László BORHI

Containment, Rollback, Liberation or Inaction? The United States and Hungary in the 1950s.

Journal of Cold War Studies, Volume 1, Issue 3, 1999. (1999) pp. 67-108.

On 4 November 1956, Marshal Ivan Konev, the commander in chief of the Warsaw Pact’s joint armed forces, oversaw the large-scale deployment of Soviet tanks into Hungary to crush an armed uprising against Soviet rule in Eastern Europe. President Dwight Eisenhower promptly sent an appeal to Soviet premier Nikolai Bulganin calling on Soviet forces to pull out. This mild response was in stark contrast to the expectations of many participants in the revolution, who hoped for some form of Western military assistance and were disappointed by Eisenhower’s “do nothing attitude.” 1 The American response to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution encapsulated Washington’s Janus-faced attitude toward the liberation of Eastern Europe. Although U.S. officials worried that the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe extended Soviet power to the heart of Europe, the “rollback” of Communism ultimately was subordinated to efforts to improve Soviet-American relations and avoid a general war.

American inaction seemed all the more puzzling in view of the significance that the United States placed on the elimination of Soviet power in Eastern Europe. By themselves, the East European states were of “secondary importance” only. The primary threat caused by Soviet occupation, the State Department Policy Planning Staff opined in 1949 was their use as staging ground for the Soviet occupation of Western Europe. By reducing the Soviet control in those countries, the U.S. would ameliorate the threat to its allies. 2 In July 1956, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) declared that a permanent Soviet presence in Eastern Europe “would represent a serious threat to the security of Western Europe and the United States.” 3 The NSC reaffirmed America’s “traditional policy to recognize the right of all people to independence and to governments of their own choosing. The elimination of Soviet domination of the satellites is, therefore, in the fundamental interest of the United States.” 4 These statements implied that Soviet control had to be withdrawn from Hungary as well as from the rest of Eastern Europe. The gap between these stated imperatives and actual policies in 1956 seemed to lend credence to the conviction of many Hungarians that Washington had “struck a deal” with Moscow at Yalta in February 1945 and was keeping its part of the agreement by abandoning the Hungarians. Statements by senior U.S. officials in 1956, especially John Foster Dulles’s speech on 27 October, were widely interpreted as having given a de facto green light to the Soviet intervention. On the other hand, a more aggressive stance might have entailed a full-scale military confrontation with the Soviet Union, including the use of nuclear weapons by both sides. The United States ultimately refused to use force to dislodge the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe.

This chapter discusses the Eisenhower administration’s policy toward Hungary in the years leading up to the 1956 revolution, setting it in the broader context of U.S. Cold War strategy. It begins by briefly describing the genesis and evolution of U.S. “rollback” plans for Eastern Europe under the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. It then looks at the policy of “economic warfare,” which encompassed a range of efforts by both administrations to deny essential goods to the Soviet bloc, including all items of a military nature. Following that I shall examine the more aggressive policies, that some U.S. officials advocated implementing rollback, including covert operations and military supplies. I shall also discuss the Eisenhower administration’s attempt to strike a negotiated settlement with the Soviet Union that would provide a status for Eastern Europe akin to that of Finland. This effort ultimately failed, but the very fact that talks were pursued was a tacit U.S. acknowledgement of Soviet security interests in the region.

The next two sections of the chapter focus more specifically on U.S. policy toward Hungary. They first describe the tentative improvement of U.S.-Hungarian relations in the summer of 1956 and then turn to the events of October-November 1956, when the Eisenhower administration had to decide how to respond to the uprising. These two sections, combined with the earlier discussion, lead to the questions addressed in the final section of the article: Did U.S. policy either deliberately or inadvertently encourage the violent rebellion in Hungary. If so, were U.S. officials aware of the grim consequences that would befall Hungary? The answers to these questions reflect more broadly on the nature of U.S. foreign policy in the 1950s.


a. The Context of U.S. Policy

U.S. passivity in 1956 was part of a gradual retreat from the declared aim of “rolling back” Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. The notion of “rollback” had surfaced in the late 1940s, but it gained wider currency when the Truman administration approved a document known as NSC-68 just after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. 5 NSC-68 had set rollback as an objective, but it failed to specify how to achieve that goal. The document explicitly ruled out most of the measures (e.g., preemptive war) that would have been needed to pursue rollback in a realistic way. The Truman administration’s attitude toward the Soviet bloc was less complacent than previously imagined. In June 1948 the President and the NSC committed the U.S. government to an unprecedented counterforce against communism to authorize “preventive direct action, including sabotage, countersabotage and subversion against hostile states. The latter included assistance to underground resistance movements, guerillas and refugee liberation groups to be carried out in such a way that the U.S. could “plausibly disclaim responsibility”. General funding and direction of these operations would come from the government. 6

At George Kennan’s recommendation and ultra secret organization called Office of Policy Coordination was set up under the leadership of an OSS veteran, Frank Wisner. OPC was put in charge of psychological warfare operations, which had almost three thousand persons on its payroll by 1952. Pentagon contributed by training guerillas among East European refugees. 7 In November 1948 NSC 20/4 committed the U.S. to use all methods short of war to reduce the power and influence of the USSR to a point where it no longer constituted a “threat to peace”. Thus, American policy shifted from solely a defensive posture to the elimination of the communist bloc altogether. National security planners, in their belief that the Soviets were susceptible to psywar, which had a potential to cause the collapse of the Soviet system, wanted the policy to be carried out with the acceptance of the risk of war. American monopoly of nuclear arms made this policy safe to conduct. Although NSC 10/5 of 1951 called for an intensification of covert operations, the Truman administration was not out to provoke revolt, contending that such policy would be morally indefensible because it could lead to brutal repression. 8

In the final years of the Truman administration, the basic objectives of NSC-68 were nominally reaffirmed, but many of its policy recommendations were modified or discarded. According to NSC-135/3, a new assessment of Soviet intentions put forth at the very end of the Truman administration in January 1953, the Soviet Union’s top priority was the security of the Communist regime. This formulation suggested that the Kremlin did not want to start a full-scale war, in spite of the growth of Soviet and East-bloc military capabilities. NSC-135/3 proposed the abandonment of aggressive versions of rollback, and recommended that the United States pursue indirect policies that would merely erode Soviet power in Eastern Europe. The aim would be to exploit divisions between the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc and to harness popular discontent within Eastern Europe. U.S. officials hoped that these policies, if applied consistently over time, would cause the Soviet system to disintegrate without the use of force. 9 Two developments shattered any hope that the status quo in Eastern Europe would be changed forcefully. First, the Soviet atomic bomb shattered the foundations of NSC/4. According to a reevaluation of national security strategy, the Soviet Union would soon possess the nuclear capability to cause irreversible damage to the U.S. and its allies. Global war in time of American vulnerability would have been so disastrous that they needed to reconsider any policy that risked conflict.

Second, the assessment of Soviet threat also changed. The Soviets would not deliberately start a war at a given date. Soviet power was directed at preserving the regime, the Kremlin would not take any action that it believed could lead to a collapse of its power at home, such as nuclear war. Nevertheless, the Soviets would respond with preemptive nuclear strike if the U.S. threatened the Soviet hold on Eastern Europe or the stability of the Soviet regime itself. Not even military superiority could shield the U.S. from a Soviet attack when attempting to destabilize the Soviet zone. 10 If there was no danger of an automatic Soviet attack, but only American efforts themselves to overthrow communism would bring about Soviet attack in an era of American vulnerability, it followed that aggressive designs to roll back communism were far too dangerous and counterproductive, therefore had to be surrendered. Thus nuclear policy operated two ways: kept the Russians out of Western Europe but also at the same time consolidated Soviet hold in the eastern part of the continent.

Although the rhetoric of the incoming Eisenhower administration was more strident than that of its predecessor, the new president similarly rejected the contention that the United States faced a “year of maximum danger” from Communist aggression.11 He believed that the Soviet Union could easily be deterred from launching a nuclear attack or risking a general war. The new administration expected that the build-up of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would “create a stalemate, with both sides reluctant to initiate general warfare.” 12

U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union was a contentious issue throughout the first few years of Eisenhower’s presidency.13 Although the president himself was cautious, his Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), having been alarmed by the growth of Soviet nuclear capabilities, began looking anew at the possibilities for rollback. The JCS urged the Eisenhower administration not to rule out forceful action, since that would be “self-defeating and directly contrary to the positive, dynamic policy required to reduce the Soviet threat before it reaches critical proportions.”14 In their view, a program of positive action could be adopted without undue risk of general war.

By contrast, the State Department strongly opposed the policy of rollback and sought to avoid the use of force against the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, spoke against the JCS plan to use force against the Soviet Union. He did not believe that splitting the Soviet bloc would solve the basic problem of the Soviet Union’s growing nuclear capacity. Attempts to detach Soviet satellites would, in his view, increase the risk of general war, but would do little to alter the central balance of power. Furthermore, aggressive action might imperil the Western coalition and would destroy any chances of reaching agreement with the Soviet Union.15

In the end, Eisenhower, who decided against measures that risked provoking nuclear war, resolved the debate. After the Soviet Union exploded its own hydrogen bomb for both Eisenhower and Dulles, a general nuclear war became no better than suicide.16 In 1954, Eisenhower stated that no moment would be right for starting war, and that the United States would be prepared only to retaliate against a Soviet nuclear attack. Over time, Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson came to agree with Dulles’s view, and he too began to advocate a policy of containment.17 Nonetheless, the administration sought, in NSC-162/2, to alleviate some of the concerns of the JCS and Defense Department. An earlier draft stated that the United States should not “initiate aggressive actions involving force against Soviet bloc territory," but the phrase was removed from the final document.18 Indeed, those who expected the President to employ psywar to its fullest potential were disappointed. Eisenhower did not start an aggressive campaign of liberation and within a year concluded that the threat of thermonuclear war dictated accommodation with the Kremlin. As under Truman, Eastern Europe remained the captive of Soviet atomic deterrence.

By 1956, a fundamental tension had appeared in U.S. policy toward the Eastern bloc. On the one hand, the United States hoped to encourage East European countries to break away from the bloc through their own efforts. On the other hand, U.S. officials wished to avoid a U.S.-Soviet military confrontation, fearing escalation into nuclear war. For these reasons, U.S. policymakers had to consider other means of diminishing Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. This led to the development of policies such as economic and psychological warfare (psyops), covert operations, and, at a later stage, negotiation with the Soviet Union regarding the status of the East-bloc states.


b. Economic warfare

The United States initiated “economic warfare” (the denial of all goods that might be adapted for weapons) against the Soviet bloc in 1948.19The aim of the policy was to diminish the Soviet Union’s military potential. The policy also was designed to put strain on relations between the USSR and the East European states by forcing the Soviet Union to supply scarce materials to its allies.20 In addition, the United States hoped to impede economic growth in the Communist countries, and perhaps bring about their economic collapse.

W. Averell Harriman, the Secretary of Commerce under President Harry Truman, first devised economic warfare in 1947 until 1948. Ironically, Harriman had been one of the strongest advocates of expanded economic relations with the Soviet Union during World War II. In a letter sent to the NSC on 17 December 1947, Harriman declared that the Soviet Union and its satellites were not taking part in the European Reconstruction Program (ERP) and were therefore hindering European reconstruction, menacing world peace, and threatening the security of the United States. Harriman recommended the “termination, for an indefinite period, of shipments from the United States to the USSR and its satellites of all commodities which are critically short in the United States and which would contribute to the Soviet military potential.” This was to be done without severely punishing Eastern Europe. A multilateral Coordinating Committee (CoCom) was set up with West European countries to create a list of goods to be embargoed.21

On the domestic front, the U.S. Congress fully backed Harriman’s policy, insisting that the embargo be strictly enforced to prevent the United States from contributing to the military capacity of its enemy. Congress passed the Battle Act and the Kem Amendment in 1951, both of which imposed strict export controls and stipulated that the United States must deny or suspend military and economic assistance to countries exporting items of strategic significance. The JCS similarly desired to reduce Soviet military might. All these officials sought a continuous expansion of the embargo list, and a requirement that West Europeans adhere to the terms of the embargo.22

The State Department argued for a less stringent approach. Department officials recognized that if the West Europeans followed American guidelines, the consequent decline in East-West trade would seriously impede the reconstruction of Western Europe. Moreover, if the West European economies were enfeebled, Soviet subversive efforts would be harder to resist. In the final analysis, according to the State Department, an economic embargo would be counterproductive. The State Department persuaded Truman’s cabinet to support the position that only essential commodities could be embargoed, commodities that would be determined in a selective licensing procedure. The procedure would be carefully designed to avoid a total economic war against Eastern Europe. The flow of goods from East to West would be ensured, and the Soviet Union would continue to sell manganese, chrome, iridium, and platinum to the United States. In the end, the Cabinet adopted three mutually incompatible goals in its economic warfare policy: to prevent or delay the build-up of Soviet military potential; to ensure that the West European countries received needed imports from Eastern Europe, including timber, coal, and potash; and finally, to ensure the flow of essential commodities from Eastern Europe to the United States. Licensed goods were grouped into four classes, ranging from commodities of direct military value to articles of little military value. 23

Throughout the 1950s, interdepartmental wrangling continued over the number of embargoed commodities and the definition of strategic goods. The JCS came out strongly in favor of tightening restrictions on Eastern Europe. The Joint Chiefs were convinced that an effective “economic Iron Curtain” would paralyze the Soviet economy within five to ten years.24 Charles Sawyer, the U.S. secretary of commerce from 1948 to 1953, also sought to pressure Western Europe to conform to the embargo. The U.S. business community supported Sawyer, having been discouraged that their West European competitors were exploiting the embargo to get favorable trade deals. Congress passed a series of measures to penalize countries that shipped embargoed goods to the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. 25

Soon after North Korea’s attack on South Korea in June 1950, the NSC surveyed departmental views of the relationship between national security and export controls. The departments of Commerce and Defense and the National Security Resources Board all recommended expanding the embargo, arguing that national security considerations should govern export control.26 Some reports indicated that the embargo had already significantly retarded military development in the Soviet bloc. Furthermore, the ERP countries had made significant headway in their economic recovery, which meant that the significance of East-West trade was diminishing. Hence, the cost-benefit analysis tilted in favor of more radical controls. 27

Nevertheless, State Department officials believed that East-West trade was still crucial to the health of the West European economies. As the department gradually took precedence in determining export control policy, it increasingly advocated a balance between free trade and control. In 1951, the Truman administration officially embraced this moderate position, arguing in NSC-104 that the Soviet bloc’s reliance on outside resources was limited and therefore the effect of the embargo was limited as well. 28

When Eisenhower became president in January 1953 he favored the approach of the State Department, and decided to change the direction of American export control policy by relaxing trade controls.29 At this point, U.S. pressure on Western Europe to comply with the embargo was seriously straining alliance relations. Furthermore, Eisenhower remained unconvinced that economic warfare was having the desired effect on either the Soviet Union or the satellites. He argued that an expansion of trade would be more successful in weaning the Eastern bloc away from the Soviet orbit. In July 1953 he decided on a “gradual and moderate relaxation” of trade controls. The U.S. and CoCom lists were shortened. This new policy was opposed by the JCS, who believed that the difficulty of distinguishing between strategic and non-strategic commodities was too great. The Joint Chiefs insisted that the embargo was already causing bottlenecks in Soviet industry.30

Eisenhower’s policy was supported by evidence from a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1954. After analyzing the results of the first years of economic warfare, the CIA concluded that a relaxation of controls would enhance the Soviet bloc’s strategic position, but would not significantly affect its production of goods and services. The CIA did suggest that the Eastern bloc’s military potential would slightly increase after a relaxation of trade controls. However, it added that such a relaxation of controls would improve inter-allied relations, and that CoCom countries would be supportive of the remaining aspects of the embargo.31

Eisenhower’s new policy was codified by NSC-5609 in June 1956. Economic incentives began to play a larger role in U.S. policy toward the Soviet bloc. NSC-5609 recommended that Congress selectively relax trade restrictions on East-bloc countries, treating each state as a separate case. If circumstances warranted, some countries could be granted “most favored nation” status.32 If economic controls were aimed at strangling the satellite economies, the relaxation of the embargo poorly timed. After 1954, the Soviet Union began to reduce its shipment of raw materials and countries like Hungary, which relied on external sources, as their raw material base became increasingly reliant on Western sources. 33

Economic policy shifts behind the Iron Curtain favored the relaxation of trade controls. In 1954, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) officially rescinded the policy of economic autarky it had adopted in 1949. The CMEA resolution affirmed that “the development of trade with capitalist countries that strive to do the same is in line with the foreign policy of democratic nations.” 34 Hungary’s chief economic planner, Ernő Gerő, had already called for an expansion of trade with the capitalist world in the summer of 1952, even before Georgii Malenkov, the Soviet prime minister, raised the issue at the Nineteenth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) in October 1952. On 20 January 1954, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry instructed the Hungarian delegation in Washington to explore opportunities “to expand trade relations with the United States, and to determine what circles to approach.” 35

Nonetheless, Eisenhower’s idea of using trade as a diplomatic tool was implemented only gradually. The United States did not negotiate with an East-bloc country until February 1957, when it approached the Polish government. The obstacles to trade relations were partly of an economic nature. East Europeans were short of hard currency and had difficulty paying for imports. In Hungary, for example, the chronic shortage of Western currency was coupled with an equally chronic balance of trade deficit, which reached 2.7 billion forints (over 200 million contemporary dollars) by 1956. To alleviate the deficit, the Hungarian finance minister prescribed a drastic curtailment of Western imports.36 However, the ban on imports proved impossible to sustain because the Soviet Union had sharply cut its shipment of raw materials to Hungary in 1955. Hungary had become dependent on Western goods. 37

To get around the currency problem, the State Department advocated barter arrangements for raw materials.38 Such an arrangement was unworkable for Hungary, which was poor in raw materials except for bauxite and uranium, both of which were purchased by the Soviet Union. Hungarian industrial goods were virtually worthless because they were outdated and qualitatively deficient.39 The poor quality of industrial products was in part caused by the embargo, which had rendered Hungary unable to modernize its capital equipment. In 1955, the Hungarians began to make overtures to the U.S. Legation in Budapest, asking to purchase American wheat and cotton. The talks collapsed because the United States would not grant Hungary the necessary credit, since tensions between the two countries were still high and Budapest was still unwilling to make the necessary political concessions. The United States engineered the rejection of a similar Hungarian overture to West Germany. 40 It would take another decade until Eisenhower’s plan to use trade to detach countries from Soviet control came into effect in Hungary, eventually with excellent results.

