Policy Planning Staff Files

Paper Prepared by the Policy Planning Staff1


PPS 35

The Attitude of This Government Toward Events in Yugoslavia


The defiance of the Kremlin by the leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party creates an entirely new problem of foreign policy for this Government. For the first time in history we may now have within the international community a communist state resting on the basis of Soviet organizational principles and for the most part on Soviet ideology, and yet independent of Moscow.
If the Soviet satellite area disintegrates further, either now or in the more distant future, this situation may arise in other instances as well. For this reason, the attitude we take now may constitute an important precedent.
Furthermore, our attitude at this time may have an important influence on whether the rift between Tito and Moscow spreads to Russia’s relations with other members of the satellite area or serves to weld those other members still more tightly to the Kremlin.
It is necessary, therefore, that this Department and its representatives abroad be extremely circumspect in the handling of all matters which might be taken to reflect this Government’s attitude toward the Tito-Stalin imbroglio.
It is essential to bear in mind certain outstanding facts which are already apparent in this situation:
Yugoslavia remains a communist state, dedicated to an ideology of hostility and contempt toward the “bourgeois capitalist world”, and committed at home to government by the methods of communist totalitarian dictatorship. Its leaders have continued to demonstrate right up to this moment a sincere concern for the unity of the communist world in the face of “capitalist imperialism”. It would therefore be a frivolous and undignified error on our part to assume that because Stalin he could now be considered our “friend”.
The disunity within the communist world which has been demonstrated by these events must be profoundly humiliating and disagreeable [Page 1080] to all the parties concerned. Efforts will certainly be made, from one side or both, to patch up the rift for the sake of appearances. It is too early to hazard any guesses as to the success of these efforts. But it can be stated with assurance that even though they might be outwardly and momentarily successful, the damage done to the movement by this episode can probably never be entirely repaired. A new factor of fundamental and profound significance has been introduced into the world communist movement by the demonstration that the Kremlin can be successfully defied by one of its own minions. By this act, the aura of mystical omnipotence and infallibility which has surrounded the Kremlin power has been broken. The possibility of defection from Moscow, which has heretofore been unthinkable for foreign communist leaders, will from now on be present in one form or another in the mind of every one of them.
The Russians will seek intently for any mistakes in the handling of this situation by the western countries which can be exploited as a means of bringing pressure to bear on Tito to come back into the fold and as a means of discouraging other satellite figures from following Tito’s example.

If the western world now fawns on Tito this will be exploited by Moscow to arouse feelings of disgust and revulsion throughout the international communist movement and among Tito’s own followers. This would help to undermine his position with his own followers and to bring Yugoslavia back into the fold. Such a course would: also arouse strong, and justifiable, criticism in this country.

If, on the other hand, the western world is too cold toward Tito, ridicules him in his present international loneliness, and repulses any advances that may be made by him toward closer association with the west, this will be used by the Moscow communists as proof that foreign communists have no alternative but to stay with Moscow: that desertion only places them at the mercy of the wolves of capitalism.


The Department and all its representatives should observe extreme circumspection in discussing the Yugoslav differences with the Cominform. Bearing in mind that Yugoslavia is still a communist state and is still led by men who have consistently adopted an arrogant and hostile attitude toward this country and the western world in general, we should not detract from the dignity of our own position by exhibiting an excessive friendliness toward the Yugoslav leaders or indulging in exaggerated hopes that they will soon become an integral part of the western world. On the other hand, we should be careful not to create the impression that Tito has been held up to ridicule by the west just because he has been eliminated from the communist family.
The line which should be adhered to by representatives of the Department in private conversation, with respect to the attitude of this Government, should be substantially as follows: [Page 1081]

This Government would welcome a genuine re-emergence of Yugoslavia as a political personality in its own right. Its attitude toward a Yugoslav Govern had cut loose from Moscow would depend primarily on the behavior of that government with regard to Tina country, to the other European countries, and to the international community in general. We recognize that Yugoslavia’s internal regime continues to be one which is deeply distasteful to our people and that as long as such a regime exists, Yugoslav-American relations can never take on quite the cordiality and intimacy which we would wish. On the other hand, we also recognize that if Yugoslavia is not to be subservient to an outside power its internal regime is basically its own business. The character of that regime would not, in these circumstances, stand in the way of a normal development of economic relations between Yugoslavia and this country or—as far as we are concerned—between Yugoslavia and the countries of western Europe, provided Yugoslavia is willing to adopt a loyal and cooperative attitude in its international relationships. However, the question of Yugoslavia’s economic relationship with the countries of western Europe who are participating in the European Recovery Program is primarily a matter for those countries themselves rather than for us if the Yugoslavs should demonstrate a wish to establish better relations with the west, this Government would not stand in the way of such a development.

The line which should be adhered to by representatives of this Department in discussing the interpretation of events in Yugoslavia should be substantially as follows:

Tito’s defiance of the Cominform does not mean that Yugoslavia has “come over” to the west. Yugoslavia remains a communist state and its negative attitude toward the western democracies is as yet unchanged. Efforts will certainly be made to patch up the differences between Belgrade and Moscow. It is too early to predict what the success of these efforts will be. In any case, however, the international communist movement will never be able to make good entirely the damage done by this development. For the first time in the history of the movement, a servant of the international communist movement controlling territory, armed forces and a political organization, has defied, with at least temporary success, the authority of the Kremlin. This example will be noted by other communists everywhere. Eventually, the non-Russian communists will come to appreciate that they have no future as the servants of Kremlin policies.


The Policy Planning Staff recommends that the above conclusions be made the basis of a guidance directive to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, and of instructions to all diplomatic missions and to important consular offices, to the end that representatives of this Government will exhibit a uniform reaction to the recent developments in Yugoslavia.

  1. This paper was approved by Under Secretary Lovett on June 30, 1948, and by Secretary Marshall on July 1. A circular telegram containing the conclusions set forth herein was dispatched to all diplomatic missions and consular officers on June 30. This paper was circulated to the National Security Council as NSC 18, July 6, 1948 for the information of the Council. By an action taken on September 2, 1948, the National Security Council concurred in the conclusions set forth in this paper (as designated NSC 18).