2. Special Report by the Central Intelligence Agency1


A new and less rigid relationship is developing between Eastern Europe and Moscow. This has resulted partly from changes in Soviet policy but, more importantly, from a recognition by the lesser Communist regimes themselves that they now are in a position to insist on greater consideration for individual national interests. Although this discovery is having an ever-increasing influence on their attitudes, the [Page 3] Eastern European regimes realize also that there are continuing political, economic, and military advantages in remaining a part of some sort of bloc of Communist states. Moscow nevertheless can expect to encounter increasing difficulties in leading that bloc.

Erosion of Soviet Control

The recent trip to Peiping of a high-level Rumanian party delegation2 highlights the changes which have been developing in Moscow’s relations with Eastern Europe. It seems clear that the Russians, lacking unanimous support even in Eastern Europe for their projected harder tactics in the Sino-Soviet dispute, had no acceptable alternative but to acquiesce in the Rumanian desire to play the role of mediator in talks with the Chinese Communists. Certainly Moscow’s propaganda coverage after the Rumanian delegation returned empty-handed was warmer and more friendly than that given on its departure for Peiping.

In the post-Stalin era, policies pursued by the Soviet bloc had until last July increasingly reflected a consensus of the member states. Multilateral consultations on policy matters, with the views of all being heard, had with reasonable success replaced Stalinist bilateralism. At times, of course, such consultations became acrimonious as a single participant, strongly motivated by self-interest, held out for more consideration of his position. But in the long run the will of the Soviet Union usually prevailed. This technique of controlled multilateral policy-making suffered a severe blow last summer, however, when the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CEMA) finally yielded to Rumania’s opposition and abandoned, at least for the time being, certain aspects of Soviet bloc planning and integration sponsored by the USSR.

The subsequent trend toward even slacker control promises increasing difficulties for Moscow in its relations with the Eastern European countries, particularly because it no longer has as extensive a network of informers and advisers throughout their government and party structures. In Poland, for example, Soviet advisers and intelligence specialists since 1958 have been restricted to formal contacts with their counterparts under a written agreement and are no longer integrated into party and government offices. Similar arrangements are believed to govern Moscow’s present relations with the other Eastern European States.

Also contributing to the USSR’s difficulties has been the disappearance, except in the broadest sense, of clearly defined limits set by Moscow of what constitutes acceptable behavior by a Soviet bloc member. A Polish Foreign Ministry official recently commented to a Western official that, even though neither the East German regime nor the USSR liked the idea of the Rumanian delegation going to Peiping, the Rumanians had [Page 4] the right to take an individual initiative in ideological as well as economic affairs.

Ironically, Khrushchev’s problems in Eastern Europe are the result of his own concept of “different roads to socialism,” first made a point of doctrine in 1956.3 During his trip last summer to Yugoslavia4 he gave added weight to the concept by accepting Yugoslavia as a Communist country practicing a correct form of socialism. This probably carried an implication for some of the Eastern Europeans that the limited autonomy they had heretofore exercised only in internal affairs had been extended to matters having bloc-wide significance. The effect is visible even in such conservative regimes as that in Czechoslovakia. Influential Czechoslovak party dissidents recently published an article strongly praising the basic features of Yugoslavia’s unique brand of socialism and implying that these should be adopted in their country.5 Even the Bulgarian regime is encouraging experimentation with and debate on more liberal methods of economic management, including decentralization and improved incentives.

The Eastern European leaderships, recognizing that Khrushchev needs their active support and backing in the dispute with Communist China, have been further emboldened in their efforts to establish a semi-independent relationship with Moscow. Since last fall several other Eastern European countries—in addition to Rumania—are believed to have vigorously opposed Russia’s intention of bringing the Sino-Soviet dispute to a showdown. East Germany, on the other hand, is reported to be dissatisfied with Moscow’s failure to take a firm line with Peiping.

