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S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 174 Series

No. 51
Report to the National Security Council by the National Security Council Planning Board1

top secret
NSC 174

[Page 111]

Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council on United States Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe

(Except as otherwise indicated, parenthetical references are to paragraphs in the Staff Study)

general considerations

1. Soviet control over the Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany2) has contributed importantly to the power disequilibrium in Europe and to the threat to the security of the United States. Despite economic dislocation and administrative difficulties, the Kremlin has made considerable progress in exploiting the industrial capacity of the satellites and expanding their military capabilities for use as a coordinated whole with those of the Soviet Union. (2–4, 37)

2. Barriers to the consolidation of the Soviet Union are:

The anti-communist attitude of the great majority of the population in each satellite. This anti-communism is intensified particularly by loss of personal freedom and a reduced standard of living, as well as by outraged religious and national feelings, but its undiminished survival over the long run is jeopardized by communist [Page 112]control over every aspect of the lives of the people, particularly the young.
The continued refusal of the West to accept the permanence of the imposed satellite regimes as compatible with the freedom and self-determination of nations. (5–6)

3. Despite the widespread popular opposition to communism in each of the satellites, known underground groups capable of armed resistance have survived only as scattered remnants in a few areas, and are now generally inactive. The recent uprisings in East Germany and the unrest in other European satellites evidence: (a) the failure of the Soviets fully to subjugate these peoples or to destroy their desire for freedom; (b) the dependence of these satellite governments on nearby Soviet armed forces; and (c) the relative unreliability of satellite armed forces (especially if popular resistance in the satellites should increase). These events necessarily have placed internal and psychological strains upon the Soviet leadership. Nevertheless, the ability of the USSR to exercise effective control over, and to exploit the resources of, the European satellites has not been appreciably reduced, and is not likely to be, so long as the USSR maintains adequate military forces in the area. (3)

4. The death of Stalin created for Soviet dominion over the satellites new problems which may lend themselves to exploitation. Although there is as yet no evidence that Soviet capability to dominate the satellites has been impaired since the death of Stalin, the possibility nevertheless exists that a greater concentration of effort may be required to maintain control and that the new Soviet leaders may have to moderate the pace and scope of their programs in the satellites. Such moderation is indicated by the new economic measures, recently announced by the satellite regimes. (7)

5. Although nationalist opposition to Soviet domination is a disruptive force within the Soviet orbit, and even within the communist movement itself, it does not appear likely that a non-Soviet regime on the Tito model will emerge in many of the satellites under existing circumstances. The combination of basic factors which made possible the successful Yugoslav defection from Moscow is lacking in many of the satellites. In addition the Kremlin has taken drastic measures since the Yugoslav defection to guard against further defections. (6, 8–17)

6. Tito’s establishment of an independent communist regime, nevertheless, has brought valuable assets to the free world in the struggle against aggressive Soviet power. It provides a standing example of successful defiance of the Kremlin and is proof that there is a practical alternative for nationalist communist leaders to submission to Soviet control. There are further advantages flowing from Yugoslavia’s political and military cooperation with the West, [Page 113]its association with Greece and Turkey in a Balkan entente, and its role as a vigorous propaganda weapon against Soviet communism. (18–21)

7. East Germany poses special and more difficult problems of control for the USSR than do the other satellites. The fact that the main body of the German nation in the Federal Republic has made continued advances in freedom and economic well-being, and the fact that West Berlin provides a means of contact with the free world, serve to keep alive the hope for an eventual escape from Soviet domination. By utilizing these special advantages the West can probably continue to exploit strong popular anti-communism, maintain East Germany as a focal point and example of disaffection for the rest of the Soviet satellites, make difficult full utilization of East Germany’s economic resources, and keep alive Soviet doubts as to the reliability of the East German population in time of war. At the same time, U.S. policy toward East Germany must take into account the latter’s relationship to the problem of German unification, the integration of the Federal Republic with Western Europe, and the importance of, and dangers inherent in, preserving our access to and position in Berlin. (24, 41, Annex B)

