11. Paper Prepared by N. Spencer Barnes of the Policy Planning Staff0


I. Background Factors

The eight states in Eastern Europe bounded roughly by the USSR and the Black Sea on the east, Baltic Sea on the north, Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Italy and the Adriatic Sea on the west, and Greece and Turkey on the south, have the following points in common:

They are Communist states, with highly centralized governments which exercise effective control over the peoples and over the political, economic and cultural lives of these nations, and which in turn are rigidly controlled by a single or a dominant political “party” through various mechanisms including a strong security police. It is certain in most, and probable in all of these countries, that the majority of people are opposed to the Communist system and to the regimes in the sense that free elections, at least after a period of free pre-election activity and in the absence of exterior threats, would result in non-Communist governments.

All of these states either are or were under effective control of the Kremlin as a result of war and post-war developments. The Kremlin’s power to dictate was eliminated in Yugoslavia through successful defection in 1948, threatened and reasserted by force in Hungary in 1956, circumscribed in Poland over the last two years but has remained substantially intact elsewhere. The most important instrument of Soviet control throughout the area has been armed force, present or immediately available. Other instruments of control have been local party and governmental machinery and security police forces, directed from Moscow though of greater or less reliability; economic pressures exerted [Page 49] through partial integration of neighboring economies with that of the USSR; monopoly of publicity media, etc. In every country the masses strongly oppose Soviet domination and welcome any practical opportunity to assert national independence. In addition, it seems probable that most of the leaders comprising the local governments do or would favor greater national independence if this could be combined with maintaining their own positions of power and influence.

None of the states in question possess the human, natural or technological resources to play a major political, military or economic role in Europe. Geographically and strategically they all lie in a belt between the Soviet Union on the east and the NATO power complex to the west and so will tend, individually or en bloc, to gravitate one way or the other. This gives very considerable politico-strategic importance to the area, participated in to a greater or lesser degree by each of its units.

II. Policy Considerations

US policy in this area will naturally be directed toward the long-term goal of independent, national states plus an East Germany reunited in freedom with the Federal Republic; all with governments freely chosen and supported by the peoples themselves; all satisfied or at least reconciled to living at peace with their neighbors within accepted national boundaries; all free from domination by the Soviet Union or any other foreign power; and all “Western oriented,” not in a geographic sense but in the sense of sharing in the traditions of and attitudes toward those principles of human freedom under law and national self-determination within a cooperating comity of nations which may be considered the natural heritage of the free world. In practice, however, and in the near future this goal seems hardly feasible nor, it is believed, is it essential. Communism as an ideology, or way of life to command men’s loyalties and fervor, is much less dangerous now. It has proven efficient in producing steel and sputniks but highly inefficient in satisfying man’s natural craving for such amenities as consumer goods and free expression. In consequence, red Imperialism rather than ideological Communism is the enemy in being and the first obstacle to progress toward US policy goals; and reduction, neutralization and atomization of the Kremlin’s power potential appear as prime goals at present. At the same time, since national policy has ruled out the application of military force to free the captive peoples of Eastern Europe, temporary acceptance of the situation becomes automatic and a shorter term policy designed to foster evolutionary change through non-military means is required.

It would seem wise to concentrate this interim policy on assisting the natural drive toward independence and on reducing the threat of Soviet action directed against such independence. It seems clear that in [Page 50] practice and in the foreseeable future the first aim can best be promoted under local Communist governments. Non-Communist regimes are not likely to come to power before, or coincident with, independence; and efforts to bring them to power are almost certain to result in retrogression to occupation status as happened in Hungary. On the other hand, national Communism, self-determination under Communism, will not only be in line with the first aspirations of peoples but will be attractive to local leaders at such times as the latter see prospects for successful assertion of national rights. In addition, independence on these terms is much less likely to precipitate Soviet intervention.

