196. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5616/2


General Considerations

1. Events of great magnitude in Poland and Hungary necessitate an appraisal of the situation and consideration of current U.S. policies, objectives, and courses of action toward those countries. Our initial [Page 464] objective toward the Eastern European satellite area has been to encourage, as a first step toward eventual full national independence and freedom, the emergence of “national” communist governments. While these governments might continue to be in close political and military alliance with the Soviet Union, they would be able to exercise to a much greater degree than in the past independent authority and control in the direction of their own affairs, primarily confined in the first stage to their internal affairs.


2. Developments in Poland appear favorable to the attainment of this objective. The Gomulka Government has proclaimed its “national independence and equality” and has asserted its right to pursue its own internal road to “socialism”. At the same time it has declared continued loyalty to its alliance with the USSR and, though requesting the retirement of Soviet armed forces to their usual stations, has declared Soviet troops must remain in Poland and East Germany.

3. In Poland, as in Hungary, recent developments have revealed the strong anti-Russian and anti-communist sentiments of the population. Unlike Hungary, the existence of strong leadership in Poland at a critical moment, fear of a reunified Germany with irredentist claims, and the timely promise of reforms, together with an assertion of “national independence” linked with a closely calculated defiance of Russian pressure, evidently has served to enable a reconstituted Polish communist government to set forth on its new course with the acquiescence, if not support, of the majority of Poles.

4. The United States has already indicated directly to the new Government that a Polish request for economic assistance, particularly for wheat or other surplus commodities, would be given sympathetic study.2 Severe legal and administrative limits are imposed on such assistance.3 On the other hand, opportunities exist for materially aiding Poland in the general area of trade with the free world.


5. Developments in Hungary have differed significantly from those in Poland. In Hungary, a nationalist movement, similar to that in Poland, was triggered into national revolt by the intervention of Soviet troops called in by the Hungarian Government in the first hours of its difficulty. The subsequent demands of the people on the government went far beyond those originally sought and became anti-communist [Page 465] as well as anti-Soviet. Under Nagy, the Hungarians moved from a program of modest reforms to one in which the Nagy Government announced Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and appealed to the UN for aid in obtaining the cessation of Soviet intervention, the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the recognition of Hungarian neutrality.

6. The Soviet Government renewed on November 4 its efforts to suppress the Hungarian revolt by installing a new puppet regime headed by Kadar, and by the employment of greatly increased Soviet armed force. Soviet reaction to UN actions and to the President’s appeal to Bulganin on November 44 have made clear Soviet determination to maintain its position there by force of arms. The Kadar regime has reverted to a program of modest reform promises including a promise to negotiate in the future for the withdrawal of Soviet forces while making it clear that the political and military alliance with the USSR must be maintained.

7. The direct intervention of Soviet troops in fighting the Hungarian population, and the threat of intervention of Soviet forces in Poland, illustrate that, at least in those countries where Soviet troops are stationed, the Soviet Union is willing to use its armed forces to prevent the coming into power of a non-communist government, or to prevent a communist government from altering a policy of close military and political alliance with the USSR. Moscow was apparently willing in the case of Poland to accept, however reluctantly, a communist government which, while remaining loyal to its military and political alliance with the USSR, asserts its “national independence” and its right to pursue its own internal road to communism.

Policy Conclusions

8. The events in Poland and Hungary have revealed to both the Soviet Union and the rest of the world how much the maintenance of Soviet control in East Germany and Eastern Europe depends upon the presence of Soviet forces in this area. . . .

9. It seems unlikely that U.S. action short of overt military intervention or obvious preparation for such intervention would lead the USSR deliberately to take steps which it believed would materially increase the risk of general war. Soviet suspicions of U.S. policy and present circumstances which involve Soviet troop movements and alerts probably increase the likelihood of a series of actions and counter-actions which might lead to war.

[Page 466]

Courses of Action


11. Provided that the current situation with respect to Poland is not fundamentally altered:

a. Make an early approach to the Polish Government in response to its note of October 85 indicating our willingness to discuss with it all problems affecting U.S.-Polish relations.

12. In the development of economic relations with Poland encourage the Poles to devote their energies to the satisfaction of consumer demands and peaceful trade.

13. While avoiding specific endorsement of the Gomulka Government, seek to influence the new Polish leaders to adhere to and fulfill its commitments6 for reform made to the Polish people which will advance U.S. objectives.

14. Increase contacts and exchanges between Poland and the United States on economic, scientific and cultural bases in the context of NSC 5607.7


16. In pursuing our immediate objective of terminating harsh Soviet measures of repression and retaliation, mobilize all appropriate pressures, including UN action, on the USSR against such measures, while reassuring the USSR that we do not look upon Hungary or the other satellites as potential military allies. Such appropriate pressures might include the following as required:

Maintain constant pressure in the UN and elsewhere on the USSR for compliance with the UN Resolution of November 4, 1956.8
Initiate or support UN action designed to achieve free elections in Hungary under UN auspices, as soon as law and order have been restored.
In the event of continued Soviet defiance of UN Resolutions, consider:
Initiating or supporting UN action for an embargo by member nations on all trade with the USSR.
Initiating UN action or action with other nations outside the UN or unilateral action to obtain agreement to sever diplomatic relations with the USSR.

17. Consider whether it is advisable to make in the UN or elsewhere a proposal of Hungarian neutrality on the Austrian model.

18. Seek to keep alive the commitments for reform made to the Hungarian people which will advance U.S. objectives, including the total withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary.

