2. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 12–58


The Problem

To assess the prospects for stability in the European Satellites over the next few years.


Since the crisis of October 1956, the USSR and the Satellite regimes have had considerable success in reimposing party unity and general submissiveness among the people, at least on the surface. Even in Poland, the Gomulka regime has strengthened its hold despite continuing unrest.
For at least the next few years the USSR and the Satellites will probably avoid further political innovation but maintain the general policies—especially in the economic field—followed during 1957. We estimate that by and large such policies will preserve relative stability in the Satellites over the next few years. Popular revolts are unlikely, largely because of the still fresh example of Soviet repression in Hungary; nor do we expect another coup on the Polish model elsewhere in the Satellites.
But the USSR and the Satellite regimes have by no means eliminated those forces in Eastern Europe which underlay the unrest of 1956. We foresee a continued atmosphere of change and ferment, more highly charged than under Stalin. Popular dissatisfaction, party factionalism, intellectual dissent, and chronic economic difficulties will continue to stimulate desires for reform and change. A period of political turbulence might again emerge if internal controls are relaxed, or there are economic crises, or uncertainties appear to characterize the policies of [Page 6] the USSR or local regimes. The greatest potentialities for unrest appear to exist in Poland and East Germany.
We also continue to believe that Poland’s ability to maintain its semi-independence will be a key factor affecting future political developments in Eastern Europe. Barring an acute economic crisis, the Gomulka regime has a better than even chance of surviving the internal threats to its position. We also believe that it will be able to retain its relative freedom from direct Soviet control. In time this development, together with Yugoslavia’s continued independence, may tend to encourage nationalist-oriented elements in the other Satellites to seek greater autonomy.
For the short term at least the Soviets will almost certainly go slow in liberalizing their policy, but they do not seem to view a return to Stalinist policies as either necessary or feasible. The USSR will probably continue to extend substantial aid to alleviate economic difficulties. Moreover, once reassured that their position is no longer threatened, the Soviet leaders might gradually allow a more independent role to the Satellites, within the limits imposed by Soviet hegemony. On the other hand, should this hegemony again appear to be seriously threatened reversion to a harsher policy would follow.
The West’s ability to influence the course of European Satellite development through policies and actions directed at the Satellites themselves is limited, particularly by tight Communist controls. Within these limits, however, the post-Stalin trends in Eastern Europe and the likely continuation of stresses and strains within the Satellites have created a situation more open to Western influence than at any time since 1948. Growing trade and East-West contacts offer some opportunities. But probably the only means—short of force—that could have a substantial positive or negative impact on Eastern Europe lie within the field of major East-West agreements which would fundamentally affect the current situation.

[Here follows the “Discussion” section with parts entitled “Situation and Prospects in Individual Satellites,” “The Outlook in the Satellites,” and “Impact of Western Policies.”]

  1. Source: Department of State, INR-NIE Files. Secret. A note on the cover sheet indicates that this estimate superseded NIE 12–57 and was concurred in by the Intelligence Advisory Committee on February 4. The Atomic Energy Commission Representative to the IAC and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained because the subject was outside their jurisdiction. An extract of NIE 12–57, “Outlook for Stability in the Eastern European Satellites,” dated February 19, 1957, is in Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XXV, pp. 578579.

    The cover sheet, dissemination notice, table of contents, and a one-page appendix on Soviet economic aid to the satellites and other intra-bloc credits affecting the satellites are not printed.