178. Telegram From the Embassy in Romania to the Department of State1

2608. Subj: PARM—Annual Policy and Resource Assessment— Part I. Ref: A. Cerp 0001; B. State 38356.2

A. U.S. interests in Romania

We define the principal long term U.S. interests as:

—Maintenance and enlargement of Romanian independence from the Soviet Union.

—Reduction of restrictions on human rights.

These interests are not new. What I see as new is a willingness to pursue both of them with greater energy, despite some greater risks. They need to be seen in the context of a still broader U.S. interest, valid not only in Romania but throughout Eastern Europe, of undermining Soviet control—carefully, but consciously.

B. Overview

Current policies have helped promote these interests. The successes are there: Two way trade is up. Substantial numbers of family reunification cases are solved, useful high level visits take place, new agreements are signed. We are in for a rough period, however, as we try to promote simultaneously both our principal interests, with only one of which Ceausescu is in accord.

Romanian-Soviet relations—For the past decade or so, Romanian leaders for their own reasons have pursued a policy of relative independence from the Soviet Union. They have shown themselves adept at sensing the limits of Soviet tolerance, while at the same time maneuvering adroitly to expand them. We do not foresee a basic change in this policy, in spite of a heavily publicized “rapprochement” with the Soviets beginning in mid-1976, nor do we foresee an internal economic crisis of such magnitude that Ceausescu would have no place to turn except to the Soviet Union, paying whatever cost in terms of Romanian independence the Soviets demand. A post-Brezhnev succession struggle would undoubtedly cause considerable uneasiness here, but we [Page 532] would also expect Ceausescu to try to take advantage of Soviet internal problems to expand his maneuvering room as in the immediate post-Khrushchev era.

Eastern European context—We see Romania as the least likely of the Eastern European countries to be affected by the ups and downs of U.S.USSR relations. Leaving aside a serious post-Tito disintegration of Yugoslavia, Romania is also less likely to be influenced by the general effervescence of a restive region. Except for Bulgaria, however, it is also potentially the most susceptible in Eastern Europe to internal ferment because so relatively little has taken place and the sparks could come from outside. We definitely agree with the S/P assumption that planning be done for a broadening of U.S. relations with the countries of Eastern Europe, so as to position ourselves to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. At the same time we assume the USSR and some individual countries like Romania will, perhaps almost in rhythm with CSCE, resort to a policy of increasing ideologicalization to “protect” their peoples against hostile influences.

Romania’s international role—We anticipate no diminution of Romania’s active and often frenetic pursuit of cordial relations with all Communist countries and parties, Balkan cooperation, courtship of the Third World, strengthened ties with the countries and economic institutions of the developed West, disarmament, a new international political/economic order, the role of “honest broker” in such crisis situations as the Middle East or Korea—all designed somehow to raise the cost to the Soviets of any drastic behavior toward Romania, to obtain both increased quantities of raw materials or access to markets to dispose of manufactured products, and to establish Romania’s credentials as a “developing” country eligible for trade preferences and easy credits.

Internal factors—With his overriding goal of perpetuating himself in power, Ceausescu has built a highly centralized system in which he exerts total control subject only to very general limits. For the next year or two, we see practically no chance of his being unseated in a party power struggle or of being forced from office by explosive discontent among the populace. His internal approach is based more on his perception of how Romania should be governed than on worries about Soviet pressure. Nonetheless we believe, even if Ceausescu doesn’t, that present controls could be substantially relaxed without risking either Soviet intervention or spontaneous internal combustion. There is no doubt that Romania’s rapid pace of industrialization has strained the social fabric, produced large inefficiencies and misallocation of resources, and produced a potentially serious energy crisis. Ceausescu’s post-earthquake policy of meeting and exceeding five year plan goals while at the same time recouping the losses and providing for [Page 533] unplanned needs in such areas as housing will place even more burdens on the populace. Nevertheless barring another natural disaster, we do not expect that these strains will reach a crisis point during the assessment period. For one thing, Romanians traditionally accept their fate and improvise to get by from day to day. For another, even with its inefficiencies, the Romanian economy is still the fastest growing in Eastern Europe. The hard currency debt position is manageable. There has been a gradual improvement in the standard of living which provides some room for maneuver. As in his dealings with the Soviets, Ceausescu is aware of the limits to which he can push the people and is sufficiently flexible to back off in the face of serious economic discontent.

Human rights—This is a trickier area to predict than the economic one if only because dissidence is so recent a contemporary Romanian phenomenon. Small though it may also be, we anticipate Ceausescu will continue to be plagued by it so long as there is any continuing CSCE process and his dexterity will be put to a greater test because dissidence challenges the legitimacy of his regime. Ceausescu’s natural tendency will be to tighten controls, if only because he probably believes relatively few in Romania are prepared to do that much about their rights.

Romanian-U.S. relations—Our leverage so far has been small. It derives from Romania’s own desire for independence from the Soviet Union as well as for access to advanced Western technology and financial institutions. It also serves Ceausescu’s personal and national ambitions to have, and to be seen to have, a close working relationship with a series of U.S. Presidents. The foregoing does not imply that Ceausescu needs us to survive. He clearly does not. Many of his political goals are already being met in Romania’s relationships with other countries, and he can obtain many of the economic benefits he seeks from other Western countries with equal or greater ease. Our relationship in many ways has been more symbolic than substantive, but that is beginning to change and will change still more—and our leverage may increase—if Congress votes reconstruction aid for Romania. Day-to-day relations on most levels are reasonably businesslike, sometimes cordial as well, but in other ways have become considerably more difficult and frustrating because of a tighter internal situation. In areas which Romania considers peripheral (e.g. the exchange program), it only half-heartedly will go along with many of the things we would like to do, while in areas in which there are real conflicts of interests (e.g. human rights/humanitarian questions) extracting positive and continuing action requires the use of a considerable amount of our limited leverage. The interplay between our human rights concerns and Romanian internal restrictiveness assures continuing tensions between us. While our long [Page 534] term interest is enlargement of human rights, we may be lucky to be able just to help modify the restrictive tendencies.

