760H.61/4–449: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kohler) to the Secretary of State


829. As seen from here, Kremlin is committed to liquidation of Tito and its efforts to accomplish this purpose must inevitably continue at ever accelerating pace. Temptation to use direct military force must be very great, in view possibility this is the outstanding case in world in which US and its allies would be reluctant actively to intervene. Kremlin must estimate West public would be very cold at this stage toward military aid to a dictator who continues profess orthodox Communism and hostility toward West. On other hand Moscow must be aware this attitude could change as result gradual development Yugoslav-West trade relations, if accompanied by diminution Tito’s proclaimed anti-West militancy. Moreover, Kremlin would have no moral scruples about such use of force, which it did not hesitate to apply in early twenties, at instance Stalin, to snuff out Caucasian republics independence.

However, several considerations in our view counsel against such use of force against Tito in near future, despite recent reports (as Hague’s 264 to Department March 181):

Possibility that Tito would be able effectively to resist. In this connection, unlikely satellite forces alone (or even stiffened by Soviet elements) sufficient for rapid or clean-cut conquest. Moreover, lessons of failure all-out German blitz 1941 to prevent protracted mountain resistance, certainly not lost on Kremlin, must make problematical complete, lightning conquest even by direct use Soviet armed forces.
Possibility Western powers would eventually decide to come to aid of Tito or other continuing resistance forces, thus bringing the Soviet Union into direct conflict with the West, situation for which it is not now prepared.
Ideologically devastating phenomenon which would thus be presented (despite Kremlin efforts portray as “liberation”), demonstrating that in diametric opposition to Marxist-Leninist theory, armed conflict in a polarized world takes place in Communist rather than non-Communist camp. Effect of such a spectacle on whole ideology of Communism and on attitudes of other satellite regimes would clearly be far-reaching.
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On balance, we inclined believe Kremlin will continue indirect methods, but expect these will be used with increasing vigor. It would be our guess that Tito is likely to face widespread guerilla activities on Greek pattern beginning this spring, concentrated on but not limited to border Macedonia. These guerilla groups would be composed of Greek, Yugoslav and Bulgar Macedonians, nucleus of which already in existence, plus renegade Yugoslavs and Yugoslav ethnic minorities in Rumania, Hungary and Albania. Kremlin’s calculation probably that while West has indicated intention of keeping Tito afloat economically under present conditions, it would be unwilling to Extend such aid to point required to sustain Tito if his strength were drained over period of time by such guerilla activities.

Of course if indirect guerilla effort should fail produce expected results over period some months, Kremlin would be obliged reconsider question more direct methods. Question possible proclamation Yugoslav Government National Liberation or independent Macedonian regime would, as we see it, be largely based on tactical or propaganda considerations, on which our information too scanty to warrant speculation. In any case prospect seems to us require careful analysis and decision our ability and willingness follow through on implications our policy support Tito.

Sent Department 829, repeated Belgrade 19, pouched Athens, Sofia, Budapest, Bucharest, Praha, Warsaw, Nanking.

  1. Not printed, but see footnote 6 to telegram 237, March 8, from Belgrade, p. 878.