Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with William Primosch
PRIMOSCH: Our strategy toward Eastern Europe at that time was very well defined. It was trying to encourage more independence among the countries of Eastern and Central EuropHungary, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, and Romania. The economic strategy was one to find new markets for U.S. business, which seemed timely since these countries in the late '70s were turning more to the West for technology and investment in an effort to catch up to capitalist countries. In retrospect, it was the final phase of deterioration of the Soviet Bloc. Economically, it was exhausting itself because it couldn't generate the kind of technology, investment and efficiency that existed in market economies. Our role was to try to encourage more contact with Western business and to encourage more of a market orientation in these economies. We had a very active economic program in all the countries, including bilateral economic commissions or committees which brought together the U.S. government as a team with their counterparts in these countries to discuss investment and trade issues and encourage more economic contact with the West and particularly with the United States.
Q: In December of '79, the Soviets moved into Afghanistan. The Carter administration really turned against the Soviet Union. How did that reflect itself on your particular area of concentration?
PRIMOSCH: It did complicate our effort somewhat, but in all of these countries in Eastern and Central Europe, you could even at that time see the yearning for more connections with the West. So, that continued even though relations with the Soviet Union were more tense after Afghanistan. But there was still this desire, and you saw it in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, of having more ties with the West, a recognition that the Russians really didn't have much to offer in terms of technology and business opportunities and that if they were going to raise their standard of living they had to have Western investment and technology. These countries also wanted to also have more trade with the West because they needed hard currency (i.e., dollars). That could help them import consumer and industrial goods from the West that would make life better.
Q: Was there any concern on our part about helping the investment to these countries, all of which were part of the Warsaw Pact, supposedly potentially our mortal enemy?