52. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy) to the Secretary of State 1


  • US Position on Re-establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Bulgaria


You will recall that in 1953 you concurred in the Department’s determination that, on balance, the interests of the US would best be served by a resumption of diplomatic relations with Bulgaria. Further [Page 139] action was suspended at that time, however, when Congressional leaders consulted on the issue expressed opposition.2

In a recent development the Bulgarian Government has indicated through its Legation in Paris that it is now prepared to propose formally that diplomatic relations be resumed. This development, representing a departure from Bulgaria’s previous insistence that the US make the first move, appears to reflect an eagerness on the part of the Bulgarian Government to normalize relations with various countries including the US following Bulgaria’s recent admission into the UN.

After careful re-examination of the issue in the light of these considerations it is again recommended that a resumption of relations would be in the interests of the US. This view is expressed in the attached Position Paper (Tab A) which concludes with a series of recommendations for a course of action. The recommendations may be summarized as follows:

As the minimum price for agreeing to open negotiations for a resumption of relations the US should require that the Bulgarian Government state, without reference to its previous charges of US responsibility for the suspension of relations in 1950, that it desires to resume relations with the US, and is prepared to observe traditional rules of diplomatic intercourse. This might be done in the form of a note for release to the press, or in a public statement by the Bulgarian Government.
If the Bulgarian Government accepts those conditions we should seek through negotiation to obtain agreement on the following points:
the re-establishment of relations should be effected in two stages, at first through an exchange of chargés d’affaires and subsequently, if conditions warrant, through an exchange of ministers with normal representation;
the Bulgarian Government will provide written guarantees specifying in detail that our mission will not be subjected to harassment and will be permitted to operate according to the usual rules of diplomatic intercourse;
the Bulgarian Government will agree to open negotiations, to begin after the exchange of chargés d’affaires, with a view to settlement of certain outstanding problems, notably the status of US citizens in Bulgaria and the settlement of outstanding US claims against Bulgaria.

When the attached paper was circulated for comment, ARA (Mr. Holland), FE (Mr. Sebald), and P (Mr. McCardle) expressed dissent. [Page 140] ARA noted3 that in its view a resumption of relations with Bulgaria would constitute a dangerous precedent for Latin American countries not now having diplomatic relations with the Soviet bloc, and FE expressed similar apprehensions with respect to countries in its area. P observed that such a development might weaken resistance groups in Bulgaria and that it might place us in an embarrassing position should the Bulgarian Government at some later date renege on assurances of proper conduct given in order to bring about a resumption of relations.

The apprehensions reflected in these views were discussed at a meeting in my office in which representatives from the areas concerned participated.4 It was noted that the US currently maintains relations with four Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, and would merely be completing the pattern of its representation in that area by resuming relations with Bulgaria. Any illusion that a return to Sofia would constitute acceptance of the Soviet-dominated Bulgarian regime could be dispelled by our information media, and could be explained in Latin American countries and elsewhere through our diplomatic missions. It might be noted that Argentina has for several years maintained diplomatic relations with Bulgaria and other Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. As for the possibility of a lack of good faith in negotiations it is to be hoped that the Bulgarians particularly have learned that there is a limit to our patience. It was therefore concluded that although certain risks must be recognized, the advantages to be gained by the US through a resumption of relations with Bulgaria, on the favorable terms which now appear available to us, outweigh the disadvantages.

It was agreed that Congressional leaders should be consulted before any formal negotiations looking toward a resumption of relations are undertaken.

It was further agreed that the governments of the Balkan Pact countries (Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey) should be informed of our intended action. These governments, as well as the governments of France, Great Britain and Italy, have already been told informally of the Bulgarian approach in Paris. Reactions were generally favorable to a resumption of US-Bulgarian diplomatic relations. The Yugoslav Acting Foreign Minister, Mr. Prica, told our Ambassador in Belgrade that in his view the approach marked a favorable development in which he was certain his government would be much interested; he added that [Page 141] the approach appeared to be another step in satellite policy to normalize relations with the West, and that he was inclined to think tolerable conditions could now be arranged in Sofia.


That you approve the proposed course of action with respect to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Bulgaria outlined above,5 as set forth in detail in the attached Position Paper (Tab A).




