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


  • Policy Toward Eastern Europe

The PRC met on August 23 to review our policy toward Eastern Europe.2

The meeting resulted in a general agreement that the United States basic objectives in Eastern Europe are: (1) to enhance the international independence of the region’s states; and (2) to increase their ability to organize their societies in ways different from the Soviet Union. There are, of course, limits to our capacity to realize these aims; for example, we do not want to take actions which might provoke another Hungarian uprising. On the other hand, our ability to influence events in Eastern Europe is very limited; what we can do is demonstrably support those countries that have achieved a measure of international independence or internal liberalization.

As a result of the discussions, it was agreed to give preference to those countries that have met these criteria (Poland, Romania and Hungary).3 This approach would imply moving forward with a scenario for returning the Crown of St. Stephen to Hungary. (A recommendation for your approval will be prepared by the Department of State.) U.S. relations with the other three countries (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and the GDR) would remain limited until they had demonstrated progress toward one of the criteria. Negotiations to “normalize” formal diplomatic relations (consular relations, claims settlements, and the like) could continue with those countries, but the results would have to be justified on their own merits. Other specific steps to advance U.S. relations with those countries (a port visit by the U.S. Navy to Bulgaria was one step mentioned in the PRC) would have to be justified on similar grounds—as tangibly advancing specific U.S. interests.

Warren Christopher expressed concern that any general policy would not unduly limit our flexibility to act when opportunities arise, and you may want to hear Cy’s view. I believe the draft Presidential [Page 55] Directive (Tab A)4 takes that concern into account. Any greater flexibility would dilute the basic differentiation which I believe serves our fundamental objectives; a more flexible general posture would leave those who implement policy free to pursue their natural affinity for better relations with host governments, whatever their stripe.

We all agree that over the long term, our policy toward Eastern Europe and CSCE serve parallel objectives. Both should promote, in a modest way commensurate with our influence in the region, the re-joining of the two halves of Europe,5 not as a threat to the Soviet Union but as a means of enhancing the security and way of life of all Europe.


That you sign the Presidential Directive at Tab A.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 16, PD–21. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Carter initialed the memorandum indicating he had seen it. The memorandum was drafted by Treverton on August 24 and redrafted on September 2 to incorporate Aaron’s suggestions.
  2. See Document 14.
  3. Brzezinski underlined “Poland, Romania and Hungary” in this sentence.
  4. Not attached. A handwritten notation below the recommendation reads: “signed 9/12/77.” See Document 16.
  5. Brzezinski underlined “re-joining of the two halves of Europe” in this sentence.