611.49/2–1850: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Czechoslovakia


135. If Abbott and Johnson1 are not released in nearest future, we believe active steps must be taken to exert pressure in their behalf. While informing FonOff decision to close Mormon Mission may possibly expedite release two missionaries ur 239 Feb 17,2 we realize apparent Czech tactic in all our pending questions with FonOff is to avoid issue and to delay even when decision may have been taken not to comply with our request ur 246 Feb 18.2 We are therefore inclined to feel time is at hand to let Czech Govt know it cannot proceed on this course without serious deterioration relations between two countries. If you consider it helpful in light Bul developments you are authd to take fol step.

You may seek frank interview with Gottwald3 if feasible, or Clementis otherwise, for basic review of present state US-Czech relations. You may point out your earnest efforts ever since accreditation to assure the existence of tranquillity and mutual accommodation between two govts by extending area of agreement, only to be met with series of cases (Hvasta, particularly latest development, Bratislava’s 7 Feb 16;4 Amerika;5 arrests ur 201 Feb 11;6 termination telecommunication services;7 two missionaries; etc.), in which Czech [Page 536] has not shown same spirit. You may then state that in these circumstances you are requested by your Govt to ask two questions: (1) What is ultimate purpose Czech Govt in exhibiting attitude so much at variance with Emb’s approach and normal standards internl relations; (2) what is US to infer from position taken by Czech Govt in this series of cases.

You may continue in fol vein: For some time past US Govt has been keeping this situation under close review and in its opinion case of two missionaries finally brings question of relations between two govts to point where most careful joint examination needed to see where we are going. It is not clear whether attitude of Czech Govt is deliberately provocative or is still subject to reasonable negotiation. If the Czech Govt persists in its course, it will be aware relations with US will inevitably deteriorate and it wld be impossible to foresee where train of consequences arising from actions both govts might lead. US is reluctant to embark on this road and hopes that every effort may be made to maintain relations between two govts on basis normal internatl intercourse. Czech Govt will doubtless realize, however, US, like any other nation, cannot be expected to accept passively rejection of its efforts to place our mutual relations on basis reciprocal accord and will, although regretful that circumstances require it, take such steps as may be considered necessary to protect Amer citizens and otherwise defend its rights. These are recognized in internatl law and by US as belonging to every country with which it maintains dipl intercourse. Case of two missionaries affords occasion for Czech Govt to clarify its intentions and to reveal character it wishes our mutual relations to have in future.

FYI we recognize, as suggested, Deptel 110 Feb 10,8 we shall in all probability eventually be forced operate in all our missions satellite countries under such restrictions as imposed on Amembassy Moscow. While we wish to make every effort delay process we believe advantages in maintaining relations are such we shld not force show-down on issue status Emb ur 218 Feb 13.9 On other hand we take most serious view arbitrary arrest and detention these Amer citizens and we are now considering taking such retaliatory measures as may be feasible if appropriate wait after interview outlined above shows no tangible effect on obtaining release Johnson and Abbott.

  1. Regarding the Mormon missionaries Abbott and Johnson, released from Czechoslovak custody on February 23, see footnote 5, p. 533.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Klement Gottwald, President of Czechoslovakia and Chairman of the Czechoslovak Communist Party.
  5. Regarding the Hvasta case, see footnote 2, p. 526. The telegram under reference here, not printed, reported that Hvasta appeared to have been transferred from the prison where he was serving his sentence for alleged espionage. (125.225H3/2–1650)
  6. Regarding the Amerika issue, see footnote 3, p. 530.
  7. Not printed; it reported that the Slovak police had arrested a number of persons as they departed from a film exhibition at the United States Information Service Library in Bratislava on February 10 (511.49/2–1150).
  8. Regarding the suspension of the Embassy’s telecommunications facilities to Heidelberg, see footnote 1, p. 529.
  9. Ante, p. 531.
  10. Not printed, but see footnote 6, ibid .