8. The detachment of any major European satellite from the Soviet bloc does not now appear feasible except by Soviet acquiescence or by war. Such a detachment would not decisively affect the Soviet military capability either in delivery of weapons of mass destruction or in conventional forces, but would be a considerable blow to Soviet prestige and would impair in some degree Soviet conventional military capabilities in Europe. (NSC 162/1, para. 5–b)

policy conclusions

9. It is in the national security interests of the United States to pursue a policy of determined resistance to dominant Soviet influence over the satellites in Eastern Europe and to seek the eventual elimination of that influence. Accordingly, feasible political, economic, propaganda and covert measures are required to create and exploit troublesome problems for the USSR, complicate control in the satellites, and retard the growth of the military and economic potential of the Soviet bloc. Decisions on such measures to impose pressures on the Soviet bloc should take into account the desirability of creating conditions which will induce the Soviet leadership to be more receptive to acceptable negotiated settlements. Accordingly, this policy should be carried out by flexible courses of action in the light of current estimates of the Soviet Government’s reactions and of the situation in the satellite states concerned, after calculation of the advantages and disadvantages to the general position of [Page 114]the United States in relation to the USSR and to the free world. (37–42)

basic objectives

10. Long-range: The eventual fulfillment of the rights of the peoples in the Soviet satellites to enjoy governments of their own choosing, free of Soviet domination and participating as peaceful members in the free world community. (2, 37)

11. Current:

To disrupt the Soviet-satellite relationship, minimize satellite contributions to Soviet power, and deter aggressive world policies on the part of the USSR by diverting Soviet attention and energies to problems and difficulties within the Soviet bloc. (35, 39)
To undermine the satellite regimes and promote conditions favorable to the eventual liberation of the satellite peoples. (35, 36, 38, 39)
To conserve and strengthen the assets within the satellites, and among their nationals outside, which may contribute to U.S. interests in peace or war, and to the ultimate freedom of the satellites. (29–32, 39)
To lay the groundwork, as feasible with reasonable risk, for resistance to the Soviets in the event of war. (29–30, 35)

courses of action

12. Use appropriate means short of military force to oppose, and to contribute to the eventual elimination of, Soviet domination over the satellites; including, when appropriate, concert with NATO or other friendly powers, resort to UN procedures, and, if possible, negotiation with the USSR. (23–32, 36)

13. Encourage and assist the satellite peoples in resistance to their Soviet-dominated regimes, maintaining their hopes of eventual freedom from Soviet domination, while avoiding:

Incitement to premature revolt.
Commitments on the nature and timing of any U.S. action to bring about liberation.
Incitement to action when the probable reprisals or other results would yield a net loss in terms of U.S. objectives.3 (26, 29, 30, 40)

. . . . . . .

20. Encourage democratic, anti-communist elements in the satellites; but at the same time be prepared to exploit any …tendencies, and to assist “national communist” movements [Page 115]under favorable conditions, making clear, as appropriate, that opportunities for survival exist outside the Soviet bloc. (8–16, 41)

21. Exploit the developing organizations of Western unity (NATO, OEEC, CSC, etc.) as a force of attraction for the satellites. (22)

. . . . . . .

23. Support or make use of refugees or exile organizations which can contribute to the attainment of U.S. objectives, but do not recognize governments-in-exile. (32)

. . . . . . .

25. Maintain flexibility in U.S. economic policies toward the Soviet bloc, and toward individual satellites, in order to gain maximum advantage with the limited economic weapons at hand (both restrictions and incentives). (27, 28)

26. Continue U.S. diplomatic missions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Rumania as long as may be in the U.S. interest, and keep under review the possibility of resuming diplomatic relations with Bulgaria.4 (25)

27. Exploit the existence, and encourage the development, of the Yugoslav-Greek-Turkish entente as a means of weakening Soviet power in the Balkan satellites and as an example of free association of independent Balkan nations serving as a potential alternative to Soviet rule. (22)

28. Keep the situation with respect to Albania under continuing surveillance with a view to the possibility of detachment of that country from the Soviet bloc at such time as its detachment might be judged to serve the over-all U.S. interest. (15, 31, Annex B)

29. Exploit, to the fullest extent compatible with the policies regarding Germany as a whole and Berlin, the special opportunities offered by West Berlin and the facilities of the Federal Republic to undermine Soviet power in East Germany. Place the Soviets in East Germany on the defensive by such measures as may be taken to keep alive the hope of German reunification. (24, 41)

