381. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Eastern European and Yugoslavia Affairs (Kuchel) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Ridgway)1


  • Advancing U.S. Interests in Bulgaria


Whether to probe with Bulgaria to see whether we can get some movement in areas of interest to us.


Our policy of differentiation among East European countries properly assigns a bottom rank to Bulgaria. In recent years, Bulgaria’s involvement in illicit arms and narcotics traffic, domestic human rights violations, and possible complicity in the Papal assassination plot have curtailed our ability and willingness to advance our interests with this strongly pro-Soviet regime.

Although the Bulgarians predictably have attributed their pariah status in the West to a U.S. propaganda campaign, they have been stung by our criticism. They have taken several steps to improve bilateral relations, including resolution of most divided family cases, cessation of VOA jamming, and establishment of a new mechanism for bilateral consultations on illicit narcotics traffic in and through Bulgaria. They also welcomed briefings by U.S. arms control teams both before and after the Geneva meetings.

At the same time, Bulgarian relations with the Soviet Union have not been entirely smooth. With Gorbachev’s accession, Soviet criticism of Bulgarian economic performance has become more frequent and public. Deliveries of Soviet oil and other essential raw materials have been reduced and made more expensive in terms of the quality and quantity of Bulgarian goods bartered for them. In political relations, Gorbachev intervened personally to prevent Bulgarian leader Zhivkov from traveling to West Germany. Zhivkov, the oldest party leader in Eastern Europe, has long been viewed with some suspicion [Page 1228] in Moscow both for his inefficient leadership and espousal of Bulgarian nationalism.

Our Objectives in Bulgaria

Our immediate goal in Bulgaria should be creation of an improved environment for solutions to bilateral problems and encouragement of Bulgarian interest in increased contact with the West. We want:

An accelerated and more productive dialogue with the Bulgarians on illicit narcotics traffic;
Increased U.S. cultural presence in Bulgaria;
An expanded political dialogue on arms control, regional, and bilateral issues;
Increased access at all levels for our personnel in Sofia to government, party, and media figures.

How to Pursue Our Agenda

As an initial step, we propose resumption of regularly scheduled political consultations, but at the Deputy Assistant Secretary rather than Assistant Secretary level. Regular exchanges would provide an effective channel to press our entire agenda of foreign policy and bilateral issues. Second, we might suggest continued expert level consultations on arms control and establishment of similar consultations on regional issues, terrorism, and other problems. Third, we recommend an intensified effort to upgrade exchanges of cultural exhibits and to expand other educational and cultural exchanges.

The trial in Rome of several Bulgarians accused of complicity in the Papal assassanation plot is likely to end within the next few months. If, and only if, the Bulgarian defendants are not convicted, we might consider several small steps such as facilitating parliamentary exchanges and promoting expanded business, agricultural, and scientific contacts.


That you approve the foregoing scenario for U.S. policy towards Bulgaria in the medium term.2

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Paula J. Dobriansky Files, Bulgaria (4). Secret. Sent through Palmer. Drafted on January 3, 1986, by Lang; cleared by Kuchel, William Courtney (P), and Palmer. Neither Kuchel not Palmer initialed the memorandum.
  2. Neither the “Approve” nor “Disapprove” option was selected.