Effect of New Relationship with Moscow

The assertion of autonomy in Eastern Europe has probably gone further than the Russians originally anticipated. In the summer of 1963, for example, following Rumania’s insistence on going ahead with its plans for the construction of the Galati steel complex in the face of opposition from Moscow, CEMA, and the more industrialized northern satellites, Presidium member Podgorny visited Bucharest in an effort to persuade the Rumanian leadership to change its mind on this and other matters.6 Then Khrushchev himself made a secret journey to Rumania to [Page 5] reason with Gheorghiu-Dej.7 Moscow’s opposition was based on the sound grounds that Galati was an economically questionable project. However, both Podgorny and Khrushchev failed to budge the Rumanian leader from his adamant opposition to plans which would in effect have kept Rumania predominantly an agricultural country.

An even more difficult problem for the Russians, growing out of the developing autonomous relations, has been public conflict between individual Eastern European countries over policy questions. This type of behavior, which has rarely been observed before, reflects the decline of Moscow’s influence and is likely to become more frequent. Recently the East German party published a politburo report on problems it faced because of Czechoslovakia’s de-Stalinization program.8 This same report also attacked, although not by name, those brotherly countries—Poland, Rumania, and Hungary—that had signed economic agreements with Bonn. The East Germans were concerned because these three countries had recognized for trade purposes that West Berlin was a part of West Germany, a position contrary to that long propagandized by the Ulbricht regime and the USSR itself. By implication the East Germans criticized the USSR for permitting these developments and suggested that Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia should not sign such agreements. Bulgaria, nevertheless, did so three weeks later, and apparently with Russian approval.

The Eastern European countries will almost certainly attempt to broaden their autonomy even more in view of the unsatisfied demands of self-interest in all of them. Also they have seen the success of other Communist regimes such as Yugoslavia, Albania, and Communist China in taking wholly independent courses of action.

There are, to be sure, some built-in brakes on this pursuit of an independent course. No Eastern European Communist leader wants to risk his personal position through any weakening of the power structure in his own party, a distinct threat in Czechoslovakia and Poland and to a lesser degree so far in East Germany and Bulgaria. He may see Soviet support as the only thing standing between him and Albania. Furthermore, there are still advantages to be drawn from a generally common ideology and from participation in the Warsaw Pact and CEMA—despite disagreements with certain aspects of CEMA’s programs.

In the present fluid situation, Moscow is highly reluctant to try to insure conformity through coercive measures, such as political or economic sanctions, lest existing differences sharpen or more resistance be generated. Indeed, as a Yugoslav foreign affairs official recently [Page 6] remarked while commenting on the possibility of an international Communist meeting to condemn the Chinese, meetings such as those held in 1957 and 1960 could never again take place. The time is past, he said, when such meetings could be called at Moscow’s behest. In his opinion, Rumania would decline to attend unless it has a clearly defined agenda in advance, and Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary would probably adopt a similar attitude.

The development of a more persuasive approach on Moscow’s part may therefore be adumbrated in its recently announced $300-million loan to Bulgaria for industrial development and its signing of bilateral agreements with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia for long-term scientific, technical, and economic planning assistance and for greater economic coordination. Of all previous Russian loans to Bulgaria, totaling about $400 million, approximately half was earmarked for agricultural development. The new loan may thus be designed in part to forestall demands and recriminations by Sofia and another disagreement like that with Rumania.

In another indication of Soviet fence-mending, a high official in Bucharest has just recently let it be known that the USSR will supply significant amounts of equipment, as originally promised in 1960, for the Galati complex as well as increased supplies of iron ore, a decision which, according to another source, may have been taken in early January.

Effects on Internal Affairs

The greater diversity and freedom of action that now characterize both the Soviet bloc’s intramural ties and its relations with the West are not without effect on the individual parties, where current trends are in dispute. Factionalism in Czechoslovakia and Poland has become intense, is evident in Bulgaria, and has appeared even in East Germany.

Czechoslovakia’s Novotny has been forced by liberal elements in his party to remove close associates with Stalinist background, to ease restrictive domestic policies, and to give more latitude to the restive liberals and intellectuals. So far this has only sharpened the desires of the liberals for even more sweeping reforms and has weakened party authority and Novotny’s power.

