3. Record of Discussion1



  • S/P Paper Entitled: “Western Policy Design and the Quiet Revolution in Eastern Europe”2

The paper under consideration was described as an attempt to break through the conventional vocabulary and stimulate thought and discussion concerning basic assumptions of Western policy toward Eastern Europe. It was submitted to the March 11–13 meeting of the Atlantic Policy Advisory Group. The paper is framed by the intimate inter-relationship for Western policy of what happens in Eastern Europe, in the [Page 9] USSR, and in divided Germany. It identifies the forces at work in Eastern Europe which tend to promote polycentrism—but within prevailing limits of Soviet security and Communist control. It suggests that a central consideration in Western policy toward the area is to further favorable evolutionary development in the USSR. It indicates that the anticipated extension of current trends there may present perils and opportunities for Western policy—particularly in terms of German unification.

It was reported that discussion of the paper at the APAG meeting revealed general gratification that “civilizing” influences are at work in Eastern Europe, and substantial agreement that these should be promoted for various reasons and by divers means including trade, cultural contacts and exchanges. There was a range of opinion on the extent to which Eastern Europe can be treated as a problem more or less separate from the USSR, on the importance for Western policy of current trends (and of Eastern Europe itself), and on the degree to which the West can influence events in Eastern Europe.

APAG representatives from the UK, Norway and Canada treated the German problem gingerly and emphasized the efficacy of economic inducements to channel Eastern Europe’s momentum in desired directions. At the other extreme, the representative of the Netherlands took a hard line, centering on the German problem and according no significance to East European developments as such. The middle ground was dominated by the French representative who underlined the priority of the German problem in relations with Eastern Europe, proposed exploitation of the political attraction of the Common Market, and urged planning for possible, if unlikely, large-scale violence in Eastern Europe.

The German APAG representative hoped to make reunification attractive in Eastern Europe and the USSR by such means as a commitment not to change boundaries by force, a discriminatory denuclearized zone, bilateral agreements for Observation Posts and reparation payments. He indicated that relevant German policy attitudes vary from: (a) passive observation of the unfolding of history in the East, through (b) attempts to influence liberalizing forces in the area and (c) working by means of trade, contacts, etc. in the area, to (d) encouraging Eastern Europeans to negotiate while intensifying contacts with East Germany. He pointed to rising German sentiment for unification and forecast that issue would prove a critical test of the NATO Alliance. He thought in the event of another uprising in East Germany that the FRG would leave the Alliance if nothing were done to move the cause of Germany forward.

It was suggested that the basic lesson of the recent APAG meeting and of the paper discussed may be that the future of Eastern Europe is inextricably bound up with questions of German unity and political freedom for East Germany. Perhaps we need to begin to think hard about Eastern Europe not only because current developments there are welcome [Page 10] signs of independence, but because these developments might lead to conditions under which the Soviet Union could accept a Germany united in freedom. We must recognize, however, that if the USSR gave up East Germany, it already or soon would have no ideological empire left in Eastern Europe. To do that the USSR would have to be much more Russian and less Communist. Nonetheless, the decisive question remains: will Moscow accept the ideological loss of East Germany and Eastern Europe?

The ensuing discussion of the paper centered around the following major topics:

Relevance of the United Nations. It was suggested that the UN is relevant in the sense that Articles I and II of the UN Charter set forth standards of sovereign independence to which we adhere and can encourage others to adhere. We need not unilaterally shoulder the burden of urging the Soviet Union to divest itself of empire in Eastern Europe.

Role of Ideology. It was pointed out that the Soviets have made such a religion of communism that the ideology lives on in twisted form forty years after its legitimate death with Lenin. That religion is now out of date and must adapt or perish. If the USSR sticks to its unworkable tenets it will be inviting increasing trouble, making peaceful competition impossible ideologically as well as economically. In this sense the Chinese Communists are correct; i.e., genuine co-existence and orthodox Communist ideology are incompatible.

It was noted that our principal concern is the external relations of countries not their internal policies. However, the latter may shape external relations in objectionable fashion.


Relative Importance of the USSR. There was discussion of the extent to which it is possible to view policy toward Eastern Europe in relative isolation from policy toward the USSR. The opinion was expressed that the main question must remain, what can we do in Eastern Europe to speed up evolution in the USSR? It was explained, with reference to ideology, that further evolution is essential to make it possible for the Soviet Union to accept a reunited Germany.

On the other hand, it was noted that long-range policy toward Eastern Europe envisages full independence and sovereign relations for those countries with the free world and with the UN. A concern was expressed with inadequate focus on the goal of an independent Eastern Europe and at the possible implication that if the Soviets behaved the US would accommodate to Communist domination in Eastern Europe.

It was pointed out that it is perhaps unnecessary to think about Eastern Europe in terms of our gain is the Soviet’s loss and vice versa. We don’t need the Eastern European countries on our side—we don’t seek them as allies. Moreover, there is little practical likelihood of Eastern Europe being frozen into a polycentric status. There is too much political [Page 11] ferment for that, e.g., hard political choices for leaderships. It clearly is not enough simply to encourage developments in Eastern Europe without considering the effects on the USSR and on the German problem, in large part through the USSR.


The German Problem. It was noted that there appear to be two routes to German unification—confrontation and détente. The former has proven unsuccessful since 1945; the latter has yet to be tested. It would, however, present different security problems to the USSR. Soviet concern, it was argued by some, is far less with the security threat of a unified Germany than with the domino effect in Eastern Europe of the loss of East Germany.

There was discussion of the impact on Soviet security of a unified Germany with meaningful security and disarmament arrangements. The opinion was expressed that if unification were evolutionary and without violence, Soviet concerns might be satisfied. Another view was that the security problem in Soviet eyes includes the threat of eventual German offensive capability, or at least of a German capability to spark a conflagration.

Potential Crises. It was suggested that trends in Eastern Europe to date comprise a cumulation of small increments, but historical trends may now outrun manageable rates and magnitudes. Thus, the US need prepare for crises in the area lest we freeze as we did at Budapest or act in haste contrary to our real interest.

The unpopularity in Eastern Europe of the USSR and of the Communist regimes was cited as a potential source of mass violence and possible subsequent escalation. It was noted that the unpopularity of at least the USSR seems a permanent condition if for no other reason that the USSR has no economic possibility of satisfying the aspirations of the peoples of Eastern Europe.

It was pointed out the Soviets could create a real crisis of a different order for the Alliance by withdrawing troops from Eastern Europe and East Germany and challenging us to reciprocate.

Follow-up Action Suggested by the Discussion

Preparation of a paper further pointing up the policy implications of developments in Eastern Europe (in connection with consideration of the Soviet succession process).3
A review of the extent to which smaller Communist countries are actively engaged in conspiratorial aspects of world communism (as a [Page 12] possibly important aid in treating different Communist countries differently).
Study of problems and opportunities should the USSR challenge the US with meaningful and/or dramatic disengagement and disarmament moves (e.g., troop withdrawals from Hungary and reductions in East Germany).
Renewed attention to planning in connection with crises likely to stem from developments in Eastern Europe (e.g., East German or Czechoslovakian blow-up, Rumanian defection, double-header succession crisis in Moscow and East Berlin).
  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 71 D 273, Eastern Europe. Secret. The source text, which is dated April 1, bears no drafting information.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Apparent reference to “The Situation in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany,” April 3. (Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 71 D 273, Eastern Europe)