A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 67: Hungarian Foreign Ministry Memorandum
of Soviet–Hungarian Consultations on the European Security
Conference, October 18, 1969

Between March and October 1969, the Soviet-bloc appeal for a European security con- ference made considerable progress; several West European countries responded favor- ably and Finland offered to host the preparatory meetings (although it is still not entire- ly clear whether this was a Finnish or Soviet initiative). During the Fall, the Kremlin engaged the Hungarians more and more in contrast to the Poles and East Germans who were each espousing proposals for the conference that for different reasons made Moscow decidedly uneasy (see Document Nos. 68 and 69). The document below gives an idea of the issues on which the various sides disagreed. For example, Berlin insist- ed that a foremost priority of the conference should be diplomatic recognition of the German Democratic Republic—an idea Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Semenov likened to "choking an infant in a cradle" (the infant being the conference on security and cooperation itself).

This memorandum also provides important evidence of Moscow's greater willing- ness after August 1968 to pursue consensus among the allies through persuasion rather than coercion. Contrary to standard interpretations that hold that once the Soviets had restored order in Czechoslovakia they could do more or less as they pleased within the alliance, Brezhnev and most of his colleagues seem to have recognized they could no longer rule by diktat but had to treat the East European regimes more like partners. Finally, this memo also shows how political rather than military issues came to domi- nate discussions within the Warsaw Pact during this early period of détente.


MEMORANDUM FOR THE POLITBURO

On October 17, the Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister "Vladimir Semenov" suggested that we conduct an informal exchange of opinion the next day in Moscow on preparations for the European security conference. With the approval of comrades Kádár, Fock and Pullai the meeting took place on October 18. (At this time, deputy ministers from the Soviet Foreign Ministry were holding similar bilateral talks with representatives from the Foreign Ministries of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania.)

In the course of the talks we touched upon the following issues:

1. The standpoint of the Western powers concerning the conference

According to comrade Semenov, the situation is complex. We cannot say that we have the conference in our pocket. Though the general public received the idea very well the world over, significant forces are working against it more and more actively.

The leaders of the United States, England, West Germany and Italy clearly see that the conference would serve to recognize the realities resulting from World War

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