72. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Bulgarian Relations


  • Bulgaria
    • Dr. Luben Guerassimov, Ambassador
    • Mr. Vesselin Vassilev, Attaché
  • US
    • The Secretary
    • Martin A. Wenick, EUR/EE

Ambassador Guerassimov said that he was calling upon the Secretary on instructions from his Minister of Foreign Affairs with whom he had spoken during his recent consultations in Sofia. He told the Secretary that he carried a personal message of good wishes from the Minister and that he wished to inform us that Bulgaria stands ready to improve relations with the US in all areas.

The Ambassador said that there has been in recent years success in the development of US-Bulgarian commercial and cultural relations, and the Bulgarians wished to strengthen and to expand relations in these areas as well as in other fields. For example, he said that presently the Bulgarian Government is engaged in negotiations with American firms for the sale of two industrial complexes, the total cost of which would be approximately $50 million. Of course, he said, one of the obstacles is the fact that Bulgaria does not enjoy MFN which inhibits the expansion of Bulgarian trade with the US. This is an area where the Bulgarians would particularly like to see progress in the future.

With this introduction, the Ambassador asked the Secretary whether he would provide an assessment of bilateral relations and whether he would comment on the Budapest Appeal of the Warsaw Pact countries2 with which the Bulgarian Government was associated.

[Page 191]

The Secretary first requested the Ambassador to convey to Foreign Minister Bashev his appreciation for the Ministerʼs message which the Ambassador had brought. He then told the Ambassador that it is US policy to seek to improve relations with all countries regardless of the obstacles which stand in the way. The advent of a new Administration, the Secretary observed, is a particularly good time to reexamine the course to be followed in seeking to improve relations.

The Secretary remarked that there is a tendency to be nonspecific in conducting international relations. He wanted to tell the Ambassador very frankly and specifically, however, that he feels the process in improving our bilateral relations would be a slow one. Bulgariaʼs willingness to participate in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, an action which aroused public opinion in the US, would be an obstacle in the path of efforts to improve relations. Additionally, the so-called Brezhnev doctrine3 has the US concerned because of its implications. The Secretary added that this concern goes beyond the US, since every leader with whom the President and he had spoken during the Presidentʼs recent European trip4 had expressed concern over the implications of the Soviet pronouncements about a socialist commonwealth.

The Ambassador interjected that a misunderstanding exists about Soviet policy. He feels, he said, that there is no so-called Brezhnev doctrine; however, there is the obligation of each socialist country to provide mutual assistance to other socialist countries in defense of the socialist order.

The Secretary then continued that despite the difficult hurdles that he foresees in improving relations, we would be seeking, within these limits, to have better relations with Bulgaria. He indicated there are areas, such as cultural exchanges and tourism, where progress would appear to be easier than in other areas.

The Secretary then asked the Ambassador whether he really considers the Budapest Appeal a practical solution to the question of European security. The Secretary observed that an effort to solve all the outstanding problems affecting European security at one time appears to be unrealistic from our point of view. He asked whether a conference such as that envisaged in the Appeal could really solve the [Page 192] major problems facing Europe when we have been unable in the past to eliminate a number of the minor problems which are outstanding.

The Ambassador expressed his Governmentʼs belief that a European Security Conference would contribute to the consolidation of peace and security in Europe.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL BUL–US. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Wenick and approved in S on May 15.
  2. Dated March 17; the significant portions of the statement are printed in Keesingʼs Contemporary Archives, 1969–1970, p. 23261.
  3. Originally propounded by Soviet Communist Party spokesman Sergei Kovalev in an article entitled “Sovereignty and International Responsibility in Socialist Countries,” it asserted the right of the Soviet Union to interfere in the internal affairs of other Bloc states. (Pravda, September 26, 1968) A translation of the Kovalev essay is in Current Digest of the Soviet Press, October 16, 1968.
  4. The President visited Western Europe February 23–March 2.