Truman Papers

Cohen Notes

Generalissimo Stalin opened the meeting by suggesting that President Truman be asked to serve as the presiding officer. The Generalissimo’s suggestion was seconded by Mr. Churchill. President Truman said there was nothing he could do but yield to their wishes and to preside. He thanked them for their courtesy.

President Truman then stated that he had some concrete proposals to lay before the Conference.

He first pointed out the urgency of preparing for the European settlements. He submitted to the meeting a draft proposal for the establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers.1

Mr. Churchill suggested that the paper be referred to the foreign secretaries.

Generalissimo Stalin said he agreed with that procedure but only wished to mention that he had some doubt as to the inclusion of China in a Council of Foreign Ministers to deal with the European peace.

President Truman then stated he desired to make a statement with regard to our policy toward Germany. (1) He thought that the Control Council should commence to function immediately in accordance with the agreement already entered into. For this purpose he was submitting for their consideration a draft containing the principles which should be followed by the Control Council in the administration of Germany.

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Mr. Churchill indicated that he had not had a chance to read the draft agreement and he would like to do so before the matter was referred to the foreign secretaries.

(2) The President then read his prepared statement on the need for the implementation of the Yalta Declaration.

Mr. Churchill also indicated that he wanted time to read the document which he probably generally concurred in.

(3) The President then stated that the time had come for revision of our Italian policy. Italy had entered the war against Japan and he thought the time had come to admit Italy into the United Nations. He submitted a prepared proposal looking toward the establishment of peace with Italy.

Mr. Churchill stated he thought we were preparing to deal with very important policies somewhat too hastily. He thought that these important matters required very deliberate consideration. Britain had fought for four years against Italy. Italy had entered the war against Britain at a most critical time. President Roosevelt himself had used the phrase regarding the dagger that stabbed the neighbor in the back with reference to Italy’s entrance into the war. Possibly he would not differ from the concrete proposals of the President but he wished more time to consider.

President Truman pointed out that he had to step into the place of a man who really was irreplaceable. He knew that Mr. Roosevelt had gained their good will and their friendship both for himself and for his country and he hoped that he might be able to succeed in part to that friendship and good will.

Mr. Churchill stated that he felt certain that both he and the Marshal wished to renew the great regard and affection that they had for Mr. Roosevelt with Mr. Truman. Their common friendship had served to hold their countries together in the most trying period of history. Mr. Truman has come to join them at a most critical time. He extended his cordial regard and respect to Mr. Truman. He had every hope and confidence that the ties that bound their nations together would be continued.

Generalissimo Stalin on behalf of the whole Russian delegation, expressed the desire to join in the sentiments expressed by Mr. Churchill.

Mr. Churchill suggested we go over various points proposed for discussion and try to agree on the agenda.

President Truman: We have offered what we think is most important.

Churchill: I would like to add the Polish question.

Stalin: It would be well for the three delegations to set forth the [Page 61]questions they would like to discuss. Russia would like to discuss (1) the question of the division of the German merchant fleet and navy; (2) the question of reparations; (3) trusteeships for Russia under the San Francisco Charter; (4) relations with the Axis satellite states; (5) Franco regime imposed on Spain by the Axis. This regime should be changed. It harbors great danger to the United Nations.

Churchill: We are only discussing things to go on the agenda. I agree that the matter of Spain should be discussed.

Stalin: (6) the question of Tangier.

Churchill: Mr. Eden has advised me we can reach only provisional agreement on Tangier in the absence of the French.

Stalin: (7) The question of Syria and Lebanon; (8) the Polish question involving the determination of Poland’s western frontiers and the liquidation of the London Government.

Churchill: We agree the Polish question should be discussed including the willing up of the London government. We hope the Marshal and the President will recognize that England was made the home of the Polish government which fought against the Axis. England has the burden of winding up these obligations. Our objectives are similar but probably more difficult for Britain. She can not force the liquidation of the Polish army before the arrangements have been made for taking care of the soldiers. With regard to Poland, Britain attaches great importance to the election that should give the people an opportunity to realize their wishes.

Stalin: The Russians have no additional points to add to the agenda.

Churchill: The British have submitted in writing their proposed agenda. I suggest the foreign secretaries meet tonight to agree on the agenda for tomorrow. They can prepare a menu for us better than we can at this table.

Stalin and Truman agree.

Churchill: So tomorrow we will have prepared the points most agreeable.

Stalin: All the same, we will not escape the disagreeable.

Churchill: We will feel our way up to them.

