195. Editorial Note

The Soviet military invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 prompted immediate U.S. reappraisal of its policies toward the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations. In addition to postponement of a second Aeroflot inaugural flight, review of exchange programs, and cancellation of some cultural events, the Johnson administration reassessed its policy on East-West trade. An early summary of this review reads as follows:

“US Policy on East-West Trade

“In the long range, it appears that the rationale behind the US East-West trade policy remains valid. Current short-term questions arising out of the recent events in Eastern Europe are receiving special consideration.

[Page 547]

“Among other measures, we have under consideration an attempt to shore up COCOM, to make another effort to get NATO restraint on long-term credit to communist countries, and to take a number of actions of economic benefit to the Romanians, provided we can do so without putting them at risk. We are also considering denying new economic benefits to the invading countries by discouraging important new business (e.g., construction contracts in the USSR and to a lesser extent in the other invading countries), by turning down major pending cases for US export licenses, suspending new arrangements for verification and payment of annuities in the USSR and perhaps in Hungary at least until it is possible to go ahead with them in Czechoslovakia. We are also considering proposing in NATO temporary suspension of any new long-term credit to communist countries other than Romania and Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; a common NATO policy of limiting such credits to Berne Union terms; no subsidization of interest payments except on an ad hoc basis with NATO approval; no general liberalization in COCOM controls this year (but perhaps a broader use of the exceptions procedures as a quid pro quo for European agreement to differential treatment of Communist China) and a slowdown on new East-West European bilateral trade negotiations. Many of the foregoing are not new proposals.

“The possibilities under consideration for Romania include requiring export licenses on fewer items, reconsideration of our COCOM position on certain pending cases, continuing to encourage Romania’s entry into Intelsat and GATT, and approval of establishment of US sales offices for Romanian foreign trade enterprises.” (“US Reassessing Policies in View of Invasion of Czechoslovakia,” Current Economic Developments, Issue No. 814, September 10, 1968, page 3; Washington National Records Center, RG 59, E/CBA/REP Files: FRC 72 A 6248, Current Economic Developments)

Additional documentation on the impact of the invasion on U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volumes XIV and XVII.