880H.00/2–1749: Telegram

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


165. We have given much thought to possible repercussions of Mindszenty case inside Yugoslavia and on development Yugoslav policy and have come to difficult conclusion that cause of religious freedom here and political stakes of widening Tito-Stalin breach both require minimizing Stepinac parallel (Deptel 69, February 141).

Outside world knows that both were convicted because of opposition brutal regimes their countries. Both were victims of ruthless policy stamp out positive influence Catholic Church in favor democratic way of life. Within Yugoslavia Stepinac case is not solely case of opposition to a hated regime but has roots in the ancient animosities between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and between Serb and Croat. Case extends beyond Communists and non-Communist conflict to point where passions incited by infamous Pavelic2 and his wartime Croat Ustashi state still smoulder.

Admittedly world conscience demands action on behalf Stepinac but we should choose timing and method to ensure that benefits outweigh probable disadvantages. We think that US approach here along lines indicated Deptel 69, February 14 could have no positive result at this time. It would be subject to all objections previously advanced by Embassy to proposals that we endeavor utilize Tito’s dilemma to extort political advantages from him. Acquiescence on Tito’s part would so materially weaken his position vis-à-vis Cominformists that his rejection of our approach can be taken for certain. This coupled with Yugoslav pride and stubbornness might well lead to increased persecution of Catholic Church.

Yugoslav Government’s repressive actions re church are intermittent. In recent months we have been experiencing an inactive phase though we cannot yet judge whether this relative improvement reflects policy trend. At all events we think that hope for Stepinac and generally increased freedom in this country can best be based on the conviction that in long run Tito rift must lead to drift to west and toward forms of accommodation with west.

I am sure Department realizes that we here have almost daily reminders of ruthlessness and cruelty this regime in suppression of [Page 870] human rights and liberty and that we will take advantage all opportunities that this evolution may bring.

Sent Department 165, repeated Rome unnumbered, Rome pass to Amvat.

  1. Ante, p. 868.
  2. Ante Pavelić, head of the so-called Independent Croatian State, 1941–1945.