Primary Sources

U.S. Hopes for the Future of Hungary


In the summer of 1989, President George Bush made an official visit to several East European countries, each in the midst of democratic demonstrations and public pressure on their Communist regimes. These visits provided President Bush an opportunity to lend support for the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe. In Hungary, for example, a question-and-answer session with local journalists provided a forum for the President to make several pointed comments on current events in Eastern Europe. In this exchange, a journalist asked President Bush if his support of Hungary would continue if the Communists remained in power, as was certainly a real possibility in the summer of 1989. While the President publicly supported Hungary's right to select its own government, he reiterated the importance of the change to a capitalist economy. This statement reflects a major policy of U.S. foreign relations, which continued to press Communist economic weakness as the best motivator for change.


George H. W. Bush, interview by Hungarian Journalists, July 6, 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Public Papers, Bush Library (accessed April 2, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Q. Mr. President, President Gorbachev had a very similar statement yesterday by saying that the Soviet Union is ready to accept the political system, whatever the Hungarian and the Polish people want. So, my question is that the United States would support with the same enthusiasm a new Hungarian government next year after free election if this government will be a leftist Communist-Socialist coalition, let's say?

The President. I have respect for the internal affairs of a country. We are not about to try to dictate how a demonstrably free election should come out. That's a matter for the people of Hungary. And I will, as President of the United States, deal with whoever is freely and openly elected and, in the process, welcome the fact that there will be evolution of the election process and party process, whatever happens. But it would be inappropriate for the President of the United States to try to fine-tune for the people of Hungary how they ought to eat -- how the cow ought to eat the cabbage, as we say in the United States. That's up to your people, and we will deal with whoever is elected.

Now, I also think that you have to recognize that as the economic system evolves towards more openness and more privatization, for example, that makes it much easier for the United States to be a full partner in economic development and economic reform.

How to Cite this Source

President George H. W. Bush, "U.S. Hopes for the Future of Hungary," Making the History of 1989, Item #25, (accessed October 24 2021, 9:24 pm).