In the end, it is difficult to assess the full effects of U.S. economic warfare against the Communist states. An estimate by the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB) in February 1956 claimed that the embargo had diminished the Soviet bloc’s economic and military potential. According to the OCB, the restrictions on technology transfer compelled the Soviet bloc to use largely outdated equipment and production methods. At the same time, the OCB conceded that the embargo was unlikely to erode Soviet power in Eastern Europe.41 It was also clear that the embargo was not airtight. According to intelligence from Hungary, the Hungarian economy, “although seriously hindered by shortages of technical equipment, has been able to function . . . partly as a result of a successful evasion of western trade controls.”42 One way to obtain embargoed goods was to establish trading companies that would purchase retransfer items.43 Mátyás Rákosi, leader of the Hungarian Workers’ Party (MDP) until July 1956 and prime minister until July 1953, remembered that “America’s Western partners assisted the evasion of the American embargo and export controls in the hope of receiving the appropriate profits.”44 Israel sold ball bearings in return for the relaxation of controls on Jewish emigration, and Sweden also was a source for this important commodity. The American Legation in Vienna named Austria, Finland, and Egypt as the most important sources of goods “procured in contravention of Western controls.”45 France sold ball bearings and special steel alloys in the framework of a Franco-Hungarian commercial agreement.46 Many raw materials needed for Hungarian industry were supplied from the West. All of Hungary’s rubber and leather, 92 percent of its copper, 72 percent of its coke, 66 percent of its tin, and 41 percent of its cotton came from capitalist states in 1955. 47

Despite the high incidence of evasion, Rákosi was merely blustering when he maintained that the embargo was proving beneficial for the Socialist bloc because it had forced CMEA countries to rely on each other and to make better efforts to find and exploit their own natural resources.48 In reality, cooperation among the CMEA members was virtually non-existent, and the embargo significantly impaired the Hungarian economy, which was plagued by serious shortages of all types of precision and measuring instruments, industrial diamonds, and grinding and abrasive equipment. Ball-bearing measuring equipment and certain spiral drills for the weapons industry were in especially short supply, and Hungary was suffering from a lack of instruments to measure the hardness of steel - a major necessity for Hungary’s crash project of heavy industrialization.49 Hungarian industrial goods became obsolete and so inferior to their Western counterparts that they could not be sold in Western markets. To obtain hard currency, Hungary was forced to sell agricultural products such as wheat, which was in short supply because of the persecution of the peasantry and forced collectivization. Food shortages and low-quality consumer goods were, in turn, the major sources of popular discontent. 50

Hungary also was unable to pay for its imports from Western Europe and was forced to buy on credit. The result was a growing trade deficit, which not only disrupted the economy, but also strained relations with Moscow because the Soviet Union feared that Hungary’s indebtedness to the West increased the Eastern bloc’s vulnerability.51 Economic warfare thus contributed to political difficulties in the Eastern bloc in ways that cannot be measured accurately.


c. Psychological Warfare

Winning the public was as important as it was to bankrupt the Communist regimes. Eastern Europe was effectively sealed from contact with the non-Communist world. Travel across the Iron Curtain was virtually impossible. Barbed wire, minefields, and armed guards on the Hungarian-Austrian border dissuaded potential Hungarian defectors. A nation of almost ten million exchanged a mere fifty thousand letters with the Western world annually.52 Communist media conveyed official propaganda. One of the unique aspects of modern political relationships is the deliberate attempt by governments to influence the attitudes and behavior of foreign populations or of specific groups of those populations.53 These may be class, ethnic, religious economic or linguistic groups. US propaganda cut through these lines and targeted a political group, one that was diverse in all respects except in the presumed opposition to foreign rule and communism.

In February 1953 the U.S. Legation in Budapest summed up its goals for psychological warfare in Hungary: “We can maintain the spirit of opposition and preserve resistance to the present regime which will prevent Moscow from putting any real trust in Hungary or have any confidence in the stability of the government or the loyalty of the armed forces in case of war.” On the other hand, the Legation was sober in its conclusion that “we cannot hope to build up a resistance movement or other type of active opposition, which might overthrow the present regime in the foreseeable future.” Similarly, there was little chance that Hungary would defect from Soviet control, “á la Tito.”54 Three years later N. Spencer Barnes, the American minister in Budapest, asked himself whether “any possibilities exist for the Hungarian people to offer effective resistance to a thoroughly unpopular regime without military aid from the outside?” Barnes stressed that “any suggestion for mass action can be worked out abroad and presented to a target audience of literally millions within a very short time.” This meant that there was a “possibility of coordinating mass action, without the need of direct contact between individuals and with a minimum risk to anyone.” Some “trivial” action could be selected that could be taken by any individual who wished to express protest against Hungary’s present status or the regime. Suggested acts included dropping pieces of paper with torn-off edges on sidewalks. The idea was that if thousands of such pieces appeared in Hungarian cities every day (“each one a testimony of an individual citizen’s hatred of the regime”), they would mitigate the regime’s prestige “and perhaps even stability.” Similarly conceived attacks could be made on economic viability and the government bureaucracy.55 Although the minister recommended great caution in implementing these sorts of schemes, his proposals represented a more ambitious and hence a more reckless side of psychological warfare.

The creation of the CIA in 1947 provided a bureaucratic system that could facilitate the coordination of psychological warfare operations. 56 On 20 April 1950, President Truman announced that the propaganda offensive would be a “struggle for the minds of men,” which would be waged by “getting the real story across to people in other countries.”57 NSC 68 called for large-scale covert operations, strategists intended to foment revolutionary activities within the satellite states. More intensive efforts in economic, political and psychological warfare were meant to foment and support unrest in selected satellite countries. In April 1951 the Truman administration created an umbrella organization, the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), for the spread of information and propaganda. The Board acted as the “nerve center” for psychological operations, which now became one of Washington’s chief instruments for undercutting Soviet power in Eastern Europe. When Eisenhower became president in 1953, he continued the psychological warfare programs. Because the PSB was criticized for failing to pursue its purpose vigorously and effectively enough, Eisenhower replaced it with the OCB, which was meant to coordinate planning between information programs and covert operations. The United States Information Agency (USIA) was created to implement OCB planning. It assumed responsibility for overt efforts to disseminate information abroad.58

These attempts to sow the seeds of discontent and promote the disintegration of Communist regimes fell on fertile ground in Eastern Europe because of the widespread dissatisfaction with Communism and the popularity of the United States. For example, the U.S. minister in Budapest, Christian Ravndal, reported that his wife’s Buick Century was habitually flocked by Hungarians. Evidently, the crowd was occasionally so large that traffic police officers were needed. Part of the reason that the Buick was so popular is that it was a rare sight, only around five thousand motorcars were in Hungary at the time, most of which were obsolete, pre-war models. Ravndal highlighted the propaganda value of American cars at a top-secret meeting on psychological warfare, held in Washington in March 1953.59 The popularity of American goods was also made clear in the small town of Cegléd in 1955. The local agricultural cooperative sought to sell children’s clothes found in a warehouse belonging to the National Office of Israelites. Rumors spread that the American government had sent the clothes to the victims of the 1954 flood. The clothing allegedly still had American labels. The local party secretary reported that “interest in the goods was so great that the windows of the cooperative were smashed” by the crowd that tried to get hold of them. Therefore, the local party boss suspended the sale, claiming that it provided opportunities for “hostile propaganda and agitation.”60

Radio broadcasts were by far the most effective means of influencing ordinary East Europeans.61 Because of jamming the sound kept drifting on and off. Although the messages were sent from European transmitters, this unintended sound effect made it seem as though the broadcast was coming from the United States itself, increasing its authenticity. Voice of America (VOA) was launched in 1947. The following year, the East-bloc states were already jamming it. This was offset by a costly but effective counter-jamming drive, and in 1951, the VOA increased its daily programming and managed to broadcast in 45 languages. Radio Free Europe (RFE), set up by the Free Europe Committee, began broadcasting in 1950. When RFE began operations, its vice president, Frederick Dolbeare, declared that it would express Hungary’s ancient aspiration for freedom.62 Before 1956, however, RFE did not directly address resistance groups and instead targeted youth groups, workers, and peasants.

The U.S.-sponsored radio campaign was meant to keep alive the spirit of anti-Communism by appealing to nationalist and religious sentiments and by spotlighting grievances. It was also designed to sustain popular hopes that Communism would eventually be overthrown. Even so, it could not openly advocate revolt against Communist rule, nor could it suggest that the United States would intervene on behalf of such a revolt. The dilemmas of this policy were reflected in the guidance given to RFE in 1951. On the one hand, broadcasters were to disseminate anti-Soviet propaganda and avoid words such as “peace” and “disarmament” that might signal international acceptance of Soviet control of East Europe. On the other hand, no broadcaster was allowed to promise armed liberation. Any such statements would have fundamentally misled the East European audience. The reporters were supposed to advocate reversing the “tide of Soviet imperialism” and to suggest that the Western world would stand up to Soviet aggression anywhere, but they had to make clear that this did not amount to a pledge of military intervention.63 The events of 1956 demonstrated that the line between keeping hope alive and arousing unjustified expectations was often blurred. The guidance for broadcasters was ambiguous enough to be stretched quite far, causing some in the audience to believe that armed liberation was imminent.

In 1953, Columbia University conducted a survey of Hungarian citizens’ reactions to the RFE, VOA, and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Hungarian defectors – some of the most anti-Communist elements of society – claimed that the programming of the VOA and BBC was sufficiently anti-Communist. However, when their hopes for the armed liberation of their homeland failed to materialize, they blamed the radio stations as well as the British and U.S. governments for stirring these hopes. Therefore, the Columbia survey recommended that the radio broadcasts strive, on the one hand, to keep the hopes of the audience alive, but, on the other hand, to avoid giving any impression that Western countries could perform miracles.64

Until well into the 1950s, however, some Hungarians were convinced that the United States would liberate them even if it required war. A 19-year-old defector told his interrogator that although “the Hungarians realize that direct Western intervention would mean war” and were aware of the horrors of war, “they would still prefer it to continued slavery…They fear that the United States may have become reconciled to Hungary’s status as a Soviet satellite. Hungarian young people strongly believe that only the U.S. can force Russia to make concessions.”65 Another defector claimed that people were widely quoting alleged statements by the RFE and the BBC to the effect that Hungary would soon be free. He declared that the VOA was the best radio station because of its well-presented, pertinent information and its “forthright, encouraging, anti-Soviet stand.”66 Yet, another informant claimed that “people listened avidly to news from the West and particularly from the United States. . . People continue to hope for the outbreak of the war, which they believe the United States would win.”67

There is not enough evidence to determine exactly how widespread these expectations of armed assistance were. An RFE survey in 1957 indicated that one-half of the 620 U.S.-bound refugees who were questioned had expected American intervention in support of the revolution. Some of the men arrested by the Hungarian regime for conspiracy told their interrogators that they were inspired by Western broadcasts. Béla Halász, arrested for spying, claimed during his interrogation that he and his fellow conspirators “believed the news and the propaganda of the imperialist radio and expected a (political) transition.”68 In 1951, Győző Flossmann organized a group to overthrow the Communist system. He confessed to the police that he had regularly listened to the broadcasts of Western stations, “especially the American Hungarian broadcasts and the Voice of Free Europe [sic].” Based on these broadcasts, he claimed, he “expected war, or an American occupation of the country.”69 His comrade, Zsiga Tiborc, confessed that he sought to “to shake the country with explosions and terror attacks and to sabotage industrial production,” when the expected war with the Soviet Union broke out.70 Another conspiracy led by a clergyman, Ottmár Faddi, hoped to establish a Catholic government “with American military assistance.”71

Hungarian conspirators often planned to coordinate their attacks on the regime with American assistance. Kálmán Horváth organized a conspiracy on behalf of a Hungarian émigré organization working in conjunction with the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps and the Gehlen organization.72 His group acted in the firm belief that armies arriving from West Germany would occupy Hungary. He believed his group would receive arms, clothing, and other military items thrown from American warplanes. After their arrest, the conspirators claimed to have been influenced by U.S. propaganda. As one leader confessed: “We believed the news and propaganda of the imperialist radio stations and expected an imminent transformation of our political system.”73 Gedeon Ráth organized one of the most significant anti-Communist plots in the early 1950s. The conspirators disseminated leaflets in the manner encouraged by the RFE. They worked to acquire arms in order to assist an expected influx of Western troops. In May 1950, Ráth thought that “the Americans or the Tito group” would supply weapons to the conspirators. They aimed to “overthrow the system” and to “support the invaders.”74

The Hungarian regime was concerned about the effect of the VOA and RFE on Hungarian conspirators. In his indictment speech in the case of Győző Flossmann, the judge Vilmos Olti blamed RFE and VOA for stirring trouble. Olti claimed that “in order to arouse panic and incite counterrevolution [RFE and VOA] disseminate information that gives the impression that war will soon break out and that American forces will occupy Hungary and restore the old imperialist system....”75

To some extent, Hungarian secret police exaggerated the effect of radio propaganda to justify censorship and repression. In the summer of 1956, the Hungarian government itself acknowledged that it had been unduly harsh in dealing with supposed conspirators. This is not to say that the allegations were false.76 Plots did exist, even if they were blown out of proportion. Hungarians expected Western assistance, and this encouraged them to take up arms against the regime. 77 In this respect, American propaganda was somewhat callous to the fate of East Europeans. Knowing the nature of Communist regimes, U.S. officials and radio broadcasters might have warned against resorting to measures that the Americans had no intention of supporting.

