CZECHOSLOVAKIA; THE DUBCEK PAUSE

Created: 6/13/1968

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SPECIAL MEMORANDUM

CZECHOSLOVAKIA: The Dubcek Pause

CEBTRAL IBTELLIGENCE AGENCY

OFFICE OF NATIQliAL ESTIMATES

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SPECIAL MEMORANDUM

SUBJECT: Czechcolovnkia: Tbe Dubcei Pause

1. The related crises ln Internal Czechoslovak politics and In Soviet-Czechoslovak relations eecm to have eased at home,elicate and perhaps temporary domestic equilibrium and, abroad. Into an uneasy truce with Moscow. The regime of Party leader Dubcek and Premier Cernik has, in effect, premised that It will control the pace of domestic refore; Mosccw has gained the appearance of Czech compliance; but Prague seems at the aome time to have been able to preserve tbe essentialof its democratic experiment.

* This setsorandua was produced solely by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of national Estimates and coordinated with tbe Office of Current Intelligence.

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Excluded from automatic downgrading and declassification

2. The eccpromiee seems to have cone about, sequentially,esult of strong Soviet pressures, rising Czech concern, mildly concessionary Czech responses, and, finally, the Soviets' ovn anxiety to find sone way to avoid direct military It is true, nonetheless, that if quiescence has been restored to the relationship, it is by no means assured An undetermined number of Soviets are currently engagedarsaw Pact exercise on Czech soil; their presence serves,inimum, as an ominous reminder to the Dubcek regime of Soviet power and of the USSR's continuing interest in Czech developments. The recently concluded plenum of the Czechoslovak Central Committee was reassuring to the Soviets in some respects but not at all ln others. Dubcek, ln fact. Is working both sides of the street. He is trying to buy off Moscow with promises of continued Communist authority lnand unswerving Czech loyalty to the Warsaw Pact. At the suae time, he ia seeking to strengthen bis domestic position by pledging at least the gradual growth of democracy at heme and independence abroad.

Praguc's Concessions, Domestic and Forcing.

3. Prague yielded to the Soviets on two major foreign policy lesues and on several domestic Issues of great concern to the USSR. First, concerning policy toward Germany, the Czechs evidently discarded the possibility of an early move towardrecognition of West Germany. In addition, they reversed their recent public opposition to East Germany's claims on the Berlin access question and began to mute their bitter open quarrel with the Ulbricht regime.

1*. Recent East German moves affecting West German access to West Berlin any cause the Czechs sooe considerable anxiety. risis over Berlin would perhaps give tberetext for insisting that their troops in Czechoslovakia remain there at least for the duration. Some Soviet military figures apparently brought up the subject of stationing other Warsaw Pact forces ln Czechoslovakia last month; tbe Czechs, of course, refused. But, ln the event of renewed trouble overttended by strident Soviet propaganda against West German "fascists and revanchista"Prague might find It difficult to demand tbe removal of Pact troops already present on Czech soil.

in any case,econd concession to the soviets, the czechs had already reaffirmed their military commitment to the warsaw pact. they did so both in word and deed, the latter by permitting the pact exercises now under way. this, of course, was of crucial importance to moscow. the political significance of pact membership is obvious. in csecboslovakia'a ease, there is in the soviet view come considerable military significance as well. geography aside, czechoslovakia has contributed more manpower per capita to the forces of the warsaw pact then any other member state, including even the ussr, and by and large the czechoslovak soldier is better equipped and better trained than all the others except bis soviet counterpart. there had been several indications that all this might change: tbe czechs might bold fewer training exercises, decrease theirin joing pact exercises, shorten conscript terms, lower overall troop strength, and sharply reduce their military budget.

