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73. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5608



  • A. NSC 174
  • B. NSC 5505/12
  • C. NSC Action No. 1530–b

The enclosed draft statement of policy on the subject, prepared by the NSC Planning Board pursuant to NSC Action No. 1530–b, is transmitted herewith for consideration by the National Security Council at its meeting on Thursday, July 12, 1956.

A Staff Study on the subject is being prepared, and will be circulated for Council information in this connection, as an Annex to NSC 5608.3

The enclosed policy does not appear to involve any unusual expenditures over or beyond funds which have been appropriated for normal operating programs of the agencies involved. Accordingly, no Financial Appendix is enclosed.

The enclosed statement of policy, if adopted, is intended to supersede NSC 174.

It is recommended that, if the Council adopts the enclosed statement of policy, it be submitted to the President with the recommendation that he approve it, direct its implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, and designate the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency.

S. Everett Gleason
[Page 191]



General Considerations

Soviet control over the Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany5) has contributed importantly to the power disequilibrium in Europe and to the threat to the security of the United States. Despite economic dislocation and administrative difficulties, the Kremlin has made considerable progress in exploiting the industrial capacity of the satellites and expanding their military capabilities for use as a coordinated whole with those of the Soviet Union. Formation of the Warsaw Pact in May 1955 as a counter to NATO, which had just admitted West Germany, institutionalized and extended existing Soviet coordination and control over the military potential of the Eastern European bloc. The Soviet military position in Europe was affected little, if at all, by the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Austria in October 1955.
Impediments to the consolidation of Soviet control over the Eastern European satellites are:
The anti-Communist attitude of the great majority of the population in each satellite. This anti-Communism is intensified particularly by loss of personal freedom and a reduced standard of living, as well as by outraged religious and national feelings; but its undiminished survival over the long run is jeopardized by Communist control over every aspect of the lives of the people, particularly the young, as well as by the new Moscow policy of allowing the satellites greater latitude in the conduct of their own affairs.
The continued presence of nationalist sentiment among the people and even within the satellite Communist parties themselves.
The continued refusal of the West to accept the permanence of the imposed satellite regimes as compatible with the freedom and self-determination of nations.
Despite these impediments, Soviet domination of the Eastern European satellites remains firm and there appears little immediate prospect of basic change in this regard. While the satellite regimes have not been able to overcome widespread popular dissatisfaction [Page 192]with their Communistic program and with their inclusion within the Soviet world, nevertheless there are no known underground groups capable of coordinated, sustained resistance activities to the governments in power in any of the countries concerned. As long as a Moscow-dominated Communist leadership remains in power in these countries and is backed by Soviet military force or threat of force, it is unlikely that Soviet ability to exercise effective control over and to exploit the resources of the European satellites can be appreciably reduced.
On the other hand, the many changes in the USSR since the death of Stalin—particularly the introduction of collective leadership, Moscow’s acceptance of Titoism and acknowledgment that there are “different roads to Socialism”, and the denigration of Stalin—are being reflected in current satellite developments. These developments have varied in pace and scope in each of the satellites and are continuing, but common to them all are a reduction in the role of the secret police embodied in the emphasis on the need for “socialist legality” and the admission of past errors attributed to the “cult of personality”. Some personnel changes have occurred at the top in certain satellite governments and others may follow. Although the basic political and economic policies and objectives have not been successfully challenged nor the fundamental subjection of the satellites to the Soviet Union effectively threatened, there are indications that Moscow now recognizes the advantage of using greater flexibility as well as more camouflage in its control of the satellites, and of giving them certain latitude or responsibility of decision on matters of local detail within the general framework of Soviet bloc policy.
Nationalism in the satellites, even within the Communist movement itself, remains a disruptive force in Soviet-satellite relations. There is a real and growing split in most satellite parties between those amenable to close Soviet control and the “national Communists”. However, since the combination of basic factors which made possible the successful Yugoslav break with Moscow is lacking in the satellites, it is unlikely that the Yugoslav experience will be repeated in any of them. Moreover, by its reconciliation with Tito, Moscow has sought with some success to neutralize the competing attraction originally exercised on the satellite governments by Belgrade’s independent position and policies.
