10. Special Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

No. 10-65


  • Prospects for Independence in Eastern Europe

Since the publication of our last estimate on the subject (NIE 12–64, “Changing Patterns in Eastern Europe,” dated 22 July 1964),2 the trend toward independence in Eastern Europe has survived the overthrow of Khrushchev and has continued to gather momentum.3 In the paper that follows, we bring this story up to date and extend our judgments as to its likely outcome.


Soviet control of Eastern Europe is gradually being whittled away. Changes within the USSR itself, a surge of Eastern European nationalism, a general disenchantment with traditional forms of Marxist economics and harsh Soviet-style politics, and the growing attraction of the West have all combined to give the states of Eastern Europe both the incentive and the opportunity for striking out on their own. Rumania, the most daring exemplar of the new trends, has made especially telling use of the force of nationalism and is fast approaching a degree of independence comparable to that enjoyed by Yugoslavia. Others—except for East Germany and perhaps Bulgaria—in their own way are likely over the long term to follow suit. The Soviets, for their part, will find it difficult to arrest the process, and though crises are an ever-present danger, we believe that these countries will be able successfully to assert their own national interests gradually and without provoking Soviet intervention. In ways unforeseen by both the Soviet Union and the West, communism is taking firmer root in Eastern Europe, but it is a truly national communism which is doing so. It is, in fact, much closer to the traditional interests of the individual countries involved and much more remote from the interests and the ambitions of the USSR.

I. Introduction

1. Twenty years after the end of the war and the occupation of Eastern Europe by Soviet armies, Stalin’s empire has begun to show signs of [Page 30] considerable disarray. Unlike the first national defection from the Bloc, Yugoslavia in 1948, and the violent eruptions in Hungary in 1956, the current process of withdrawal from Soviet dominance is gradual and unspectacular. It lacks the drama of sudden political upheavals, and thus does not challenge the USSR with provocative acts sufficient to justify armed intervention. It lacks the finality of a complete severance of the bonds between protectorate and overlord, and thus it is sometimes difficult to know precisely where relations stand and in what direction they are likely to go. But it does not lack for a potential fully as meaningful as that inherent in previous, more vivid crises in Soviet-Eastern European relations.

II. General Trends

A. Factors Leading to Change

2. The states of Eastern Europe remain generally within the Soviet sphere of influence, and each is affected—though not in equal degree—by the policies and interests of Moscow. But these countries now move in increasingly eccentric orbits around the center, and their responses to Soviet demands and their abilities to pursue their own national interests vary widely from state to state.

3. Khrushchev’s decisions to de-Stalinize and to improve relations with Tito’s Yugoslavia were probably the prime movers in this process. The rulers of these countries soon found that without Stalin, his apparatus of terror, and his awesome mystique, they could no longer reign in the grand and arbitrary manner of Stalin. Even more important, the Soviets themselves discovered that, without Stalin, they could no longer operate at will within his empire. Stalin had been able to appoint the Satellite leaders, purge them at will, and control all the vital levers of power within each state. Not so his successors.

4. Gradually, perhaps so slowly as to defy even Moscow’s awareness of what was taking place, Soviet means of control were whittled away, both by happenstance and by design. The Soviets could not stop Gomulka’s accession to power in Poland, and, having failed in this, they could not reassert their dominance over his party. It was much the same story for a time in Hungary, where the appointment of Gero to succeed Rakosi was intended to insure continued Soviet dominance but led in fact to the opposite.

5. There was some reconsolidation in the years which immediately followed the Hungarian Revolution, but this was a transitory phenomenon which rested as much on the dispositions of the Satellite parties themselves—especially their fears of insurrection—as on the actual instruments of Soviet power. But Moscow had apparently forgotten its lesson, for its crude attempts in 1961 to bring a Soviet faction to power in Albania met with complete, humiliating failure.

