124.743/9–349: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Legation in Bulgaria

top secret


318. While delay by FonOff in receiving you appears deliberate and may be intended to test seriousness of our instruction to press this matter, Dept considers (ur 745 Sept 31) you must be judge in timing [Page 348] approach as mentioned Dept 308, Aug 282 and whether you shld insist on seeing Kolarov instead of FonMin.3

In evaluating Shipkov case light of present state US-Bulg relations Dept desires your views as to whether it is fundamentally (1) isolated police initiative; (2) attempt to discover limits of pressure US will countenance before evoking possibility of break in relations; or (3) incident in series calculated to lead to dipl rupture. We realize decision on (2) or (3) one which is made in Moscow rather than Sofia.

If incident is within category (1) or (2) Dept cld share hope (urtel 726 Aug 294) Bulg Govt wld restrain overzealous militia and seek unpublicized solution. Possible that you might be able induce Bulgs to grant exit visa to Shipkov, who we assume is still in chancery, or at least to obtain promise not to persecute him further. Your approach to FonOff, with affair not publicized and thus not involving all-important public “prestige” of Commie state, coupled with Bulg desire to gain something from Leva-dollar negots,5 wld seem to offer at least prospect for successful conclusion immed problem.

While Dept inclined to point (2) as basic Bulg motivation and explanation for recent actions and restrictions against Leg re visas, travel, radio, implication of Leg in “spy trials”, attitude on leva-dollar negots and persecution local employees, interpretation (3) above merits attn as possible explanation for same series of actions. If Sovs contemplate using Bulg for guerrilla or other armed activities against Yugo, they may feel it essential initially to eliminate US Leg and possibly other Western Legs as sources of intelligence re Sov plans. On this assumption if Shipkov case does not provide required pretext, we may be sure others will follow.

If decision has been taken to force us to point of breaking relations, we will have no choice. If on other hand plan is merely to subject Leg to series of indignities and restrict its activities to point where it cannot properly serve US interests, Dept must weigh seriously advantages and disadvantages of maintaining relations under such conditions. Ur considered views this point wld be appreciated.

  1. Not printed; in it Minister Heath reported that he had sought for six days to obtain an appointment with Bulgarian Assistant Foreign Minister Kamenov (124.743/9–349).
  2. Supra.
  3. As a result of reorganizations of the Bulgarian Cabinet announced on July 20 and August 7, Vasil Kolarov had become Prime Minister but had been relieved of his duties as Foreign Minister. The new Foreign Minister was Vladimir Poptoinov, member of the Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party and editor of the newspaper Rabotnicheskco Delo, the organ of the Party.
  4. Not printed.
  5. The reference here is to the continuing negotiations over the Bulgarian blocked assets in the United States and the American financial claims against Bulgaria.