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


  • Hungary: Crown of St. Stephen

Cy Vance’s memorandum (Tab A)2 sets out a scenario for returning the Crown of St. Stephen to Hungary by September 15, before the opening of the CSCE Conference about September 27. Return of the Crown would highlight Hungary’s generally good human rights record. Cy suggests that the crown be returned by a distinguished government or public figure, such as the Vice President or Governor Harriman, accompanied by members of Congress.

Cy also recommends that Ambassador Kaiser, while presenting his credentials in early August, inform the Hungarian President that we will return the Crown, under conditions to which the Hungarians apparently are prepared to agree.

Under this scenario, we would consult with members of Congress but only after Kaiser has made the necessary arrangements with the Hungarian Government.

However, I believe the arguments for deferring a decision on the return of the Crown are still compelling. 3 (Your last guidance and Ham’s comments on the issue are attached at Tab B.)4 Domestically, there is still little to be gained by return and something to be lost in the reaction from vocal elements of the Hungarian-American community. The Vati[Page 447]can, as Cy notes, still does not regard this as an opportune moment to return the Crown.

On foreign policy grounds, return of the Crown would be a major signal to Eastern Europe. Our PRM review of European policy has made clear that our policy instruments in Eastern Europe are extremely limited. Doing something for Hungary on CSCE grounds, and doing so before the Belgrade meeting, may itself be a good idea, but returning the Crown is also bound to be seen as a much larger signal, which should be deliberate and well-timed. It might be wise, for instance, to include the announcement as an item in your UN speech (the third week of September)—and precede this decision by the needed Congressional consultations. This should take precedence over Phil Kaiser’s presentation of credentials.


That you defer a decision on returning the Crown until our overall Eastern European strategy is decided:

Delay decision, pending consideration of Eastern European strategy, perhaps until your UN speech5

Begin consultations with the Hungarian Government in order to return the Crown before CSCE (the Secretary’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. A stamped notation reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Dated July 28. Attached but not printed.
  3. In a memorandum for Brzezinski dated August 2, Hyland, Treverton, and Hunter recommended that he oppose Vance’s proposal. Arguing that the return of the Crown be “a central element—one of few major instruments we have—of a strategy toward Eastern Europe,” they stressed that since domestic opinion is divided, “there are no kudos to be had for return and some flak to be taken.” A comprehensive review of Eastern Europe will be held later in August, they concluded, and a decision should be joined directly to that review, and “measured directly against a refined sense of the domestic implications.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 27, Hungary: 1–12/77)
  4. Jordan’s written recommendation is not attached and was not found. Inderfurth transmitted Jordan’s recommendation with an undated note to the President and informed Carter that Jordan favored option 3 and that “from a domestic political point of view, it is not worth the trouble it would cause at this point in time.” (Ibid.)
  5. Carter checked his approval of this recommendation and wrote at the bottom of the page, “Why not ask Hungarian officials to make a proposal as to how Crown would be received and displayed if it is returned. Make no commitment. Keep confidential. J.C.” Brzezinski relayed Carter’s instructions to Vance in an August 4 memorandum. (Ibid.)