Bulgarian Party First Secretary Zhivkov is under conflicting pressure from both hard-line and revisionist elements. In Bulgarian political terms Zhivkov is relatively moderate. He owes his present position largely to Moscow’s support, which he must hold if he is to retain his leadership. The consideration may account in part for the USSR’s recent new credit to Bulgaria.

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At the recent party plenum in East Germany,9 Walter Ulbricht alluded to developing internal strains. Among the contributing factors apparently are his regime’s imitation of some of Moscow’s innovations in economic policies; the rehabilitation of old party officials who were imprisoned in the wake of Czechoslovakia’s purges in the early 1950’s; the smoldering differences with other Eastern European countries—and perhaps Moscow—on the subject of Berlin and Germany; and the problem of trying to appear moderate to the outside world while pursuing harsh internal policies.

De-Stalinization elsewhere in Eastern Europe heightens the anachronism of the Stalinist Ulbricht. Even though in Moscow’s view some liberalization of conditions in East Germany would probably be desirable, his strong hand is needed to inhibit the development of rivalries among potential successors. The Soviet leaders dare not risk such a situation in East Germany in view of their inability last winter to bring about a quick solution to the problems posed by the anti-Novotny elements in the Czech party.

Polish party leader Gomulka at the moment seems to face the most serious challenge to his leadership and authority since his return to power in 1956. His politburo is aging; four members are seriously ill, and a fifth post has remained vacant since the ouster of Roman Zambrowski last July. Encouraged in part by the seeming decline in Moscow’s influence over the local affairs of the Eastern European countries, a number of hard-line internal security specialists in Poland are pressing against this weakened top layer of their party. They reportedly have circulated a letter in the party criticizing some of Gomulka’s policies, apparently hoping to challenge him at a party congress to be held in June. Unless meaningful Soviet backing is forthcoming Gomulka may thus be forced by the physical attrition now going on in the Polish politburo to co-opt some of his hard-line opponents into policy-making positions. Such a move could bring about a significant tightening of his present moderate policy.


In order to maintain the present degree of diversity in Eastern Europe and the increasingly frequent expressions of national individuality, the regime leaders recognize they must have the good will of the Soviet Union. Their own self-interests dictate continued participation in Soviet bloc activities. Nevertheless, as national interests come to the fore in one satellite, similar interests are stimulated in others; and each move [Page 8] toward greater independence spreads like an infection throughout the bloc which Moscow may be able to limit but probably not fully control. As one Western official notes, de-Stalinization in Eastern Europe inevitably leads to “de-satellization.”

This fluid state in the Soviet bloc will continue. It may eventually lead, although not without strife, to some loose form of relationship in which each member would have reasonably broad freedom of action, a belief that it is an equal partner, and an assurance that its own interests will be respected. Such a grouping of independent Communist states held together by mutual self-interest could constitute a stronger, more viable system than an empire held in thrall by the Soviet Union.

In this situation the countries of Eastern Europe will continue to evolve toward a status as genuinely autonomous political entities, subject to the pressures of national interests, rising popular expectations for a better life, and a resurgence of the historical frictions that have plagued the area for centuries.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, East Europe. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. The chart and photographs included with the text are not printed.
  2. March 3–10; the delegation was led by Prime Minister Maurer.
  3. Reference is to the communiqué issued on June 2, 1955, at the conclusion of Khrushchev’s visit to Yugoslavia. For text of the relevant portions, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1955–1956, pp. 14266–14267.
  4. August 20–September 3, 1963.
  5. During the winter of 1963–1964, the Czech Government and Communist Party launched a series of attacks on cultural publications such as Kulturi Tvorba, Literarni Noviny, and Kultury Zivot, for articles they had carried that included suggestions that the Czechs examine other models of socialist development.
  6. According to Pravda, June 5, 1963, Podgorny visited Romania for a 2-week period in late May and early June.
  7. Presumably during his August visit to Yugoslavia.
  8. The report of Horst Sindermann was published in Neues Deutschland, February 13, 1964.
  9. The meeting, held February 3–7, focused on economic and party discipline problems. It was reported on in airgram A–517 from Berlin, February 16. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 2 GER E)