The Deputy Under Secretary of State (Rusk) to Major General James H. Burns 1


My Dear General Burns: Recent action by several Eastern European Governments has served to re-emphasize the importance and urgency of carrying out a reduction of personnel in our diplomatic missions in those countries. Such a reduction would seem to be the only feasible means, under existing circumstances, of preserving the ability of our combined staffs to accomplish their primary objectives and of forestalling further repressive measures which might completely nullify the effectiveness of our missions and even lead to a total break in diplomatic relations with those countries.

As you are aware from the contents of Army cable MA56 of March 15, 1950, from the Military Attaché at Warsaw, the Polish Government has formally requested that the present Service Attaché staff of ten officers and twenty-five auxiliary personnel be reduced by April 15, 1950, to four officers and eight auxiliary personnel, or a total of twelve.2 As you also know, the Hungarian Government has demanded a drastic reduction in the civilian and military staffs of the [Page 11] American Legation at Budapest, subsequently declaring three of the Service Attachés persona non grata.3 The Rumanian Government has severely cut the size of our staffs in Bucharest through refusing to issue visas for replacement, and, after agreement among the interested Departments in Washington, our Minister has recently submitted to the Rumanian Government a proposal involving a cut of about 50% of both civilian and military staffs.4 In Czechoslovakia the pressure has not yet been so severe but new harassments are increasingly curtailing available sources of intelligence material.5

In light of these facts the Department of State feels strongly that an attempt to maintain the current Tables of Organization for Service personnel in Warsaw, Budapest and Prague would only serve to increase the vulnerability of the missions as a whole. It is believed that enough is known now of Soviet tactics and intentions to predict that their goal is to reduce to a minimum all American representation in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. We believe that this objective can be more effectively countered by reducing our representation to a hard core of highly qualified personnel, adequate to exploit our greatly reduced capabilities at those posts, than by making a clearly futile attempt to maintain our existing TO’s and thereby providing pretexts for further reducing our capabilities until they reach zero. While we have not yet been met with a concrete demand in Czechoslovakia, we consider that there is advantage in reducing now at our own initiative and on our own terms, rather than waiting until the Czechs fix bur TO for us, as the Poles have just done.

As has been explained in previous discussions between the Department of State and the Department of Defense on the subject of staffing patterns in Eastern Europe,6 the State Department has been carrying [Page 12] out a gradual reduction of the civilian personnel over a period of the past two years. Currently, it is in the process of carrying out a 50% reduction of its personnel in the American Legation at Budapest, that is, from a current strength of 41 to approximately 24 (which will be reduced by a further 4 if the USIS office is forced to close as we have every reason to anticipate). In Czechoslovakia the civilian staff of the Embassy has been reduced since January 1948 from a total authorized strength of 67 to that of 51 and further reductions are in the process of being carried out. Likewise, in Poland during the past two years the civilian staff of the Embassy has been reduced from 58 to 37 members and reductions are continuing.

Similarly, I believe that immediate consideration must be given to reducing the Service Attaché staffs at Warsaw, Prague and Budapest from their current Tables of Organization to the following:

Warsaw: Officers—4 Enlisted Men and Civilians—8

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Czechoslovakia: Officers—4 Enlisted Men—10

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hungary: Officers—3 Enlisted Men—6

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Since the Department of State must act immediately if the situation in Eastern Europe is not to deteriorate to the point of losing our listening posts completely, I should appreciate an early indication of any over-riding objection by the Department of Defense to the staffing indicated above. I should be happy to discuss this with you at your convenience.7

Sincerely yours,

Dean Rusk
  1. Major General Burns was Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Foreign Military Affairs and Military Assistance.
  2. The military message under reference here is not printed, but see telegram 399, March 15, from Warsaw, p. 1028.
  3. See, the note of March 4 from the Legation in Hungary to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and the editorial note, pp. 995 and 997.
  4. See the note of March 14 from the Minister in Romania to the Romanian Foreign Minister, p. 1055.
  5. For documentation on the further worsening of relations with Czechoslovakia and the harassment of American officials, employees, and citizens in Czechoslovakia, see pp. 526 ff.
  6. At the daily meeting of the Secretary of State with his principal advisers on February 24, there was a discussion of the size of American military service attaché establishments in the countries of Eastern Europe. Deputy Under Secretary of State Rusk explained that the Department of State had been trying for some time to achieve agreement with the Department of Defense on the reduction of the number of attachés in the satellite countries. Rusk thought that the Secretary of State might have to take up the question with President Truman. Secretary Acheson was willing to do so, but he wanted the matter brought forcefully to the attention of Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Rusk instructed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Llewellyn E. Thompson to make strong representations through Najeeb E. Halaby, Director of the Office of Foreign Military Affairs of the Department of Defense (Summary of Daily Meeting with the Secretary, February 24, 1950: Secretary’s Daily Meetings: Lot 58 D 609: February 1950). Lot 58 D 609 is a chronological collection of the records of the Secretary of State’s daily meetings with top Department of State officials for the years 1949–1952, as maintained by the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State.
  7. In subsequent high-level meetings between State and Defense Department representatives, agreement was reached on reduced staff levels for service attachés in the Eastern European Missions. Documentation on those staff reductions is included in the compilations on relations with Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland presented elsewhere in this volume.