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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 263–278 | Cite as

East-West relations in the civil aviation sector between 1945 and 1963

  • Peter SvikEmail author
Article

Abstract

The present article addresses East-West relations in the civil aviation sector — a subject largely neglected and overlooked in current historiography of the Cold War. The article’s main objective is to fill this lacuna by describing the major developments affecting East-West civil aviation diplomacy from the end of the Second World War up to the early 1960s, when the Soviet bloc airline companies launched their first inter-continental operations. This article seeks both to explore the rationale for Eastern bloc aviation inroads into Western Europe and the developing countries of Asia and Africa, and to explain why reactions to the ‘Eastern air offensive’ were different in Washington and other NATO capitals. From a methodological viewpoint, the article shifts from a predominantly Western-oriented narrative of existing studies to a more transnational approach that draws on evidence from both Western and Eastern archives.

Keywords

civil aviation East-West relations Cold War transnational history 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    James Gormly ‘The Counter Iron Curtain: Crafting an American-Soviet Bloc Civil Aviation Policy: 1942–1960’, Diplomatic History 31, no. 2 (2013): 248–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 1a.
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  3. 1b.
    and Jeff A. Engel, Cold War at 30,000 Feet. The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 2.
    For further details, see below notes 7 and 28, respectively.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Cf. Slavomír Michálek, Za hranicou sloboda 1948–1953 (Dakoty “slobody” a vlak do Selbu) [Freedom Behind the Border 1948–1953 (Dakotas of “Freedom” and Train to Selb)] (Bratislava: VEDA - Slovak Academy of Sciences Press, 2013), 229–30 and notes 25 on 229 in particular.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    According to the author’s interview with Jaroslav Jechumtal, the CSA’s sales director between 1959 and 1967, carried out on 26 February 2013, the Soviets were at the time keen to open up their civil aviation to the non-communist countries. Though the Czechoslovaks were never told that the Aeroflot was using the CSA’s connections and international position to ‘smooth the path’, this was a general feeling in Prague (and in Washington, too). As a sort of payback for this, Jechumtal went on, the Czechoslovak airlines were able to acquire newest Soviet aviation technology sooner and on better financial terms than the other bloc aviation companies.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Willkie’s quotes are taken from Engel’s Cold War at 30,000 Feet, 40. For a general introduction into the debates between the proponents of ‘freedom of air’ approach and supporters of ‘sovereignty over air’ approach, see Alan Dobson, Peaceful Air Warfare: The United States, Britain and the Politics of International Aviation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991)Google Scholar
  8. 5a.
    Alan Dobson, FDR and Civil Aviation: Flying Strong, Flying Free (New York: Palgrave, 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 6.
    ‘European Air Transport: Czechoslovakia’s Views and Ambitions’, Flight, August 3, 1944, 129.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    Although becoming a cornerstone of post-WWII civil aviation regime, the convention did not specifically relate to the operations of scheduled air services. These remained subject to the bilateral air agreements such as that concluded between the US and UK in 1946. Done at Bermuda, the US-UK aviation agreement were echoed in virtually all bi-lateral air treaties which were subsequently concluded. For impact of Chicago convention on further development of aviation law, see, for example, I. H. Ph. Diederiks-Verschoor, An Introduction to Air Law (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1997), 9–56.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    The Soviet army entered Prague on 9 May 1945 a day ahead of the London exile government.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    Relevance of this concept for Czechoslovak foreign policy within the larger context of international relations between 1945 and 1948 is discussed in detail in Peter Svik ‘Czechoslovak Factor in Western Alliance Building, 1945–1948’, Journal of Cold War Studies, 3 (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Cf ‘European Air Transport’, Flight, 129–30.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    The city is now known as Lod and is home to Israel’s main international airport, Ben Gurion airport, which is located in its vicinity.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Cf. ‘P rehled tratí [Overview of routes], 1923–1948’, Státní oblastní archiv v Praze [State Regional Archive in Prague] (henceforward SOA), fond CSA [Records of the CSA], box 20.