18. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff for Eastern European Affairs1



At the end of 1976 US relations with the countries of Eastern Europe were at a generally low ebb. The previous Administration tended to see policy toward these countries as a corollary of that followed toward the USSR. The effects of the leaking of Helmut Sonnenfeldt’s comments2 on Eastern Europe had not been completely erased, and President Ford’s comments on Eastern Europe during the television debate3 further reinforced the feeling that little concern and attention was devoted to Eastern Europe.4

The goals toward the countries of this region were established in the course of the PRM–9 review5 of Relations with Europe and were established in PD–216 which established that policy toward Eastern Europe should be aimed at enhancing the international independence and internal liberalization of these countries and that the US should show its preference for countries moving in that direction. This implies preferred treatment for Poland and Romania, which had received special attention in the past, and for Hungary. Relations with Bulgaria, [Page 62] Czechoslovakia, and the GDR are to remain limited until progress is demonstrated in international or internal policy. Yugoslavia remains a special case deserving particular attention.

American interest in Poland was reaffirmed by the President’s visit and the Poles were given further evidence of US concern by the credits for agricultural purchases that were granted and further steps were taken to help them in dealing with their economic problems.7

Among the specific goals that were enumerated was the return of the Crown of St Stephen to Hungary to be followed by the negotiation of a trade agreement granting MFN.8 The decision was made to return the Crown, satisfactory details were worked out for the transfer, and a Presidential delegation accompanied the Crown and relics to Budapest for the ceremony. The effect on the Hungarian population and government has been and will continue to be extremely favorable for the United States. The one criticism that can be leveled is the way in which it was carried out. The leaking of the decision to return the Crown, of course, created problems. The fact that a public announcement did not follow the leaks in the press gave ammunition to domestic opponents of the return and led some to conclude that the decision was being reconsidered when in fact it was only a question of working out a suitable time. Postponing the public announcement also caused some problems with the hill and gave Congressional opponents the opportunity to raise the issue with the courts. At the same time, however, the delay allowed Hungarian-Americans to supply input into the scenario for return and this may have had beneficial domestic political consequences.

Initial steps have also been taken to prepare a draft of the trade agreement with Hungary. Returning the Crown has been the focus of attention but progress should be made early next year on the agreement. The Hungarians have already been informed of the assurances they will be required to provide under Jackson-Vanik and this should be settled before negotiations begin.

The one country in Eastern Europe which seems to have been neglected is Romania. In the past they were given very favorable consideration, but under the present Administration they appear to have slipped in importance.9 Poland is the first East European country to receive a visit from the new President; the US is returning the Crown to Hungary; Ceausescu’s visit is scheduled after that of Tito. Although Romania’s human rights record is in need of improvement, it is the [Page 63] Warsaw Pact state that has clearly demonstrated the greatest degree of independence from the Soviet Union.

In the coming year there will probably be several opportunities for furthering the goals that have been set for Eastern Europe—negotiation of the trade agreement with Hungary (though we may have problems with the timing of this since it will require Congressional approval and other administration priorities and the approach of mid-term elections may cause delays); the visit of Romanian President Ceausescu; and possibilities to expand trade relations and economic cooperation.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 131, [NS Files-3] Carter NS 7707862–7801072 [1]. No classification marking. Sent under a December 21 covering memorandum from the Soviet/Eastern Europe NSC Staff to Brzezinski, which dealt with U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. Brzezinski wrote “King” at the top of the paper, indicating that it should be returned to Robert King. Portions of this paper (see subsequent footnotes) were included in “NSC Report for 1977: A Critical Self-Appraisal,” January 12, 1978, which Brzezinski sent to Carter on January 13, 1978. (Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 28, NSC Weekly Reports, 7–12/77)
  2. Reference is to remarks made on December 14, 1975, by Counselor to the Department of State Helmut Sonnenfeldt at a gathering of the European Chiefs of Mission in London. When Sonnenfeldt’s remarks leaked to the press in January 1976, critics charged that the United States condoned Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–15, Part 1, Documents on Eastern Europe, 1973–1976, Document 14.
  3. Reference is to the October 6, 1976, Presidential debate between President Ford and Governor Carter in which Ford, responding to a question as to whether signing the Helsinki Agreement codified Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, stated “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford Administration.” See Public Papers: Ford, 1976–1977, vol. III, p. 2416.
  4. Brzezinski highlighted this paragraph in the margin.
  5. See Document 1.
  6. See Document 16.
  7. Brzezinski highlighted this paragraph in the margin.
  8. Brzezinski highlighted this sentence in the margin.
  9. Brzezinski highlighted this sentence in the margin.