44. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 9, 19561


  • US Policy towards Eastern Europe


  • Dr. Vilis Masens, Chairman, Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN)2
  • Dr. G.M. Dimitrov, Vice Chairman
  • Mr. Hasan Dosti, Albania
  • Dr. Juraj Slavik, Czechoslovakia
  • Mr. Leonhard Vanter, Estonia
  • Mr. George Bessenyey, Hungary
  • Mr. Vaclovas Sidzikauskas, Lithuania
  • Mr. Stefan Korbanski, Poland
  • Mr. Constantin Visoianu, Rumania
  • Mr. Brutus Costa, Secretary General, Rumania
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Beam, EUR
  • Mr. Stevens, EE

Dr. Masens opened the discussion by expressing, on behalf of the ACEN, their thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to meet the Secretary. They wished particularly to thank him and the President for the President’s statement of December 303 with respect to US policy concerning the liberation of the captive countries of Eastern Europe. They were also grateful to the Secretary for the firm stand which he had taken on many occasions with respect to the liberation of the [Page 110] captive nations. The ACEN were the spokesmen for the oppressed peoples of Eastern Europe. They were not working for the restoration of their own personal fortunes. Their task was to work for the liberation of their countries which in some cases had been deprived for as many as fifteen years of elementary human rights. Until the liberation of the captive nations is achieved, international tensions cannot be relaxed. The achievement of liberation is the responsibility of all members of the United Nations.

Dr. Masens then stated that, if it were agreeable to the Secretary, his colleagues would present the views of the ACEN on various problems.

The Secretary remarked that the time available to him was limited and that if all the members of the group expressed their views it might take too long, Dr. Masens assured him that his colleagues would be brief.

Policy of Peaceful Liberation

Mr. Visoianu (Rumania) said that prospects for liberation had stood at a low point after the Geneva conferences and the admission of the four satellite governments to the United Nations.4 These developments, particularly the latter, had been a powerful blow to the hopes of the captive nations. They had created the impression that the Free World accepted the Soviet position of domination. The ACEN was grateful for the President’s statement on the peaceful liberation of the satellites. It was now clear that this was a major goal of American policy. It was not only a wish but the active aim of policy. Mr. Visoianu said that he wished to propose three courses of action to advance the cause of liberation: (1) to use all international institutions, such as the UN, and international conferences to promote the cause of peaceful liberation; (2) to inform and arouse world public opinion regarding the situation of the captive peoples with a view to exerting pressure on the Soviet Government; and (3) to keep up the morale of the captive peoples, which is an indispensable condition to the achievement of this goal. Such peaceful procedures had been envisaged in one of the resolutions recently adopted by the ACEN.

With respect to the first point, Mr. Visoianu said that there were excellent opportunities for the presentation of the problem of the captive peoples at the UN. The Soviets were vulnerable to attack on the subject of colonization and denial of human rights. The initiative in this field should not be left to the Soviets. The question of the liberation of the captive countries should be placed on the agenda of [Page 111] all international conferences. This point had been raised and subsequently dropped at the Summit Conference, thereby creating the impression that it had been introduced merely as a bargaining point.

On the second point, Mr. Visoianu stated that peaceful liberation required the support of international public opinion. The question must therefore be placed before the world. The Soviets will attempt to avoid discussion of this question, but the West must insist. The US is not vulnerable to charges of imperialism, since its record on this score is good. The record of the Soviet Union must be publicly exposed. While the maneuverability of the US in this area may be limited, the Soviet aims are a fact and must be made clear.

On the third point, Mr. Visoianu stated that the spirit of independence in the captive countries is still intact. It is hard to keep up one’s courage in the present situation, but ways must be found to accomplish this. The captive peoples must be informed about the policy of liberation. Mr. Visoianu stated that the means at the disposal of the ACEN were limited, but that they were anxious to collaborate in any effort to reach the captive peoples.

East-West Contacts and Trade

Mr. Sidzikauskas (Lithuania) noted that the question of East-West contacts and trade had been on the agenda of the Foreign Ministers Conference at Geneva, and suggested that it might also be discussed with Mr. Eden during his forthcoming visit. The normalization of contacts between the Western world and the Soviet orbit was not useful as long as the present political situation prevailed. East-West contacts must be part of a general strategy looking to the liberation of the captive countries. Such contacts are not a subsitute for liberation. Under present conditions trade relations with the orbit would involve the importation to the West of goods resulting from the exploitation of the satellites and produced by slave labor.

Repatriation Campaign

Mr. Korbonski stated that the aims of the Soviet repatriation campaign were clear. First, it sought to persuade people behind the Iron Curtain that the émigrés had lost faith in the West, thereby weakening the spirit of resistance. Second, it sought to disintegrate the strongest anti-Communist émigré centers and to weaken the spirit of the émigrés. Mr. Korbonski suggested that a “Marshall Plan” be devised on behalf of the emigration. He referred to the deplorable situation of refugees in camps in Austria and Germany and stated that they must be removed as soon as possible. He hoped for a liberalization of US immigration laws. Steps should be taken to provide jobs for those already in the West, particularly for elderly intellectuals. The Communist [Page 112] repatriation campaign was aimed at the upper levels of the emigration. These people will not be lured home by propaganda but may eventually succumb if their personal material situation is bad. Mr. Korbonski suggested, first, the establishment of ethnic institutes to provide opportunities for émigrés to engage in intellectual and spiritual work and second, the formation of an employment agency to take care of older émigrés. He called for a bold plan of aid which would provide the means necessary to liquidate the present unhealthy conditions.

