Volume #16 - 7.|
CONDUITE DES RELATIONS EXTÉRIEURES
REPRÉSENTATION DIPLOMATIQUE ET CONSULAIRE
MISSIONS DERRIERE LE RIDEAU DE FER : ÉVALUATION
Note du sous secrétaire d'État par intérim aux Affaires extérieures|
pour le secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 2 mars 1950|
I attach a memorandum of February 28 which has been prepared by the European Division on the functions of Canadian diplomatic posts in Poland and Czechoslovakia. This memorandum is based on some discussions held in the Department. As an appendix there is attached a memorandum of February 28 by Mr. McCordick on the usefulness of Iron Curtain missions. His note gives an interesting first hand estimate of the peculiar circumstances under which work is carried on at these missions.
[PIÈCE JOINTE 1/ENCLOSURE 1]
Note du chef de la Direction européenne Memorandum by Head. European Division
[Ottawa], February 28, 1950
NOTES ON FUNCTIONS OF CANADIAN POSTS IN POLAND AND CZECHOSLOVAKIA
It is evident that a concerted drive, probably part of a general Russian strategy, is under way in the satellite countries to make it difficult and even impossible for diplomatic missions from countries regarded as enemies, to function. This drive manifests itself in the arrest and false accusation of personnel of all ranks: in the linking of western diplomats, e.g., Mr. Heath,5 to the `crimes' fastened on the victims of political purges, thereby giving Communist governments grounds for blackening their reputation as diplomatic representatives: in the tightening of visa control, even for diplomats: in the intimidation of satellite nationals so as to discourage their having anything to do with westerners, their consuls, their newspapers, their radio, etc.
2. At the same time some journalists, business men, private travellers, correspondents from the west are either denied entry to or are driven out of these countries.
3. The net result is a growing atmosphere of fear, suspicion, frustration, and isolation in which the westerner simply has no place. He becomes in short an enemy alien.
4. The question therefore arises: has this atmosphere developed to a point at which the maintenance of our diplomatic missions no longer warrants its present cost to the public purse?
5. The political and diplomatic value of these posts resides in:
(a) The retention of one more connection between the countries and the western world. It can be assumed that Russia is trying to break ail such connection;
(b) A point through which Canadian interests can be safeguarded (e.g. the legal and financial claims of Canadian citizens; the handling of the immigration of relatives of Canadians);
(c) Reports can be made on matters of direct and indirect interest to Canadians, and the Canadian Government; as e.g. the proceedings of Trade Union and other conferences: comments (usually insulting) on Canadian people and events: conditions inside the country such. as resistance movements, religious persecution, economic developments: the evolution of Russian policy and strategy in the cold war: the form and effect of CBC broadcasts;
(d) Above all, the importance of the curtain area as the combined laboratory and advanced area of Russian policy. If we assume, as we probably can, that the governments of Prague and Warsaw are to all intents and purposes the agents of the Kremlin, we have the opportunity, even under present restrictions, to study at close quarters the methods, immediate aims, and some of the weaknesses of the Moscow line. In the missions' functions this has the greatest potential usefulness, but to date we have fallen short in this sphere. These Missions also serve a military purpose in providing the Defence Departments with reports. By maintaining Service Attachés in Eastern Europe Canada makes a contribution to the Western cause which entitles her to benefit reciprocally from the prints of United Kingdom and United States Intelligence;
(e) Finally, as Canada is part of the Western alliance, we should maintain a common front with our Western friends and we should not want to withdraw our diplomatic missions from Eastern Europe without prior consultation with the United Kingdom and the United States.
The economic value would depend on:
(a) The requirements of other government departments; the Department of National Revenue, Customs Branch, recently enquired about price levels in Czechoslovakia in connection with the drawing up of Canadian tariff schedules;
(b) the potential markets in these countries for Canadian products;
(c) the economic significance of these countries in the Russian Economic Cominform;
(d) the military significance of production.
7. The Departmental value is to be formed chiefly in the unique training and experience provided for officers in the enemy camp. If we take a reasonably long view this will be of growing importance whether we move into a fighting war, or continue to exist as a vigilant antithesis to the Communist world.
8. If these are the potential uses of our curtain missions, how far are they being developed-
9. From Warsaw we get about two full political despatches a month: from Prague about the same. We also obtain numerous translations and clippings from Polish and Czech papers and periodicals. The subjects are varied, including the purges, trials, religious persecution, wage and price levels, reorganization of the national economy, occasional conversations with officials, resistance movements, and specific topics like the Polish treasures.6
10. This Department also obtains some economic analysis or information: but our trade with these countries has dropped sharply in recent months.
