760H.61/1–3149: Telegram

The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Cannon) to the Secretary of State


101. Yugoslav-Soviet dispute seven months after Cominform resolution has acquired in its public manifestations an entirely new character that may be momentous for attainment of our strategic political objectives. No longer is controversy being waged “on the situation in CP” and even the terms of original resolution regarding alleged domestic ideological deviations are now seldom employed. Today dispute [Page 857] is more and more sharply emerging as conflict of two fundamental principles as old as relations between states. One of them was set forth in Cominform journal1 Dec. 1 “attitude toward Soviet Union is now test of devotion to cause of proletarian internationalism, of willingness to put Lenin-Stalin doctrine on national question into practice”. Tito at Serb CP Congress January 22 formulated the other “the principle of equality must regulate the relations between Socialist countries in present epoch. Every violation of this Marxist principle does great damage to progressive forces of world”.2

This issue, in the great tradition of historical schisms is one on which no compromise is possible. In appraising capabilities of Tito to maintain his revolt or to weaken whole complex of Soviet influence, we should not over-emphasize his weaknesses. Foreign assistance will unquestionably be necessary for him, and in Embtels 27 and 28, January 103 we put economic case for modifying trade policy with Yugoslavia. Nonetheless, in some respects he has the strongest position of any rebel since Henry VIII. His tight Communist dictatorship has had four full years to secure its power and is today firmly entrenched. With all eastern Europe ganged up against him his position is still unshaken in any material respect since last July. This points up and reinforces our analysis of his strengths and weaknesses sixteen months ago (Embtel 1017, September 7, 19474). For first time Soviet Union is faced with consolidated Communist regime equipped with a Communist power apparatus able and willing to go an independent way. Today Tito rebellion represents outstanding political possibility for US policy inside Soviet sphere. Evidence that has accumulated over last seven months indicates conclusively that with something more than minimal facilities from US [on] long-range policy can be built on this revolt.

As we survey development of dispute in this period we find most of our earlier analysis sound. Tito-Stalin break is real. Tito has stood firm and has carried army, secret police, paramilitary, party, and mass organizations with him with far fewer and less important defections than have occurred during same period in many satellites enjoying full Moscow favor. Break has proved impossible to confine within party limits, has attained official government levels, and is steadily widening, witness Soviet’s announcement of trade reduction with [Page 858] Yugoslavia of seven-eights, exclusion from new Council for economic mutual aid, virtual severance all cultural ties with Yugoslavia on part entire bloc. Whole fabric of neo-Balkan brotherhood has been shredded and today rival nationalisms and historic animosities are rampant in area as they have not been since days of Balkan wars. More importantly terms of original disputes damaging as they were in their revelation of Soviet intransigeance regarding East Europe peasantry and full-scale communization have now taken on new dimension showing real nature of authority within new Soviet system. Yugoslavia has been quick to recognize this phase and last week published an anthology of selected papers comprising its rebuttal of Cominform charges. Yugoslavs evidently feel artificial politics of that indictment are exhausted and are now fully prepared to discuss before world opinion “essence of dispute” to which they have so often obliquely referred. In materials now becoming publicly available through recent speeches of Yugoslav leaders (Embtels 23 January 6,5 75 January 22 for examples6) distinction is being drawn by recognized Communists between Soviet Union and Communism and this for first time since Soviet’s rise to power. Adequately exploited Yugoslav documentation of this distinction with its charges of colonization and its disclosures of extent and method of subordination of needs of other nations to dictates of Soviet military planning may materially assist in altering whole European power relationship. Yugoslav affair is best illustration we are likely to have to establish before world opinion fact that primary target US policy is not any particular economic system per se but Soviet imperialism.

In seeking to formulate policy toward Yugoslavia best designed to exploit opportunity presented to US, it is important we recognize and discard certain stultifying misconceptions:

View that Yugoslav-Cominform dispute is simulated strategem employed for some devious purpose by inscrutable Soviets.
No evidence available to us in seven months since Cominform break in any way supports hoax theory (we hope it may henceforth be excluded from policy consideration). No policy can be devoid of risk but risk of Tito-Stalin legerdemain seems minimal. More subtle manifestation of theory is “wait and see”. We think additional delay will not produce improved vision and may prevent further development Yugoslav-Soviet breach.
View that Tito and associates are bloody Communists whose fate is matter of complete indifference to US.
There is some merit of consistency in this emotional approach. Its weaknesses are disregard of Yugoslavia as part of general problem [Page 859] and as sole apparent agency for undermining Soviet influence in East Europe.
View that Tito’s downfall would establish conditions for more representative and western-minded Yugoslavs.
This highly wishful approach to east European political realities ignores alike two unpleasant factors: (a) Complete lack of leadership; program, funds, organization, et cetera, both here and in exile whereby any anti-Communist Yugoslav group hope to supplant Tito regime, and (b) Fact that Cominform is ready to exploit by force any weakening in Tito’s security apparatus. We are not ready and not likely to be. In Yugoslavia there are not three choices but two: Tito or a Moscow tool.

If we can then discard these theories, case for aid to Tito as means to extract maximum advantages US from Yugoslavia-Cominform break seems controlling and questions of aid are reduced to timing and technique. Some aid from West will undoubtedly be necessary and my next following cable presents our recommendations.

Sent Department 101, pouched Moscow, Paris, London, Rome, Warsaw, Torep Paris, Trieste, Athens, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, Geneva.

  1. The reference here is to the journal, For A Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy, published in Bucharest.
  2. The reference here is to a speech made by Marshal Tito (Josip Broz), Yugoslav Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and General Secretary of the Yugoslav Communist Party to the concluding session of the Congress of the Serbian Communist Party held in Belgrade, January 17–22. A summary of Tito’s speech was transmitted in telegram 75, January 22, from Belgrade, not printed (860H.00/1–2249).
  3. Telegram 27, January 10, from Belgrade is not printed, but for a summary, see footnote 2 to telegram 28, January 10, from Belgrade, p. 854.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, p. 840.
  5. Not printed; it report that marshal Tito and other Yugoslav government officials had revealed to a special session of the Yugoslav National Assembly, held at the end of December 1948, Soviet and Cominform attempts to carry out economic imperialism against Yugoslavia (860H.00/1–649).
  6. Not printed, but see footnote 2 above.