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6. It fell to the Rumanians to recognize and exploit the new situation. They saw the opportunity, had the motive, and gathered the means. The opportunity was the Sino-Soviet dispute and the USSR’s growing warmness toward the West; the means were both economic (oil and corn and timber) and political (a unified leadership); and the motive was nationalism and the desire of the regime to seize this fervor to bolster its own position.

7. In addition to these reasons underlying change in Eastern Europe—the surge of nationalism, evolution in the USSR—are a number of factors that grew of their own accord within the area itself. In economics, adversity in effect bred diversity. The slowdown in growth and other severe shortcomings in the economies of most of these states led to a reexamination of the Soviet way of doing things and to a new look at the tenets of the doctrine which underlay the entire economic scheme of things in each of these countries.

8. It soon occurred to everyone but the most hard bitten and doctrinaire that Soviet methods were obsolete, especially for the more industrialized countries. It was then easy to exaggerate the degree to which these economies had been exploited by the Soviets and to blame current miseries on past Soviet sins. It was also found that Marxism-Leninism was simply inadequate to show the East Europeans the way out of their troubles, and that the Soviet Union was unwilling to devote sufficient resources to bail them out. The East Europeans therefore had to turn elsewhere. They looked at the Yugoslav system, which was a strange, though functioning, amalgam of socialist ownership, state direction, and a market mechanism. They also turned to the West, sometimes only for the tools of better planning and management, but in some cases to seek radical ways of changing the economic system.

9. Here the great successes of the Germans and the French and the faraway technological spectacular of the US told them that, far from collapsing from its own crises, the capitalist world was booming as never before. The Eastern Europeans travelled to the West and sought information and help, and they encouraged visitations of Western economic officials and businessmen to their own plants. Homegrown economists began to do without the shibboleths of Marxism and abandoned the jargon as well. In its place they began to talk among themselves, and then to party functionaries, about interest charges on capital, the market, supply and demand, and even the role of profits.

10. While the official outlook was thus being transformed, the popular mood was growing more restive. Years of doing without—of poor housing, starchy diets, few consumer goods—and of hard work for low pay had begun to take their toll. The very gradual improvements in living standards merely whetted appetites for more, and soon public discontent transmitted itself to the leaderships in general and to [Page 32] reform-minded elements within the leaderships in particular. Clearly, if labor were to perform as asked and if the people as a whole were to cooperate at all with the regime’s programs, improvements had to be made. And to allow such improvements, the economies themselves had to become stronger and grow faster.

11. These changes in attitude led, though at a varying pace, to efforts to reform the economies, to make them more responsive to popular demands, and to get them on the move again. Doctrine inevitably suffered in the process. It was as if, beginning with the economy, ideology were being chipped away piece by piece. But quite clearly, Marxism-Leninism was never meant to be applied—or even believed in—as a selective philosophy. It may change, but it is intended to be a coherent doctrine not subject to the erosion of its fundamentals.

12. Encouraged by Khrushchev’s “revisionism“, by the sanctioning of the Yugoslav “road to socialism,” and by the split between the USSR and China, changes were made in Eastern Europe which only a few years before would have been quite unthinkable. Some of these innovations were solely political in concept, such as the Hungarian regime’s public judgment that those not actively against it would henceforth be considered for it. Some were mainly economic, though with political implications, such as the spirited debate over economics waged in official publications, especially in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. And some were purely economic in origin, but even here—as is the case with the turn toward “market socialism” in Czechoslovakia—there will be important political repercussions.

13. Changes in economic thought and in ideology were paralleled by a relaxation of political controls and a generally more permissive attitude on the part of the regimes. The knock on the door in the early morning was done away with, conversation became considerably freer, and barriers against the intrusion of Western ideas into the closed societies were penetrated, sometimes with official encouragement, sometimes despite official discouragement. European culture—books, plays, movies—received widespread distribution in most of the area. The move toward European unity appealed to many in Eastern Europe who saw in it a way of escaping Soviet domination. Intellectual ferment once more became widespread and authors began again to write of contemporary problems with more realism than socialism. Such “radical” and antitotalitarian authors as Franz Kafka were taken off the index everywhere except in East Germany, and the population at large was exposed to Western radio broadcasts without jamming. All in all, the life of the average man became both more comfortable and freer; if the regimes were looked upon with no less contempt, they could nonetheless be suffered without the overriding anxiety and fear produced by the Stalinist insistence on absolute conformity.

