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


  • Relations with Hungary: Secretary Rogers Wants to Resume Efforts to Clean up
  • Pending Bilateral Problems

State has been straining at the leash to pick up again the negotiations begun with Hungary last year to clean up a whole series of long-pending bilateral problems. You will recall that Ambassador Puhan, after he assumed his post last year, negotiated four essentially housekeeping settlements with the Hungarians. The White House has never been consulted and when he and State proposed to move on to a second group of problems we told them they should first seek Presidential approval.2

Then the episode of the astronauts occurred. State felt that the Hungarians rejected the Presidentʼs offer at Soviet instigation and they also believed that the text of the Hungarian rejection was not as rude [Page 272] in the original as it appeared in the English translation. State also feels that if we settle the next group of issues we will benefit at least as much as the Hungarians. More basically, State believes that Kadar has been attempting to play a moderating role vis-à-vis the Russians, for example as regards Czechoslovakia, and that, on the whole, his domestic policies have a liberating tendency. The argument is that improved US-Hungarian relations would tend to reinforce these trends.

Without necessarily accepting these propositions in toto, I think there is some merit in proceeding in a low-key and not making an issue with the Secretary of State. Moreover, since the President himself proposed the astronaut visit which, had it not been rejected, would have been a significant initiative toward Hungary, I donʼt really see how we can reasonably object to Stateʼs proposal. I think it probably is also true, as State notes, that the Hungarians have tried to make up to some extent for the astronaut episode with some limited gestures.

Recommendation 3

That you forward the memo at Tab A4 to the President and, following approval, inform the Secretary of State that he should proceed in a low-key manner and on the basis of reciprocity.

(Note: I will draft a memo to the Secretary as soon as the President returns the package. In the event you do not wish to bother the President, you may wish to send the attached memo (Tab B)5 right away.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 693, Country Files, Europe, Hungary, Vol. I. Secret; Exdis. Sent for action.
  2. An undated memorandum from Kissinger to Richardson ordering a delay in negotiation of new agreements is ibid.
  3. Kissingerʼs handwritten “Approve” at the top of the first page of the memorandum indicates he approved the recommendations. Below his note is the stamped date January 27.
  4. Not printed. Tab A is a January 16 memorandum from Rogers to the President outlining proposed new steps toward improving relations with Hungary.
  5. Not printed. Tab B is a January 27 memorandum to Rogers, in which Kissinger stated: “The President has approved your memorandum of January 16 recommending the resumption of bilateral negotiations with Hungary. As he does in the case of similar negotiations with other Communist countries, the President wishes these talks to be conducted in a low key and on the basis of strict reciprocity.” Instructions to renew the dialogue with Hungary together with the presidential admonition to keep them low key were forwarded in telegram 14555 to Budapest, January 30. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL HUNG–US) In telegram 197 from Budapest, February 14, Puhan reported that talks had resumed the previous day. (Ibid.)