U.S. Department of State
96/08/12 FRUS Vol XVII, 1964-1968, Eastern Europe
Office of the Historian

Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
United States Department of State

Foreign Relations of the United States
1964-1968, Volume XVII
Eastern Europe

(This is not an official statement of policy by the Department of State; it is intended only as a guide to the contents of the volume.)

Since 1861, the Department of State's documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States has constituted the official record of the foreign policy and diplomacy of the United States. Historians in the Office of the Historian collect, arrange, and annotate the principal documents comprising the record of American foreign policy. The standards for the preparation of the series and the general deadlines for its publication are established by the Foreign Relations of the United States statute of October 28, 1991. (22 USC 4351, et seq.) U.S. policies in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson are the subject of 34 printed volumes. Volumes in the Foreign Relations series are published when all the necessary editing, declassification, and printing steps have been completed.

The major themes of this volume are the Johnson administration's efforts to "build bridges" to the regimes of Eastern Europe and the U.S. reaction to the development of and Soviet suppression of the reform Communist regime of Czechoslovakia. Administration efforts to use U.S. economic and cultural programs to loosen ties between the Soviet Union and its East European satellites were only minimally successful. Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia sought economic assistance but were unwilling to provide the types of quid pro quo the United States sought. The program was better received in Romania, where the regime was actively reducing Soviet influence. The U.S. response to the liberalization efforts of Czech Communist party leaders was carefully modulated. Initially, U.S. officials were concerned to avoid giving any pretext for Soviet action. Following the Soviet intervention, the Johnson administration concentrated on preventing similar Soviet actions directed against either Romania or Yugoslavia or against the two neutral states, Austria and Finland.

Related documentation on East-West trade is included in the chapter on Economic Defense Policy in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume IX, International Development and Economic Defense Policy; Commodities. Additional relevant documentation will be included in volume XIV, Soviet Union.

The documents in this volume are drawn from the centralized indexed files of the Department of State, the decentralized lot files of the Department's Executive Secretariat, and Bureau, Office, and Division lot files. In addition, the editors made extensive use of the Presidential and other papers at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas.

Most of the documents were originally classified. The Historical Documents Review Division of the Department of State, in concert with the appropriate offices of other agencies and foreign governments, carried out their declassification.

The following is a summary of the negotiations and policy discussions documented in the volume. Parenthetical citations are to numbered documents in the text.


President Johnson's effort to "build bridges" to Eastern Europe and the impact of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on U.S. relations with the neutral and Communist Bloc states of the region are the major themes of this volume.

The United States had attempted to encourage the development of more independent regimes in Eastern Europe through its trade and cultural relations policies since the Eisenhower administration. Under President Lyndon B. Johnson, an even greater emphasis was given to trade policy as a tool to encourage the breakup of the Soviet empire. (1, 2) Erosion of Soviet control in certain parts of Eastern Europe was already underway at the beginning of the Johnson administration, above all in Romania. In a May 23, 1964, speech, Johnson publicly launched the "bridge building" policy that was designed to improve relations with the Communist Bloc states while simultaneously encouraging them to loosen their ties with the Soviet Union. The National Security Council requested agency policy analysis and recommendations, provoking a lively debate within the government over "bridge building." (4, 6, 8, 9) By 1965, the administration had produced an action plan. (12, 15) Simultaneously, the United States reviewed its broadcasting strategy, particularly the future of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Revelations of CIA funding for the two broadcasting agencies seemed to place their mission in jeopardy. Final policy recommendations were forwarded to the President in a September 25, 1967, memorandum from the interagency 303 Committee. (17)

By early 1968, the administration had refined its policy, but its ability to carry forward the "bridge building" policy was hampered by a lack of public and congressional support. (20) Moreover, the rapid evolution of the reform movement in Czechoslovakia provoked a confrontation between Czech and Soviet Communists. The Soviet leadership judged that democratization in Czechoslovakia would undermine their control in Eastern Europe and undercut their own legitimacy. Through the use of military and diplomatic pressure, the Soviets sought to halt or reverse the reforms. American officials debated an appropriate U.S. response to the growing probability of armed intervention by Moscow. (21, 22) Following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968, U.S. officials in collaboration with the NATO Allies studied ways to protect other Soviet bloc and neutral states from Soviet intervention and applied pressure to restrain further Soviet moves against the states of East Europe. (23, 24, 25)

The difficulties of building bridges to Eastern Europe were evident in U.S. relations with Bulgaria. Faced with a government that sought trade benefits while simultaneously unleashing mobs to attack U.S. diplomatic facilities, the Johnson administration insisted on linking economic concessions to overall Bulgarian behavior. (27, 28, 30) The Bulgarians attempted to decouple these issues. (29) The result was slow progress. The two states raised their level of diplomatic exchange to embassies, but the never robust relationship withered when Bulgaria cooperated with the Soviet Union in repressing Czechoslovakia's reform Communists. (36)

Czechoslovakia represented another example of the difficulties of dealing with Communist regimes, whether conservative or reform. Outstanding differences between the two states included trade, property (above all Czech gold reserves in U.S. custody), and consular activities. (37) The United States insisted on linking these issues to general regime behavior while the Czechs demanded that each case be treated separately. (39) Progress toward normalization of relations with the hard-line Novotny regime was extremely limited. Civil aviation issues were the exception to a general pattern of deadlock. (40, 41, 45) Czech gold claims, the arrest of a U.S. citizen on spying charges, and disagreement on the war in Vietnam all hampered efforts to improve diplomatic relations or expand trade. (44, 48-52)

In late 1967, the Novotny regime began to crumble before the assault of "reform" Communists in spite of Soviet efforts to prop it up. (54) Once in power, however, the reformers, convinced Communists who harbored considerable hostility to the United States, proved almost as intractable as their predecessors. They pressed hard for the immediate settlement of outstanding issues on Czech terms. (57-58, 63, 68) The United States, in an effort to avoid provoking the Soviet Union, maintained its distance from the new Czech leadership. (59) At the same time U.S. officials in Prague and Washington debated the best means to deter Soviet military intervention against a movement that favored Western interests. (60-62, 67, 69)

In an effort to forestall Soviet intervention and to refute persistent Soviet propaganda claims, Secretary of State Dean Rusk met with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to assure the Soviets that U.S. policy was non-involvement in Czech internal affairs. (70) Nevertheless, by late July the probability of Soviet intervention loomed larger and U.S. officials carefully considered their options. (73-75) In an August 2 telegram from Moscow, Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson warned that the stakes in Czechoslovakia had become extremely high for the Soviets. (76)

On the evening of August 20, 1968, Ambassador Dobrynin met President Johnson and read a note informing the United States of Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. (80) U.S. officials attempted to provide diplomatic support to the Dubcek regime in Czechoslovakia (82, 84), and to react forcefully to Soviet actions. (85, 86, 89, 91) Rusk and the President communicated their displeasure and concern in meetings with Dobrynin and messages to the Soviet leadership. (87, 89-91) U.S. officials developed policies to deal with the interrelated issues of policy toward Eastern Europe, a prospective summit meeting, and the future of the NATO Alliance in the wake of the Czechoslovak invasion. (92, 93) Simultaneously, they witnessed the progressive destruction of the Prague reform movement engineered by the Soviet Union. (96-99)

U.S. relations with Hungary moved haltingly toward normalization during the Johnson administration. Full diplomatic relations, interrupted during the 1956 revolution, were restored and the two states raised their representation from legations to embassies. Hungary also ended jamming of Voice of America broadcasts. (100-103) However, the status of Cardinal Mindszenty remained unresolved and the Hungarian Government supported violent anti-American demonstrations. The defections of three Hungarian diplomats further complicated the relationship. (107-110) The Czech crisis also had a deleterious effect on U.S.-Hungarian relations. The Kadar regime supported Soviet actions, contributing troops to the Warsaw Pact invasion force. Hungarian actions revealed the extent to which that state remained a satellite of the Soviet Union. (114)

Poland had long been a special case in the formulation of U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe. Trade dominated the relationship as Polish leaders sought U.S. aid to strengthen their weak economy. (116, 117) The Poles were also very concerned about the rising power of the Federal Republic of Germany. Polish insecurity revealed itself in their opposition to the Multilateral Force and in various proposals aimed at reinforcing European "security." (120-130) Polish attacks on U.S. policy in Vietnam, its expulsion of U.S. diplomats, a 1968 campaign of anti-Semitism, promoted by the right-wing of the ruling Communist Party, and Poland's involvement with the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia complicated U.S. efforts to nurture the relationship. (122, 129, 131-136) While protesting official anti-Semitism, U.S. policymakers concluded that continuation of a policy of expanded trade and cultural exchange remained the best tool for gradually prying Poland away from Soviet control. (137, 138)

Romania had taken significant steps to break away from Soviet control. At the beginning of the Johnson administration it openly sought U.S. economic assistance, carried through a series of changes designed to meet U.S. linkage requirements, and openly declared its independence from Soviet foreign policy leadership. (139-145) In addition to improved trade relations, Romania sought loans, technology, and foreign investment. It also tried to play a useful role as an intermediary in setting up peace talks between the United States and North Vietnam. (143-144, 148, 150, 152, 154) The improved nature of U.S. - Romanian relations was symbolized by the visit of Prime Minister Maurer to the United States. (154-156)

The Czech crisis further cemented the cooperation between the two states. Sharing broad agreement over objectives, the two states cooperated closely when Romania faced the threat of Soviet military intervention. The United States pointedly warned the Soviets about the dangers of an attack. By late 1968 the Soviet threat appeared to diminish while the relationship between the United States and Romania was stronger. (160, 163-173)

U.S. relations with Yugoslavia, the first defector from the Soviet Bloc, were uneven during the Johnson administration. While the Executive Branch sought to support market liberalization, the Congress blocked its initiatives. (174-175, 177, 179) Other irritants included Yugoslav criticism of U.S. Vietnam policy, the Tito regime's concern over the activities of exile groups in the United States, and differences over Middle East policy. (181, 183, 186-187)

During the Czech crisis the two states found themselves on the same side, first attempting to avert Soviet intervention and subsequently condemning the invasion. (189-190) After the invasion, the United States attempted to protect and assist Yugoslavia, which seemed a likely target for further Soviet pressure or military action. (190-192, 195) A White House meeting between President Johnson and Deputy Prime Minister Gligorev was intended to further improve the relationship. (194)

U.S. relations with the two major neutral states in the region, Austria and Finland, were basically uneventful throughout most of the Johnson administration. Only the Czech crisis briefly disturbed this pattern. Discussions with Austria concerned efforts to open Eastern Europe, trade, and the European Community. (197-199) Chancellor Klaus visited Washington and met the President in April 1968. (200) The United States reaffirmed existing guarantees to Austria in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. (201-203)

U.S. relations with Finland revolved around defense purchases (204-206) and the misperceptions caused by public statements by the Finnish President and a U.S. Department of Defense civilian consultant. (207- 208, 210) The impact on bilateral relations was limited and in both cases rapid clarification smoothed over potential conflict.


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