88. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Vest) to the Counselor of the Department of State (Nimetz)1


  • Your Meeting with Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister, Boris Tsvetkov, Wednesday, November 14, 4:45 p.m.


  • US

    • The Counselor
    • Ira Wolf, C
    • Carl W. Schmidt Director, EUR/EE
    • James H. Glenn (Notetaker) EUR/EE

    • Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Tsvetkov (phonetic: tsVETkawv)
    • Director, Department IV, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lyuben Gotsev (phonetic: GOTTseff)
    • Ambassador to the United States Konstantin Grigorov (phonetic: greeGORov)
    • First Secretary of Embassy Krassin Himmirsky (phonetic: heMEERskee) (Interpreter)


Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Tsvetkov is visiting Washington from November 14–17 at the invitation of Assistant Secretary Vest.2 Tsvetkov is one of six Deputy Foreign Ministers. He is responsible for relations with the United States, Western Europe, and Canada as well as international organizations, disarmament matters, and eco [Page 255] nomic affairs. Tsvetkov will meet briefly with the Deputy Secretary and hold talks with a number of officials in the Department and other executive agencies. (His schedule is at Tab A) Biographic sketches of Tsvetkov and the other Bulgarian participants in the meeting are at Tab B.


1. International Issues

Essential Factors—Although significant Bulgarian foreign policy decisions are fully coordinated with Moscow, it is our policy and interest to treat Bulgaria as a sovereign state responsible for its own actions. Tsvetkov will be interested in your comments on US-Soviet relations, SALT, and Cyprus, which the Bulgarians regard as essentially an extension of the Balkans. You may wish to ask him about Bulgarian-Soviet relations and the situation in the Balkans including recent Bulgarian approaches to Albania.

Bulgaria and the USSR remain the closest of allies, but lately we have received indications that the USSR may have decided to curtail substantially its former ample subsidization of the Bulgarian economy. Bulgaria participated in the first Inter-Balkan Conference in Athens in 1976, but since then has refused, presumably at Soviet behest, to agree to a second multilateral meeting.3 Taking the line that Balkan problems can best be resolved on a bilateral basis, the Bulgarians have recently exchanged high-level visits with Greece, Turkey, and Romania. Bulgarian-Yugoslav relations continue to be strained over the Macedonian issue. Since the PRC stopped economic aid to Albania last July, Bulgarian propaganda has focused selectively on Albanian condemnation of the PRC while ignoring continued Albanian vilification of the USSR. Recently, Bulgaria has indicated to Albania that it would welcome closer relations, but Albania apparently fears that Bulgaria is acting simply as a Soviet stalking horse.

Points to be Made

US-Soviet relations—Our relationship is basically competitive, but both sides recognize the need to avoid deterioration and to expand areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.

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SALT—Differences between the US and Soviet positions have been narrowed over time. Nevertheless, some distance between us still exists on key issues. We cannot predict when a SALT agreement will be signed.

Cyprus—We believe that the Cyprus problem must be resolved under UN auspices by the parties directly involved, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

—We support UN SYG Waldheim in his efforts to mediate the dispute and will help him in every possible way.

Bulgarian-Soviet Relations—How would you characterize the present Soviet view of E–W relations?

Balkan Cooperation—What is your Government doing to enhance the multilateral project for cooperation in the Balkans?

Albania—What direction do you think Albania’s foreign relations will take now that the Chinese have ended their economic aid?

2. Bilateral Relations

Essential Factors—Since the advent of detente, improvement in US-Bulgarian relations has occurred. We have negotiated a number of agreements with the Bulgarian Government, and several high-level visits have taken place, including visits by the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture.4 Progress has been made in resolving divided family cases, although markedly less in the past year. Now, however, the GOB appears to be attempting to cut off further discussions of divided family questions with the US and other Western embassies. On November 9 our Embassy was told that there are no outstanding humanitarian issues facing the GOB and that the Foreign Ministry will accept for discussion only cases involving US citizen sponsors and spouses and minor children (defined as under 16) of US citizens.

