55. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Czechoslovakia 1

114361. Subject: Policy Recommendations and Assessment. Ref: Prague 1304 and A–344.2

Embassy’s policy recommendations and assessment welcomed.
Since political, social and economic situation in Czechoslovakia still very unclear and obviously in state of flux, believe our posture at moment should in general be one of responsiveness to positive Czech approaches without attempting to precipitate Czech action.
Agree position of new First Secretary Dubcek cannot be properly evaluated at this time because lack concrete information on his past performance and his future intentions. Even if his intention is one of Czechocentrism, road to this goal likely to be long and tedious if bloc political crisis to be avoided. Before he can begin to direct Party and Government on internal or external matters he must gain control Party apparatus, a feat still not accomplished and one which may take months.
While Dubcek solidifying position, internal affairs continue drift or be handled in interim manner, i.e., student unrest, intellectual ferment, and all important economic reform. As initial high hopes of progressives and of watching public cool, interim solutions may fall apart and deepen Czech crisis forcing Party to take firmer position re internal matters and to submit to bloc pressures.
If Dubcek and company intend develop more independent posture and able do so, they will certainly see need to improve relations with West, including US. There are many obvious ways available to them to indicate this desire.
Department will comment on Embassy’s specific recommendations by septels3 except for bilateral civil air negotiations which successfully concluded Washington, February 9,4 and Brno Fair in which Czechs already advised we will participate.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 CZECH–US. Confidential. Drafted by Batjer, cleared by Costalanski and USIA, and approved by Lisle.
  2. In telegram 1304, January 30, the Embassy outlined its recommendations for future negotiations with the Czechs, cautioning against a precipitous opening to the emerging Dubcek regime. (Ibid.) Airgram A–344, January 26, outlined the changes that had taken place in Czech politics and assessed the problems facing the nation’s new leaders. (Ibid.)
  3. The Department of State’s comments concerning cultural policy were forwarded in telegram 114460, February 13. (Ibid., EDX CZECH–US) Its views on a consular convention were the subject of telegram 115967, February 15. (Ibid., CON 4 CZECH–US) It commented on social security issues in telegram 116878, February 16. (Ibid., PS 14–4 CZECH) The Department outlined its views on the gold issue in telegram 117516, February 19. (Ibid., FN 19 CZECH) It dealt with trade mission negotiations in telegram 125298, March 6. (Ibid., TP 7)
  4. The second round of discussions on an air transport agreement commenced on January 22. For text of the civil air agreement, signed at Prague on February 28, 1969, and entered into force the next day, see 20 UST 408.