46. National Security Council Report0

NSC 5808/1


General Considerations

U.S. Interest in Poland

1. The Communist nature of the Gomulka regime, and its close association with the USSR for ideological and geopolitical reasons (including membership in the Warsaw Pact),1 prevent achievement of a really independent Poland in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the limited independence gained by Poland since the establishment of the Gomulka [Page 111] regime in October, 19562 serves U.S. interests by (a) tending to weaken the monolithic character of the Soviet Bloc; (b) impugning the alleged universality of certain aspects of Soviet Communism; (c) contributing to ferment in Eastern Europe; and (d) providing new opportunities to project Western influences in Poland. Because of the influence which its example exerts on other Communist nations in Eastern Europe, Poland’s ability to maintain its present semi-independence will be a key factor affecting future political developments in that area.

2. The United States wishes to avoid any situation which might lead to retrogression in Poland, harsher Soviet policies in the other Satellites or serious risk of general war. Consequently, U.S. interests currently are best served by a semi-independent Poland with a potential for evolving toward full independence by gradual means not jeopardizing the gains already made. Experience has shown that U.S. policy toward Poland can be pursued effectively through the Polish Government, as well as directly with the Polish people, through such means as aid, trade and information programs. The Polish bureaucracy still contains important non-Communists.

The Polish Internal Situation

3. The Polish internal situation continues to represent a basic and significant deviation from the Soviet pattern. The gains of October 1956 have not been seriously threatened except in one sector, freedom of the press. Nevertheless, the initial liberalization trend has been checked and the regime has made clear that it will not tolerate activity ultimately threatening to itself. Because of strong anti-Communist and anti-Russian popular views, preoccupation with the difficult task of earning a living, and disappointment over the regime’s failure to achieve material improvement in the economic situation, popular enthusiasm for Gomulka has waned from the emotional high point of 1956.

4. Economic difficulties, popular discontent, and Party factionalism pose a chronic threat to regime stability and force Gomulka to do a delicate balancing act to alleviate pressures from all dissatisfied elements. Nevertheless, the Poles apparently continue to regard the Gomulka Government, though Communist, as an improvement on its post-war predecessors and, in any event, as the only present alternative to a return to a more repressive regime subject to greater Soviet influence.

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5. Gomulka’s concessions to the anti-Communist bulk of Poland’s population do not indicate renunciation of basic Communist aims. For example, current permission for peasants to return to private farming does not signify abandonment of the ultimate goal of collectivization; and the modus vivendi with the Church does not bespeak repudiation of the anti-religious aim of Polish Communism. These concessions constitute an admission that coercion has failed to promote popular acceptance of Communism in Poland and reflect a hope that this goal can be accomplished by persuasion.

6. Barring an acute economic crisis, the Gomulka regime has a better than even chance of surviving internal threats to its position and retaining its relative freedom from direct Soviet control. Soviet repression in Hungary probably continues to be a deterrent to popular uprisings in Poland, although serious disturbances might result if the Government were forced to impose curbs on developments which it considered threatening to its control of the situation. These could lead to Soviet intervention and a disastrous reversal in the gains made thus far by the Polish people.

7. The abuses inflicted on the Polish economy during nearly 12 years of Soviet domination have taken a heavy toll and have been reflected in a low level of consumption and public welfare. Except for one area—agricultural output, where the prospects are now considerably brighter than they were prior to October 1956—the main elements in Poland’s economic predicament continue to be: (a) the lack of many important industrial raw materials, underexploitation of those available, and a shortage of foreign exchange to pay for imports; (b) the inability to raise substantially the production of coal; (c) an inadequate supply of consumption goods in both absolute terms and in relation to the population’s purchasing power; and (d) a critical shortage in housing. Among the serious immediate problems confronting the Polish economy are inflationary pressures and social problems exerting an adverse influence on production, such as widespread pilferage of socialized property, workers’ discontent, corruption, speculation, and rising alcoholism.

