31. Letter From the Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs (Vedeler) to the Minister in Romania (Wharton)0

Dear Clif: I hope that you will excuse our tardiness in replying to your letter of August 11 with regard to the question of an approach to the Rumanian Government on relaxing travel restrictions. We have been spread a little thin in EE these past weeks due to transfers and summer vacations, and I wish to comment as fully as possible on the matters discussed in your letter. The possibility of getting travel restrictions removed is one that we have continued to have very much in mind. I feel, [Page 123] as you do, that the time may be drawing near for undertaking such an approach to the Rumanians.

We are in full agreement with your view that, in the light of the modest progress that has been made during the past 9 or 10 months in US-Rumanian relations, a unilateral demarche on the problem of travel restrictions would seem to offer better prospect of some favorable result than a multilateral approach involving not only the US but other Western Governments. A multilateral approach would inevitably appear to the Rumanian regime as an effort to exert collective pressure. I think it is certain that the Rumanians would view it with deep suspicion as a propaganda tactic and reject it out of hand. On the other hand, a US proposal linked to recent more favorable developments in our bilateral relations might command Rumanian attention and interest and offer far better chances of success.

We think that you should make the final decision as to the precise timing of any demarche on this subject. Presumably this might be at some point following the resumption of the talks here on cultural and other exchanges when there is reasonable prospect that the talks will have some positive outcome but well before you are scheduled to leave Rumania.2

We have checked out informally with SCA the question whether your anticipated approach to the Rumanians on travel restrictions is a matter requiring prior consultation with other government agencies here or with the Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security and have ascertained that it is not necessary to do so. It might be well, however, to note two complications that could arise in connection with the removal of travel restrictions on a reciprocal basis. One of these, which might be raised by the Rumanian side, is the fact that in addition to the State Department travel restriction involving prior notification there is also an entirely independent and additional requirement maintained by the Pentagon according to which all foreign military attaches are expected to give 24-hour prior notification to the appropriate US service branch or branches before leaving Washington on any trip. Even though agreement were reached by us with the Rumanians to remove existing State Department and Rumanian Government travel restrictions on a reciprocal basis, the Defense Department requirement on prior notification as it applies to the Rumanian attaches would remain unaffected. The Rumanians might choose to make an issue of this.

The other possible complication is one that might be raised by interested quarters outside the State Department. It would have reference to [Page 124] a situation where the Rumanians and ourselves might have agreed to removal of the prior notification procedure on travel but where the Rumanians would continue to designate certain areas within Rumania as closed to diplomatic travel. As you know, we have not set up similar closed zones here, although some years ago we let it be known to the Rumanians that we reserved the right to bar travel within the area bounded by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers should considerations of reciprocity of treatment so require. We have invoked this only on one or two occasions some years ago. In other words, if the Rumanians insisted on retaining their system of closed zones, this could lead to ultimate insistence here that we set up a comparable system of closed areas. We in EE would prefer, of course, to avoid any such system of designated zones, even if the Rumanians continued to maintain that particular form of restrictions, for it is somewhat complicated to establish and to maintain. However, it could become a problem, if other agencies were to make an issue of it at the time the prior notification restrictions were mutually removed or thereafter.

With regard to the two possible difficulties outlined above, I think that no useful purpose would be served at this point in trying to decide precisely how such complications should be handled. Generally speaking, however, I wonder whether the simplest and most realistic way to handle them, if they arise, is not simply to agree to cancel them out one against the other: i.e., the Rumanians would probably retain their closed zones, and the Pentagon, on the other hand, would continue its requirement of prior notice on all travel by Rumanian Legation military personnel in the US.

It is our understanding that Minister Macovescu recently indicated to Frank Siscoe that he planned to resume the talks on cultural and other exchanges about September 20.3 We should know pretty well how the talks will turn out after the first meeting or two.

In closing, I might add with regard to your mention of Rumanian eagerness in pressing the matter of raising the respective missions to Embassy status that we now have this subject under active study and are planning to produce a draft staff study within the next several weeks with a view to reaching a decision in the period immediately following the US elections. You may be interested to learn that the Bulgarians are making similar noises. As I suggested in our conversation last May in Paris,4 we in EUR feel that the elevation of our few remaining Legations to the status of Embassies is sound in principle but that the real problem lies in the timing of such moves in relation to the state and progress of [Page 125] our relations with the particular country concerned. There is, of course, a highly delicate public relations situation (involving the Congress, the emigres, the US public, and the Soviet-dominated peoples) to be faced and properly dealt with at such time as we may be ready to act. We shall be in touch with you, of course, as this matter develops further. Meanwhile, any further thoughts you have on the subject would be most welcome.5

With warmest regards,

Sincerely,

Harold C. Vedeler 6
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.6611/10–1260. Confidential; Official-Informal. Drafted by McKisson.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. Wharton left his post on October 21 to assume the position of Ambassador to Norway.
  4. See Part 2, Document 30.
  5. No record of this conversation has been found.
  6. In a September 30 letter to Vedeler, Wharton wrote that he was planning to leave Romania about October 21 and planned to call on Foreign Minister Lazareanu about October 14 to discuss the questions of exit permits, documentation for dual nationals, and travel restrictions. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.6611/10–1260)
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.