249.1111 Oatis, William N./9–1552: Telegram

No. 12
The Chargé in Czechoslovakia (King) to the Department of State

top secret

167. We have been considering advisability capitalizing on Czech request for agreement new Wash Amb, and following has occurred to US:

Suggestions in Embtel 145 Sept 21 were prompted in part by hope Dept’s position in NY bank case could be reversed and prompt action taken in order provide suitable climate for our suggested counterproposals and to prevent present impasse from solidifying. Bank case now seems to be so complex that any possibility of a quick settlement is remote if not impossible.
We believe that we must now recognize that Czechs loss of US trade has had no decisive effect. Stopping this trade has probably only caused them to accelerate planned reorientation Czech trade with east and to recognize they cannot at this late date regain lost US markets to any appreciable extent. Furthermore, Czechs have seemingly become reconciled to permanent loss of German overflights (Embtel 166 Sept 122). The above, and exchange of Czech prisoners in Germany (which never really interested Czechs), have been our principal bargaining points in Oatis case. Without withdrawing our Sept 2 suggestions for an across-the-board settlement we are of the opinion that Dept might consider an alternative plan by which we could take advantage of fact that for the first time in over a year Czechs are asking us for something—i.e. agrément for new Amb.
We have repeatedly told Czechs that relations with US will continue be impaired so long as Oatis is imprisoned, last time being Amb Briggs ltr of Aug 20 to Gottwald (Embtel 112 Aug 203) which was, like most everything else connected with Oatis case, pointedly ignored. Czechs in rejecting our July 1 proposals4 set out “prerequisites” to continuing any further negots on US–Czech differences. We wonder if time has not arrived for us to prove it means what it says and flatly and unequivocally state that release of Oatis is condition present to solution any US–Czech differences.
By suspending payments on surplus property agreement Czechs now have undoubted tactical advantage and ironically enough are requiring US Govt itself provide dlrs which we wished deprive them of by ceasing certification of invoices, and which can be used operate Czech Wash Emb, when in fact Czechs obliged supply funds for operation US Prague Emb. It is not unrealistic to assume that any acquiescent US attitude will be interpreted by Czechs as weakness on our part, and willingness our govt put up indefinitely with Czech truculent behavior (Embtel 112 Aug 20). We believe we cannot with any sense of dignity indefinitely overlook deliberate and calculated Czech policy of ignoring practically all US requests—access to Oatis, access to Bergen, request for Oatis to send ltrs to wife thru Emb, request for payments under surplus property agrmnt, ad infinitum.
It would seem logical take no action on Czech request for agrément shld Dept believe there is any merit in alternative course outlined in para three above. In any event favorable action on Czech request might be delayed so long as Czechs ignore our request for access Oatis.
This tel drafted before Deptel 74 Sept 125 recd and we are proceeding immediately request agrément Amb Wadsworth. Independently of this we thought Dept might find foregoing of interest.6

  1. Telegram 145 offered the opinion that the Oatis case had become so intertwined with the economic issues that a comprehensive proposal should be made to clear them all up at once. (249.1111 Oatis, William N./9–252)
  2. Telegram 166 reported that the Czechoslovak Government had asked the Pan American Airlines office in Praha to cease operating. (911.5249/9–1252)
  3. See the editorial note, supra.
  4. See footnote 1, Document 10.
  5. Telegram 74 reported that George Wadsworth had been selected to succeed Briggs at Praha and instructed King to request an agrément for him. (123 Wadsworth)
  6. In a memorandum of Sept. 23, Bonbright presented King’s recommendations to Acheson, commenting that such action would surely delay acquiring an agrément for Wadsworth. Acheson instructed Bonbright to “proceed as you think best.” (Secretary’s Letters, lot 56 D 459, “B–C”) King was accordingly instructed in telegram 92 to Praha, Sept. 30, to make oral representations designed to revive the negotiations in the areas of the steel mill, compensation of U.S. citizens for nationalized property, trade, and overflights of Germany and Austria by the CSA. (249.1111 Oatis, William N./8–2952) At the request of the Czechoslovak Government, he presented these representations in the form of a memorandum, dated Oct. 9, transmitted to Washington in despatch 138, Oct. 9. (249.1111 Oatis, William N./10–952) The agrément for the new Czechoslovak Ambassador, Karel Petrželka, was meanwhile granted, and he presented his credentials on Oct. 24.