8. Poland’s continuing reliance on the Soviet Bloc for the major share of its foreign trade—60 percent of Poland’s trade is with the USSR and other Soviet Bloc countries—limits Poland’s ability to achieve greater independence. U.S. policy objectives in Poland would be advanced by a reorientation of Polish trade with the West. Representatives of the Polish Government have stated that they desire to increase the volume of their trade with the West. The Free World share in total Polish trade has risen from 30 percent in 1954 to about 40 percent in 1956. The Poles have recently concluded trade agreements with Soviet Bloc countries involving substantial increases in the volume of trade, especially with the USSR. Under these agreements, the Poles apparently contemplate [Page 113] the maintenance for the next three years of the approximate present 60–40 ratio for Soviet Bloc and Free World shares of total Polish trade, thus limiting the opportunity for further increasing the percentage share of Polish trade with the West.

9. U.S. economic aid has had a psychological influence in Poland by concretely demonstrating our interest in and concern for the welfare of the Polish people, and has added to Poland’s relatively independent status in the eyes of world opinion. U.S. economic assistance (relatively smaller than Soviet Bloc economic assistance) also has aided Gomulka’s efforts to stabilize his position and to maintain his semi-independence from Moscow, by giving the regime an enhanced status, a freer hand, and an improved bargaining position with the USSR. Moreover, the prospect of such U.S. aid may be a factor encouraging any other Satellite leaders who may desire to follow the Polish example. Gomulka’s efforts to improve Polish living standards and thereby strengthen his regime are also aided by the economic assistance which Poland is receiving from the USSR and Satellite countries, even though this assistance is less directly oriented toward improvement of the welfare of the Polish people than are the U.S. credits.

Poland’s Relations With the West

10. The Polish Government’s policy of seeking improved relations with the West, particularly the United States, appears to be based principally on: (a) the advantages of a certain amount of non-Communist international identification as a factor in seeking to further Poland’s national independence; (b) the psychological desirability of making concessions to strong popular demands in Poland for more identification with Western countries and cultures; (c) the desire for substantial Western economic aid; (d) the desire to maintain a sufficient trade relationship with the West to provide a greater variety of resources to the economy and to enhance Poland’s bargaining position in economic negotiations with the USSR and Soviet Bloc countries; and (e) the desire to profit from the advanced technology of the West. The Polish Government seeks especially to establish a receptive attitude in Western governments on the question of aiding Poland economically.

11. The policy of seeking improved relations with the West is likely to continue. The Polish Government is sensitive to the danger of Western influence to Polish Communism and is alert for opportunities to combat this threat in ways not prejudicial to the aims stated above. Gomulka’s assurances to the Soviet Union concerning U.S.-Polish relations are balanced by Polish pledges to the United States that Poland’s independent status has not been impaired by developments in Soviet-Polish relations.

[Page 114]

12. U.S. relations with Soviet-dominated Communist Poland from 1945 to late 1956 generally followed the trend of U.S. relations with the USSR and other countries of the Soviet Bloc. U.S. policy since October 1956 has sought to encourage the renewed struggle of the Polish people toward internal freedom and the evolution of the Polish Government toward national independence.

13. Since October 1956 the United States has agreed to provide Poland $55 million in loans under Section 401 of the Mutual Security Act3 and $138 million in agricultural surpluses under P.L. 480. This aid was provided under agreements signed on June 7 and August 14, 19574 for assistance amounting to $95 million, and on February 15, 1958 for $98 million.5 Present legal limitations restrict the types of assistance which can be provided to Poland, to sales under P.L. 480, Title I, and to dollar assistance within the $30 million annual limitation under Section 401 of the Mutual Security Act. The Battle Act6 rules out consideration of all other U.S. credits, and the Johnson Act7 precludes credits by private American banks to Poland (beyond normal short-term commercial facilities).8 Provision of other types of assistance or private credits to Poland would require amendment of the Battle Act, and review of the applicability of the Johnson Act to Poland, and might be facilitated by encouraging Poland to refund its obligations by negotiating agreements with its creditors.

