143. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Hungary: Crown of St. Stephen

At Tab A2 is a memorandum from Secretary Vance, strongly recommending that the United States return to Hungary the “Crown of St. Stephen”—that nation’s regalia which has been in our possession since the end of World War II. He recommends consulting with the Congress, and then talking with Hungary about the Crown’s return.

He lists a number of foreign policy advantages, including:

—we have previously tied return of the Crown to improved relations; relations have improved to some degree;

—returning the Crown would encourage Hungarian autonomy and national identity;

—the remaining property issues we have with Hungary could be solved more easily; and

—it is better to take an initiative to return the Crown, before it is formally asked for by the Hungarian Government.

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Domestic: Congressional opinion is divided. However, there would be a strong negative reaction from the most vocal elements of the Hungarian-American community. This could be partially dealt with through consultations with Congress and through the method of return: a public ceremony in Budapest, a commitment from Hungary to display the regalia publicly, and perhaps even sending it back on August 20, St. Stephen’s Day.

Foreign Policy: the advantages listed by Secretary Vance must be seen in a broader perspective:

—returning the Crown would show our “good faith” as we approach the CSCE meetings;

—since there is consideration in both the Administration and Congress about extending MFN to Hungary, also returning the Crown would be a strong sign of our interest, that could be seen as a shift of our overall East European policy;

—on the other hand, we still have not decided on a basic strategy for Eastern Europe. Returning the Crown before that process is completed foreshadows decisions you may want to consider, concerning trade, political relationships and policy toward the USSR. (An overall strategy will be considered in the context of follow-up to PRM–9, due on June 15.)3


That you delay 4 a decision on returning the Crown of St. Stephen until our overall East European strategy is decided, on an expedited basis:5

Delay decision, pending consideration of East European strategy

Begin consulting with Congress in order to return the Crown (Secretary Vance’s recommendation)

Do not return the Crown at this time

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 27, Hungary: 1–12/77. Secret. Sent for action. Carter initialed the memorandum at the top right corner to indicate that he had seen it.
  2. See Document 142.
  3. See Document 7.
  4. In a June 12 memorandum to Brzezinski, Hyland and Hunter described the Vance memorandum as “one sided and lack[ing] perspective” and recommended that the decision be delayed until the broader decision on policy toward Eastern Europe is addressed in the context of PRM–9. Returning the Crown at this time, they argued, would raise questions about the administration’s message to East Europeans: Was Hungary being rewarded for being more liberal or was the United States putting the “seal of legitimacy on Kadar?” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 27, Hungary: 1–12/77)
  5. Carter checked his approval of Brzezinski’s recommendation to delay a decision and defer returning the Crown and wrote in the margin “Don’t heat up now—J.” Brzezinski informed Vance of the President’s decision in a June 15 memorandum. (Ibid.)