190. Despatch From the Legation in Romania to the Department of State1

No. 186


  • Some Comments on Implementation of US Policy in Rumania

The following comments on possible changes in the implementation of United States policy in Rumania as a result of recent events, are forwarded as representing my preliminary thoughts.

During the last year, in accordance with United States policy, I have been encouraging closer relations with the Rumanian Government both in the cultural and economic spheres. This encouragement has been expressed along lines consistent with and directed towards the long-term objective of attempting to wean Rumania away from the Soviet bloc orbit. It has been directed towards bringing home to the Rumanian regime, particularly through pressure from lower levels where leadership is in the hands of opportunists or professional technical men rather than hard-core Communists, the greater advantages, both economic and cultural, to be obtained from close association with and dependence upon the United States.

Specifically, I have urged the Department to grant visas to Rumanian agricultural representatives to visit the United States, study U.S. agricultural processes, and purchase hybrid corn and agricultural equipment; to permit a representative of the Dept. of Foreign Trade to investigate the sale of cement to the United States; to permit a group of Rumanian chemists to investigate contract possibilities in the United States; to encourage the sending of U.S. athletes, musicians, artists, and exhibits on an exchange basis to Rumania; and to develop trade in non-strategic goods to the fullest possible extent. By the same token I have attempted in my personal relations with representatives of the Rumanian Government to be friendly, inviting them to the Residence and entertaining them as I would representatives of countries with whom we have normal diplomatic relations. All members of the Legation staff have done likewise.

The attempt to implement U.S. policy by these procedures has, I believe, resulted in progress and has been well justified though nothing spectacular could of course be expected in so short a time. Tremendous interest in the possibilities of U.S. trade have been stimulated by the above described visits and by visits of U.S. businessmen to Rumania. Rumanian experience with U.S. agricultural machinery has whetted their appetite for more. Not only I myself, but every member of the [Page 454] Legation staff is bombarded with questions concerning the possibilities of trade. The recent conference [convention] initiated by the Romanians2 was solely, I submit, for the purpose of working out, as a part of the mechanism for the settlement of claims, an incentive for the U.S. to trade with Rumania. By the same token in the cultural field we are being pressed for movies, exhibits, and visiting artists and musicians. The desire for close relations with us is a natural one on the part of those at the operating level of the Government. As stated before most of them are not Communists and have western affiliations. Once restrictions on their natural instinct to deal with us have been lifted by the top hierarchy, they fall all over themselves in their eagerness for U.S. contacts. We may take it for granted that interest and anticipation of what Rumania can gain from the United States is at this moment at a high pitch.

The recent events in Hungary, in which Rumania played a considerable part, acting as a base for Soviet operations and a communication channel for the transportation of Soviet troops between Hungary and the Soviet Union, and through its press following minutely the Soviet line including open attacks upon the United States as backing the so-called fascist invasion of Hungary warrants a close study of our immediate future actions in this country, with particular reference to the continuation of the above described procedures towards increased economic and cultural activity. It is particularly important to consider what effect our reaction to these events can have on our ultimate objective. The following analysis attempts to present some of the factors to be considered:

In a recent visit to the Department,3 I set forth in conferences my theory on the possibility of trying to woo the Rumanians away from dependence on the Soviets by the above described procedures and I urged that these procedures be stepped up. This theory was based on the premise that in this country, first of all, quite possibly the Soviet guard was lowered further than anywhere else. This was due to the fact that the naturally apathetic and non-aggressive Rumanian people had been in the last ten years terrified into complete submission, and the absence of any leadership outside of the regime, as well as the absence of any serious difference within the Communist Politburo reduced the chances of even an attempt at revolt to a minimum. Secondly, in this country there are fewer hard-core Communists than in any of the satellite countries. The old regime was thrown out, and the new Communist regime installed by the Soviet Union from the top, not by the acts of any large or active indigenous Communist group; necesarily therefore, non-Communist opportunists, technicians [Page 455] and professional and businessmen hold positions of considerable importance in the government; there are not sufficient Communists with ability or know-how to go around. As a result of these two conditions, it seemed to me that an unusual opportunity was offered for experimentation in the field of bringing pressure on the top leaders, through these non-Communist groups, which might start forces that eventually would be difficult to control. If these technical and professional men, whose job it is to try and implement the five-year plans and bring about the steady advance of the industrialization program of the Communist regime, could get a taste of what the U.S. could offer Rumania in this field, there was every likelihood of their bringing pressure to bear on the Politburo to take advantage of these opportunities. The Rumanian regime could be made to begin to appreciate how much faster the country would grow with guidance from the West than from the East.