6. hird concession to moscow, tbe recent central comoittee plenum reasserted the leading role of the czechoslovak communist party and implied that czech political life would not be subjected to eudden and drastic change. {even before the plenum met, the interior ministry had indicated that no new

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political parties would be allowed to form at tbia time.) elated move, the plcnunthough disposing of Hovotnyallowed aost of the or so relatively orthodox and pro-Soviet members of the Committee to retain their membership, at least for the time being. The plenum also went back on earlier Party statements and, well aware of Soviet sensitivities on this score, denied that the new Czechoslovak course was intended toodel for other Communist countries and parties.

personally dominated the plenumthis must be comforting to Moscow, whatever theirtbe man, tbe Soviets certainly prefer his leadership tothe likely alternatives: arty without firm leadership

and direction, threatening to collapse;arty ln the bonds of ultra-liberals susceptible to non-ccoanuniat and even anti-communiat influences. In any case, tbe Soviets though still apprehensive about the continued Influence of these ultra-liberals in the present regimenow seem ready to accept that the Novotny forces probably cannotomeback.

various Czech leadcra promised tostatements in the press. These bad ln recentsurprising proportions, suggesting that Soviet advisers

were implicated ln the death of Masoryk, the purge of Slnnsky, and the genesis of Czechoslovakia's present economic problems. Some articles had doubted whether the USSR had been willing to help defend Czechoslovakian other words, doubted whether alliance with the USSR had ever done the Czechs any good. But what the Czechs hove not yet publicized, what some members of the regime still Implicitly call for. Is the chronicle of moves last winter by Soviet officials, especially the Anbassa-dor and Warsaw Pact representatives, as they Intervened to try to save novotny. That the Soviets are not yet satisfied with the degree of restraint the Czechs have shown and intend to keep the pressure on is indicated by Moscow's unusualew days agoormal note protesting the anti-Soviet iieplicotlona of an article on General Sejnazech newc-

paper.

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9- Clearly the principal instrument Moscow has employed against Prague during the past several weeks has been the threat

of military intervention. The Soviets ere itill in a. good poaition to use ailitary force, and it is likely that the Soviets would prefer to intervene under cover of an exercise. Yet most signs now indicate that Moscow has decided not to use force, ot least for the tine being. The decline of tensions during recent weeks and authoritative reportsew "political understanding (privately described by diplomats of both countries) are the best general signs of this. Other specific signs include the suddenly more cordial attitude toward Prague on the pert of the previously hostile Polish regime and the decline of polemical innuendoes In the Soviet press.

The extraordinary number and variety of visiting Soviet military figures have in themselves constituted ominous portents: first, Yakubovsky, the Warsaw Pact commender; then Marshals Moekalenko and Xcoev attended by about two dozen Soviet generals; next the Defense Minister, Grechko, along with the Chief of the Political Administration, Yeplabev, and the eonmanders of the Soviet troops poised around Czech borders; then tbe chief of staff of the Warsaw Pact, Kaxakov, along with more Soviet military equipment and personnel than the average Czechoslovak citizen expected or desiredstaff" exercise; and probably Yakubovsky again, since he is scheduled to command tbe exercise. More than one of these Soviet officers apparently promised "good Czechoslovak communiets" the old of tbe Soviet army if tbey asked for it.

first and most direct "concession" theregime extracted from the Soviets appears to be thatPact exercise will be only on exercise. The secondrelated to the first, may have been that thethat there was no need to permanently stationPact forces in Czechoslovakia (an agreement which, in

the Soviet view, might be subject to change in the eventlare-up over Berlin). An additional concession may be that Soviet Warsaw Pact representatives in Prague will be restricted in their activities and access to Czechoslovak officials.

has probably benefited indirectly fromhandling of the crisis. Most Czechs and Slovaksto bold the Soviets, rather than the leadership ofCommunist Party, responsible for the factwere made. Soviet pressure has been blatant,Soviets' press tirade against the elder Kasorykanti-Soviet sentiments among tho people atand Ccrnik arc probably credited withintervention and staving off the worst of the Thus tbe Czech Party leaders still stand asnational independence, an image cultivated to good effect

by their counterpartc ia Romania. Finally, the USSR's military pressures presumably alarmed the ultra-liberals, along vith everyone else, and this any have led then to ease their pressures on Dubcofc and Cemik for further immediate moves of democratic reform.

12. The Czech regime may also have gathered additional sympathy in Eastern Europe for its independent position partlyonsequence of Soviet heavy-handedness. Early in May, there were plausible reports that Janos Kadar had cautioned the Soviets eg<-iact exerting massive pressure on the Prague government. Foreign Minister Hajek's hurried trip to Budapest onMay evidently produced additional encouragement from Kadar; Hajek expressed gratitude for "Hungarian understanding far our foreign

and domestic alms" and for "moral support." It is clearly Prague's hope that Moscow's concern over such attitudesboth in Eastern Europe and within the Communist Birties of Western Europewill help to deter any rash Soviet moves.

