongly believe that improvement in our relative position which such measures would produce would make their adoption not only advisable but necessary in national interest. This is especially so in view of fact there is very good chance, perhaps only chance, that if energetically executed and sustained they might lead to substantial Soviet retreat and at least tactical defeat short of war.

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Of course we realize that international situation may develop so rapidly these measures would become anachronistic. Some not inconsiderable increase in activities of Bulgarian “Aid to Greece” committees been noted lately, possibly indicating acceleration Soviet effort in Greece which may precipitate crisis before these measures could be inaugurated. For this very reason and since they will require some time of preparation we recommend they be initiated urgently.

Sent Department 474, repeated Athens 30 (Please pass BalCom), Belgrade 38, London 55, Moscow 44.

  1. Same as telegram 122, p. 312.
  2. Not printed.