30. Emphasize (a) the right of the peoples of Eastern Europe to independent governments of their own choosing and (b) the violation of international agreements by the Soviet and satellite Governments, whereby they have been deprived of that right, particularly [Page 116]the Yalta Declaration on Liberated Europe and the Treaties of Peace with Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania. (2, 37)


Staff Study by the Planning Board of the National Security Council

United States Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe


1. To determine what policies with respect to the Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, and East Germany5 will best serve the national interests of the United States, and in particular will contribute to the resistance to and eventual elimination of dominant Soviet influence over those satellites. It is necessary to reexamine and revise, where necessary and desirable in the light of intervening developments, the conclusions of NSC 58/2.


Importance of the Satellites

2. The satellites are of importance in the current balance of power in Europe because they augment the political, military and economic power of the Soviet Union and extend Soviet power into the heart of Europe. The permanent consolidation of Soviet control in this area would represent a serious threat to the security of the United States and Western Europe. It is likewise our traditional policy to recognize and support the right of such peoples to independence and to governments of their own choosing. The elimination of dominant Soviet influence over the satellites is, therefore, in the fundamental interest of the United States.

Soviet Domination of the Satellites

3. Soviet domination of the satellites remains a basic fact; there is no evidence as yet to indicate that Soviet capability to dominate the satellites has been significantly affected by anything that has [Page 117]happened since the death of Stalin. However, Soviet suppression of the riots in East Germany suggests that the satellite regimes themselves may be unable, without Soviet armed forces available, to maintain the population in subjection to the will of the Kremlin.

4. The Kremlin has pushed forward with considerable success its plans to expand the industrial and military capabilities of the satellites and to coordinate their Sovietized political system, military establishments and economies with those of the USSR in a working totality. Although the Kremlin permits and encourages programs of cultural, economic and technical collaboration among the satellites, it appears determined to bind the satellites individually to the USSR rather than to unify them. Whether and when the Soviet leaders will take the formal step of incorporating any or all of the satellites into the USSR itself is unpredictable.

Opposition to Soviet Domination

5. The great majority of the population in each satellite continues to be opposed to the communist regime and resents the lack of personal freedom and hard living conditions for which the regime is responsible. The aggrieved religious feelings resulting from the communist attack on religion have also served to intensify this widespread anti-communism. The anti-communist majorities are not in a position to carry on active resistance which would represent a serious challenge to Soviet power in any of these satellites with the possible exception of Albania, as is noted hereafter. Nevertheless, by passive resistance they can impede the process of Sovietization and afford a main element on which must be based eventual elimination of dominant Soviet influence. It is recognized at the same time that, if the process of exclusive communist indoctrination and education proceeds without interruption for an indeterminate period, it is uncertain how strong this anti-communist sentiment may remain.

6. In addition to anti-communism per se, nationalism is a significant factor of opposition to Soviet control in all the satellites. These peoples will not reconcile themselves in a few years to the loss of national independence, a disregard of national traditions and the enforced glorification of the USSR. The nationalist sentiment focuses on the memory of better times in the past, hopes for the future, and the resentment felt at the injuries and insults experienced under the present regime. In many respects it is the strongest leverage available for strengthening the morale of the satellite populations, sustaining their spirit of resistance to Soviet imperialism, and encouraging their defiance of servile communist regimes. Nationalism is, however, a double-edged weapon, raising a number of operational problems, as we have discovered in our [Page 118]propaganda work and dealings with the refugees. Besides arousing anti-Soviet feeling, nationalist sentiment also creates divisions among these peoples themselves. Magyars against Slavs and Rumanians, Slovaks against Czechs, Poles against Germans and Germans against the Slavs. A problem which will become increasingly serious as nationalist sentiment ferments is that of the Polish-occupied areas of Germany east of the Oder–Neisse line.