Hungary's apparent moral support of Czechoslovakia was not an act of simple altruism. Hungary seeks closer relations with Western Europe and to free itself from what one Hungarian writer referred to as "Soviet Russian methods of economic policyoreover, Kadar evidently wants toopular national figure in Hungaryanublan statesman.

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Tho Soviet Lrodcrs

13. Prague (Ilka Belgrade) seems to be convinced that the

Soviet leaders ore divided over how to proceedia

Czechoslovakiawhether to be tolerant or rigid, whether to

temporize, hoping for the beat, or to move forcefully ln order

to forestall tho worst. Even before tensions rose in May,

some high Czechoslovak officials felt that the regime in Prague

was counting anivision to work in its favor. And In

late Hay Pud Ink said publicly:

I have tbe iaiproBsicn that tbeupport the (Czechoslovak) Partyand the. But even (lnertain difference in

think that our task is to truthfully explain tbeof the political development and changes In Czechoslovakia and, at tbe some time, oppose unfounded criticlama and doubts.

If tbe Soviet leadership ia in fact divided, Prague has some

added room for maneuver. Dubcok and Ccrnik may believe (or

hope) that concessionary gestures from Prague will help to

strengthen the position of tbe moderates ln Moscow.

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Ih. In fact, little hard information ia available on current moods and maneuvers within the Soviet leadership. There are, however, three general theories concerning the impact of the Czechoslovak crisis on domestic Soviet politics:

leaders reacted without majoror strains on the collective system, bandingtoolid front both to the Czechs andown party. (The evidence for this. there is nothing on theto refute it.)

the four top Soviet leaders werethe Czech issue, there was discontent elsewhereelite. Pressures were brought to bear on thesethose who feared tho consequencesdo-no thing"who may, in addition, have seen in this issue an oppor-

tunity for personal political gain. (The evidence for this interpretation is slim, consistingew reports ofreliatlliby.)

* Such pressures 'could have cone, for example,talwart on the Central Committee (someone like Tegorychov, the man who criticized the leadership's actions during the Junerough old hand ln the high command (someone like Koskalenko, who io fact travelled to Prague and tried to Intimidate the Czechs).

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c. There were splits within the qu.vlruirrir2.tc itself. Kosygin was apposed to rash action and hopefulatisfactory solution over time. Brezhnev, perhaps urged on by Suslov, came to favor forceful moves, portly because his earlier efforts to save the situation. his Interference on behalf of Novotny) had obviously failed. Eventually, same sort of compromise was worked out; Brezhnev was permitted toorceful (troop) move, Kosygin was then allowed to go to Czechoslovakia to try toolitical solution. (The evidence for this kind of scenario consists chiefly of reports from the Yugoslavs, who maintain with Czech concurrencethat Kosygin and Brezhnev wore Indeed split along lines such as those-.)

15. There is no sure way to choose among these various hypotheses. Degrees and combinations of each are possible; indeed, we are inclined to think that there was pressure from below to do something tangible about Czechoslovakiaperhaps especiallyoncerned militaryand poeslbly differences within the top leadership as well. All the Soviet leaders were, of course, alarmed, but some foresaw tho need for sudden and dramatic action; others did not, or ware fearful that hasty moves might only accelerate Czech movement out of the camp and

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force the Soviets to intervene militarily. Something on the order of the compromise suggested above was then perhaps arrived at. And so farith help from Dub coshe compromise seems to be working.

The September Congress and Beyond

has indicatedain item on tbethe Party Congress scheduled for September will be thoof his opposition from tbe Central Committee. done, Dubcek, according to Soviet hopes and perhapsshould begin to act os Gomulka did6 byfirm Party control over public activities. things, tho Soviets will look for signs that tbe Party

is relnstituting patterns of censorship which were in effect untilS, restoring the Socialist and Pooplcs' (Catholic) parties ond the National Assemblytate of political irrelevance, and emphasizing democratic centralism rather than intra-Party democracy.