On the more positive side, the foreign broadcasts did make it much harder for Soviet officials to retain their monopoly on information. Radio propaganda also sustained the morale of the people. Some defectors testified that Hungarians would otherwise have been left with “a distorted view of the world.”78 Ernst Halperin of the Neue Zuricher Zeitung, who had visited Hungary in 1954 claimed that ”public thinking on foreign affairs was formed not y the Hungarian newspapers, which nobody reads, but in the editorial rooms of the western broadcasting services”.79 Western radio worked against Communist indoctrination,80 and many believed that, without the radio broadcasts, Hungarians would have lost “all hope for the future.”81

A USIA program that distributed two thousand bulletins and some three thousand newspapers, periodicals and pamphlets each month supplemented radio propaganda.82 Balloons carrying propaganda leaflets were sent into Communist airspace, allowing them to cover wide areas. Balloon operations commenced in 1951, and by the time these operations were terminated in 1956, over 300 million leaflets had been dropped onto Communist territory. The leaflets carried messages such as, “The regime is weaker than you think, the hope lies with the people.”83

In Hungary, these messages from the sky encountered a mixed reception. Some defectors complained that the “leaflets did more harm than good” because they “gave the police a chance to step up their persecution of the ‘class alien elements,’ providing additional reasons to justify the search of their homes.” People were persecuted even if no leaflets were found on them. The residents of the village of Nyögér considered the operations a failure for the same reason. Police searched their homes when they saw a balloon approaching.84 Even if no such problems had arisen, the leaflets did not seem to contain any information “that has not been broadcast over and over again.”85 Because most of the balloons were shot down near border regions, their audience was far smaller than that of the radio programs.86 Nonetheless, some defectors thought the balloons were effective against the regime because they “boosted the morale of the population,” and were “encouraging popular resistance to the regime and shaking Communist power.”87 According to the 1957 RFE survey of Hungarian defectors, fifteen percent of the population relied on leaflets for their news.88

The Communist authorities reacted harshly to the balloons. A 1956 resolution of the MDP Central Committee claimed that the regime had collected 2.6 million leaflets in 1955. The resolution also declared that “interest in leaflets sent from the West is diminishing, but they still have a mobilizing effect on hostile elements.”89 The Czechoslovak and Hungarian regimes protested to American diplomats and used fighter planes to shoot down the balloons. On 8 February 1956 Hungarian Foreign Minister Endre Sík summoned the U.S. chargé and presented a note protesting the balloon operation. The note claimed that balloons were sent to gather intelligence and to disseminate “filthy documents slandering the government and the political system.” These actions, according to the note, constituted interference in Hungarian internal affairs and violated Hungarian sovereignty. The note also alleged that the balloons had caused the downing of aircraft and the death of two pilots. The Hungarian government demanded the termination of such flights and “reserved the right” to seek reparations for the casualties and damage they caused.90 The American side dismissed the accusations by incorrectly stating that the balloons in question were launched by private organizations or were for meteorological purposes.91 The Hungarian authorities lodged another protest on 28 July, arguing that 293 balloons had been sighted since February, one of which had caused an airplane to crash, killing its pilot. The government threatened to make international aircraft land whenever balloons were sighted so that they would “avoid disaster.” The Hungarians also claimed that the operations were hindering the improvement of bilateral relations, which was Hungary’s “profound desire.”92

In the end, the Hungarian regime was unable to block Western propaganda. Jamming was difficult, and even the Soviet Union could not provide effective help in blocking radio transmissions because the VOA constantly altered its frequency.93 The regime’s protests against the balloons were a sign that U.S. tactics were successful. By 1955, the regime was losing the battle to win “hearts and minds.” That year, the Hungarian authorities confiscated twelve thousand “hostile” letters, propaganda brochures, and private presses.94 Rákosi was forced to admit that party cadres were increasingly unable to sell the party line. In his words, “In the course of our ever livelier debates we have seen that some comrades cannot come up with convincing arguments and are incapable of defending the party’s position in the face of the enemy...Many an honest comrade has begun to waver, indeed, has fallen under enemy influence. In the debates of the past few weeks [these comrades] have heard incorrect or hostile views, which were well-prepared and expressed more convincingly.”95 Western propaganda thus seems to have been falling on fertile ground. Less than a decade later, a member of the party Politburo was forced to admit that Communist ideology had lost all appeal for young people in Hungary. Even the party youth magazine was disseminating Western popular culture.96 Although twenty-five more years would elapse until the political system followed suit, Communism as an ideology was already losing its influence in Hungary. By facilitating Western cultural penetration and countering Communist indoctrination, Western propaganda helped pave the way toward the downfall of Hungarian Communism.


d. Covert Warfare

In the early 1950s, the United States began to explore various possibilities for covert activities behind the Iron Curtain. In 1951, legislation known as the Kersten amendment appropriated $100 million for the recruitment of refugees from the Soviet bloc for military service.97 The head of the PSB, Gordon Gray, praised this action as the first positive step against Soviet aggression since the war.98 General Ladislav Anders, an émigré Polish leader, had originally promised over six million men for the anti-Soviet cause, but the U.S. military had shown no interest until 18 December 1951, when the secretary of defense instructed the JCS to take steps to implement the Kersten Amendment. Twenty-five light regiments of former refugees were to be integrated into the military structures of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). By 1955, some 60,000 men were supposed to receive military training, and the best were to be trained for psychological, intelligence, and unconventional warfare. All branches of the military prepared their own plans. The U.S. Air Force, for example, hoped to encourage defections of East European and Soviet air force personnel.99

Soon, however, the secretary of defense began to question the feasibility of implementing the Kersten Amendment.100 Because European governments were opposed to the refugee regiments, the relationship between these units and NATO or the European Defense Community (EDC) became problematic.101 In light of these concerns, the JCS concluded in 1953 that the Kersten Amendment was infeasible. U.S. military commanders in Europe also concluded that refugee units were neither practicable nor desirable, and they recommended against them.2102

The Eisenhower administration broached the idea of creating a refugee paramilitary force, called the “Volunteer Freedom Corps” (VFC).103 In May 1953, the president approved the establishment of a VFC under NSC 143/2.104 This idea, however, suffered the same fate as the Kersten Amendment. West European opposition to the project was too strong to ignore. In early 1956, the administration decided to defer any further consideration of the Corps.105

Other covert schemes were explored in the early 1950s. For example, in 1951 and 1952 an effort was made to reconstitute the Home Army in Poland.106 In Czechoslovakia the United States staged border incidents, violated Czechoslovak airspace, and dropped radio transmitters for undercover agents. From January 1951 to December 1953, some 1,200 “Western agents” were reported arrested or killed by the Czechoslovak authorities. From 1951 through 1956, 79 murders were attributed to foreign agents.107 Varieties of penetration missions were designed to collect intelligence in the Eastern bloc and to assemble paramilitary units that could resist a possible Soviet invasion. Hundreds of agents were dispatched behind the Iron Curtain to contact and encourage anti-Communist resistance forces.108

In 1955, the NSC stated that covert operations were designed to “develop underground resistance, and facilitate covert and guerrilla operations and ensure the availability of those forces in the event of war, including wherever practicable provision of a base upon which the military may expand these forces in time of war within active theaters of operations...” If operations were discovered, the U.S. government had to be prepared to plausibly deny responsibility.109

In July 1956, Mátyás Rákosi, the First Secretary of the MDP, claimed that each month, Hungary’s state security forces (ÁVH) “uncovered an average of two counterrevolutionary underground conspiracies, whose strings led to the imperialists. Thirty-seven spies sent into Hungary from the West were unmasked.”110 Between 1949 and 1953 the regime investigated 120 cases of foreign intelligence, 41 of which were U.S. sponsored. In the same period the ÁVH arrested the members of 14 alleged spy rings organized before 1949, all with alleged American connections. In 1955, some 61 percent of the spies discovered in Hungary were American.111 In fact, based on interrogations of captured CIC agents, the Hungarian Internal Affairs Ministry concluded that the United States was organizing a nucleus of armed anti-Communist resistance and was instigating acts of sabotage in Hungary. Now there is evidence to suggest that this accusation may not be groundless.

In 1949, an agent by the name of Gordon Mason was dispatched to Romania to contact resistance groups active in Transylvania in the hope of igniting widespread insurrection. Mason’s networks positioned resistance fighters to harass Soviet troops in case of a world war. Two years later two agents were dropped into the Romanian-Hungarian inhabited region of Fogaras in Romania. They were arrested with radio transmitting and receiving sets, weapons and money in gold and local currency. Their mission was to set up clusters of resistance among the locals and send intelligence.112 Similar arrests were made in Hungary. They too claimed that the Americans were setting up resistance groups to commit acts of terrorism and to combat the Soviets in case a war broke out.113


e. Aggressive Rollback

When the Eisenhower administration took office in early 1953, a more aggressive American policy toward the Eastern bloc seemed to be in the offing. John Foster Dulles had promised to support an “explosive and dynamic” policy of “liberation.”114 Stalin’s death in March 1953 provided Dulles with an opportunity to launch a strident propaganda campaign. He instructed U.S. embassies “to sow doubt, confusion, [and] uncertainty about the new regime not only among both Soviet and satellite masses, but among local Communist parties outside the Soviet Union.”115 Eisenhower himself was skeptical about aggressive rollback, but some of his aides, particularly his chief national security adviser, C. D. Jackson, wanted to convert the policy into action as soon as possible.116 Eisenhower and even Dulles were more cautious, but the fate of rollback was still an open question when events on the ground in mid-1953 largely settled the matter.

The East German uprising in June 1953 and its suppression by Soviet troops shattered the notion of aggressive rollback.117 Dulles, who initially perceived the crisis as an opportunity for Western victory against the Soviet Union, was unable to find a way to capitalize on it. Although Eisenhower would have been willing to intervene had the uprising spread to China, if there was a real prospect of success, he believed that helping the East German movement was premature. As he put it ”the time to roll them out for keeps” had not ”quite” arrived. Even c. D. Jackson, who had initially advocated sending arms to the protestors had to admit that the U.S. did not have the power to eject the Soviets from East Germany through coercion.118 In the end, the administration merely decided to distribute food packages to East German residents, beginning in late August 1953. Although this response did prove to be highly effective politically, it was far more commensurate with the earlier strategy of containment than with aggressive rollback.119 Because the administration was unwilling to run the risks that stronger action would have entailed, Eisenhower’s notion of relying on peaceful means to achieve liberation now seemed the most feasible – or at least most palatable – option to pursue.120 The inability of the West to do more once violence had erupted in June 1953 led many U.S. officials to conclude that if “another uprising” broke out in East-Central Europe, the United States once again would be forced to watch helplessly as the Soviets put them down. The Eisenhower administration’s strategic reassessment, called Solarium disavowed the “rollback” concept and affirmed that “we do not want to…incur blame for [the] consequences” of “a mass open rebellion” in the Soviet bloc.121

The retreat from aggressive rollback was reaffirmed in December 1953, when the administration adopted NSC-174, which fell well short of the “explosive and dynamic” policy that Dulles had promised earlier in the year. NSC-174 described the restoration of East European independence as only a long-term U.S. aim. Care had to be taken not to incite “premature” rebellion. No promises could be made about the timing and nature of American liberation efforts, nor were there plans for direct military action On the short run, the United States would merely strive to “undermine” the local regimes, create favorable conditions for liberation, and preserve all forces that could contribute to independence and the assertion of American interests. No mention was made of sponsoring ”Titoism” as an intermediate stage between Kremlin domination and democratic freedom as advocated by the first US policy paper on Eastern Europe, NSC 58/2 in 1948, which recommendation turned out to be ”an unrewarding and unrealistic policy”.122

This is not to say that NSC-174 was simply a writ for passivity. The document called for, among other things, the stepped-up use of psychological warfare to prepare the ground for possible armed resistance against the Soviet Union. In particular, the United States would support the growth of nationalist sentiments, which were seen as antithetical to “Soviet imperialism.” The United States would also exploit rifts within the Communist regimes, foster dissatisfaction in the armed forces, take advantage of “Titoist” sentiments, and encourage “key elements” to defect.123 These policies were by no means insignificant, but they were far less ambitious overall than Dulles’s initial promises had envisaged.

Part of the reason that the move away from rollback was so pronounced is that Dulles’s perspective had changed by late 1953. He began to view rollback as a costly and risk-laden strategy that could reduce the Soviet threat, but that could also destroy the free world.124 Dulles’s views continued to moderate over time. By 1955, he acknowledged the relaxation of the Cold War, describing the Soviet Union as “less menacing.” He told the Senate Foreign Relations committee that “the U.S. is getting closer to a relationship [where] we can deal [with the Soviet Union] on a basis comparable to that where we deal with differences between friendly nations.”125 In 1956, when the challenger for the presidency, Adlai Stevenson, mentioned the “pledge” of liberation, Dulles responded that “there is no such pledge.” Containment was again the line pursued by the State Department.126 According to the Policy Planning Staff, liberation meant keeping the spirit of hope and liberty alive, not the use of military force.127

The cautiousness of the administration’s new policy was evident in 1955 when Ferenc Nagy, Hungary’s former prime minister who was removed when the Communists took over, asked a high-ranking State Department official to speak at the 10-year commemoration of Hungary’s 1945 election. The State Department declined, claiming it did not wish to identify “publicly and officially” with ideas expressed by the Hungarian émigrés.128 Whenever department officials received an inquiry about U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe, they were careful not to give the impression that forceful liberation was an option.129 Ultimately the possibility of nuclear war in Europe ruled out forceful liberation. Eisenhower was convinced that a war against the USSR would inevitably be a nuclear one. The argument about deterrence, the idea that both sides would hold back from nuclear use was in his view mistaken.130

Even so, Dulles and other high-ranking officials continued to make statements about liberation, conveying an ambiguous picture of U.S. policy that could easily mislead the populations of East-bloc countries.131 These mixed signals were not necessarily arbitrary; rather, they resulted from the continued belief on the part of many administration officials that resistance to totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe was “less hopeless than has been imagined.” The administration still desired “to nourish resistance to Communist oppression throughout satellite Europe, short of mass rebellion in areas under Soviet control, and without compromising its spontaneous nature.”132 These strands of U.S. policy, no matter how they were viewed in Washington, led many in Hungary to expect more support once the revolution had begun.


f. Negotiation

The aftermath of Josif Vissarionovich Stalin’s death is often described as a missed opportunity to ease East-West tension. The US administration seemed unprepared for the eventuality; Eisenhower failed to respond to Malenkov’s overtures, to Churchill’s suggestion for a summit meeting or to such phenomena as the alleviation of Soviet occupation policy in Austria.133 Yet, the Eisenhower administration was not as passive as it suggested, in fact an offer was made to Hungarian party leader to meet with the US President soon after the Russian dictator passed on. A window of opportunity for the Austrian treaty was opened based on some form of neutrality, but this did not seem to be an option for Eastern Europe. Popular unrest in East Germany was nipped in the bud. The Soviet leadership severely reprimanded the Hungarians for their alleged overture to the West in the summer of 1953 and in the same year, Soviet experts began the exploration of Hungarian uranium. Nevertheless, after Stalin’s death the United States also began to pursue a new means of solving the East European problem: negotiation. This is not surprising in view of the appraisal that open revolts would simply cause bloodshed without hope of success and the U.S. was unwilling to engage in war for the sake of liberation. Dulles advised Eisenhower to propose that the United States and the Soviet Union mutually withdraw their forces from Europe. Dulles also suggested that the two countries could agree to some formula for international control of nuclear weapons and missiles.134 Although he soon changed his mind, the State Department Policy Planning Staff (PPS) began developing ideas for a negotiated settlement in 1953. The PPS suggested capitalizing on the power struggle in Moscow. A senior official on the PPS, Louis Halle, argued that in light of the turmoil in the Soviet Union, negotiations could spur Soviet concessions in return for smaller concessions from the United States. Halle surmised that the Iron Curtain might even be raised if the European Defense Community were not extended to the boundary of the Soviet Empire.135 The PPS also began to explore the controversial idea that the Soviet Union was occupying its vassal countries to maintain a buffer zone against the West.136 Some papers prepared by the PPS argued that the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Eastern Europe could be achieved by assuring Moscow that the West would not threaten Soviet security. According to a memorandum prepared in July 1953, the countries adjacent to the Baltic, Black, Aegean, and Adriatic seas could be considered territories crucial to Soviet security. Western demands of free elections would have to consider these "legitimate" Soviet security concerns. Measures would be taken to ensure that states bordering the Soviet Union would not become “overtly or actively hostile to her or free to engage in operations adversely affecting her security.”137

As a compromise, the Soviet Union would withdraw its troops behind its boundaries and return to Eastern Europe only “on invitation of freely elected governments.” Existing regimes would be disbanded and elections would be held and “assured by some international supervisory body.” Newly elected governments would be free to make their own foreign and domestic policies, but would be obliged to subordinate their security policies to Moscow’s interests. In short, the Eastern bloc countries would be granted a status “closely analogous to that of Finland today.”138 For the sake of an agreement, the West could grant further concessions to satisfy Soviet defense needs, including assurances that Germany would not be united.139 The authors acknowledged that serious risks would be involved, but they argued that “as a price of removing Soviet control from the whole satellite area, [it would be desirable] to make certain agreements on the level of armaments and the location of forces in Europe.”140 These negotiating points, which Mikhail Gorbachev would accept in 1989, were not acceptable to the Soviet Union in 1953-1954. Therefore, the proposal was stillborn.