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B. The Levers of Soviet Power

14. The Soviet ability to help chart the course of history in Eastern Europe rests ultimately on its proximity and the preponderance of its military power. The USSR’s invasion of Hungary in 1956 demonstrated forcefully for all of Eastern Europe this ultimate means of Soviet control. But military power has traditionally been used by the Soviets in quite another sense, as a prop for the local regimes against trouble at home or threats from abroad. But time and international change have tended to diminish the value of the Soviet protective umbrella for the individual East European regimes. Only in the ultimate sense of survival under the threat of an actual invasion from the West or internal insurrection which cannot be handled by local forces do these regimes look to the USSR for support. Even in these instances, the situation has changed appreciably, for the West no longer professes a policy of rollback and “liberation” and the people no longer consider revolt to be a feasible or even desirable course of action.

15. After the initial period of occupation and the establishment of lines of control, Stalin did not depend heavily on the USSR’s military power. Rather, he relied principally on his direct control of the indigenous parties and their leaders. These organizations and these men were almost wholly dependent on the USSR for their very existence; certainly they had few local strengths and few resources with which to confront the USSR. But this situation has since changed radically. After some twenty years in power, these regimes have been able to one degree or another to build up indigenous sources of strength. A good deal of their power now rests on the local parties themselves.

16. Thus Moscow’s influence on these parties now depends not on direct control but on indirect influence. It may persuade and bribe, but it can no longer merely issue instructions with any degree of confidence that they will be followed. As the first governing Communist party in history and as the fount of Communist wisdom, it commands considerable respect and some degree of loyalty from its former client parties. Certainly it will be listened to, if not obeyed, and in at least one respect, the Sino-Soviet dispute has increased Soviet prestige and mellowed Soviet doctrine—almost all the Eastern European countries are horrified by the Chinese version of the ideology. Otherwise, however, this reservoir of respect and loyalty has been diminished by the acts of the Soviets themselves, their juggling of doctrine, their denunciation of Stalin and his works, their inability to provide firm leadership to the international movement, and, most recently their overthrow and criticism of Khrushchev.

17. Soviet foreign policies form another means of guiding Eastern European destinies. Soviet policy toward Germany, for example, conforms well with the fears, aspirations, and prejudices of many of the [Page 34] Eastern European governments and peoples, especially those that suffered most acutely during World War II. Further, to the extent that disputes erupt between these states, Moscow plays an influential role in its capacity as adjudicator and referee. It can use traditional hostilities between them for its own purposes and, by siding with one country or another, can use these enmities to barter and to threaten. The Rumanians, for example, are convinced that the Soviets have privately encouraged Hungary to agitate over Rumania’s policies in Transylvania.

18. In more general terms, the size, prestige, and awesome political and economic power of the USSR provide it with still another lever, distinct from that provided by sheer military strength. As has always been the case in relations between large and small states, the power of the larger can be used as a form of pressure against the smaller. This is particularly useful in seeking to curb policies which are specifically hostile in intent, and thus helps to define the limits of independent action for the smaller states; it constitutes a barrier of sorts against radical forms of defiance.

19. Finally, the Soviets maintain a method of influencing Eastern Europe through a variety of economic devices. But, if they have learned their lessons, they must realize that the use of economic pressure frequently has disappointing results; Yugoslavia, Communist China, and Albania failed to succumb to it—indeed, they actually accelerated their anti-Soviet policies as a direct consequence of its use. Nonetheless, the Soviets almost certainly consider it one of the major weapons in their arsenal. The Eastern European states depend for close to half their total trade on the Soviet Union, and most of them certainly realize that their industrial exports have little demand in the West.

