Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Jimmy Carter. As with previous volumes in the Foreign Relations series, this volume provides only a snapshot of the global character of Cold War politics. Therefore, this volume is best read in conjunction with other volumes in the subseries, in order to better understand how policies toward Eastern Europe fit into the full breath and scope of the Carter administration’s policies in the Cold War. The most important volumes in the subseries include Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VII, Poland, 1977–1981 (which also covers the first year of the Reagan administration up to the imposition of martial law in Poland in December 1981); Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union; Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVII, Western Europe; Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy; and Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVIII, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume XX

The focus of this volume is on the Carter administration’s policy toward the Communist governments in Eastern Europe, specifically Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Albania is not included as the lack of any meaningful diplomatic relations with Albania meant there was no separate policy toward that country outside of the general policy toward Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Also covered in this volume is the formulation of policy toward broadcasting to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union as an extension of the administration’s policy toward that region. Poland is covered in a separate volume by virtue of the August 1980–December 1981 crisis. Eastern and Central European countries not dominated by Communist regimes, such as Finland and Austria, are covered in the Western Europe volume.

Documentation in the volume covers the Carter administration’s formulation of foreign policy toward Eastern Europe as a whole, broadcasting in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and toward individual countries. Policies toward Eastern Europe remained defined by the nature of the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Carter administration continued some of the policies implemented [Page X] by the Nixon and Ford administrations, specifically the policy of differentiation between Eastern European countries, which it codified on September 13, 1977 under PD/NSC–21. It did, however, modify that policy substantially, by including human rights as an aspect to the differentiation policies. This allowed for a warming of relations with countries that exhibited internally liberal policies, even if its foreign policy continued to be viewed in Washington as subservient to Soviet interests.

The Carter administration also continued the previous administration’s policies toward modernization of broadcasting capabilities of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. While a decision on modernization had been taken in 1976, and reapproved at the beginning of Carter’s administration, implementation of the decision faced bureaucratic hurdles. Pressure from the Federal Republic of Germany to consider relocating RFE/RL from Munich added to the complexity. As the relationship with the Soviet Union deteriorated following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the administration redoubled its efforts to modernize the Radios, increase their efficiency, and expand their audience, especially in Muslim regions of the Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf.

As PD/NSC–21 made clear, relations between the United States and Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and the Germany Democratic Republic remained limited. Relations with Czechoslovakia were governed by the ongoing negotiations over the return of the Czechoslovak share of Nazi Germany gold, which the Allies had set aside to return to Prague, but which was held back until negotiations were finalized over compensation for nationalized property. While the administration was willing to settle the negotiations quickly on parity with previous settlements, congressional insistence on full dollar restitution prevented a full agreement from being reached. Congressional threats to pass legislation forcing the administration to vest the gold, sell it and reimburse U.S. citizens from the proceeds before returning the remainder to Czechoslovakia placed a great deal of pressure on the Czechoslovak Government. Eventually, Prague agreed to pay full dollar restitution and interest to the parties.

The greatest beneficiary of the administration’s reassessment of the policy of differentiation was Hungary. PD/NSC–21 included Hungary alongside Romania and Poland in the group of Eastern European nations to which the United States offered preferential treatment. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance pushed strongly for an administration decision on the return of the Crown of St. Stephen, the Hungarian Royal Crown, to Budapest. Despite Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski’s initial opposition to the idea, Vance succeeded in obtaining the President’s agreement to begin [Page XI] negotiations with the Hungarian Government. The return of the Crown marked a turning point in U.S.-Hungarian relations.

U.S-Romanian relations were focused on two competing tracks. The first, emphasizing the importance of maintaining Romania as a Communist-bloc critic of Soviet policies, sought to provide Bucharest with the needed diplomatic and economic support to maintain its foreign policy independence. Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu’s visit to Washington in 1978 served to underscore the importance the administration placed on his continuing to play that role. The second track was the management of reactions to the deteriorating human rights record of the Romanian regime. Congressional pressure and threats to derail Romania’s Most Favored Nation status caused a flurry of diplomatic activity, with Department of State officials facilitating meetings between Romanian diplomats and congressional staffers to defuse the crisis. A series of defections of Romanian intelligence officers, most notably Romania’s spy chief Ion Mihai Pacepa, further tested the relationship.

Policy toward Yugoslavia was dominated by planning for Yugoslavian President Josip Borz Tito’s death and succession. Yugoslavia maintained its strategic importance to the United States. The administration believed that Tito’s death would offer an opportunity for the Soviet Union to reestablish its influence in the country or attempt to overtly or covertly undermine the post-Tito leadership and change Yugoslavia’s foreign policy orientation. The seeds of the economic collapse and the political impasse that eventually led to the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1990 were already discernable by 1980, and the Carter administration took extensive efforts to secure a viable, united, and independent post-Tito Yugoslavia.


The editor wishes to thank officials at the Jimmy Carter Library, including Brittany Parris and James Yancey, but especially Ceri McCarron, who provided invaluable professional and personal support during the research at the Carter Library. Special thanks are due to the Historical Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency, and to officials at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the National Archives and Records Administration facility at College Park, for their valuable assistance. Michael McCoyer, the Joint Historian with the Central Intelligence Agency was instrumental in locating relevant sources in the CIA files, and coordinated the declassification effort for these materials.

Research for this volume was a collective effort by several people in the Office of the Historian, including David Zierler, Carl Ashley, and Mircea A. Munteanu. Carl Ashley began the compilation of the volume [Page XII] under M. Todd Bennett, then Chief of the Europe and General Issues Division, and made the initial selection for the regional compilation and the Hungary compilation. Mircea A. Munteanu compiled the volume and annotated the documents under the supervision of David C. Geyer, Chief of the European Division, and Stephen Randolph, then General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Chris J. Tudda coordinated the declassification review under the supervision of Carl Ashley, Chief of the Declassification Division. Stephanie Eckroth and Vicki Ettleman did the copy and technical editing under the supervision of Renee Goings, then Chief of the Editing and Publishing Division, and Mandy A. Chalou, Chief of the Editing and Publishing division. Do Mi Stauber Indexing Services prepared the index.

Mircea A. Munteanu