96. Record of a Meeting of the Policy Planning Staff, Department of State, Washington, October 23, 19561


  • Messrs. Bowie, Stelle, Davis, Fuller, Leonhart, Savage, Mathews, Owen, Trezise, Klosson (OIR), Beam (EUR), Freers (EE), Trivers (EE), Johnson (Embassy Warsaw), Amory (CIA)
The Situation. The USSR has always been unpopular in Poland, as has its satellite regime in Warsaw. That unpopularity has been powerfully compounded lately by growing dissatisfaction with economic conditions, particularly among the large Polish working class. The Poznan riots showed that this situation could pose real dangers to the regime. To avert these dangers, and in response to its own growing internal pressures, the Communist Party re-admitted Gomulka and other nationalists to leadership. Their program is:
to gain a greater measure of support by a more independent position vis-à-vis the USSR, without going so far as to jeopardize their alliance with the USSR (which they probably value for a number of reasons, including the protection which it affords against Germany);
to improve economic conditions by making some changes in domestic policy and by a more pro-Polish trade policy. They probably do not now contemplate cutting back the investment program, but this would seem to be necessary if any lasting improvement in living standards is to be attained. Failing such an improvement, working class dissatisfaction—now alleviated by a wave of nationalist rejoicing—will re-occur, and will pose problems for a regime which can no longer rely on Stalin-type police controls. Both a new trade policy and a cutback in investment would result in some unscrambling of Bloc economic ties.
US Objectives. We would like to:
encourage Poland to become increasingly independent of the Soviets, so as to cut down on the power and prestige of the USSR;
avert Soviet forceful intervention in Poland, which would not only terminate that independence but might also involve a risk of spreading hostilities.
US Actions. To achieve these objectives:
We should make known quietly to the Polish regime our willingness to furnish economic assistance (e.g., PL 480 sales, EximBank loans) if that regime maintains its present position of increased independence from Moscow. We should indicate that we do not insist on a complete break with Moscow—much less on a pro-US alignment [Page 260] —as a precondition to giving aid which would spare Warsaw the necessity of relying completely on the USSR. We might consider urging some of the Western European countries also to offer aid.
We should strike a public posture which is restrained and which makes clear that while we welcome greater Polish independence we are not seeking to gain a position of special influence for ourselves in Poland.2
We should ready an appeal to the UN, for use in the event of Soviet intervention, and let the Poles and the Soviets know that the appeal is at hand. We should speak to neutralist countries on whose friendship the USSR evidently sets store (e.g., Yugoslavia, India) concerning the dangerous consequences of Soviet military intervention in Poland, in the hope that they would be moved to tell the Soviets what a dim view they would take of such intervention.
  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 66 D 487, Staff Meetings. Secret. No drafting information is given on the source text.
  2. Murphy informed the Canadian Ambassador on October 23 that it would be best to adopt a dispassionate though sympathetic attitude toward events in Poland while avoiding any public comment which might compel an unconstructive Polish response. (Memorandum of conversation by Donald C. Bergus, October 23; Department of State, Central Files, 748.00/10–2356)