20. Most of these countries are seeking to reduce this dependence on the USSR. They are trying to improve the quality and the mix of their export trade, attempting vigorously to expand exchanges with the West, and seeking out Western credits with which to improve domestic performance. It is not inconceivable that, with time and luck, they could materially reduce their dependence on the USSR and at least develop a potential for trade with other states should the need suddenly arise.

III. Country Survey: The Spectrum of Sovereignty

21. While for most purposes the countries of Eastern Europe should not be considered as a whole, should be examined in the light of their diversity, in one important way they may now be viewed in terms of their collective impact. From the point of view of Moscow, and in terms of their influence on Soviet policies, these states can be seen as an autonomous political force. Increasingly over the past several years, and with Rumania showing the way, the course of political action and the direction of political pressure in this area now runs from East to West. These [Page 35] countries are gradually chipping away at Soviet dominance, asserting individual national interests, and turning increasingly to the West as an alternative to Soviet dominance.

22. Nationalism is now a strong factor throughout the area, most of it strongly laced with anti-Russianism, and it must appear to many of these leaderships to be an attractive prelude or even alternative to genuine liberalization. It is finely calculated to maximize popular support for otherwise highly unpopular governments; by itself, liberalization appears quite unable to do a comparable job. Indeed, unless its economy is able to sustain fairly consistent and impressive rises in the standard of living—as is nowhere the case in this area—the regime which embarks on liberalization runs the risk of actually increasing popular discontent by allowing its more vocal expression.

23. It may be that some of these regimes—Bulgaria comes immediately to mind—are so compromised and conditioned by their history of abject subservience to the Soviets, or so blinded by the myths of their ideology, that they will not be able to introduce a policy designed to appeal to nationalistic sentiments. But others will surely see the benefits of such a course, especially in terms of their own interests and positions of power, and will be strongly tempted to travel the Rumanian road.

[Here follow paragraphs 24–50 (pages 13–28), a country-by-country survey.]

IV. The Outlook

A. The Growing Trend

51. It is not possible to predict the specifics of future change in Eastern Europe. These will be the result of individual choice, the consequence of events yet to come, the product of factors and movements essentially unpredictable, and, of course, the policies and actions of the great powers. But of this we are sure—there will be change, and it may come faster than we had generally anticipated and in ways we do not expect. We have learned from experience—from, for example, Albania and Rumania—to be wary of generalizations about this area. As time goes by and as the trend toward independence in Eastern Europe gathers momentum, diversity will increase and chances for the unexpected may grow apace.

52. The initiative of political movement in Eastern Europe now rests largely with these states themselves, rather than with the USSR. Each of these states, with the exception of East Germany, is led by a group of men and a political institution which now depend for their very existence primarily on domestic sources of strength and domestic attitudes and traditions. In several states, communism is perhaps taking firm root, but in a way quite unforeseen in both Moscow and the West. It is a variety of [Page 36] national communism which has established itself in Rumania and bids fair to do so elsewhere.

53. We would not expect these regimes to become national Communist in character on similar schedules, in equal degree, or in identical form. Common to them, however, would be full control over domestic policies and a meaningful degree of independence in foreign affairs. Their allegiance to Marxism-Leninism would probably vary but at least in some this would be a question of public image rather than true adherence to doctrine. Some might retain a fairly unified and disciplined one-party structure; others, though operating through only one party, might see the development of important and diverse political forces within a Communist party framework and the gradual growth of extra-party and even popular influences. Nowhere, however, would we anticipate the development of a genuine multi-party system, though almost certainly pressure for this would grow. In the last analysis, each regime would determine for itself what in fact constituted “socialism” and each regime would remain “communist” so long as it declared itself to be so.

