The Minister in Rumania (Shantz) to the
Department of State
273. Following are Legation views of Deptel 174 May 1.1[Page 59]
- Food shortages exist, probably most severe in rural areas Danube belt, Baragan, Dobrogea and in Central and Southeast Transylvania. Shortages likely increase next six weeks and then ease up with new crop harvest. Shortages most agricultural products (including fats, sugar and—to lesser extent—meat) due primarily government not letting peasants retain sufficient foods for own use. Also, only part foods taken from peasants given urbanites in meager rations; rest exported or stored. Present diet not adequate nor as good as pre-war, but no one starving, merely unhappy. Do not anticipate deaths from hunger anywhere in country although there is certainly suffering.
For Rumanian Government to accept our offer would contravene whole basis its propaganda line. It, therefore, will surely reject offer and open propaganda attack. It will reassert rising Rumanian living standards and adequate diet; charge US with attempted economic imperialism in order dispose food surpluses and help out American farmers who facing sales crises due internal contradictions capitalist system; maintain any help needed will come from USSR which has already helped much; sound off on need re-open “normal East-West trade”; and in any case reject distribution by non-Communist agency.
Reaction many Rumanian people probably would be favorable, tempered by realization American propaganda motive and unhappiness that US offer may strengthen Rumanian regime via food shipments. Reaction others expected be unfavorable. Both Communist minority and large anti-Communist anti-Russian majority recall that no matter how poor people were before, they always had enough to eat; and neither group have illusions about what is now happening to former Rumanian food surpluses. Peasant saying here is “Rumania is cow with many teats, all of which held by Russia”. Both peasant and worker likely be more puzzled than pleased by action of “friends” who claim to help by feeding cow (and thus Russia).
Believe it now too late to get in shipments before new harvest grains and summer vegetable crop. Also, we question whether we should risk improving food position of Soviet orbit when it has been deliberately exporting some foods to non-orbit areas, especially Western Europe—and Rumania also exporting to orbit countries as part Communist industrialization policy.
Rumanian propaganda attack would include advice to us to give our food to our own unemployed and slum dwellers and to underfed masses France, Italy, etc. who are in misery owing armaments expenditures forced on them by US. If offer made, we should be ready with facts, figures, percentages (their own pet device) to show up falsity their attack.[Page 60]
On balance, we do not think food shortages in Rumania are grave enough to enable us to win resulting propaganda battle decisively. Moreover, we assume full consideration being given to effect of proposed offer on Asiatic and other countries where food standards are lower than here and to which US has in past sold (not given) food. Believe we would have to be ready immediately on rejection offer here to repeat same offer to such countries under similar conditions. Indeed, whether Rumanians by miracle accept offer or not, we would still have to face implications this move for our moral duty supply all hardship and famine areas in world in indefinite future unless we willing meet charges we give away food only as part “cold war” without humanitarian aims.