Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs (Yost) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins)

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The underlying paper1—to determine whether and, if so, when the U.S. should directly charge the Soviet Union with responsibility for the acts of its satellites—would seem to fall into two more or less distinct parts.

The first relates to such a charge in connection with the Korean aggression. Here the fact is that, while we have not directly charged the Soviets with this aggression, we have come very close to it and are obviously coming closer all the time. We are therefore in fact now carrying out the first recommendation in the paper.

Should there be another serious UN reverse in Korea we should probably, as a means of justification if for no other reason, wish to [Page 372] make even more clear than we have so far that North Korean success is due to Soviet training, equipment and military advice. It seems doubtful, however, that we would wish at that late date to come out with a direct accusation that the Soviets had initiated the North Korean aggression. The temper of the U.S. public under those conditions would already be more excited and, should we stimulate it in this way at that time, we might find ourselves under very heavy pressure to take action against the USSR for which we should neither be prepared ourselves nor be able to obtain the support of other UN members.

The second part of the underlying paper relates to our policy in case of a new aggression by a Soviet satellite. It is difficult to lay down a firm line without knowing the circumstances of such an aggression, but obviously important to work out our line in advance insofar as possible. I have personally never felt that the fact we might bluntly accuse the Soviets of responsibility for a satellite’s aggression would provoke them into a more direct involvement than they had otherwise intended. They are too realistic to allow their policy to be governed by the character of our propaganda. On the other hand, the effect of such a direct accusation on our own policy and public opinion must be considered. We would presumably not wish to make the accusation in such terms and circumstances, e.g., in the UNSC, which would set in motion a chain of action which would be likely to go beyond what was consonant with our capabilities at the time. However, as long as the accusation were kept within a primarily propaganda framework, I do not believe we would need hesitate to state openly the facts which were generally known. On the contrary, I think there might be advantage in so doing since, insofar as we could pin the responsibility for aggression on the Kremlin, we would queer their whole propaganda pitch at home and abroad and to that extent weaken their position in wavering areas and hence possibly encourage a slightly more cautious strategy on their part.

While there is much to be said for such a frank approach in case of aggression by the European satellites, a similar attitude in case of aggression by Communist China would seem to raise more problems. Would it be to our advantage to claim that the USSR is responsible for a Chinese attack on Formosa, Indochina or Burma? There is clearly a good deal to be said on both sides of this question and it should be very carefully examined before a decision is taken.

  1. Jessup memorandum to Matthews, August 17, supra.