14. The following additional measures were taken by the United States in connection with the 1957 U.S.-Polish economic negotiations: restrictions on transmitting U.S. obligations (e.g., Social Security benefits) [Page 115] to Polish citizens were lifted; U.S. voluntary agencies were encouraged to establish programs in Poland; and measures were taken to liberalize controls on U.S. exports to Poland and otherwise to facilitate U.S.-Polish trade.

15. The United States has also shown its interest in the Polish people by promoting greatly-expanded U.S.-Polish cultural relations, including: (a) a significant information program in Poland, conducted without identification as a USIA operation and with tacit consent of the Polish Government; (b) broad exchanges of official and private persons; (c) an agreement9 for distribution of a Polish-language edition of “America” magazine; (d) an information media guarantee agreement to facilitate the purchase by Polish consumers of motion pictures and publications through U.S. commercial channels; and (e) U.S. trade exhibits at the Poznan fair and trade information missions in Poland. Promotion of the U.S. point of view in Poland has been facilitated by a new receptiveness of the Polish Government to information from the West. In this connection, cessation of jamming by Poland has increased significantly the audibility, and thus the effectiveness, of the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE), although interference in Poland still is encountered from Soviet, Czech, and East German jammers.

16. Improved U.S.-Polish relations have also made possible: (a) an agreement in principle to negotiate a lump-sum settlement to compensate U.S. owners for property nationalized or otherwise taken by Poland; (b) greatly increased possibilities for U.S. Embassy personnel in Warsaw to contact and get information from Polish officials; (c) regular U.S. Air Force flights from Germany to Warsaw in support of the U.S. Embassy there; (d) permission for claimants to U.S. citizenship to leave Poland in greater numbers; (e) a somewhat more receptive attitude toward admitting persons whom the United States wishes to deport to Poland; and (f) Polish assurances that goods of U.S. origin, obtained by Poland either directly or via third countries, will not be transshipped or reexported to other countries without the prior approval of the Government of the United States.

Poland’s Relations with the Sino-Soviet Bloc and Yugoslavia

17. Strong Soviet displeasure expressed personally by Khrushchev in Warsaw, and the threat of Soviet armed intervention during the October 1956 upheaval, failed to maintain the previous Soviet-dominated regime in Poland.

18. The Polish regime assesses its independent foreign policy potential in terms of: (a) Poland’s geographic position; (b) the continued [Page 116] presence of Soviet troops in Poland and East Germany;10 (c) the lesson of the Hungarian revolution;11 (d) Poland’s vital economic dependence on the USSR; (e) the need for Soviet support in combatting what Poland envisages as a resurgent Germany; (f) the need for Soviet support of the Oder-Neisse line as Poland’s western border; (g) Poland’s membership in the Warsaw Pact; (h) the Communist nature of the Gomulka regime; and (i) sensational Soviet scientific successes having military implications.

19. Poland’s insistence on pursuing its “own road to socialism” has related principally to internal Polish affairs, and Poland has generally followed the USSR’s lead on international issues. Nevertheless, it has faced up to Soviet displeasure by taking a stand of limited independence in matters such as its relations with the United States, Yugoslavia, Communist China, and Israel. Moreover, while admitting Poland’s secondary role, the Polish Government has sought to increase its influence in international affairs, particularly in the field of disarmament and relaxation of tension. Although its position on these issues follows the Soviet line closely, and admittedly is coordinated closely with the USSR, Poland’s claims to initiative may have some validity when the proposals also serve Polish purposes.

20. The Gomulka regime has sought support from Communist China and Yugoslavia for its assertion of the right to pursue its own internal road to “socialism”. Reported Chinese support now appears to have been withdrawn, but continued Yugoslav backing on this point appears assured because of its basic importance to Tito’s own regime. While the Polish and Yugoslav deviations from Soviet Communism are not parallel in many respects, close relations and ideological affinity are mutually beneficial to Gomulka and Tito in their relations with the Kremlin. The recent Polish-Yugoslav treaty of economic cooperation12 may prove to be a significant step in developing closer relations between the two countries.