7. The death of Stalin created for Soviet dominion over the satellites new problems which may lend themselves to exploitation. Although there is as yet no evidence that Soviet capability to dominate the satellites has been impaired since the death of Stalin, the possibility nevertheless exists that a greater concentration of effort may be required to maintain control and that the new Soviet leaders may have to moderate the pace and scope of their programs in the satellites. Such moderation is indicated by the new economic measures, recently announced by the satellite regimes, which give priority to increasing the output of consumer goods in order to improve popular morale and to stimulate labor productivity. In promulgating the new policy, the satellite regimes have admitted that an economic dislocation has developed, mainly because of an overemphasis on the development of heavy industry and a neglect of agricultural development. The satellite regimes now seek a modification of industrial and agricultural programs to bring about a more normal balance between industry and agriculture and to raise the level of popular morale. The communists have rationalized that this corrective will provide a healthier foundation for future economic growth and for further Sovietization of the satellite countries.

Possibilities of “Titoism”

8. NSC 58/2 laid down a policy of fostering communist heresy among the satellites and encouraging the emergence of non-Stalinist regimes as temporary administrations even though communist in nature. However, as was noted in the third Progress Report on implementation of NSC 58/2, dated May 22, 1951, the Kremlin and its local agents have been successful in warding off any trend in the satellites comparable to that which led to the break between Moscow and Yugoslavia. In fact, in none of the satellites have there developed the capabilities such as rendered Tito’s defection successful.

9. Of all the European satellite leaders, only Tito achieved controlling power. He created an impressive military force, as well as a political organization, responsive to his own leadership which maintained itself inside Yugoslavia during the war and which, following withdrawal of the Nazi forces, possessed requisite power to [Page 119]impose its will upon the Yugoslav people without substantial assistance from the Red Army. All the other communist regimes, with the exception of Hoxha’s government in Albania, were placed in power by the Red Army itself or by threat of force which the Red Army represented. These regimes, therefore, were from the outset dependent on Soviet military power for their very existence and have remained so. In East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Rumania, the physical presence of sizable Soviet forces bears daily witness to Soviet domination of these satellites. In Poland the Minister of Defense is a Soviet marshal, and Soviet officers occupy the higher posts throughout the Polish armed forces. In all the satellites there are large Soviet military missions which are supervising the reorganization of the satellite armed forces, and Soviet commanders, advisers, and technicians are located in key command and staff positions in the military forces and in the defense ministries.

10. Thus, the ultimate basis of Soviet control in the satellites is Soviet military domination of these countries. The Soviet forces stationed within the satellites and in the Soviet Zone of Austria in April 1953 consisted of 538,000 personnel from the Soviet Army (including military missions), 24,000 security troops, and 2,400 Soviet-manned aircraft.

11. Of all the satellite leaders of Eastern Europe, only Tito could claim to exercise effective control over the state security apparatus. His security forces were built up on the basis of personal loyalty demonstrated in the heat of battle, and Tito knew that he could trust the overwhelming majority of the higher echelons of his command. None of the current satellite leaders can count on this kind of allegiance from the key personnel of their security establishments. Soviet liaison personnel maintain close supervision over the leading satellite officials, and it is doubtful whether far-reaching orders issued by those leaders to any of their respective security organs would be executed without confirmation from Soviet controlled sources. In contrast, it was Tito’s steadfast denial to Soviet liaison officials of uncontrolled access to his security organization which contributed extensively to the friction climaxed by the break between Tito and the Kremlin.

12. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Rumania have a common land frontier with the USSR. Bulgaria has a common sea frontier. These states are accordingly more exposed to Soviet military intervention and hence more readily susceptible to Soviet pressure and control than was Yugoslavia which shares no common frontier with the USSR. Furthermore, with Yugoslavia’s long sea coast facing the West, greater possibilities to obtain material support from the Western powers in the event of a break with [Page 120]Moscow were available to Tito than there would be to the other satellites, with the exception of Albania.

13. Since Tito’s defection in 1948, the Soviets have taken stringent and thorough measures to guard against a similar development in other satellites. Leaders in whom any taint of Titoism was suspected have been either shorn of all power, imprisoned, or actually liquidated. If any leader through long tenure in office or for any other reason seemed to be gaining too much power, he has been ruthlessly eliminated. The customary security safeguards have been tightened and expanded. A series of friendship and mutual assistance pacts have been concluded among the various satellites (except Albania and East Germany) and with the USSR which in effect obligate the parties signatory to go to each other’s aid in the event of action from without. The relationship of the USSR to the satellite regimes raises every probability that the Soviets would in effect intervene in the face of internal action threatening the overthrow of the Soviet-controlled regimes, except possibly in the case of Albania.

