28. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US-Hungarian Relations


  • United States
    • Governor Harriman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Mr. Harold C. Vedeler, Director, Office of EE Affairs
    • Mr. Frederick M. Chapin, Office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Mr. Christopher A. Squire, OIC Hungarian Affairs
  • Hungary
    • Peter Mod, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Janos Radvanyi, Charge d’Affaires a.i., Hungarian Legation

At his own request, Hungarian First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Mod, accompanied by Charge Janos Radvanyi, called on Under Secretary Harriman on December 14. Mr. Mod is returning to Hungary on December 17 at the close of the 18th UNGA session, where he has been head of the Hungarian Delegation to the GA. He stated that he wished to take advantage of a “courtesy call” before his departure to continue discussions that had begun with Governor Harriman at the time of President Kennedy’s funeral but which had been interrupted when Mod had to return to New York.1

After initial amenities, Mr. Mod said that he would like to take the opportunity, now that he was in Washington, to talk further with Governor Harriman about relations between Hungary and the United States. Although he did not know in detail the daily matters of concern between the two countries, he knew the general feeling in the Foreign Ministry. Relations between Hungary and the US, he continued, had recently developed in a good way. The relation of the two countries’ UN delegations were more normal. During the recent visit to the US of the Hungarian First Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Janos Hont, Hungary saw with some satisfaction the good will towards that visit on the part of the US Administration and its helpful attitude. In the matter of the wheat and corn purchases, the US Government also gave evidence of helpfulness and good will.

On Hungary’s part, continued Mr. Mod, there had also been signs of improvement. Travel restrictions had been abolished in Hungary. He [Page 59] had recently noted with pleasure that the US Charge had called on the Hungarian Foreign Minister in Budapest.2 The atmosphere, Mr. Mod felt, in regard to US-Hungarian relations was better than at any time in the last few years, and it was his personal feeling that this atmosphere now made it appropriate to talk about the development of US-Hungarian relations.

Governor Harriman noted that the US Charge in Budapest had been talking over, with the Hungarian Foreign Office, various matters which the US thought would assist in the improvement of US-Hungarian relations. Certain useful steps had already been taken, Governor Harriman continued, but other further steps remain to be taken. These steps, which the US Charge was authorized to discuss with the Hungarian Foreign Office, were the same ones outlined to Charge Radvanyi in Washington on October 20, 19623 by Deputy Assistant Secretary Davis. The subjects include the problem of dual nationals, the separation of families, and the ability of American citizens to see their families in Hungary. While there had been a decided improvement in travel to and from Hungary recently, certain members of the families of American citizens still remain in Hungary separated from their relatives. There was also the question of the size of the US mission in Budapest and the restrictions on its personnel. Other problems were the claims relating to US Government property in Budapest, as well as the post-war claims of private American citizens which have already been settled in most Eastern European countries.

Governor Harriman added that he had told Mr. Kadar in Moscow4 that, although it was not directly a bilateral issue, the question of Cardinal Mindszenty would be an important one in the improvement of US-Hungarian relations. A problem that the Hungarian Government wanted settled, on the other hand, related to Hungary’s desire to sell meat to the US so that Hungary might expand its trade. This involved inspection procedures to satisfy US sanitary standards. The US had rather strict rules on the standards of meat production, which applied all over the world, not just to Hungary. The US had worked this problem out with Poland, and some progress, Governor Harriman understood, had been made in this matter with Hungary. The major point was that certain steps should be taken: the specific steps should be discussed in Budapest with the US charge.

[Page 60]

The subject of claims, said Governor Harriman, had not yet been under active discussion between the US and Hungary. The US had property in Hungary which it wanted to rehabilitate, but first the Hungarian squatters who presently occupied the premises must be moved out. To make these properties available to the US the cooperation of the Hungarian authorities was necessary. The US felt that these foregoing points were very important and action should be taken on them if relations between the two countries were to make progress. Mr. Mod agreed that certain points were very important.

The US, continued Governor Harriman, had watched and was watching with interest various liberalization steps that Hungary had taken, including the general amnesty of March 1963. This was encouraging to the US. The US was of course interested in the development of US-Hungarian relations, and Mr. Mod could repeat to his Ministry in Budapest that the American charge in Budapest was fully authorized to discuss these matters. Governor Harriman concluded that the question of Cardinal Mindszenty had come up quite informally in Moscow in his discussions with Premier Kadar (during the negotiating and signing of the Partial Test Ban Agreement).

Mr. Mod said that as in Governor Harriman’s discussions with Premier Kadar, the position of the Hungarian Government with regard to Cardinal Mindszenty was clear. The problem of Cardinal Mindszenty, as well as other Church-State matters, was the subject of negotiations between Hungary and the Vatican. These negotiations were proceeding in a good atmosphere, and he thought that some time in the near future the problem of the Cardinal, as well as the other Church-State problems, would be settled.

