190. Telegram From the Embassy in Yugoslavia to the Department of State1

3998. Subject: Acting FonSec comments on Tito visit to Prague.

In my call yesterday on Acting State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Pavicevic I asked for his assessment of Tito’s visit to Prague. Pavicevic said it was too early to provide any details because delegation was still on Brioni (he had talked to them only by telephone) and FonOff members were so preoccupied with writing reports that he had not had any opportunity to talk with them.
Following is substance of Pavicevic’s ensuing remarks:
Prague meeting: In general, Yugoslav delegation satisfied with visit considering it a success despite fact it was a “working” visit of Party [Page 506] delegation. Popular demonstrations of goodwill toward Yugoslav delegation were enormous. Visit represented culmination Yugoslav efforts to assist Czechoslovakia. Yugoslav position at Prague was extremely delicate, primarily because one of purposes of visit was to assist Czechs whose position vis-é-vis Moscow also was most delicate. Yugoslavs were at great pains to do nothing or say nothing at Prague that could provide even slightest pretext for direct intervention on part of Soviets or complicate Dubcek’s life any more than it now is. Visit originally had been planned to take place under different circumstances; thus, visit had different scope and purpose; even so it was useful. Yugoslavs and Czechs both pleased.
Bilateral relations: Yugoslav-Czechoslovak bilateral relations will be strengthened, mostly in economic field, but there will be nothing spectacular. Many indiscreet questions put to Tito at his Saturday night press conference, among them being one inquiring about possibility of military pact between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia is not interested in any such arrangements, its past experience in this field having been “very bad.”
Czech problems: Main Czech task now is to move along with implementation of reforms and party program in preparation for Party Congress next month. They must have time to do this; this is dependent upon internal strength of Party leadership and its willingness to face up to serious problems. We should not expect too much from Czechs at first, especially, we should have no illusions about their capacity for achievement in foreign policy field. Change will come but it will have to be slow. Even now as Ulbricht is in Czechoslovakia, Soviet troops are maneuvering along frontier. These maneuvers do not stem from any threat to peace in Western Europe or from heating up of US–USSR relations but rather are directly related to developments in Czechoslovakia.
Cierna and Bratislava: Czechs were firm at Cierna and no concessions were made to “Five.” No secret agreements were made and no secret documents involved. Soviets after Warsaw meeting needed way out of dead-end street and Czechs needed respite to continue along path of reform. Soviets are to be congratulated for way they worked things out; Czechs are to be congratulated because they have won right to continue along path of internal reform. They have also won recognition again of validity of principle regarding independence, sovereignty, and non-interference in internal affairs as cornerstone of relations between socialist states. Bratislava Declaration2 is “all-sided” which can be cited to prove almost any point of view. Thus, Czechs must be extremely careful [Page 507] in way they proceed along path of reform. Yugoslavs are happy worst is over and military clash averted. Realistically, we must expect differences to crop up from time to time between Prague and “Five” but this is becoming only normal in relations within socialist world. Main point is how these differences are solved.
Soviet change of tactics at Cierna: I asked Pavicevic why Yugoslavs thought Soviets had suddenly appeared to change their tactics when at one point they seemed bent on military intervention. Pavicevic smilingly observed that perhaps I ought to ask Soviet Ambassador who was scheduled to call on him immediately after me, “but then I am afraid you would not get an answer.” He said he thought Soviets were [garble—finally?]convinced that to intervene directly would: (1) cause disruption of relative detente in Europe; (2) deprive them of support of major parties in international Communist movement all of whom vehemently opposed Soviet intervention; (3) have a disastrous effect on upcoming Moscow Conference of ComParties when already several parties, including Yugoslavia, had indicated they would not participate; (4) be a serious setback to Soviet prestige among the non-aligned countries; and (5) set back currently improving US-Soviet relations. Pavicevic observed that all key foreign CP’s (i.e., all those except Warsaw “Five”) were opposed to intervention and that for first time in international Communist world USSR was “isolated“; its only support came from parties (e.g. West German, one of Greek splinters, etc.) with no power or influence. Nevertheless, Soviets made great contribution in finding way out of direct clash.
US policy in Czech crisis: Pavicevic said it was Yugoslav assessment that US policy had been correct one. He said it was very wise to avoid any action which could be used by USSR as pretext for intervention.FRG was wise also to cancel its maneuvers. Even when there were no provocative acts there were difficulties. Look at discovery of arms cache. “Now who do you suppose put those arms there?“, Pavicevic asked rhetorically.
Towards close of conversation I noted that at his press conference Tito was asked how he would describe his reaction to Prague talks, “satisfied” or “very satisfied.”3 Was there any nuance in that reply? Pavicevic said that he was “very satisfied.” He implied that part of Yugoslav problem in making public statements on Tito visit to Prague was to avoid provocation to Soviet side.
There is no doubt that Yugoslav delegation during visit to Prague was aware of supreme delicacy of its mission. It was extremely careful apparently not to cause trouble for Dubcek internally or to further [Page 508] complicate his relations with “Five.” While full-scale press and TV coverage of tumultuous welcome accorded Yugoslav delegation had salubrious effect at home, Tito both at airport in Prague and on arrival in Zagreb was careful not appear to be returning home in triumph. This accounts for rather low key comment at both places that “we think we have done useful job.”
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 YUGO. Confidential. Repeated to Prague, Bucharest, Budapest, Moscow, Sofia, Warsaw, Berlin, USNATO, and Zagreb.
  2. For text of the Bratislava Declaration issued on August 4 after a meeting of Soviet, Czech, and Eastern European Communist leaders, see Remington, Winter in Prague, pp. 256–261. For extracts, see Department of State Bulletin, September 9, 1968, p. 264.
  3. Tito held his press conference on August 11.