31. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Action Plan for Eastern Europe and the GDR


Whether to approve an action plan for Eastern Europe as a whole, as well as for the region’s individual countries, following up July 1984 [Page 99] Vienna meeting of our EE Chiefs of Mission2 and your August 30 session with Ambassadors Luers and Ridgway.3


As you have seen from our report of the Vienna meeting and from your recent meeting with Luers and Ridgway, our EE Ambassadors believe that the 1980’s present an opportunity for U.S. policy in Eastern Europe. All agree we should not seek dramatic changes, but, within the framework of NSDD–54 (setting forth the Administration’s differentiation policy), we should do what we prudently can to foster trends leading toward more national diversity and a looser Soviet hold on the area. We should of course continue to resolve outstanding bilateral problems and pursue specific U.S. objectives as we try to advance the principal goals of NSDD–54. Our Chiefs of Mission also agreed that USG public statements about our differentiation policy tended to restrict the EE countries’ room for maneuver and therefore were best avoided.

Our differentiation policy has two aspects: distinguishing EE countries from the Soviet Union to heighten the divergence, and distinguishing among EE countries according to their foreign policy independence and domestic liberalism. In accordance with the first aspect, we conduct political dialogue directly with all EE countries to give them our perspective on issues of mutual concern (e.g., arms control, U.S.-Soviet relations, regional problems) as counterweight to the distorted views and limited information they receive from Moscow. In accord with the second aspect, we vary the level of dialogue, as well as the quality and quantity of economic and cultural ties, depending upon the foreign and domestic policies of a given EE country.

Our objectives in the region are ambitious over the long run, and include a greatly weakened Warsaw Pact, elimination of EE support for terrorism, and more normal trade and human interchange between these countries and the West. To get there, the EE countries will have to liberalize their economic and political systems, their dependency on the Soviets will have to be reduced, and the communist parties will have to be weakened or significantly transformed as national institutions strengthen. Our leverage is minimal and these objectives are a long way off. But trends in the area clearly are moving in the directions we favor.

An Area-wide Approach. Our differentiation policy would be considerably advanced by your visiting the three EE countries we most [Page 100] favor—Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania. I hope you will be able to do this either in connection with your December trip to NATO or early next year. I have sent you a separate memo on timing.4

For the purpose of this memo, we are considering the GDR and the Eastern European countries together as “EE,” although the GDR is unique in central ways: we must take into account its special legal and geopolitical situation as part of Germany and Central Europe. Our approach to bilateral relations with the GDR, in addition to differentiation policy goals, must reflect both our special interest in Berlin and Germany as a whole, and interest in working closely with the Federal Republic of Germany on German issues.

We will work with USIA and Commerce toward a more effective EE policy in their respective areas, following up your recent letters to Charlie Wick and Mac Baldrige.5 An NSC meeting on Eastern Europe could be useful if it resulted in the President’s clearly indicating his support for a more flexible, activist approach. On the other hand, such a meeting could result in a contentious reexamination of NSDD–54 that would set our policy back. The alternative would be for you to keep the President informed of our current policy and work directly with other Cabinet officers as appropriate. You are the best judge of how to approach the President most effectively regarding our EE policy and its implementation.

We also should quietly build consensus among our allies by bilateral consultations in capitals, perhaps followed by a multilateral effort at NATO.

A Country-by-Country Agenda. We exclude Yugoslavia from our consideration of differentiation because of its total foreign policy independence from the USSR and its uniquely Yugoslav domestic order. Clearly, however, our approach to Yugoslavia should be more robust and forthcoming than toward any other EE country. As indicated above, although the overall framework for our efforts with East Germany should be provided by our differentiation policy, we should also take account of the GDR’s special legal and geopolitical situation as part of Germany. Romania poses a special problem, with a relatively independent foreign policy but an unusually repugnant domestic regime.

Within this framework, we suggest the following country agendas:

Hungary: relatively advanced (but non-sensitive) technology sales as feasible; multi-year MFN as soon as politically possible; an early visit by you to Budapest in return for FM Varkonyi’s visit to [Page 101] Washington last year;6 continued frequent political consultations in capitals; more cultural and exchange activities, including visits to the U.S. by younger generation Hungarian political leaders.
Romania: non-sensitive technology sales when of particular significance to the GOR and in our interests (e.g., the just-approved Control Data technology); willingness to consider multi-year MFN (along with Hungary) at an appropriate time; a return visit with FM Andrei in Bucharest7 (you would of course see Ceausescu as well), but avoidance of a Ceausescu visit to the U.S.; access to members of the leadership group, particularly younger leaders, other than Ceausescu relatives and cronies; continued political consultations.

We should keep pressure on the GOR for improved human rights performance, as we encourage Romania’s independence from the Soviet Union.