Soviet hopes may be severely disappointed. personality ond his ideas remain in same respectsdoes not appear toomulka, either ln temperament

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or political disposition. he hos already shown himself more tolerant of domestic criticism than gomulka ever protended to be, and many of his political preferences seem distinclyin cconunist terms. he believes that marxist notions of class conflict have no relevance to his own country, ond indeed this apparently waa one of tbe major reasons he attacked kovotny last october. dubcek and other liberals in the party, as indicated at tbe recently concluded plenum, apparently wish to Bake tbe nationalore meaningful organization, not merely windowdrcsuing for the communist party.

18. iews presumably ore to some extent aof the company he keeps. dubcek was probablyfor zdenek mlynar's promotion at the plenum to full party secretary and head of the party's legal commission. in these posts mlynar may continue to advocate some of his own, far-reaching ideas: n his words, the establishmentmulti-chamber representative body" similar in function to the "bouse of lords and house of cocoons in britain or tbe congreaa of tbe united states."

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19. in addition, Premier Ceralk ii scheduled to prea ant draft proposal*ow constitution at the September Congress, and many of them will probably displease the Soviets. Comix, has vigorously calleddemocratization of society" and seems to be11ere that the Czechoslovak government will function better if It is Insured against "the system of personal power" and is made more responsive, through such means as regular press conferences and opinion polls, to the public at large. Moreover, Comix's economic proposals will probably bo aimed at lessening Czechoslovakia's economic dependence on the USSR, and more important, will probably reduce Czechoelevakia'smilitary contribution to tbe Warsaw Pact. He evidently concluded several years ago that Czechoslovakia'- disproportionate cssphosis on heavy industry, including defense industry, should be corrected. Ceralk and other economic reformers for some time waged an unsuccessful campaign against Novotny's inflated defense budget; now he will surely be able toower figure. Also, Ceralk and the other ministers appoar to be drafting serious proposals aimed at extensive, if not exhaustive, Judicialof victims of the Stalinist period ln Czechoslovakia. In any event, the Czechs, not tho Soviets, are Increasingly likely to make decisions of this nature.

20. At some stage in the game, as projected horc, the Soviets will, of course, becose aware that their earlier hopeseturn to anything like the status quo ante inwere without foundation. It is the Czech hope that this realization will have ccoe too late and that the Soviets' reactions will be minimalHalted to words alone. In part because of this hope, and in part to insure its own survival, the Czech regime will surely seek to control both the pace and bcope of the process of democratization. Sudden alarm in Moscow could thus perhaps bc forestalled, disagreements within the Soviet leadership could perhaps be encouraged,retext for Soviet interventionne good enough to overcomo doubts and fears within the Kremlin, within the other socialist countries, and within other eccmwnist partiescould perhaps be avoided. Ultimately, if Dubcek and Cernik are thus able to continue to fend off both the Soviets and their potential critics at home, it is apparently their hopeenuinely reformed and significantly freer Czechoslovakia will be able to achieve real independence within the Bloc and also restore its historic

ties with the Wcat.

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road, however, will certainly not be an easy

one. So very much depends on the uncertain ability of the Dubcek regime to hold both itself and the Czech people together. For the mcaient, the Czech partyhaving probably rid itself of the threatonservative,revivaleems to bc essentially united. But the party nevertheless includes the more or less cautious (and often vague) liberals of Dubcek's stripewhoontinued, though newly benevolent Communist dominance of all political lifeand the extreme liberalswhoeturn to one form or another of genuine parliamentary democracy. lash between these groups may eventually be inevitable. Moreover, given the extraordinary openess of the press and the growing feeling of politicalamong all sorts of nan-communist elements, public participation in any such clashistinct (and complicating) possibility.

thereood chance that relationsand Moscow will again become very tense. Theor at least most of them, wish to avoid drasticmilitary action. Nevertheless, should Dubcek's control

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threaten to collapse, or should the Czech regime's policies become, in Moscow's view,he Soviets might once again use their troops to menace the Czech frontier.

FCR THS BCftPD CF IiftTIOriAL ESTIMATES:

ABBOT SMITH Chairmen

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