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    Most of these routes were served in accordance with the respective bi-later interstate agreements on civil air services. All treaties can be found either in the records of the CSAs or in the files of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs which was formally responsible for negotiating them.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    Even the airliners of bloc countries, including Czechoslovakia, were not allowed into the Soviet airspace. Cf. ‘Dohoda mezi SSSR a ĈSR [Agreement between the USSR and Czechoslovakia], 1948’, SOA, CSA, box 7. See also Gormly, The Counter Iron Curtain, 260.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Cf. ‘Comments by the Ministry of Domestic regarding the proposal for establishment of Czechoslovak airline Prague-New York, 26 June 1947’, SOA, CSA, box 1.Google Scholar
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    Cf. ‘Projev p. posl. Kobylky - vyjád rení [A Reply to Interpellation by Mr. Kobylka, MP], 12 December 1947,’ SOA, CSA, box 1 and ‘Office Memorandum by John O. Bell, 23 July 1946’, National Archives and Record Administration, College Park, Maryland (henceforward NARA), General Records of the Department of State (hereinafter RG 59), Officer-in-Charge Polish, Baltic and Czechoslovak Aff, Records relating to Czechoslovakia, 1946–1953, C-000 Letters to C-000 Letters, box 1.Google Scholar
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  25. 22.
    In fact, in late 1946, Moscow sounded out the State Department about the possibility to purchase some 50–100 Constellations from the Lockheed as well. As the opening of the Soviet airspace for American carriers was made an essential precondition to any such deal, the Soviets lost their interest and brought the issue to the fore never again. At the same time, the Soviets also developed their own four engined airplane, Tupolev Tu-70, which eventually was a reverse-engineered version of Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber. However, while Aeroflot shown no interest in the plane, it did not enter into production. In turn, the Soviets had nothing to offer in the four-engined segment just until the introduction of Ilyuishin Il-18 and Tupolev TU-114 turboprop-aircraft in late 1950s. The first machines of the former type were acquired by the CSA in early 1960s, but the unique latter type, derived from the Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber and driven by eight contra-rotating propellers, never made a way to the company’s fleet and served predominantly with the Aeroflot and Soviet military. Cf. ‘Memorandum for the Air Coordinating Committee from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 30. December 1945’ and ‘Telegram from Washington to Moscow, 8 January 1948’, NARA, RG 59, Dec. File 1945–49, box 6613 and see also ‘Tu-114 Rossiya’, Flight, 21 August 1959, 43–5; ‘Inside the Il-18’, Flight, 1 July 1960, 13–17 and ‘Czechoslovak Airlines: Airline Profile’, Flight International, 22 August 1963, 278–80. For general overview of the Soviet airplane technology, see, for example, Bill Gunston, Aircraft of the Soviet Union: The Encyclopaedia of Soviet Aircraft since 1917 (London: Ospreay, 1983)Google Scholar
  26. 22a.
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  27. 23.
    Cf ‘Zápis o 19. schůzi Leteckého poradního sboru [Record of the 19th Meeting of the Aviation Advisory Board], 21 April 1948’ and ‘Zápis o 21. schůzi Leteckého poradního sboru [Record of the 21st Meeting of the Aviation Advisory Board], 8 October 1948’, SOA, CSA, box 1.Google Scholar
  28. 24.
    See ‘The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Offices, 8 March 1948’, and ‘The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Rome, 22 July 1948’, Foreign Relations of the United States [hereinafter referred to as FRUS], 1948, Vol. IV, 439 and 463, respectively.Google Scholar
  29. 25.
    Cf. ‘Report by the National Security Council, 12 July 1948’, FRUS, 1948, Vol. IV, 451–56. For further details and implications of the report, see for example, Gormly, The Counter Iron Curtain, 248–79 and Engel, Cold War at 30,000 Feet, 95–104.Google Scholar
  30. 26.
    Cf. ‘Report by the National Security Council, 12 July 1948’, FRUS, 1948, Vol. IV, 453.Google Scholar
  31. 27.
    Cf. ‘The Chargé in Egypt (Patterson) to the Secretary of State, 28 January 1949’; ‘Editorial Note’; ‘The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Egypt’ and ‘The Acting Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Offices, 27 September 1949’, FRUS, 1949, Vol. V, 187–88, 194, 213 ft. 2 and 214–15, respectively. But see also ‘Zahraniĉné letecké linky-zastavení provozu [International Air Routes - Termination of Services], 11 January 1952’, SOA, CSA, box 118.Google Scholar
  32. 28.
