212. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State1

443. Department pass other posts as desired. Re Hungary’s political future and long-term economic problems, following some thoughts course US should endeavor follow here in coming months.

Thus far unable discern in Soviet actions any indication of future policy other than probable complete domination of Hungarian puppet government. (In time, this domination would be increasingly indirect.) Dramatic developments here and Poland, however, give evidence deep current anti-Soviet feeling, which will continue and potentialities of which perhaps greater than previously realized. Despite military control, this current can have intense eroding effect on all Soviet efforts at political and ideological control. Furthermore, possible that attitude non-Soviet world can, over period time, have greater effect than evident thus far.

Believe two areas where US role can perhaps be positive: Search for eventual political compromise reduce present weight Soviet repression, and consideration grant economic assistance beyond $20 million.2

On political side, while attainment free Hungary must remain our basic objective, clear that we should give serious consideration to effort achieve short-term lesser aims, attainment of which would set stage for next step. Problem facing West at present is attainment some concession from Soviets in Hungary despite their continuing unwillingness compromise basic strategic position. Thus, appears from here most unlikely Soviets near future will accept any compromise involving troop removal. To Soviets dangers already demonstrated in nationalistic Communist such as Nagy so large as argue strongly against their present acceptance any leader not clearly under their control. However, one reason for Soviet fear Nagy in past, and this fear certainly strengthened in recent weeks, has probably been unclear picture in Soviet mind re Western plans or desiderata with regard free Hungary. Soviets may in fact be victims own propaganda and we know many Hungarians (including allegedly Anna Kethly) have in past voiced similar doubts. Need for public clarification US position this regard had been felt prior revolution and Legation had intended raise question with Department.

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Thus, particularly in view mounting internal political and economic problems here,

If immediate withdrawal Soviet troops not involved;
If Soviets satisfied that US not desirous return land (and perhaps industries) to former holders and not interested in establishment any particular type government except non-satellite; and
If ultra-close bonds to West, such as NATO membership, are disavowed,

Conceivable to Legation Soviets might (at some time yet unclear) be willing consider some type compromise which would be at least not involve immediate loss military position here but which would remove some responsibility for future political and economic problems.

On Western side, advantages such compromise would be humanitarian one of facilitating economic recovery and hope that pressures on Soviets slowly relinquish hold here would be such that in time they might be persuaded to take step which they now obviously unwilling to take. As Department aware, Legation prior to revolution believed Soviets had probably given serious consideration to growing Hungarian demand for freedom3 (in August—Department) and if so had decided not to crack down and stifle these, thus reconciling themselves to gradual loss influence here. This conclusion was not firm one before revolution and less so now; on other hand, pressures on Soviets accept loss influence now greater than ever before.

Only type compromise which we thus far able envisage would involve following points:

Some type “interim” coalition government, which would be made as broad as possible, and which would be expected continue for some time; at moment we have no clear ideas as how inclusive a coalition would be acceptable.
Some agreement from USSR limiting interference in internal affairs and limiting activity USSR troops in Hungary defense USSR and selves (this connection I am favorably impressed by Ambassador Thompson’s ideas on bases agreement for Soviet troops—Vienna 1322).4
Postponement further political problems and question final withdrawal Soviet troops. While every effort should of course be made establish final date and condition for troop withdrawal, we far from optimistic this could be achieved, and it might have to be left open for future.
Statement by US clarifying its position on (A) NATO membership and Communist thesis West desires use Hungary as base against Soviets, and (B) return of land to former holders and extreme capitalistic aims. Might also include statement re return nationalized industries to former holders, since primary US objection to nationalization has always been failure Hungarian Government make proper compensation. We aware of recent statements by Secretary and others this connection, such as Secretary’s Dallas speech November 4,5 but believe restatement in more explicit terms would be necessary. Whether statement should refer to hope of eventual free and neutral Hungary, Legation cannot now advise.

As indicated Vienna’s 1322, some type UN or big power approval such arrangement would undoubtedly have to be announced in order obtain Hungarian popular support.

This type solution would create regime neither neutral nor satellite nor NATO nor independent; but hope would be that it would place Hungary in position where liberalizing forces both within and without country could slowly become operative once more.

Concerning economic assistance, now very clear that despite all relief activities, real and continuing suffering can be minimized only by fairly large-scale assistance in foodstuffs and fuel, for which payment cannot be made in immediate future. Recent Hungarian history demonstrates that West’s interests do not run counter economic welfare individual Hungarians. Anti-Soviet feeling (or at least outward expression that feeling) has increased, not decreased as standard living rose slightly recent years and each economic concession by Communist government has been answered by greater demands. Perhaps most important criteria in deciding such aid would be whether actually benefits individual Hungarian and whether he aware it came from US. I therefore increasingly favor some effort provide Hungary considerable assistance in foodstuffs and fuel in coming months.

Vienna’s Toica 1596 received after preparation foregoing. Legation comment on timing, method handling, psychological impact in event work slow-down continues, etc., follows.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/12–1456. Secret. Repeated to Vienna.
  2. The President authorized this sum on November 2.
  3. See Document 86.
  4. In telegram 1322, November 15, Thompson commented that the base agreement “might give Soviets way out their present dilemma if in fact they desire solution. It would enable them maintain Warsaw Pact system, ensure Hungary not used as base against them and would diminish threat to north-south communications satellite system. Unable hazard opinion whether this would in Soviet eyes constitute greater hazard further explosions in satellite empire than institution flagrantly repressive regime but would think in view obvious Soviet need to save face before world if they are to carry on pretense their declared aims, might appeal to them.” (Department of State, Central Files, 661.64/11–1556)
  5. The correct date is October 27; see Document 128.
  6. Not found.