Romanian leverage on the United States is so far not great. Romania has no raw materials or industrial products which are vital to the U.S. economy. While some Romanian petroleum and petroleum products are presently being shipped to the New England area, this is a small fraction of our total imports which could readily be purchased elsewhere. The Romanian market for U.S. exports at present is small, but it could grow appreciably in the next few years. Their greatest leverage is in their knowledge that we also have an interest in their independence.

C. Objectives, issues, and courses of action

1. Objectives

We see the following as key U.S. objectives for the next one or two years:

—An active but candid relationship with the Romanian leadership based on mutual respect and understanding of each other’s interests.

—Expanded contacts and mutual involvement between individuals, institutions, and bureaucracies of both countries in order to widen and solidify the regime’s stake in successful cooperation with the West.

—Improved Romanian performance on the human rights issues embodied in Helsinki Basket III and the Jackson/Vanik Amendment.

—Moving economic-commercial relations faster toward the one billion dollar 1980 goal, especially through increased U.S. penetration of the Romanian market with our industrial goods.

These objectives are basically similar to those contained in last year’s policy assessment (76 Bucharest 2230), but, unlike last year, we do not see them in any particular order of priority since they are closely interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

2. Issues

“Pecking order”—We believe that it is no longer useful to maintain a set “pecking order” in our relations with the countries of Eastern Europe other than in terms of our inherent interests. We should position ourselves so that if there is an opportunity for moving ahead anywhere we could do so. This, we realize, will call for more flexibility than we usually have allowed ourselves. We believe that, because of the U.S. presence already established in Romania and the extensive though admittedly often erratic opportunities which that affords, our bilateral relationship will continue to be one of the most active in Eastern Europe, with or without a “pecking order.”

Foreign policy independence v. internal liberalization—There seems to be no set formula in Eastern Europe for prescribing the necessary inter-relationship between these two factors. Thus during Ceauses[Page 535]cu’s regime, a period of relative foreign policy independence from the Soviet Union, there has been only one period of substantial internal relaxation (68–70), although the scene still much more relaxed than in the 50’s. As to our own relations with Romania or any other East European state, we see no need to prescribe a set formula either. It is in our interest to encourage both independence, especially national independence, and liberalization for their own sakes, but also because they erode Soviet control. We should not be overly “rewarding” or ignoring one kind of behavior over another but rather be using our influence to work toward each, recognizing that in a country like Romania liberalization will come harder. We need to keep reviewing our operational definition of “internal liberalization” which has been focused almost entirely on emigration and only marginally on the right of dissent, minority rights, religious freedom, and freer exchange of information. So far we have correctly in our judgment made no sustained effort to modify the other repressive features of Romania’s internal regime other than through our support of RFE. Given the limited leverage we are likely to have on this most sensitive of areas a carefully calculated approach, using CSCE to the maximum, is the most realistic one. Ceausescu knows well the U.S. concerns in this area but is not going to give much on his own restrictive approach. If dissidence increases here and repression too, we may need to speak out about Romanian practices as we now do about Soviet ones. Frequent and candid contacts at all levels of the type we have had in the past are the best guarantee of keeping things in perspective. It is worth thinking in this context of the leverage the possibility of a meeting with the President later this year might have on Ceausescu.

U.S. immigration/emigration policy

Because of Jackson/Vanik and CSCE we intercede forcefully in individual emigration cases and in general for freer movement. On the other hand, we are forced to work within the bounds of an immigration law which is both restrictive in spirit and letter. To many Romanians, the U.S. position on human rights translates into a U.S. endorsement of their “right” to leave Romania and to live in the United States. Some of these people are not qualified for an immigrant visa with consequent embarrassment to us. This contradiction has caused us to establish such expedients as the Rome TCP program which, although it does allow us to process many additional (but not all) types of cases, does not eliminate the basic dilemma which is reconciling our humanistic traditions with our unemployment situation. There is a comparable contradiction between our advocacy of unrestricted travel and our barring of CP members. We applaud the President’s decision to study these problems, and hope a new consensus, which will obviously [Page 536] require legislation, can be reached soon. Coordination of our policies with those of other Western countries is also worth undertaking.

A related issue is that of emigration of Romanian Jews to Israel or Romanian Germans to the FRG. We are expending more of our limited leverage on the Jewish emigration question than on any other single item and the Israelis are understandably perfectly content to let us continue to carry the ball. We believe that more balance has to be achieved and our efforts should at most equal those of Israel or any other third state.

[Omitted here is more specific discussion of U.S. goals and the likely reactions of the Romanian Government.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770123–0556. Secret. Sent for information to Belgrade, East Berlin, Budapest, Moscow, Prague, Sofia, Warsaw, Bonn, Athens, Ankara, Tel Aviv, Paris, West Berlin, USNATO, USUN, and pouched to Munich.
  2. In telegram 38356 to all diplomatic posts, February 19, the Department issued instructions for the format of the annual policy review and resource assessment. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770060–0449)