10. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Policy Toward Eastern Europe

In early March, after reading the CIAʼs paper on “The World Situation in 1970,”2 the President asked whether we can do more to cause trouble in Eastern Europe. Responding by memorandum on March 11,3 [Page 16] you noted the inherent limitations under which we must operate and suggested that the policy of offering the East Europeans a relationship similar to that which we have with Romania if and when they themselves are ready for it is the best available. You suggested that in time we could relax economic policies and, in consonance with the Allies, take other steps that tend to encourage greater autonomy in Eastern Europe. The President thereupon asked if we can do more to take advantage of the changing situation and commented that our present policy is too gradual and asked you to develop a more aggressive approach with a few bold and unexpected moves. General Haig on March 18 asked me to make recommendations to you “on how to go about developing this program for the President.”


It is unlikely that the EUR/IG—the normal body if this is to go through the NSC process—would produce a useful effort. Even if a specific directive on what policies to flesh out were sent to the Under Secretaries Committee, the same people as are in the EUR/IG would be involved, and the result would be little more rewarding than if a regular NSSM were issued.

Moreover, since I take it from the Presidentʼs original comment his purpose is to cause a certain amount of “trouble” with a more active East European policy, I think it would be unwise to mount a formal exercise. It would be hard to convey that Presidential wish without risking leaks and bureaucratic resistance. On the other hand, failure to convey something of the underlying rationale would make the exercise even less responsive than it would turn out to be in any case.

Consequently, as regards procedure, there would appear to be two alternatives:

We could undertake an in-house project which could then either be put to the Review Group and NSC (questionable) or directly to the President in a memorandum from you; or
You could discuss the project with Elliot Richardson and ask him quietly to assign one or two of Cargoʼs people (Neubert and/or Davies) to work with one or two NSC Staff officers on an informal memo to the President.


While there undoubtedly is scope and opportunity for more active US policies, we should be very conscious of the limitations. We have achieved what we have with Romania (and Yugoslavia) because it has suited it to take the risks and initiatives required. Except, conceivably, for Albania no other East European country today or in the foreseeable future is prepared to move as dramatically as these two. The reasons are numerous; and, in any event, the only two countries where [Page 17] there may be some promise are Poland and Hungary. (Bulgaria is rigidly pro-Soviet and its leaders are of a most conservative stripe; Czechoslovakia is occupied and hog-tied and while eager to make certain limited arrangements with us on the long-stalled gold claims issue, hardly in a position to move; East Germany is inappropriate for obvious reasons.)

In the case of Poland, geopolitics, Gomulkaʼs personal proclivities and the peculiar nature of the Polish political situation leave only relatively little room for effective movement. Hungary is somewhat more promising, but there are four Soviet divisions in the country, our Romanian policy creates certain inhibitions and Kadar is a cautious and complicated operator. In both cases, there is a fair chance of improving relations somewhat at our initiative (e.g. Great Lakes shipping for Poland, now stalled by the Presidentʼs negative decision on Port Security; further normalization with Hungary), but this is not likely to have much impact on the near or medium-term political orientation of these two countries and their leaders; nor is it likely to bother the Soviets much. The recent episode with the Astronauts suggests the extreme caution with which both Warsaw and Budapest view anything very dramatic.

Without now attempting to do the actual study, I would think that the major areas for anything far-reaching will continue to be in our relations with Romania and Yugoslavia. In the former case, we could consider removing the anomaly of not having an MFN agreement (when we do have one with Poland) and of improving Romaniaʼs status under the Export Control Act. (Both would be in the “unexpected” category.) In the case of Yugoslavia, the most dramatic move would be a Presidential visit. We could also institute more active political consultations with both. (Incidentally, it will be wise not to single out Romania entirely; hence the parallelism with Yugoslavia.)

The biggest thing we could do for Poland would be to offer to change our position on the Oder-Neisse. But there are many problems which would have to be examined, including French reluctance. Even if we did this, however, it is not clear exactly what would be the impact on Poland; it would, of course, clear the way for a German-Polish agreement but with highly ambiguous consequences.


In specific response to General Haigʼs request for a recommendation on how we develop a program for the President, I recommend that you either4

Consider an in-house paper which could then either be introduced into the NSC mechanism or sent directly to the President. [Page 18] Subsequently, after a Presidential decision, there could, if appropriate, be some follow-up by the Under Secretaries.
Or, talk to Elliot Richardson to get a small (two or four-man) NSC Staff–Cargo Staff group to develop a program which could then either go into the NSC machinery or directly to the President.

As regards the Presidentʼs further comment that we should review RFE for the Fiscal 72 budget and that he favors continuing rather than cutting it, I assume this is to be staffed by Frank Chapin.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 667, Country Files—Europe, General through May 1970. Secret; Eyes Only. Sent for action. Attached to the memorandum is a routing tab that reads: “NOTE: This did not go thru Secretariat. The Log number is one given to the previous papers on this.”
  2. Dated January 9. (Ibid., Box 207, Agency Files, CIA, Vol. 2)
  3. Not further identified.
  4. None of the options below was checked.