7. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 12–64


The Problem

To assess the situation and outlook in the Eastern European countries and their external relations over the next few years.


Eastern Europe has entered upon its third post-Stalin phase. The years 1953–1957 were marked by popular upheavals and the danger of disintegration, and the next several years by consolidation and relative quiet. The present is marked once more by a preoccupation with change and we look for a period of political liveliness and fluidity. (Paras. 1–11, 22)
In the minds of most Eastern Europeans, however, the basic fact of Communist rule is not now in dispute. It is rather the question of the national future, within the framework of a Communist system, which is being subjected to examination and experiment. The internal issues are those of liberalization and economic reform. These in turn are closely [Page 22] related to the problems of autonomy within the Communist camp and relations with the West. Increasingly, the leaders of Eastern Europe are feeling free to approach these questions less in the light of Soviet wishes or the supposed common interests of the Bloc, more in the light of national aspirations and local political conditions. (Paras. 8, 12, 24)
One result of this trend, which is likely to continue for the next several years, is a growing diversification in Eastern Europe. Outsiders, including the USSR, will find it increasingly hard to apply a general analysis and a general policy to the area. We expect in most of these countries some movement toward political liberalization and a search for better balance and more efficient methods in managing the economy. Economic progress, while likely to show some improvement over the generally dismal record of the last two years, will not be such as to diminish dissatisfaction and impatience in the near future. Political evolution is not likely to proceed at a speed which threatens the Communist regimes. (Paras. 22, 24–25, 29–30, 33)
In external relations, we expect a similar uneven evolution away from the tutelage of Moscow and toward closer contacts with Western Europe and the US. We believe that the Soviets would consider direct military intervention in Eastern Europe only in emergency circumstances, when they believed vital Soviet interest to be threatened. In political terms, the irreducible Soviet demand probably is that these regimes should remain professedly Communist and continue at least formal membership in the Warsaw Pact. So long as these limits are not transgressed we believe that the USSR is prepared to tolerate considerable divergence in internal policies and even to acquiesce reluctantly in further manifestations of independence in foreign policy. Most countries will almost certainly seek to develop their economic and cultural relations with the West at a rapid rate, though the economies of Eastern Europe will remain closely tied to that of the USSR. (Paras. 24, 31–32, 34, 36)
Though we believe that these trends will unfold gradually and without major upheavals, we are conscious of the possibility of sharp instability and even violent shifts. The chances of change of this sort depend to some extent upon each country’s success in managing domestic problems and party factionalism. Developments in the Soviet Union will probably be equally important. If the USSR continues to falter in its competition with the West, to lose prestige in the contest within the Communist movement, or to give an impression of uncertainty in its policy, Eastern European nationalism may be moved to bolder ventures. These possibilities will also be heightened during the succession period in Soviet politics, which is likely to breed factionalism, nervousness, and exaggerated hopes and fears in Eastern Europe. (Paras. 26–27)

[Here follows the Discussion section of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–R01012A, ODDI Registry. Secret; Controlled Dissemination. According to a note on the cover sheet, the CIA, the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, and the NSA participated in the preparation of the estimate. This estimate was submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence, and concurred in by the U.S. Intelligence Board with the Directors of INR, DIA, and NSA concurring and the representative of the AEC and the Assistant Director of the FBI abstaining on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction.