The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 17: Soviet Reactions to Events in Czechoslovakia
and the Dresden Meeting, as Assessed by the Italian Embassy in Moscow,
April 1968

Source: ÚSD, AÚV KSČ, F. 07/15.

This report, prepared by the Italian embassy in Moscow shortly after the Dresden conference, contains
both general observations about the situation in Czechoslovakia and specific comments on the meetings
in Dresden. The report suggests that the liberalization in Czechoslovakia had raised widespread fears in
Moscow about the risk of a political "spill-over" into other Warsaw Pact countries, including the Soviet
Union itself. It also addresses the potential effect the reforms would have on Czechoslovakia's role in
CMEA. The report predicts that Moscow would, if necessary, resort to strict economic sanctions to bring
Czechoslovakia back into line, arguing that the "decline in power of the Soviet regime" ensured that
Moscow would be "unable to impose its will on Czechoslovakia by armed force as it had done in Budapest
in 1956."

TOP SECRET INFORMATION

Obtained by the Italian Embassy in Moscow38

To a large extent, Czechoslovakia's drama and its recent attempts to establish socialist democracy in the country will be determined by the country's geographical position and economic situation, as well as by the political and economic relations that tie the country to the Soviet Union and the other CMEA countries….

… Roughly one-third of Czechoslovak foreign trade is with the Soviet Union, and the total value of Czechoslovakia's trade with the socialist countries, including the USSR, amounts to nearly 70 percent of its total foreign trade. One must realize that virtually all raw material supplies such as energy resources and industrial raw materials (crude oil, gas, iron ore, fertilizer, cotton) come from the Soviet Union, while a large portion of Czechoslovak exports, including industrial equipment, machinery, and finished industrial goods, are absorbed by the Soviet market. Even if we leave aside political, military, and ideological factors, which also play a significant role, the economic ties that exist between Czechoslovakia, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and the other CMEA countries, on the other, will be a formidable barrier to the efforts of Czechoslovakia's new political leadership.39 These ties will hamper the leadership's attempts to go even some way toward meeting the urgent demands of the people for the liberalization and democratization of political, social, and economic life in the country. It goes without saying that the leaders of the other CMEA countriesand, above all, the leaders of the Soviet Unioncannot permit Prague to choose its own national road of building socialism, which in the case of Czechoslovakia would be even more dangerous than Togliatti's well-known dictum.40 For if the

38 The authors of the report are not identified. The Italian ambassador at the time was Federico Sensi, and the report
presumably was issued in his name.

39 Many of these same points were emphasized by Nikolai Baibakov, the head of the Soviet State Planning
Commission, in a classified memorandum to a senior member of the CPSU Politburo, Andrei Kirilenko, on 26 July 1968
(TsKhSD, P. 5, Op. 60, D. 562, LI. 3–12).

40 The allusion here could be to any of several phrases coined by the long-time Italian Communist Party leader, Palmiro
Togliatti. In the mid-1930s Togliatti proposed that the ICP aim for a "'democracy of a new type" as an alternative to a
"proletarian dictatorship." The phrase quickly caught on among other West European communists. Later on, in 1956,
Togliatti devised the concepts of "unity in diversity" and "polycentrism" to promote greater independence among the

-78-

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