Press Release

Office of the Historian

Bureau of Public Affairs

United States Department of State

September 4, 2008

The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States , 1969–1976, Volume E–15, Documents on Eastern Europe, 1973–1976, as an electronic-only publication. This volume is the latest publication in the subseries of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important decisions and actions of the foreign policy of the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Volume E–15 is the tenth Foreign Relations volume to be published in this new format, available to all free of charge on the Internet. Approximately 25 percent of the volumes scheduled for publication for the 1969–1976 subseries, covering the Nixon and Nixon-Ford administrations, will be in this format.

The documentation in this volume highlights U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe from 1973–1976 during the period of détente. Relations with the communist-dominated states of Eastern Europe warmed during this period, building on the progress made during Nixon’s first term, the afterglow of détente with the Soviet Union, and U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. The documents opening this volume show that U.S. foreign policy still perceived the countries of Eastern Europe as sharing the status of “captive nations” under Soviet domination, but held hopes for improved bilateral relations on a country-by-country basis. The Nixon and Ford Administrations’ ambitions for improved relations with Hungary and Czechoslovakia remained unrealized, and U.S. contacts with Bulgaria and Albania were extremely limited. The majority of this volume focuses on those countries with which the United States had major continuing bilateral relations, evident in new or improved economic, cultural, and political-military relations: Romania, Yugoslavia, and Poland. These three countries, both Administrations hoped, were most likely to assert their independence from Moscow. Finally, although the United States officially established diplomatic ties with the German Democratic Republic during this period, relations remained limited and evidenced a continuing low level of tension over the status of divided Berlin.

In its first term, the Nixon Administration had focused on increasing contacts with Yugoslavia and Romania; in its second term—as well as after President Ford took office—Poland emerged as a country of primary U.S. interest. Polish First Secretary Edward Gierek visited Washington during October 1974, and President Ford visited Poland in the summer of 1975. In 1976, Gierek’s government fell into disarray when it drastically raised the prices of basic commodities, especially food, in response to an economic downturn. The resulting workers riots forced Gierek to abandon this policy and threatened to destabilize his government. Despite continued improvements in U.S.-Polish relations during this period, U.S. intelligence and diplomatic sources alike had begun to question the ultimate stability of the Gierek regime.

Yugoslavia and Romania continued to hold the most promising prospects for improved U.S. relations with Eastern European nations. Romania seemed the most stable country by the end of 1976 and, as such, received the greatest share of official attention from the United States. There was also a flurry of high-level contact between the two countries, which underscored a growing cordial relationship. In December 1973, President Nicolae Ceausescu became the first Eastern European head of state to make an official visit to the United States. Another visit from Ceausescu followed in June 1975. In return, Kissinger briefly stopped in Bucharest in November 1974, and Ford paid an official state visit to Bucharest and Sinaia 9 months later. Romania became the first Eastern Bloc nation to win most-favored nation trade status from the United States. While recognizing the harshness of Ceausecu’s internal policy, the United States sought to encourage him to act independently of the Soviet Union.

Yugoslavia was easily the most independent of Moscow’s orbit—and therefore a natural focus of U.S. attention in Eastern Europe for a quarter century—but faced a looming succession crisis. The health and visibility of Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito became an increasing source of speculation among diplomatic and intelligence sources. All evaluations of relations with Belgrade during this period, first and foremost, demanded a focus on identifying Tito’s probable successor and orienting the country’s military to a congenial view of the United States. In 1976, the United States prepared a lengthy contingency study for a hypothetical post-Tito Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia. The Departments of State and Defense negotiated the sales of military equipment to Yugoslavia, which might enable it to resist such an invasion. In 1976, the Ford administration concluded a significant agreement to sell TOW anti-tank missile systems to Yugoslavia. The question of Tito’s successor, of course, remained unclear—and unanswered—by the time Ford departed office.

U.S. relations with the German Democratic Republic served as a counterpoint to the overall trend toward a thaw in U.S.-Eastern European relations. Despite the signing of the Quadripartite Agreement in September 1971, the status of West Berlin remained contentious, especially over U.S. concerns about Soviet interference with, and delays for, supplies, personnel, and civilians transiting in and out of West Berlin. The U.S. initiative to open relations with the German Democratic Republic originated from Secretary of State William Rogers; Nixon, in particular, was unenthusiastic about establishing formal diplomatic ties, and would have further delayed taking action were it not for the pressures generated by West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and recognition by Great Britain and France. As a result, the recognition of the German Democratic Republic and the establishment of an embassy in East Berlin in 1974 did not immediately lead to a more cordial bilateral relationship.

The volume, including a preface, list of names, abbreviations, sources, annotated document list, and this press release, is available on the Office of the Historian website ( For further information contact Marc Susser, the Historian, at (202) 663-1123, fax to (202) 663-1289, or e-mail to