54. As its efforts to convert CEMA into a Soviet-dominated supranational force would seem to testify, the USSR is almost foredoomed to failure when it does seek to innovate and expand its controls. Moreover, the failure of Soviet initiatives tends to produce a chain reaction, for each instance of successful Eastern European opposition contains within it the seeds of even stronger resistance for the next round. The USSR thus is forced to choose between making concessions, following more permissive policies, or finding itself more and more in the position of a power seeking to restrain change rather than trying, as it once did, to impose it. In a sense then, each of these regimes can choose the time, the place, and the issue with which to apply pressure on Moscow. And nothing now seems more inevitable than a gradually increasing interest in and desire for greater independence on the part of most or all of these countries. The replacement of the present, aging leaderships with younger, more vigorous, and probably less doctrinaire officials is much more likely to hasten this process than to retard it.

55. It is thus possible, as it has been in the past, to discern the general outlines of this trend and to ascertain its direction. The movement is not of its own accord toward the West, nor does it appear necessarily to be heading toward Westernized concepts of democracy. Rather, these states are acting in what they conceive to be their own national interests, and they look to the West principally in order to strengthen precisely those interests. True, this in many instances has the effect of moving them away from the East and in this manner toward the West. It is also true that most of these states looked westward before they were forced by Moscow to about face. And a few of these countries, notably Czechoslovakia, to a lesser extent Hungary and Poland, had at least some tradition of democracy [Page 37] before they were compelled to surrender to communism. But, while they may move only partway toward the West and its ideas, from the perspective of Moscow the trend is highly dangerous. This was the great fear of Moscow during the Hungarian Revolution; it was genuinely concerned that Hungary would rejoin the West of its own accord, whether the West desired it or not, and, ultimately, it was this fear that led Moscow to intervene militarily. The same concern could bring about a repetition of that event.

56. For the most part we do not foresee crises in Eastern Europe. These regimes are likely to move with relative caution, to test and probe for Soviet reactions before adopting new policies of their own, and, in general, to avoid acts which might provoke the Soviets into intervention. But this does not mean that precipitous Soviet action can be ruled out of the question. The Soviets could fear the overthrow of an Eastern European regime, or its submission to non-Communist forces, and intervene to forestall it. They could, in addition, badly misjudge a given situation, see threats to their vital interests where in fact none existed, or become overly frightened about specific events and move accordingly. Or it is always possible that a change in the Soviet leadership could lead to a determination to restore Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe through whatever means proved necessary. For their part, the Eastern European regimes might provoke severe Soviet moves by capitulating to strong popular pressures and pursuing nationalistic policies overtly and virulently hostile to the USSR and Soviet interests. They could also miscalculate Soviet responses to specific moves and provoke Moscow without actually meaning to do so.

57. It may be that it is already too late to speak of the relations between Moscow and the Eastern European states in terms of the formal instruments of Soviet hegemony. The Cominform is long gone; CEMA functions, but not well.

58. Concerning the Warsaw Pact, two distinct trends are visible. The USSR has seen fit to provide these countries with at least the potential for more independent military action. The Eastern Europeans have, in fact, assumed greater control over their own forces, a trend consonant with developments in the political sphere. On the other hand, the Soviets seem to be placing greater reliance on the Eastern European forces in the formulation of their military strategy. It may be that the Soviets no longer look upon the Pact as an important means to ensure political control but primarily as a more or less conventional military alliance, dominated, of course, by the supplier of arms, Moscow. If so, it would certainly accord with the Soviet effort to improve the military capabilities of these forces.

59. In any case, the Rumanians seem to have cast a dubious eye on the value of the Pact to Rumanian purposes, have publicly deplored all military pacts as anachronistic, and have privately informed US authorities [Page 38] that Rumanian troops will defend only Rumania. They have also privately indicated that, left to their own devices, they would pull out of the Pact. It is probable that the Rumanians are bent on reducing their role within this organization to a purely formal level.

