50. Memorandum of Discussion at the 280th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 22, 19561

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1 and 2. In agenda item 2, “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security”, Allen Dulles briefed the NSC on Khrushchev’s speech on Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress; for text, see volume XXIV, page 72.]

3. United States Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe and Exploitation of Soviet and European Satellite Vulnerabilities (Progress Report on NSC 174, dated February 29, 1956;2 Progress Report on NSC 5505/1, dated December 14, 1955;3 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Review of NSC Policy on Soviet European Satellites”, dated October 20, 19554)

The Executive Secretary briefed the National Security Council on the contents of the two subject progress reports (copy of briefing note filed in the minutes of the meeting).5 Secretary Dulles was obliged to leave the meeting, and his place was taken by Under Secretary Hoover. At the end of his briefing, Mr. Lay suggested that Secretary Hoover might wish to add to his remarks.

Secretary Hoover said that U.S. policy toward the Soviet satellites presented a difficult subject to come to grips with from a practical point of view. In trying to achieve the objectives of this U.S. policy, the Operations Coordinating Board had encountered extreme difficulty in devising effective courses of action. We had achieved very little in terms of concrete gains. Circumstances limited us to “playing for the breaks” and doing our best to maintain the morale of the populations of the satellite states. In any event, Secretary Hoover believed that it [Page 129] was desirable for both these policies to be reviewed by the NSC Planning Board, with particular reference to the events of the last few days.

The President said that he had no quarrel with the verdict of those who had prepared the progress reports, but added that constant searching might conceivably reveal possible courses of action to achieve our objectives. We mustn’t be less aggressive in pursuing our objectives simply because we had thus far not achieved the progress we would like to see.

Mr. Allen Dulles said that he was glad to hear the President speak these words. While, he said, there was no forward progress recorded in these progress reports, the fact that the Soviets have not succeeded in getting further than they have in their satellite states constituted a gain in some sense. Thus the hope of liberation had not yet been blotted out in the satellite populations. The President replied that history proved that no single country like Soviet Russia could really be successful in controlling indefinitely vast areas such as those comprised by the satellites unless, like ourselves, in an earlier era with the Indians, we virtually exterminated the population. The President added that it was essential that we keep the hope of liberation alive in the satellites as a force on our side. So we should keep up the good work and hope that the Soviet Union keeps encountering additional trouble in the satellites. In a certain sense Secretary Dulles had been right in his public statements that the Soviet Union had been obliged to change its tactics owing to the lack of success of their previous tactics.

Secretary Hoover offered the opinion that there was one course of action at least in this area that the United States might pursue more actively. He referred to his February visit to Berlin,6 and said that 90% of the East Germans would vote now for union with a free Germany. Accordingly, the United States should publicize what the Soviets have been guilty of doing in East Germany. It was a very weak spot in their armor.

The President expressed the opinion that we should make West Berlin a “showcase of prosperity”, especially in terms of sending food, of which we have such a tremendous over-abundance. Let’s send them pork, beef, wheat, and rice—millions of dollars worth of it.

Secretary Hoover informed the President that he had investigated this matter when he had been in Berlin. He had found the West Berliners very well fed and clothed. Moreover, they were proud that [Page 130] their situation had been achieved by their own efforts and exertions. West Berlin was the most completely anti-Communist place in the world.

The National Security Council: 7

Noted and discussed the reference Progress Reports on the above subjects, and the recommendation in the enclosures to the reference memorandum of October 20, 1955, that the NSC Planning Board review NSC 174 and NSC 5505/1 in the light of and subsequent to revision of NSC 5501 (NSC 5501 superseded as of March 15, 1956, by NSC 5602/1).
Directed the NSC Planning Board in the light of the discussion to prepare a revision of U.S. Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe, to supersede NSC 174, with the understanding that East Germany will be dealt with primarily in relation to U.S. Policy Toward Germany following receipt of a forthcoming Progress Report by the Operations Coordinating Board on Germany, including East Germany and Berlin.8
Directed the NSC Planning Board to review NSC 5505/1 in the light of paragraph 6–c of NSC 5602/19 and submit such policy recommendations with respect thereto as may be appropriate.

[Here follow the remaining agenda items.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on March 28.
  2. Supra .
  3. See footnote 2, supra .
  4. Not printed. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 174 Series) It transmitted a memorandum from Rockefeller to the OCB, September 30, requesting that the NSC Planning Board review NSC 174 and NSC 5505/1 in light of and subsequent to revisions on NSC 5501.
  5. Not found.
  6. Under Secretary Hoover visited Berlin on February 5 to be the principal speaker at the ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of the radio station RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) and to dedicate a local high school named in honor of his father, former President Herbert Hoover. While in West Germany, February 2–4, Hoover met with officials of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  7. Paragraphs a–c that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1530, approved by the President on March 23. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  8. Reference is to a Progress Report on NSC 174, not printed. (Ibid., S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 174 Series)
  9. For text of NSC 5602/1, “Basic National Security Policy,” March 15, 1956, see vol. XIX, p. 242.