Volume #21 - 545.|
EUROPE AND THE SOVIET UNION
EASTERN EUROPE AND THE SOVIET UNION
Memorandum from Head, European Division,|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
June 1st, 1955|
THE WARSAW CONFERENCE - MAY 11 TO 14, 1955|
The "Warsaw Conference of European countries on Safeguarding Peace and Security in Europe" was hardly what one enthusiastic Polish commentator called it, "a conference at the summit when decisions of the greatest importance, of world influence, are taken". There are, nevertheless, a number of points of considerable interest to the West in the actual proceedings and in the motives of the Soviet Government in holding the Conference.
2. Since the background of this meeting is well known, I shall not review the events leading up to it. The eight nations participating signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance to remain in force for 20 years.62 This treaty is phrased in general terms of mutual guarantee against aggression under article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Under one of its articles a Joint Command is to be set up under Marshal Konev as Commander-in-Chief, with headquarters in Moscow. "Ministers of Defence or other military commanders" of the other participating states will be Deputy Commanders and a combined general staff will be located at headquarters. Under another article of the Treaty, a Political Consultative Committee will be set up for consultations "on all important international questions" and for "examination of questions arising in connection with the realisation of this Treaty."
3. Marshal Bulganin made an important speech63 and was followed by the Heads of Governments of the other participating states and by the Communist Chinese Minister of Defence. Instead of referring to each speech in turn, I shall simply mention a few points of interest in the proceedings as a whole.
4. At the time of the Moscow Conference it seemed possible that, in addition to the eight member alliance, there might be a special grouping of Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany with its own responsibilities for bolstering security in Eastern Europe. Some moves were made towards "cooperation in all spheres" by delegations from the Parliaments of these three countries at a "Prague Conference" at the end of December but nothing further was said on the subject, so far as I know, until Premier Grotewohl of East Germany made further vague references to this special cooperation at the Warsaw Conference. Neither the Polish nor the Czechoslovak Premiers even mentioned such tripartite arrangements, however, at the Warsaw Conference and we are, therefore, almost as much in the dark on this subject as before.
5. Another possibility in the way of Iron Curtain defence pacts was suggested by some Western commentators after Mr. Molotov's long foreign policy speech before the Supreme Soviet on February 8, 1955.64 Mr. Molotov seemed to hint that, if the West kept making aggressive moves both in Europe and Asia, it might be necessary to create an Eurasian defence pact including all the nations of the "peace camp" in both continents. This hint, in addition to the fact that the Soviet Foreign Minister twice referred to the Chinese People's Republic as a co-partner with the Soviet Union, suggested that the Communist answer to the interlocking series of pacts by which Communism was to be contained might be one organization or two linked organizations responsible for mutual defence both in Europe and in Asia. At the Warsaw conference, however, there was no indication that anything of this nature was in the offing. General Peng Teh-huai, a Vice Premier and the Minister of National Defence of the Chinese People's Republic, was present but was listed as an observer. He assured the delegates that "peace and security in Asia and in Europe are indivisible" but he did not suggest that an extension of the defence organization under consideration at the Conference was needed to confirm this fact. Article 4 of the Treaty signed on May 14 referred only to "armed attack in Europe on one or several of the States signatory to the Treaty" (my underlining) in binding these states to joint action. General Peng Teh-Huai did give "unreserved support and cooperation to all resolutions adopted by the Warsaw Conference" and pledged that "if peace in Europe is undermined, if the imperialist aggressors light the flames of war against the peaceful countries of Europe then our Government and the 600,000,000 heroic people of China will struggle against aggression jointly with the peoples and Governments of our fraternal countries until final victory". This returned very much the same kind of pledge which the Russians have been giving the Chinese on Formosa, one intended to have the maximum deterrent effect on the West short of automatic commitment to involvement in any war on the lengthy periphery of the Moscow-Peking Axis.
6. So far as China's status as a "co-partner" was concerned, General Peng Teh-huai discreetly avoided any over-ambitious claims to equal status by referring on four occasions to the "peace camp" as being headed by the Soviet Union. This was probably a wise move at such a gathering. Satellite Communists are accustomed to having their positions depend on the whims of Moscow but any underlining of the fact that the whims of Peking might have some very real effect on Communism in Central and Eastern Europe might not have been very welcome.
7. Although the Chinese representative took care to adjust his remarks to the needs of the conference on this point, it is interesting that, while Marshal Bulganin and the satellite leaders avoided any clear statement on the important question of whether civilisation as a whole or only capitalist civilisation might be annihilated in a general war, General Peng Teh-huai made the defiant, ideologically orthodox assertion that if war came, the peace camp "will undoubtedly deal the aggressors such fatal blows that the result will be the utter destruction of the imperialist camp and the complete collapse of the entire capitalist system".