In late 1954, the NSC began to debate the policy of negotiation. Although the JCS were still willing to take greater risks, Dulles, speaking for the majority in the NSC, advocated a middle course: “we should recognize that there is tenable ground in between military commitment to save these nations from Communism and the total abandonment of the areas to Communism.”141 The result of the deliberations, NSC-5501, recommended that the United States encourage the East European regimes to break away from Soviet dominance. Under the new policy, the East-bloc states would be urged to pursue their own interests. The logic was that once they did so, the Soviet bloc would disintegrate of its own accord.142

The Austrian State treaty, signed by Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union on 15 May 1955, seemed to present a new opportunity to come to an agreement on Eastern Europe and perhaps even to end the Cold War. The treaty guaranteed Austria’s armed neutrality, and provided for the end of the four-power occupation of Austria. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to the treaty for a variety of reasons: to prevent Austria’s military integration into Western Europe, to strengthen “neutralism” in Europe, and to give a boost to East-West relations, including talks about the status of Germany. Austria was to be the showcase for Khrushchev’s policy of “peaceful coexistence.” His flexibility on the matter aroused hopes in the West that comparable deals might be feasible for other countries in which Soviet troops were stationed.143 The possibility for a negotiated settlement that would take account of Soviet security interests was discussed again within the State Department.144

The Geneva Summit on 18 July 1955 afforded a perfect opportunity to test the new negotiation strategy. The State Department proposed that the United States push for increased self-determination for the Eastern bloc. A PPS memorandum suggested that the United States draw up a proposal for German unification, which would be followed by Soviet withdrawal from the GDR and Poland and subsequently, when the Austrian Treaty came into force, from Romania and Hungary.145 This proposal was in line with NSC 5524/1, which had been approved shortly before the summit. The NSC document declared that the elimination of Soviet control over Eastern Europe was to be pursued by means short of war and possibly by negotiation with the Soviet Union, using the Austrian state treaty as an avenue for further agreements.146

New ideas on the future of Germany were behind the planned overture on Eastern Europe. The Americans were beginning to be attracted to the idea of a disengagement agreement and the reunification of Germany outside NATO. In 1955 Dulles was ready to accept a reunified neutral Germany under some sort of international control in which the USSR would have a voice. He was even willing to consider an undertaking whereby the U.S. would engage itself on the Soviet side if the USSR were attacked. What lay behind the new policy was the desire of Eisenhower and Dulles to disengage from NATO. A reunified, neutral Germany was their device to ‘get out of Europe’ and make the Europeans carry the burden of their own defense.147 Getting the Soviets out of Eastern Europe would improve the chance that their plan succeeded.

In pre-summit briefings, Dulles suggested to Eisenhower that they discuss the question of Eastern Europe during private conversations in Geneva with Soviet leaders. At the summit, the president and secretary of state each brought up the question of Eastern Europe in a separate discussion with Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin. Both men informed Bulganin that the United States attached great significance to the status of the East European countries, partly because of the domestic influence of East European émigré groups. At the same time, they assured Bulganin that the United States “had no desire that the Soviet Union should be ringed by a group of hostile states.” Dulles advocated a solution – allowing the Eastern bloc to develop according to the Finnish model, without, however offering the Soviets anything in return. Bulganin, as expected, refused to discuss the issue.148 But the American offer was not timely anyway. The changes that occurred in Soviet policy after Stalin's death did not express a new political thinking or strategy on the part of the Soviet Union. As the historian Vladislav Zubok put it, domestic power struggle was the single most crucial factor in the formulation of Soviet foreign policy aims at the time. Khruschev believed that the Soviet expansion into Central Europe fulfilled communist dreams and 'saved' the occupied people from the 'capitalist yoke'. Khruschev feared that NATO would expand eastward and consolidation of the empire in Eastern Europe was still a top priority of Soviet foreign policy.149

In July 1956, the NSC again revised U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe with the approval of NSC 5608. These latest document reemphasized old objectives, including attempts to divide the Eastern bloc and spur the East European populations to revolt. The United States would adapt its tactics to suit the situation in each country, but the general approach was one of undercutting Soviet influence. It seemed as if the policy of negotiation, aimed at the “Finlandization” of Eastern Europe, had been abandoned. 150


g. U.S.-Hungarian Relations on the Eve of the 1956 Revolution

In the summer of 1956, relations between Hungary and the United States began to improve. At that time, the United States responded very favorably to Hungary’s overtures about a possible expansion of bilateral trade relations.151 Shortly after Mátyás Rákosi was removed from his post as head of the Hungarian Communist Party in July 1956, the State Department invited his successor, Ernő Gerő, “to study the two party electoral process whereby the Chief Executive and the members of the Congress of the United States are chosen.” The U.S. government was prepared to cover the costs of the trip, and an itinerary was put together to permit the “most advantageous observation of the two party campaign.” The invitation “assumed that on the next appropriate occasion Americans would be invited to view elections in Hungary.” Although the Hungarian Foreign Ministry did compile a list of recommended participants, the offer was eventually turned down.152 Nonetheless, in the wake of the Twentieth Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) in February 1956, which had featured Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” denouncing Stalin, the Hungarians continued to show interest in the improvement of bilateral relations. In the spirit of the CPSU congress, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry worked out a set of “guiding principles” to restore the independence of Hungarian foreign policy. 153

Hungary’s desire for better relations was partly attributable to the country’s catastrophic economic situation. In the 1950s, the Hungarian economy witnessed a decline in its gold reserves, the result of an increased trade deficit. Christian Ravndal, the U.S. minister in Hungary, reported that Hungarian deputy foreign minister Károly Szarka was “almost pleading for the resumption of preparations for [trade] discussions.”154 The Hungarians desired U.S. imports and credit, and they particularly needed wheat and cotton on favorable credit terms. Endre Sík, Hungary’s deputy foreign minister, indicated that Hungary could lift travel restrictions in 1955 if that would facilitate trade agreements with the United States.155 Before any results could be achieved, however, the Hungarian Ministry of Internal Affairs, which feared that better relations with the West might weaken Communist rule in Hungary, slowed the pace of negotiations.

In May 1956, Christian Ravndal discussed a possible normalization of ties with Hungarian officials. He told them that bilateral relations could improve only if the Hungarian “secret police were brought under control,” because the police had become “a state within the state.”156 Party secretary Lajos Ács assured Ravndal that he would rein in the police. Furthermore, a deputy defense minister told Ravndal that “we now have an opportunity to listen to each other’s grievances and fundamentally change the existing situation.” His tone was a remarkable shift after years of harsh rhetoric against the United States. Ravndal responded that it was “the most constructive statement” he had heard during his time in Hungary.157 The most significant issue to be resolved was that of the secret police’s treatment of Americans in Hungary. Robert M. McKisson of the State Department’s Office of Eastern European Affairs told the Hungarian minister in Washington, Péter Kós (who incidentally was also a Soviet citizen), that the first step would be to settle the question of the arrested employees of the U.S. Legation in Budapest.158

In late August 1956, Hungary abolished the regulation compelling U.S. diplomatic personnel to have their travel plans approved in advance. The United States reciprocated this move. Hungarian minister Kós informed the State Department that the number of regions closed to foreigners would be reduced as well. Kós assured Herbert Hoover, Jr., who was then the U.S. under secretary of state, that the improvement of relations was his mission’s “primary objective.” Hoover told Kós that Washington expected further concessions, which would be reciprocated by the United States.159 The Hungarian initiative to eliminate areas restricted for foreign diplomats received Soviet blessing.160 In return, the Hungarians were allowed to step up their information activities in Washington.

Although the State Department informed Hungary of its satisfaction with the improvement of relations between the two countries, it also made clear that the detained U.S. Legation employees had to be set free before the United States would lift its travel ban. The department promised that once the ban had been lifted, commercial and cultural delegations and tourists would be allowed to visit Hungary, and vice versa. Eager to meet these conditions, Hungarian foreign minister Imre Horváth asked the minister of the internal affairs, László Piros, for further information on the arrested Americans. Piros failed to respond. On 23 October 1956, the very day that the revolution began, Horváth made a second request for information so that he could report it to the forthcoming session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.161 He did not realize that larger events were about to overshadow his difficulties with the ministry of internal affairs, and that other matters would be discussed at the UN session.


h. The U.S. Response to the Revolution of 1956

The American response to the 1956 Hungarian revolution encapsulated Washington’s Janus-faced attitude toward the liberation of Eastern Europe.162 The Eisenhower administration wanted to respond in some manner, but military intervention of any sort was ruled out. The administration was left with a variety of policy options ranging from negotiations with the Soviet Union to the encouragement of popular unrest against the Communist regime. Given that Soviet presence in Eastern Europe was regarded as a potential staging ground for a Soviet attack on Western Europe,163 by rolling back Soviet influence the United States could have reduced the political and military tension in Europe. The revolution in Hungary provided an excellent opportunity to do so. Eisenhower firmly believed that the tension in Europe could not be relaxed until the Soviet Union released Eastern Europe from its hold.164

Although Washington’s official policy was at odds with the bolder side of psychological warfare and with the administration’s more belligerent remarks, the cautious U.S. approach did have a sound inner logic. American strategy was predicated on the slight hope that if Washington showed restraint, Moscow might be willing to accept the Finlandization of Hungary.

In 1956, senior administration officials had been hoping that unrest would grow within the Eastern bloc, but they were completely unprepared for open, armed revolt against Soviet power. Earlier on, they had believed that any such revolt would fail.165 When the uprising broke out, Dulles stated that U.S. policy would remain aimed at promoting peaceful transformation in Hungary. On 25 October, two days after the revolution began, he cabled to the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade: “As in Poland we welcome all steps by any people toward national independence and freedom from Soviet domination...Nevertheless [it is] difficult to see how unarmed people no matter how heroic can overcome Soviet tanks. In circumstances therefore we desire to minimize bloodshed, keep the Nagy-Kádár regime from taking reprisals and...encourage it to proceed with rapid democratization.”166 When events in Hungary continued to spiral out of U.S. (and Soviet) control, the Eisenhower administration found itself scrambling for an appropriate policy.

Eisenhower’s initial response was to deplore the Soviet intervention of 23 October and to express sympathy for the Hungarian people. Dulles believed that the United States had been successful in preserving the “yearning for freedom” in the Eastern bloc, and he hoped that the “great monolith of Communism is crumbling.”167 In the absence of reliable information about developments in Hungary and Moscow, U.S. officials sought to forestall a decisive Soviet crackdown. Both Dulles and Eisenhower tried not to give the impression that “they were selling [the Hungarians] out or dealing with their hated masters behind their backs.”168

The NSC was convened on 26 October to formulate a strategy. Presidential adviser Harold Stassen suggested that they immediately assure Moscow that the independence of Hungary and the rest of the Eastern bloc would in no way threaten Soviet security.169 The NSC rejected this proposal, but supporters of Stassen’s idea convinced Eisenhower to propose the Austrian model as a solution to the Hungarian question, a model that would give Hungary its independence while safeguarding Soviet security.170 The assumption underlying this strategy was the same as the assumption made by the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff in 1953, namely that the Soviet Union needed the Eastern bloc as a buffer zone for its security. If Soviet security were adequately guaranteed, the argument went, East European independence might become possible. The PPS reiterated this position on 29 October 1956, arguing that if the United States “recognized the Soviet Union’s legitimate interests in those territories,” Soviet military intervention would be forestalled and Hungarian independence would be achieved.171 Stassen claimed that if the United States assured Moscow that Hungary would not be admitted to NATO, there was a chance that the Soviet Union would feel confident in granting independence to Hungary.172

Stassen was hopeful that this kind of solution would be appealing to Soviet defense minister Marshal Georgii Zhukov, who, in Stassen’s view, “must be reluctant to deploy the Red Army throughout the Balkans in increased numbers to hold down indigenous populations.” Stassen warned that Zhukov “may be unable to prevent this deployment [of Soviet troops] if his internal opposition can raise the specter of U.S. bases in Hungary, etc. and the affiliation of these Balkan [sic] countries with NATO.”173 Stassen was worried that Dulles had been too ambiguous in his statements about Soviet security.174 Stassen’s concern about Dulles’s statements had been confirmed by a recent incident involving preparations for a speech by Eisenhower in Dallas. The president had requested that Dulles formulate a statement about U.S. willingness to guarantee Soviet security, but Dulles watered down the passage to suggest only that the United States did not see the countries of Eastern Europe as potential allies. Eisenhower’s willingness to accept non-alignment in Eastern Europe was not fully shared by Dulles. To make sure that Dulles’s weaker message was heard in Moscow, ambassador Charles Bohlen was instructed to repeat the crucial passage (that the East European states were not seen as potential allies) to Soviet leaders, which he did at a reception on 29 October. Eisenhower himself did the same in a speech on 31 October offering economic assistance to Eastern Europe.175

The initial Soviet intervention in Hungary had been raised for discussion in the UN Security Council on 27 October based on Article 34 of the UN Charter. Péter Kós, who was now the chief Hungarian representative at the UN, protested, thus making the position of the Western powers more difficult. The Soviet representative, Arkadii Sobolev, justified the Soviet intervention by claiming that Hungary had failed to fulfill its obligation to “suppress fascist movements,” as stipulated by Article 4 of the Paris Peace Treaty signed in 1947. The British and American representative condemned what they regarded as Moscow’s violation of UN principles, but they failed to specify which articles of the Charter had been violated. The chief British representative, Sir Pearson Dixon, referred to the section of the Paris Peace Treaty that guaranteed the Hungarians the free exercise of their democratic rights, but Pearson’s lack of specificity weakened the Western case. Sobolev dominated the proceedings, and at one point he even accused the Americans of siding with “Hitler’s former collaborators,” a statement that caused the chief U.S. representative, Henry Cabot Lodge, to lose his composure. Lodge declared it “inadmissible that murderers of women and children were pointing their finger at those who were sending Christmas packages.” The meeting ended inconclusively, but on an optimistic note, as news came that Soviet troops were leaving Budapest.176

On 30 October the CPSU Presidium did in fact decide to remove Soviet forces from Budapest and expressed the Soviet government’s readiness to negotiate with the Hungarian government about a complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country. The same day, at a reception before the CPSU Presidium meeting, Marshal Zhukov spoke to Western ambassadors about Hungary. Referring to the Polish crisis, he stated that the Soviet Union had shown restraint but “could have crushed them [the Poles] like flies.”177 During the CPSU Presidium meeting itself, Zhukov spoke in favor of withdrawing Soviet troops from Budapest. At a later reception in the Kremlin the same day, Zhukov told Bohlen about the decision to withdraw troops.178To some observers at least the Soviet Presidium's October 30 decision to pull out of Budapest and to renegotiate Soviet presence in Eastern Europe marked the beginning of a new era. The Indian Government was ”firm in its belief that when the Soviets announced withdrawal of their troops they in fact intended to withdraw completely.179 According to the French embassy in Moscow, in the light of the October 30 declaration the Soviet Union seemed prepared to renounce its economic empire, and ”under certain conditions” even its military empire in Eastern Europe.180

At this point, U.S. officials believed that their negotiation strategy was succeeding. On 30 October, Eisenhower optimistically told Edward Wailes, the newly appointed minister to Budapest that if Eastern Europe became neutral and independent, a more constructive period in world politics would ensue.181 A top-secret State Department memorandum that day, citing the U.S. Legation in Budapest, reported that Soviet troops were leaving the capital. According to the memorandum, the outcome, achieved without inordinate Western pressure, was evidence “of the tremendous strength of the popular movement, which is undoubtedly having a profound effect on Soviet policy...[T]he Soviets must be considering departing from Hungary within a short time.”182 The JCS were similarly optimistic in predicting that the Soviet troops would leave without American military intervention.183 As late as 2 November, two days after the Soviet Union reversed its decision of 30 October and decided to undertake a much larger invasion, Bohlen claimed that Soviet leaders were not preparing for military action and were simply trying to buy time. Based on what Zhukov and Soviet foreign minister Dmitrii Shepilov had told him, Bohlen surmised that the “Soviet decision was to support the Nagy government to the end…thereby hoping to avoid total military occupation of Hungary.”184