As to the normalization of relations between the US and Hungary, Mr. Mod continued, the questions connected with the person of the Cardinal could be settled. All pending questions could be settled by direct negotiations, even the question of claims, if approached within the framework of the general problem of commercial and economic relations between the US and Hungary. Mr. Mod said he felt it necessary for the US and Hungary to sit down and talk over the claims problem. As to diplomatic relations, Mr. Mod noted that the US must surely be aware that all its allies in Western Europe were raising their missions in Budapest to the level of embassies. It seemed to him, said Mr. Mod, that the US was not in accord with the general diplomatic situation in Budapest, because the diplomatic establishment maintained by the US was of third rank, being headed not by an Ambassador or Minister but by a charge. In conclusion, Mr. Mod doubted that this situation was very satisfactory even for the US.

[Page 61]

Governor Harriman pointed out that the US had its own special problems with Hungary, some of which he had just mentioned. Additionally, in its relations with Hungary the US had historically been influenced by the especially friendly feelings of the American people for the Hungarian people. So many Hungarians had emigrated to the US, there was perhaps a more personal feeling for the welfare of the Hungarian people in the US than in other Western countries for historical and other reasons. The first problem that had to be solved, Governor Harriman said, was the normalization of US-Hungarian relations. The raising of the US Legation in Budapest to an Embassy must remain a matter for future developments. Governor Harriman pointed out that the US had legations in Bulgaria and Rumania, and embassies in Poland and Czechoslovakia. US relations with Poland had improved steadily, and the US has done a great deal for Poland, particularly with regard to supplying food. It was necessary only to refer to the case of Poland to understand how relations between the other Eastern European governments could be developed with the US, if those countries were of a mind to do so. To develop such a relationship required give, as well as take, on the part of the Hungarian Government. The US was glad to note the prog-ress that Hungary had made, continued Governor Harriman, but further steps still needed to be taken by that Government. The US was certainly interested in contributing to the improvement of US-Hungarian relations, and Governor Harriman added that he was very glad for the opportunity to talk over the matter of relations with Mr. Mod. Mr. Mod added that Hungary, too, was interested in better relations and was prepared to discuss the subject.

Mr. Vedeler said that the basic points on which the US feels improvement of relations with Hungary depends were still those outlined to charge Radvanyi on October 20, 1962 by Deputy Assistant Secretary Davis. Both in Budapest and Washington, discussions between the two Governments on this subject had followed the outlines of the October 20 discussion. These points were embodied in a “talking paper”, a copy of which was informally provided Mr. Radvanyi at the time of that discussion.

Governor Harriman asked Mr. Mod if there had been anything in the recent UNGA Session which had seemed of special importance to Mr. Mod at the time. Mr. Mod answered that the most important fact was the absence of the Hungarian question from the agenda of the 18th GA session. Governor Harriman said that Mr. Mod had undoubtedly noticed the US position on that question, and the fact that the US has decided to move ahead. He added that he thought Mr. Mod should tell the Foreign Ministry why the US asked more of Hungary. The American people had strong feelings for the Hungarian people. America was made up of people from all countries in East and West Europe. As Ambassador [Page 62] to Moscow during World War II, Governor Harriman said he had addressed himself more to the subject of the future status of Poland than to any other subject: Poland was a symbol to the American people. The US also had special feelings for the people of Hungary, which reflected the way the US people felt towards US relations with Eastern Europe.

Mr. Mod said that the Hungarian Government knew the obstacles in the way of bettering relations, and he thought that these obstacles were now largely removed.

Governor Harriman mentioned that US relations with Yugoslavia were of a special nature, a fact stemming basically from Yugoslavia’s independence of outside domination. Ever since the time of President Wilson, the US had been particularly strong for the self-determination and independence of peoples from outside domination. It appeared to be a policy on the part of the Kremlin to favor more self-determination in Eastern Europe. On this question Chairman Khrushchev had recently said that when the child grows, he becomes harder to control. President Kennedy in his speech at American University on June 10, 1963,5 had very important things to say on this subject. Chairman Khrushchev has called it the best speech since the time of President Roosevelt. The speech had been very fundamental, and very frank, and Governor Harriman hoped that we would go down the road to which President Kennedy had pointed at that time. Mr. Mod said he was convinced that this speech had been understood correctly all over the world, and that what he was talking about, namely the improvement of US-Hungarian relations, was in line with that speech.

The meeting then closed. Mr. Mod agreed to Governor Harriman’s proposal that the press be informed merely that Mr. Mod had paid a courtesy call, and discussions of mutual interest which had been broached at the time of President Kennedy’s funeral were continued during this second meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL Hung-US. Confidential. Drafted by Squire and approved in M on December 20.
  2. No record of these discussions has been found.
  3. On December 5, Jones delivered a message stating President Johnson’s intention to follow the policies of the Kennedy administration. Jones reported on the meeting in telegram 351 from Budapest, December 5. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 US-Kennedy)
  4. See Document 15.
  5. Harriman’s July 15–25 visit to the Soviet Union concluded with an agreement on the text of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. No record of this conversation has been found.
  6. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 459–464.