21. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Bohlen) to the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach)1


  • Eastern European Contingencies

At my direction, EUR, INR and G/PM have concerted in an examination of two contingencies which could arise should the Soviet Union consider it necessary to intervene to protect its interests in Eastern Europe. At Tab A is a discussion of the contingency involving Soviet military intervention. A discussion of possible Soviet economic sanctions on one or several Eastern European countries is at Tab B.

Both papers concur in the necessity of approaching with discretion these contingencies, as well as the actual situation in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, there are steps we can and should take both to clear the deck in anticipation of the above contingencies, and, given the present circumstances, to seek to expand our economic ties with Eastern Europe, particularly Czechoslovakia and Romania.

Accordingly, I recommend:

that the Departments of State and Defense undertake a formal review of existing orders to troops on the eastern borders of the FRG and arrangements for border security;
that we consult with FRG authorities concerning the contingency of Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia;
that, depending on the responses of the FRG, the attitude of the British and French, and recommendations from Amembassy Bonn, we review in the Bonn Group existing contingency plans and instructions concerning Soviet military intervention in Eastern Germany;
that approval be given to the general policy guidelines on pages 12–22 of Tab A covering the contingencies of (1) the immediate future, (2) a clear threat of Soviet military intervention, and (3) actual Soviet intervention;
that we ease licensing restrictions, including granting to Czechoslovakia the privileged licensing status of Poland and Romania;
that we support Eastern European membership in international economic bodies such as GATT and the IMF/IBRD;
that we make clear our continued willingness to expand scientific and technical exchanges;
that we make known our continued willingness to finance agricultural exports with CCC credits to the extent that Eastern European countries are interested therein;
that we continue consultations with key members of Congress in behalf of an East-West trade bill (we could use the forthcoming hearings scheduled by Senator Sparkman’s Subcommittee on International Finance for this purpose);
that we expand our efforts to identify specific points of vulnerability to Soviet sanctions in Eastern European economies;
in the event of a changed political climate, particularly in the event of the actual application of Soviet economic sanctions, that we actively seek to secure from Congress discretionary Presidential authority to extend MFN treatment and Export-Import Bank guarantees to key countries such as Romania and Czechoslovakia;
that we move rapidly to establish a position on the Czechoslovak gold/claims problem. Ambassador Beam’s recommendation is at Tab C.2

These studies were commissioned for possible SIG action. I believe the action recommendations are unexceptionable. What is now required, however, is a detailed action scenario implementing the recommendations of the type IRG/EUR could most readily develop. You may wish to consider having the SIG approve this package and endorse it to IRG/EUR for this purpose.