Because U.S. officials assumed there was no immediate danger of Soviet military intervention in Hungary, the NSC turned to the more pressing Suez crisis on 1 November. Great Britain and France, in their effort to regain control of the Suez Canal, issued a joint ultimatum to Israel and Egypt on 30 October, threatening to invade unless the two countries withdrew from the lines of battle. Dulles was outraged: “Just when the Soviet orbit was crumbling and we could point to a contrast between the Western world and the Soviets, it appeared that the West was producing a similar situation.”185

On 31 October, U.S. officials still assumed that “national Communist governments” could emerge in the Eastern bloc. At an NSC meeting, they considered three options they might pursue to promote national Communism in Hungary: (1) by exerting pressure on the Soviet Union through the UN and public declarations; (2) by providing clandestine or open military aid to the rebels as long as they remained capable of controlling territory and forming a government; or (3) by attempting to secure a Soviet troop withdrawal and Hungary’s neutrality on the Austrian model.186

The Communist regime in Hungary later accused the United States of providing clandestine military assistance to the rebels, but this claim is largely groundless. To be sure, the United States had earlier set up a military base in Munich under the codename Operation Red Sox/Red Cap, where East European refugees were trained and equipped to perform paramilitary operations in support of uprisings against Soviet control. It is unclear whether Operation Red Sox/Red Cap was implemented in Hungary, but the evidence suggests that it was not.187 There is no doubt, for example, that Washington refused to support Spanish plans for covert assistance to the rebels, a position that would be very odd if the United States itself was already providing such aid. Otto Habsburg got in touch with Franco through an intermediary and requested him to send aid to Hungarian freedom fighters. A decision was made to dispatch a volunteer unit to be led by the former commander of the Spanish Blue Division on November 4.188 Two days later, on 6 November, Spanish Foreign Minister Alberto Martin Artajo had told Cabot Lodge that his government “stood ready to send an armed force to Hungary.” Artajo suggested that the United States send “two airplanes to Spain to be loaded with arms to be dropped in Hungary. Franco and his cabinet had instructed him to take up this matter.” Washington’s response, sent out by the State Department, was unequivocal: “The U.S. government can lend no support, overt or covert, to any military intervention in Hungary in present circumstances.” The department also expressed its hope that Spain would take no precipitate action without consulting the United States “in the light of our common objectives and obligations for the maintenance of international peace.” In return for Spanish restraint, the State Department promised that appropriate measures would be taken at the UN.189

In a further attempt to avert a Soviet crackdown, the Eisenhower administration continued its policy of assuring Moscow that the United States did not regard Hungary as a potential ally. On 31 October, the NSC endorsed the Policy Planning Staff’s idea of proposing mutual troop withdrawals from Europe in exchange for neutral status for the East-bloc countries.190

On 1 November 1956, in response to news that the Soviet Union was sending troops back into Hungary, the Nagy government declared Hungary a neutral country and annulled its membership in the Warsaw Pact. The British and French sought to divert attention from their own plight by enthusiastically recognizing Hungarian neutrality at the UN. Because of the “difficulties” in Suez, the British representative at the United Nations was told to “arrange for his American colleague to take the initiative” and to give him “close and firm support.”191 On 3 November, the French representative at the United Nations was ordered both to “press for neutrality” and to emphasize “the need to allow the Hungarian people to express their opinion on their future in free elections.”192 Lodge was instructed otherwise. On 2 November, Dulles cabled Lodge to tell him to “make every possible effort to distance the French from tabling substantive resolution at tonight’s meeting.” Dulles wanted Lodge to defer the vote, even if it was tabled on the grounds that the UN lacked full and current information on Hungary. Dulles referred to “obvious reasons” for his attitude, but in retrospect, it is not clear what those “obvious reasons” were.193 He may have feared putting the Soviet Union on the defensive. U.S. relations with London and Paris were strained at the time, and Washington had joined Moscow in condemning the Suez invasion. Alternatively, it may be that Dulles was simply worried that a demand for Hungarian neutrality would reopen the question of German neutrality, something the United States wished to forestall.194 The episode seems to underscore the views of those historians who argued that Eisenhower and Dulles could not stomach neutralism195 although they seemed ready to negotiate about it directly with Moscow. Whatever Dulles’s motives may have been, the chance to condemn the Soviet Union was lost. On 4 November Soviet tanks deposed Imre Nagy’s revolutionary government and installed a new regime under János Kádár. Although armed resistance continued for several days, the revolution was defeated.


i. Passivity of Rollback

The ineffective U.S. response to the Hungarian crisis of 1956 is difficult to explain. Poor intelligence was part of the problem. The Eisenhower administration was caught off guard not only by the Hungarian uprising, but also by the Polish and the Suez crises. At a meeting of senior State Department officials on 2 November, Robert Murphy complained that in all three crises, U.S. intelligence agencies had failed to anticipate events.196 In a particularly glaring example of what this shortcoming meant, the NSC’s report of 27 June 1956 – just four months before the revolution began -- had ruled out the possibility of open popular revolt in Hungary.197

Deficient intelligence gathering was not the only problem, however. The Suez crisis played an extremely important role in hampering the U.S. response to the Hungarian crisis. The problem was not that Suez distracted U.S. attention from Hungary,198 but that it made the condemnation of Soviet actions very difficult. As Richard Nixon later explained: “We couldn’t on one hand, complain about the Soviets intervening in Hungary and, on the other hand, approve of the British and the French picking that particular time to intervene against [Gamel Abdel] Nasser.”199

Another factor that influenced U.S. policy toward Hungary was the Eisenhower administration’s distrust of Imre Nagy’s government. Unlike the Polish leader Władysław Gomułka, Nagy was regarded with open hostility in Washington. This view did not change until after the second Soviet intervention. The administration’s aversion to Nagy dated back to mid-1953 when Nagy had first come to power. U.S. officials believed that Nagy’s New Course, introduced in 1953, was no more than a tactical measure that failed to improve the economy or appease the people. (Interestingly, Moscow shared this negative view of Nagy’s first government.)200 Moreover, unlike Gomułka, Nagy was seen as insufficiently anti-Soviet.201 During his earlier stint as prime minister in 1953-1955, Nagy had made no effort to alter Hungarian foreign policy and had not sought to improve Hungary’s relations with the United States. U.S. officials had expressed few regrets when Nagy was removed in April 1955. When he returned to power after the revolution began in October 1956, the Eisenhower administration maintained its distance. On 29 October, Dulles still believed that Nagy’s government was “not one we want much to do with.”202 Edward Wailes, who became the new U.S. minister in Budapest on 2 November, was instructed not to present his credentials to the Nagy government.203

The administration’s divergent views of Gomułka and Nagy reflected a broader pattern in U.S. foreign policy that impeded U.S. actions during the Hungarian revolution. In almost every respect, Poland had priority over Hungary in U.S. calculations. This was underscored shortly after the 1956 crises, when the administration endorsed NSC-5616/2, which called for a feasibility study of military intervention in Poland, but not in Hungary. On 23 November 1956 the assistant secretary of defense instructed the JCS to prepare an estimate of the feasibility of UN military intervention in Poland and the risk of global conflict.204 The JCS responded with three points:

(a) UN military intervention in Poland was feasible;

(b) The UN (led by the United States) should initially rely on air strikes carried out by forces in Western Europe, and should be prepared to cripple Soviet air defenses by attacking Soviet communication lines and sources of Soviet air potential; and

(c) If the United States resorted to these measures, it would incur the risk of general war.

Under NSC-5616/2, an attempt by the Soviet Army to restore control in Poland would require the administration to inform Moscow that the UN would immediately take steps to reverse the situation.205 The JCS in its assessment had counted on the participation of Polish forces. The Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force estimated that the combined forces of the Polish army, NATO, the U.S. Air Force, and the UN would be able to defeat the forces of the Soviet bloc if the objective were limited.206 To bolster this contingency planning, the JCS drafted a statement warning Moscow that the United States was willing to use force against the Soviet Union if needed to restore Polish independence.207

No comparable preparations were ever made for Hungary. During the revolution, military intervention was ruled out from the very start, although one CIA official, Robert Cutler, did come up with the idea of a nuclear strike on Soviet logistical lines near the Hungarian border. An intelligence estimate from 1955 stated that Moscow would go to any lengths to keep Hungary in the Eastern bloc, and that any U.S. intervention would therefore escalate into a wider war.208 On 30 October 1956, the PPS concluded, “effective action would probably involve hostilities with the Soviets.”209 Similarly, the State Department’s response to the Spanish request for armed intervention explained that intervention was infeasible because it would risk war with the Soviet Union.210 In terms of simple logistics, military supplies could not be sent to the Hungarians without crossing the territories or airspace of Austria, Yugoslavia, or Czechoslovakia.211 Robert Murphy later recalled that Dulles “like everybody else in the State Department was terribly distressed, but no one had whatever imagination it took to discover any other solution.” 212

The question is whether the fear of nuclear escalation was real, or it was only a pretext for inaction. In view of the estimate that the Soviet Union would attack in the defense of its vital interests, and the intelligence that the Soviets would do anything to keep Hungary in their orbit, there could have been little doubt that intervention would lead to war. Moreover, the President believed that with so much at stake both sides would use whatever forces they had, including nuclear arms. In such a war, national survival would have been at stake.213

Lacking any other viable strategy, the administration hoped that by reassuring the Soviet Union about Western intentions, the United States could persuade Moscow to grant Hungary its independence. The U.S. strategy was clear to the British: “It is evident that the U.S. administration is anxious to dispel any Soviet fears that the U.S. intends to exploit the present situation in the Satellite area to the point of creating a strategic threat to the USSR. Foster Dulles made this quite clear in his speech in Dallas.”214 Whether the strategy was at all practical was a different matter.

Eisenhower is usually praised for his moderation in handling the crisis, even though Hungarians felt that they were let down. H.W. Brands wrote that in certain times and places such as Hungary Eisenhower's inclination not to interfere in events served the cause of world peace well. Although these were no victories for American diplomacy, the President grasped the risks of an activist foreign policy and accepted a minor failure rather than to risk a great catastrophe.215 John Stuart Mill, who in general subscribed to the principle of non-intervention and self-help thought that these principles could be suspended and intervention could be justified in case a foreign power was already intervening in the domestic affairs and the self-determination of a community. This was clearly the case in 1956. However, in the nuclear age, as Michael Walzer argued the case is not so simple. Political prudence, particularly in the nuclear age required the intervening power to weigh the danger to itself. That power must ”for moral reasons weigh the dangers its action will impose on the people it is designed to benefit and on all other people who may be affected. An intervention is not just if it subjects third parties to terrible risks: the subjection cancels the justice…And clearly, an American threat of atomic war in 1956 would have been morally and politically irresponsible”.216 When Robert Cutler recommended dropping A bombs on Soviet supply lines in the Carpathians, Eisenhower brushed him aside: we cannot destroy the people we want to save.

John Lewis Gaddis pointed to an important contradiction. ”American nuclear superiority had been useless in the crisis. Eisenhower's caution…illustrated very clearly the limits of nuclear superiority…Indeed, fear of the Soviet Union's wholly inferior nuclear capability had convinced Eisenhower of the need to reassure the Russians, rather than to deter them”.217 Eastern Europe, then, was a captive of nuclear policy. Paradoxically the revolution strengthened, rather than weakened Moscow's hold on Eastern Europe. It became apparent that no power on Earth could wrest it from them.

The final question then remains, did the United States unfairly encourage Hungarians to revolt? As far as covert operations were concerned, CIA director Allen Dulles declined to recommend any steps for approval by the NSC. On the other hand, Cord Meyer, the chief of the CIA’s psychological warfare division, ordered RFE to support the Hungarian rebels, although he later denied having tried to incite revolution.218 Meyer’s action was questionable if judged by the guidelines of the NSC’s July 1956 report, which stipulated that the United States must avoid inciting actions that could lead to reprisals and other consequences detrimental to U.S. foreign policy goals. Although spontaneous manifestations of anti-Communism and dissatisfaction could not be prevented by public statements alone (even if individual lives were endangered), the RFE broadcasts had the opposite effect.219 After the crisis ended, the CIA acknowledged that “the RFE occasionally went beyond the authorized factual broadcasting…to provide tactical advice to patriots as to the course the rebellion should take and the individuals best qualified to lead it.” Although the CIA went on to claim that the RFE broadcasts before the Revolution “could not be construed as inciting armed revolt,” that conclusion is at best highly problematic.220

The newly available transcripts of RFE Hungarian language broadcasts from 1956 reveal how incautious, even reckless, some of the programming was. In one instance, a broadcaster assured listeners that “the Soviet forces deployed against Hungary are not invincible. The troops available [to the Soviets] have been used up…The Hungarian forces are superior to these…Every weapon that is not being used now will turn against its holder. Every weapon that procrastinates will be victim to the Nagy government’s deceptive tactics…” Such broadcasts were allegedly conceived by William Griffith, a senior official at RFE/RL. They were relayed under the pen name of Colonel Bell, used by the famous RFE commentator, Julián Borsányi. Borsányi himself refused to relay the messages, but they still went out under his pseudonym.221 Defectors later remembered these and other such programs very well and considered them to be effective in encouraging revolt.222 In 1953 at least some of the East Germans expected that “Western tanks will come to their aid”223 and so did many Hungarians. One rebel claimed later that “the demands of the Hungarian insurgents grew because RFE broadcasts encouraged the belief that decisive aid would come from the West,” although he admitted “RFE made no specific promises to this effect.” The former rebel insisted that “the mere reiteration of the need to continue the fight convinced the Hungarian populace that they would not be fighting for long…RFE would have better served Hungary’s cause by frankly informing the Hungarian people that the only aid which the West was able to supply was food and medicine.” 224

RFE broadcasts were thus at odds with the administration’s desire to avoid active intervention and to seek Hungary’s independence through negotiation. One rebel later stated that the West should have broadcast its intention not to send military aid.225 No effort was made to convey Dulles’s view that the Hungarian revolutionaries did not stand a chance. Exactly the opposite was broadcast, even after Soviet troops moved in a second time on 4 November. The American attitude was remarkably different in June 1953. Then the deputy director of the CIA Frank Wisner that the United States “should do nothing at this time to incite the East Germans to further actions which will jeopardize their lives,” and this view was shared by CIA director Allen Dulles. On the evening of June 17 1953 the American radio station RIAS urged the rebels to obey the orders of Soviet officials and to avoid clashes with Soviet troops.226 No such effort was made to stop the Hungarians, in fact the opposite happened. In 1953, the American leadership concluded that the Soviets would not allow the satellites to secede, the United States cannot liberate them without resorting to war, which was impossible.227 Self-liberation was the only possibility despite its dangers. It is therefore difficult to escape the conclusion that RFE broadcasts were tolerated because they were part of an alternative foreign policy, one that actively encouraged armed revolt, and one that could plausibly be denied later.

In the end, torn between the desire to act and the fear of the consequences of direct intervention, the United States pursued a policy that sent mixed signals, both to the Soviet Union and to the Hungarian people. On the one hand, Eisenhower and Dulles pursued negotiations with Moscow, seeking to alleviate Soviet fears that the United States was encouraging or supporting anti-Soviet protests. On the other hand, the administration pursued an aggressive propaganda campaign designed to give hope to the Hungarian rebels. At least inadvertently, this campaign encouraged them to fight the Soviet invasion with everything they had. These contradictory policies sabotaged the overall approach. The harder the insurgents fought, the less chance there was for a negotiated settlement. However, the unwillingness of the United States to counter Soviet military action meant that the Hungarian quest for liberation was suicidal.

These contradictions underscore what can only be described as a deep cynicism in U.S. policy toward Hungary. Although chances for the success of the Hungarian revolt were low, the Eisenhower administration may well have perceived the rebellion as a low-cost effort to destabilize the Soviet Union. If the effort failed, the administration could always disclaim involvement in the rebellion, leaving the rebels to fend for themselves.