    Adopted by Chicago conference delegates on 7 December 1944, the International Air Services Transit Agreement guaranteed to the parties to the agreement (a) the privilege to fly across the territory and (b) the privilege to land on the territory of other signatories for non-traffic purposes. At the time, all countries mentioned in paragraph above, except for Italy and Israel, had already adhered to the agreement. Hence, ipso facto, neither Italians who ratified the agreement only in 1984 nor Greeks were formally obliged to allow Czechoslovaks to fly to Israel as Tel Aviv only became a member party in June 1954. Cf. ‘The Acting Secretary to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Offices, 27 September 1949’, FRUS, 1949, Vol. V 214. The transcripts of the agreement and the list of participating parties with the dates of adherence are available online at https://doi.org/www.mcgill.ca/files/iasl/chicago1944b.pdf and https://doi.org/www.icao.int/secretariat/List%20of%20Parties/Transit_EN.pdf
  33. 29.
    Cf. ‘The Chargé in Iraq (Dorsz) to the Secretary of State, 26 January 1949’, FRUS, 1949, Vol. V 185–6.Google Scholar
  34. 30.
    Cf. ‘Report by the National Security Council to the President, 5 January 1950’, FRUS, 1950, Vol. IV, 1–6, quotation taken from 2 and 5. For the US negotiations with the British and other European allies on coordination of aviation policies, see FRUS, 1948, Vol. IV, 436-88 passim and FRUS, 1949, Vol. V, 184–222 passim. See also previously mentioned passages by Gormly and Engel.Google Scholar
  35. 31.
    In July 1948, Pan Am refused to line up with a new restrictive US aviation policy arguing that elimination of Prague from New York - Vienna route would present substantial loss of revenue up to $170 000 a month. Cf. ‘Order by United States of America Civil Aeronautics Board, undated’, NARA, Records of the Civil Aeronautics Board (hereinafter RG 197), Records relating to international aviation agreement negotiations, Czechoslovakia-U.S. Neg., Oct. 1945–1959, box 26 and ‘Civil Aeronautics Board Memorandum, 1 July 1948’, NARA, RG 197, USSR&Satellites-US. Negotiations, Dec. 1945-Dec. 1948, box 90.Google Scholar
  36. 32.
    For details on congress, see, for example, Weston Ullrich ‘Preventing “Peace”: The British Government and the Second World Peace Congress’, Cold War History 11, no. 3 (2011): 341–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 32a.
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    Cf. ‘Letter from Josef Horn, Ministry of Transport, to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 29 November 1950’; ‘Letecké spoje ĈSR - Záznam pro s. ministra [Air Routes of the Czechoslovak Republic - Record for Foreign Minister], 5 June 1951’ and ‘Situation Overview Regarding the Overflights of Germany, undated’, AMFA, Mezinárodní odbor - tajné, 1945–1955 [Office of International Affairs - Classified Documents, 1944–1955 (hereinafter OIA)], box 1.Google Scholar
  39. 34.
    Cf ‘P reklad noty amerického velvyslanectví [Translation of US Embassy Note], 9 February 1951’, AMFA, OIA, box 1 and ‘From Rome to Foreign Office, 10 January 1951’ and ‘Record of conversation with Mr. Lister concerning Prague-Vienna-Rome service, 5 February 1951’, The National Archives, Kew, London [hereinafter TNA], FO 371/93130.Google Scholar
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  41. 36.
    Oatis was arrested by Czechoslovak secret policy (StB) on 23 April 1951. He was charged of espionage and on 4 July was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a show trial with fabricated evidence. For full details, see Slavomír Michálek, Prípad Oatis. Ĉesskoslovenský komunis-tický režim versus dopisovatel’ Associated Press [Case Oatis. Czechoslovak Communist Regime versus Associated Press Correspondent] (Bratislava: ÚPN, 2005).Google Scholar
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    Cf. ‘Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Webb) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay), 24 September 1951’, FRUS, 1951, Vol. IV, 1281–5. See also Gormly, The Counter Iron Curtain, 272–3 for further references.Google Scholar
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    Cf. ‘FO. Minute by Mr. Hancock, 29 May 1953’, TNA, FO 371/104061; ‘From Prague to Foreign Office, 16 May 1953’, TNA, FO 371/106126 and Anglo-Czechoslovak Civil Aviation Negotiations: Brief for negotiations, 30 January 1958’, TNA, FO 371/133185. See also ‘P rehled tratí [Overview of routes], 1949–1975’, SOA, CSA, box 354 and Gormly, The Counter Iron Curtain, 274–5.Google Scholar
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    Cf. ‘Brevities’, Flight, 13 April 1956, 433 and Aeroflot and Minhaiduy: Lifting the Curtain on Air Services in the U.S.S.R. and China’, Flight, 17 January 1957, 43–6. See also Wolfgang Mueller, A Good Example of Peaceful Coexistence? The Soviet Union, Austria, and Neutrality, 1955–1991 (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2011), 116.Google Scholar
  45. 40.
    For details see NARA, RG 59, Dec. File 1955–1959, Docket 948.63/6–1559, box 5275, passim.Google Scholar
  46. 41.
