69. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

4751. 1. Although there are many pros and cons I am convinced that our present posture on Czech affair is the correct one particularly in [Page 212] absence any request from Czechs for a change. They should be in the best position to judge effects of any actions or statements on our part. Any appeal to the Soviets would necessarily reveal weakness of our position by what we would not and could not say. Moreover, I believe that on balance such appeal would strengthen the hands of the hardliners rather than those who oppose intervention.

2. Soviets have left themselves little ground to retreat and have already paid a big price in the Communist as well as the free world by their crude handling of this affair. If Czechs face them down, Soviet prestige will suffer and other members of the camp will be encouraged toward greater independence. If they use force the free world will be deeply shocked, NATO strengthened, hope of reducing military expend-iture by agreement with US jeopardized, etc. Moreover internal dissatisfaction with Soviet leadership would increase. Their only hope is that Czechs will back down and even if this happens, as it may well do, Soviet efforts to unify Communist camp under their leadership will be thwarted. In Soviet practice serious errors demand at least a scapegoat and regardless of how the Czech affair comes out this may well be the beginning of a process leading to the fall of Brezhnev, Suslov and others.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL CZECH. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Prague. A copy of this telegram was passed to President Johnson by Rostow on July 23, with the annotation: “Herewith Tommy Thompson’s current evaluation of Czech affair.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR, Cables, Vol. 21)