60. But these countries remain under firm, one-party Communist control, as Hungary did not, and, in the last analysis, they can remain at least nominal allies of the USSR so long as they remain avowedly Communist. It is for the Soviet Union to decide whether this is enough. In the event that one or more of these states severed even that one last tie, military intervention would be the only avenue open to the USSR to enforce its will on the defecting country. Whether this would then be judged a feasible course of action, whether the gains in Eastern Europe would balance the risks and losses elsewhere in the world, only Moscow could decide. And Moscow is not good at solving this sort of dilemma.

B. Soviet Policy

61. Moscow has sought in fits and starts, and for the most part ineffectually, to arrest the drive for independence in Eastern Europe. For one thing, the USSR does not fully understand the emotional force of nationalism and thus can frame no clear policy to combat it. For another, the Soviets have themselves facilitated the process by a general loosening of policies toward the area, aided and abetted by their moves against China and toward the West. We believe that, unless the Soviets are willing to resort to military intervention, the momentum of this movement toward independence will gather force and become highly contagious.

62. The USSR sees Eastern Europe as vital to its strategic needs. Not only does it provide a forward area for defense and offense, it serves generally as a buffer zone between the Soviet Union and West Germany and the other “hostile” status of Western Europe. The USSR also sees in Eastern Europe a vindication of Communist doctrine, a proof of the inevitable advance of socialism; conversely, it would view the defection of any of these states as a refutation of that doctrine. Finally, the USSR sees Eastern Europe as an integral part of its empire, a source of actual and potential economic, political, and military support.

63. All three of these concepts are, of course, subject to change. The strategic consideration is perhaps the least susceptible to modification, but even here the facts of the nuclear-missile age render the concept considerably less valid than it once was. Nonetheless, long after strategic factors make the area relatively useless for the defense of the homeland, Soviet thinking is likely to reflect more or less traditional military concepts of Eastern Europe’s value to the USSR.

64. Greater change may take place in the area of doctrine. The evolution set off by de-Stalinization, and further shaped by the Sino-Soviet conflict, has already altered the concept of a monolithic bloc. As the Eastern [Page 39] Europeans increasingly depart from Soviet practice, as Yugoslavia is welcomed to the club, and as the Soviet definition of “socialism” is further diluted both by domestic changes and by the inclusion of more and more countries, such as the UAR, into the “progressive” camp, the requirements of the doctrine for the individual Eastern European states become vaguer and more permissive. What will constitute a loyal member of the bloc in terms of ideology a decade hence can be but dimly perceived.

65. Inevitably, this sort of ideological erosion will also have an effect on the Soviet concept of empire. The dreams of a tightly knit organism following a single economic plan, with national boundaries turning into unimportant anachronisms, have surely faded. If this is indeed the way in which the USSR’s attitudes and policies toward Eastern Europe are likely to evolve in time, it will be difficult to define the Bloc in the usual way, i.e., as a Bloc. Organizations like CEMA and the Warsaw Pact might be retained only on the basis of a genuine partnership and only to the extent that they served some specifically worthwhile purpose, something comparable, for example, to the European steel community. Or they might become moribund, be scrapped, and then superseded either by a series of bilateral treaties or by an amorphous regional pact of only symbolic import. Some of these states might form various regional associations with each other and even with non-Communist neighbors. Under all such arrangements as these, each member state would be largely free to pursue its own interests at will, presumably so long as these did not involve policies actively hostile toward one another.