Tab A3


I. Summary

Eastern Europe is presently in the highest state of flux—in terms of domestic change and the weakening of Soviet authority—since the events of 1956. In many ways, the Soviet Union faces even greater problems than it did then.
On the basis of current estimates, it is unlikely that the USSR will intervene militarily to reestablish its authority in one or another country in the area. There are, however, unpredictable elements. The present situation—particularly the reformist revolution in Czechoslovakia and the deterioration of Romanian-Soviet relations—is progressing, not ebbing. Moreover, the volatile developments in individual countries interact upon one another, and could have side-effects on other, presently stable, regimes in Eastern Europe. No one can say with assurance what the end result will be. It is possible, under circumstances not now expected, that the Soviet Union would feel compelled to intervene militarily in Czechoslovakia or even Romania; intervention in Poland or the now quiescent GDR is a more distant possibility.
Given the present set of circumstances and expectations, the US and its Allies should assume as axiomatic that we wish to avoid a Soviet military intervention. At the same time, we should carry forward our existing policy, that of bridge building, by which we seek to normalize and expand our relations with Czechoslovakia, Romania, and other countries of Eastern Europe in the field of trade, cultural and scientific exchanges, ideas and tourism, to the maximum extent possible within existing limitations. By continuing this policy, we will be doing all within the means given to us to encourage further the constructive developments that have been taking place. The efforts should be made discreetly, without provocative public comments by the US Government or its information media. We should also be careful not to arouse unrealistic expectations concerning the degree of support which the US may be willing or able to provide these countries.
These actions should also be accompanied by quiet preparations for the contingency of Soviet military intervention, particularly in Czechoslovakia and possibly the GDR which border on the FRG. Through a formal State-Defense review, we should confirm the findings of a preliminary study that standing orders to US border troops in the FRG are in basic conformity with the guidelines set forth in existing quadripartite agreements (BQD–EG2, BQD–EG–2A)4 covering the contingency of a Soviet intervention in East Germany, but which would generally apply to the Czechoslovak contingency as well. In essence, these guidelines provide (a) that there be no intervention across the FRG border by our troops, and (b) that asylum and protection be provided for refugees gaining Federal Republic or West Berlin territory. (See Annex A.) We should also consult with the FRG to establish that orders to West German [Page 75] troops along the Czechoslovak border are based on the same general principles. Finally, we may at some point wish to review in a quadripartite forum existing contingency plans and current instructions to troops in regard to Soviet military intervention in East Germany.
If a Soviet military intervention should actually occur, our principal aim would be to avoid any deliberate or spontaneous military involvement by the US and its Allies, save to preserve order on the FRG side of the border. Diplomatic action and public statements would be designed to mitigate, if possible, the effect of the Soviet intervention on the country concerned, and to confine if possible, the adverse impact of the action on other Eastern European countries. A central element of our public posture would be to demand the cessation of Soviet military intervention, though it would hardly be expected that Moscow would heed this call. The UN would presumably be the central forum for diplomatic action, though much would depend on the circumstances of the Soviet intervention, i.e., whether it was undertaken against an established government or at its invitation.
Actions Recommended:
That approval be given to the general policy guidelines set forth in this paper (Section IV) covering the contingencies of (1) the immediate future, (2) a clear threat of Soviet military intervention, and (3) an actual Soviet intervention.
That the Departments of State and Defense undertake a formal review of existing orders to troops on the borders of the FRG and arrangements for border security. (Paragraph IV.A.6)
That we consult with FRG authorities concerning the contingency of Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. (Paragraph IV.A.7)
Depending on the response of the Federal Government, the attitude of the British and French, and recommendations from Embassy Bonn, that we review in a quadripartite forum (Bonn Group) existing contingency plans and instructions concerning a Soviet military intervention in East Germany. (Paragraphs IV.A.8–9)

[Here follow the body of the paper and the annexes.]

[Page 76]

Tab B5


The paper recommended that under existing conditions, that is, unless Soviet economic pressures are substantially stepped up, we should (a) continue our present efforts to expand trade and other relations and (b) plan for other contingencies.

Under (a), the following specific steps were recommended:

We continue to express approval of trade in peaceful goods.
We continue to express support and to make educational efforts for an east-west trade bill. (Congressman Findley and Senator Mondale have separately introduced legislation making the restoration of MFN status to Czechoslovakia possible. The Department is not opposing these moves, but is expressing a preference for a general east-west trade bill.)
We continue to oppose restrictive trade measures to the extent possible.
We support as actively as possible east European membership in GATT and the IMF/IBRD. Romania’s application to join the former is progressing; Czechoslovakia is already a member. No concrete steps toward IMF/IBRD membership are being taken at the moment by any eastern European country; however, Messrs. Schweitzer and McNamara are reported to be planning visits to Bucharest and other eastern European capitals in June.
Commerce is prepared to give Czechoslovakia the licensing status of Poland and Romania, subject to receipt of Czech assurances against unauthorized exports; this action should be completed in a few days.
We continue to be willing to expand scientific and technical exchanges.
We are willing to finance agricultural exports under CCC credits. There is some possibility that the drought conditions which have hit Romania and Bulgaria may make some action on this front more likely than seemed probable a month ago. An Agriculture trade mission is to go to eastern Europe later this spring to investigate possibilities.

EUR has not been assigned responsibility for the planning recommended under (b). The CIA has drafted a study of Czech dependence on the USSR. This is now being circulated for comments preparatory to publication later this month.

[Page 77]

The paper also recommends avoiding making gratuitous suggestions of support. This policy has been carefully followed.

  1. Source: Department of State, SIG Records: Lot 70 D 263, SIG Memo No. 66. Secret. This memorandum was circulated to members of the Senior Interdepartmental Group for Europe as an attachment to SIG Memorandum No. 66, May 9.
  2. Document 58.
  3. Secret.
  4. BQD EG–2, “Western Attitude in Event of an Uprising in East Germany or East Berlin,” December 4, 1961, and BCQ EG–2A, “Report of the Bonn Quadripartite Group on National Orders Pursuant to the ‘Rules of Conduct’ of EG–2,” August 15, 1962, were attached as annexes to the source text, but are not printed.
  5. Secret.