No. 681


Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

Subject: Decision on Policy Toward Czechoslovakia.


The problem is to reach a decision on policy toward Czechoslovakia in view of the implications of the Czechoslovak note of May 21 charging the US Government broadly with hostile incitement from Western Germany against Czechoslovakia and its people, and elaborating two specific cases of such hostile activity in the RFE broadcasts and an alleged border violation on May 4.


The substance of this note was mentioned by the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister in a meeting with Ambassador Briggs on May 16 with reference to the Oatis case but it would probably have been presented in any event. The impulse to the message was doubtless the inauguration on May 1 of RFE Czech and Slovak language broadcasts from a location near Munich. A directional antenna beamed toward Czechoslovakia with a power of 135 kilowatts transmits programs amounting to a total of about eleven hours each day. It is apparent from the Czechoslovak note that the RFE transmissions from Munich have made a real impact and that the Czechoslovak authorities regard this as a climactic step in a campaign of mounting US efforts against the regime. They are thus reacting strongly against our increasing pressure which also includes hard-hitting VOA programs and mounting unconventional activities.

The Czechoslovak Communists may be admonishing us, in their own jargon, to halt or suffer the consequences. The issue appears to be whether we should stop and retreat, or proceed ahead with a prospect of intense strain on our relations with the Czechoslovak Government and a possible break in these relations in the not too distant future. Because of our position in Western Germany adjoining Czechoslovakia, the general distribution of radio facilities in [Page 1368] that country, and its particular receptivity to appeal from the West, we have concentrated heavily in our pressure on the Communist regime in that country. The Czechoslovak response now may therefore well constitute a test of our intentions with respect to Czechoslovakia alone and not represent an omen of the same effect at this time on US relations with other satellites.

The Department has found, and continues to find, definite advantages in keeping diplomatic missions in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. These include the gathering of information, providing VOA with guidance based on immediate knowledge of current conditions and developments in the country concerned, and keeping the flag flying to help sustain the morale of the non-Communist elements under the oppressive hardships of Communist rule. The Department of Defense likewise attaches great importance to having military observers on the spot in the Eastern European countries at this critical time. The Department has accordingly believed that diplomatic relations should be maintained with the satellite governments so long as possible without our suffering intolerable indignities or serious prejudice to the American position in the world.

It is difficult to see how in the present circumstances we could abandon or reverse our present policies toward the Czechoslovak regime or other satellite regimes without stultification and without unfortunate repercussions on the democratic elements in the Eastern European countries. On the other hand, if we proceed ahead and events culminate in a break in diplomatic relations with Czechoslovakia we lose the advantages mentioned above and, if this occurs before the free world’s strength is adequately built up, our Western allies may be seriously disturbed.


1. That a decision be taken in favor of continuing RFE activities and other forms of pressure on the Czechoslovak regime, even if this means an eventual break in diplomatic relations with Czechoslovakia.

2. That the Czechoslovak note and its implications for the future not be permitted to interfere with such counter-measures as may be necessary in connection with the Oatis case.

  1. Drafted by Vedeler of EUR/EE, cleared by Higgs of EE and Deputy Assistant Secretary Bonbright, and concurred in by the Policy Planning Staff, the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and the Acting Chief of Staff of U.S. Army Intelligence. Signed personally by Secretary Acheson.