254. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 31–2–55


The Problem

To reassess Yugoslavia’s present and future international position and to estimate the probable effects of possible US courses of action with respect to Yugoslavia.


We believe that the dominant concerns of the Yugoslav regime, at least so long as Tito remains alive, will be to insure its own survival free of foreign domination and to advance its own influence and prestige on the world scene. Despite Tito’s Marxist world outlook, we believe that he will continue to regard his interests to be best served from a flexible position in which Yugoslavia can achieve benefits from both power blocs with a minimum of commitments to either. (Paras. 23, 25)
We have carefully considered the possibility that Tito may have decided that his interests can best be served from a position within rather than outside the Communist orbit, and that he has made an agreement with Moscow to rejoin the Bloc. His present maneuvers might thus be designed to prepare the way for open acknowledgment of such an agreement. We consider it unlikely, however, that Tito has come to this decision or has made such an agreement with Moscow. Even if he were fully convinced that the USSR [Page 663] was prepared to take Yugoslavia back, not as a Satellite but as a partner, a position in the Bloc would still offer Tito and his key associates great personal danger and would be unlikely to offer any great advantages to compensate for the loss of world-wide influence and prestige which Tito’s independent policies have won for him. (Para. 24)3
Tito will continue to take advantage of opportunities to profit by the USSR’s present show of friendship, to test Soviet good faith, and to encourage the readjustment of Soviet relationships with the Satellites and with the non-Communist world which he hopes is in the making. This process is likely to be marked not only by further economic and cultural cooperation but also by cautious moves toward re-establishment of party-to-party relations. (Paras. 26–30)
However, we believe that as long as Tito is in power this process of political rapprochement will not result in Yugoslavia’s realignment with the Bloc unless the USSR proves willing to make such modifications in the nature of its relationships with the Satellites as to convince Tito that he would have real opportunities for independent leadership and influence in the Communist world. We feel safe in estimating that there is a pro-Soviet element in the Yugoslav Communist Party that is now pressing for closer ties with Moscow, but we are uncertain as to its leadership and extent. However, Tito is clearly in firm control. In the event of Tito’s death such a pro-Soviet element could well exert dominant influence, especially if a confused struggle for power took place. (Paras. 31–34)
Given a continuation of the USSR’s present conciliatory behavior, Yugoslavia will probably continue to preach “peaceful coexistence” and may toy with the idea of some form of buffer alignment in Europe. It will support various Soviet and Chinese Communist diplomatic moves, and will display increasing indifference toward its military ties with the West. However, it will still wish aid and trade ties with the West, will display continuing interest in economic regional cooperation with Western states, and will look to the West as a potential source of support against possible Soviet designs. (Paras. 32, 35–37)
Yugoslavia’s adherence to its Balkan Alliance commitments in time of war is doubtful, and its wartime usefulness to the West is uncertain. We believe that the Yugoslav regime would endeavor to remain neutral in a general war, at least until the situation clarified. We also believe, however, that Tito would fight if directly attacked, and might also enter the war, not because of his Balkan Alliance commitments, but as a consequence of his judgment as to the course of hostilities and as to the advantages which he might gain from participation. [Page 664] Ultimately, Tito might consider it advantageous, and perhaps even essential for the survival of his regime, to join the winning side before the end of hostilities. (Paras. 37–38)
Present US ability to affect the process of readjustment in Yugoslavia’s international position is limited:
Although the Yugoslavs desire additional US military and more particularly economic aid, they would almost certainly refuse to make more than minor concessions to obtain it. They are probably prepared to accept a substantial reduction in military aid. (Paras. 40–41, 44)
Should a substantial reduction in economic aid actually take place, Yugoslavia’s ability to pursue major economic goals would be severely limited, and its tendency to look to the Bloc for increased trade and credits, which will in any case be evident, would be intensified. However, such a cut would not critically endanger Yugoslavia’s economic viability if the regime accepted the need for austerity measures, and we do not believe that Tito would allow himself to become economically subservient to the Bloc. (Paras. 41–43)
A substantial reduction in US economic aid would cause considerable Yugoslav resentment and would somewhat impair Tito’s bargaining position as against Moscow, though it would not in itself impel the Yugoslavs to move politically closer to the Bloc. (Para. 44)

[Here follows the “Discussion” section, comprising paragraphs 8–44.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) were high-level interdepartmental reports presenting authoritative appraisals of vital foreign policy problems. NIEs were drafted by officers from those agencies represented on the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC), discussed and revised by interdepartmental working groups coordinated by the Office of National Estimates of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), approved by the IAC, and circulated under the aegis of the CIA to the President, appropriate officers of cabinet level, and the National Security Council. The Department of State provided many political and some economic sections of NIEs.

    According to notes on the cover sheet, “the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Air Force, and The Joint Staff” participated in the preparation of this report; this report “supplements NIE 31/1–55 and supersedes portions thereof.” NIE 31/1–55, “Yugoslavia and Its Future Orientation,” May 19, is not printed. (Ibid.)

  2. This estimate re-examines Yugoslavia’s international position in the light of developments since publication of our last full-length treatment of Yugoslavia, NIE 31/1–55: Yugoslavia and its Future Orientation, 19 May 1955. It is designed to supplement rather than completely replace that estimate. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Footnote in the source text [14 lines of source text] not declassified.