188. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

1199. I have read with interest the earlier messages from Embassy Vienna concerning suggestions as to how we should deal with Soviet Union in connection with Hungarian events but had in general been disposed refrain from comment, in part because I agree with some views expressed therein and also to avoid overloading communications with telegraphic dialogue with Vienna. However, Vienna’s 1268 to Department, repeated Moscow 36 of November 11,2 goes beyond general considerations and makes specific and concrete suggestions for an approach to the Soviet Government and I feel therefore I must comment.

There is much in this telegram with which I agree, including in particular reference to unfortunate comment moral commitment US has acquired in public opinion through heavily publicized balloon and radio operations even though as is apparent these operations had nothing to do with outbreak Hungarian revolution. I also agree that we should seek to devise some method to channel current anti-Soviet feeling into some constructive direction for the furtherance of our main purposes. However, while certainly brutal repressive action may be anticipated in Eastern Europe in event new outbreak, I do not believe Soviets can or are contemplating return Stalinist rule.

With reference to concrete suggestions in Embassy Vienna reftel, I would oppose any approach Soviet Government along those lines since I feel results would be almost exactly contrary to purpose intended. Even if any reliance could be placed on “firm commitment” for future withdrawal Soviet troops, time period proposed, six months to one year, would offer Soviets and puppet government considerable margin of time to consolidate Communist regime and liquidate any possible anti-Communist leadership in Hungary. To offer in exchange [Page 446] to recognize “any Hungarian government” would seem to me to make US an accessory after the fact and would in essence, at least for period contemplated, legalize retention [garble].

I am not advocating that we should refuse all connection with whatever new Hungarian “government” may emerge from current situation or withdraw our Legation, but believe this question should be reserved pending developments.

With reference to suggestion concerning absence US military interest re Hungary, I have already had occasion to draw attention of at least some Soviet leaders in early stage to Secretary’s Dallas speech3 in which our attitude is clearly set forth on this point. While I agree in principle we should concentrate on withdrawal Soviet troops, as earlier suggested from Vienna (Vienna’s 1205 to Department4 repeated Moscow 33), I do not believe realistically any distinction can be made between presence Soviet troops and nature political regime since latter is totally dependent on former and entire purpose Soviet action with all its consequences to Soviet reputation throughout world was to ensure retention Communist political system. In circumstances I cannot see, beyond keeping our moral position intact, much that we can possibly do to help Hungarian people at this juncture short of use of force which would be a direct military encounter with Soviet troops and which for variety reasons I assume is not within our calculations. However, while recognizing with regret our inability to do much effective and in understandable desire to do something, we should be extremely careful not in any way become involved in approval or sanction Soviet actions.

On general course Hungarian developments I believe Soviet policy will clearly be to promote national Communism in Hungary and will endeavor while insuring maintenance Communist system to produce developments somewhat along Polish line; publication here of Kadar’s radio announcement points very much in that direction. In conclusion, however, I am in entire agreement with Ambassador Thompson’s views that we should re-examine our entire position in Eastern Europe with I believe recognition that in present circumstances [Page 447] path of national Communism rather than any encouragement to armed uprising seems to offer best possibility for eventual recapture of independence and freedom by peoples concerned.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/11–1456. Secret. Repeated to Vienna.
  2. Document 181.
  3. See Document 128.
  4. Telegram 1205, November 8, estimated that any national Communist regime in Hungary would not have enough popular support to govern. The Soviet alternatives were either to impose military occupation or to concede many of the demands concerning internal affairs that had sparked the fighting. Ambassador Thompson believed the United States should seek Soviet troop withdrawal rather than concentrate on the nature of the government. Any decision on recognition of the Hungarian Government should be based on its ability to ensure the removal of Soviet troops. (Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/11–856)