19. Memorandum From Paula Dobriansky of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark)1


  • Proposed Policy Statement on Eastern Europe

Since the inception of this Administration, no high level pronouncement of our policies toward Eastern Europe has been made. Although NSDD 54 (U.S. Policy Toward Eastern Europe)2 was signed by the President in September 1982, no subsequent White House press statement was issued. As a result, both East and West Europe continue to be uncertain as to what our policy actually is, and many who are aware that we pursue a policy of differentiation have not adequately grasped its significance or have realized how it differs from the previous Administration’s policies. Ergo, the Administration has been robbed of legitimate credit for devising a well structured and balanced approach to relations with Eastern Europe.

I recommend that the policy of differentiation be visibly reaffirmed through a high level Administration official statement. Presently, I have been discussing the Vice President’s prospective June trip to East Europe (Hungary, Yugoslavia and potentially, Romania) with Philip Hughes (VP Staff). It seems to me that the Vice President would be in an opportune position to make a statement on U.S.-East European relations. Given the historically good relations we have had with Yugoslavia, Belgrade would provide the best forum.

Several factors make the Vice President’s trip a highly propitious time for making such a statement.

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The disastrous economic performance of Poland, formerly one of the largest recipients of Western economic aid, and economic difficulties experienced by Romania and Hungary, have triggered anxiety throughout Eastern Europe. The imposition of economic sanctions against Poland has been also a source of considerable irritation to East European governments. In the next several months, we may have to implement several measures which also are likely to be unfavorably perceived in Eastern Europe. The suspension of MFN status for Romania, a country which has traditionally enjoyed relatively close relations with the U.S., would alarm other East European countries.3 A reaffirmation of our policy of differentiation would not remove these irritants in U.S.-East European relations, but it would provide a foundation for durable improvement.
An official statement would counter the subtle ongoing Soviet effort initiated by Andropov’s regime to establish tighter controls and enhance Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. Andropov’s remarks at the recent Warsaw Pact conference4 and his meetings with several East European leaders sought to caution the East European governments from too close a relationship with the United States, citing Polish problems as an example. It is important that we refute these Soviet charges by highlighting the strides made in our relations with Eastern Europe and by reassuring these countries that the Administration continues to pursue a differentiated policy.
An upbeat message directed toward Eastern Europe in particular, and East-West relations in general, would be perceived as a strong manifestation of our interest in “overall East-West dialogue”—a perception that would be highly beneficial for our relations with Western Europe. It could also help to offset current criticisms of U.S. intransigence on other East-West issues.
In addition, West European countries would welcome the proposed policy statement, as they highly value the pattern of intra-European relations which evolved in the 1970s.
Lastly, at a time when the Alliance has become split on various issues, the suggested message would enable the Administration to address a policy common to both U.S. and Western Europe.

In sum, a statement by the Vice President on our policy of differentiation would be highly beneficial for our relations with East and West Europe, would project an image of flexibility domestically and would not demand any controversial changes in our operative policies.

Norm Bailey, the Vice President’s staff and State concur.

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That a statement on the Administration’s “policy of differentiation” toward Eastern Europe, in particular, and East-West relations, in general, be made by the Vice President during his visit to East Europe.5
That you inform the Vice President that the President has approved his trip to Eastern Europe (Tab I).6
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Paula J. Dobriansky Files, Chron February 1983 (1). Secret. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 18.
  3. See Document 74.
  4. The Warsaw Pact leaders met in Prague, January 4–5.
  5. There is no indication of approval or disapproval. See, however, Document 21.
  6. There is no indication of approval or disapproval. Tab I, attached but not printed, was a proposed memorandum to the Vice President regarding his June trip to Eastern Europe, including the goals of the trip.