No. 604

Current Economic Developments, lot 70D467


Current Economic Developments1

No. 289

Review of US Danube Policy

We have reviewed our Danube policy to determine whether the US could at this time undertake any useful action to restore freedom of navigation or whether the Danube issue could be utilized to advantage in any negotiations with the USSR. However, it is recognized that unless the power situation in Europe changes there is little hope that the west may achieve its objectives with respect to freedom of navigation on the Danube.

The US should continue to regard the Belgrade Convention of 19482 as invalid, recognizing the statute of 1921 as the only binding international regime for navigation on the Danube. In cooperation with the UK and France we should continually seek every practical means to open the Danube to free navigation, utilizing [Page 1205] any opportunity for bringing pressure to bear on the USSR and its satellites which may result from western control of the upper Danube and the situation created in Danubian navigation and within the Danube Commission by the changing position of Yugoslavia. Insofar as it is consistent with our political aims in regard to Yugoslavia, the difficulties of that country with the satellite nations on the Danube question should be utilized for propaganda directed against the USSR and its satellites. If the general situation in the Danubian and Balkan area, created by the violation of the satellite peace treaties and threats to the security of Yugoslavia and Greece, is raised with the USSR, the issue of freedom of navigation on the Danube should also be mentioned. While the western powers should be prepared to negotiate on the question of a new international regime for the Danube they should not agree to repeat any such procedure as the Danube conference of 1948.

Developments Since Belgrade Conference. Although the US has adequately publicized its opposition to the Belgrade Convention, no discernible effect has been made upon the actions of the Communist nations nor has the USSR given any evidence of weakening on the issue. The only formal action by the western powers since the Belgrade Conference was the submission of protest notes to the eastern bloc nations. Other than provocative replies from the USSR and Czechoslovakia, no further acknowledgement has been made. We have not considered it worthwhile to take the matter before the UN or the International Court of Justice. The possibilities of bringing economic pressure to bear are limited. The USSR controls the major portion of the river and the economic necessities of the Soviet bloc nations, at least at the present stage, do not seem to require any concession to the western position, although their trade with Germany and Austria via the Danube was important to them before the war and could benefit them again if revived.

The British and French Governments have adopted the same general attitude toward the Belgrade Convention as has the US. There is no reason to believe their attitude toward the problem has altered. However, there is no indication that either would favor raising the issue directly with the USSR other than as a pure formality and as a matter of record, in the absence of concrete indications that the Soviet position has weakened.

In opposition to the western position, the USSR and the Satellites have consistently maintained the validity of the Belgrade Convention. The USSR has proceeded to implement the Belgrade Convention and regular meetings of the Danube Commission created under it have taken place. The last such meeting was held at Galatz during December 1950 and the next is scheduled for May 1951. The maintenance of a Yugoslav position in the Commission is [Page 1206] becoming increasingly difficult and the Yugoslavs have denounced Soviet domination of the Commission both within its meetings and in propaganda. In spite of Yugoslav dissatisfaction, the Commission has been able to operate and the working out of the Belgrade Convention has not presented the west with an opportunity to exert pressure for its revision. Nor has the west found it necessary or desirable to establish a rival commission to administer those portions of the Danube under its control. Several incidents have occurred involving the shipping of Soviet bloc countries on the Yugoslav stretch of the river; however, Yugoslavia has not exercised its power to shut off traffic and thus sever the middle and lower Danube as a Soviet-bloc waterway. Some Yugoslav traffic has been allowed to pass through Hungary and the Soviet Zone of Austria to western Austria and Germany and the Soviets have conditionally approved limited Austrian traffic through the Soviet zone. However, recent west German efforts to obtain safe passage for their Danubian vessels enroute to Hungary proved fruitless since the Hungarians declined to raise the issue with the Soviets.

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  1. Current Economic Developments was a weekly, classified publication, prepared by the Policy Information Committee of the Department of State. It was intended to highlight developments in the economic divisions of the Department and to indicate the economic problems which were currently receiving attention in the Department. It was circulated within the Department and to missions abroad.
  2. For documentation on U.S. participation in the Belgrade Conference on the Regime for Free Navigation of the Danube River of 1948, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, pp. 593 ff.