Created: 5/10/1968

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The Crisis in Soviet-Czechoslovak Relatic




SUSJECT: The Crisis inelations


Durlug tbe last week or so Soviet concern over developments In Czechoslovakia has clearly been Increasingapid rate. We believe that the Soviets havecricus warning to Prague to orrcat Its wayvard course, and that, if this proves ineffective, Moscow intends to use additional sanctions. Tbe beat Judgment tbat coo be cede at this stage la that the Soviets will probably stop short of military intervention. But the stakes for the Soviet leadcro ore high, andove can no longer be excluded.

Soviet leadership, after several ccoths ofand tecporizing, seeaa row to have decided thatvill te needed to push the alarmingly waywardinto line. Signs of this from Moscow, Prague, andbegun to accumulatetartling rate. Id the last daythere has been evidence of some Soviet troop nevenentsend East Germany toward Czechoslovak frontiers. at least an open political clash of sooe sort between theor of an open clash between contending forcesor of both, thus seen to be increasing,so.

The Moscow Meetings

whet took place duricg Alexandertrip to Hosccw lost weekendystery. Adescription of the meetings asowever, The Soviet leaders, who were inclined initiallypost-NcvQtoy political developments in Czechoslovakiaare said to see then nowas did uTbrichtvery beginning as "counterrevolutionary." imilarSoviet terminology took place in6issubsequent quick convocation in Moscow of the four Eastern

European leaders who presumably share Soviet concernlbricht, Goeulke, Kader, aod Zhlvkovteodi to substantiate the notion that the Soviets talked tough to the Czechs. These leader* ver-probably infonsed of what Brezhnev told Dubcek, vhat Dubcek had to say for hiaself, and what the Soviets planned to do about Czechoslovakia if Dubcek were cotoncessionary aood or if, regardless of Dubcek's acod, Czechoslovakia continued to oovefree both Ccccruniso and the USSR.

3. Several other developments since Dubcek's visit to Moscow also tuggest that the Soviets arrived at scoe hard decision last weekend. Dubcek hloaelf, on his return to Prague, was rctlceot but did cenfesa to the press that the Soviets were anxious about the Czech situation, an admission subsequently quoted, aed thus confirmed, by Pravda. Dubcek also revealed that econcoic proposals advanced by tbe Czechsrobably asking for acre equitable trade relaticna andard-currency loanwould cnly be "studied" by the Soviets. Finally, Dubcek took account of the USSR's grcwlcg inclination to brandish the Warsaw Pact by asserting that (presusably contrary to Hoacov suspicions) Prague wasoyal and participating Pact oeober.

k. Dubcek had hardly finished speekiag before Tass Issued

a stern and, in effect, official deaand that the Czech press. Including the party press, end Its campaign to implicate the USSR ia the death of Jen Hasarykemand which has since beenand vehemently rejected by at least one Pragueext, Tass was promptly gone cne better by Tribune Ludu, voice of the Polish party, whichay cane out and frankly declared itself ia favor of the forcible silencing by the leadership in Prague of those responsible for the "alien, anti-socialist trend" in Czechoslovakia. Chances are that Tribune Ludu was speaking Tor Moscow. If so, the Soviets have new warned in effect that the Czech party will hove to assert itself and regain control of the press and, iodeed, of the countryhole, or else face some very serious consequences.

5. The Soviet leaders are clearly concerned that events cay be getting out of hand in Czechoslovakia and, frco their perspective, they may be right. Even though they arc probably not persuadedapitalist restoration is ieolnect, they cen only he bewildered, pained, and frightened by the outpourings of an unfettered press, the public clamorevival of Czech

democracy, and the opening up of sensitive issues buried long ago by Soviet stooges in Prague. More important perhaps, they can only be alarmed by the spectaclecmmunist Forty in the hands of people unable or even unwilling to do anything about all this. They oust also be well aware that the future of those Czechoslovak Ccccunlsts most likely to try to reimpose pro-Soviet orthodoxy Is now in grave doubt; pressures forzechoslovak Party Congress in the near term seen to have become almost lrreslstable, andongress would almost certainly remove Novotny holdovers frca positions of authority. Stroll wonder, then, that the Soviets cay have issued an ultimatum to Dubcek in. Moscow, sut even If they did, three big questions reaain: (l) How did Dubcek respond? What threats did the Soviets make? What treasures are the Soviets actually prepared to use against Czechoslovakia?