66. If the USSR were to recognize clearly the trends in Eastern Europe and to initiate forward-looking policies which sought to encourage and to influence the process, the formation of a harmonious Soviet-East Europe alliance would be greatly eased. The history of their relations to date, however, does not suggest that the Soviets are likely to do this. The Soviets will find it hard to accept a loose confederation of sovereign countries bound together in traditional ways of alliance and cooperation. This strikes at the Russian sense of great-power status, and herein lie numerous possibilities for ill timed Muscovite heavy-handedness. They are apt to fight the problem as they have in the past, hoping to halt or at least delay the process through a variety of small measures and perhaps large threats, ultimately discovering that they must give in with as much salvaged grace as possible. This, of course, usually has the opposite effect from that intended; not only does it incur the ill will of these countries, which does not surprise Moscow, but it also frequently stimulates further efforts to increase sovereignty, and to Moscow this apparently does come as something of a shock.

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C. Eastern European Attitudes Toward Specific Soviet Policies

67. The Eastern European states are not enthusiastic supporters of many facets of Soviet foreign policy. Except when internal exigencies require it, for example, most of these regimes are reluctant to express full-throated Communist hostility toward the West. On the contrary, because of burgeoning hopes for expanded economic relations with the advanced Western countries, the Eastern European countries would like to improve their relations with the West. Rumania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia have made this intention quite clear in recent months. So long as the USSR’s own policy includes an element of détente, it will be difficult for the Soviets to restrain Eastern European movement toward the West. Should Moscow reverse itself, it could expect resistance on the part of its allies, a factor to be taken into account in the formation of Soviet policy.

68. In the Sino-Soviet dispute, the Eastern European states sympathize with the Soviet doctrinal position and some of them, such as Czechoslovakia and East Germany, have been quick to commit themselves publicly to the Soviet side. But Poland has sought to soften the dispute and has counseled the USSR to act cautiously, and Rumania has gone even farther and publicly dissociated itself from the Soviet point of view. In general, the Eastern European regimes have been given added leverage with the USSR because of the dispute and, though none would favor a Chinese victory, or even important Soviet concessions, they welcome the increased maneuverability they have been granted by default and are probably not anxious for a final settlement of the problem.

69. In yet another area of Soviet policy, the East European states are important contributors to the Soviet bloc’s program of economic and military aid to underdeveloped nations, adding some $1.9 billion to the Soviet total of $7.4 billion. Czechoslovakia and Poland play by far the most important role—the Czechoslovak program is much larger per capita than the Soviet—but the other countries also participate. At its inception, these states had no choice but to carry out the Soviet will, and they often were used to promote strictly Soviet interests. There are signs, however, that the Eastern European aid programs now are being managed in a way that is more consistent with national interests. Recently, these states have participated only rarely in Soviet economic programs, relying instead on bilateral arrangements, and have almost stopped extending military aid.

70. The Eastern European states, except Yugoslavia, have few national political interests in the underdeveloped countries, and they have far less interest in expanding their economic relations with these countries than with the industrial West. Moreover, there is widespread popular resentment of the aid programs in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, these programs probably will continue, even in the absence of Soviet [Page 41] domination, because some prospective economic benefits are expected from them. By extending credits on liberal terms the East European states gain access for their manufactured goods to markets that might not otherwise be available and to new sources of goods and raw materials. The main exception to this general rule may be aid to Cuba, where some subsidies may be involved and where prospects for repayment of credits are dubious.

71. Soviet policy toward West Germany may also be at issue between Moscow and some Eastern European regimes. Despite their apprehension and dislike of the Germans, the East Europeans are particularly anxious to expand their economic relations with West Germany and see no good reason why the unresolved question of Berlin should be imposed on them as a hindrance to the development of closer ties. Indeed, the willingness of some of these regimes to sign so-called Berlin clauses as a pre-condition for trade agreements demonstrates their unwillingness to allow the interests of East Germany to intrude. Given a continuation of the West German policy of increasing its presence in Eastern Europe, and of such arrangements as are now under negotiation between Bonn and Warsaw for the establishment of joint industrial enterprises on Polish soil, we consider the expansion of Eastern European-West German ties to be almost certain, and we would expect hostility to diminish.