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21. Soviet pressure, containing the constant threat of intervention, in combination with Gomulka’s determination to maintain his Communist regime in power, has checked the initial liberalization trend in Poland’s internal affairs. The USSR has, however, acknowledged the strong antipathy of the Polish people toward Russians and Communism by exercising pressure in more sophisticated ways. The USSR has also: (a) made concessions such as withdrawing many of the “advisers” previously imposed openly on Poland; (b) under Polish pressure, redressed to some extent previous Soviet economic exploitation of Poland; (c) agreed formally that Poland should share in controlling Soviet troops still on Polish soil; (d) extended substantial economic aid; and (e) sought to keep Poland heavily dependent economically on the Soviet Bloc. As long as the Polish people continue successfully to resist Soviet efforts to reverse the gains made in Poland since October 1956, USSR short-term policy objectives probably will be concentrated on keeping Poland’s experiment within manageable bounds, so as to minimize its effect on the Soviet Bloc and to prevent an explosion requiring intervention by the USSR.


Short-Term Objectives

22. Conditions in Poland enabling, through Western influence, the promotion of peaceful evolution toward internal freedom and national independence, the reduction of the Polish contribution to Soviet strength, and the weakening of the monolithic front and internal cohesiveness of the Soviet Bloc.

23. Greater political, economic and social orientation of Poland toward the West, and diminution of Soviet influence in Poland.

Long-Term Objectives

24. Eventual fulfillment of the right of the Polish people to live under a government of their own choosing, which maintains peaceful and stable relations with neighboring states, and participates fully in the Free World community.

Major Policy Guidance13

25. Recognize that U.S. interest requires a distinction in certain cases between the treatment accorded Poland and that accorded Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Albania, Rumania, and Bulgaria.

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26. Take all feasible steps to promote and encourage in Poland an evolution toward greater internal freedoms and national independence, avoiding actions likely to provoke retrogression within Poland or the use of force by the USSR against Poland.

27. a. Be prepared to furnish, at Polish request, economic and technical aid to Poland at approximately current program levels for the purpose of encouraging Poland to pursue policies which would contribute to the attainment of U.S. objectives; being prepared to increase the level of aid to Poland should significant opportunities arise which would move Poland toward internal freedom and national independence.

b. To the extent possible without prejudicing these primary purposes, design such assistance to: (1) reduce Polish economic dependence on the USSR and other countries of the Soviet Bloc; (2) reach those sectors of the Polish economy where it is likely to be of the greatest benefit to the Polish people; (3) contribute to the development of free economic forces within Poland; and (4) provide to the Polish people the maximum visible evidence of the source of the aid.

c. In any event, in extending assistance avoid actions which could be interpreted as unreserved endorsement of the Gomulka regime on the one hand or which, on the other hand, would encourage attempts to overthrow that regime by violence.

d. Seek appropriate changes in legislation in order to relax present restrictions on the provision of economic aid to foster the development of Polish internal freedom and national independence.

28. a. Encourage increased trade with Poland consistent with “U.S. Economic Defense Policy” (NSC 5704/3).14 In accordance with paragraph 13 of such policy, make available to Poland from Western countries strategically-rated goods, including embargo-type items, on a case-by-case basis as such goods are shown to be reasonable and necessary to the Polish civilian economy (as determined in each case by reference to the stated civilian uses, and with due consideration to the strategic risk involved).

b. Seek relaxation of the present restrictions on private U.S. credits to Poland and encourage the extension of such private credit.

c. Extend most-favored-nation treatment to Poland at an appropriate time, and thereafter consider supporting Poland’s application for membership in GATT.

