166. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of Dr. Brzezinski’s Meeting with Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Istvan Huszar (U)


  • H.E. Istvan Huszar, Deputy Prime Minister, Hungarian People’s Republic
  • H.E. Janos Nagy, Deputy Foreign Minister, Hungarian People’s Republic
  • H.E. Ferenc Esztergalyos, Ambassador to the United States
  • Mr. Gyorgy Banlaki, Interpreter
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Mr. Stephen Larrabee, Notetaker

Dr. Brzezinski opened the meeting by welcoming DPM Huszar to the United States.2 He said that he had spoken earlier to the President [Page 495] (who was making a speech in Kansas on energy). The President had specifically told Dr. Brzezinski to tell DPM Huszar how happy he was to have a Hungarian statesman visiting the White House. (U)

DPM Huszar thanked Dr. Brzezinski. He informed him that on Friday he had met with First Secretary Kadar to discuss his upcoming trip to the United States. During the meeting Kadar had asked him to convey his best regards to President Carter. Huszar then added that he fully understood the busy schedule which the President had and asked that Dr. Brzezinski convey to him his best regards. (U)

Dr. Brzezinski stressed the importance that the United States attached to relations with Hungary, both symbolically and substantively. The US felt that relations had been developing well. The return of the Crown had been important symbolically in contributing to the improvement of relations. (U)

DPM Huszar agreed. He felt that relations were developing well. The return of the Crown and the Coronation Jewels had had an important impact on relations. He understood that Dr. Brzezinski had also played an important role in the decision and he wished to thank him for his contribution. (U)

Dr. Brzezinski said that he was pleased to have played a role and noted that perhaps his ethnic background had been helpful. (U)

DPM Huszar then gave Dr. Brzezinski a gift of a coin commemorating the return of the Crown. (U)

Dr. Brzezinski stated that he had been to Hungary several times. He had been impressed with the Hungarians’ sense of history and the importance that they attached to history. He had been particularly pleased to see a monument to General Bem. (U)

DPM Huszar noted that Bem was a common national hero. The Hungarian people referred to him as Father Bem. He then turned to political relations, noting that he could not say very much new, but that this was good. (U)

Dr. Brzezinski interjected that it was often more important who said it, not whether it was old or new. (U)

DPM Huszar commented that political relations were improving and that meetings between officials of the two countries were becoming more frequent. He was glad that Representatives and Senators were visiting Hungary in increasing numbers. In this connection he noted that he was the third Hungarian Prime Minister to visit the United States. Continuing, he stressed that he wanted to say that the Hungarian Government was officially prepared to raise the level of political relations. He had come to the United States with this specific task. Beyond this, however, he had no specific agenda; there were no agreements to be signed. He was glad to have the opportunity for an [Page 496] exchange of views on ways to remove obstacles to improve relations. The United States and Hungary should have relations appropriate and worthy of the two countries. (C)

Turning to the economic area, Huszar stressed that US and Hungarian firms should be encouraged to deal with each other. He hoped that the visit would lead to concrete gains in this regard. He was happy that he had had an opportunity to meet people in the government at the political level as well as the financial and monetary circles. In general, there had been no change since the visit of US officials. Noting that the Hungarian Government was crossing its fingers that SALT would be ratified, he said that Hungary hoped that the ratification would have a beneficial impact on the MBFR discussions in Vienna. (C)

Huszar then returned to the subject of bilateral relations. It was a source of great satisfaction to the Hungarian Government that a lot had transpired in relations between the two countries. The trade agreement had brought its first results. Hungarian exports had grown by two thirds over the last year. Imports had increased, but to a lesser extent. Talks at the recent Joint Economic Commission meeting had been useful and constructive. Noting that interest in American firms and markets on the part of Hungarians had increased, he said that the Hungarian Government hoped to see the active involvement of American firms and companies; however, the US occupied only eighth place in Hungarian trade with capitalist countries. (C)

In response, Dr. Brzezinski said that he would like to make three points. First, the United States was also prepared to move further on the political level. There were always practical scheduling problems, but he wanted to register the basic point that we were ready to move forward. He suggested that the appropriate authorities in both countries stay in touch in order to find the right moment for announcing this publically. (C)

Noting that bilateral relations were moving well, Dr. Brzezinski said he would like to make two additional points on wider issues. The first was in regard to SALT. The United States attached considerable importance to SALT and the impact that this could have on US-Soviet relations and detente. If the Senate were to refuse to ratify SALT it would be a setback for detente. The Senate would not ratify the agreement unless it was sure that it could be verified. In order to verify the agreement, the United States had to engage in verification activities and overflights over Turkey. Whether or not to permit such activities over Turkey was a decision for the Turkish government alone. However, the Turks would not give this permission if the Soviet Union regarded it as an unfriendly act. Therefore, positive Soviet acquiescence was needed. This was not the same as Soviet permission, Dr. Brzezinski emphasized, because it was not the Soviet right. The question was one [Page 497] of acquiescence. The Soviets did not seem quite to understand this. They seemed to equate the verification activities with more traditional forms of intelligence gathering. The United States felt there was a fundamental distinction and that a more sophisticated Soviet attitude on this question would be an important contribution to detente. Precisely because Hungary had a fundamental interest in US-Soviet detente, the Hungarians had an interest in this question and could make a contribution to detente if they could influence the Soviets in a positive direction on this question. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski stated that his last point was motivated by his desire to widen and make more firm US-Soviet detente. Contrary to his reputation, he strongly believed that unless US-Soviet detente was broadly based and genuinely reciprocal, the American people would eventually reject it. He then turned to the question of instability in the Third World. To the end of this century, many parts of the world were going to be in turmoil. This was not our doing, nor was it the Soviet’s doing. This was a result of internal dynamics in many of the countries involved. However, he wished to emphasize that if this turbulence was exploited by one side or the other, it could undermine detente. The US was particularly concerned by the Soviet use of Cubans as proxies in certain areas of the Third World. This use of the Cuban military was bound to have an impact on American attitudes, and in fact the impact was already beginning to be felt. It was always more difficult to start something like that than to terminate it. We did not expect the Soviet Union to turn it off like a faucet, but we would hope that the Soviets would be sensitive to our concerns, whether in Africa or Latin America. We had been sensitive to Soviet concerns so far. But the Soviet side had to understand the need for restraint. This was why in Vienna that we told the Soviets that it was not our purpose to use our relations with China against the Soviet Union. We understood Soviet concerns and we realized any attempt to use China against the Soviet Union would create problems for detente. However, if present trends continued, there would be a strong reaction in the United States. The Presidential elections had a way of surfacing these visceral attitudes. He mentioned this, he said, because we recognized the larger interest which Hungary had in East-West cooperation and coordination. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski concluded the meeting by taking DPM Huszar on a tour of the Oval Office. (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 17, Hungary: 1979–80. Secret. Drafted by Larrabee. The meeting took place in Brzezinski’s office.
  2. On July 9, Larrabee informed Brzezinski that Huszar was traveling to the United States at the invitation of Secretary of Commerce Kreps. Kreps requested that the President briefly meet with Huszar. Larrabee recommended that, in light of the President’s busy schedule, Brzezinski meet with the Hungarian official instead, with a Presidential “drop-by,” if his schedule permits. Brzezinski disapproved both recommendations. (Ibid.) However, on July 16, Tarnoff forwarded a Department of State briefing paper for Brzezinski’s meeting with Huszar. In his memorandum to Brzezinski forwarding the paper, Larrabee stated that Vance was sick and could not meet with Huszar as scheduled. (Ibid.)