Under Secretary’s Meetings: Lot 53 D 250: Documents

Paper Prepared in the Bureau of Public Affairs, Department of State1


Retaliatory Action Against USSR and Satellite Restrictions on U.S. Information Materials problem

To determine what action should be taken to combat restrictions on the USIE program in the USSR and satellite countries in the light of Soviet policy to create conditions compelling the U.S. to withdraw diplomatic representation and close off other contacts.2


There is ample evidence that the USSR has determined to close off as completely as possible the normal avenues of communication between the Soviet world and the United States, The break in diplomatic relations with Bulgaria may be considered a test case, indicating the extremes to which the USSR is prepared to go in this respect.
The methods by which the USSR creates conditions leading to a break in relations or to a closing of other normal avenues of communication indicate a desire to put the onus for initiating such action on the United States. By compelling us to take such action, the USSR apparently hopes to further integrate the satellites into the Soviet system and to encourage belief among the satellite peoples that the U.S. has written them off as lost to the Western world. Apparently, [Page 291] the USSR further hopes to induce us to take actions on our own initiative which impose restrictions on the flow of information and ideas between the nations and peoples involved, in contradiction to our stated principles.
In view of the manifest Soviet strategy, as well as the psychological implications of keeping our missions in Iron Curtain countries and of maintaining the principle of freedom of information and movement, it is greatly to our advantage to hold on in the face of pressure and to maintain our representation and channels of communication as long as possible. Withdrawal, in addition to disappointing peoples within Iron Curtain areas, would also have an adverse public opinion impact on areas of special sensitivity such as Western Europe and possibly Southeast Asia. Likewise, initiative on the part of the U.S. which may be interpreted as abandonment of the principle of freedom of information would have an adverse effect.
In the application of presures, Soviet policy has begun to concentrate on restricting U.S. information materials and instruments. The USIE is threatened in Rumania3 and the magazine Amerika is threatened in Czechoslovakia and the USSR.4 It is likely the USSR reasons that this course will weaken the propaganda position of the U.S.
The question of retaliation in kind, in response to USSR pressure to close out U.S. information channels, has arisen in the Department. Although some form of counter-pressure may be necessary to prevent or delay action against the USIE or some of its materials, retaliation in kind would seem to be the least desirable tactic. If the above estimate of USSR intentions towards satellite contacts is accurate, retaliation in kind is unlikely to force a change in that policy. Retaliation in kind would seem to be in general an unwise course, since it is possible that it might increase, rather than decrease, the difficulties confronting the entire USIE program in the satellite countries and by so doing might inflict more damage on the U.S. than on Soviet Russia. Also, retaliation in kind would possibly deprive the U.S. of the ability to claim unqualified observance of the principle of freedom of information. Since the information media of the USSR and Soviet controlled countries in the United States are neither an important factor in the Communist propaganda program in the U.S. nor do they constitute a threat to the security of the U.S., they cannot be considered as a quid pro quo in trade for the more effective and more valuable USIE program in the Soviet world.
In addition to such delaying tactics of all kinds as may seem practical, such as re-negotiations, further inquiries, requests for clarification, [Page 292] offers to change operation procedures, etc., a fruitful method for delaying the expected final close-out of U.S. missions and information services would seem to be an intensive propaganda campaign to bring to the attention of the world public the Soviet design for sealing off all the peoples within its control.


The objective of the U.S. should be to keep open for as long a time as possible all avenues of contact and communication between the U.S. and the governments and peoples of the Soviet world.
In furthering this objective, the U.S. should delay and frustrate as far as possible USSR efforts to isolate the Soviet world from the West, and should refrain from itself contributing to this process by closing off avenues of communication into the U.S.
In combatting Communist restrictions on USIE activities behind the Iron Curtain the U.S. should refrain from retaliation in kind. Exceptions if any would be made only under extreme circumstances and upon a determination by the Secretary that the greatest net overall benefit to U.S. interests would result from such retaliation.
The U.S. should make propaganda capital of its position in this matter, widely publicizing the USSR effort to isolate its captive peoples and its own efforts to counter this process in the interests of freedom of information and thought. Where it is found necessary to cancel the diplomatic privilege of, or otherwise restrict a USSR or satellite propagandist in the U.S., such action should be carefully related to the technical question involved, never to restriction of the freedom of information.
  1. This paper, which was circulated to the Under Secretary’s Meeting as document UM D–95, April 13, incorporates revisions of an earlier draft, dated March 8, made in response to suggestions from the Bureau of European Affairs. Documentation on the earlier draft and the various proposals for changes culminating in the revised version printed here are included in file 511.612.

    This paper was considered by the Under Secretary’s Meeting on April 17; see the record of that meeting, p. 302.

  2. Documentation on the restrictions imposed upon United States diplomatic and informational activity in Eastern European countries is included in the compilations on relations with Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania presented elsewhere in this volume.
  3. See the documentation on the restriction and harassment of the Legation in Romania, pp. 1052 ff.
  4. For documentation on the problems of the distribution of the magazine Amerika in the Soviet Union, see pp. 1074 ff.