79. Memorandum of Discussion at the 290th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, July 12, 19561

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting. The Vice President presided at the meeting.]

1. U.S. Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe (NSC 56082 and Annex to NSC 5608;3 NSC Action No. 1530–b;4 NSC 5505/1; NSC 174; Memos for All Holders of NSC 5608, dated July 5 and 6, 1956;5 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated July 11, 19566)

Mr. Anderson briefed the Council on the main features of the proposed new policy,7 particularly as it differed from the existing policy on the subject, NSC 174. When he reached paragraph 25, Mr. Anderson pointed out the split views. As proposed by the majority of the Planning Board, the paragraph would read:

The Treasury member of the Planning Board wished to delete the first four words. Mr. Anderson suggested that this might be a suitable time for the Council to determine which version it preferred, and invited Secretary Humphrey to speak to the Treasury position.

Secretary Humphrey said that the position of the Treasury Department was quite a simple one. It seemed to them that, with all the difficulties which the Administration was now encountering with the Congress, it was wholly unrealistic to go to the Congress and ask them [Page 213] to agree to legislation which would permit us to give surplus agricultural commodities to the Soviet satellites. It was simply impossible, according to Secretary Humphrey, to get any such concession from Congress. They were opposed to any liberalization of Public Law 480 vis-à-vis the Soviet satellites. To make the attempt to induce a liberalization would only succeed in arousing a storm of protest in Congress and further complicate our already involved situation.

Dr. Flemming inquired whether the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Agriculture had not already requested authority from Congress for greater flexibility in carrying out economic policies toward the satellites. Secretary Dulles replied that all that they had sought was authority to barter goods with countries behind the Iron Curtain. Moreover, he added, he had not in mind asking anything more of the Congress by way of authority in this area.

Secretary Wilson said that he went along with the position taken by Secretary Humphrey toward this course of action, but that he did so for different reasons than Secretary Humphrey. He was not opposed to seeking additional authority from Congress simply because to do so was inexpedient at this time, but rather because he did not wish to see the standard of living in the satellites raised through the agency of U.S. surplus food. If the satellite standard of living was raised, it would indirectly promote both the political stability and the military power of the satellite states. In sum, trading on a preferred basis with the Communists in items of food value was a very doubtful course of action. It would be doubtful even if the people of the United States and the Congress could be induced to support it.

. . . In concluding, Secretary Dulles once again repeated that he was not now seeking any new authority, along the lines suggested by paragraph 25, from the Congress at this time.

[Page 214]

Mr. Anderson pointed out that it was generally understood that an effort would be made to secure Congressional agreement for the sale of surplus commodities in return for local currencies. This, he believed, underlay paragraph 25.

Secretary Humphrey said that in general when this Government sold surplus agricultural commodities to foreign countries, it gave back the local currencies thus generated to the country which received the surplus food. This being the general pattern of our performance, Secretary Humphrey predicted that we would get into terrible trouble if we followed this pattern of operations in dealing with the satellites.

The Vice President agreed that from the practical standpoint the language of paragraph 25, calling for additional authority and greater flexibility in U.S. economic policies toward the satellites from the Congress, posed a political impossibility at this time. Later on we may educate Congress into understanding more clearly our reasons for seeking such additional flexibility. Accordingly, the Vice President said he agreed with the Treasury proposal to delete the first four words of the paragraph.

Secretary Dulles again stated emphatically that he hadn’t the slightest idea of going before Congress for anything at the present time; and if any such proposal as this was inherent in paragraph 25, it was nothing less than ridiculous, particularly with the Congress about to adjourn. Was anybody, he asked, actually suggesting that the Administration should now go to Congress for more authority . . . ? Accordingly, he said, he was quite prepared to agree to drop the bracketed four words. Subsequently, if the situation warranted, we could seek authority for more flexible action from the Congress.

Mr. Anderson proposed deletion of the first four words of paragraph 25, the Council agreed, and Mr. Anderson went on to conclude his briefing of the remainder of the paper. (A copy of Mr. Anderson’s brief is filed in the minutes of the meeting.)8

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The National Security Council: 9

Noted and discussed the draft statement of policy contained in NSC 5608, prepared by the NSC Planning Board pursuant to NSC Action No. 1530–b, in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmitted by the reference memorandum of July 11.

Adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 5608, subject to the following amendments:

(4) Paragraph 25: Delete the bracketed phrase and the footnote relating thereto.

Agreed that the NSC Planning Board would delete from the statement of policy in NSC 5608 especially sensitive statements as indicated in the discussion, and that such statements, with the addition of the sentence discussed at the meeting which would require the authorization of the Secretary of State for certain operations, should be circulated as a separate Appendix with special limited distribution.10

Note: The statement of policy in NSC 5608, as amended and edited in accordance with the actions in b and c above, subsequently approved by the President subject to the following additional amendments:

The statement of policy in NSC 5608 as amended, edited, and approved by the President, subsequently circulated as NSC 5608/1 and the Appendix thereto; and referred to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency designated by the President.

[Here follow agenda items unrelated to Eastern Europe, with the exception of the following portion of Allen Dulles’ briefing on “Significant Developments Affecting U.S. National Security.”]

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[Here follows the remainder of the agenda items.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on July 13.
  2. Document 73.
  3. Document 76.
  4. See footnote 7, Document 50.
  5. Neither found.
  6. This memorandum transmitted the views of the JCS on NSC 5608. The JCS were of the view that NSC 5608 was acceptable from a military point of view. (Department of State, S/P–NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe)
  7. Reference is to NSC 5608.
  8. Not found.
  9. Paragraphs a–c and the Note that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1580, approved by the President on July 13. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  10. Printed as an appendix to NSC 5608/1, infra .