  • Re-establishment of US Diplomatic Relations with Bulgaria


Recent indications that the Bulgarian Government, after being admitted to membership in the United Nations, is now prepared to take the initiative in steps leading to a re-establishment of diplomatic relations, makes it desirable and timely for the United States to review its position on the advantages and disadvantages of such a development.


Diplomatic relations with Bulgaria were suspended on February 20, 1950 after the Bulgarian Government had refused to withdraw a note which accused the American Minister in Sofia of subversive activity and declared him persona non grata. The rupture had been preceded, however, by a series of indignities and restrictions, including 1) false charges against American mission personnel, 2) intimidation and persecution of local employees, 3) delays in the issuance of visas for American replacement personnel, and 4) increasingly severe travel and housing restrictions. As a consequence of these measures the effectiveness of the American Legation in Sofia had already been severely curtailed when the note demanding the Minister’s recall was received. The note itself, therefore, which purported to be based on testimony produced at the “show trial” in December 1949 of Traicho [Page 142] Kostov, a former Bulgarian Communist leader and alleged “Titoist”, served only to bring to a climax a deterioration in relations which had begun more than two years earlier.

It was believed at the time that the suspension of relations might demonstrate to Soviet leaders that there was a limit to our patience and might result, at least temporarily, in some improvement in the treatment accorded our missions in other Soviet bloc countries. During the months following, however, the Communists unfolded a series of “show trials” intended to lower the prestige of the US in the area, and they imposed increasingly severe restrictions on the activity of our missions in satellite capitals. For its part, the Bulgarian Government reacted to the suspension with further attacks on the American mission, disclaimed all responsibility for the suspension, and alleged that the American withdrawal served merely to support the charges advanced during the Kostov, and subsequently the Shipkov trials. Although this belligerence later abated, Bulgarian officials have persisted in the view that the lack of relations which resulted from the suspension was not their fault. This view has been expressed as recently as December 31, 1955, in an address by the Bulgarian Prime Minister and Party leader, Vulko Chervenkov.

A shift in the Bulgarian attitude toward the rupture appeared in 1953, after the death of Stalin, when Bulgarian officials let it be known through French diplomatic circles in Sofia that their country would welcome a resumption of relations with the US. These sentiments were subsequently confirmed in two public addresses by Chervenkov. In view of these “feelers” the question was examined in the Department and the determination made that, on balance, US interests would best be served by resuming relations and re-establishing a mission in Sofia. It was subsequently decided, however, after Congressional leaders consulted by the Department had expressed firmly adverse reactions, that any movement in the direction of renewed diplomatic relations at that time was premature. Accordingly, no action was taken, and the matter was left dormant during 1954 and most of 1955. It was only revived after Bulgaria’s entry into the UN, when a Bulgarian diplomatic representative in Paris called on the Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassy, indicated informally that he wished to raise the question of resuming relations, and acknowledged that he was doing so on the specific instructions of his government. This representative subsequently declared that his Government intended to transmit a note to the Embassy which would formally propose that diplomatic relations between the US and Bulgaria be resumed.

[Page 143]


As this chronology indicates, the Bulgarian Government’s public attitude toward diplomatic relations has altered considerably during the past five years. The vituperative attacks of 1950 have given way gradually to a milder approach which, in its most recent manifestation in Paris, reveals a willingness now on the part of Bulgaria actually to take the initiative in seeking to resume relations with the US. This change may also be reflected in current Bulgarian efforts to achieve a normalization of relations with Greece and other countries with which such relations were previously strained or non-existent.

The considerations which in 1953 had influenced the Department’s position concerning the desirability of resuming relations with Bulgaria, and which with some modifications still prevail, include the following: 1) intelligence acquisition, 2) desirability of having American representatives on the spot should any development of major significance take place in Bulgaria, 3) protection of US citizens and US property in Bulgaria, 4) possible furtherance of nationalistic aspirations, and 5) demonstration of continuing American interest in the welfare of the Bulgarian people. Bulgarian membership in the UN, and the presence in this country of a Bulgarian UN delegation provides, moreover, a new element which can be regarded as an anomaly in the absence of diplomatic relations.