The corollary to this proposition is that US policy should, in these countries, for an interim period only, avoid active opposition to Communism per se and should attempt to discourage premature action aimed at overthrowing Communist regimes. There is little danger of overdoing this. The US Government will certainly continue to express, through media, official and diplomatic channels, its conviction that the popular welfare in any country is best served through political democracy, individual liberties and wide scope for private enterprise. But this may be coupled with continuing emphasis on the fact that the US and its Western allies have no intention of exerting pressure on any Communist government in a truly independent state. The chances for disillusionment with the West, such as followed the Hungarian Revolution, would be reduced by this posture. It would encourage elements in present governments who may be inclined toward a gradual swing out of the Soviet orbit. And furthermore, it would continuously undercut Soviet propaganda that US policy promotes the restoration of monopoly capitalism or feudalism.

The above posture is close to that adopted toward Yugoslavia after its declaration of independence, and quite similar to our present attitude toward Poland. But it would seem no less important in its application to other states where the first steps toward independence have not yet been taken. As to how the attitude can best be carried across, the normal use of media, official statements, diplomatic channels, economic negotiations, the UN forum, cultural and informational exchanges and contacts of all types, are well enough known to require no elucidation. It would also seem well to avoid expressing antagonism toward local Communist leaders as individuals—except the most hopelessly compromised Soviet agents — on the theory that any one of them may unexpectedly be tempted to loosen ties with Moscow. At the same time it would appear reasonable to express a clear distinction in action between the more independent nations, as Yugoslavia and Poland, and the out-and-out satellites—in other words a policy of graduating aid and comfort in accordance with degree of independence rather than with degree of similarity in political and social system.

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In reducing the threat of Soviet intervention, the general approach should be three-pronged. First, the employment of every effort to stimulate a revulsion of world-wide public opinion against the Soviet use of force against neighboring states. A constant harping on the discrepancy between Soviet word and deed, using the Hungarian example to the limit in showing the insincerity of Soviet advocacy of non-interference, would seem desirable. The examples of Yugoslavia and Poland can be invaluable vis-a-vis the still captive states.

The second prong would be to maintain a US and NATO military potential sufficiently powerful to carry conviction that an alternative exists to Soviet domination. The effectiveness of this posture may be questioned, in view of demonstrated unwillingness to risk all-out war in protecting Hungary’s independence. But it is still a real factor, one which may have tipped the balance in Yugoslavia’s 1948 breakaway and which could have analogous effect in the future. It goes without saying, of course, that its efficacy will be largely proportional to actual power relationships, and would vanish under demonstrable Soviet superiority; and that not only military potential counts, but availability and readiness to use it if necessary.

The third prong would consist in continued and serious efforts to reach agreements on political issues such as German reunification, troop withdrawals, disarmament and European security, of a kind which would pose both material and psychological blocks to the maintenance or introduction of Soviet troops in neighboring countries. Such agreements would greatly facilitate US policy implementation in Eastern Europe as well as in other areas. The unlikelihood of quick success should be no reason to abandon attempts.

Other important elements in policy toward the area in question would include:

The encouragement of rapprochement and closer ties—diplomatic, cultural, informational, etc.—between the US and Western European nations on one hand and the Communist bloc on the other, on the theory that the natural flow of influence will be from West to East and closer contacts will promote this flow.
Efforts to reorient trade patterns of the smaller Communist countries toward greater dependence on Western trading partners. Limited economic and technical aid would also seem appropriate, but only to countries already enjoying an appreciable measure of independence.

  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 67 D 548, Europe (East). Secret. Regarding the origin of this paper, see the source note, Document 9. Several short notes were appended to this paper, one of which indicated that at the Policy Planning Staff meeting on August 25 “it was considered that a series of brief, cleared staff papers should be prepared on major fields of policy for wider distribution than hitherto. Two papers on the Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe were used as examples, and Mr. Barnes will undertake to revise and condense these as the first of such a series.” The other notes, initialed by Barnes, indicate that Barnes had sent the revised paper to Elbert G. Mathews, while Policy Planning Staff Director Gerard Smith was absent, and Mathews had said that a further meeting might be held to discuss giving the paper wider distribution when “more active preoccupations quieted down.” No indication has been found, however, that such a meeting took place or that this paper was circulated outside the Policy Planning Staff.