Hungarian and American historians have argued that the United States sacrificed Hungary because peaceful relations with the Soviet Union were more important, and the status quo was “preferable to a complete breakdown in the existing power balance.”228 In this view, “Western passivity” was caused by a de facto acceptance of the division of Eastern Europe into “spheres of influence.”229 In reality, the United States was limited only by its fear that intervention in Hungary would mean escalation into war.230 U.S. perceptions of the Soviet Union’s determination to hold onto Eastern Europe suggested that even measures short of active intervention would have very little chance of success success. The historian Bennett Kovrig has asserted that “the prompt recognition of Hungary’s independence and neutrality by the United States...and a dispatch of an international observation commission could have at least delayed the Soviet decision to intervene and any delay would have increased the chances of consolidating the gains of the revolution.”231 This conclusion is dubious. What is now known about the Soviet decision on 31 October to suppress the revolution undermines the premise of Kovrig’s argument. Nor it is at all plausible that mere “observers” would have impeded the Soviet invasion, quite the contrary.

The heroic fight the Hungarians put up against their oppressors were not in vain. They fought for noble causes that great peoples had fought for throughout history. Their struggle became the beacon in the fight against ruthless tyranny. It showed that in Europe the clock of history, which went past the age of despotism cannot turned back. Hungary exposed the true nature of Soviet rule at a time when for a great many this was not at all obvious. Few would continue to think that communism was the way of the future.

Still, the 1956 Hungarian crisis demonstrated that the fate of Eastern Europe depended far more on the Soviet Union than on the East Europeans themselves or the United States. Washington’s policies before and after 1956 did contribute to the long process of disintegration in Hungary, which reached its climax in 1989, but fundamental change in the region ultimately required a fundamental change in Soviet foreign policy. Khrushchev may have briefly contemplated such a move on 30 October 1956, but even if he did he quickly backed away from it. For the next 33 years, Eastern Europe and Hungary in it was firmly within the Soviet Union’s sphere.





[1] “Hungarian Refugee Opinion,” Radio Free Europe Munich Audience Analysis Section, Special Report No. 6, January 1957, National Security Archive, Washington D.C. (NS Archive), Soviet Flashpoints Collection (SFC), Record No. 64450. Eight hundred escapees were asked to evaluate the performance of Western broadcasts to Hungary and to recall whether the broadcasts had led them to expect Western military intervention. Ninety percent of those interviewed expected some form of intervention after the 4 November 1956 invasion of Hungary. Twenty per cent expected the United States to intervene, 48 percent expected the United Nations to intervene, and the rest expected help from the “free world.” According to another survey conducted among Hungarian refugees in Austria,  96 percent of those questioned had expected some form of American assistance in Hungary, and 77 percent believed it would come in the form of military support. Statistics cited in James Marchio, Rhetoric and Reality: The Eisenhower Administration and Unrest in Eastern Europe, 1953-1956  (Ph.D. diss., 1990), p. 417. Cited from “Miscellanous Comments by Hungarian National,” 3 January 1957, AmCongen Frankfurt to the State Department, United States National Archives (USNA), Record Group (RG) 59, 764.00/1-357.

[2] Cited in Gregory Mitrovich, Undermining the Kremlin - America's Strategy to Subvert the Soviet Bloc (Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 2000), 39-40.

[3] National Security Council Staff Study, Annex to NSC 5608, “U.S. Policy Toward the Satellites in Eastern Europe,” 6 July 1956, in U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States  1955-1957, Vol. XXV, p. 199 (hereinafter referred to as FRUS with appropriate year and volume numbers).

[4] Ibid., p. 199.

[5] “United States Objectives and Programs for National Security,” NSC 68, 14 April 1950, FRUS, 1950, Vol. I, 237-290.

[6] Peter Grose, Operation Rollback: America's Secret war Behind the Iron Curtain (Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000), pp. 7-8.

[7] Ibid., pp. 104-111.

[8] See Gregory Mitrovich, Undermining the Kremlin, pp. 10-72.

[9] Robert Bowie and Richard H. Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 31.

[10] Mitrovich, Undermining the Kremlin, pp. 99-100.

[11] The phrase comes from NSC-68, 14 April 1950, FRUS, 1950, Vol. I, p. 264.

[12] Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace, p. 154.

[13] A historiographical overview of Eisenhower’s national security policy is provided in the introduction written by Günter Bischof and Stephen E. Ambrose to Günter Bischof and Stephen E. Ambrose eds., Eisenhower – A Centenary Assessment (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1995), pp. 8-9. Revisionists praised Eisenhower for his calibrated New Look national security strategy and his restraint on the arms race.  Other historians contended that on the contrary, Eisenhower was unable to control the Pentagon, promoted the growth of the military-industrial complex and fueled the Cold War by his overblown rhetoric.  

[14] Ibid., p. 161.

[15] Ibid., pp. 176-177

[16] For the Eisenhower administration and the hydrogen bomb see: McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival – Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), pp. 236-260.

[17] Ibid., pp. 176-177.

[18] Saki Dockrill, Eisenhower's New Look National Security Policy, 1953-1961 (London: Macmillan, 1996), p. 46.

[19] According to Tor Egil Forland, economic warfare “can be defined by its end, which is to weaken the economic foundation of the adversary's power.” It can be conducted by means of a strategic embargo, the institution of export control on strategic goods, by either the common sense, or the economists' definition.  Tor Egil Forland, Cold Economic Warfare: The Creation and Prime of Cocom, 1948-1954 (Oslo:  Norwegian University Press, 1991), p. 22.

[20]John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 159.

[21] “Paper submitted by Averell Harriman to the National Security Council,” FRUS, 1948, Vol. IV, pp. 506-507.

[22] Tor Egil Forland, “’Selling Firearms to the Indians’:  Eisenhower’s Export Control Policy, 1953-1954,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Spring 1991), pp. 231-232.

[23] See Forland, Cold Economic Warfare, p. 45.

[24] Report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense, 26 June 1950, FRUS, 1950, Vol. 4, pp. 152-253.

[25] Forland, Cold Economic Warfare, p. 45.

[26] Report by the Secretary of the NSC, 21 August 1950, FRUS, 1950, Vol. 4, p. 163.

[27] See Forland, Cold Economic Warfare, p. 124.

[28] “U.S. Policies and Programs in the Economic Field Which may Effect the War Potential of the Soviet Bloc,” April 1951, FRUS, 1951, Vol. I, pp. 1059-1064, 1069.

[29] For a discussion of the New Look embargo policies, see Robert Spaulding Jr., “A Graduate and Moderate Relaxation: Eisenhower and the Revision of American Export Control Policy, 1953-1955,”  Diplomatic History, Vol. 17, No.2. (Spring 1993), pp. 223-250.

[30] “Memorandum by the Joint Logistical Committee to the JCS on the revision of the relaxation of the export of strategic commodities to the Soviet bloc,” July 1953, USNA, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (RJCS) 1951-53, CCS 091 (12-9-49); “Memorandum to the Secretary of Defense on the export controls of the United States,”1954, USNA, RG 218, RJCS 1954-56, CCS 091.31 (9-28-45), Section 26.

[31] “Consequences of a Relaxation of Non-Communist Controls on Trade with the Soviet Bloc,” CIA National Intelligence Estimate, 23 March 1954, FRUS, 1952-1954, Vol. I, pp. 1121-1132.

[32] “Trends in National Security Programs and the Fiscal and Budgetary Outlook Through Fiscal Year 1959,” NSC-5609/2, 27 June 1956, USNA, RG 273.

[33] See the previous chapter.

[34] “Rákosi beszámolója a KGST határozatáról az MDP PB-nek,” 27 May 1954, MOL, 276. F., 65. Cs., 283. Őe.

[35] “A külügyminiszter a washingtoni követnek,” 20 January 1954, MOL, KÜM, USA tük, XIX-J-1-k, 25/c, Box 55, 01134 titk. I. 1954.

[36] “Olt Károly pénzügyminiszter jelentése a keményvaluta helyzetről,” 15 April 1956, MOL, 276. F., 66. Cs., 71. Őe.

[37] See Urbán, Sztálin halálától a forradalom kitöréséig – A magyar-szovjet kapcsolatok története, pp. 25-39.

[38] “Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Kalijarvi) to the Secretary of State,” 18 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, Lot file 76 D 232.

[39] In the course of one year, 1.7 billion forints worth of capital equipment were returned to Hungary from Western Europe because of qualitative deficiencies. Even the Soviet Union returned some commodities for the same reason.  See “Háy László külkereskedelmi miniszter feljegyzése a külkereskedelem helyzetéről,” 13 October 1953, MOL, 267. F., 67. Cs., 178. Őe.

[40] “Hungarian Interest in U.S. Wheat and Cotton,” Amleg Budapest to the State Department, 2 April 1955, USNA, RG 59, 411.6441/4-2255; see also “Hungarian interest in United States Trade,” Amleg Budapest to the State Department, 24 June and 9 August 1955, USNA, RG 59, 411.6441/6-2455 and 411.6441/8-955 respectively.

[41] “Progress Report on NSC 174, United States Policy toward the Satellites of Eastern Europe,” Progress Report Submitted by the Operations Coordinating Board to the National Security Council, 29 February 1956, FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, pp. 121-128. It is interesting to note that an Office of Intelligence and Research report in 1950 concluded that neither the embargo nor the offer of Western economic assistance would be sufficient to cause the satellites to break away from the Soviet bloc.

[42]“ The American Embassy in Vienna to the State Department,” 20 October 1953, USNA, RG 59, 864.00/20-2056. The information was gathered from a Hungarian immigrant who supplied the Hungarian government with technical equipment.

[43] I have not actually found records of any such companies, but in a memorandum prepared for the MDP general secretary, Mátyás Rákosi expressed the need to set up companies in countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden. “Feljegyzés operatív külkereskedelmi vállalat létesítéséről,” 21 April 1949, MOL, 276 F., 65. Cs., 28.1 Őe.

[44] Rákosi, Visszaemlékezések, 1945-1956, Volume 2, p. 847.

[45] “The American Legation in Budapest to the State Department,” 25 July 1952, USNA, RG 59, 864.00/10-2552.

[46] This contained a provision for Hungary to purchase spare parts for French automobiles, but Hungarians used it to acquire spare parts for British and American automobiles, which were embargoed, in France. “Étude sur la Hongrie,” June 1952, Archive du Ministere des Affaires Étrangeres, Serie Europe, 1944-1960, Hongrie, Vol. 40.

[47] “Feljegyzés az MDP PB üléséről,” 2 January 1956, MOL, 276. F., 53. Cs., 264. Őe.

[48] “Feljegyzés az MDP PB üléséről,” 19 June 1956, MOL, 276. F., 53. Cs. 101., Őe.

[49] “The American Embassy in Vienna to the State Department,” 20 October 1953, USNA, RG 59, 864.00/20-2056. The 1948 list of commodities Hungary wished to buy from the U.S. shows the type of goods Hungary needed, but could not legally get, included milling machines, turners lathes, grinders, trucks, ball bearings, concrete mixers, cadmium, etc.  Hungary received only about eight percent of these products.   See also Rákosi, Visszaemlékezések, Vol. 2, pp. 846, 863.

[50] The price index of consumer goods was 166 percent higher than that of capital equipment in 1952. The price of clothing had risen to 17 times since 1938, the price of food had risen 12 times since then. Services were somewhat cheaper. The purchasing power of the forint   declined 40 percent between 1946 and 1949 and a further 27 percent by 1955. In 1951 rationing was introduced for meat, lard, sugar, flour, and soap. This was lifted seven months later, when prices rose 40 percent, while wages rose only 20 percent. Between 1949 and 1953 food consumption was below the 1948 level (except in wheat and sugar).  In 1953 even the consumption of wheat fell below the 1938 level. The deterioration of quality added another 10% to the increase of the official price level, which in 1955 surpassed the 1951 figure by 30%. See Pető - Szakács, A hazai gazdaság négy évtizedének története , pp. 212-233.

[51] On 30 May 1953 Evgeny Kiselev, the Soviet ambassador in Hungary, reported to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov that half of Hungary's gold reserve was tied down for commodity credits. Spravka Kiselev Molotovu, AVPRF, Fond 077, Opis 33, Papka 166, Delo 240. The country's economic hardship probably played a significant part in Rákosi’s downfall in June.

[52] “Feljegyzés az MSZMP PB üléséről,” 23 November 1965, MOL, 288. F., 5., Cs., 380 Őe.

[53] Holsti, International Politics, p. 248

[54] “The American Legation to the State Department,” 2 February 1953, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/2-1953.

[55] “The American Legation to the State Department, Pattern of Democratic Action under a Totalitarian Regime,” 6 February 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/2-656.

[56] For further discussion of psychological warfare, see Walter L. Hixson, Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture and the Cold War 1945-1961. (London: Macmillan, 1997), pp. 12-13. See also Peter Grose, Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles. (Boston:  Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1994). According to Grose “Some of what was proposed [regarding psychological warfare] to be sure, might be a little close to the illegal, the unethical, or the downright immoral.” Ibid., p. 36.

[57] Hixson, Parting the Iron Curtain, pp. 12-13.

[58] Ibid. pp. 26-27.

[59] “The U.S. Legation in Budapest to the State Department,” 6 October 1954, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/10-654.

[60] “Kiss Károly feljegyzése Rákosinak,” 5 April 1955, MOL, 276. F., 65. Cs., 283. Őe.

[61] See James Critchlow, “Western Cold War Broadcasting: A Review Essay,” in this same issue of the Journal of Cold War Studies. According to the 1957 survey, 93 percent of Hungarians relied on foreign radio and 15 percent relied on balloons for news.  Only two per cent relied on domestic media for information. “Hungarian Refugee Opinion,” Radio Free Europe Munich Audience Analysis Section, Special Report No. 6, January 1957, NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 64450.

[62] Az állam biztonsága ellen kifejtett tevékenység és az ellene folytatott harc, 1949-1956 (Activity against the Security of the State and the Struggle against it, 1949-1956), Volume 2, unpublished manuscript, undated. The manuscript is found in the Ministry of the Interior Historical Office, Történeti Hivatal (TH), A-1364/2, p. 150.

[63] “RFE Handbook,” 30 November 1951, NS Archive, SFC, Record no. 66 367.

[64] “Columbia University Bureau of Applied Research on listening to VOA and other foreign stations in Hungary,” November 1953, NS Archive, Record no. 64 444.

[65] “Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 14 November 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-1456.

[66] “Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 16 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/7-1656. According to the RFE survey of January 1957, the VOA was Hungary's most popular foreign station. 

[67] “AmEmbassy, Tel Aviv to the State Department, Interview with Recent Arrival from Hungary,” 12 May 1955, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/5-1255.

[68] “Flossmann Győző és társai (Magyar Függetlenségi Front),” 1952, TH, 10-50986-52, V-73203.

[69] “Flossmann Győző és társai,” 1952, TH, 10-50986-52, V-73203. Gyozo Flossmann was an unskilled laborer who regularly listened to foreign radio stations. It is interesting to note that during World War II many Hungarians, including members of the political elite, expected the British and Americans to parachute into Hungary and occupy it.

[70] Ibid.

[71] “Faddi Ottmár és társai, az ÁVH feljegyzése a Belügyminisztériumnak,” 19 June 1954, TH, 10-5114-54, V-127 372.

[72] The Counter Intelligence Corps, originally founded as the Counter Intelligence Police in 1917, had the purpose of hunting down Nazis after World War II.   After 1947, its mission changed to include the gathering of intelligence in the Soviet bloc.  The Gehlen organization similarly had the purpose of recruiting former Nazis for the task of gathering intelligence on the Soviet bloc.  See Douglas Botting, America’s Secret Army: The Untold Story of the Counter Intelligence Corps (New York: F. Watts, 1989), pp. 319-321, 341.

[73] “ Horváth Kálmán és társai, kihallgatási jegyzőkönyv,” 1954, TH, 10-5114-54, V-111 790. The alleged plot was revealed in the town of Kecskemét, which had one of the most significant military airfields in the country. Similarly, a certain István Dudás was allegedly asked by his brother in 1951 “to organize a group of partisans in case war breaks out, so as to lend armed support to the Americans in Hungary.” He was told that “Americans will supply the arms when the time comes.” They would be “parachuted near the hamlet.” Since Dudás did not get the instruction to launch the conspiracy, he took no action. He and his brother were executed nonetheless. “ Dudás Imre és társai,” 1951, TH, 10-5575-51, V-81 337-2.

[74] “Ráth Gedeon és társai, kihallgatási jegyzőkönyv,” 1950, TH, 37-5079/1952, V-112 524/1.

[75] “Flossmann Győző és társai,” 1952, TH 10-50986-52, V-73203.