14. In the light of the foregoing considerations, the chances are negligible at the present time that any existing satellite communist regime would or could break away from Moscow under its own power, or, with the possible exception of Albania, that any anti-Soviet faction could seize or hold power in a satellite and bring about its detachment from the Soviet bloc.

15. Albania is to some extent an exception in that, unlike the other satellites, it does enjoy geographical isolation from the rest of the Soviet bloc and access to the West by sea. Although the other factors which rendered Tito’s defection successful are generally not present, Soviet control in Albania is challenged by the inherent potential of the internal anti-communist majority whose resistance could be supported by the large Albanian population in the neighboring Kossovar region of Yugoslavia. The necessity of Western cooperation with Yugoslavia would of course be a complicating factor. Albanian refugees in the West might also be used although their disunity would seriously hamper any such action.

16. Nationalism may, nevertheless, continue to be a disruptive force within the communist movement open to exploitation by the United States. Not all communists in the satellites are able or willing to serve Moscow’s interest without any regard for that of their own nation; the very problems of governing their respective territories and of meeting the goals which have been set seem to require at least a minimum of cooperation from the people and may lead certain local communists to oppose as best they can those Kremlin demands and policies which put too great a strain upon their own position. In any of the satellite communist parties there are likely [Page 121]to be personal antagonisms and other differences which might be exploited from the outside.

17. Since the relation of Communist China to the USSR is believed to involve considerably less subordination than that of the European satellites, the diplomatic, trade and cultural connections between the satellites and Communist China represent a potentially troublesome factor in Soviet-satellite relations. While this factor is not easily susceptible to exploitation by the U.S., it should be closely watched for whatever opportunities it may offer.

Significance of Yugoslavia in Policy Toward the Satellites

18. Even though no other satellite has followed or seems capable (with the possible exception of Albania) of following the path of Tito’s Yugoslavia under existing conditions, the example of Yugoslavia continues to be a significant factor in the satellite picture. Tito’s success in maintaining Yugoslavia’s independence constitutes a standing insult to Soviet prestige and a challenge to Soviet infallibility. His political and ideological counteroffensive has been a disturbing factor within the satellite communist parties.

19. … In the political field, a Friendship Pact between Greece, Turkey, and Yugoslavia has recently been concluded.

20. These developments point toward … the … marked enhancement of Yugoslav defensive strength against any aggression. Their significance in relation to the satellites lies in the extent to which it is demonstrated that a practical alternative to continued acquiescence in Soviet domination is being created.

21. The relationship which the United States has developed with Yugoslavia is of vital importance in this process of augmenting Yugoslavia’s effectiveness in the struggle against Soviet domination. … Moreover, the mere fact of substantial United States economic and military assistance to Yugoslavia must have its effect on both communists and non-communists in the satellite countries. The exposition before the world by Yugoslavia of its experience with Soviet domination as a member of the Soviet bloc also provides excellent refutation of Soviet propaganda.

Significance of Western European International Organizations

22. While there has been considerable discussion among the exiles of federation in Eastern Europe following liberation, no concrete plans toward this end have been advanced. Neither have the Western powers attempted to offer any specific proposals for unity of the satellite peoples or their association with Western Europe after they are freed. The growing international organization of the West reflected in NATO, the Coal and Steel Community and similar bodies nevertheless acts as a disruptive influence upon the satellite orbit by helping to keep alive the hopes of the captive peoples. [Page 122]Such organizations hold out to them (a) evidence of developing unity and strength of the West essential to their ultimate emancipation, and (b) as an inviting alternative to the compulsory dominion of the false internationalism to which they now belong, a glimpse of an integrated Europe of free constructive possibilities in which they may take part once they are liberated.

means of attacking soviet domination of the satellites

23. The means available to the United States to assist resistance to, and the eventual breakdown of, the dominant Soviet influence in the satellites fall into the following general categories: (a) political and diplomatic; (b) propaganda; (c) economic; (d) covert; and (e) military. It must be recognized that, owing to the actual presence of Soviet power and the apparatus of Soviet control, all these means, with the exception of the military, are of limited effectiveness, except possibly in the case of Albania, whose peculiarly exposed position renders it susceptible to some measure of economic pressure and to a greater degree of covert activities.