    This time period roughly coincides with the intensification of relations between the East bloc and developing nations after the death of Stalin. According to the latest research by Sara Lorenzini, the Soviets showed low interest in developing Soviet bloc-Third World relations before mid-1950s partly because of the ‘great [geographical] distance between the Soviet Union and the colonial areas and newly independent states’. From the evidence shown below, it is more or less evident that the Soviet bloc airline penetration of the non-aligned countries was directly aimed at overcoming these infrastructural deficiencies and its goal was to create the efficient transportation links for exchange of people (communist and foreign trade representatives, various technicians, students) and freight (machinery for newly bloc constructed factories, spare parts) between the bloc and countries of interest in Africa and South/South East Asia. Cf. Sara Lorenzini ‘Comecon and the South in the Years of Détente: A Study on East-South Economic Relations’, European Review of History: Revue européenned’histoire, 21, no. 2 (2014), 183–99. For further reference on the attitudes of communist regimes towards the globalization, the role of Soviet bloc in the globalising world and East-West trade, see also the other articles in the same issue of the journal.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Cf. ‘Návrh plánu obnovy a rozvoje zahraniĉních leteckých tratí CSA v období od r. 1956–60 [The Plan Proposal for Restoration and Further Development of CSA’s International Air Services for Years 1956–60], 24 January 1956’, SOA, CSA, box 148.Google Scholar
  48. 43.
    Cf. Ibid. In practical terms, the yield in hard currencies was achieved by requiring the Czechoslovak citizens to choose the national airline for their travels whenever possible and by attracting a certain amount of the foreign travellers if no alternative connections were available on their desired route or hour of service. Nonetheless, during the entire Cold War era, the Eastern bloc airlines often generated hard-currency turnover by unfair practices such as undercutting agreed fares or by some other indirect methods. For example, in June 1959, the SAS considered to eliminate the stop in Prague on its Middle Eastern service as they suspected the CSA of having concluded some secret agreements with the local carriers in Middle East. This kind of agreement should have enabled the Eastern bloc passengers to travel free between Cairo and Damascus, thus effectively torpedoing the SAS business on Prague-Damascus segment of the route. Equally interestingly, the CSA flights from Prague to Cairo should have had ‘a passenger load factor of only about 10 to 15 percent’ and were ‘obviously uneconomical’. Cf ‘Scandinavian Airlines System Service to Prague, 24 June 1959’, NARA, RG 197, box 26.Google Scholar
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    Almost identical or similar formulations can be found in the paperwork to other routes, too. Cf. ‘Linka Bombaj-Rangoon-Djakarta [Mumbai-Yangon-Jakarta Route] and other dockets’, SOA, CSA, box 175. As far as Eisenhower’s tour is concerned, the author of analysis likely referred to his ‘Flight to Peace’ tour around the globe in December 1959. For details see e.g. Paul M. McGarr, The Cold War in South Asia. Britain, the United States and the Indian Subcontinent, 1945–1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 85–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    ‘Containing the Soviet Bloc Civil Aviation Offensive in Africa, 18 February 1963’, NARA, RG 59, European Consultation, box 4.Google Scholar
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    ‘Soviet Bloc Civil Air Expansion in Africa, 21 February 1963’, NARA, RG 59, European Consultation, box 4.Google Scholar
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    Cf. ‘Civil Aviation Policy toward Sino-Soviet Bloc, 4 February 1963’, NARA, RG 59, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs/Office of Special Assistant, Subject Files 1961–3, Chrome THRU Committee of Governmental Experts in Aviation, docket Civil Air - Africa, Civil Aviation Policy toward Sino-Soviet Bloc, box 3.Google Scholar
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    For detailed communication between the State Department, its diplomatic outposts and concerned governments refer to NARA, Records of the Federal Aviation Administration, International Program and Policy Div, Classified Subject Files 1945–64, Problems with the USSR and Satellites, dockets 1–3 covering years 1961–1964, box 1.Google Scholar
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    Cf. ‘NATO Attitude Towards Flights between Czechoslovakia and Cuba, 1 January - 31 December 1961’, TNA, FO 371/158690, passim; SOA, CSA, docket Havana which includes various documents from 1960 to 1962 and ‘Britannia Czech Flights’, FLIGHT International, 1 March 1962, 321.Google Scholar
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    Cf. ‘Conference on International Air Transport Policy - Background Papers, May 1962’ and ‘Informal Discussions with British Officials on Air Transport Matters, 8 February 1963’, NARA, RG 59, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs/Office of Special Assistant, Subject Files 1961-3, Chrome THRU Committee of Governmental Experts in Aviation, dockets Conference on International Air Transport Policy and Civil Air - US Policies - International, respectively, box 3.Google Scholar

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© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Historisches KollegMunichGermany

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