However, by the same token, it seems obvious that it is especially important to indicate to the regime, and at all levels, how much Rumania can suffer from close association with the Soviets. The dangers of permitting this country to indulge in one of her most prevalent weaknesses, that of having her cake and eating it too, and letting her get benefits from the United States without suffering detriment from wrongs (even if forced upon her) committed as a result of her Soviet connections, are very clear. It is just as essential, I submit, to bring home to her very forcibly by shock treatment the handicaps and frustrations she can suffer as a result of Soviet domination, as it is to show her the greater advantages she can reap from other than Soviet affiliations.

The most effective way of accomplishing this in my opinion would be to cut off immediately all trade negotiations of any kind and permit no more export licenses to be issued to Rumania for the time being. The reasons for this action should be simply and clearly stated to the Rumanian authorities concerned with these matters. This should include particularly the Garst4 deals of hybrid corn and machinery since the Rumanians set great store by the Garst relationship.

It should be noted, also, that the first of the above premises is of course no longer true. The experience of the Soviets with Hungarian resistance and the loyalty of the Hungarian army to the people is bound to make them very careful in all satellite countries, including Rumania, from now on.

It remains to be determined what should be done in the cultural field. Our efforts in this field are only in the very initial stages. First of all for obvious reasons it is believed that of course all cultural relations [Page 456] should be held in abeyance until emotional feelings aroused by the Hungarian affair have quieted down. Thereafter, it is submitted, these relations should be slowly resumed and gradually built up. Cultural relations result in benefits for the people as distinguished from the regime. They stimulate and maintain interest in the United States on the part of the people. Cultural relations in the trade field such as moving pictures of United States machinery and trade practices can drive home to the level upon which we wish to work the benefits of U.S. trade which the relation of the regime with the Soviets has prevented from coming to fruition. It is particularly in this line that an effort should be made after the passage of a suitable time.

The Rumanian Government as well as the other satellites, has been concentrating during the past year in building up its prestige in the eyes of the Western and particularly of the Afro-Asian world. Strong efforts have been made and have been continuing to persuade me to advise my Government to raise United States diplomatic representation to the rank of Ambassador. At the present time there are only four Ministers here besides myself. England, France and Italy have been recently joined by Egypt. It is reported that Israel and Argentina will increase their representation to that of Minister. I have recently been holding informal conversations with the British, French and Italian Minister on the question of the advisability of an announcement by each of our governments separately that Rumania’s close adherence to the Soviet Union recently has convinced us that she has not shown sufficient independence to warrant our having any more representation than a Chargé d’Affaires here. It is agreed that this would have a shattering effect on Rumanian prestige and in view of their particular temperament be unusually effective in its impact.

What effect this could have on the Rumanian people is a matter that should be carefully considered. The present reaction of the Rumanian people is one of extreme disappointment, amounting in some instances to disgust and disapprobation, at the failure of the United Nations and of the United States to come to the aid of the people of Hungary. This is a familiar and expected reaction of a people who have no intention of sticking their own necks out but expect everyone to rush to their aid at no matter what risk. Further discouragement by such action as that described above would not in my opinion make them any more supine than they are now. It would not make them dislike the present regime or hate the Soviets less. There is not only no present resistance but there are no signs of resistance in the future which might be discouraged by this action. It is not believed that the morale of the people would suffer as a result of such action.

It is recognized that this entire matter is deserving of considerably more studied treatment than has been given to it in this preliminary despatch. These thoughts are submitted as first reactions to the events [Page 457] in Hungary. These events, due to their geographic proximity, the active participation of the regime in furnishing transportation for Soviet troops, and above all the close affiliation of the Hungarian minority in Rumania to the people of Hungary, have made a tremendous impact on the people of Rumania. They are watching and will continue to watch the reaction of the United States (for which they have had extensive admiration amounting in some instances to adulation) with the greatest attention.

Robert H. Thayer
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.66/11–1456. Confidential.
  2. See Document 139.
  3. See Document 42.
  4. Garst’s comments on his trip to Romania are in Department of State, Central Files, 411.6041/6–856.