D. Impact of the Soviet Political Scene

72. The removal of Khrushchev from power destroyed one of the strongest surviving political links between the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe. Khrushchev was careful to cultivate good relations with all the Satellite leaders, replacing the iron will and discipline (and contempt) of Stalin with personal force and camaraderie, persuasion, and occasional threats. He developed particularly close working relationships with both Kadar and Gomulka, swallowed his dislike of Ulbricht and cajoled him into cooperation, kept the strings taut on Zhivkov in Bulgaria, and in general treated the Eastern European leaders as fellow politicians in the Bloc club. He even introduced Tito into membership.

73. One result was the sour reaction of these leaders to his downfall. Gomulka, Kadar, Novotny, and even Ulbricht publicly indicated their displeasure by praising Khrushchev when it was quite clearly the Soviet intention only to criticize him. Mainly, we suppose, these leaders were concerned about reactions within their own parties, but we do not discount some genuine attachment to Khrushchev, approval of his policies, and concern and uncertainty over those of the new leaders. In any case, we know of no personal ties between the Eastern European leaders and Khrushchev’s successors, and we do not expect any single Soviet leader to gain the stature Khrushchev once enjoyed for some time to come.

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74. It seems likely that most or all of these leaders will now take the opportunity afforded by the new situation in the USSR to press their own national interests and to make their voices heard in Moscow. Gheorghiu-Dej has already begun to assert Rumania’s interests more vigorously than ever and others will probably follow suit. In any event, should Moscow seek to restore tighter controls over these leaders, it is likely to meet with greater resistance than ever. Only Ulbricht among them was in the top spot at the time of Stalin’s death; thus the others have either worked successfully for their own autonomy and are by now accustomed to running the affairs of their own parties, or have worked only in an atmosphere of relative Soviet permissiveness. They are surely aware that the new Soviet leaders have no more means at their disposal—and probably fewer—for enforcing Eastern European conformity than Khrushchev had.

75. They are also acutely sensitive to the general political scene in Moscow and are almost certainly convinced that the present collective arrangement is inherently unstable. They will probably be reluctant to support one faction or the other until the outcome of such instability becomes clear, and they will be equally averse to committing themselves to policy except in a very general way. Some in Eastern Europe—probably the weaker elements—may identify themselves with one Soviet faction or the other and seek political support therefrom, but the chances of this do not seem as great as they once were, for example, in Hungary where Nagy clearly identified himself with Malenkov, Rakosi with Khrushchev. For their part, the Soviets, so long as they remain locked in a struggle for power, are unlikely to formulate new and coherent policies for the area, and disputes on this issue are likely to arise. Decisions needed in a crisis may thus be hard to obtain. As with foreign policies in general, Soviet interests in Eastern Europe might be better served by one-man leadership.

76. Of equal import is the question just where and when the USSR can now count on these states for support. Matters have already reached the stage where Moscow cannot assume in advance that its particular policies will receive automatic approval from Eastern Europe; in order to be sure, the Soviets must sound out these governments in advance. They must wheedle and cajole in instances where support is withheld, and in cases where even this fails, they must either alter or abandon their tack or proceed alone. This is particularly true in issues related to the Sino-Soviet dispute, where Rumania has declared its full neutrality and other states, most notably Poland, have exhibited a reluctance to adopt the Soviet line. But to a lesser degree it also applies to Soviet policy toward the West; the President’s state of the union message, for example, was blistered in Moscow but praised in some East European capitals. We think the trend is clear: the East European states are no longer willing to adopt as their [Page 43] own whatever foreign policies the USSR sees fit to advance. Before giving their full support, most of these states seem to wish to subject such policies to critical examination in the light of their own burgeoning national interests.

For the Board of National Estimates:
Abbot Smith
Acting Chairman
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Eastern Europe. Secret. Prepared by the Office of National Estimates.
  2. Document 7.
  3. Nikita S. Khrushchev was removed from his post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union on October 15. Aleksei N. Kosygin replaced him; Leonid I. Brezhnev replaced him as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.