Political and Diplomatic

24. The major political and diplomatic capability is to exert the pressure of the unalterable United States position as to the fundamental right of the satellite peoples to freedom, upon the existing Soviet-controlled regimes. The United States can also utilize its position of free world leadership to rally the support of the free world to this position and thus to strengthen and broaden the pressure on the USSR and on those regimes. The United States can also exploit the German desire for unity and a peace treaty in order to undermine the Soviet position in East Germany.

25. The United States still maintains diplomatic missions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Rumania. This is advantageous in that it … (b) shows American concern for the rights, welfare and eventual independence of the satellite peoples, (c) makes possible direct contact with the government concerned and facilitates dealing with such problems as the protection of American citizens and property, (d) provides a vantage point which could be useful in the event of future developments that cannot be predicted, such as a major defection, and . . . . The principal disadvantages are (a) the impression created in some quarters that diplomatic relations indicate the acceptance of the legitimacy of the communist regimes, (b) the pressures and harassments to which American representatives in the satellite states are subjected, to the detriment of United States prestige, (c) the brake which the existence of diplomatic relations may exercise on covert operations directed against satellite governments, and (d) the continued presence [Page 123]of satellite missions in the United States. The possibility of opening diplomatic relations with Bulgaria should be kept under review.


26. The progressive denial to the satellite peoples of access to truth and means of contact with the outside world has limited the possibilities in the propaganda field almost entirely to broadcasting, although balloons, air drops, etc., may be used occasionally with some effect to supplement this medium. The operation of adequate technical facilities for broadcasting to the satellites and the preparation of effective programs assume increasing importance in the effort to conserve and promote anti-communist sentiment against the possible inroads of the communist monopoly over the various media of information. Utilization of our propaganda facilities is conditioned by the necessity of, on the one hand avoiding any commitments regarding when and how these peoples may be liberated and any incitement to premature revolt, and on the other hand seeking to maintain their faith in the eventual restoration of freedom.


27. Western controls of exports to the Soviet bloc and the Soviet drive for self-sufficiency have reduced trade with Eastern Europe to a relatively low level. The economic measures available are consequently of limited efficacy as implements to accomplish the general purposes of this paper. They might, however, have some harassment value or could serve as auxiliaries to a coordinated program based primarily on other measures. Existing trade controls have already made the economic problems of the satellites more difficult and to this extent contribute to realizing the specific purposes of United States policy toward the satellites.

28. Other economic measures, however, in so far as latitude is allowed by relevant legislation and over-all United States policies, should be considered on a case-by-case basis, bearing in mind the balance of advantage in each instance between the USSR and the free world. It is desirable to maintain flexibility in U.S. economic policies toward the Soviet bloc and toward individual satellites, in order that maximum advantage may be gained with the limited economic weapons at hand (both restrictions and incentives). It is also desirable to have in reserve sufficient economic weapons to bring pressure to bear against particular satellite regimes at particular times if doing so serves U.S. interests. The application of such controls on a general basis, aside from the question of whether they are worth while in terms of general aspects of United States relations with the USSR and our free world allies, would [Page 124]tend to facilitate the integration of the satellites with the USSR, and would make it impossible to maintain the desired flexibility. Only in the case of Albania is this perhaps not true, for general economic measures by the West could serve to emphasize Albania’s political and economic isolation, while effective integration by the Soviets as a countermeasure would be under present conditions most difficult.


. . . . . . .

alternative courses of action

The Three Alternatives

33. One alternative is to take direct action for the liberation of the satellite peoples from the USSR by military force, either through direct military measures or through armed support of revolutionary movements. Such exercise of military force would in all probability start a global war, except possibly in Albania. In the case of the latter the probability of Soviet military counter action is somewhat less than in the other satellites and the risk commensurately diminished but nevertheless real and worthy of most careful consideration. This alternative could not be adopted by the United States unless it were willing to undertake a global war for this purpose, and to wage it in all probability without the wholehearted support of allied nations and of the United Nations.

