740.00119 Council/9–2245

Memorandum of Conversation 56

Participants: The Secretary
Mr. Dunn
Mr. Bohlen
Mr. Molotov
Ambassador Gusev
Mr. Pavlov
Mr. Bevin
Sir Ronald Campbell
Mr. Dixon57
Mr. Payton-Smith

Mr. Molotov opened the meeting of the three Foreign Ministers by saying that he wished to propose a reorganization of the Council of Foreign Ministers on the grounds that the work was being retarded through an initial mistake which in effect had violated the decisions of the Berlin Conference, namely, in regard to the participation of France and China in the discussion of the peace treaties with Finland, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. He read Point 3(b) of the Berlin Decision58 in support of his position. He proposed, therefore, that the Council reorganize its work so that in regard to these treaties only Finland [the Soviet Union], the United States and Great Britain would participate. He said the United States by common agreement between England and the Soviet Union would be invited to sit in on the Finnish discussions. On the other questions the Council could either sit with four or five members depending on the subject. He said he made this suggestion in order to conform with the Berlin Decisions and to expedite the work of the Council. It would avoid discussions as to what body the Ministers might refer consideration of these treaties.

Mr. Bevin said he did not think that France should be excluded from the consideration of the Balkans.

The Secretary said that it was his recollection that in the discussion at Potsdam it had been generally understood that the countries not signatory to the Armistice terms would be allowed to sit in and participate in the discussion but would have no right to vote.

Mr. Bevin took the view that the opening number of the decision setting up the Council of five was the governing clause and that the interpretation of the British Government was that which Mr. Bevin had said was his recollection of the discussion, namely, that the Council [Page 314] should sit as five but that France and China would have no vote in regard to the treaties with the member [ex-enemy?] satellites.

After prolonged discussion in which Mr. Molotov continued to adhere to the strict construction of the Potsdam Decision the meeting was adjourned for lunch without any conclusion whatsoever being reached.

When the three reconvened after lunch, Mr. Bevin said, with an endeavor to reach a compromise, he had a proposal to make. He said that the Council should continue to sit as five and so should the Deputies, but that on matters affecting these specific treaties special committees composed only of representatives of the members signatory to the armistice terms should be set up to do the drafting. Thus, in the case of Finland a subcommittee would consist of representatives of Great Britain and the Soviet Union. In the case of the Balkan countries and Hungary, of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Molotov refused this proposal as not being in accordance with the Berlin Decision. He said that he could not agree to continue to participate in the work of the Council if it continued as present on a basis which his Government considered a violation of the Berlin Decision. He admitted that he had participated in the original decisions of the conference and said that experience had shown that it was unsatisfactory and that that decision in fact was in violation of the Berlin Decisions.

The Secretary pointed out that to reduce the composition of the Council for the consideration of these treaties would have a deplorable effect throughout the world. It was already being said that the Great Powers were arrogating to themselves the right of decision in these matters and leaving the smaller powers out. While it was true that a strict interpretation of the language of the Berlin Decision was in accordance with Mr. Molotov’s suggestion, he felt that the Ministers should take cognizance of the sense of this decision as expressed in the discussion which preceded its adoption.

After considerable discussion in which both Mr. Bevin and Mr. Molotov adhered to their previous decision The Secretary proposed that since this agreement had been made by the three heads of government at Potsdam it might be a good idea to put the matter up to them for decision. Mr. Molotov replied that he had no objection to that but that he might tell them in confidence that he had received some subsequent instructions from Marshal Stalin to make the proposal he had just made. He said that Marshal Stalin had called his attention to the fact that the early decision of the Conference had violated the Potsdam Protocol and that this matter should be corrected. He therefore felt that he knew the Marshal’s views on this [Page 315] subject and what his reply would do [be?]. He added that he had no objection to putting it before him again.

The Secretary said he thought it would be a good idea and it was agreed to consult the heads of Government.

Mr. Bevin said that he would have to consult his Government before he could agree to any such proposal as that of Mr. Molotov which he felt would destroy the Council of Ministers and make it into a farce.

It was agreed that a meeting of the Council should be called for 5:30 that afternoon and that the question of satellite treaties would be postponed and the United States point on the agenda be taken up.

  1. Presumably prepared by Mr. Bohlen. The text here printed is from a hectographed copy.

    The circumstances in which Foreign Commissar Molotov called off the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers scheduled for September 22, 11 a.m., and convoked a meeting of the Soviet, United States, and United Kingdom representatives at 11:30 a.m. instead are described in James F. Byrnes, Speaking Frankly (New York and London, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1947), p. 102.

  2. Presumably Pierson J. Dixon, Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary Bevin.
  3. Reference here is presumably to paragraph 3(ii) of Section II, “Establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers”, of the Report of the Berlin Conference, August 2, 1945, Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), vol. ii, p. 1500.