11. Military reports of a general kind are referred to the Department by the Defence Department.
12. The training value to our officers is clearly evident in those who have served in the orbit area.
13. There are certain limiting factors on the full utilization of our diplomatic missions in Eastern Europe.
14. One is the restriction on freedom of movement and observation referred to above. This is increasing not diminishing.
15. Another is the immense burden of office and personal management and. administration enforced on the staff of our missions by living conditions in those capitals. A large part of the day must be devoted to purchase of supplies, domestic arrangements, etc.
16. A third is the fact that sufficient direction up to date has not been given from Ottawa to assist the missions in making systematic studies of special subjects which could be used here for such purposes as:
(a) defence and strategic appreciation;
(b) intelligence work;
(c) export control policy;
(d) debating and other activities at the U.N.;
(e) Canadian economic policy in conjunction with Trade and Commerce, etc.;
(f) the continuous study of Russian Communism, its aims, potential, and present tactics.
17. It is also difficult to justify the maintenance of these missions to everyone's satisfaction because
(a) their usefulness is somewhat intangible, and because it is actually undesirable to make too much in public of their function as observation points;
(b) the Heads of Mission may at any time be involved in vilification or serious charges of misbehaviour, which would embarrass the Government;
(c) the satellite missions here, working in a free country, have much greater facilities than ours for both licit and illicit activity.
18. We conclude therefore
(a) that these missions are actually, and even more potentially, of importance in our foreign service. They are in the front line of the cold war and provide a type of observation for which there is no substitute;
(b) their potential is not being exploited sufficiently to make the case for their retention easily defensible.
19. It is suggested that the following steps be taken, as occasion permits, to rectify this situation:
(i) A despatch embodying the argument outlined here as revised in discussion be sent to our two missions with the request that the Chargés d'Affaires not only comment on it, but state precisely what they can do to meet the deficiencies mentioned, and how far they are prevented by their circumstances from so acting.
(ii) Other Divisions and Departments should be consulted about the material to be obtained from these Missions and the use to be made of the Missions.
(iii) In order to ensure the fullest use of these Missions, if they are retained, there is called for in the Heads of Mission and officer staff rather special qualifications peculiar to the task, notably
(a) a thorough understanding of Communism;
(b) an analytical approach;
(c) if possible, some acquaintance with an Eastern European language.
(iv) Some consideration should be given to cooperating more closely and systematically in the collection and sharing of information with the representatives of our North Atlantic allies in those countries, notably the United Kingdom, United States of America and perhaps France. This can be done by the regular consultation with other diplomats with perhaps a greater exchange of working papers, despatches, etc. at the posts.
(v) Occasional visits within the curtain countries to compare notes would be technically valuable. At longer intervals it is perhaps equally desirable that officers from our curtain missions visit their Canadian colleagues in such centres as Paris, Brussels and Rome. This has the added advantage of serving as a morale builder.
[PIÈCE JOINTS 2/ENCLOSURE 2]
[Ottawa], February 28, 1950
USEFULNESS OF IRON CURTAIN MISSIONS
In your notes on the question of our maintaining missions in Eastern Europe you laid considerable stress on the missions' importance as training centres. I am in full agreement. In fact I think that the unique training they provide is one of the chief justifications for their maintenance. This aspect of the missions' usefulness has perhaps tended to be overlooked; furthermore it is not easy to turn it into an effective argument in making a public case for keeping the missions. But even if the training aspect may never be one of our main weapons of defence against public criticism I think it should assume a more prominent role in our Departmental deliberations.
The main elements in the missions' usefulness as training centres seem to me to be:
(1) We are engaged in world wide resistance to Communism and Soviet imperialism, a life and death struggle which could suddenly pass from the present so called "cold" stage into "shooting war". Surely no effort should be spared to ensure that Canada possesses a cadre of specialists who know the enemy as well as he can be known in present circumstances. Present circumstances do permit us to send people behind the "Curtain" and, in spite of all the restrictions and frustrations experienced there. I am convinced that the most accomplished, profound and intuitive "book student" of Marxism Leninism Stalinism and Soviet imperialism will correct, enrich and deepen his understanding of his subject by a sojourn at a mission in a Communist capital. He will emerge from this experience much better able, on return to his own country, to advise and enlighten his own Government.