National Communism

Mr. Dimitrov (Bulgaria) stated that, at the request of his colleagues, he wished to raise the delicate question of national communism. The ACEN did not deny the necessity of using Tito to fight the Soviet Union. They wished to stress, however, that national communism has no attraction for communists in the captive countries. National communism is without ideological appeal. The communists have built their strength on the basis of allegiances to the Soviet fatherland. Without the Soviet Union the present regimes in the satellites would not exist. National communism cannot succeed in the captive countries. If it had any appeal, thousands of Bulgarians would already have crossed the border into Yugoslavia.

New regimes in the satellites will not be communist. The ACEN doubts that communist forces can be used against the Soviet Union. Eastern European communists consider that Tito has already returned to the Soviet fold. Soviet control in the satellites is so efficient that no effective action can be taken except by the democratic resistance forces in cooperation with the Free World.

Secretary’s Remarks

The Secretary said he was happy to have this meeting with the representatives of the captive nations and he expressed appreciation of the thanks they had conveyed for the President’s recent statement.

The Secretary recalled that for a long time before he became Secretary of State he had advocated the peaceful liberation of the captive European peoples. This was an essential goal and there could be no real peace until it was realized. He had not changed his views in the meantime, and he wished to make it clear that peaceful liberation was a definite aim of US foreign policy.

The Secretary mentioned that the President had dealt with the problem in his opening speech at Geneva.5 The President had later pointed out that he had privately discussed the question with the Russians at Geneva. It had not been admitted to the agenda since the [Page 113] agenda had to be established by common agreement. The President, nevertheless, had talked about it in private meetings with the Russians, and the Secretary himself had emphasized it from time to time. The President in his report to the nation on August 25 [24]6 had portrayed the satellite problem as basic to the establishment of peace.

The Secretary mentioned that some people thought the President’s speech may have been a factor in prompting the Russians to move into the Middle East.

The Secretary said that our views apparently are not fully shared by all members of the Atlantic community. There is some sentiment to the effect that an acceptable world peace could be based on the status quo. This was certainly not our view and it would merely mean that the Russians would be able to consolidate their position to make further moves against the free world. The Secretary said that the President and he intended to adhere to our policy.

The Secretary related his impressions of the second Geneva Conference. The Soviets seemed to be nervous about their position in the satellites. At the first Geneva Conference they had agreed to German reunification by free elections. At the second Conference they had repudiated their agreement and had not even paid lip service to the principle of free elections. Had they done so they might have spared themselves some political and psychological losses. Soviet action had probably been motivated by fear that free elections would be contagious in the satellite area and would undermine their control. This explains why they refused even to contemplate free elections.

The Secretary believed that the Soviets were faced with considerable problems throughout the satellite area. Unrest in some of the countries was greater than in others but the entire picture seems to cause them anxiety. It was certainly to our advantage to see that anxiety increase.

In the Secretary’s view the situation was not hopeless. What happens behind the Iron Curtain sometimes happens unexpectedly. The basic situation indicates that certain changes may be in the making. He, of course, could not set a timetable or a date for what may likely occur.

As regards contacts between East and West, which had been mentioned in the discussion, the Secretary said we would wish to avoid those types of contacts which would have a bad effect in the captive countries. We were submitting East-West contacts to very careful scrutiny. As regards the situation in refugee camps in Germany and Austria, which was another topic mentioned, he was not familiar with it but he said other officers in the Department would be available to discuss it.

[Page 114]

The Secretary said he was sympathetic to changes in our immigration law which would facilitate freer movement of refugees to the US. Changes in the law were subject to Congressional decision, but the Executive branch favored certain relaxations and we will keep in mind what the representatives of the captive nations have said at this meeting.

The Secretary said he could understand the repugnance which had been expressed with respect to certain aspects of “Titoism”. We must bear in mind, however, that there are many angles from which the problem of peaceful liberation may be approached and we should not ignore any one of them. The Soviets try to detach colonial areas from the Western countries in a two-phase operation, and the Secretary mentioned a statement which he believed Stalin had made in 1924 elucidating their aim in this regard. First, the Soviets try to break the ties with the Western countries and then amalgamate the dependent areas in the Soviet system. We ourselves should keep the way open for a kind of a two-phase operation. Encouragement of nationalism would help loosen ties with the Soviet Union. Thereafter, other problems might be more easily solved. This, however, is not an exclusive approach.

The Secretary said that what concerns the representatives of the captive nations is of deep concern to the President and himself. His listeners would understand that certain details of the problem cannot be discussed publicly. The Secretary was confident that if we all stand together for the course we believe right, it will prevail. No peaceful step which will advance the liberation of the captive nations will be overlooked. We will continue to act to insure respect for the rights of man, freedom and justice and independence for the small nations.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Secretary showed members of the Committee the statements Ambassador Lodge had made in the Security Council and the General Assembly, on instructions, regarding the admission of the satellites to the UN.7

A draft Department press release was shown to Dr. Masens, Chairman of the Committee, which he found satisfactory.8 He said that in their interviews with the press, members of the Committee might refer to the statements they had made to the Secretary, but as regards what the Secretary had told the meeting, they would limit themselves to the terms of the communiqué.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Beam and Stevens.
  2. The Assembly of Captive European Nations was formed in September 1954 under the banner of the Free Europe Committee. The Assembly advocated the attainment of independence from Soviet controls by Eastern European nations through nonviolent means. Its proceedings were regularly reported by Radio Free Europe.
  3. For text of the statement, a White House press release of December 30, see Department of State Bulletin, January 16, 1956, pp. 84–85.
  4. On December 14 the U.N. General Assembly admitted 16 new members including Albania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 27.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 26.
  7. Department of State Bulletin No. 861, December 26, 1955. [Footnote in the source text.]
  8. The text of the press release was transmitted in circular telegram 455 to Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Bucharest, and Moscow, January 9. (Department of State, Central Files, 760.00/1–955)