Bulgaria: pending outcome of the Italian judicial system’s consideration of the “Bulgarian connection” to the Papal assassination attempt, maintain our stance of reserved judgment; continued pressure on the GOB for meaningful cooperation on drug trafficking, illegal arms shipments and terrorism; political consultations designed to come to grips with our concerns; willingness to offer improvement in bilateral ties corresponding to movement on issues of concern to us.
GDR: maintain the now re-established dialogue through your meeting with Foreign Minister Fischer at the UNGA,8 and continue the schedule of regular political consultations, including a visit by a senior GDR official during 1985; stay in close touch with the FRG and support FRG efforts to improve contacts with the GDR; seek positive results on practical issues of mutual concern, in particular, continue the informal effort to determine whether these matters can be handled in parallel; and push the GDR for more receptivity to U.S. cultural activities, holding out the prospect of a cultural agreement if GDR performance warrents it.
Poland: continue support for Church foundation to aid Polish agriculture, as means of bolstering role of Church and strengthening private agriculture; you have our memorandum on IMF membership; use leverage of remaining sanctions (e.g., MFN, credits) to promote national reconciliation, particularly union pluralism; consider enhanced political dialogue once GOP accepts U.S. ambassador and in the context of progress towards reconciliation.
Czechoslovakia: A moderately enhanced political dialogue, including a visit to Washington by a GOC Deputy Foreign Minister this fall, and a subsequent visit to Prague by me.


S/P believes that EUR’s “action plan” lacks sufficient discussion of significant, broad issues of policy that require consideration before we go charging ahead.

In S/P’s view, EUR’s game plan is heading in a very different direction from the differentiation policy as it was set forth in NSDD–54 and the Vice President’s Vienna speech of September 1982.9 Our policy should offer positive reinforcement to Eastern European countries that display independence from the Soviet line and should maintain penalties against countries that do not. Particularly in the wake of the Soviet crackdown on East European relations with the FRG—demonstrating Soviet dominance again—this seems an inappropriate moment to be dispensing (or offering) rewards. Yet EUR is proposing a wholesale effort to woo all of Eastern Europe and to offer rewards in advance of, or in the absence of, performance.

As for EUR’s specific recommendations, S/P has the following reservations:

“Enhanced political dialogue” with Poland should be contingent on the GOP making progress towards reconciliation rather than on its taking undefined steps “in the context of progress towards reconciliation.” (EUR agrees. That is our policy).
Czechoslovakia was singled out in the Vice President’s Vienna speech as particularly non-deserving. Since then Prague has done nothing, either domestically or internationally, to warrant an exchange of high-level visits. On the contrary, it has accepted Soviet counter-deployments with scarcely a whimper (unlike the GDR) and has remained an active mischief-maker on Moscow’s behalf throughout the Third World. Upgrading our relations with Czechoslovakia now would seem to erode, rather than implement, a policy of differentiation. (Bill Luers may be recommending somewhat faster movement than warranted, but EUR believes it in our interest to have political consultations with all of the EE countries, and that it is in varying the level of those consultations that we can signal the level of our differentiation policy. In fact, with the Czechs, we are not thinking of anything more than consultations at the Assistant Secretary level in contrast to Hungary where we have had exchanges at the Vice Presidential and Secretarial level).
The inner-German dialogue poses a special problem. The failure of the Honecker visit,10 instead of slowing down the FRG’s eagerness to pursue better relations with the GDR, has regrettably pushed Kohl in the direction of more significant concessions. The most serious problem we face in this whole East European area is West Germany’s being pulled or distracted from its Western relationships by the siren song of inner-German ties. This is a major structural change in the European system. Our embrace of East Germany is likely to accelerate FRG policies in the same direction when we in fact should be encouraging restraint. In addition, the GDR’s anti-Western activity throughout Africa and the Third World must surely rank it low on the list of countries deserving favorable treatment. S/P favors probing the GDR on “practical issues of mutual concern,” but we are disturbed by Embassy Berlin’s willingness to talk to the GDR about something akin to partial MFN in return for very small steps in the area of bilateral relations. Our principal item with the GDR should be its anti-Western Third World activism—particularly since the FRG omits the subject from its agenda. (EUR’s views and those of Roz Ridgway are well known to you and are set forth briefly in this memorandum. They are very cautious and incremental—and certainly do not amount to “an embrace of East Germany”).


That you approve the action plan outlined above (EUR).11

Alternatively, that the action plan to remanded for further study, so that broader policy issues can be presented more fully for your consideration (S/P).12

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, Sensitive and Super Sensitive Documents, 1984–1989, Lot 92 D 52, ES Sensitive, October 13–21, 1984. Secret; Nodis. Sent through Armacost and Derwinski. Drafted by Combs on September 6; cleared by Kornblum, Palmer, Niles, Azrael, Luers, and Ridgway. Combs initialed for all clearing officials except for Palmer and Niles. McKinley initialed and dated at the top of the memorandum on September 29.
  2. A meeting of all ambassadors serving in Eastern Europe to discuss the differentiation policy was held in Vienna on July 13. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N840008–0504)
  3. No record of this meeting was found.
  4. Not found.
  5. The letters, dated September 6, are in the Reagan Library, Secretary George Shultz Papers, Official Memoranda (09/06/1984) (1).
  6. September 20–21, 1983.
  7. Andrei visited Washington on September 27. See Document 129.
  8. See Document 274.
  9. The Vice President’s speech was in September 1983. See Document 21.
  10. Telegram 2621 from West Berlin, August 29, reported that despite a previously scheduled trip to the FRG at the end of September, Honecker would probably not be traveling there anytime soon. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D840550–0836)
  11. This recommendation was neither approved, nor disapproved.
  12. recommendation was neither approved, nor disapproved.