125. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State1

168. What follows contains much speculation but even if errors made as regards certain facts Legation believes end results of Hungarian peoples fight for freedom now lie within narrow range possibilities, all evil to some degree.

Latest western radio reports indicate uprisings in Hungary widespread, including in addition Budapest insurgent action in Szeged, Pecs, Miskolc, Debrecen, Komarom, Magyarovar, Gyor and some indication that much of Trans-Danubia has risen.

Legation was contacted yesterday by a man who claims to speak for organization representing the insurgents.2 Whether he does or not [Page 311] is rather immaterial. What is important is dilemma with which he claims the “new provisional revolutionary government and civil defense committee” is faced. Representatives of “provisional government” begged Legation for advice as to what they should do, for he claimed they had been in contact with Nagy who stated he will do anything in order to keep present government’s system in Hungary and that (further quoting Nagy) unless opposition ceases horrible consequences will follow. This dilemma faces all insurgent forces whether under “control” of “new government” or acting in isolation. It can be summed up in proposition that Soviets under legal cover of Hungarian Communist Government will engage in ruthless suppression if insurgents don’t surrender; and insurgents have complete lack of confidence in government carrying out promised concessions if they do capitulate. Insurgents thus faced with following narrow range of alternatives. (A) Fight to end and die and in process see many of unarmed population also suffer; (B) fight and die in hope hold out long enough for some outside intervention or pressure to modify regime and Soviet intention and/or capability of ruthless suppression; (C) accept government’s acting in good faith in promised concessions, and surrender. One decision already made by insurgent forces against this last option, as deadline hour of acceptance was approached at 2200 hours Friday3 and insurgents broadcast they will keep fighting till demands met.

Evil choices facing insurgents seem to pose most critical political and moral problem for US Government. US cannot by complete inaction condone Soviet exercises of their military capabilities in suppressing this struggle. This leads logically to question of what US Government can do to increase chances of second alternative becoming realization.

Legation does not pretend to know all international legal merits of case. However it is understood from western broadcasts that France, UK, and US are associating themselves in bringing situation before UN.4 Also Legation’s impression that France had taken initiative in this move. Legation strongly believes, both from practical standpoint of maintaining stature and influence among captive peoples and because of moral responsibility to stand behind past official statements implying support for captive peoples, that US Government should lead and vigorously press Hungarian case in UN and use all its influence to mobilize world opinion against ruthless suppression of Hungarian insurgents by Soviet power.

[Page 312]

Legation fully realizes heavy responsibility of decision to support, and risks involved in overtly supporting, Hungarian people against Soviets by material means. Legation does not have clear view of possible alternatives open to US Government between extremes of “legalistic” case before UN and material support of insurgents. But alternatives between extremes must exist, and for some alternatives risk attached might not be too great. Legation believes it to be in US interest, in view of widespread and violent reaction against Communist rule by Hungarian people, that careful consideration be given to means for supporting insurgent population and that some risk is warranted by emergence of this tremendous revulsion against Soviet domination.

In considering possible alternatives, following seems plausible:

Soviet Government, if has agreed that Nagy should “negotiate” removal of Soviet troops, has made considerable concession.5
By all logic Soviets and certainly insurgents must be searching for some solution. If this is true, satisfactory proposal made from UN or even from US might have some chance of acceptability.
Most important requirements at present seem following:
Military armistice;
Withdrawal of Soviet troops, at least to garrisons;
Establishment of police control to prevent looting and anarchy.
Establishment of political control acceptable all parties.
We believe something like following seems reasonable median proposal which admits greatest chance of success:
Immediate armistice;
Withdrawal of Soviet troops to garrisons;
Surrender of insurgents to Hungarian army and establishment of police control by army;
Acceptance of Nagy Government as interim political power, which would operate with advice of UN commission;
Negotiation with Soviets on troop removal with advice of UN commission.
We see no other course which appears offer as good chance acceptance from all parties.
We presume Department has heard from British Government that situation here rapidly becoming more critical, and that matter of very few hours may see Soviet Union much more deeply involved.
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We therefore urgently suggest that immediate and highest level consideration be given to proposing settlement along above lines. Would seem proposition should be publicly supported by President, whether formally proposed by UN, tripartite powers, or US alone.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/10–2756. Secret; Niact. Received at 10:09 p.m., October 29. McKisson was informed of receipt of the telegram at 1:10 a.m., October 30.
  2. Telegrams 161, 163, and 166, from Budapest, October 26, reported such contacts with the insurgents on the evening of October 25 and the afternoon of October 26. In one instance a message to the United Nations was passed on and subsequently advice was sought from the Legation concerning the course the new government should follow and on how to bring an international forum into Hungary. The Legation accepted the information, but declined to offer advice or give the impression that negotiations were in process. (Ibid., 764.00/10–2656)
  3. October 26.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 123.
  5. In telegram 984 from Moscow, October 26, the Embassy reported: “It appears more likely Soviet Government has decided to cut its losses in forlorn hope that Nagy by placing himself at head of popular revolution may be able to prevent complete collapse of regime. They can hardly have much confidence in this possibility, but in circumstances they may well have come to conclusion that it preferable to total military occupation Hungary.” (Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/10–2656)