24. Record of Meeting of the Senior Interdepartmental Group1



  • The Under Secretary of State, Chairman
  • The Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Admiral Taylor for the Director of Central Intelligence
  • The Director, United States Information Agency
  • The Special Assistant to the President
  • The Under Secretary of Treasury
  • The Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • SIG Staff Director
  • DOD—Mr. Wyle
  • JCS—General Bayne
  • State—
  • Mr. Leddy
  • Mr. Toon
  • Mr. Shaw
  • Mr. Lesh

[Here follow Items I and II.]

III. Eastern Europe: Issues and Contingency Planning.

The Chairman remarked that his purpose in asking for SIG consideration of the situation in Eastern Europe was to reach agreement on the [Page 95] broad principles embodied in the contingency papers which had been circulated in advance of the meeting.2 He did not wish to discuss specific details at this time. If the general policy line could be agreed by the SIG, details of contingency plans could be worked out through interagency channels under the direction of the new IRG/EUR sub-committee to be chaired by Mr. Toon.

United States Military Posture in Europe. The discussion opened with a series of comments on the military situation in Europe, with special reference to the less than desirable level of battle-readiness of certain United States units assigned to NATO. The existing shortfalls in men and materiel were readily explainable, it was pointed out, by the higher priority which had been assigned to support for the war in Viet-Nam and our strategic forces, as well as by the deleterious effect of recent severe budget restrictions.

A question was raised concerning the preparedness of the Department of Defense to go to Congress for a supplemental appropriation if the situation in Eastern Europe suddenly took a serious turn for the worse. The reply was that justification for a supplemental could be produced on very short notice. However, in the event of the development of a real crisis—such as Warsaw Pact movement against Berlin—the Department of Defense could raise expenditures for troop support even above the current budget level by using unobligated funds, and seek a supplemental appropriation later. Such short-term excess expenditure could be authorized by the Secretary of Defense even in the absence of a Presidential declaration of a national emergency.

Czech Situation. One member expressed the opinion that a tighter Soviet squeeze on Czechoslovakia appeared to be in the offing. The Chairman remarked that, after the initial Soviet decision to invade had been taken, it had become less a question of whether there would be a further squeeze than when and how the squeeze would come. Sterner Soviet measures to enforce their will in Czechoslovakia seemed to him to be a foregone conclusion.

Other members commented that it must be deeply aggravating to the Soviets that they have not been able to produce even one Czech leader who is willing to state that he requested that Soviet troops enter the country. There was some evidence, it was felt, that the Soviets were attempting to drive a wedge between the Czech and Slovak elements of the population, and simultaneously striving to build up the image of the Slovak politician Husak as a national leader. However, it was pointed out that there were serious limitations on how far the Soviets could carry such a policy. They would be unlikely to favor a federal solution in [Page 96] Czechoslovakia, with greater autonomy for the Slovaks, because such a development in Czechoslovakia would have great impact on a number of national groups in the USSR itself who desired a greater degree of self-determination.

Mr. Katzenbach then invited Mr. Leddy to comment on the Eastern European situation and the various issues and contingency papers which had been distributed for SIG consideration.

Mr. Leddy noted that the EUR papers on Czechoslovakia and the organization of a new IRG/EUR subcommittee were primarily informational, while those on Romania, Yugoslavia and Austria were action-oriented and would require further study and refinement. He did not propose to summarize all the papers but would comment on selected problems.

Deterrent Actions. Mr. Leddy observed that most planning heretofore had been slanted towards defining United States responses to selected contingency situations in Eastern Europe. He now hoped to give increasing emphasis to possible deterrent actions that could be taken right now to help prevent further Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe. Our options in this area might be limited, but there were certain things we could do to signal our concern to the Soviets. He felt, for example, that a firm United States posture in 1951 had been influential in deterring Soviet action against Yugoslavia.

