The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 42: "Czechoslovakia: The Dubček Pause,"
U.S. Intelligence Assessment of the Crisis, June 1968

Source: Czechoslovakia—Czech Crisis 8/68, Box 182, National Security File, Country File,
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

The CIA issued this highly classified "Special Memorandum" in mid-June 1968. The Agency's Office
of National Estimates prepared the report in coordination with another CIA division, the Office of Current
Intelligence. The document provides an authoritative intelligence assessment of the crisis during the
four-week period between the May plenum of the CPCz Central Committee and the start of the Šumava
exercise on June 19, 1968.

The CIA analysts note the "temporary domestic equilibrium "in Czechoslovakia and the "uneasy truce
with Moscow," but accurately predict that tranquility "is by no means assured indefinitely" and that
"there is a good chance that relations between Prague and Moscow will again become very tense. "The
report observes that Soviet leaders are still hoping to resolve the crisis without having to invade
Czechoslovakia, but acknowledges that the "threat of military intervention" was still "the principal
instrument Moscow "can" employ against Prague."

The report describes three "concessions" by the CPCz leadership to Moscow: greater adherence to
common bloc policy vis-á-vis West Germany, a reaffirmation of Czechoslovakia's military commitment to
the Warsaw Pact (not least by hosting the Šumava maneuvers), and a reassertion of the CPCz's "leading
role "in Czechoslovak society. CIA analysis also highlights, in sections 14 and 15, "three general theories
concerning the impact of the Czechoslovak crisis on domestic Soviet politics." The first theory argues that
the top four Soviet leadersBrezhnev, Kosygin, Podgorny, and Suslovare united in their assessments
of the crisis and of the appropriate policies to respond. The second theory posits that the four leaders
themselves and their Politburo colleagues are united, but that they have come under pressure from other
influential quarters, perhaps from senior military commanders or members of the CPSU Central Commit-
tee. The third theory claims that the four leaders were not united in their assessments and policy
recommendations. "There is no sure way to choose among these various hypotheses," the agency
concludes, indicating the lack of CIA covert sources inside the senior policy-making community in Moscow.

According to handwritten annotations on the report's cover page, the CIA assessment was reviewed by
National Security Adviser Walt Rostow, and President Lyndon Johnson.


Central Intelligence Agency Office of National Estimates

13 June 1968

SPECIAL MEMORANDUM "Excised"80

SUBJECT: Czechoslovakia: The Dubček Pause81

1. The related crises in internal Czechoslovak politics and in Soviet-Czechoslovak relations seem to have eased—at home, into a delicate and perhaps temporary domestic equilibrium and, abroad, into an uneasy truce with Moscow. The regime of party leader Dubček and Premier Černík has, in effect, premised that it will control the pace of domestic reform; Moscow has gained the appearance of Czech compliance; but Prague seems at the same time to have been able to preserve the essential substance of its democratic experiment.

80 The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library declassified this document in June 1991. Only brief passages of the report
remain classified, and these have been noted in the text with brackets.

81 This memorandum was produced solely by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of National Estimates and coordinated
with the Office of Current Intelligence. "Footnote in original report."

-166-

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