611.49/5–2450: Telegram

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Briggs) to the Secretary of State


768. Our attitude and activities here have been based on State Department policy of avoiding rupture relations if possible. We assume this under constant review in light not only Czech-US situation but also broader perspective US orbit relations.

We sense temptation provide at least temporarily salutary jolt by formal break now, as against danger continuation demoralizing [Page 567] nibbling process, end of which could be virtually paralyzed mission in Praha with attendant loss local prestige—Czech Government declaring, for example “You see, comrades, we have fixed it so the Americans cannot even cut an Embassy lawn”. We recognize that while keeping flag flying is important and encourages anti-government Czechs, large inert segment population lives in wishful expectation another liberation and until they learn must work out own salvation they unlikely be effective opposing, much less overthrowing, present ruthless regime. We appreciate likewise that skeleton Embassy may be progressively less useful as gatherer and interpreter local information as Communists rivet more shackles on own people and isolate Embassy from all kinds of contacts.

All this and tenor latest Czech personnel reduction note we have sought to evaluate as situation unfolded during recent weeks. Although locally we may today be represented as “taking a beating”, dividends in same period include Department’s May 13 statement1 and defection Houdek,2 and seem to us not inconsiderable. On net balance we still believe worthy trying maintain Mission but same time we recognize more clearly now than possible month ago the difficulties and disadvantages that may lie ahead.

Sent Department 768; repeated Moscow 54; Department pass Moscow.

  1. See the editorial note, p. 562.
  2. Vladimir Houdek, Permanent Czechoslovak Representative to the United Nations, resigned his position on May 16, 1950. In a letter of that date to President Truman, Houdek denounced the Czechoslovak regime and asked for political asylum in the United States. On June 13, 1950, the Department of State issued a statement announcing the granting of asylum to Houdek. For the text of the statement, which included Houdek’s letter to the President, see Department of State Bulletin, July 10, 1950, p. 62.