860H.00/7–748: Telegram

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


849. It is now possible to attempt evaluation Yugoslav–Cominform crisis. Unfortunately analysis mostly will be largely conjectural since facts continue elusive.

Plot thesis considered and rejected by Embassy. Action overtemperate, Yugoslav reaction too spontaneous and too much in accord national characteristics for thesis to be tenable. Results thus far so damaging Communist prestige and aims that could be justified only if eventual benefits decisive. Believe normal precautions part western powers could be expected keep any benefits to minimum.

Real breach exists between Yugoslav leaders and Cominform and between Yugoslav CP and CP’s of Soviet Union and, at least for time being, on curtain countries and rest world as well. Breach has dramatized [Page 1089] more effectively than any event we might have hoped for nature of Cominform, dictates of political allegiance and authority within Soviet system, and subordination of other national requirements to Soviet military planning. These elements are abundantly illustrated in Cominform resolution and Yugoslav reply and as they appear in subsequent statements they will provide us with major informational theme of unreproachable authenticity. Our concern must be the avoidance of that public support and approbation which at this time could only weaken Tito’s influence among other CP’s. From this standpoint and that of our local maneuverability I should like express wholehearted appreciation Department’s policy directive Depcirctel June 30.1

It appears certain real cause or causes of split must have been issues of most basic nature. Assuming correctness Yugoslav claim Cominform resolution but repetition charges Soviet letter March 27,2 we hazard decision to break Tito taken prior that date and succeeding developments only tactical. Sometime after Peoples Front Congress last September when Tito presumed lecture other CP’s on proper organizational principles along lines Kremlin was discarding through period when Yugoslav CP overshadowed all others including Bolshevik in early Cominform Journal issues, and including time last January February of Dimitrov castigation and self-abasement re Balkan federation when Tito remained silent and apparently unperturbed, it must have become evident another power center was in making. This to Soviets would admit no compromise.

Current affirmation and denial ideological differences or deviations can scarcely have had decisive role. Soviet charges and demands for change while possibly sop for party’s idealistic doctrinaires are important only as evidence that as early as last March Kremlin sought to impose on Tito program of self-destruction. Once Bolshevik indictment written Tito had alternative of abdication or self-strangulation. Soviet criticism of lack party democracy in Yugoslavia was essentially demand for more latitude for Zujovic and Hebrang followers to undermine Tito. Chargé of anti-Soviet bias of Yugoslav CP leadership was request for more room for Soviet agents to work and indication of new directions planned for Yugoslav CP. Claim of derogation role Red Army was demand to minimize struggle of Tito’s partisans and so dissolve great emotional appeal of Tito as war leader. Charge of neglect class struggle and failure to emphasize working class was attempt to turn Tito to precipitate adventures against peasants thus [Page 1090] undermining him throughout country. Note Cominform reservation that collectivization is nonetheless slow process demanding long preparation as indication that when peasantry thoroughly aroused some new Soviet-elected leader might appear as peasant champion against Tito. Note also abruptness Cominform dismissal recent Yugoslav tributes to Red Army and new leftist legislation.

Succeeding events have reinforced our impression that Cominform demands were never intended to indicate real nature conflict or provide basis for its composition. Immediate and intensified Bulgarian and Albanian responses strongly indicate coordination with original Cominform resolution in triple attack on Tito’s federation heresy, in area Tito had staked out for his own, and suggest that this was single most important cause. Contributing factors can be found in Peoples Front organization (only issue we found substantial in original resolution), Tito’s ego and individualism, and possibility admittedly unconfirmed Soviet intention consolidated adoption by de facto or de jure incorporation all or some curtain countries. Yuguslav refusal aid such proposal may be assumed. To what extent Yugoslav policies regarding Markos, Trieste, and Italian elections lagged behind or outran Soviet desires are unknown elements.

