611.49/2–850: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Czechoslovakia 1


110. As we see it from here, Czech restrictions ur 184 Feb 82 and our 88 Feb 3,3 while representing in some measure harassments imposed in that country ever since 1948, tend to follow pattern of more rapid tempo into which our relations with satellite countries are now falling generally. It is apparent during past six months restrictive policies [Page 532] satellite govts toward visitors and dipl reps Western countries have been considerably intensified. We assume this has been accomplished under central direction with intention of reducing contacts with West to absolute minimum. If this interpretation correct it has been made impossible to enlarge “area of agreement” with Czech Govt, or even preserve extent of this area, in spite of your best efforts. We may well anticipate accordingly stormy period ahead of added difficulties and obstruction in Czech, as elsewhere in satellite countries, with consequent deterioration in relations with US. As you know we have reacted vigorously to such developments in Bulg and break in dipl relations may result.4 Dept hopes that this in turn may exert favorable effect on other satellite govts.

This raises question as to our primary objective and advisable tactics as efforts are accelerated to reduce scope our operations or possibly to drive us out completely. We feel our paramount purpose and criterion of decisions as to nature, extent, and pace our counter assertion, insofar as this consonant with protection Amer citizens and defense more important Amer interests, shld be maintenance of contact with Czech people (through US info activities, Emb, and travel Amer citizens) so long as we can even if this means less forceful action at times than particular circumstances wld warrant in themselves apart from broader considerations. We are thus reluctant to take strong action precipitating consequences which might seriously impair such contact unless no feasible alternative is possible.

We fully recognize that contact with Czech people is being progressively cut down through discouragement visits Amers as result expulsions and arrests and through encroachment on our info program (Amerika, intimidation patrons USIS Libraries). However much we wish to preserve contact through visits Amer citizens there comes point when our obligation to protect from risk arrest and detention those who wish to travel to Czech may predominate over any other consideration, compelling Dept to deny passport facilities in such cases. But until we are clearly forced to go this far we prefer to move slowly in the interest of keeping available avenues open to Czech people. If and when complete prohibition travel necessary, it wld appear desirable to take this step in connection with specific arrest case for whatever it may be worth as pressure in endeavor to obtain release person detained. In this connection Dept has now begun formally to advise recipients of passports expressing interest in Czech in view of existing conditions in that country only absolutely essential travel shld be undertaken.

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If Abbott and Johnson arrested and kept in custody (ur 174 Feb 7, 183 Feb 8 and 191 Feb 95) this may well force the issue as to status Amer citizens in Czech and require us to proceed with range of retaliatory measures which Emb and Dept have had under study including prohibition of travel Amer citizens, denial of visas for attendance Chicago Trade Fair and similar purposes, closing of Czech consulates here, etc. Our feeling now is interference Czech transportation Ger through denial military permits for trucks might better be held in store for present because of complications it wld involve in relation HICOG and West Ger and likelihood even greater need in future for exertion pressure through measures this type. Meanwhile we are keeping careful watch over developments reported in case Abbott and Johnson with view, if necessary, not only to extending maximum assistance in their protection but to using this as advantageous case to deal with issue in principle of Amer rights.

  1. Repeated to Frankfort as 935, to Moscow as 121.
  2. Supra.
  3. Ante, p. 528.
  4. For documentation on the events leading to the severance of diplomatic relations with Bulgaria on February 20, 1950, see pp. 503 ff.
  5. None printed. They reported on the case of Stanley E. Abbott and C. Aldon Johnson, American citizens and missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who were arrested by Czechoslovak authorities in Moravia in late January, held incommunicado and interrogated regarding alleged acts of espionage, and summarily expelled from Czechoslovakia on February 23, 1950. A report on their arrest, detention, and expulsion was transmitted in despatch 7, March 1, from Basel, not printed (249.1111/3–150).