[76] On one occasion a Hungarian man, Ferenc Alföldi, wrote the U.S. Legation in Budapest a hand written letter, in which he requested explosives in the name of the “Hungarian People's Party.” His request indicated to Legation officials that he was “not only somewhat of a specialist in this field but has a definite scheme for utilizing the particular type of material he asks for.” “Amlegation Budapest to the State Department,” 2 February 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/3-256.

[77] This is known from reports to the interrogators by informers in the prison cells.

[78] “Interrogation of Hungarian Defector,” Frankfurt, Germany, 31 May 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/5-356.

[79] Cited in Briefing memorandum on the current situation in Hungary prepared in anticipation of the visit of Mr. William A. Crawford, Deputy Director, Office of Eastern European Affairs, the US Legation to the Department of State, 7 January 1955. NAWDC, RG 59, 764.00/1-755.

[80] See “Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 19 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/7-1656; “Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 16 November 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-1456.

[81] “Interview with recently escaped man, Amcongen Munich to Francis M. Stevens, Director of East European Affairs, State Department,” 23 August 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/8-2356.

[82] “Amlegation Budapest to the State Department,” 11 February 1955, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/2-1156.

[83] See Hixson, Parting the Iron Curtain, pp. 65-66; Marchio, Rhetoric and Reality, p. 216.

[84] “Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 14 March 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/3-1456; “AmEmbassy Vienna to the State Department,” 3 October 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/10-356.

[85] “Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 14 March 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/3-1456.

[86]“ Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 16 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/7-1656. An official Hungarian report on balloon sightings from July to September 1956 seems to confirm that they were seen mostly along the borders, although on four occasions out of 22 they were seen in the Budapest area as well.

[87] “Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department,” 16 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/7-1656.

[88] “Hungarian Refugee Opinion,” Radio Free Europe Munich Audience Analysis Section, Special Report No. 6, January 1957, National Security Archive, Washington D.C. (NS Archive), Soviet Flashpoints Collection (SFC), Record No. 64450.

[89]“Határozat a Belügyminisztérium belső reakció elleni munkájáról,” 11 May 1956, MOL, 276. F., 53. Cs., 286. Őe.

[90] “The Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the U.S. Legation in Budapest,” 8 February 1956, MOL, KÜM, USA tük, XIX-J-1-j, 4-fh, 6. doboz, 002 118/56.

[91] “The U.S. Legation in Budapest to the Foreign Ministry,” 9 February 1956, MOL, KÜM, USA tük, XIX-J-1-j, 6. doboz, 002 118/2.

[92] “Note from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry to the U.S. Legation in Budapest,” 28 July 1956, MOL, KÜM, USA tük, XIX-J-1-j 1-b, 6. doboz, 112 118/1.

[93] “Feljegyzés Rákosinak,” 23 February 1952, MOL, 276. F., 65. Cs., 95. Őe.

[94] “Az MDP Politikai Bizottságának határozata a Belügyminisztérium belső reakció elleni munkájáról,” 11 May 1956, MOL, 276. F., 53, Cs., 286. Őe.

[95]“Feljegyzés az MDP PB üléséről,” 25 June 1956, MOL, 276. F., 65., Cs., 26 Őe.

[96] “Feljegyzés az MSZMP PB üléséről,” 23 November 1965, MOL, 288. F., 5. Cs., 380 Őe.

[97] For more on the Kersten amendment see Bennett Kovrig, Of Walls and Bridges: The United States and Eastern Europe (New York: New York University Press, 1991), pp. 64-65.

[98] “Charles Kersten’s letter to Dean Acheson,” 1 October 1952, USNA, RG 218, RJCS 1951-1953, 385 (6-4-46), 48. doboz.

[99] “Memorandum to the Secretary of Defense,” January 1952, USNA, RG 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), CD 091.3.

[100]“ JCS memorandum to the Secretary of Defense,” 17 March 1952, USNA, RG 330, OSD, CD 091.3.

[101] “Memorandum to the Secretary of Defense,” 12 September 1952, USNA, RG 330, OSD, CD 091.3.

[102] “Implementation of Section 101 (A) of the Mutual Security Act of 1951 (Kersten Amendment), Enclosure: A Draft – Joint Strategic Plans Committee 808/116 JSPC – Implementation of Section (A) (1) of the Mutual Security Act 1951 (Kersten Amendment) Reference JSPC 808/115/D. Signed G.E. Stevens, B. R. Eggenman, Joint Secretariat,” 13 February 1953, USNA, RG 218, RJCS 1951-53, 385 (6-4-46), Box 149.

[103] James Jay Carafano, “Mobilizing Europe’s Stateless: America’s Plan for a Cold War Army,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1999), pp. 61-85.

[104] Hixson, Parting the Iron Curtain, p. 68.

[105] Ibid., p. 70.

[106] Gaddis, The Long Peace, p. 174.

[107] Vojtech Mastny, The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity, p. 118.

[108] Grose, Gentleman Spy, p. 322.

[109] “National Security Directive,” 28 December 1955, NS Archive, Record no. 62351.

[110] “Rákosi feljegyzése az MDP Politikai Bizottságának,” 13 July 1956, MOL, 276. F., 65. Cs., 26. Őe.

[111] “Az MDP PB határozata a Belügyminisztérium belső reakció elleni munkájáról,” 11 May 1956, MOL, 276. F., 53. Cs., 286. Őe.

[112] Grose, Operation Rollback, pp. 167-173.

[113] Az állam biztonsága ellen kifejtett tevékenység és az ellene folytatott harc, Vol. 2. Among the files of interrogation records in the Ministry of the Interior I found a number of cases where alleged conspirators confessed to organizing armed groups in Hungary and in Transylvania.   They claimed that they acted on the instructions of the CIC, preparing for possible war and the American invasion of Hungary. According to János Weissengruber, an agent of the CIC, the CIC was planning to establish guerillas in Transylvania who would infiltrate Hungary to commit terrorist attacks.  They would be supported by pre-established bases. During a war, these groups would help cut supply lines from the East. “Weissengruber János és társai,” December 1952, TH, 10-50910/52, V-82 932; András Lada, a CIC agent, allegedly was sent to sabotage targets in the heavy industrial town of Sztálinváros. “Lada András és társai,” 1954, TH, 10-514 75-954, V-1116 808-2; Sándor Dudás was allegedly instructed by the CIC to set up illegal armed groups, who would provide resistance against the Communists in case of war. “Dudás Imre és társai,” October 1951, TH, 10-50775-51, V-81 337. These stories have not been adequately checked for their reliability.

[114] John Lewis Gaddis wrote that liberation “had long been quietly endorsed by Truman himself.” Gaddis, The Long Peace, p. 174.

[115] Ibid., p. 174.

[116] Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace, pp. 158-177; Richard H. Immerman, John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy. (Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1999), pp. 39-55; 60-85; Gaddis, The Long Peace, pp. 149-189.

[117] For a comprehensive analysis of the East German uprising and its effects on Soviet and Western policies in East-Central Europe, see the three-part article by Kramer, The Early Post-Stalin Succession Struggle and Upheavals in East-Central Europe, No. 1 (Winter 1999), pp. 3-55 (Part 1); Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1999), pp. 3-42 (Part 2); and Vol. 1, No. 3,  pp. 3-64 (Part 3), esp. Parts 1 and 3.

[118] See Christian F. Ostermann ed. Uprising in East Germany, 1953 - The Cold War, the German Question and the First Major Upheaval Behind the Iron Curtain (Budapest, New York: CEU Press, 2001), pp. 176-177; p. 327.

[119] Kramer, The Early Post-Stalin Succession Struggle and Upheavals in East-Central Europe, Part 3,  pp. 19-20. Marchio, Rhetoric and Reality, pp. 210-211. In July and August 200 thousand people a day collected food packages, all in all 5,5 million food packages were distributed. East German authorities were dismayed that the US was able to win overlarge segments of the population. The food program combined humanitarian motives with political-psychological objectives. As the U.S. expected, the food program sharply raised tension within the GDR and prevented the SED regime from consolidating its hold over the population. The program helped hungry Germans to a substantial amount of food, highlighted the shortcomings of the shortages of the GDR. It gave the East Germans contact with the West, offering hope of eventual freedom, thereby undercutting communist unity propaganda. Ostermann, Uprising in East Germany, pp. 322-325.

[120] Immerman, John Foster Dulles:   Piety, Pragmatism, and Power, p. 81.

[121] See Kramer, The Early Post-Stalin Succession Struggle and Upheavals in East-Central Europe, Part 3, pp. 26-27.

[122] NSC 58/2 ”US Policy Toward the Soviet Satellite States in Eastern Europe,” Mr. Bohlen to Mr. Barbour, 15 May 1952. NAWDC, RG 59, PPS 1947-1953, 64 D563, Europe, Box 29.

[123] “Statement of Policy by the National Security Council on United States Policy toward Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe,” NSC 174, 11 December 1953, FRUS, 1952-1954, Vol. VIII, pp. 111-127.

[124] Ibid., p. 82.

[125] See Ronald W. Preussen, “John Foster Dulles and the Predicaments of Power,” in Richard H. Immerman, ed., John Foster Dulles and the Diplomacy of the Cold War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 35.

[126] In a discussion with Polish émigré leaders in March 1953, State Department officials declared that “the liberation of the enslaved nations cannot be achieved by their own efforts and requires for its realization a fundamental change of the international situation.” In other words, rollback was not possible at that time. “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: Liberation of Eastern Europe, Rowmund Pilsudski, Jerzy Lerski, Allan Vedeler,” 20 March 1953, NS Archive, SFC, Record no. 66171. Provenance: Department of State Office of the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.

[127]“ Memorandum by Fuller to Stelle,” 3 December 1956, USNA, RG 59, PPS 1956, Lot File 66 D 487, L.W. Fuller, Box 78.

[128] “Memorandum by William Crawford to Walwourth Balbour,” 28 September 1955, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/9-2855.

[129] “Memorandum by McKisson,” 1 July 1955, USNA, RG 59, 764.00-7-155. In its standard response, the State Department stated that it was “looking forward” to the day when the peoples of the region would regain their “freedom and independence.”

[130] Trachtenberg, Constructed Peace, p. 160.

[131] See Immerman, John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power, p. 83; and Marchio, Rhetoric and Reality, p. 214.

[132] “Report by the National Security Council on Interim Objectives and Actions to Exploit Unrest in the Satellite States,” 29 June 1953, NS Archive, SFC, Record no. 62113.

[133] Günter Bischof, “Eisenhower and the Austrian Treaty,” in Eisenhower – A Centenary Assessement, pp. 138-144.

[134] Immerman, John Foster Dulles:   Piety, Pragmatism, and Power, pp. 77-79.

[135] “Memorandum by Halle to Bowie and Beam,” 27 July 1953, USNA, RG 59, PPS 1947-53, Members Chronological File, Louis Halle Jr., Box 47.

[136] This notion had such prominent adherents as Charles Bohlen, who held that “The essential Soviet objective in East Europe was and still remains to ensure Soviet control...for strategic purposes. The post-war Soviet takeover in East Europe was inspired primarily by strategic considerations and only secondarily by spread of communism for ideological reasons.” Moscow to the Secretary of State, 10 December 1956, USNA, RG 59, PPS 1956, Lot file 66 D 487, Box 76, (Soviet Union).

[137] “Memorandum by L.W. Fuller,” 21 July 1953, USNA, RG 69, PPS 1947-1953, Lot 64 D 563, Box 29, Europe.

[138] “Memorandum by L.W. Fuller,” 21 July 1953, USNA, RG 69, PPS 1947-1953, Lot 64 D 563, Box 29, Europe.

[139] “A Dialectical Approach to the Possibilities of Accommodation by Negotiation between the Free World and the Soviet Bloc,” [no date, 1953], USNA, RG 59, PPS 1947-53, Lot 64 D 563, Box 47.

[140] “United States Policy Respecting Europe,” 5 March 1954, USNA, RG 59, PPS, Lot 65 D 101, Box 88.

[141] Marchio, Rhetoric and Reality, p. 232.

[142] Ibid., pp. 232-233.

[143]Bischof, Austria in the First Cold War, pp. 150-151.

[144] According to a summary paper approved by the OCB on 5 January 1955, “there is little likelihood of detaching a major satellite at any time without the grave risk of war except by negotiation.” FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, pp. 8-9.

[145] “Memorandum by John C. Campbell to the PPS,” 31 May 1955, USNA, RG 59, PPS 1955, Lot file 66 D, Box 64. Campbell proposed the following compromise: If the Soviet Union would allow German unification, withdraw from Czechoslovakia and Poland, and give the Eastern bloc a chance to choose military alignment, and remove troops from Czechoslovakia and Poland, then the U.S. would withdraw from all NATO countries except Britain.  Alternatively, a united Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia would all receive non-aligned status.

[146] “Basic U.S. Policy in Relation to the Four-Power Negotiations,” 11 July 1956, NSC 5224-1, FRUS, Vol. V,   1955-1957, p. 287.

[147] Trachtenberg, Constructed Peace, pp.136-145.

[148] Marchio, Rhetoric and Reality, p. 247.

[149] Vladislav Zubok, ”Soviet Policy Aims at the Geneva Conference of 1955,” in Günter Bischof and Saki Dockrill eds., Cold War Respite - The Geneva Summit of 1955 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001), pp. 55-74.

[150] “Statement of Policy on U.S. Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe,” NSC-5608/1, 18 July 1956, FRUS, Vol. XXV, 1955-1957, pp. 217-221.

[151] At an NSC meeting in February 1956, Eisenhower declared that U.S. trade with the Eastern bloc might prove to be a “centrifugal force,” FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, p. 120.

[152] “A Külügyminisztérium V. Területi Osztályának feljegyzése a külügyminiszternek,” 19 September 1956, MOL, KÜM, XIX-J-1-j, USA tük, 4/a, 4. doboz, 007682/1956.

[153] “Irányelvek kiküldése,” 1956, undated, MOL, KÜM, XIX-J-1-j, USA tük, 1/b, 1. doboz, 00664/1956. Hungary wanted to develop diplomatic, economic, cultural, scientific and technological relations with the “capitalist” states and wanted to initiate the “restoration” of the “atmosphere of confidence”. The Foreign Ministry claimed that the improvement of relations are impeded by diplomatic representatives, who “are honest and loyal to the party” but whose deficient general knowledge and diplomatic training stops them from exploiting the new opportunities. See also “A külügyminisztérium feljegyzése a moszkvai követségnek,” 1956, undated, MOL, KÜM, Moszkva tük, XIX-J-1-j, IV-100/1, sz. n.

[154] “AmLegation Budapest to the State Department,” 7 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, 611.64/7-1356. The Hungarian side suggested that Ravndal had initiated the trade discussions. The Ministry of Foreign Trade believed that increased Hungarian exports to the United States were desirable because of the need for hard currency, but it cautioned that the U.S. offer had political strings attached. “A külkereskedelmi minisztérium feljegyzése Rákosinak,” 20 June 1955, MOL, 276. F., 53. Cs., 283. Őe.

[155] “Meeting with Sík,” Budapest of the Secretary of State, 22 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, 411. 6441/7-2255; “Amlegation Budapest to the State Department,” 29 August 1955, USNA, RG 59, 411.6441/8-955.

[156] “Memorandum on Minister Ravndal’s visit,” 8 May 1956, MOL, KUM, USA tük, XIX.J-1-j 4/a, 4. doboz, 004782/1.

[157] “Ravndal to the Secretary of State,” 5 May 1956, FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, p. 162.

[158] “Discussion with McKisson,” 24 July 1956, MOL, KÜM, USA tük, XIX-J-1-j, 5/e, Box 15, 00594/1. In 1955 the Hungarian authorities had arrested two Hungarian employees of the Legation and sentenced them for “intelligence activity on behalf of a foreign power, seditious acts and other crimes.” Seven other employees had been arrested earlier, their fate and whereabouts were undisclosed. In 1955 the Hungarians also arrested and sentenced two U.S. correspondents, Andrew Marton and his wife.

[159] “Az utazási korlátozások feloldásának bejelentése,” 24 August 1956, MOL, KÜM, USA tük, XIX-J-1-j, 15. doboz, 007151/1956; “Memo of Conversation between Hoover, Leverich, and Kós,” 4 September 1956, USNA, RG 59, 611.6411/9-456.

[160] “A szovjet nagykövet (Andropov) a külügyminiszternél (Horváth),” 12 September 1956, MOL, KÜM, Szu tük, XIX-J-1-j, IV-102, 1/d, 5. doboz, 1455/56.

