CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 104

Report of the Conference on the Implementation of the Treaties of Peace, Rome, Italy, June 14–21, 19481


US Commercial Aviation Policy in Eastern Europe

Mr. Llewellyn Thompson, Deputy Director of Eur of the Department of State, and Chairman of the Conference on Implementation of the Peace Treaties, introduced Mr. J. Paul Barringer, Deputy Director of TRC of the Department of State, who was asked to present the subject of the morning meeting on civil aviation and to lead the discussion of civil aviation, with particular reference to the satellite states and the USSR.

Mr. Barringer briefed the conference members on the organization and position of civil aviation affairs in Washington and outlined the relationship, functions and general procedures vis-á-vis agencies (State, Air Force, CAB, CAA, etc.) dealing with aviation and involved in the clearance of important civil aviation problems. The function and representation of the Air Coordinating Committee (ACC), which was established as the President’s chief advisory group on aviation, was also discussed.

Upon completion of the basic background briefing, Mr. Barringer traced the recent history of US civil aviation policy with reference to the USSR and the satellite states. It was pointed out that after the war the United States had endeavored without success to obtain air agreements with the USSR and with satellite states. With the failure of efforts to gain access for commercial carriers to the USSR and its satellites, an Interim Aviation Policy was drafted in 1947. That policy provided, in general, that if any approaches were made by satellite countries, they would be taken up separately in the hope that a satisfactory reciprocal agreement might be reached. That hope likewise did not materalize, and only a few weeks ago the US-Hungarian negotiations failed, even though the Hungarians had made the initial approach for an interim arrangement on a reciprocity basis. The Hungarians desired to fly over US controlled areas, and the US desired Pan American to fly to Budapest. When agreement was nearly reached, negotiations were terminated by the Hungarians.2

The meeting was then opened for a general discussion to ascertain [Page 449] the reactions of the members present with reference to the fluid Interim Policy. From the discussion it was brought out that the civil aviation of the satellites is of a military and strategic character not directly related to peaceful transportation of goods and passengers and is in effect under the control of the Ministries of the Interior and the USSR.

Mr. Thompson pointed out that the Interim Policy was drafted and placed in effect before Czechoslovakia was placed behind the “curtain”. During the period of the Interim Policy the Department operated on the basis that the US could penetrate the Soviet air space and obtain something sufficiently worth while to warrant permitting the Soviets to enter the US. As an opening wedge it had seemed important to deal with the satellites; however, it is generally considered now that each satellite country must be treated as though it were Soviet. During the discussion (in which members of the Conference from the missions within the “curtain” countries actively participated) it was clearly evident and unanimously agreed that the Interim Policy had afforded ample opportunity, without success, for the Soviet and its satellites to establish reciprocal commercial aviation relations. Mr. Barringer said that in the light of past experience, a restrictive policy was now under consideration vis-á-vis Eastern Europe. Members of the morning conference agreed that the Interim Policy had served a useful purpose and illustrated the good faith of the US in endeavoring to reach agreement with Eastern European states on aviation. It was emphasized that commercial interests within the satellite or Russian sphere are always subordinated to political interests. Mr. Barringer pointed out that to date there was every indication, however, that the Soviets and satellites were using the “curtain” countries as a one-way valve to provide outlets for the USSR without permitting foreign penetration of Soviet air space.

Mr. Barringer then read a draft policy statement which had been studied carefully by the State Department policy planners and appropriate geographic divisions concerned and had been approved by the Department June 14.3 The new policy is much more restrictive and would, if finally approved by the President and concurred in by the UK, France and other western states, block egress of all USSR-satellite commercial international air services until the satellite states and the USSR were willing to open their air space to all outside states interested in operating to the Soviet area. In other words, the goal—that is, the opening up of Soviet air space—would remain, as in the past, the principal objective. If the draft policy is finally adopted, it [Page 450] would be discussed in detail with the British and the French, and the approach of the western states would be on a one-for-all and all-for-one basis. It is anticipated that the UK and France would line up with the US position, and possibly “carry the ball” in gaining adoption of the policy by non-curtain states.

The draft policy relates to commercial flights of a scheduled nature and would not extend to courier flights. Courier flights would continue to be authorized on a purely reciprocal flight for flight basis, i.e. one satellite or USSR flight for one US flight. The Czech-US bilateral agreement would have to be denounced through the escape clause of the present agreement. Mr. Deak cautioned that great care would have to be exercised to be certain that commercial flights were not operated under the guise of courier flights. It was stated that a practical effect of the new policy, if adopted, would be to keep a satellite from entering into a bilateral agreement without the Soviet. In other words, a satellite would be considered as part of the USSR. This would represent an attempt to restore normal relations with the Soviet by application of a maximum of pressure. Mr. Brackley Shaw, General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force, indicated that the opportunity for the US to have an airline in Russia would be of much greater advantage than any disadvantage arising from operation of a USSR aircraft to the US.

It was recognized that implementation of the policy would present difficult but not impossible problems, and it was re-emphasized that the new draft policy should be kept strictly confidential and not yet mentioned to the British, French or others until it becomes firm. At that time it would be fully discussed with appropriate non-curtain countries. Mr. Thompson stated that, if the new more restrictive policy should be adopted, very strong pressure by the Soviet could be expected on certain points (as, for example, Italy through Yugoslavia) as soon as the policy became apparent to the Soviets. Mr. Deak said that the possible weapons we might give the USSR had been considered, and from the standpoint of psychological warfare, with reference to implementation of the policy, we must be certain to carry the ball in such a manner as to prevent the USSR from outmaneuvering us in the propaganda field.

It was stated that some distinction appears to be made by the Soviets with reference to USAFE and Legation or Embassy planes. Mr. Shaw said that if the mission planes were grounded or had to be removed as a result of a more restrictive policy, every consideration would be given to supporting the missions adequately if USAFE were requested to operate courier services. Mr. Brackley Shaw of the Department of the Air Force and Col. Walter Bryte of USAFE, Wiesbaden, expressed their appreciation for the opportunity of sitting in on the [Page 451] aviation discussions. They and the chairman of the meeting expressed particular interest in the unanimity of views of the representatives of the American missions at the Conference.

  1. This Report was circulated to the Treaty Committee as document TIC D–21/16, June 30, 1948, and it was discussed and adopted by the Treaty Committee on July 7, 1948. For the text of the major portion of the Report and an explanation on the convening of the conference, see p. 353. For a description of the Treaty Committee, see the editorial note, p. 310.
  2. Regarding the termination of the civil aviation negotiations with Hungary, see telegram 720, April 30, from Budapest, p. 444.
  3. The reference here is to Policy Planning Staff Paper PPS 32. As subsequently slightly revised, this paper was approved by the National Security Council and President Truman as document NSC 15/1, July 12, 1948, p. 451.