68. Telegram From the Embassy in Czechoslovakia to the Department of State1
2682. 1. Notice question has been asked whether US is in touch with Czech leaders during current crisis (Belgrade 3725).2 The answer is that the prospects for meaningful contact are not very good and this appears to be by Czech choice. Smrkovsky is probably the most approachable among the hierarchy but he is too shrewd to become involved with us without checking with the Foreign Ministry which would put things back in present sterile channel.
2. It is on my conscience whether we should indicate we would be prepared to help in any way regime thought fit. This could be done through informal inquiry to Snejdarek, Director of Institute for International Politics and Economics, who seems to stand close to important party circles or through Austrians whose standing is now probably highest among Western countries. My feeling of the moment is that we should not undertake this move. Once it got into formal channels we would run [Page 211] the risk of being charged with hypocrisy since Czechs could claim they have made it amply clear what they wish from U.S., namely the elimination of alleged economic discrimination.
3. Believe Czechs are realistic in realizing limits on US action, i.e., no military support or massive economic aid. They are aware of reciprocal inhibitions stemming from Viet-Nam war. Cool official relations also enhance their standing in Communist camp. They know in any case they can count on considerable benefit of US public understanding. Secretary’s statement was helpful in making this point.3
4. Despite Western press stories playing up alleged concern over US-Soviet tacit collusion over Czechoslovakia, regime does not seem to be too unhappy with present US stance, viz., rude Pravo article yesterday (Prague 2672)4 citing US-Soviet cooperation as contribution to moderating of cold war. Article incidentally served purpose of refuting Soviet insinuations of US interest in instigating local unrest.
5. We are not impressed by influence other Western countries can bring to bear on present situation. For time being Czechs seem to prefer handling their troubles within the Communist orbit. But suggestion I have to offer is VOA might play up US public reaction somewhat more as legitimate news, stopping short of making this possible issue with Soviets.