Tito’s establishment of an independent Communist regime provides a standing example of successful defiance of the Kremlin and a demonstration that the West is prepared to assist nationalistic Communist leaders to assert their independence of Moscow. Despite Moscow’s apparent reconciliation with Belgrade, it may be still possible to exploit Yugoslavia’s unique position in promoting future changes in the Soviet satellite relationship. Any diminution of Yugoslavia’s independence [Page 193]of the Kremlin will limit its usefulness in this regard. On the other hand, a Yugoslavia which maintains a position of independence between East and West would be an important asset in promoting possible future changes in the Soviet-satellite relationship.
U.S. strategy and policy with respect to the German problem and the satellite issue are so closely interrelated that each must be considered in the light of its effect on the other. The intransigence of the Soviets on German reunification, at Geneva and subsequently, arises in part from their German policy and in part from their regard for Eastern Germany as an advanced position for control of the satellite area. These considerations provide strong Soviet incentives for postponing an agreement on German reunification. The inability of the West to make the satellite issue an agenda item at the negotiating table or to offer substantial promise of the early elimination of Soviet control depresses the hopes of the satellite peoples for freedom and reduces their will to resist, thereby increasing the tendency to accept accommodation with Moscow.
Nevertheless, Eastern Germany poses a special and more difficult problem of control for the USSR than do the other satellites. While the Eastern German regime has made some progress with the program of basic industrial development and socialization, and while there are various factors operating to weaken resistance of the Eastern German population to the Communist regime, there is little likelihood that the East Germans can be brought to accept the Communist system imposed on them. The fact that the main body of the German nation in the Federal Republic has made considerable advances in freedom and well-being, and the fact that West Berlin provides a means of contact with the Free World, serve to keep alive in Eastern Germany the hope for an escape from Soviet domination. The situation in East Germany provides opportunities for the West to continue to exploit strong popular anti-Communism, to maintain East Germany as a focal point and example of disaffection for the rest of the Soviet satellites, and to make difficult full utilization by the Soviet Union of East Germany’s economic resources.
The denigration of Stalin and Moscow’s acceptance of Titoism have created difficulties in Soviet relations with the satellites; they have raised questions as to the infallibility of Soviet leadership among important elements of the satellite Communist parties; they have aroused to varying degrees latent popular aspirations for relaxation of oppression, restoration of national independence, and the establishment of governments responsive to popular will. This fluid situation in the satellites has increased the previously limited U.S. capabilities to influence a basic change in Soviet domination of the satellites. Although the Eastern European peoples continue to feel that liberation is remote, they remain responsive to our interest in their independence, [Page 194]provided it is expressed persistently and in terms which make it clear that this is our basic objective. There is a possibility that an internal relaxation might result in the long run in the development of forces and pressures leading to fundamental changes of the satellite system in the direction of national independence and individual freedom and security.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/P–NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe. Top Secret. At its 280th meeting on March 22, in NSC Action No. 1530, the NSC directed the Planning Board to revise NSC 174; see Document 50. For text of NSC 174, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, p. 110.

    A draft of NSC 5608 by Richard H. Davis of S/P, May 11, is in Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 66 D 487, R. Davis chron. Regarding the Planning Board revisions to NSC 5608, see Document 78. The NSC discussed NSC 5608 on July 12; see Document 79. It was approved as NSC 5608/1 on July 18; see Document 80.

  2. For text of NSC 5505/1, see vol. XXIV, p. 3.
  3. Document 76.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  5. While many of the considerations set forth in this paper with respect to the Eastern European satellite area as a whole also apply to East Germany, the specific problems of East Germany and Berlin are treated respectively in a supplement to NSC 160/1, being prepared pursuant to Council action on June 15, 1956, and in NSC 5404/1. [Footnote in the source text. The NSC Action of June 15 was 1575–c; NSC 5404/1, “US. Policy on Berlin, January 25, 1954, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VII, Part 2, p. 1390.]