Most difficult to explain is awkward handling of situation by Soviets. They must have believed Tito could be easily broken or would bend and that resignation prior or during Cominform meeting would be forthcoming and could be accepted as interim measure. Once at meeting and with Yugoslav June 20 letter3 before them refusing summons, their hands may, of course, have been forced by necessity firm action for benefit attending disciples. We can find here only curious dualism in Soviet intelligence. In its defensive or retentive phases there was brilliant performance in circulating these charges among nine countries from March to June without leakage to outside world or definite suspicions aroused until mid-June (Embtel 746, June 18). But in its offensive or acquisitive aspects Soviet intelligence in the Yugoslav affair must be accounted to have blundered badly. Depending on local Soviet Embassy, or inept agents, or Zujovic–Hebrang wishful reportage, it discounted those elements which made situation unprecedented, overrated Soviet influence, forgot history and soul of Yugoslav people, and presented Tito set ready-made issues with which he is likely to emerge as greatest Yugoslav hero since 14th century.

For moment all this is party matter. Rift has reached government level only with Albania and tentatively with Czechoslovakia. Djilas4 [Page 1091] in his Borba5 has not hesitated to lash out at Communist leaders and Communist press in any country other than Russia but it can be assumed this reticence will last only until Soviet leaders or press see fit enter arena on own. But if our analysis be correct, conflict between Kremlin and Tito is now irrepressible and Soviets must inevitably exert their strength in attempt supplant Tito. Inexorably of power will move Tito eventually towards west and forms of accommodation with non-Soviet world.

We are now essentially in interim period. Probable that nothing will happen until after party congress and Danube conference which may set stage for extent and pace post rupture developments. Yugoslavs will undoubtedly play waiting game until they abandon hope of dualism in Communist theory or until Russians force issue. Loyalty to Marxist-Leninist ideals will be affirmed and reaffirmed. So long as Russians keep quarrel on party level Soviet policies will be supported. Imperialism and the west will be subject to vigorous but probably decreasing criticism. Their interim strategy will probably be to avoid open quarrels with west and attempt obtain considerably expanded trade with US and UK.

Russians have number of possible courses action open but no [apparent omission] is improbable since it involves risk general war and even success would bring complications which would make gains illusory. Love feast between Tito and Stalin attended by corpses Zhdanov and Malenkov6 would hardly be enjoyed by participants and still would leave basic dispute unsettled. Open economic sanctions, hinted at by recent Albanian action, are unlikely since they would increase tempo of turn to west. Least dangerous and most probable action is another cold war accompanied by implied threats of direct action. Agents could be infiltrated to undermine Tito’s position and covert economic sanctions could be employed.

Our position must depend more on Soviet tactics than on Yugoslavia’s. Splits is of such potential importance that any threat of direct action by Russia against Yugoslavia should call for quick and decisive action on our part in support of Yugoslavia. Otherwise believe that we should follow waiting line with one exception. Encouragement should be given quietly to development trade in ítems not possessing definite war potential.

These issues and their strategies will come to their first testing at Danube Conference, implications of which both in immediate and [Page 1092] long range aspects would now seem require reexamination. My next telegram comments this development.

Pass to Defense.

Sent Department 849; Department pass Moscow 160; repeated London 143, Paris 124, Rome 132, pouched Sofia, Budapest, Bucharest, Warsaw, Trieste, Athens, Vienna, Berlin.

  1. Not printed; it contained the text of the conclusions of Policy Planning Staff paper PPS 35, June 30, p. 1079.
  2. Reference is to the communication of March 27, 1948, from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the Yugoslav Communist Party; for text, see Documents on International Affairs, 1947–1948, pp. 350–354.
  3. Reference is to the communication of June 20, 1948, from the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party to the Conference of the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform); for text, see Documents on International Affairs, 1947–1948, pp. 387–389.
  4. Milovan Djilas, member of the Politburo of the Yugoslav Communist Party and Minister without Portfolio.
  5. Newspaper of the Yugoslav Communist Party.
  6. Andrey Aleksandrovich Zhdanov, member of the Politburo and Organizational Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and Georgiy Maksimilianovich Malenkov, Soviet Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.