The Secretary’s recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly3 was a useful step, and other ways could be found to focus public attention on the aggressive Soviet posture in the Balkans and to discredit the Soviet attempt in Pravda to formulate a philosophy to justify armed intervention in the affairs of her socialist neighbors.4

In the Yugoslav case, it would be desirable to encourage further high-level visits such as that of Gligorov to the United States. (Harmel and Stewart’s visits to Bucharest, Mr. Leddy said, were also useful in signalling our general concern about possible Soviet moves against Romania.)5 Such visits had the salutary effect of underlining the continuity of Western ties with the Yugoslav regime. Similarly, we (as well as the British and French who were partners in the effort) ought to make public reference to the 17-year-long tradition of United States assistance to Yugoslavia, without in any way committing ourselves to specific actions in the event of a Soviet attack. This would have to be done carefully and [Page 97] in an appropriate context to avoid giving the Soviets a green light on Romania.

Another suggestion offered was a quiet campaign to convince Western European Communist Parties to come out more explicitly against Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe, and to induce some reputable European newspaper or periodical—preferably socialist or even communist in sympathy—to devote more critical attention to the Pravda justification for Soviet intervention. The point should be driven home that such a philosophy is unrelated to Marxist-Leninist theory, and in fact could most accurately be characterized as Hitlerian.

Some members pointed out that we must plan for a progression of deterrent actions designed to suit differing scenarios. Following a Soviet invasion of Romania, for example, we should have in mind a series of much stiffer actions to warn the Soviets of our increased concern over the sovereignty of Yugoslavia. These might include overt military moves such as rapid reinforcement of NATO air squadrons in Italy, and naval maneuvers by the United States Sixth Fleet in the Adriatic.

Mr. Leddy commented that at that point we should also be fully prepared to move quickly in the United Nations. He felt that the General Assembly should be seized of the problem as soon as possible, because in the case of Yugoslavia we could probably obtain widespread support for deterrent action.

The Chairman commented that he felt the best way to deter further Soviet military action in Eastern Europe was to keep raising the cost to the Soviets of their invasion of Czechoslovakia. There was a growing tendency to begin to accept the Czech episode as closed, which only played into Soviet hands. The degree to which we are able to keep the occupation of Czechoslovakia a painful and embarrassing subject for the Soviets inevitably would influence their decision whether to embark on similar adventures in Romania or Yugoslavia.

The Balkan Pact. There was general agreement that the relationship of the Balkan Pact to NATO needed further study. At the time of the signing of the Bled Agreement between Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey in 19546 there had been some direct bilateral military coordination between the Yugoslavs and the Greeks. In the event of a serious military threat, the Greeks had been granted the right to move into the southern tip of Yugoslavia to defend the approaches to Greece, and there had been exchanges of information on the military staff level. The degree to which this cooperation had persisted in more recent years was unknown.

Apparently NATO had never taken official cognizance of the Balkan Pact, despite its possible effect on its obligations to Greece and Turkey [Page 98] under Article V of the NATO agreement. Mr. Leddy said that legal experts were currently studying the possible interrelationship of the two international treaties but more work needed to be done.

Yugoslav Capacity to Resist. An associated question was raised about the present Yugoslav capacity to resist armed intervention by the Soviet Union. It was agreed that the intelligence community should develop a current estimate, possibly in the form of a SNIE.

Austria. Mr. Leddy commented that the contingency of Soviet military pressure on Austria was less likely but more complicated than the cases of either Romania or Yugoslavia. If the Austrian State Treaty were violated by the Soviets—for example, by seizure of their previous zone of occupation—United States action would have to be concerted in advance with the United Kingdom, France, and Austria. A great deal more preliminary work remained to be done in this area. Furthermore, we were assuming that Austria would reject a Soviet demand for the right of transit of Soviet troops. But what would we do if the Austrians, under great pressure, agreed to such transit? Would we consider this grounds to justify our re-occupation of Austrian territory under the State Treaty?