29. Seek to orient Poland toward the Free World by: [Page 119]

Promoting closer relations between Poland and selected Free World countries and between Poland and Yugoslavia, provided Yugoslavia continues to maintain its independence from the USSR.
Encouraging selected Free World countries to expand their trade with, and to furnish economic aid to, Poland.
Supporting Poland’s inclusion in UN specialized agencies and, in general, supporting Polish candidates for UN offices in preference to candidates of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Albania, Rumania, and Bulgaria.
In determining whether to support a possible Polish application for membership in the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, take into consideration, in addition to the usual factors, not only the desirability of providing a certain amount of non-Communist international association for Poland but also the possible adverse impact of Polish membership on the institutions themselves.

30. Subject to the effective implementation of ICIS-indorsed security requirements applicable to the East-West Exchange Program:

Make a special effort to increase scientific, economic and cultural contacts and exchanges between the United States and Poland under U.S. policy on “East-West Exchanges” (NSC 5607).15
Invite Polish leaders to the United States for official visits and be prepared to send U.S. leaders to Poland on official visits. In order to give the Polish Government sufficient leeway to judge the advisability of such visits vis-à-vis Poland’s relations with the USSR, extend the invitations in a manner designed to make it possible for the Polish Government to refuse without publicity or embarrassment.

31. As feasible, strengthen the U.S. information and cultural program in Poland.

32. Continue application of “U.S. Policy on Defectors, Escapees and Refugees from Communist Areas” (NSC 5706/2)16 to Polish nationals, except that:

[1 paragraph (4-½ lines of source text) not declassified]

b. Avoid publicity concerning Polish defectors, escapees and refugees unless such publicity would produce a net advantage to the United States.

33. Treat Polish flag vessels in the same manner as vessels bearing the flag of Soviet Bloc countries, except that, under appropriate security safeguards consistent with “U.S. Policy on Continental Defense” (NSC [Page 120] 5802/1, paragraphs 14 and 19),17 including adequate internal security procedures for the processing of ships’ personnel seeking temporarily to enter the United States via Polish vessels:

Polish flag passenger vessels should be permitted to enter the port of New York.
Polish flag cargo vessels should be permitted to enter major port areas where facilities for boarding, searching and surveillance are available (including New York) for the specific purpose of taking on cargo to be shipped to Poland under the terms of any economic agreement between the United States and Poland.18

34. Cultivate good working relationships with Polish officials and, to the maximum extent feasible, exploit Polish Government channels in taking U.S. actions designed to benefit the Polish people.

35. If the United States should establish consulates in Poland, be prepared on a reciprocal basis to permit Poland to establish consulates in the United States.19

36. Avoid placing the Polish Government in positions where it would feel compelled to make public statements affirming solidarity with the USSR, while at the same time recognizing that the Polish Government may from time to time be forced to make such statements in order to maintain its delicate balance vis-à-vis the USSR.

37. Utilize opportunities for cooperation in the unclassified peaceful uses of atomic energy, including the exchange of information and the training in the United States of Polish scientists in non-sensitive fields under appropriate security safeguards to be developed by ICIS. Exercise discretionary authority as regards the licensing for export to Poland of reasonable quantities of materials and equipment obviously intended for:

Basic research and instruction in the atomic energy field (including cooperation under any eventually-concluded agreement for U.S. assistance in furnishing Poland with a research reactor, nuclear fuel therefor, and/or related laboratory equipment).
Medical, agricultural or civilian industrial use.

[1 paragraph (17 lines of source text) not declassified]

[Annex A (4 pages of source text) not declassified]