Stalin: Shall we proceed with the meeting further today?

Truman: Have you any suggestions?

Stalin: We might take up the Council of Foreign Ministers.

Truman: I have submitted my views.

Stalin: The principles suggested by the American delegation present no difficulty, but I would like an explanation of the reason for China’s participation in European affairs.

Truman: China is one of the five members of the Security Council.

Stalin: The decision taken at Crimea provided for quarterly conferences of the foreign secretaries. Does President Truman’s suggestion supersede the Crimea proposal?

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Truman: The Crimea proposal was temporary.

Stalin: Then the quarterly meeting of the secretaries will be dropped. Should not the European Advisory Committee [Commission] also be dropped? I have no objection to the establishment of the Council of Foreign Ministers, but I think it should be clear that the quarterly meeting of the foreign secretaries and the European Advisory Committee elapse [will lapse?].

Truman: That interpretation would be satisfactory to me. The foreign secretaries could meet but there probably would be nothing for them to discuss.

Churchill: The quarterly meetings of the foreign secretaries are very helpful in advising us. I think it a needless complication to bring China in. When it comes to drawing up the peace, all countries must come in. The preliminary work cannot be done by telegram. I am content that China should be admitted to drawing up the general provisions for peace but not for the day to day work. China is far from Europe and has not contributed to the European war. Do you really wish to discuss the administration of Germany with the Chinese delegation?

Truman: The problems to be considered by the Council are quite different from the ordinary meetings of the foreign secretaries. It is intended for a specific purpose. Let me read the draft proposal.

(The draft proposal is read by Mr. Truman)

Stalin: This will be a Conference to prepare for the future Peace Conference.

Churchill: The Peace Conference.

Stalin: The war is over in Europe and this Council will deal with reparations and will give an indication of the day when the Peace Conference should meet.

Truman: The Peace Conference should not be convened until we are adequately prepared.

Churchill: This does not seem to me to present any difficulty in reconciling our different objectives. We ought to have a council to prepare for the peace, but it should not supersede the two practical bodies, to wit: the quarterly meetings of the foreign secretaries, and the European Advisory Committee, which deal with current events. I would regret to see these two bodies to cease to exist. Until the Japanese war is over I see great difficulty in China’s having a voice in the trying problems of Europe. I see no advantage in introducing China with the European settlement. They have not fought in Europe. It is possible that while the Council is sitting, the war with Japan will end. Then China can and should come into the World Peace Conference. I do not see that China could help us in settling the question of the Reich.

Stalin: Perhaps the matter can be referred to the foreign ministers.

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Truman: I have no objection to the foreign secretaries eliminating China if they think that that is best.

Churchill: China might be present and come in when Asiatic matters are considered.

Stalin: As all the questions are to be discussed by the foreign ministers, we shall have nothing to do (Laughter).

Churchill: Our first task is making a peace in Europe—ultimately in the world. The quarterly meeting of the foreign secretaries should continue and the European Advisory Committee fitted in. The Council should make plans for the peace for submission to their governments when their governments are ready to come together for that purpose.

Stalin: The time of the Conference.

Churchill: That depends on events and the progress made by the Council.

Stalin: The Foreign secretaries should discuss the necessity of preserving the European Advisory Committee as well as the quarterly meeting of the foreign secretaries.

Truman: There should be some issue to discuss on which we can come to a conclusion tomorrow.

Churchill: The secretaries should give us three or four points—enough to keep us busy.

Truman: I don’t want just to discuss, I want to decide.

Churchill: You want something in the bag each day.

Truman: I should like to meet at 4:00 instead of 5:00.

Churchill: I will obey your orders.

Stalin: If you are in such an obedient mood today, Mr. Prime Minister, I should like to know whether you will share with us the German fleet.

Churchill: We will share it with you or sink it.

Tripartite Communiqué1

The Berlin conference of the heads of government of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union met this afternoon at 5 o’clock. By invitation of his two colleagues, the President of the United States of America will preside at the meetings of the conference.

A preliminary exchange of views took place on matters requiring decision by the heads of government.

It was decided that the three foreign secretaries should hold regular meetings with a view to preparing the work of the conference.

  1. For the documents referred to in these notes, see the footnotes to the Thompson minutes, supra.
  2. Issued at 11 p.m., July 17, 1945. The text of this communiqué (apparently the only interim communiqué issued during the course of the Berlin Conference) is here reprinted from The New York Times for July 18, 1945, p. 1, no official text thereof having been found among the papers of the United States Delegation.