[161] “A külügyminiszter (Horváth) feljegyzése a belügyminiszternek (Piros),” 4 October and 23 October 1956, MOL, KÜM, Szu tük, XIX-J-1-j, 4/a, 4 doboz, 007425-1956.

[162] For a thorough reassessment of the Soviet Union’s response to the Hungarian and Polish crises, based on multi-archive research, see Mark Kramer, “New Evidence on Soviet Decision-Making and the 1956 Polish and Hungarian Crises,” Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issue 8-9 (Winter 1996/1997), pp. 358-384, which was published in expanded form as “The Soviet Union and the 1956 Crises in Hungary and Poland:  Reassessments and New Findings,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 33 , No. 2 (April 1998), pp. 163-214.  Kramer also has provided an extensively annotated English translation of the  Malin notes, “The ‘Malin Notes’ on the Crises in Hungary and Poland, 1956,” Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issue 8-9, pp. 385-410. Kramer argues that the sudden reversal of the Kremlin’s 30 October decision not to intervene in Hungary was caused by the combination of seemingly alarming developments in Hungary and the British-French bombing of Egypt, which commenced on 31 October. On the Soviet role see also János M. Rainer, “Döntés a Kremlben - Kísérlet a feljegyzések értelmezésére,” in Vyacheslav Sereda and. János M. Rainer, eds., Döntés a Kremlben - A szovjet pártelnökség vitái Magyarországról (Budapest:  1956-os Intezet, 1996), pp.111-155; László Borhi, “The Great Powers and the Hungarian Crisis of 1956,” Hungarian Studies, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Spring 1997), pp. 237-279.

[163] For a typical assessment of the significance of Eastern Europe for U.S. policy see: Policy Planning Staff Paper, 25 August 1949, ”U.S. policy Toward the Soviet Satellite States in Eastern Europe” FRUS, 1949, Vol. V, pp. 21-26. As the paper put it, ”These states in themselves are of secondary importance…but in the current two-world struggle they have meaning primarily because they…extend (Soviet) power into the heart of Europe. It is assumed that there is general agreement that, so long as the USSR represents the only major threat to our security…our objective…must be the elimination of Soviet control from those counties”.

[164] Eisenhower to Tito, NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 66 140.

[165] In 1953 State Department officials expressed their view that “any armed resistance in the Moscow controlled countries of East-Central Europe has no chance of success and its outcome could bring only biological annihilation of the nations concerned.” Memorandum of Conversation with Polish émigrés, 20 March 1953, NS Archive, SFC, Record no. 66171. In a memorandum of 14 January 1956 to Francis B. Stevens of the Office of Eastern European Affairs, Robert F. Delaney of the Office of Policy and Programs, Soviet Orbit Division, United States Information Agency, stated that the U.S. policy toward a potential Hungarian uprising should be the same as policy during the Berlin uprising in 1953. He declared that the United States must not “cause the premature uprising and consequent annihilation of dissident elements on the basis of exhortations or promises which we are not able to support.” FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, pp. 10-11.

[166] Dulles to the American Embassy in Belgrade, 25 October 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/10-2556. In 1950 he similarly wrote, “The people have no arms, and violent revolt would be futile. Indeed it would be worse than futile, for it would precipitate massacre.” Quoted in Ronald W. Preussen, “Walking a Tightrope in the Twilight: John Foster Dulles and Eastern Europe in 1953.” Paper delivered in Paris at the Conference “Europe and the Cold War” (November 1998).

[167] Quoted in Kovrig, Of Walls and Bridges, p. 89.

[168] Ibid, p. 91

[169] See Csaba Békés, The 1956 Hungarian Revolution and World Politics, Cold War International History Project Working Paper No. 16 (Washington, DC:  Woodrow Wilson Center, 1996), p. 15.

[170] Ibid, p. 15.

[171] “Policy Planning Staff Position Paper,” 29 October 1956, USNA, RG 59, PPS, Lot 66 D 487 1956, Box 80.

[172] “Interview with Harold Stassen on J. F. Dulles.” NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 65 102. Stassen did admit to having doubts that the Soviet Union would accept the expulsion of the Soviet Army from Hungary.

[173] “Memorandum by the Special Assistant to the President,” 26 October 1956, NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 64 493.

[174] There is no indication in the currently available Soviet records that U.S. policies had any direct impact on the Soviet decision-making process.  Other records, not yet released, may eventually provide a different picture.

[175] Kovrig, Of Walls and Bridges, p. 95.

[176] “Minutes of the Meeting of the Security Council,” 28 October 1956, Archives de Quai d'Orsay, Serie Europe 1944-1960, Hongrie, Vol. 62, Folio 207-216.

[177] “Bohlen to the Secretary of State,” 30 October 1956. NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 65 692.  Zhukov's words were also picked up by the French chargé. “Soutou to Pineau,” 30 October 1956, in Minist`ere des Affaires Étrang`eres, Commission de Publication des Documents Français, Documents Diplomatiques Français (Paris), 1956, Vol. III, pp. 82-83.

[178] “The Embassy in the Soviet Union to the State Department,” 30 October 1956 10 p.m., FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, pp. 346-347.

[179] The information came from the Indian ambassador in Moscow, Krishna Menon. The American Legation in Budapest to the Department of State, 8 January 1957. NAWDC, RG 59, 611.64˛1-857.

[180] ”L'URSS parait disposée, dans la déclaration du 30 Octobre á renonçer á l'empire économique et, sous certaines conditions, á l'empire militaire qu'elle exerçait sur les états satellites depuis la fin de la guerre”. 2 November 1956. The French embassy in Moscow to the Foreign Ministry, Archives de Quai d'Orsay, Europe 1944-1960, volume 116, fol. 39.

[181] As cited by Békés, “Az Egyesült Államok és a magyar semlegesség 1956-ban,” in András Hegedűs, György Litván, and János M. Rainer, eds., Évkönyv 1994 (Budapest: 1956-os Intézet, 1994), p. 176.

[182] “State Department Memorandum,” 31 October 1956, NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 65 283.

[183] “Report by the Joint Strategic Survey Committee to the NSC,” 31 October 1956, USNA, RG 218.

[184] “Bohlen to the Secretary of State,” 2 November 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-256. On 1 November the British minister in Budapest thought that the Soviets “reversed their position and will impose on the country with force of arms.” “Fry to the Foreign Office,” The Hungarian Revolution of 1956, pp. 155-156.

[185] On the Suez crisis and for the citation see Peter L. Hahn, The United States, Great Britain and Egypt 1945-1956. Strategy and Diplomacy in the Early Cold War (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1991), p. 231.

[186] “Draft Statement of Policy by the Planning Board of the NSC – U.S. Policy on developments in Poland and Hungary,” NSC 5616/1, 31 October 1956, FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, pp. 354-359.

[187] Kovrig, Of Walls and Bridges, pp. 79, 92;

[188] See Borbándi Gyula, Magyarok az Angol Kertben – A Szabad Európa Rádió története [Hungarians in the English Garden – The History of Radio Free Europe] (Budapest: Európa, 1996), p. 225.

[189] “Lodge’s Talk with the Spanish Foreign Minister,” 6 November 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-656; Fischer Howe to the Acting Secretary of State (Hoover), 11 August 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-856; Acting Secretary to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid,  8 November 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-856.

[190] “Draft Statement of Policy by the Planning Board of the NSC – U.S. Policy on developments in Poland and Hungary,” NSC 5616/1, 31 October 1956, FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, pp. 354-359.  The JCS was opposed to this policy.

[191] “Draft to the UK Delegation in New York by the Foreign Office, 2 November 1956,” Hungarian Revolution of 1956, p. 161.

[192]“Pineau to Cornut-Gentille, 3 November 1956, in Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres,” Documents Diplomatiques Francais, Vol. III, p. 159. The French draft resolution “invited” the Moscow government to “withdraw its forces from Hungary” and to “recognize and respect the neutrality of Hungary.” “The U.S. Mission in New York to the Secretary of State,” 25 November 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-256.

[193] “Dulles to USUN New York,” 2 November 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/11-256. See also Caroline Pruden, Conditional Partners – Eisenhower, the United Nations, and the Search for a Permanent Peace (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998), p. 243. According to Pruden Eisenhower and Dulles may have feared that the British-French motion was a ploy to divert attention from Suez.

[194] In a conversation with Manlio Brosio, the Italian ambassador in Washington, Burke C. Elbrick, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, explained that “neutralization was a delicate subject because it inevitably led to a consideration of East Germany and possible neutralization of Germany as a whole…However…the U.S. has no intention of creating a cordon sanitaire around the Soviet Union nor do we expect the satellites, if their status changed, to take sides against the Soviet Union,” 27 December 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/12-2756.

[195]Bischof- Ambrose, Eisenhower, p. 11.

[196] The Acting Secretary’s Meeting, 2 November 1956, FRUS, 1955-1957, Vol. XXV, p. 364.

[197] “NSC Staff Study: The United States Policy toward the Satellites in Eastern Europe,” 27 June 1956, NS Archive, Record No. 62 596. The United States was not alone in its lack of foresight. The French Foreign Ministry’s analysis stated that “For the moment we cannot say whether the Hungarian people would be resolved…to show proof of similar courage as the workers of Poznan.” Archives Diplomatiques de Quai d’Orsay, Serie Europe 1944-1960, Hongrie, Vol. 88.

[198] It is often argued that the crisis in Suez, which erupted simultaneously with the end game in Hungary, eclipsed the Hungarian revolution in significance. The evidence for this is derived from the November 1 meeting of the NSC, where the council after hearing the report on Hungary turned immediately to the discussion of the Middle East. It is quite clear that this did not happen because Suez was more important. The situation in Hungary was reportedly improving, the Soviets seemed to be pulling out, negotiations between them and the Hungarians were launched. In this light Suez was simply more urgent to deal with.

[199] “Interview with Richard Nixon concerning J.F. Dulles,” NS Archive, Record no. 65 106.

[200] “Report on the Satellites,” 7 June 1956, USNA, RG 59, PPS, Lot file 66 D 487, Box 78; See also a report by W. Park Armstrong to Dulles: The new course “failed to resolve the problems of industry and agriculture…living conditions did not improve in 1954.”   “Memorandum on NIE 12.5-55, Current Situation and Probable Developments in Hungary,” 4 July 1956, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/4-755; The U.S. Legation in Budapest sent a damning critique of the Nagy regime, stating that “Hungarians retained the same degree of antipathy towards the regime as before June 1953 and they were at least as willing, and perhaps more so, to express this feeling openly and to engage in passive resistance towards the state.” The American Legation in Budapest to the State Department, “Briefing memorandum on the current situation in Hungary Prepared in Anticipation of Mr. William A. Crawford, Deputy Director, Office of Eastern European Affairs,” 7 January 1955, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/1-755.

[201]“ Memorandum for the chairman of the JCS,” 25 October 1956, USNA, RG 218, RJCS 1953-1957, 091 (Poland), Box 15. The memorandum stated “Gomulka may very well be anti-Russian unlike Nagy, he has not spent considerable time in the USSR.”

[202] Telephone Call to Mr. Shanley to J.F. Dulles,” 29 October 1956.  Cited in Bennett Kovrig, Of Walls and Bridges, p. 92.

[203] “Hoover to the Legation in Budapest, 31 October 1956,” USNA, RG 59, 764.00/ 10-3156.

[204] “Memorandum by Arthur Radford to the Secretary of Defense on the Polish Policy of the United States,” 3 December 1956, NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 71 515.

[205] Ibid.

[206] “Memorandum by the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force to the JCS on the Polish Policy of the U.S.,” 30 November 1956, NS Archive, Record No. 71 527.

[207] “JCS Draft Statement,” 6 May 1957, USNA, RG 218, RJCS 1957, 062 (5-26-45), Box 3. “The USSR should be informed that the U.S. is determined to apply force against the USSR itself if necessary in fulfillment of U.S. objectives and that these objectives are limited to the restoration of Polish independence. However, even though the U.S. made this position clear to the Soviet leaders, it is highly unlikely they would back down.”

[208] Quoted in Hixson, Parting the Curtain, p. 80.

[209] “Policy Planning Staff Meeting,” 30 October 1956, NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 66 148.

[210] “Hoover to the American Embassy in Madrid,” 8 November 1956, USNA, RG 59764.00/11-856.

[211] “Memorandum of Conversation: Carlton, Senator Flander’s assistant; Beam, EU. Reports of Proposed Spanish Intervention in Hungary.” 12 April 1957, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/4-1257.

[212] “Interview with R. Murphy regarding J.F. Dulles,”  NS Archive, SFC, Record No. 65 105. In his memoirs, Henry Kissinger similarly criticizes U.S. officials for lacking imagination in their approach to the Hungarian crisis.  He argues that experts such as Charles Bohlen and George Kennan could have given the administration better advice. This criticism is somewhat off the mark.  Bohlen was involved in policy making during the crisis, and Kennan’s views on containment suggest that he would hardly have argued for active intervention.  See Kissinger, Diplomacy, p. 562.

[213] Trachtenberg, Constructed Peace, p. 161. Eisenhower was prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons in case of a Soviet aggression and may have been ready for a preemptive nuclear strike at the USSR in case the Soviets were perceived to be preparing for war. See Ibid., chapter 5.

[214] “The British Embassy in Washington to the Foreign Office,” 1 November 1956, in Hungarian Revolution, pp. 152-153.

[215] H. W. Brand, The Devil We Knew - Americans and the Cold War (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

[216] Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars - A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (Basic Books, Third Edition, 2000), pp. 86-95.

[217] Gaddis, We Now Know, p. 235.

[218] Grose, Gentleman Spy, p. 437.

[219] See Ronald W. Preussen, “John Foster Dulles és Kelet-Európa,” and Raymond Garthoff, “A magyar forradalom és Washington,” in András Hegedűs, György Litván, and János Rainer, eds., Évkönyv 1996-1997 (Budapest: 1956-os Intézet, 1997), pp. 228-237 and 314-327 respectively.

[220] Quoted by Hixson, Parting the Iron Curtain, p. 85.

[221] George R. Urban, Radio Free Europe and the Pursuit of Democracy: My War within the Cold War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 218-219. In a similar message László Béry told his audience that the army that Hungary must face “is not invincible”. Rebels “had to count not with the full force of the Soviet Union but only with those that were sent to restore order. According to all common sense and rational calculation there is a chance that the Hungarian army can stand the ground against the Soviet army deployed against the people and can be victorious…”. Cited in Borbándi, Magyarok az Angol Kertben, p. 239. On October the 30th, when Nagy abolished the one-party system the RFE warned the freedom fighters not to “hang [their] weapons on the wall”. As cited by Kissinger, Diplomacy, p. 557.   

[222] “Report on Hungarian Refugee Opinion,” RFE Audience Analysis Section, Munich;  Amcongen Frankfurt Germany to the State Department. “Comments by Hungarian Defector,” 4 February 1957, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/2-457.

[223] Kramer, The Early Post Stalin Succession Struggle and Upheavals in East Central Europe, p. 24.

[224] Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department, “Western Radio Listening in Hungary before and after the Uprising. Comments by a Hungarian National,” 3 January 1957, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/1-357.

[225] Amcongen Frankfurt to the State Department, “Hungarian Uprising, Comment by Hungarian National,” 4 February 1957, USNA, RG 59, 764.00/2-457.

[226] Kramer, The Early Post Stalin Succession Struggle and the Upheavals in East Central Europe, Part 3, p. 25; p. 28.

[227] Ibid., pp. 26-27.

[228] Brian McCauley, “Hungary and the Suez, 1956: The Limits of Soviet and American Power.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 16, No. 4 (October 1981), pp. 794-795.

[229] Békés, The 1956 Hungarian Revolution and World Politics, pp. 20-21.

[230] Békés wrote that “the United States did not have the political tools with which to force the Soviet Union to give up Hungary and any direct military intervention would probably have resulted in the ... outbreak of World War III.” Csaba Békés, “Hidegháború, Enyhülés és az 1956-os forrdalalom,” in Évkönyv, 1996-97, p. 207. Bennett Kovrig put it bluntly: “The United States was not going to risk war for Hungary. It was an unpleasant moment of truth for America and the West, not to speak of the Hungarians.” Bennett Kovrig, “The Liberators: The Great Powers and Hungary in 1956,” in Ignác Romsics, ed., Twentieth Century Hungary and the Great Powers (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1996), 263.

[231] Kovrig, Of Walls and Bridges, p. 102.