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



  • Hungarian Ambassador’s Meeting With Vice President.
Secret—Entire text.
(Begin summary) In meeting on November 28, Vice President Bush and Ambassador Hazi discussed Vice President’s trip to Budapest,2 his speech in Vienna,3 US-Hungarian relations and overall East-West situation. (End summary.)
The Vice President opened the meeting by expressing his positive memories of Budapest and the stimulating talks he had with Kadar. He had been criticized in this country for some of the things he said in Budapest, but he stood by his remarks.4 He asked for the Ambassador’s frank views of the Vienna speech. Ambassador Hazi said that GOH had been surprised with those elements of speech which differed from positions Vice President had taken in Budapest. In Vienna, the Vice President had said he had seen on the faces of people in Eastern Europe eagerness for liberty. In his press conference in Budapest he had said just the opposite. Where was the Iron Curtain, when millions had been coming and going from Hungary for years. Hazi cited Kreisky’s statement that it is better not to speak so loudly, that nobody should ask for Hungary to break away from the Soviet Union. Ambassador Hazi stressed that it was mistake to put countries of Eastern Europe into good and bad categories.

The Vice President noted that we believe there are differences among Eastern European countries, that we are pleased to see greater openness in Hungary, and that one purpose of speech was to state our support for further movement in direction of human rights and independence. We have serious problems with conduct of a number of Eastern European countries, with their involvement in terrorism, [Page 1017] export of socialism and spying. There must be changes for the U.S. to be willing to improve relations. We are upset about repression in Poland. We are attacked every day at the UN. We cannot be taking all the positive actions. Governments in Eastern Europe must show some effort, as Hungary had done. That was the message he conveyed in Vienna and wanted Ambassador Hazi to convey to the Hungarian leadership as well.

Hazi responded that there are differences. For example, 50 percent of Hungary’s GNP was involved in international trade, while only 7 percent of the Soviet Union’s GNP involved trade. But there were no fundamental differences, for example on ideology, among the East European countries. The Vice President noted that this certainly was not true with regard to religion and other matters.

Hazi again stressed how highly the Hungarian leadership appreciated the Vice President’s visit—the highest U.S. visitor ever—and how important it is for them to be taken as a partner. He made a brief reference to bilateral issues—return of the crown and Hungarian “expectation” that MFN would be extended on a multi-year basis so that companies could calculate more than a year ahead. He then noted that Hungary is an “island” with the US-Soviet confrontation taking place overhead. They were afraid as a small country. The Vice President stated that we think the Soviets have made a big mistake by walking out in Geneva. They have hurt their promotion of peace movements. Somehow they will have to come back. President Reagan is serious about arms control, as he demonstrated even after KAL. There is a lot of suspicion, but we know we have to find ways to live peacefully and one way is to really reduce nuclear weapons. We won’t grant Soviets a monopoly. We want to make a deal based on equality. There also are plenty of other problems to resolve, like Afghanistan. What did Hazi hear about the leadership situation in Moscow, about Andropov’s health.

Hazi said he knew the thinking of “our side.” They are saying that the US wants to dominate the whole world including the Soviet Union and socialist countries. If he listens here, he hears the same text with the opposite target. Since Stalin there had been collective decisions in Moscow. It will be quiet as long as civilians retain control, but military takeover would present another picture. Andropov is different than Brezhnev and others. He is a little bit more European. Educated, knows English and French, and knows Europe pretty well. This makes a difference but Ustinov and the other marshals are taking the floor and taking political positions.

Hazi then returned to the need to avoid extremes in talking about Hungary in public. Hungary is prepared to take lessons from anywhere to improve living standard. But after highest level meetings, there is discussion and exaggeration. This causes problems. The Soviets and [Page 1018] other East Europeans ask what is happening. Of course, this will not decide Hungary’s fate. US-Soviet relations are more important.

The Vice President concluded the meeting by noting that we see degrees of difference in Hungary, that we are not trying to “peel” them away from the Warsaw Pact, but that we hold certain values very strongly and that these are important in how we treat the nations of Eastern Europe.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D830729–0673. Secret; Exdis. Sent for information to Moscow. Drafted by Palmer; cleared by P. Hughes (OVP), Richard Kauzlarich (S/S), Dobriansky, Roger Robinson (NSC), and William Garland (S/S-O) and in EUR/EEY; approved by John Kelly (EUR). The EUR/EEY clearance line was illegible.
  2. September 19–20. See Document 322.
  3. See Document 21.
  4. Telegram 5722 from Budapest, September 21, conveyed the uncleared transcript of Bush’s September 20 press conference. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D830545–1016)