123 Health, Donald R.: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Legation in Bulgaria

top secret

414. Dept agrees that parallel between Kostov and Rajk trials is such that possibility cannot be excluded that Bulg Govt will declare you persona non grata subsequent to Kostov conviction. The right of any govt to declare reps of another govt persona non grata is well established in internatl law and we do not wish to question that right. In view, however, of action Bulg Govt in publicizing charges against you contained in Kostov indictment which it knows to be patently false, we are giving serious consideration to interrupting dipl relations with Bulg Govt rather than allow further deterioration in the low standard by which Bulg Govt is guided in conduct of its relations with us, particularly if request for your recall were based upon statements attributed to Kostov. (We assume that since your conversation with Kostov was alleged to have taken place in his office, Bulg Govt has the means available to establish falsity of his statement.) By interrupting relations we mean either withdrawal our entire mission and demand for withdrawal of entire Bulg mission in Wash or reducing both to a single officer and clerk.

Our dilemma is that to await outcome of trial and a demand of your recall wld risk confusing issue with undoubted right of Bulg Govt to demand your recall without giving any reason. On other hand, intentions [Page 367] of Bulg Govt may be merely propaganda and trial itself may fail to substantiate ur involvement to a degree sufficient to furnish a basis for requesting ur recall. We do not ourselves wish to precipitate break in relations, but consider it necessary to endeavor to make clear to Bulg Govt, without making demands which they clearly cannot accept, seriousness with which we view their actions and probable US reaction if they push Kostov affair to point of demanding ur recall. We are therefore considering authorizing you to present formal note to FonOff making fol points on behalf US Govt:

US Govt shocked at irresponsibility of Bulg Govt in publishing indictment containing allegations re US Chief of Mission which it knew to be false, or cld easily have checked since visit of US Min to Acting PriMin at his office wld certainly be matter of record.
This action coming on top of the difficulties which Bulg Govt has placed in the way of operations of the AmLeg in Sofia has caused US Govt to take a most serious view of the recent actions of Bulg Govt.
Since Bulg Govt is clearly in a position to establish the falsity of the charges made against US rep, its failure to do so can only be interpreted by US Govt as final indication that Bulg Govt does not genuinely desire maintenance of normal relations between Bulg and US in accordance with internatl practice and comity.

Dept believes if note presented to BulGovt it shld be followed up by strong oral statement to FonMin.

Re-emphasize that US meant what it said in final point of aforementioned note, namely that BulGovt’s conduct has forced US to question value of maintaining dipl relations under existing conditions.
Recall that crude attempt to implicate US Min in Kostov affair, serious as it is, is not isolated disturbing incident in US-Bulg relations but culmination of long series of acts and policies which have made it virtually impossible for US to maintain dipl mission in Sofia.
State that unprincipled action involving US and US Min in supposed plot with Kostov, fiction from beginning to end as BulGovt well knows, goes beyond all bounds and represents last straw in accumulation of unfriendly acts; US Govt has accordingly instructed you to inform BulGovt that US cannot allow matters develop further without telling BulGovt where US stands.
Inform FonMin that if the present attitude of BulGovt toward the conduct of relations with US Govt is maintained, US will recall you and ur staff and demand withdrawal of Bulg Reps in Wash.
Recall that in presenting letters of credence to Kolarov in 1947 you mentioned US desire for friendly relations with BulGovt and ur desire foster friendly relations between Amer and Bulg peoples; this US and its reps in Sofia have constantly endeavored to do despite obstacles put in way by BulGovt, and latter bears full responsibility for lamentable state to which relations between two countries have been reduced.

In reaching a decision on this question Dept believes fol considerations are relevant. Whether approach, outlined above results in Bulg [Page 368] reversal of attitude or leads to interruption in relations or withdrawal of whole Leg staff except possibly one officer in caretaker status, fol advantages might ensue:

Kremlin and other Satellite Govts wld recognize there is limit to restrictions and indignities to which US Govt willing submit. As consequence our Missions in other satellite countries may receive better treatment at least temporarily.
Vigorous US reaction to provocation by Bulg may have deterrent effect in Sov calculations re Yugo and cause them to reassess our intentions supporting Yugo against Sov pressures and aggression.
We might have more certain indication of how far Sovs wish to push us in entire satellite area.

Bulgaria is least valuable guinea pig in which US can afford sacrifice official representation since we are now getting very little intelligence from there and it is least difficult to cover for intelligence purposes from periphery.

On negative side Dept recognizes possibility this may set precedent for forcing eventual withdrawal US Missions from all Eastern European countries. On balance, however, Dept inclined feel Moscow not yet ready take responsibility for such a move.

A complete break in relations wld doubtless come as a shock to Amer public, wld necessitate our requesting another Govt to undertake the responsibility of representing US in Bulg, and wld have serious consequences for our alien staff in Sofia. On the other hand, restricting our activity virtually to zero without a dipl break might not be effective with Bulg or other Satellite Govts.

Before sending you instrs Dept desires ur comments and those of other Missions to which this tel rptd on proposal and points suggested for inclusion. (Sent Sofia, rptd Moscow, Warsaw, Praha, Belgrade, Budapest, Bucharest.)

View urgency time factor ur immed comments requested.1

  1. This message evoked a variety of responses from the missions in Eastern Europe. The Embassies in Belgrade and Warsaw endorsed the procedure set forth here (telegram 1631, December 10, from Warsaw: 123 Heath, Donald B and telegram 1270, December 10, from Belgrade: 874.00/12–1049). The Legation in Romania had doubts both as to the method and the timing of the procedure set forth here. The Legation suggested that current measures be confined to an oral approach in order to allow Bulgaria to have an opportunity to reconsider its attitude and to allow the United States to preserve its freedom of action (telegram 824, December 11, from Bucharest: 124.74/12–1149). The Embassy in Czechoslovakia recommended that some American initiative was urgently required in order to reverse the quickening process of creeping paralysis in United States diplomatic activity in all the Eastern European countries (telegram 1827, December 8, from Praha: 874.00/12–849). The Legation in Hungary opposed any empty gesture and believed that only a complete break in relations with Bulgaria would suffice. The Legation doubted that any American action would cause the Hungarian Government to alter its current attitude (874.00/12–849). See also telegram 3063, December 9, from Moscow, infra, and telegram 1044, December 9, from Sofia, p. 371.