The Dubcek Dilemma

6. Alexander Dubcek is very much the oan in the middle. Appeasing the Soviets risks serious domestic repercussions; appeasing the home folks risks serious Soviet counteraeasures. Perhaps he can somehow maneuver between extrenesa tactic he

has practiced with scee success within the Czech partyndinal choice. isplay of Soviet impatience night even help Dubcek if be laine to persuade the liberals to cala down, which he probably is. Statements by hie since tbe Moscow Mating, and even by the leading liberal, Sarkovsky, seen to point in this direction. Ultimately, however, Dubcek night be forced to choose: to follow, perhaps, the dictates ofis patriotisa, the route taken by lore Sagy; or to go th* way of expediency and "socialisthe path descended by Janos Kedar.

7. Brezhnev is said recently to have praised Dubcek but to have expressed his fear that Dubcek would be unable to aaic-tain effective control. This appraisal may be fairly close to the nark. ccztunist, Dubcek's views are probably relatively enlightened, butoviet point of view his instincts may still seen essentially sound. That is to say, Dubcek surely has no desire to turn Czechoslovakia over to non-Ccnconists and certainly wants to be on friendly terns with Moscow. But even if Soviet threats or Soviet deeds convince Dubcek, they aight ccly Infuriate the Czech liberals, whose ability to remove Dubcek free office cannot be wholly discounted.

Soviet Optiona

Tie Soviets could mov> against Czechoslovakia in roughly four areas: politically, through open polemics and propaganda, international conferences, diplomatic pressures, etc.;through slowdowns tnd interruptions of deliveries (of, for example, such vitally important commodities as wheat and oil) orotal break in economic relations; clandestinely, principally through pro-Soviet or conservative elements in the Czech party; end sdlitarlly, through pressures. Warsaw Pact and Soviet troop movementsor through dlroct Intervention, probably in responserumped-up or even genuine Czech invitation.

Even before Dubcek took off for bis meetings in Moscow there were signs that the Soviets were cranking up to moveumber of the areas listed above. Polemics, for example, bad already begun. The Soviet press bod started to Issue warnings, some of them only indirectly critical and cost in ideological termsefending, eaong other things, the dictatorship of the proletariat as the highest form of democracyothers fairly

direct, admonitory, end even explicitly critical of the positions of liberals in the Czech party. For ita part, the Czech pressin addition to raising the question of Soviet involvement in the Kasaryk affair and in the Slansky trialbad begun to sound the aLara over Soviet attitudes and intentions, inter alia scoring the Soviets for "measuring nev phenomena with en old yardstick" and raising again tbe spectre of "imperialist"

The state of Soviet-Czechoslovak economic relations is more confused. Rumors that the Soviets have already played gaaes vlth wheat deliveries and hard-currency loans have yet to be fully confirmed or denied; both sides may be putting cut tendentious statements on these matters. Soviet reluctance to rescue the hard-pressed Czech economy Is, bewever, fairly obvious and easily understandable.

Indications that the Soviets have been teapted to resort to clandestine efforts to re-establish influence over the Czech party are as yet very indirect, consisting chiefly of signs that MD3ccw remains in touch with Czech conservatives, including Kovotny, and guesses that onti-Dubcek pamphlets now appearing In Prague and in Czech factories were at least in part Soviet-inspired.

