121.5464/3–2349: Telegram

The Chargé in Hungary (Cochran)1 to the Secretary of State


459. Adverting Legtel 452, March 22,2 Legation does not assess Hungarian expulsion Colonels Kopcsak and Merrill as direct retaliation [Page 466] for US refusal grant visas five Hungarian representatives to Cultural and Scientific Conference New York, but analyzes developments as follows: desire Hungarian Government have two officers depart fully apparent for six weeks or so, since first Hungarian note. Reluctance make formal demand this sense equally clear. Consider latter linked with declaration that Minister Chapin persona non grata, and that fact we had not reacted thereto left Hungarians uncertain as to just how far we might go and hesitant take any further step worsen situation until our position clear. Once we had refused five visas and announced this our reprisal for treatment Minister Chapin way cleared for positive Hungarian action re Kopcsak Merrill. If this analysis correct, latter decision, which long pending, taken because Hungarians felt could now safely be done, rather than as direct retaliation for refusal five visas, leaving latter consideration as perhaps minor motivation.

In this connection, Legation unable avoid feeling of indignation at long series Hungarian affronts and insults, beginning with earlier Kopcsak–Thielen incident,3 Hegyshalom provocation, arrest and treatment Rudedmann and Bannantine,4 discourtesies and threats to Steussy while escorting latter two from Hungary, rudeness of 48 and 24-hour periods fixed for departures Koczak5 and Steussy,6 demand for recall Minister Chapin on specious and wholly unsubstantiated charges, and now expulsion Kopcsak and Merrill again with insolent imposition 48-hour time limit. Legation wonders how much of this disrespect and defiance, far exceeding Hungary’s Soviet master’s example, US, which also sovereign state, must put up with from Hungary, which has obviously long abandoned not only all respect for international law, truth, decency and comity, but also seems have lost all sense proportion. Without advocating descent to Hungarian level [Page 467] in language or precipitate action, and in full realization Department’s decision may be influenced by over-all considerations of which Legation not fully cognizant, has not time come bring Hungarians sharply to senses as for example by telling the sick7 to fold his tent and depart like the poetic Arabs?

Legation aware past press criticism game badminton with Hungarian and American diplomats and presumes further comments this nature could confidently be expected if foregoing action taken. On other hand, failure react to this latest act in series calculate provocations seems leave US in position of highly undignified supineness inconsistent with its world position and prestige; and it appears equal or greater volume criticism could more justifiably be directed at Department should it fail react at all.

Doubt Hungarians would pursue matter further to point rupture diplomatic relations. However, other reprisal quite possible. Legation views refusals visas American citizens visit Budapest Fair (Bern tel 403, March 22, to Department8 and oral reports from Vienna) with happy equanimity as just another example Hungarians cutting off own noses, since net result only to deprive them of foreign exchange which badly want. Legation does envisage other snubs such as refusal visas officer and clerical replacements, further restrictions movements contacts Legation personnel, et cetera, and feel Dept would wish weigh these factors in light possible effect on value this Mission as listening post in connection rumored increased pressure and possibly even military action against Yugoslavia.

  1. William P. Cochran, Counselor of Legation at Budapest, assumed charge of the Legation upon Minister Chapin’s departure for Washington for consultation on February 17.
  2. Not printed; it reported receipt of a Hungarian Foreign Ministry note of March 21 demanding the departure from Hungary within 48 hours of Assistant Military Attachés Peter J. Kopcsak and John P. Merrill (121.5464/3–2249). For the text of the note, see Information Department, Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Documents on the Hostile Activity of the United States Government Against the Hungarian People’s Republic (Budapest: Hungarian State Publishing House, 1951), p. 102 (hereafter cited as Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Documents).
  3. On January 14, 1948, Lt. Col. Bernard Thielen, Military Attaché at Budapest, and Lieutenant Colonel Kopcsak, while on a routine trip of official nature, were arrested by Soviet troops in Hungary and abducted across the Hungarian frontier to Vienna where intervention by American authorities effected their release. For material on the subsequent exchange of diplomatic communications on the incident, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, pp. 279 ff.
  4. Paul Ruedemann and George Bannantine, American citizens and officials of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and of that company’s subsidiary firm in Hungary, Magyar Amerikai Olajipari Reszvenytarsasag (MAORT), were arrested by Hungarian authorities in September 1948 but were soon released after the intervention of the United States Government. Materials on the incident are included in the documentaion cited in the previous footnote.
  5. Regarding the expulsion of Legation Second Secretary Koczak, see the memorandum of January 31 from Hickerson to Bohlen, p. 457.
  6. In a note of February 9, not printed, the Hungarian Government accused Legation Third Secretary Robin E. Steussy of alleged espionage and of complicity in the flight from Hungary of anti-Communist political leaders. Steussy’s departure from Hungary within 24 hours was demanded.
  7. Presumably the text here is as intended by Cochran and was meant to be a play on Hungarian Minister Sík’s name.
  8. Not printed.