No one of these considerations alone is enough to justify a resumption of relations. . . .

Lack of US representation in Sofia has the further adverse effect of reducing our capacity to exploit promptly and effectively any development of major significance comparable, for example, to the Yugoslav defection of 1948, and prevents the US from having a source of guidance useful in political formulation and propaganda evaluation. By its absence, moreover, the US is precluded from following with optimum vigilance Bulgaria’s reaction to the recent Yugoslav-Soviet rapprochement, a development of particular importance to this area in view of Bulgaria’s traditional ties with Yugoslavia. It will be recalled that Tito’s expulsion from the Cominform was in part predicated on his continued support for a South Slav Federation which had earlier been advocated by the late Bulgarian Communist leader, Dimitrov, and the Kostov trial which led directly to the suspension of US-Bulgarian diplomatic relations had also featured the alleged heresy of the South Slav Federation, denounced by the Kremlin in 1948. An improvement in Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations might bring about a revival of the idea of the Federation and should therefore have the closest attention of the US.

[Page 144]

As for other US interests, it is noted that not more than 40 Americans, all believed to be dual nationals, now reside in Bulgaria, and our experience in other satellites shows that the assistance which might be offered them even if there were an American mission in Sofia would be very limited. The US Government nevertheless has an obligation to do all in its power to protect and assist these unfortunate people; the absence of a diplomatic mission, and the consequent lack of consular services (even though these are in part furnished by the US protecting power, Switzerland) handicaps US efforts on behalf of its nationals.

With respect, finally, to the question of demonstrating US interest in the welfare of the Bulgarian people and promoting nationalistic aspirations through the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, some differences of opinion are inevitable. It appears, however, that, on balance, and provided it were accomplished on terms favorable to the US, a re-establishment of relations would be useful in the furtherance of US objectives with regard to the sympathies of the Bulgarian people. It could also provide a means for giving encouragement to nationalistic (Titoist) tendencies which might develop among Bulgarian leaders. There is, of course, some danger that other nations—and some elements of the Bulgarian people—might interpret a re-establishment of relations as a mark of US approval of the regime. It should be clear, however, from our words and deeds with respect to other Communist countries of Eastern Europe with which we now maintain diplomatic relations, that the US does not approve the Kremlin-dominated regimes now in power. In the case of Bulgaria, moreover, we are not establishing relations but merely resuming them after receiving assurances that the situation which led to the suspension in 1950 has been corrected.

The question may arise that a resumption of relations with Communist Bulgaria would be inconsistent with US policy against the establishment of relations by countries of South America and Africa with the USSR. It does not appear, however, that any such inconsistency exists. The USSR is the prime mover in the Communist field which seeks to extend its influence wherever possible; Bulgaria is but one of the lesser appendages of the Soviet apparatus. In the re-establishment of diplomatic contact with Bulgaria, moreover, the US is simply completing a part in the over-all pattern of its Eastern European relationships.

It is of course evident from the eagerness with which the Bulgarian Government apparently seeks to resume relations that it, too, would expect to gain, presumably in prestige and general acceptability in the family of nations. This gain, however, would not appear to be as significant as that which would result for the US. The Bulgarian initiative in seeking a resumption of relations as expressed in Paris suggests that Bulgaria might be willing now to pay a price to achieve its goal. [Page 145] The recent Greek experience also suggests an approach which could be utilized with profit by the US. The Greeks agreed first to resuming relations with limited representation headed by a chargé d’affaires, with the understanding that full representation would depend upon the settlement of certain outstanding issues including Greek compensation claims against Bulgaria. Although these issues have not yet been settled, the Bulgarian Government has recently shown such eagerness to achieve full normalization that it may yet meet Greek demands. Meanwhile, Greece has obtained many of the advantages of diplomatic relations without appreciable loss of prestige or bargaining position. This experience is reflected in the recommendations below.


