192. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Vest) to Secretary of State Vance 1


  • State Visit of Romanian President Ceausescu—A Preview

I. Setting and Objectives

Ceausescu’s visit is a logical complement to Tito’s trip in March as a step forward in U.S. relations with Eastern Europe. Both countries are important to us because they have successfully preserved their independence from the USSR. Both regard good relations with the United States and the PRC as vital to their security.

Our long-standing policy of improving relations with Romania was reaffirmed by the President in PD–21, which directed that the United States accord favored treatment to those Eastern European countries which are relatively autonomous in foreign policy or relatively liberal internally.2 Our interest in supporting Romanian independence continues undiminished.

At the same time, the visit provides an opportunity for discussion of human rights issues and for encouraging further Romanian action on humanitarian problems such as divided families and binational marriages.3 We have made significant progress in recent years but there is more to be done. We want to urge some liberalization of Romania’s tight internal policy, while aware that Ceausescu considers internal discipline a prerequisite for the maintenance of Romania’s independence from Moscow, its territorial integrity and economic growth. To achieve further progress, we must persuade Ceausescu that [Page 577] U.S. interest in human rights affairs in no way signifies a lessening of U.S. support for Romanian independence and territorial integrity.

Ceausescu’s approach to global issues in his talks with the President must be seen against the backdrop of uncertainty during the mid-1970’s. During that period, Ceausescu’s perception of drift in U.S. policy and the Chinese succession crisis led him, as insurance, to seek a mini-reconciliation with the USSR in 1976, at what he saw as the low point of U.S. and Chinese resolve. With new Administrations in place in China and the U.S., Ceausescu has again distanced himself from the Soviets on key issues, including the Middle East, CSCE and Eurocommunism. In his talks with the President, he will be looking for a firm U.S. commitment to play a major stabilizing role in global affairs on both political and economic issues and to develop vigorous relationships with countries like Romania.

Similarly, Ceausescu’s approach to bilateral issues will be colored by the current stage of U.S.-Romanian relations. These have entered a period in which both countries are paying more attention to practical problem-solving than exciting new initiatives. Some of the early enthusiasm has been dissipated. New tangible evidence we can give of our interest in Romania is limited. Our increased attention to other Eastern European countries, especially Poland and Hungary, has diminished in Ceausescu’s eyes Romania’s special relationship with the U.S. While the visit itself will serve to reassure Ceausescu, he will press for economic advantages to which the Romanians attribute political significance. These will include most-favored-nation tariff status (MFN) on a long-term basis, credit on favorable terms, easing of export controls, and increased U.S. Government support for U.S.-Romanian industrial cooperation, including projects in third countries.

In this setting, we believe the best way for the President to set the stage for the talks is to begin by taking Ceausescu into his confidence on the U.S. approach to major global issues. These would include our world-wide support for human rights, U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Chinese relations, SALT, and MBFR, our approach to Eastern and Western Europe and the CSCE process, North-South relations, nuclear nonproliferation, Africa and the Middle East. Ceausescu may also wish to discuss the role of the nonaligned and, since he is planning a trip to Korea, he may have some ideas here as well. In its policies toward the Middle East and many aspects of the Belgrade CSCE conference, Romania has acted constructively and stood apart from the Warsaw Pact consensus. It is in our interest to reinforce such Romanian actions on their own merits. But cultivating Ceausescu’s desire to play an important and moderate role on international issues has another benefit. It makes it easier for us to influence Ceausescu favorably on issues, such as human rights, where he sees us as the demandeur.

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II. Key Issues

1. Human Rights: Ceausescu will be prepared to discuss human rights, and we will recommend that the President outline our general policy and the values we support. We will recommend that the President make clear the importance to the Administration and the Congress of favorable and prompt action on emigration and marriage requests, including emigration to Israel, particularly if Romania wishes eventually to obtain most-favored tariff status on a long-term basis.

There is disagreement within the Department on how to approach three subjects: Romanian treatment of the Hungarian minority, human rights considerations with respect to loans from international financial institutions, and the Rauta case. We are seeking to resolve this disagreement.4

2. Credits: The Romanians have long been pushing for large-scale credits on near-concessional terms for economic development. Despite previous rebuffs, Ceausescu may well raise this subject with the President. We cannot meet such a request, but in order to encourage Romanians to respond to our interests, we are asking the Export-Import Bank to study the possibility of a line of credit and perhaps expansion of the Cooperative Financing Facility (CFF) in addition to project-linked loans.

3. Export Controls: Ceausescu may complain at the restrictions imposed on exports of high-technology U.S. goods to Romania. An inter-agency review of our export control policy with respect to Romania is now underway. We are considering recommending some liberalization of commodity (as opposed to technology) exports, which appears to be possible without jeopardizing our strategic interests.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Analysis for the Commonwealth and Eastern Europe, Office Subject Files, 1965–1980, Lot 92D412, Box 2, Romania—Ceausescu Visit. Confidential. Drafted by Silins; cleared by Andrews and Fromowitz, and in EUR/PP, C, S/P, and HA/HR. Luers initialed the memorandum for Vest. The date is handwritten at the top of the first page.
  2. See Document 16.
  3. Derian met with Pungan on February 14, and discussed human rights, an ongoing cause of tension between Washington and Bucharest. Derian raised U.S. concern regarding emigration from Romania, as well as the rights of the Hungarian minority. Emigration, Derian told Pungan, was directly related to the ability of the U.S. Government to extend MFN status to Romania under the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The Carter administration took a new direction regarding human rights, “and it is only fair to explain our concerns to the GOR and to point out that these factors affect our decisions and our relations with other countries,” Derian told Pungan. (Telegram 43849 to Bucharest, February 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780077–0269)
  4. In telegram 79839 to Bucharest, March 28, the Department noted ongoing disagreement between EUR and HA concerning the level at which issues such as the treatment of the Hungarian minority and the family reunification case of Romanian defector Constantin Rauta should be raised. HA supported the position that these issues be raised by the President, or, failing that, by the Secretary of State. EUR supported the position of keeping these issues in discussions at lower levels. Furthermore, the administration was coming under pressure from Congress—66 members of Congress had sent a letter to the White House indicating their concern with violations of human rights in Romania. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780135–0900)
  5. In preparation for Ceausescu’s visit, an interagency group was formed to look into the possibility of loosening export controls toward Romania. The Department of Commerce and the Department of State supported some limited liberalization of export controls for commodities, while the Department of Defense continued to oppose for fear that such controlled technology might end up in Soviet hands. EUR hoped that by Ceausescu’s visit a definitive answer on policy toward Romania regarding export controls might be announced. (Telegram 47748 to Bucharest, February 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780087–0883)