8. Another point about the proceedings of the Warsaw Conference which is worth noting concerns the warning issued at the Moscow Conference last year and in the December 9 note to the Western Powers that the forces of the Eastern bloc were not only going to be integrated but strengthened considerably.65 At the Warsaw Conference this theme was not very important. From the speeches there, it would appear that it was the integration itself, such as it was, which was to increase the "effectiveness" of the forces rather than any general increase in the levels of forces and armaments. It is true, of course, that one or two of the satellites have followed the Soviet lead in increasing the defence allocations in their budgets. It is also true that the Political Consultative Committee which is to be set up under the Treaty is to consider the "realisation of this Treaty" which could presumably include the "measures to step up their armaments" referred to a few months ago. So far as any real threat to the West on this score was concerned, however, it was conspicuous by its absence.
9. Another interesting item of Eastern bloc business which, as usual, was left not completely clarified was the question of the permanence of the Oder-Neisse line as Poland's Western frontier. The Polish Premier, Mr. Cyrankiewicz, referred to this frontier in quite emphatic terms four times during his speech. He ended these references by making it clear that he regarded the new treaty as embodying a guarantee of Poland's present frontier:
"the treaty will mean that the Polish frontier on the Odra and Nysa ... will be guarded not only by the Polish people and its armed forces but also by the powerful Soviet Union and the countries of the peace camp ... this treaty will mean that on the other side of the Polish frontier on the Odra and Nysa the peaceful forces of the German nation will stand ready, together and in equal measure with us, to defend peace against German militarism."
10. Mr. Cyrankiewicz's colleague from the "other side" of the Oder-Neisse line, who spoke immediately afterwards, did not rush in with any comradely assurances on this point; he did not even mention this question of the frontier. Mr. Cyrankiewicz's colleague from the other direction, Premier Bulganin, did not find time in his long discourse on world affairs to mention the question either.
11. The points I have mentioned above have not received much attention in any press comment we have seen. Each one of them indicates how the Soviet Government has left obscure certain important questions about Eastern bloc reactions to West German rearmament. In addition, there are a number of other points about the Conference which underline this aspect of Soviet policy. These points have been emphasized in press accounts which you may have seen and I shall simply note them briefly.
12. The Treaty is "open" to all states which wish to join, regardless of ideology. It is clear from one of the Articles, however, that a nation could not combine membership in NATO with membership in this organization. The emphasis in the Conference and in subsequent Communist propaganda has been on the invitation extended to all European states (and the USA) to join in a general European security system. If any general pact is agreed upon, the Warsaw pact can be dissolved immediately. There was no real indication in the proceedings of the Conference that the Soviet Government might now aim chiefly to put pressure on uncommitted states such as Finland to join the more limited pact signed at Warsaw.
13. According to the official statement about the Joint Command, "the question of the participation of the German Democratic Republic in measures connected with the armed forces of the Joint Command will be examined later". The fact that both with respect to participation in the Joint Command and with respect to the Treaty as a whole, East Germany was in a special position was made clear by Premier Grotewohl. He said that the Treaty signed at Warsaw "leaves the German Democratic Republic complete freedom to negotiate on peaceful reunification". In addition, these arrangements enabled the East German authorities to say, as they did a week or so afterwards, with a considerable show of virtue, that the question of participation in a Joint Command could not very well be discussed now since they did not have an army. In avoiding any immediate decision on military participation, however, the Soviet and East German Governments were not simply leaving room for manoeuvre on German reunification. They were making a virtue of necessity, because it seems clear that the type of Army required would be produced only by conscription. This would not only be extremely unpopular among the people, but would create a very serious security problem for the Russians. Conscription on any large scale would have serious effects on the economy by drawing men away from industry at a time when this could completely upset the precarious economy of East Germany. Any immediate move in this direction, therefore, would probably increase still further the sullen resentment of the people in East Germany against the régime at a time when the success of Soviet policy in Germany depends so much on Communism's maintaining a relatively friendly, "business-like" front towards the West in general and towards Germans in particular.
14. The actual integration of forces achieved through the new agreements is pretty loose. Marshal Konev commands through Defence Ministers or military leaders in the satellites and the "disposition of the Joint Armed Forces on the territories of the countries concerned" remains to be discussed.
15. The general tone of the speeches at the Conference was not very belligerent. All the usual charges about Western policies were made, but Marshal Bulganin built his speech around the "peace plan" which had just a day before been presented to the Disarmament Sub-Committee in London.66 The satellite leaders took their cue from this. Premier Cyrankiewicz said that "we believe that common sense will triumph in international relations". The assembled élite of the Communist world made it clear, with their usual bland arrogance, that, if common sense did prevail, it would be owing to their efforts entirely, but they did not generate any very convincing indignation about capitalist attempts to evade the great tide of common sense flowing in from the East.
16. With reference to this last point, we have just received a letter? from our Chargé d'Affaires in Warsaw with some of his first impressions on the Conference. Mr. Delisle reports that, at a reception given for all foreign diplomats during the Conference, the Iron Curtain leaders obviously tried to make Western representatives feel at ease in spite of the political background against which the reception was held. While many Iron Curtain officials stood off to the sides, Soviet leaders drank toasts with Westerners.
17. If everything was rather tentative, if so many questions were left unanswered, if Soviet and satellite leaders failed to maintain the belligerent, threatening tone with which this project of an Eastern pact was inaugurated a few months ago, why did the Soviet Government decide to have any conference at all at this time? I think that there were a number of good reasons from the Soviet standpoint for doing this.
18. In the first place, it is a useful corrective to any over-optimism on our part about new directions in Soviet policy to recall that millions of people either under Communist control or deluded by Communist propaganda have been persuaded that the Western "provocation" contained in plans for German rearmament has created a genuine threat to Soviet security and has necessitated Soviet counter measures. Communist speeches, broadcasts and articles drive at this point day after day. The Warsaw Conference had as one of its chief purposes the underlining of Soviet concern over plans to rearm the German Federal Republic. The Soviet Government could not have failed to meet ratification of the Paris Agreements in this way without seriously undermining one of its major drives in foreign policy.
19. The second major reason for the Conference was, I think, the desire of the Soviet Government to tidy up a number of awkward points about how exactly security arrangements necessitated by German rearmament or the withdrawal from Austria were to be made and how they were to be represented to the people in the satellites and the rest of the world. The Treaty and the Joint Command now provide the rudimentary elements of a useful political and military structure, which can be developed if needed to cover a number of projects.
20. The third major reason for the Conference was probably the desire of the Soviet Government to revive talks of a European security scheme such as that presented to the Berlin Conference by Mr. Molotov. The new Treaty is "open"; it could be dissolved if a more comprehensive pact was agreed upon; it underlines Soviet interest in "regional pacts". In this sense, it may be a negotiable element in a drive to get the United States out of Europe in return for some combination of a general European pact and a German settlement.
21. Even if the results of the Conference were cut and dried before it started, the Soviet Government did take particular care to make the sessions appear important. Unlike the Moscow Conference, where Molotov and other Soviet leaders made only occasional appearances, the Warsaw Conference witnessed the presence for four days of a high level Soviet delegation and heard an important speech by the Soviet Premier. The fact that Warsaw was chosen and that only a couple of weeks before Khrushchev had been there celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Soviet-Polish Treaty and giving some advance information about the Eastern bloc conference, indicated how carefully the Soviet Government was deferring to satellite susceptibilities.
22. One cannot therefore dismiss the Warsaw Conference and its resulting agreements as a mere facade, a transparent manoeuvre to score a few propaganda points. These agreements may, in the sense I have mentioned above, be "negotiable" in a general European settlement. But the very obscurity of the implications of many of the provisions means that the Soviet Government could, if no real bargain is struck with the West, use the agreements as the basis for a series of moves towards a more highly integrated military bloc in which more Soviet soldiers than ever are stationed across the centre of Europe and in which satellite and Soviet forces are redeployed, on a new basis without regard to frontiers, to meet the new NATO strategy based on all kinds of atomic weapons. After all, 1956 is supposed to mark the beginning of new integrated economic plans for the Soviet Union and its satellites. In recent months the satellite in which the post-Stalin "new course" was carried farthest, Hungary, has experienced an abrupt reversal to more orthodox policies, perhaps in anticipation of some of the problems created by a Soviet withdrawal from Austria. As Moscow pursues a more liberal line in one area it will probably try to limit the anticipated consequences of this elsewhere by tightening control. The June 1953 riots in East Germany must have made the necessity for such measures abundantly clear.