These observations are, I believe, shared by most people who have served in a "Curtain" country. We bring back some of the "Curtain" with us: there is a veil through which we find it difficult to transmit exactly the atmosphere, the "feel" and hence a complete picture of Transcurtainia to those who, no matter how percipient, have not passed through the same ordeal. Conversely, there is an immediate spiritual entente between those even total strangers meeting for the first time who have served at a "Curtain" post. We are all aware of the formidable "semantic barrier" which separates us from adequate intellectual intercourse with the few Eastern European Communists (without any Western intellectual training) who are willing to discuss problems freely. There are also one or two semantic hurdles which must be taken by those who have served in Transcurtainia in their efforts to present an accurate picture to their compatriots who have not. It seems to me to follow, therefore, that we need more interpreters of the "Curtain" whose combined efforts will throw increased light on the "Dark Side of the Moon".
(2) The Department has under active consideration a proposal to set up a psychological warfare organisation. There is a great scarcity of Canadians who have some familiarity with the psychology of any of the Slav nations on whom we intend to "wage war" by these means. This scarcity would become a deficiency of some gravity in the case of war. It seems therefore clear that here is another purpose for which we urgently need men whose training can only be completed by some experience behind the "Curtain". ("Refugee experts" are not a satisfactory substitute, in fact they are undesirable for several reasons: security; inability to present a genuine Canadian attitude; lack of appeal in their country of origin ranging from amused scorn to strong revulsion).
(3) In spite of all restrictions, all curbs on personal contacts, those who serve in Transcurtainia absorb a great deal of useful not exactly information but rather comprehension. It is a process which might be called "spiritual osmosis", a trans membranous seepage of "feel" and "intuition" into the brain. All this may smack somewhat of the mystic, but I bring it back to the practical by adding that an indispensable instrument in this process is some knowledge of a Slav language not perfection or fluency, but just some familiarity. I am quite sure the "osmosis" I speak of works far better with a tincture of linguistic catalyst.
(4) In your notes you also mentioned that officers going to Eastern Europe should have some previous experience abroad, a good knowledge of Communism and an analytical approach to which I can only add: amen!
(5) I would like however, to repeat some of my views on why reporting from Eastern Europe is not voluminous, but has a peculiar value. The "Curtain" missions have less information to work on. A "monolithic" instead of a diversified press; few personal contacts; excessive supervision by the local security organisations; rigid laws against espionage in which the terms "economic" and "military" are interpreted to cover the entire life of the country all combine to put relatively little local material on an FSO's desk. But the very secrecy, the Byzantine atmosphere of intrigue under the facade of the monolithic state, make it a far more essential and incidentally difficult task to assess situations, interpret events and forecast developments than in a Western country. The press, being state controlled and inspired, assumes an importance peculiar to Transcurtainia. It's as though our editorial pages were issued by Cabinet. Every comma must be noted, and the process becomes a form of textual criticism more closely related to the labours of Shakespearian or Biblical scholars than to those of press observers in the West. Small omissions from or additions to statements made to U.N. or the Marxist Stalinist classics assume disproportionate significance. Nothing seems obvious any more, so that conclusions must be held in the tentative stage longer than normal while the problem is probed and discussed till far into the night with one's Western colleagues. On top of this there is a constant flood of rumours, many inspired, most of them fantastic, but still not to be ignored for they occasionally provide the shaft of light for which one has long sought in vain to illuminate a dark comer of a problem.
All this drudgery must be completed before a serious analytical despatch can be put into final form and sent to the hungry Department, which even then may be disconcerted by the number of "ifs", "buts" and "mights".
In short, without wishing to abuse the word, reporting in this area becomes a form of intelligence work. This applies especially to economic reporting: official secrecy obscures the whole economic scene, but by careful collation and interpolation of painstakingly collected newspaper and periodical clippings, vague official statistics and miscellaneous information, pieces can gradually be fitted into a jigsaw puzzle until in many cases the outlines of a picture emerge.
5 Donald R. Heath, ministre de ]'ambassade des États Unis en Bulgarie. 11 a été déclaré persona non
grata le 19 janvier 1950 pour cause d'espionnage après la condamnation et l'exécution de l'ancien
vice premier ministre de Bulgarie, Traicho Kostov.
6 Voir DREC, volume 15, les documents 1010 1017.ISee DCER, Volume 15, Documents 1010 17.