840.811/6–1848: Telegram

The Chargé in Yugoslavia (Reams)1 to the Secretary of State


746. Embassy feels Yugoslav response Soviet Danube conference note (Embtel 733 June. 16)2 first direct and irrevocable challenge any satellite to supreme authority Communist overlords in Kremlin. Tito’s apparent decision to challenge Stalin instead of recanting past errors may well be most significant political event here since US recognition and event presages possibility split in Soviet bloc if breach allowed to widen. For first time in history Soviet Union is faced with consolidated Communist regime in power outside own borders willing to risk independent or even contrary course.

Immediate issue Danube conference site itself unimportant since Yugoslavia has provided Soviet with possibility reasonable public explanation by exploiting Simić as scapegoat. But this alternative would evade basic issue of Tito’s defection. How and when Soviets could or would react may well be of more immediate concern to them than to Tito.

At moment we cannot offer certain explanation factors contributing to yesterday’s climactic decision Yugoslav Politburo. While decision undoubtedly made by Tito and probably based personal vanity it is inconceivable it could be made without assent Politburo leaders or at least Rankoviz. Recently we have wondered at possible implications certain observations and rumors difficult to explain given presumed harmony between Kremlin and local regime. Embassy particularly noted in previous year fact Tito received no congratulatory message from Stalin or any Soviet Union leader on occasion May 25 birthday celebration.

Last week Canadian Secretary showed one of my officers letter from Moscow colleague commenting on noticeable decrease in Soviet press coverage devoted Yugoslavia. British Ambassador3 told me yesterday he believes report Tito recently severely rebuked in personal letter from Stalin. Further confirmation this report seems afforded by June 12 Borba4 article written by Pijade.5 CPJ theoretician defended [Page 1074] his party’s vanguard role in Yugoslav People’s Front so vigorously as to suggest local regime subject even more direct and severe criticism than was expressed in general terms to non-Soviet CPs in June 1 Cominform editorial. (Embtel 680, June 3)6

Climax this trend reached on June 15 when lead editorial latest Cominform journal significantly exempting leaders French and Italian CPs attacked Communist who “in fog eulogy and exaggerated self-praise” stifle criticism and fail recognize own shortcomings. By process of elimination this can apply only to Tito or Dimitrov7 or both. “Non-Marxist attitude towards criticism and self-criticism is often outcome conceit and at times of non-understanding role self-criticism as vital method party work, desire restrict criticism stifle it to take measures against those who make serious critical remarks”. Above suggests Kremlin’s displeasure ranges beyond party tactics regarding People’s Front and also includes abrupt arrest Zujovic and Hebrang. Embassy believes Zujovic only prominent personality accompanying Molotov to Moscow following San Francisco UN Conference and wonders if his dismissal unexpected shock to Soviet Politburo friends. In final analysis it seems unlikely theoretical differences basic cause developing conflict. Tito’s personal ambitions to lead own sphere in southeast Europe must have cumulatively irritated and perhaps alarmed Kremlin. Latter’s January rebuke to Dimitrov may also indirectly have applied to Tito who had not opposed thesis Yugoslav-Bulgarian federation.8 Unlike Hungarian Premier however Tito made no public disavowal.

Conversely continuing Yugoslav frustration in foreign field and apparent Soviet disinterest or inability to assist five year plan may have discomfited Tito. It is significant that following Italian elections Government’s economic planners stressed urgent necessity to develop internal resources and place minimum reliance on external assistance. Seemingly precipitate settlement US claims9 coupled with renewed expressions interest in expanding western trade could reflect decision to seek greater independence from Soviet economic bloc.

Whatever origins of conflict and scope present dissatisfactions Tito cannot be unaware experience Communists who have opposed Kremlin. [Page 1075] He may accordingly feel his own recent consolidation ranks party Army and Foreign Office have placed him beyond reach Stalin’s punitive arm.

On basis available evidence I am convinced that definite split exists. Nature and extent split should become apparent soon on basis simple test location Danube conference. If Russians accept Belgrade it should indicate belief that Tito’s position strong enough to require traditional gradual undermining. If Russians insist on other site it would be indication their clear belief that Yugoslav Communists can be brought back into line without too much difficulty. In evaluating Tito’s ability to maintain separatist policy it should be noted that he occupies exceptional position. Other certain Communist leaders were in Russia during war and returned their countries accompanied by Kremlin picked teams. Tito led resistance and organized own team from ground up.

At moment it would seem energies Tito Communists will be focused 1 on further buttressing their internal positions and preparing for whatever tactic Kremlin may use in meeting this challenge to its I authority. It is too early to appraise extent of opportunity schism affords us to penetrate and disunite Soviet bloc. Pending clarification we can only reaffirm basic policy recommendations outlined Embtel 709 June 8 and urge prompt exploitation every occasion to intensify; Yugo-Soviet differences such as present Danube conference issue (Embtel 738, June 17).10

Department pass Moscow 143.

  1. Counselor of Embassy Robert B. Reams served as Chargé from June 12 to June 22 during Ambassador Cannon’s absence from Belgrade.
  2. Ante, p. 615. It had been originally proposed that a conference to work out a new convention regarding the regime of navigation of the Danube River be convened in Belgrade on July 30. On June 12 the Soviet Government suggested that the conference be held in some other Danubian country, but the Yugoslav Government subsequently asserted that Belgrade could and should serve as the site for the conference. For documentation regarding the Danube Conference of July-August 1948, see pp. 593 ff.
  3. Sir Charles Peake.
  4. Organ of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.
  5. Moša Pijade, President of the Yugoslav Parliament (Skupština). and member of the Politburo of the Yugoslav Communist Party.
  6. Not printed; it reported upon an editorial appearing in the Cominform journal For a Lasting Peace for a People’s Democracy.
  7. Georgi Dimitrov, Bulgarian Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Bulgarian Communist Party.
  8. For documentation regarding the possible establishment of a federation of Balkan states, see pp. 293300, passim.
  9. The general outlines of a claims settlement between the United States and Yugoslavia had been reached on June 11, but final signing of the agreements was postponed until July 19, 1948, pending Yugoslav authorization of the relevant documents; see the editorial note, p. 1093.
  10. Not printed.