19. Immediate relief assistance for the Hungarian people in the form of medical, food and other supplies has been offered through appropriate channels and should continue to be made available to supply their needs for the duration of the emergency.9

20. If a government comes to power in Hungary at least as independent as that in Poland:

Be prepared to make available at Hungarian request economic and technical assistance in moderate amounts sufficient to give the Hungarians an alternative to complete dependence on Moscow.
Increase contacts and exchanges between Hungary and the United States on economic, scientific and cultural bases in the context of NSC 5607.
Furnish disaster relief, especially for Budapest.
Take appropriate steps to reorient Hungarian trade toward the West, and urge the countries of Western Europe, especially West Germany and the United Kingdom, to offer economic assistance and trade inducements.

21. Encourage the Austrians to maintain their announced policy of granting asylum to Hungarians who may seek it. Aid the Austrians to meet the problem of an increased number of Hungarian refugees by financial and other material assistance from U.S. resources; and encourage the UN and friendly governments to assist. Should a considerable number of Hungarians seek refuge in Austria, urgent consideration will have to be given by the United States and other friendly governments to their immediate care and swift resettlement. Encourage the Yugoslav Government to grant asylum to Hungarians crossing over into Yugoslavia and to cooperate in international measures for their care and resettlement.

[Page 468]


22. As a matter of high priority, exploit fully throughout the world propaganda opportunities afforded by recent events in Poland and Hungary.

23. The Planning Board should urgently undertake a study of policies and actions which will encourage or bring about withdrawal of Soviet forces from Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe.

24. As soon as developments in the area can be adequately assessed, review “U.S. Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe” (NSC 5608/1),10 and “U.S. Policy Toward Yugoslavia” (NSC 5601),11 in the light of such developments.

25. As a matter of urgency, under currently organized governmental mechanisms, undertake a study of the situation in other European satellites to formulate plans and determine U.S. courses of action in the event of future revolutionary actions or uprisings, whether successful or unsuccessful, in those countries which indicate a movement away from control by the USSR.

Annex C

(Prepared by the International Cooperation Administration)

The extent to which U.S. assistance could be made available would vary according to whether or not the recipient country would agree to comply with the Battle Act.12 (It should be noted that the President may grant exceptions to the applicability of the Battle Act with respect to certain shipments, but not in respect of arms, ammunition, implements of war, and atomic energy materials.)


In case of non-agreement to comply with the Battle Act, assistance would be limited to the following:

(A) Mutual Security Assistance:

Under Section 401 (up to $30 million in the case of either country) by Presidential Determination that such assistance is important to U.S. security.
Under Sections 402 and 505, sales of agricultural surplus or other commodities or services, but only if the local currency proceeds were used for concurrently developed programs for the purchase of commodities for third countries and appropriations for the benefit of such countries were charged.

(B) P.L. 480: surplus agricultural commodities:

Under Title I. Sales can be made only to “friendly nations,” which requires a determination that these countries are no longer “dominated or controlled” by the USSR or a foreign organization controlling the world communist movement, and provided further that the local currency proceeds be used either by the U.S. or for the purchase of commodities for third countries.
Under Title II. Emergency Relief could be provided only to the peoples, not to the Government.
Under Title III. Commodities could be donated to voluntary agencies for use directly in the assistance of needy persons.


In case of agreement to comply with the Battle Act the following additional possibilities exist:

(A) Mutual Security Assistance:

Under Section 131. Defense Support—commodities or services. For assistance in this category the President would be required to find that such assistance will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace and the recipient country would be required to subscribe to the several undertakings and agreements specified in Section 142. Defense Support Assistance could be given wholly on a grant basis. However, funds for this purpose would have to be sought. (FY ’57 Defense Support funds appropriated for Europe primarily Yugoslavia and Spain amounted to $68,700,000, to which might be added some “carry-over” from prior year funds. The amount for Europe could be augmented, up to 20 percent, by Presidential transfer of funds under Section 501.)
Under Section 409, ocean freight charges could be provided for shipments by voluntary agencies or the American Red Cross. (Total appropriated for this purpose is $3 million.)

(B) P.L. 480: Surplus agricultural commodities:

Under Title I, sales could be made for local currency, to be utilized by the countries involved for agreed purposes.
Under Title II, emergency relief could be provided directly to the Governments rather than limited to their needy people.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P–NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Poland and Hungary. Top Secret. In a covering note to the NSC, November 19, Lay summarized the action taken by the NSC at its 304th meeting on November 15: “The President has this date approved the statement of policy in NSC 5616/1 as amended and adopted by the Council and enclosed herewith as NSC 5616/2; directs its implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government; and designates the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency.” Annex A containing statements by the President and Secretary of State on Poland and Hungary and Annex B containing U.N. resolutions on Hungary are not printed.
  2. See Document 109.
  3. See Annex C. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. See Document 166.
  5. See footnote 7, Document 173.
  6. See SNIE 12–2–56. [Footnote in the source text. SNIE 12–2–56 is Document 137.]
  7. For text of NSC 5607, see vol. XXIV, p. 243.
  8. Reference is to Resolution 1004 (ES–II); see Document 164.
  9. The U.S. Government was not planning to deal directly with the Hungarian Government on relief matters. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had undertaken the responsibility of making relief arrangements and the United States was assessing the suitability of those arrangements. (Telegram 1402 to Bonn, November 21; Department of State, Central Files, 864.49/11–1656) The first Red Cross relief convoys had entered Hungary on November 11 and 14.
  10. Document 80.
  11. Scheduled for publication in volume XXVI.
  12. See footnote 19, Document 173.