Truman Papers

Bohlen Minutes

top secret

The Secretary said first of all he wished to tell Mr. Molotov that his request for a two or three day postponement in the issuance of the statement on Japan1 had only reached him this morning when it was too late.

Mr. Molotov replied that he had sent the word last night2 as soon as he had received the Secretary’s letter.3

The Secretary explained that even then it would have been too late since at 7:00 o’clock the statement had gone to the press for early morning release. He explained that the President for political reasons had considered it important to issue an immediate appeal to the Japanese to surrender. Two days ago he had discussed it with the Prime Minister and he had received his consent to the issuance of the statement4 and had cabled Chiang Kai Shek.5 On [Page 450]his return yesterday from Frankfort the President had found a telegram from Chiang Kai Shek agreeing to the issuance of the statement.6

Mr. Molotov said that thus they had not been informed until after the release.7

The Secretary said that we did not consult the Soviet Government since the latter was not at war with Japan and we did not wish to embarrass them.

Mr. Molotov replied that he was not authorized to discuss this matter further. He left the implication that Marshal Stalin would revert to it at some time.

The Secretary then said that he had also wanted to discuss privately with Mr. Molotov the difficult question of reparations. He said he had closed off the discussion at the Foreign Ministers meeting this afternoon since nothing could be accomplished until the new British delegation had returned to the Conference.8

Mr. Molotov agreed.

The Secretary asked Mr. Molotov whether he had had an opportunity to think over the suggestion which the Secretary had made,9 namely, that each country would obtain its reparations from its own zone and would exchange goods between the zones.

Mr. Molotov said would not the Secretary’s suggestion mean that each country would have a free hand in their own zones and would act entirely independently of the others?

The Secretary said that was true in substance but he had in mind working out arrangements for the exchange of needed products between the zones, for example, from the Ruhr if the British agreed, machinery and equipment could be removed and exchanged with the Soviet authorities for goods—food and coal—in the Soviet zone. The Secretary said that he felt that without some such arrangement the difficulties would be insurmountable and would be a continued source of disagreement and trouble between our countries.

Mr. Molotov pointed out that whereas removals of capital equipment from the British and American zones could be done in a short period of time, payment for these in the form of products from the Soviet zone must of necessity extend over a longer period of time.

The Secretary agreed and said that was a point of course that would have to be worked out.

[Page 451]

Mr. Molotov then inquired what amount he thought the United States Government could agree to in respect of removals of industrial equipment for transfer to the Soviet zone under Mr. Byrnes’ plan. He said that they had spoken of 2 billion dollars.10

The Secretary pointed out that the Ruhr lay in the British zone and that it would be necessary to consult with them. He said he would talk with Messrs. Clayton and Pauley and when the new British delegation arrived he would discuss possible amounts with them. The Secretary reiterated the advantages of his proposal repeating again that the United States Government would not this time pay out money in order to keep Germans working to produce reparations for others. The Secretary then said that he felt that Mr. Molotov’s question at the meeting in regard to the Yalta decision11 was based on a misunderstanding. He said in our understanding the words “basis of discussion” merely mean that the subject would be discussed and in no way meant that there had been any agreement as to the sum of German reparations.

Mr. Molotov agreed with that and said that he had had in mind the impression that they had received at Yalta, namely, that the United States was in accord with the Soviet view that we should exact as much reparations as possible from Germany whereas at Yalta the British had not shared this view and had fully reserved their position.11 He said now at this Conference the Soviet delegation had received the impression that the United States no longer held that view and that that was the reason why he had referred to the Yalta Agreement.

The Secretary replied that there had been no change in view on the part of the United States Government and that we were still willing to discuss the Soviet proposal but that he must agree that many conditions had changed since Yalta. There had been first of all the extent of the destruction in Germany and secondly questions as to definitions of war booty and then the de facto alienation to Poland of a large and productive part of former Germany. He said that our aim remained the same and that all he was trying to do was to find a way which would on the one hand be acceptable to all and would on the other take cognizance of existing realities.

Mr. Molotov replied that in February the Soviet Government had thought the destruction of the Ruhr was greater than it turned out to be. He said that from their reports only from ten to fifteen percent of the productive capacity of the Ruhr had been destroyed. As a [Page 452]whole, machine tools and the basic equipment remained serviceable. He inquired again what amount of removals from the Ruhr Mr. Byrnes had in mind to exchange for products from the Soviet zone.

The Secretary repeated that he would have to consult with his advisers and the British on this point.

Mr. Molotov inquired whether it was still the intention of the United States Government to reduce the production capacity of the Ruhr as a measure of security.

The Secretary replied that that was still our intention. The only question was how much equipment would be available for transfer to the Soviet zone in return for goods over a longer period of time from that zone.

Mr. Molotov in conclusion then said that as he understood it what Mr. Byrnes suggested was in fact an exchange of reparations between the zones.

The Secretary said this was correct.

Mr. Molotov then inquired on another subject why the Secretary had decided to withdraw our proposal with regard to Italy and the other satellite states.12

The Secretary explained that we had wasted a good many days on that and that our original proposal13 had been amended many times. He agreed, however, that the President had accepted Marshal Stalin’s amendment concerning the consideration of the question of the recognition of the satellite states but that Mr. Churchill had objected to it.14 He said at one time the British and American delegations had been in agreement but that the Soviets had not15 and that subsequently the Soviet and American delegations were in agreement but that the British objected. He said he felt that there were more important matters to deal with but if the British and Soviet delegations could reach agreement the Conference could still adopt the proposal.

It was agreed that nothing could be done until Mr. Attlee’s return.

  1. Document No. 1382, post.
  2. By telephone. See Byrnes, Speaking Frankly, p. 207; Byrnes, All in One Lifetime, p. 296.
  3. Document No. 1253, post.
  4. Document No. 1249, post.
  5. See document No. 1246, post.
  6. Document No. 1251, post.
  7. Cf. the following passage in Truman, Year of Decisions, p. 387: “Stalin could not, of course, be a party to the proclamation [calling for the surrender of Japan] itself since he was still at peace with Japan, but I considered it desirable to advise him of the move we intended to make. I spoke to him privately about this in the course of the conference meeting.”
  8. See ante, p. 431.
  9. See ante, pp. 275, 297.
  10. See ante, p. 297.
  11. See document No. 1416, post, section v.
  12. See document No. 1416, post, section v.
  13. See ante, p. 427.
  14. Document No. 727, post.
  15. See ante, pp. 363 364.
  16. See ante, pp. 325 328.