Peaceful Engagement in Eastern Europe

Courtesy Reuters

THE United States has never had a realistic and effective foreign policy toward Eastern Europe. During World War II the official American position was that the disposition of Eastern European problems should await the peace settlement, but this was primarily a rationalization for a lack of policy. After the war, when the area became dominated by the Soviet Union (to some extent because of Western passivity), the American interest in Eastern Europe was overshadowed by the policy of containment. Containment was meant to halt further expansion of Communism, but by its nature it had only indirect bearing on areas already under Soviet domination. As a result, Soviet control of Eastern Europe was not seriously contested by the West during the period roughly from 1948 to 1953. The Eisenhower Administration then enunciated the policy of liberation. Subsequent events increasingly demonstrated the lack of realism and purpose behind this, and it soon became an empty slogan. The popular risings in East Berlin in 1953 and in Budapest in 1956 were the final nails in its coffin.

Since 1956 there has been uncertainty about the goals and means of American policy toward Eastern Europe. It is by now fairly well agreed that the situation there is far more diverse than was the simple Stalinist pattern of uniformity. It is also recognized that the new situation offers both a challenge and a hope to the free world. Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to discuss the goals of American policy in Eastern Europe and the most effective means for pursuing them.

In dealing with the Communist régimes in Eastern Europe, American policy must operate on two levels: it must consider the régimes as such and it must consider the peoples they rule. To focus on one alone distorts our appraisal and prevents us from taking advantage of existing opportunities. In dealing with areas outside their bloc, the Communists have always realized that in order for foreign policy to be successful it must operate simultaneously on more than

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