12. It is in the ailitary area that the portents arc uast

oniaous. Soviet concern over the Czech attitude toward the

Warsaw Pactatter of public record. The question of

Joint maneuvers in Czechoslovakia has been raised and answered,

equivocally. Dubcek said after bis Hosccw visit that such

maneuvers would of course be held; the Czech Defense Minister

agreed but indicated that they would be command post exercises

not involving tbe presence of any substantial number of Soviet

troops. In addition to such open coorontary, there are reports

that Marshal Yakubovaky, ccanrAr.dcr of Poet forces who stopped

la Pregucecent swing through Eastern Europe, asked

the Czechs to allow tbe stationing on Czech soli of Soviet or

perhaps other Pact forces. And there is another report

These reports probably should not be dismissed out of band. It is in principle the same kind of idea the Sovietsew years ago when they suggested that elements of tbe so-callad northern tier forces. those frco Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany) he stationed on cno another's territory. (The proposal was turned down at the time, apparently in part because Warsaw found the notion of Go roan troops returning to Poland einply toohe point is that the Sovietsflirted with this kind of scheme for some tine. Resurrecting it now,eans to intimddate tbe Czechs, is not toohought. Usinglunt, even crude soldier to convey the message, throughfellow soldier and Hero of tbe Soviet Union, Fresident Svoboda, thoughlumsy way of doing things,ertain amount of sense too.


zech source ofMondethat General Yepishev, the top Soviet political officer, told the CFSU Central Committee in late April that Soviet forces are ready to intervene inIf "faithful" Communists there asked for help.

Soviet Politics

13. ariety of reports that Czech developments are responsible for growing political difficulties in Moscow seem entirely plausible. Unsuccessful Soviet efforts to keep Hovotny In power, presumably masterminded by Brezhnev with the active concurrence of Kocygin and Pcdgorny, open the Triumvirate to charges of bumbling or worse. The equivocal results of the Dresden conference in March and the subsequent hands-off policies of the leadership, together with the continued progress of tbe Czech liberalization movement, also expose the Triumvirate to charges of having underrated the dangers of Czech "revisionism" after ilovotny was tossed out. In other words, from theof party and military stalwarts in Moscow whare especially alarmed about what might happen In Czechoslovakia and who, In any case, Blight be delighted to hove e, pretext for criticizing the policies of the Triumvirate, the top leadership may look both bad and vulnerable.

- y


Ik. There is not very much precedent tc go on here, hut

two Incidents from tbe past may be worth mentioning. The last International crisis tho USSR went through, the June War, occasioned strong and open criticism of tbe top leadership in the Central Ccatlttee. (This was tbe Ycgorychew affair.) And when, In the fallhe Soviets faced the sudden prospect of losing major client states in Eastern Europe, the problem led to considerable controversy within tbe leadership, and tbe Soviet nilitexy seemed at the tiae especially anxious tocwn hardarshal Zhukov wanted to "crush'" the Poles "Use files".


15- There are compellies reasons for the Soviets to want to try to arrest or reverse the trend of events in Czechoslovakia. To Brezhnev and company, tbe risks of Inaction may be twofold: loss of position at heme and loss of Czechoslovakiaand eventually othersabroad. To be sure. If this Is Indeed the Soviet mood of the moment, there are also good reasons why Moscow would hope to be able to avoid drastic measures. Political

action and threats of something more severe would thus appear to be the beat bet. But to make such action and threats credible, to impress Dubcek and the Czechs with the dangers of continued heresy and tho strength of Soviet purpose, Mdsccw may have decided that bold moves are in orderpresumablyising scaleand that ultimately even military intervention may be necessary.

16. In this connection, we repeat the conclusion of one of our previous memoranda:

The question of the continuation of Communistay be the key one in Moscow- Conceivably, the Soviet leaders could cane to feel that the Bloc, qua Bloc, was not all that vital. As, in fact, they have learned to liveruly independent socialist Yugoslavia, so too they cculd bring themselves to try to get along with an equally independent socialist Czechoslovakia. But the collapse of Ccmuunlst control in any of tbe Bloc countries would damage tbe USSR's prestige, embarrass ita ideology, and threaten its vital interests (including even the security of its frontiers). It could lead to chaos andtempt similar developments in other Bloc states. most ominously for the Soviets in Eastnd even invite Western involvement. The stakes would thus seem extraordinarily high and tbe hazards of Inaction extremely grave. Unless, as seems most unlikely, the Sovietsthat their ooves would ho actively end forcibly

ONE Special MemorandumThe USSR and EasternECRET.


opposed by tbe West, they would probably believe that' the disadvantages of interventionby no aeons inconsiderable would sixply have to be suffered. This certainly was their conclusion6 and though they now have acre to lose than tbey did then, its message seems apropos oven today.




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