For a full year following the normalization of Yugoslav-Soviet diplomatic relations on 6 June 1953, there were no further Soviet initiatives for the improvement of relations between the two countries. Desperate to maintain its strategic partnership with the West and distrustful of the Soviets, Belgrade was careful not to show undue enthusiasm about reconciliation with Moscow. The relations between Yugoslavia and the Eastern Bloc remained as hostile as ever. Daily incidents and provocations on Yugoslavia’s borders with the Soviet satellites and fierce anti-Yugoslav propaganda continued unabated. Then, as a bolt from the blue, at the end of June 1954 the Yugoslav leadership received a letter from the Soviet Party Central Committee, signed by Khrushchev. Not only was this the first direct communication between the two leaderships since 1948 but, astonishingly, Moscow was proposing full normalization of Yugoslav-Soviet relations. The Yugoslav response was delayed for more than a month. On the one hand, Tito remained deeply distrustful of Soviet intentions. On the other hand, Yugoslavia was, at the time, fully engaged in final and delicate negotiations concerning the creation of the Balkan Pact and over the Trieste question and was afraid to jeopardize them. By September, however, once the Balkan Pact Agreement had been signed and following a number of measures Moscow undertook to demonstrate its sincerity, the correspondence between the Soviet and Yugoslav leaderships resumed with vigour. By the end of November, both sides were in agreement that the level of communication and understanding had reached a point at which they could contemplate a meeting of their highest representatives. Yet, an impasse occurred over the next few months, partly due to Tito’s two-and-a-half month long trip to Asia. The main reason, however, was the intensification of the leadership battle between Khrushchev and Malenkov, which would culminate at the Soviet Party Plenum on 31 January 1955. As was shown in the previous chapter, by November 1953 the Yugoslav leadership had realized the strategic potential of the normalization of relations with the USSR. At the same time, however, they were careful not to allow Moscow to manipulate with the overtures in a way that could compromise either Yugoslavia’s strategic partnership with the West or, ironically their continuing hope of being accepted once again into the international Communist community with their independence and new ideological identity intact. The benefits of the
improvement of relations with Moscow became more evident after the successful conclusion of negotiations over foreign policy issues that had preoccupied Belgrade for the previous two years, the Balkan Pact and the Trieste settlement, and after the success of Tito’s first venture into the Third World. If hesitant and resentful in their approach to the Soviets only a year earlier, by the beginning of 1955 the Yugoslavs had become vitally interested in the acceleration of the process of normalization of relations with Moscow.