Berlin. It was observed that the paper dealing with Berlin7 was rather bland in its estimate of the current threat, especially in regard to possible reactions to the forthcoming CDU convention to be held in West Berlin. No such convention had been held there since 1952, and the resumption of this degree of FRG political activity in Berlin might be considered highly provocative. In addition, when discussing Allied responses to curtailment or interruption of access to Berlin, it was probably wrong to assume that the FRG would agree to any restrictions on Inter-Zonal Trade (IZT). Past experience had shown that the West Germans were unwilling to take any action to abridge existing agreements on IZT.

Mr. Leddy suggested that a useful move in contingency planning for Berlin would be to get authorization for a tripartite declaration on the relationship between the FRG and West Berlin. It was suggested that another possibility would be a quiet diplomatic note on the subject from the United States, United Kingdom, and France delivered simultaneously to the Soviets, but it was pointed out that if the advice was to be effective, it would have to be publicized.

Whatever the course of Berlin contingency planning, General Wheeler remarked that he hoped no one would recommend stationing more United States troops in the city. In the first place, there were too few available elsewhere in Europe. Mr. Leddy agreed that the military effectiveness [Page 99] of a build-up in the Berlin garrison would be most doubtful, and it would not provide any real increase in deterrence against Soviet and East German military action. The only true guarantee for the existence of West Berlin remained the United States warning to the Soviets that overstepping a given line would mean war.

Discussion of Berlin concluded with a series of comments regarding the growing reluctance of the World Bank to schedule its 1970 meeting in West Berlin. The French reportedly had passed the word that a meeting in Berlin would be unacceptable, and authorities at the World Bank had begun to talk of serious difficulties with the Yugoslavs, Arabs, and others if such a meeting were scheduled. Mr. McNamara had informally expressed his preference for Copenhagen to avoid these problems. Some international bankers had begun to speak deprecatingly of the economic future of Berlin as a result of its constant population drain, especially in the younger segments of society, and its failure to achieve economic viability.

Mr. Leddy expressed the opinion that the United States must work to stem this tide, and continue to support the convening of the World Bank meeting in Berlin. It was true that Berlin was plagued by economic problems, mostly understandable as a result of the peculiar situation of the city, but these in no way diminished our national interest in Berlin nor should they weaken our support for the World Bank meeting there in 1970.

At this point the Chairman and other members were required to leave in order to attend a White House ceremony. Since there remained ample ground for further discussion of Eastern European problems, the Chairman suggested that the SIG Staff Director would be in touch with SIG members on the advisability of scheduling another meeting on the same subject.

IV. Action Summary.

The proposal by General Wood with regard to the Special State-Defense Study Group report on overseas base requirements (see Section II) was approved.
The formation of a sub-committee of the IRG/EUR under the chairmanship of Mr. Toon to coordinate interagency contingency planning on Eastern Europe was approved.
It was agreed that further interagency study would be undertaken under the direction of the IRG/EUR sub-committee, emphasizing the range of preventive measures which might be taken to deter further Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe, as well as specific contingency responses to Warsaw Pact action against Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria, and Berlin along the lines set forth in the SIG discussion (see Section III).
It was agreed there would be further study under the same auspices of the interrelationship, if any, between the Balkan Pact and the NATO treaty.
It was agreed that the intelligence community would develop an estimate of Yugoslav capacity to resist Soviet armed intervention, possibly in the form of a SNIE.8
Claus W. Ruser

Acting Staff Director
  1. Source: Department of State, SIG Records: Lot 74 D 344, SIG Decisions. Secret. Drafted by Ruser on October 12.
  2. The papers are Attachments 1–4 of Document 23.
  3. For text of Rusk’s October 2 speech, see Department of State Bulletin, October 21, 1968, pp. 405–410.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 23.
  5. British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart visited Bucharest September 8–9; Belgian Foreign Minister Pierre Harmel visited Bucharest September 13.
  6. For text of the Bled Treaty, signed on August 9, 1954, see American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955: Basic Documents, pp. 1235–1239. The treaty established the Balkan Pact.
  7. This paper was Attachment 5 to Document 23, not printed.
  8. No SNIE was produced.