175. Memorandum of Discussion at the 303d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, November 8, 1956, 9–11:25 a.m.1

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda item 1, “European Oil Supply Position in View of Developments in the Near East.” For text, see volume XVI, page 1070.]

2. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

The Director of Central Intelligence said that he would first report briefly on the situation in Hungary. He said that the Soviet repression in Hungary had been ruthless and brutal to the last degree. . . . there were eye-witness accounts of what had happened from the U.S. Legation in Budapest. Mr. Dulles then reviewed what had happened in [Page 419] Hungary since the last meeting of the National Security Council,2 including reference to the Soviet admission that they had now 200,000 troops deployed in Hungary. Mr. Dulles also alluded to Janos Kadar, the head of the Hungarian Government. Mr. Dulles described Kadar as a potential Gomulka if his hands had not been so deeply stained by the blood of his own countrymen and if he had not acted in collaboration with the Soviets. Even so, he may yet turn out to be a Hungarian Gomulka—not, said Mr. Dulles, that he could put his trust in Kadar.

Mr. Dulles went on to describe briefly the European reaction to what the Soviets had done in Hungary, concluding that these Soviet actions had reduced Soviet prestige in Western Europe to its lowest point in many years. He ended with the prediction that the rebellion in Hungary would be extinguished in a matter of days, if not of hours. Nevertheless, the Soviets would be faced with a problem in Hungary for many, many years to come. In turn, the situation presents the United States with the problem of what more we can do, . . .

The President said that this was indeed a bitter pill for us to swallow. We say we are at the end of our patience, but what can we do that is really constructive? Should we break off diplomatic relations with the USSR? What would be gained by this action? The Soviets don’t care. The whole business was shocking to the point of being unbelievable. And yet many people seemed unconvinced. For example, said the President, he had just had a message from Nehru—or was it a point he made in a recent speech? Wherever it came from, Nehru had said that what was really happening in Hungary was obscure.3 Could anything be blinder? The President also cited Premier Bulganin’s message to him received this morning,4 in which Bulganin stated in effect that what was going on in Hungary was none of the business of the United States.

The Vice President inquired whether Soviet action in Hungary had produced any unfavorable reaction in Asian capitals. Had anything occurred there comparable to the demonstrations which Mr. Dulles had described as occurring in Western Europe? Mr. Dulles replied that not very much in the way of unfavorable reaction had occurred in Asia, although there were a few instances. The Vice President commented that this seemed to indicate that our own true story had not got across in Asia. Secretary Hoover stated that if the British and French had not at this particular time decided to move into Suez, things would not have happened as they did in Hungary. If the British and French had stayed out of Egypt and the Soviets had nevertheless moved against Hungary, they would have been ruined in the eyes of [Page 420] world public opinion. Secretary Hoover doubted if they would under the circumstances have dared to move against Hungary. The President expressed his agreement.

[Here follows discussion of the Middle East. For text of the discussion not printed here, see volume XVI, pages 1078–1086 passim.]

[Here follows discussion of the Soviet presence in Syria.] Furthermore, the President said, it remained wholly inexplicable to him that any state in the world, Syria included, would play with the Russians after witnessing what had happened in Hungary. It is for this reason, continued the President, that we must go on playing up the situation in Hungary to the absolute maximum, so the whole world will see and understand.

The Vice President agreed with the President’s proposal, and said that in carrying it out we should not neglect Asia. Mr. Dulles indicated that the Free Europe Committee was already engaged in preparing a White Paper which would give the world all the facts about what had happened in Hungary from the beginning.

The President proceeded to quote from his most recent message from Nehru,5 commenting that Nehru seemed to be falling for the Moscow line—buying their entire bill of goods.

The Vice President stated that the great message which we must get across to the rest of the world was that no state could afford to play in with the Soviet Union unless it wished to be taken over.

[Here follows discussion of the Middle East.]

At this point the President interrupted Secretary Hoover to say that Admiral Strauss had just sent him a note stating that moving pictures had been taken of Soviet tanks killing Hungarians in the streets of Budapest. The President asked whether such movies should not immediately be disseminated through our Embassies all over the world. Mr. Streibert answered that the USIA was already engaged in doing precisely this, and was trying to get the story out just as fast as it could. The President said it would be a good idea to send one of the best reels to Nehru. The Vice President advised sending one to Sukarno in Indonesia.

[Here follows discussion of the Middle East.]

[Page 421]

The Vice President expressed the hope that while we must deal with the Near East problem, we should also give the Congressional leaders a good stiff talk on Hungary. There has been too great a tendency to allow developments in the Near East to divert attention from Hungary. Let’s assure that the Congressional leaders do not leave without a knowledge of what had really happened in Hungary.6 The Vice President thought this topic should come last in the briefing, and also suggested that the movies mentioned earlier should be shown to the Congressional leaders.

The President commented that the present Congressional leaders have been acting in a wholly admirable fashion.

The Attorney General warned the President that the Congressional leaders were very likely to ask him whether, in view of what had happened, the Government should not move now to exclude the Soviet Union from membership in the UN. The President replied that if he were asked this question he would say that we couldn’t shoot from the hip, but state that this was certainly something to be considered.

[Here follows discussion of the Middle East.]

Mr. Allen Dulles suggested that the Hungarian topic come first rather than last in the briefing of the leaders. The President and many other members of the Council thought this suggestion wise. The President went on to express the feeling that the Russians had jumped rapidly into the Near East situation not simply because the British and French had given them an opportunity, but because they have long hoped that somehow or other they could reach into the Middle East. Accordingly, we must be careful in briefing the Congressional leaders not to place all the blame for what had happened on Great Britain and France. Admiral Radford expressed warm agreement with the President’s suggestion. It was unwise to blame overmuch the British and the French. We should instead put the Near East situation in its true perspective, and indicate clearly ultimate Communist responsibility for what has occurred in the Near East.

[Here follows discussion of the Middle East.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on November 9. The time of the meeting is from the Record of the President’s Daily Appointments. (Ibid.) A talking paper prepared for Hoover’s use at this meeting by the Bureau of European Affairs was forwarded to him by Beam on November 7. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5616 Series)
  2. See Document 152.
  3. The New York Times reported on November 12 that in a speech delivered on November 9, Nehru had several times described the Hungarian situation as confusing.
  4. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, November 19, 1956, pp. 796–797.
  5. In his November 7 letter to the President, Nehru had written as follows: “You have referred in your letter to what I said about the situation in Hungary. I have, indeed, been greatly troubled by what has happened there, and I drew the attention of Mr. Bulganin to it. He has briefly replied and has promised to send a fuller reply later. Meanwhile, we have been told by the Russian Government that they had previously decided to withdraw their troops from Hungary and had declared their general policy on the 30th October. Subsequent events compelled them to intervene temporarily to protect the lives of their own people as governmental authority appeared to have vanished and, in fact, killings were taking place. I entirely agree with you that armed intervention of any country in another is highly objectionable and that people in every country must be free to choose their own governments without interference of others.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File)
  6. See Document 177.