8. Record of Discussion1



  • Bridgebuilding in Eastern Europe

Under discussion were two papers: one an S/P paper on policy toward Eastern Europe,2 the other a draft reply to NSAM 3043 outlining action programs in Eastern Europe.4

The NSAM draft reply was characterized as a wide-ranging response which should distinguish more clearly between the measures that could be taken now and those that might become feasible as developments in East Europe progressed. Two specific criticisms were made: (1) it fails to distinguish between East Germany and the other East European states; (2) the proposal to encourage West Germany to modify the Hallstein Doctrine5 is unrealistic and impractical.

The policy paper received general acclaim for its worth in boldly proposing a line of policy. It was criticized on the following counts:

The paper is overstated in its optimism concerning both the analysis of the evolution of the East European nations and the action programs proposed. The ideological aspect is understated: these are strong Communist regimes. The possibility of a “Marshall Plan” approach is overstated. The paper needs to emphasize that its proposals are long-run in nature and cumulative in effect.
There is an overemphasis of the beneficial effects upon the Soviet succession of the evolution in the East European nations. “Reconciliation” with the West may have a reverse effect, causing the Soviet succession to eventuate in a regime determined to hold Eastern Europe in its grip. We must be cautious, since our East European policy will affect the Soviet succession.
In any case, “reconciliation” is a dangerous word politically, implying that we are reconciled to the suppression of the East European peoples by their Communist governments. A new word or phrase should be found. Moreover, the paper’s proposals seem to lend support to these governments at the expense of the people, who, in some cases, are suppressed in a most Stalinist way.
The paper should delve deeper into the relationship of the “reconciliation” process to German reunification and Central European security arrangements. The long-run erosion of East European ideological unity may well contribute to the progress on a German settlement.
The paper should not permanently preclude the possibility of “reconciliation” with the GDR as well. Instead of “isolating” East Germany, why not consider the same “reconciliation” policy toward it as toward the other East European states? This could help to promote German reunification.

(This suggestion was rebutted on two grounds: (1) the internal effect in the FRG of such a policy would render it self-defeating. Alienated West Germans might turn to a strong nationalist government which would by its character retard the desired evolution and “reconciliation” in Eastern Europe. (2) A “reconciled” Titoist-minded East Germany would cause the Soviets to hold on to it that much harder.)

In discussion it was emphasized that we must not allow our Eastern European policy to be vetoed by Bonn. There is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the German objections to enlarged US contacts with the East. A short paper was requested outlining the differences between our present Eastern European policy and what that policy would be were we to go as far as the Germans in our contacts with the East. It was also suggested that an article on the Eastern European situation written by John Strachey for Encounter be distributed.6

The problem of what kind of public statement on our Eastern European policy could be issued was discussed at length. In brief, the problem is how to talk about our objectives without getting in their way. Two points of view developed: one holding that for the present we should keep as quiet as possible, the other holding (with the S/P paper) that the President should issue a public statement enlarging upon his “bridgebuilding” speech. The following reasons were advanced against a public statement:

In an election year it would be dangerous and divisive, as East European policy might become a campaign issue. New policy should not be introduced in a political campaign because it would not benefit from rational debate.
There would be an element of presumptuousness in our publicly proclaiming our policy. This would irritate our European allies who are far ahead of us in pushing contacts with the Eastern European nations. Due to Congressional inhibitions we are far behind Western Europe in trade development with these countries. It would be better to bring Congress along before speaking out.

The counter-arguments to “keeping quiet” follow:

The President has already spoken out in his “bridgebuilding” speech; hence, this issue is bound to make its way into the campaign in any case.
The latter is desirable, as the issue of East European policy is a good one with which to confront the unthinking opposition.
Khrushchev already has a jaundiced view of our intentions in Eastern Europe. Hence, enunciating them—as the Attorney General did upon his return from Poland—will not do any harm.
The articulation of our policy toward Eastern Europe has been helpful in the last six months; we need continued articulation.
It was suggested that we use the drafting of a Presidential message on Eastern Europe as an exercise in prior consultation with the UK, France, and West Germany. This would go far to ensure a coordinated allied policy in the future.

Concerning trade relations with Eastern Europe, it was cautioned that we must look into the deeper implications of MFN treatment. The problem is what do we do when we achieve this? Tariffs are of no significance to Communist nations with state trading systems. We must realize that these nations will have state trading for the foreseeable future. This means that their presence in the GATT might disrupt that already fragile body; we must consider this when we respond to their overtures for closer relations with the GATT. In the case of the USSR, we should not extend MFN until they settle some outstanding claims, including lend-lease.

Divergent opinions were expressed concerning whether the “reconciliation” of Eastern Europe should have a primarily European or an Atlantic orientation. It was held that the US has the most prestige of any Western nation in Eastern Europe and that we should maximize the presence of Americans there. It would be a mistake to overemphasize Eastern European association with Western Europe. The structure of the latter is weak already, and the association of Eastern European states would only dilute it further. Eastern Europe should develop closer links with the Atlantic Community as a whole. Cooperation on specific subjects within the framework of the OECD might be useful. But the view was expressed that apart from the possibilities of arranging European-wide cooperation in some technical fields such as highway safety standards, the Council of Europe could do little in associating Eastern Europe with the West.

On the other hand, it was held that rather than trumpeting a new US policy toward Eastern Europe it would be wiser to conform our policy with that of Western Europe first. The Europeans are not at present [Page 26] unhappy to see the US a minority of one on COCOM. Before talking of pushing on, we should first catch up with our European allies.

Both Western Europe and the US have tools with which to help loosen the Eastern European “bloc.” Western Europe has geography, history, and such things as common waterways to weigh in the balance. The US has other assets such as the six million Americans of Polish extraction.

The following additional problems were mentioned:

The process of “reconciliation” with Eastern Europe raises three questions concerning its future orientation: (a) the connection between Eastern and Western Europe; (b) the connection between Eastern Europe and the US, and (c) between Eastern Europe and worldwide institutions. In addition, this process raises the question of how the US can consult with its Western European allies on policy toward Eastern Europe. Systematic consultation is needed at operational levels. This could be done in the Quadripartite Group or in the NAC.

It was suggested that in our public statements we should stress our desire to improve relations with all Communist states, including Soviet Russia, and not just with “special cases” in Eastern Europe. Otherwise, if the Soviets receive the impression that we are fomenting difficulties for them in Eastern Europe, this would be contrary to our long-run policy of achieving understanding with the Soviet Union.


A short paper outlining the differences between (a) our present East European policy and (b) what that policy would look like were it as liberal as that of the FRG.

Distribution to Bureau representatives attending the Secretary’s Policy Planning Meetings of the pamphlet by John Strachey on Eastern Europe.

  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 71 D 273, Eastern Europe. Secret. The source text, which is dated July 30, bears no drafting information.
  2. Apparently “Bridge Building in Eastern Europe,” undated. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Eastern Europe)
  3. Document 4.
  4. A draft of Document 12.
  5. Reference is to the December 9, 1955, statement by the Federal Republic of Germany that it would break diplomatic relations with any nation that recognized the regime in East Germany and that it would refuse to enter into diplomatic relations with any East European state except the Soviet Union.
  6. Reference is to a series of lectures by John Strachey published as an Encounter pamphlet, The Challenge of Democracy (London, 1964).