34. The contrary alternative is to accept the fact of Soviet control of the satellites for an indeterminate period, possibly as a basis for reaching some kind of negotiated accommodation with the USSR, while United States efforts are devoted to areas beyond the present limits of Soviet control in order to block Soviet expansion. To follow such a course, besides being inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the right of the satellite peoples to freedom, would be to deny ourselves means of reducing the over-all Soviet power position vis-à-vis the United States and its allies. It may be reasonably assumed, moreover, that our acceptance of the legitimacy of the present satellite regimes, even if it should require Soviet assent to some limited agreement with the West, would be the course which the Kremlin would desire the United States to follow.

35. There is a large area between the extremes mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs in which policy and action can be developed with the purpose of limiting and impeding the Soviet grip on the satellites. Policy within that field would be determined with a view to contributing toward the eventual elimination of dominant Soviet power over these peoples, but its usefulness need not depend [Page 125]on its effectiveness in achieving this purpose within any given period of time. The more immediate criteria for judging the desirability of any particular measures would be their effectiveness in slowing down Soviet exploitation of the human and material resources of the satellites, in maintaining popular resistance to and non-cooperation with Soviet policies, and in strengthening those forces and factors which would minimize Soviet assets and maximize Soviet liabilities in this area in case of war. Progress in this regard might bring the question of liberation of one or more satellites to a status of greater actuality and immediacy; any acceleration of or change in the United States policy could then be considered in the light of the situation existing at the time.

36. Adherence to this middle course, though it may preclude reaching any general accommodation with the Soviet Union in the foreseeable future, might contribute to the creation of conditions which will induce the Soviet leadership to be more receptive to negotiated settlements in line with U.S. objectives toward the satellites. Action of this type, when it has reference to areas of direct concern to certain Western nations, can have far reaching consequences to our relation with our own allies. It is desirable that every effort be made to obtain British and French support for this general course of action. Any action regarding Albania, for example, which did not adequately take into account the legitimate interests of Italy, Greece, and Yugoslavia might well result in a net loss rather than gain to Western solidarity and hence to our fundamental interests. In addition to considerations of Soviet capability of reacting in Albania itself, the possibilities of Soviet retaliatory action elsewhere in the world must be taken into account.

U.S. Policy

37. Soviet domination of the satellite peoples violates the principle of freedom and self-determination of nations. It has also, by bringing Soviet power into the heart of Europe, created a fundamental disequilibrium on the continent and a continuing pressure on Western Europe. So long as it remains, the task of achieving security, stability and orderly progress in Europe must encounter grave difficulties. The United States should make clear by its words and deeds that it does not accept this situation as right or as permanent and that no accommodation with the Soviet Union to the contrary effect can be countenanced.

38. A deliberate policy of attempting to liberate the satellite peoples by military force, which would probably mean war with the USSR and most probably would be unacceptable to the American people and condemned by world opinion, cannot be given serious consideration. The United States should, however, direct its efforts [Page 126]toward fostering conditions which would make possible the liberation of the satellites at a favorable moment in the future and toward obstructing meanwhile the processes of Soviet imperialism in those areas. …

39. In general, full advantage should be taken of the means of diplomacy, propaganda, economic policy and … to maintain the morale of anti-Soviet elements, to sow confusion and discredit the authority of the regimes, to disrupt Soviet-satellite relationships, and generally to maximize Soviet difficulties. Policies and action to be undertaken by the United States should be judged on the basis of their contribution to these purposes, limited of course by such other factors in the global policy situation as may be pertinent. For example, such questions as the maintenance of diplomatic relations with satellite states, or the nature of economic pressures to be applied to these states, should be decided strictly in terms of general advantages and disadvantages to the United States, not of legalistic considerations or of the degree of indignation felt as a result of the acts of satellite governments.

40. In its efforts to encourage anti-Soviet elements in the satellites and keep up their hopes, the United States should not encourage premature action on their part which will bring upon them reprisals involving further terror and suppression. Continuing and careful attention must be given to the fine line, which is not stationary, between exhortations to keep up morale and to maintain passive resistance, and invitations to suicide. Planning … should be determined on the basis of feasibility, minimum risk, and maximum contribution to the fundamental interest of the United States.

41. The United States should vigilantly follow the developing situation in each satellite and be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity to further the emergence of regimes not subservient to the USSR, provided such regimes would have reasonable prospects of survival. Considerations of the relative vulnerability of the several satellites must enter into our calculations. In the case of East Germany, such action will be within the framework of unification under acceptable conditions. … United States action in any individual case would have to be determined in the light of probable Soviet reactions in the immediate area involved, or elsewhere, risks of global war, the probable reaction of our allies, and other aspects of the situation prevailing at the time.

42. United States interests with respect to the satellites can be pursued most effectively by flexible and adaptable courses of action within the general policy of determined opposition to, and the purpose of the eventual elimination of, dominant Soviet influence over those peoples. Such action should be within the limits of our capabilities [Page 127]as conditioned by our general policies. Thus the existing power situation, the current policies of the Soviet Government, the effect of any action on the satellite peoples, and the attitudes of the American people and of other free peoples must be borne in mind.

  1. NSC 174, in addition to the Statement of Policy and the Staff Study printed here, consisted of a cover sheet, a memorandum of Dec. 11 by Lay to the NSC, a table of contents, a map of Eastern Europe, Annex A, entitled “Estimated Satellite Ground Forces, April 1953,” and Annex B, entitled “Brief Survey of the Situation in the European Satellites.” The memorandum by Lay noted that the draft Statement of Policy was prepared by the NSC Planning Board “in the light of NSC 162/2” (for text, see vol. II, Part 1, p. 577) for consideration by the NSC on Dec. 21. It also noted that the Statement of Policy, if adopted, was intended to supersede NSC 58/2, “United States Policy Toward the Soviet Satellite States in Eastern Europe,” Dec. 8, 1949 (Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. V, p. 42), and NSC 158, “Interim United States Objectives and Actions To Exploit the Unrest in the Satellite States,” June 29, 1953 (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 158 Series). The OCB was designated as the implementing agency for NSC 174, once approved by the President. Annex B was divided into short essays describing political, economic, and social conditions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, and the German Democratic Republic. An extract from the memorandum of discussion at the NSC meeting of Dec. 23, at which time NSC 174 was discussed and approved by the President, with one minor amendment, is printed infra.

    The origins of NSC 174 date back to the third progress report on NSC 58/2, May 22, 1951(Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. IV, Part 2, p. 1257), which questioned whether the continued encouragement of Titoism in Eastern Europe was feasible and noted that the Department of State was reviewing the policy. The review process remained dormant until Bohlen requested Barbour in a memorandum of May 15, 1952, to undertake a revision. (PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Eastern Europe”) With little progress having been made throughout 1952, however, the revision, which appears to have been one of the first projects of the Eisenhower administration, began in earnest with an instruction by Matthews, Jan. 30, 1953 (not found), to EE to draft a new “satellite paper.” Drafts dated Feb. 4, May 18, July 28, Aug. 7, Aug. 17, and Nov. 25 have been identified, but only the May 18 draft, the first to be submitted to the NSC Planning Board, has been located in Department of State files. (S/SNSC files, lot 61 D 167, NSC 174 Series)

  2. This paper is not concerned with Berlin which is treated in NSC 132/1 on maintaining the U.S. position in West Berlin. It is recognized that Albania and East Germany possess specific features differentiating each of them in important ways from the other satellites. The inclusion of these two has, however, made possible the treatment of the satellite area as a whole. The situation of each satellite is sketched in Annex B of the staff study. East Germany is also considered in NSC 160/1. [Footnote in the source text. For text of NSC 160/1 “United States Position With Respect to Germany,” Aug. 17, 1953, see vol. VII, Part 1, p. 510. For text of NSC 132/1, June 12, 1952, see ibid., Part 2, p. 1261.
  3. For example, account should be taken of the undesirability of provoking the liquidation of important resistance movements or of creating false hopes of U.S. intervention. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. In accordance with the NSC decision of Dec. 23 (see the memorandum of discussion, infra), the words “and Albania” were added at the end of this paragraph in the final version.
  5. This paper is not concerned with Berlin which is treated in NSC 132/1 on maintaining the U.S. position in West Berlin. It is recognized that Albania and East Germany possess specific features by which they are differentiated in important ways from the other satellites. The inclusion of these two has, however, made possible the treatment of the satellite area as a whole and even the other satellites have in a lesser degree certain special aspects. The situation of each satellite is sketched in Annex B. [Footnote in the source text; Annex B is not printed, but see footnote 1, above.]