128. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Hungary1

133194. Subject: SecVisit—Budapest: Memorandum of Conversation.

Following is memorandum of conversation of the Secretaryʼs July 7 meeting with Janos Kadar, First Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party. Other participants were Ambassador Puhan, and, with Kadar, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Peter and the Hungarian Ambassador to Washington, Karoly Szabo. There was also a Hungarian interpreter present.
Kadar extended cordial greetings to the Secretary and the Ambassador. He said he was glad that the Secretary had accepted the Hungarian invitation to visit Budapest. He was looking forward to an exchange of views. He called the Secretaryʼs visit a very significant event in U.S.-Hungarian relations. He wished to congratulate the two Ministers on signing the first agreement between the two countries in a long, long time.2 He expressed the hope that the exchange of views would be useful in improving our relations further.

[Omitted here is a further exchange of pleasantries between Rogers and Kadar, a tour dʼhorizon of the international situation by Rogers, and general comments on the international situation by Kadar.]

[Page 298]
Turning to U.S.-Hungarian relations, Kadar said we must be realistic. You are aware, he said, turning to the Secretary, of the vast differences in size, geography, ideology and history between our two countries. Historically, Kadar said, U.S.-Hungarian relations were never of the greatest importance, nor was Hungaryʼs foreign policy of much significance in world affairs. This will probably be true in the future also. He asked the question, “What was Hungary to the United States?” Even expanded trade would be a drop in the bucket. He referred to Hungaryʼs location and at least by implication suggested no change in Hungaryʼs position was possible.
Kadar said this was not to discourage efforts to improve our relations. Indeed, he thought we should explore all possibilities. He said we genuinely want normal relations and consider greater cooperation with the United States important. But we should not have too high expectations.
Referring to trade, Kadar said Hungary can exist only if she can conduct foreign trade. Forty percent of Hungarian GNP is foreign trade. He noted the paucity in natural resources—hydroelectric power, minerals—in Hungary. He said that he thought Hungaryʼs foreign trade would expand and with it the percentage of Hungaryʼs trade with the West. In this regard Kadar said, however, it was relatively immaterial when it came to trading with the West who that partner was, whether it was the FRG, Italy or the United States. But he came back to his thesis that we must have no illusions, no fantasies, regarding the extent to which we can improve upon our trade. At the same time, he said that the United States would find the Hungarian side ready to cooperate and explore all avenues leading to improved relations. He agreed with the Secretaryʼs earlier remark that this normalization process should proceed with not too great speed but then with a chuckle said he saw no great danger in this. What he said he was primarily interested in was not to lose what we had already gained and go backward in our relations.
Kadar said that occasionally there are matters of prestige. In this connection, he said, we have our small prestige in Hungary which to us is as important as your great prestige in the United States. He said he wished to conclude by saying that the Hungarians tried to put themselves in the shoes of others to see what is possible and can be done. In this connection he did not wish to dig up the past, but he was reminded of irritants in the past which had poisoned relations between the two countries. The first of these was the so-called [Hungarian?] question in the UN which he readily admitted no longer existed. Another example was the case of Cardinal Mindszenty. He said that a solution to the dilemma Mindszenty had posed had been found, a solution in which his country had taken great risks, the Vatican had taken great risks, and the United States was left without taking any risks.
Kadar came back to emphasize that there was desire on the Hungarian side to move ahead, to take positive steps. He said he had received the impression that we had the same wish to seek a normalization of our relations, step by step. Kadar said he was a Communist and he didnʼt think it was proper to debate ideology with the Secretary. He knew, however, that Hungarians as well as Americans all want normal relations. He noted in passing that the Secretary was in Central Committee headquarters and hoped that there would be no infection as a result. He concluded by thanking the Secretary for visiting Hungary and calling on him. He expressed the firm conviction that the Secretaryʼs trip would move forward the normalization of our relations. He proposed a toast to the health of the Secretary, to better relations between our two countries, and to peace for both nations.
The Secretary thanked Mr. Kadar for his presentation. He said he just wished to make one or two short observations, in view of the fact that time had run out and he was due in another office. The first was that he personally abhorred the term “super power” and found that it was usually used when some smaller state says “You are a super power, solve our problems.” The second brief observation was to agree with Mr. Kadar that we had no illusions about our relations. Since Mr. Kadar had, however, stressed the interdependence of nations the Secretary felt that better understanding of each country, even understanding by a large country like ours of Hungary or a small country like Hungary of the United States, would lead to better prospects for world peace. He noted in this connection how various peoples of different antecedents had come to live together in peace in the United States.
The Secretary concluded by responding to Mr. Kadarʼs toast, by welcoming better relations between our two countries.
Comment: The meeting was cordial. Kadar appeared a little nervous at the outset but became more relaxed as the Secretary talked, and even made some sallies at humor.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 7 S. Confidential; Exdis. Repeated to Moscow. Drafted by Puhan on July 7 and approved by Rogers and Eliot.
  2. Reference is to the consular convention signed on July 7; for text, see 24 UST 1141.