322. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Hungary1



  • Minutes of the Meeting Between Vice President Bush and President Losonczi.
(C—Entire text)
The following is approved memcon of meeting September 20 between Vice President Bush and Hungarian President Losonczi.
In his greetings President Losonczi said that Vice President Bush’s visit to Hungary was the highest level American Government visit to ever take place. While short, it would give the Vice President an impression of Hungary. If there had been time to see the countryside, the Vice President would have seen how much progress has been made. He has, however, had substantive talks with the country’s leaders and learned of its intentions. While small, Hungary contributes to the normalization of international relations. Social systems differ between the two countries, but the development of good relations between the United States and Hungary are proof of the good intentions. Economic relations can be developed within the principle of mutual advantages. The Hungarian Government attaches a special importance to the Vice President’s visit because international tensions are great. During such a period there is need for dialogue. Nothing is too sensitive not to be resolved in talks. Vice President Bush has had the opportunity to meet with the First Secretary of the Party Janos Kadar and Prime Minister Lazar.2 They have expressed the Hungarian Government’s view on the world. While visit was short, it is to be hoped that [Facsimile Page 3] it will give an impetus to further develop bilateral relations. President Losonczi stated that Hungary highly values this visit.
Vice President responded by thanking President Losonczi. He agreed that the visit was short but just being in the country was a very worthwhile experience. He was also able to see the country through the eyes of others. Ambassador Bergold has had an excellent opportunity to travel around Hungary. He impressed on the Vice President the notable progress in the rural areas. The U.S. views commercial relations as good and getting better. We see our self-interest here, just as it is essential the Hungarians see theirs. Remember that after decades of no communication with China President Nixon launched relations with that country on the principle of self-interest. Chou En Lai said the same for China. Any bilateral relations have to have real underpinnings and self-interest is essential. The Vice President agreed about increased tensions we are living with. With First Secretary Kadar and Prime Minister Lazar the areas of tensions were covered. They had very frank discussions. While not wishing to dwell on the causes or go into detail, the airplane incident (the shooting down of the KAL) had caused great passions among the American people.3 Such depth of emotion had not been seen in decades, in which one incident aroused the wrath of the American people. The U.S. has a fascination with public opinion polls. [Page 1014] Right after this incident the American people, by a margin of two to one, wanted strong action, showing their anger. The actions President Reagan took were viewed by most of the world as responsible and reasoned. Ironically the American people also supported them. The President said that we will continue to negotiate on missiles. However, the polls really said that the people were mad, particularly when the Soviets said that “we’ll do it again.” But this also reflects the genuine feeling of the American people to try to lower the level of terror and to lower the number of nuclear weapons in Europe and everywhere else. I mentioned this so you would know the mood of our country. It is important as relations develop that each understand the mood in the other country. I hope for some breakthrough at the Geneva talks. I am convinced that you and we want this. In the U.S. it is sometimes easier to adopt a simplistic view of the world. Because of Hungary’s alliance we have a tendency to lump your country in with the others in the Warsaw Pact. One of the great things that a visit such as this achieves is a heightened respect for differences that do exist. One can feel the differences in the mood of the people even riding in the car among the different countries I visited. Americans love to be loved, so I look at faces of the people. When I walked out of this building yesterday I sensed a certain warmth, because of our flag. It has been a worthwhile visit and we are grateful to you.
Concerning the KAL tragedy President Losonczi said that he did not know the reasons or why it happened. However, one conclusion could be drawn, that was how fragile the present international situation is. Various assumptions give momentum to steps taken on both sides. One questions whether it is possible to stop this momentum when it takes hold. Losonczi elaborated that he was not a soldier. As a matter of fact he did not like soldiers. But with his civilian mind he could not understand how with all the available technology produced by the world it was possible for such a thing to happen. How can this be deterred in the future? He was glad that the U.S. leadership did not want to exacerbate tensions in the world. As far as he knew neither did the Soviet leaders. The arms talks are welcome and some accommodation must be reached. There are no alternatives for mankind. Any other alternative but living in peace has terrible consequences.
Vice President Bush pointed out that in 1978 the same type of aircraft incident happened. An airliner was forced down on ice. Two civilians were killed. How could a plane be so far off course? This is George Bush’s homemade map and it would never get past a school teacher in Budapest. Here is Alaska and Japan. The Soviets have refused to fill the gap between Alaska and Japan. So in this area there is no radar coverage, except perhaps their own military radar. Maybe now they will show willingness to join in preventing this type of thing. [Page 1015] This has happened twice. However, I do agree that there is a need to work toward guarantees. Missile talks are also needed. Whether there is agreement in these forums on missiles or we can avoid accidents, we will try.
President Losonczi replied that the Hungarian Government genuinely welcomed any agreement along these lines to restore confidence, which is lacking at the moment. He confirmed that Hungary is trying to work on these matters in the international scene but does not want to emphasize it because of the relatively small role a country the size of Hungary plays and the limited possibilities for success. It is up to the superpowers to do the most along these lines.
Vice President Bush indicated that under the Western system it is necessary to have full consultation with our allies, even though the U.S. is the biggest power. That relates to the differences in our systems. Elections in the FRG or UK can affect our decisions. Each has veto power over some things.
President Losonczi said that they did not envy the U.S. its leadership role. The Soviet leadership has similar problems with its allies. Among the Warsaw Pact countries, the Soviets do not dream up something in Moscow that we then follow. The leadership role is accepted but for our purposes we want to take certain steps. Sometimes the Soviets have to exert restraint on its allies. This may not be directly in the Warsaw treaty. You know, hotbeds in various parts of the world. The Vice President agreed that success was really needed in international talks. President Losonczi answered that the Hungarians pray for this and again hoped that the Vice President’s visit had been worthwhile in getting to know the country and its views. He requested that when the Vice President makes his report to President Reagan that he convey Hungary’s good wishes. While there may be different ideologies both countries are striving to develop bilateral relations.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N830009–0207. Confidential; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Palmer; approved by Palmer, Dobriansky, Murphy, Gregg, Gusrey, and McKinley.
  2. Memoranda of conversation for these meetings were not found.
  3. Reference is to the September 1, 1983, shootdown of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.