[Appendix (½ page of source text) not declassified]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Records, 092 (9–14–49), Sec. 14 R–13. Secret. A covering note from Lay to the NSC, also dated April 16; a table of contents; financial appendix; Annex B, “U.S. Trade With Poland–Danzig 1947–1957;” and Annex C, “Legal Limitations on Trade With and Assistance to Poland,” are not printed.
  2. On May 14, 1955, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European Communist nations signed a multilateral treaty of “friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance” at Warsaw, which was ratified by all signatories on May 30. See Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XXV, pp. 3334.
  3. Wladyslaw Gomulka was elected to the Central Committee and to the position of Party First Secretary by the Eighth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party on October 19, 1956. During this Plenum, Khrushchev, accompanied by top Soviet political and military figures, arrived unannounced in Poland, put Soviet forces stationed in Poland on alert, and tried to prevent Gomulka and his supporters from gaining power. When Gomulka refused to talk, the Soviet delegation left and the Polish Central Committee resumed its session.
  4. The Mutual Security Act of 1954 permitted the United States to furnish assistance to friendly nations to promote the security of the United States. Section 401 provided a special fund, not to exceed $150 million, to be used at the discretion of the President whenever he determined that such use was important to the security of the United States. (68 Stat. 832)
  5. For text of Surplus Agricultural Commodities Agreement between the United States and Poland signed at Washington on June 7, 1957, and entered into force that same day, see 8 UST 799. For text of the Agreement Amending the Surplus Agricultural Commodities Agreement of June 7, 1957, between the United States and Poland, signed at Washington on August 14, 1957, and entered into force that same day, see 8 UST 1289.
  6. The $95 million consisted of (a) $65 million under P.L. 480 and (b) a loan of $30 million provided through Section 401 of the Mutual Security Act. The $98 million consisted of (a) $73 million under P.L. 480 and (b) a loan of $25 million provided under Section 401. [Footnote in the source text. See also Document 44.]
  7. The Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act, called the Battle Act, signed October 26, 1951, embargoed the shipment of arms or strategic materials to nations or combination of nations that threatened the security of the United States. (65 Stat. 644)
  8. The Johnson Debt Default Act, signed April 13, 1934, prohibited financial transactions with any foreign government in default in its obligations to the United States. (48 Stat. 574)
  9. See Annex C. [Footnote in the source text.]
  10. Negotiations are at an advanced stage—agreement is expected soon. [Footnote in the source text.]
  11. The USSR has 2 divisions (35,000 men) and a 2,000-man security force in Poland, and 22 divisions (350,000 men) and a 10,000-man security force in East Germany. Polish forces include: an army of 18 divisions (250,000 men) and security forces numbering 45,000; an air force of 34,000 men with 675 jet day fighters, 20 all-weather jet fighters, 85 jet light bombers, and 10 jet attack fighters, and a Navy of 10,450 men with 2 destroyers, 9 submarines, and 102 minor vessels. [Footnote in the source text.]
  12. Reference is to the Soviet intervention in Hungary on October 24 and November 4, 1956; see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, volume XXV.
  13. Reference is to an agreement signed on February 20 by representatives of the Governments of Poland and Yugoslavia which provided for the establishment of a permanent Yugoslav-Polish Committee for Economic Cooperation. The Committee’s task was to exchange experiences in planning systems and economic organizations in the two countries, to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries, and to recommend ways to expand trade between them.
  14. NSC policies on the Soviet Bloc (including NSC 5726/1, “U.S. Civil Aviation Policy Toward the Sino-Soviet Bloc”, December 9, 1957) will continue to apply to Poland except as modified by this policy or by exceptions in the policies concerned. [Footnote in the source text. A copy of NSC 5726/1 is in Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, 5726 Series.]
  15. NSC Action No. 1865–c directed the review of this policy. [Footnote in the source text. For text of NSC 5704/3, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. X, pp. 495498.]
  16. NSC 5607, June 29, 1956, is printed Ibid., vol. XXIV, pp. 243246.
  17. NSC 5706/2, March 8, 1957, is printed Ibid., vol. XXV, pp. 584588.
  18. NSC 5802/1, “U.S. Policy on Continental Defense,” February 19, 1958, is scheduled for publication in volume III. A copy is in Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5802 Series.
  19. Paragraph 33 was deleted from NSC 5808/1 on June 29, 1960; see Document 104.
  20. Justice, IIC and ICIS representatives wish to point out that increased internal security hazards would result from the establishment of Polish consulates in the United States. [Footnote in the source text.]