The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Kirk) to the Secretary of State
3063. I cannot disassociate situation in Bulgaria in regard to Kostov trial, with our Minister implicated by name in the indictment, from relationship with Kremlin policy nor fail to see parallel with situation precipitated in Budapest earlier this year; and the probabilities all point to similar results insofar as our mission chief is concerned. We feel it must be accepted as fact that Politburo is giving full support to Bulgarians and has aided and counseled the various steps taken to date against our mission at Sofia. Soviet orbit system is now committed to stand publicly taken. Therefore we conclude it is too late to expect any recantation or that Heath will be exonerated by judicial processes currently in vogue. It appears inevitable our Minister will be declared persona non grata at some stage and as Department points out, though not necessarily for reasons other than exercise of an established right, most probably for propaganda purposes in this instance, some slanderous charge would be levelled.
We are thus faced with several problems stemming from this particular incident. The immediate and short-range question is how to counter what is public affront to our Minister and an aspersion on our diplomatic deportment in Bulgaria. Any counteraction should, if possible, be speedy and should be sharp rejoinder on about same scale of importance as blow we anticipate. Based solely on special circumstances existing in Sofia we would favor seizing initiative and demanding immediate recall of Bulgarian Minister Washington on persona non grata basis with derogatory remarks about his conduct, attitude or otherwise as may seem suitable but given wide publicity and sustained public interest aiming remarks at whole area of satellite governments’ comportment against foreign diplomatic missions in general as well as our own in particular. We feel by this [thus] isolating issue to the persons of the two Ministers it will narrow the field of riposte and by acting first in ejecting Bulgaria from Washington we forestall Soviet attempts to force our hand on larger issues.
We assume reaction would be request removal Heath. However should Bulgarians (read Soviets) counter by further step towards breach relations or make breach themselves, as is of course possible, we think we would have accomplished objective of putting onus on them as desired and would also incidentally have made resumption relations later date, should such resumption become advisable, considerably easier.
We estimate Politburo would welcome our decision to sever diplomatic relations with Bulgaria at this time as evidence guilt, plotting [Page 370] for war, subversive activities and whole gamut hostile propaganda charges. We note with care all you say concerning effect of breaking off diplomatic relations with that nation and some are very cogent. Nevertheless we ask who gains most on balance and on long-term (Soviet, ourselves) from such action and it seems to us here the edge is in favor of the Politburo. We cite precedent for inducing similar withdrawal in Rumania or Hungary; effect in UN regarding election members our choice such as Italy; repercussions in relation Greek problem and UNSCOB membership; loss of listening post and comparison our situation in Albania. Further we view such action as more negative than positive in broadest sense noting that once our mission is withdrawn its resumption would be awkward and probably delayed a long time. Finally we consider that if the Politburo would appear to gain from such an act on our part that is probably the best reason for not doing it.
We are not impressed by thought such action would reenforce Tito or give pause to Kremlin in their policy against him. It seems to us there are better and more direct means that could be employed in that matter.
However in the event other considerations prevail and decision is taken to sever relations we are strongly of opinion such rupture should be complete and all-embracing. We are decidedly against half-way measures. That the Kremlin would be initially surprised by our decision we do not doubt but it nevertheless seems on balance they would be glad to have us out of Bulgaria and would make great propaganda from the event.
In line above thinking we would recommend note and accompanying oral statement envisaged Deptel 895, December 71 not be delivered but substance points 1, 2 of note and paragraph 2 (omitting last phrase) and 3 (omitting phrase after US Government, etc.) of oral statement be emphasized in public announcement of request for recall Bulgarian Minister Washington. Seems to us presentation note and oral statement would give impression preliminary skirmishing and in carrying overtone hesitancy would tend detract from determination initiative desired.
Any event re point 5 proposed statement suggest Department check Heath’s reported reference 1947 desire friendly relations “with Bulgarian Government”. Recollection here is that in establishing relations emphasis at least was placed notably in public announcement action on friendly relations “between American and Bulgarian peoples” plus practical benefits maintenance official representation Bulgaria.
Sent Department 3063; Department pass Sofia 57, Praha 61, Warsaw 115, Belgrade 163, Bucharest 43, Budapest 75.
- Same as telegram 414, December 7, to Sofia, supra.↩