Last summer the Bulgarian Government retained a New York law firm to advise it on what it would have to do to obtain MFN. The firm’s report may have sobered Bulgarian expectations somewhat. Tsvetkov may allude to MFN although the Bulgarians do not wish to appear in Moscow to be taking an initiative. Our position is that we would be prepared to discuss the process for obtaining MFN in detail with GOB officials, should they be interested in such discussions.

The GOB has been unable or unwilling to assist Embassy Sofia effectively in finding another chancery site. The lease on the present building expired last June, and the GOB has informed the Embassy that it must move as soon as possible. Thus far, the Bulgarian Govern [Page 257] ment has not shown an acceptable new building or site to the Embassy. We have informed Ambassador Grigorov that we expect substantially better cooperation from the GOB on the chancery problem before we will sign a lease for two lots in the Van Ness Center which the Bulgarians have selected as a new chancery site.

Points to be Made

—The resolution of divided family cases will be extremely important in determining the extent to which we will be able to continue to improve relations. This issue has considerable resonance in the American public and the Congress. We urge you to cooperate with us in the speedy resolution of the remaining cases, especially the Slavova case. (This case involves the wife and children of Atanas Slavov, a Bulgarian emigre writer who lives in New York City.)

—Our Embassy has not received much cooperation from Bulgarian Government officials in resolving the chancery problem. We, on the other hand, have materially assisted Ambassador Grigorov in his attempts to find a new chancery site here. We believe such cooperation must proceed on a reciprocal basis.

—(If Tsvetkov raises MFN) We do not believe that the possibilities for increased trade under present conditions have been exhausted. We would be prepared to discuss our requirements for granting MFN tariff status and how they might apply to Bulgaria. N.B. Mr. Vest will deal with the question of the recent attacks on Bulgarian emigres employed by BBC and RFE in a separate meeting with Mr. Tsvetkov.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of European Affairs, Office of Eastern European Affairs, Bulgaria Desk, Personal Files of Retired Ambassador to Bulgaria, Raymond L. Garthoff (1960–1980), Lot 80D218, Box 1, Bilateral US-Bulgaria Relations. Confidential. Drafted by Glenn; cleared by Schmidt, Gilmore, Fried, Brown, and Kaplan. A handwritten notation indicates that the meeting was rescheduled from November 15 to November 14. This copy of the briefing memorandum is not initialed by Vest and there is no indication that Nimetz saw it. The conversation, which was reported to the Embassy in telegram 293671 to Sofia, November 18, covered the situation in Cyprus and Bulgarian-Yugoslav relations. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780476–0141). Tabs A and B are attached but not printed.
  2. Vest invited Tsvetkov to visit the United States on May 10 for consultations on bilateral and international issues, to include discussions on CSCE. (Telegram 119286 to Sofia, May 10; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780199–1196) While in Washington, Tsvetkov also met with Vest (telegram 292505 to Sofia, November 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780475–0128), and Lake (telegram 306650 to Sofia, December 5; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780500–0999). A brief protocol meeting with Christopher dealing with family reunification cases took place on November 15. (Telegram 291363 to Sofia, November 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780472–1005)
  3. In telegram 2553 from Sofia, December 23, 1977, Garthoff suggested that, even in the absence of Soviet opposition to a multilateral Balkan conference, Sofia was not interested in participating in such a meeting. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770479–0959) The Embassy in Bucharest agreed. Ambassador Aggrey noted after a discussion with Romanian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasile Glica: The Bulgarians “have entered specific reservations about multilateral cooperation in CSCE context, and expressed view that issues and problems between Balkan states should be discussed on bilateral basis.” (Telegram 9237 from Bucharest, December 28, 1977; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770483–0926)
  4. The last U.S. Cabinet-level official to visit Sofia was Secretary of Agriculture Butz in 1976.
  5. Vest raised the Markov affair privately, at the end of his meeting with Tsvetkov. He expressed Washington’s concern over the incident and urged the Bulgarian Government to cooperate fully with the investigation. (Telegram 294433 to Sofia, November 21; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780479–0881)