The following recommendations are made:

The US should avoid being drawn into making a move by which it would appear that it has taken the initiative, but the Bulgarian démarche in Paris should be encouraged.
The Bulgarian representative in Paris should be informed,7 a) that the US agrees that a resumption of diplomatic relations could be of mutual benefit to the two countries, but that, b) in view of the circumstances which led up to the suspension of relations in 1950, the US is understandably reluctant to enter into renewed contact with the Bulgarian Government unless it can first be assured that the Bulgarian Government is now prepared to observe traditional rules of diplomatic intercourse and show a proper respect for the immunities customarily accorded diplomatic representatives.
When the foregoing position has been established the American representative should suggest orally that as a first step toward opening formal negotiations the US would desire a formal statement from the Bulgarian Government which would cover the following points: a) specific withdrawal of Bulgarian charges against the American Minister which resulted in the suspension of relations, b) acknowledgement of Bulgarian responsibility for the abuses which led to the suspension, c) a statement of the desire of the Bulgarian Government to resume diplomatic relations with the US, d) assurance that the Bulgarian Government is prepared to observe the traditional rules of diplomatic intercourse, and e) the omission of any reference to previous charges that the US was responsible for the suspension of relations in 1950. These points may be made either in a public statement to be issued by the Bulgarian Government or one of its leaders, or in a note to be addressed to the US Government, it being understood that the note will be made public. Should the Bulgarians seek a modification of these conditions the situation thus created would have to be reconsidered by the US.
If the Bulgarian Government meets these demands either in a note or public announcement, the US should reply that it is prepared to enter into negotiations with a view to resuming diplomatic relations. [Page 146] The Bulgarian initiative and the US response should be released to the press. The negotiations, however, should be conducted in secret and agreement on this point should be reached with the Bulgarian representatives prior to the formal opening of negotiations.
In negotiations, presumably in Paris, undertaken to explore the possibility of any re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Bulgaria, the US should seek agreement with Bulgaria on the following points:
the re-establishment of relations should be effected in two stages, at first through an exchange of chargés d’affaires, and subsequently, if conditions warrant, through an exchange of ministers with normal representation;
the US will expect suitable guarantees in writing that its mission will not be subjected to harassment and will be permitted to operate freely according to the usual rules of diplomatic intercourse, such guarantees to include specific reference to provisions for adequate housing, minimum travel restrictions, prompt issuance of visas for US Legation personnel, and freedom from intimidation and persecution for local employees;
the Bulgarian Government should give its agreement prior to the exchange of chargés d’affaires that it will undertake further negotiations in Sofia through the US chargé d’affaires to be assigned there, with a view to settlement of problems concerning i) the status of US citizens who may visit Bulgaria or who are presently residing there, and ii) the settlement of outstanding US claims against Bulgaria.
Provided the Bulgarian Government accepts these prior conditions, the US will agree to the re-establishment of relations, and will dispatch a small Legation staff to Sofia headed by a chargé d’affaires, which will be authorized to conduct the further negotiations concerning the status of US citizens and US claims mentioned in sub-paragraph c), above. Further representation, including an exchange of ministers, would depend upon the outcome of these negotiations and the conduct of the Bulgarian Government toward the US chargé d’affaires in Sofia and his staff.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.69/4–356. Secret. Drafted by Robert C. Hill (EE) and cleared by Stevens (EE) and Beam (EUR).
  2. The question of a possible resumption of diplomatic relations with Bulgaria and Congressional opposition to such a move was discussed by the National Security Council at its 177th meeting on December 23, 1953. For an extract from the memorandum of discussion, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, p. 127.
  3. The arguments against reestablishment of relations put forth by ARA are contained in a memorandum from Assistant Secretary Henry F. Holland to Robert Newbegin, Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs and Maurice M. Bernbaum, Director of the Office of South American Affairs, February 24, which was attached to a memorandum from Bernbaum to Holland, also February 24. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.69/2–2456)
  4. No other record of this meeting has been found in Department of State files.
  5. According to a note from Fisher Howe to Murphy’s Special Assistant, W. Tapley Bennett, April 11, attached to the source text, Murphy noted that at the Secretary’s Staff Meeting of April 11, the Secretary gave tacit approval to this memorandum. Murphy took it upon himself to decide that any action leading to reestablishment of relations with Bulgaria should be deferred for at least a few months. (Department of State, Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75)
  6. Secret. Drafted by Hill and cleared by Stevens.
  7. In telegram 4050 to Paris, April 30. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.69/4–3056)