197. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Visit of Romanian President Ceausescu

Romania has been singled out as one of the East European countries in which we have a special interest. This stems largely from its foreign policy. Since the early 1960s Romania has institutionalized a degree of independence from the USSR that is unique in Eastern Europe.

Romanian autonomy from the Soviet Union is a disruptive factor within the Warsaw Pact and it tends to increase Soviet uncertainty about the protective glacis along its western frontier. Furthermore, the institutionalization of Romanian autonomy increases the possibility and provides a role model for other East European countries which might seek to achieve similar status.

For the last fifteen years, the US has followed a policy of supporting Romanian autonomy principally through political gestures. Romania was the first communist country to be visited by an American president (1969), and a number of high level visits have been exchanged. Ceausescu was last here in 1975.2

In 1975 we signed a Trade Agreement extending Most Favored Nation Treatment to Romanian exports.3 While this did not bring a substantial increase in trade (as the Romanians hoped it would), some modest gains have been evident. More important, however, is the symbolism of giving Romania a status in its trade with the US that the USSR and most other countries of Eastern Europe have not achieved.

During the Nixon and Ford Administrations Romania was accorded a favored place in our policy towards Eastern Europe. In the reassessment of our East European policy last year, we have somewhat altered that situation. On the basis of internal liberalization and/or [Page 602] external independence from the Soviet Union, we placed Poland and Hungary in a status equal to that of Romania.

Ceausescu’s main purpose in this visit is to secure a renewed US endorsement of Romania’s foreign policy and to establish a personal relationship with you. At present, however, there are few concrete actions that we can or would wish to take that will reaffirm our interest in Romania. In bilateral relations there are no outstanding important issues that require solution. Ceausescu will probably request concessionary credits, which we do not wish to grant. (Romania’s level of development is advanced by third-world standards and granting such credits would create an undesirable precedent.)

The best way in which we can reaffirm our interest in Romania is through sharing with Ceausescu our views of the current major international questions. If Ceausescu leaves feeling support for his country and that you have taken him into your confidence on world problems, the visit will be a success. Accordingly, you should particularly discuss the following three questions with him:

1) The Middle East

2) The Soviet/Cuban role in Africa

3) China and Sino-Soviet Relations

The principal difficulty in our relations falls in the area of emigration and human rights. Generally the Romanian Government’s treatment of its population remains among the most restrictive in Eastern Europe. The most frequent justification for this is that in order to follow an independent foreign policy, a strict internal regime is required. On occasion the Soviets have attempted to foment internal disruption, and this has reinforced the government’s determination to prevent difficulties. Freedom of expression and movement are limited, as is the right of emigration.

Since MFN was granted to Romania under Jackson-Vanik terms, emigration to the US has gradually increased. In anticipation of Ceausescu’s visit, a number of family reunification cases were recently resolved. The Romanians have been slow to grant approval, but they have been willing to grant exit visas to individuals with family in the United States. In fact, our emigration laws are such that some of those permitted to leave have not been closely enough related to US residents to come directly to the US.

Since MFN was granted in 1975, however, emigration to Israel has dropped off. (In 1977 it was only 1334, although in 1974 the figure was 3700.) In part this reflects the decline in the size of the Jewish population in Romania (it now stands at about 40,000—down from 500,000 in 1945) and the fact that Jews remaining in Romania are an older age group. The Romanian Government explains the decline on these grounds. [Page 603] There are, however, important restrictive emigration procedures that are a factor in discouraging Jews from applying for exit visas.

Jews seeking permission to emigrate must go through an elaborate pre-application process that is used to discourage those wishing to leave, and applications are frequently rejected at this stage with no means of appeal. The Israeli Embassy in Bucharest becomes involved only after a passport has been issued and permission to emigrate has been granted. Since Israel’s political interests are considered more important than the small number of Jews who might wish to emigrate (Romania is the only communist country with which diplomatic ties still exist), the Israeli Government has not been willing to stake a strong stand on Jewish emigration with Romanian officials. This is why the Jewish community counts on us.

We attach three memoranda that are germane:

1) Secretary Vance’s memorandum to you on the visit (Tab A).4

2) A paper on the case in which you expressed interest; you might bring it up when talking to Ceausescu alone (Tab B).5

3) A memorandum from Arthur Goldberg, on Romanian performance in the human rights area. It basically points out that the record is a mixed one (Tab C).6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, VIP Visit File, Box 12, Romania, President Ceausescu, 4/12–13/78: Cables and Memos, 4/11–22/78. No classification marking.
  2. President Nixon visited Bucharest August 2–3, 1969. President Ford visited Romania August 2–3, 1975, following the signing of the Helsinki Accords. Ceausescu visited the United States on October 24, 1970, December 3–6, 1973, and June 11, 1975.
  3. President Ford signed the Presidential Determination extending MFN to Romania on April 24, 1975. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–15, Part 1, Documents on Eastern Europe, 1973–1976, Document 33.
  4. See Document 198.
  5. At Tab B is an April 11 memorandum from Brzezinski to Carter on the Rauta case. See Document 195.
  6. See Document 199.