140. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State1
188. Politically, Hungarian situation now seems be in stalemate. Nationalists, bulk of whom anti-commie and anti-Soviet, have by their past week’s resistance managed to achieve political strength at least equal to that built up here during past decade by hard core communists and Soviets. But military situation so unequal or potentially unequal that over-all result can best be described as highly unstable stalemate which could very well result in application iron fist by Soviets. Legation believes situation warrants action recommended Legtel 1802 re offer international commission to negotiate guaranteed settlement.
Main elements for bargaining are free elections and international guarantee withdrawal Soviet troops. As Legation sees it, nationalists would likely be willing waive demand free elections in return for international guarantee of withdrawal Soviet troops in some stipulated period of time. Soviets conceivably, altho admittedly much less likely, [Page 341] might be willing consent to international guarantee of troop withdrawal if relieved of bogey of free elections and satisfied incumbent government neither “bourgeois” nor anti-Soviet.
New Hungarian Government would have to give Soviets and communists some assurance that they have chance for survival here. This problem most ticklish, for it is obvious Hungary currently has few political men of leadership capacity, not to speak of specialized types, who might be acceptable both sides. If such leaders found, country would be in situation similar to that experienced prior World War I, when population split between those loyal to revolutionary principles of 1848 and to compromise principles of 1867, but worked together peacefully nonetheless.
Despite fact that as matters now stand Nagy’s chance of forming rallying point for Hungarians and bridge for Soviets seem be decreasing daily, an international agreement on Soviet troop withdrawal might again restore Nagy’s rallying capacity and also allow him remain acceptable to Soviets.
Outside Nagy there appears be possibility of top leader in:
- Bela Kovacs, who already implicated to at least slight extent with commies by his acceptance post Minister Agriculture, something which, from point of view of compromise, now in his favor;
- Zoltan Tildy, former president and exponent of 20th Congress line since his recent release from house arrest;3
- Dark horse possibility among those who were active in recent events leading up to revolt;
- Various possibilities among intellectuals who used or were used by 20th Congress line.
In summary, Legation thinks Western action should be concentrated on securing an international guarantee for withdrawal Soviet troops from Hungary. In absence such agreement Legation foresees ruthless suppression of revolution, application iron fist.
If it turns out impossible for Soviets-commies on one hand and nationalists on other to find common meeting ground, even with aid mediation of international commission, Legation believes Western powers should seek ways of aiding nationalists if it becomes evident they ready for long haul fight against Soviets. Legation believes eventually no course may be left open to Hungarians and other East European peoples but to make it sound comfortable [so uncomfortable] for Soviets that, as in case of relations with Finns, they will be willing let well enough alone.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/10–3056. Secret; Niact.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 135.↩
- Zoltán Tildy was formerly President of the Hungarian Republic and Secretary General of the Smallholder Party. For nearly 8 years he had been under detention until freed in May 1956. On October 27, Nagy chose him as a member of his cabinet.↩