23. It is important to keep this point in mind because the speeches at the Warsaw Conference do not indicate in any way any Soviet intention to offer an "across the board" retreat from existing positions. There were, of course, many references to particular concessions. Almost all the speeches referred to the Austrian settlement as providing a useful precedent. Premier Grotewohl said that it "shows that there is a realistic way to solve the German problem." Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Albania made friendly references to Yugoslavia and stated that they were all ready for normalization of relations with that nation and with Greece and Turkey. But judging from the Conference speeches we could only assume that the Austrian settlement, the new disarmament proposals, the approach to Yugoslavia and the interest in Four Power talks were intended, at least in the first round, to halt West German rearmament, without any real concession on Germany.
24. After indicating that the Western proposal for a Four Power Conference would be carefully studied, Premier Bulganin referred to the main issues to be solved as "agreement on the prohibition of atomic weapons, the reduction of armaments and armed forces and the removal of the threat of a new war." He then went on to explain the Soviet plan which had been tabled the day before in London. So far as Germany was concerned, Premier Bulganin had, earlier in his speech, placed emphasis on actions by the Germans themselves:
"In the implementation of these tasks the decisive part should be played, in the first place, by the patriotic forces of the German people themselves, who are striving to prevent the remilitarization of Western Germany. An important contribution to the unification of Germany and to the maintenance of peace in Europe could be provided by a rapprochement between Eastern and Western Germany, a relaxation of tension in their relations. There can be no doubt but that concerned action by the two parts of Germany for the creation of a united, free and democratic Germany is not only necessary but is also quite feasible."
25. Premier Grotewohl made the same point about the necessity "that the Germans should reach an understanding among themselves on all the problems obstructing a settlement." He made his point quite bluntly. "There will not always be an Adenauer, but there will always be a Germany." While the Russians try to get implementation of the Paris Agreements defeated by the Germans themselves without, for the time being, abandoning their East German satellite, there will undoubtedly be threats combined with soft words. The Joint Command in Moscow will probably provide the threats.
26. One commentator, Joseph Harsch, of the Christian Science Monitor in writing about the Warsaw Conference, speculated that "with the exception of Poland, Moscow is presumed to be willing and in fact offering to allow the satellites to take on the characteristics of a twilight zone between East and West in place of their present characteristics of captured, conquered and ruled provinces."67 Since Mr. Harsch wrote this, Moscow has reacted sharply against any suggestion of "interference with the satellite states". Even before it did so, however, there seemed to be very little evidence that the Soviet Government was thinking of anything like a "twilight zone". The Treaty signed at Warsaw might be negotiable but Communist control of the satellites was not. A diminution of Soviet control through Communist governments in the satellites would mean the beginning of a steady deterioration in the security of the Soviet Union as conceived by Soviet leaders. The Soviet Government was not prepared to accept less security. It wanted the same amount of security but at lower prices and in somewhat different forms.
27. On the basis of the Warsaw Pact, the only aspect of the Soviet position in the satellites (except in the case of East Germany) which is likely to be negotiable in the next few years is the degree of direct military involvement of the Soviet Union in the satellites through the stationing of large forces and the manning of bases. If it can get a comparable withdrawal by the West, it will, in withdrawing its armies to its own frontiers, have retained relatively the same amount of security but at reduced prices in terms of an arms race and tensions likely to lead to war. A Western demand for the freeing of a satellite from Communist control, however, would be regarded by Moscow as an aggressive act comparable to any attempt which it might now make itself to give direct support to a Communist coup such as the Prague one of 1948.
28. There are two fundamental reasons for this attitude on the part of the Soviet Union. Those leaders who may still think in terms of Communism triumphant around the world will have a hard enough job to reconcile themselves to the containment of Communism in the West. The prospect of expansion in the East will hardly compensate for this fact adequately when it seems that such expansion is more likely to increase the empire of Peking than that of Moscow. If pressure is brought to bear for a retreat of Communism in Europe from its position in the satellites (except perhaps to gain a much greater prize in Germany) these leaders may become desperate at the prospect of the tide of revolution in Europe receding on all fronts and decide that the existence of Communism in the West depends on violent measures and a forward policy.
29. The saner Soviet leaders, the ones who may now be most instrumental in seeking a détente, may be able to see that Soviet interests might better have been served if, after the last war, they had been content with a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and with guarantees of Soviet security not involving the forced conversion of these states to Communism. They probably do not relish what they must know about the hatred directed both at Communism and at the Russians as a result of this conversion. They are, however, caught in a dilemma which has existed as long as there have been empires. The problem was stated most succinctly by Pericles in a speech to the Athenians about their imperial commitments during a particularly trying period of the Pelopponesian War. "For what you hold is, to speak somewhat plainly, a tyranny; to take it perhaps was wrong, but to let it go is unsafe."