48. Paper Prepared in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs1



—Since you gave Deputy Secretary Whitehead his special East European/Yugoslav mandate last summer, U.S. engagement with the countries of the area has been activated across the board. Highpoints have been the Deputy Secretary’s two trips2 and the Vice President’s visit to Poland last week;3 the Deputy Secretary’s November visit to the GDR and three additional countries will affirm our new activism.4 Raimond’s and Genscher’ s comments to you suggest it is time to consider the overall policy situation after a year of accomplishment.

The sources of change

Eastern Europe entering period of significant change, most profound since 1956 upheavals. Raimond told you Eastern Europe was USSR’s “main problem.” May be right; socialist ancien regime there in decline:
East European regimes never commanded full political legitimacy; now clear they do not function economically. Economic pressures a long-term fact: time lost repaying wastefully spent borrowed money will ensure region misses next generations of industrial innovation.
Although situation varies by country, ruling elites increasingly demoralized, defensive. Ideological elan and corporate party identity, significant even in 1956, now largely dissipated. Pragmatic “technocratic” communist model of the 1970’s discredited. Leaderships are aging and tired, with exception of Jaruzelski.
Pressures for change are indigenous, driven by policy failures of communist leadership and underlying non-legitimacy. In every [Page 168] country he visited, John Whitehead found elements of leadership sensitive to this pressure.
As in 1956, however, Soviet developments can affect timing of events. Gorbachev dynamism an unexpected new source of pressure on East European regimes:
By denouncing Brezhnev “era of stagnation,” Gorbachev has helped undercut local Brezhnev-era leaderships, Jaruzelski excepted. Barely disguised, public Gorbachev slaps at Ceausescu earlier this year symptomatic.
Gorbachev’s reformism from the top intended to inspire East European imitators and lay basis for economic momentum. But rapid reformism, ultimately containable in USSR where Party is strong, Russian people essentially patriotic, has potential for accelerating possibly explosive sequence of events in Eastern Europe.
Some East European reformist elites intrigued by Gorbachev, but West is not in competition with Gorbachev for popular loyalties, affections. Eastern Europeans intensely identify with West, increasingly with U.S.
In short, situation may become relatively fluid. Communist regimes will not collapse, but extensive economic and, in some cases, political reform, rising to top of local agenda. Question is less whether reform will occur than when and how far it will go, and what consequences will be.
West must be prepared to react in ways that advance our interests.

Policy Implications

Must balance forward-looking approach with realism; avoid extremes of excessive expectations or cynical disengagement that have sometimes characterized past U.S. policies.
Excessive objectives, e.g., “rollback,” proved embarrassingly empty when put to test in Hungary.
But mistaken to assume U.S. cannot influence events. Not possible in short or medium run to challenge Soviet domination directly, but can help alter realities on the ground—the internal context with which local communist regimes and the USSR must contend. A favorable evolution would have long-term strategic implications.
Situation calls for Western effort to respond to and channel change: through a deliberately active approach, to press our interests and put our policy agenda directly before East European decision [Page 169] makers; to respond to express wishes and interests of East Europeans themselves.
John Whitehead laid groundwork for moving forward through process beginning with deliberate though relatively modest bilateral steps. These would be tailored to fit our interests with individual East European countries.
We would use our biggest lever—economic and financial relations—explicitly to press for economic reform. We would work mostly through international financial institutions, only sometimes bilaterally, and would support strict economic conditionality throughout.
We would make clear that human rights and national reconciliation would be a crucial factor in our ability to proceed with relations across the board.
The willingness and ability of individual EE countries to respond to such a framework would vary; our points of departure with each country could be consistent. Differentiation would develop naturally.
This framework was not only keynote of Whitehead’s and Vice President’s message to Poland, but of our overall approach to area: it sets standards for improving relations which press regimes in our direction in a form they can accept.
An active U.S. role in Eastern Europe would be based on a conceptual balance of benefits, not a give-away. But it would require some resources, particularly diplomatic.
We should be focused outward on the ground: that means maintaining our Embassies and our contacts with the developing situation, not cutting back.
Our efforts to enhance security in the field should be constructed with our broad interests in mind, not in isolation.
Purposeful U.S. engagement with Eastern Europe would also serve alliance interests, unity:
Genscher expressed concern to you about FRG becoming isolated in the West as it reaches out to GDR. Raimond spoke of Soviets using the GDR as bait for Bonn. This could be mitigated by an active U.S. role in Eastern Europe.
West Europeans, moreover, are far greater economic actors than we in Eastern Europe. Alliance ability to act in concert, and U.S. interests, will be enhanced if the U.S. is engaged actively in the process.
Allied consultations would be useful as our policies develop, possibly at a NATO Ministerial next spring.
In short, framework for meaningful U.S. engagement is already in place; next steps are to activate it with each country—Whitehead’s November trip will be important here—and to make sure its conceptual premises are well understood and, to the extent possible, accepted within the Alliance.
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Secretary George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (10/05/1987–10/22/1987). Secret. Drafted on October 5 by Daniel Fried (EUR/EEY); cleared by Simons and Perito. Sent to Shultz under an October 6 information memorandum from Ridgway through Whitehead.
  2. Whitehead traveled to Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania, November 9–16, 1986, and to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, January 27–February 7, 1987.
  3. September 26–30.
  4. Whitehead travelled to Hungary, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and the GDR, November 6–17.