740.00119 Council/10–2245

Memorandum by Mr. Norman J. Padelford, Special Adviser to the Secretary of State, to the Secretary of State

Report of US Delegation, Council of Foreign Ministers, Concerning European Inland Waterways

1. Original Plan—A Declaration of Principles.

When the United States delegation left for London, the original plan was to propose first of all the adoption of a Declaration of General Principles applicable to European waterways of international concern. (Annex I).27 This was based upon the proposal made by President Truman at the Potsdam Conference.28

The purpose of this Declaration was to commit all interested parties to a common policy regarding the basic treatment of European waterways. Principles embodied in the draft Declaration were based upon treaties and conventions which had been in force among many states prior to 1939. If agreement could be reached upon the Declaration, it was then planned to propose the establishment of a series of interim commissions for each of the major waterways.

2. Decision to propose emergency arrangement.

Discussion in the delegation brought out the fact that at the present moment all of the European rivers are blocked to through navigation and that relief supplies have not been reaching needy peoples in Central and Eastern Europe in sufficient quantities to avert famine and suffering. In order to meet this situation, it was agreed that something more effective than a Declaration of Principles was needed. Accordingly, it was decided to press first for agreement upon an emergency regime which would involve the establishment of provisional commissions, leaving until later the presentation of the draft Declaration of General Principles. The plan for an emergency arrangement was laid before the Council of Foreign Ministers at its first meeting by the Secretary of State. (Annex II).29

3. Information received from United States Representatives on Berlin Control Council.

The United States delegation was assisted at London by three members of the US Group on the Control Council in Berlin who came to London at the request of the Secretary of State. These officers included General John A. Appleton, Chief, US Group, Transport Directorate; Lt. Col. Daniel Neff, Chief, US Group, Waterways Section, [Page 1374] Transport Directorate; and Lt. Col. Froelich G. Rainey, Assistant to Ambassador Murphy. These officers provided the delegation with a large amount of factual information concerning present conditions on the European waterways. Abstracts of this information are attached. (Annexes III and IV).30

These officers urged amendment of the emergency agreement presented to the Council by the United States in order to make provision for the representation of Germany on the several commissions through the instrumentality of the Control Council. They pointed out that, under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement, the Control Council was not only given complete authority over all German transportation but was also charged with conserving German economic interests.

4. Amendment of United States Proposal.

In view of the observations made by the US representatives on the Control Council and the fear which it was reported some states held concerning the duration of the emergency regime, the delegation decided to submit two amendments to the document originally laid before the Council. These were circulated on September 22. (Annex V).31 The amendment to Article Two was designed to give “Germany” representation on the commissions through the Control Council. The second amendment involved the addition of a new article (Article Ten) providing for a conference to draft permanent conventions.

5. Discussion of Waterways in connection with Bulgarian Treaty.

The first discussion of waterways arose in the Council in connection with the UK memorandum concerning the Bulgarian Peace Treaty. This proposed the insertion of an article requiring Bulgaria to accept any regime for the Danube agreed upon by the powers.

Mr. Bevin32 (UK) pointed out that a similar provision had been inserted in the treaties of peace at the end of the last war33 and would be desirable in order to prevent the defeated states from blocking attempts to create an international regime for the Danube. He added that he thought a mistake had been made in 1919 when Russia was excluded from the Danube and that a mistake had been made in 1940 when Britain was excluded from the Danube Commission by the Soviet Union and Germany and he asked for a righting of both errors. Mr. Byrnes (US) supported the proposal.

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Mr. Molotov34 (USSR) stated he was not ready to discuss the Danube regime in connection with the treaty as this involved more than one state.

The Council was unable to reach agreement on this point and proceeded to other matters.

6. Discussion of United States proposal, September 22, 1945.

a. Mr. Byrnes’ Presentation. The Secretary pointed out the serious problem in getting food, fuel and relief supplies to the nations of continental Europe due to the breakdown of rail transportation and the blockage of the principal waterways. He noted that little improvement could be expected in the rail situation for some time to come. The Rhine, Elbe, Oder, Danube and Kiel Canal have always played an important part in European transportation—before the war carrying as much as 150,000,000 tons of shipping a year. If they could be cleared so that shipping could move freely, material improvement would be made in the transportation situation. The Secretary said that he believed the situation required emergency measures before winter set in. This necessitated international cooperation. It was in this spirit that the United States proposed a provisional commission.

The Secretary added that if such an agreement could be reached, the United States was prepared to consider arrangements for making shipping located in its zone of control available for use and also to move quantities of fertilizers to the agricultural regions in need of this if free navigation could be established.

b. Soviet Reply. Mr. Molotov professed confusion whether the Council was to consider one of the proposals that President Truman presented at Potsdam or the present one noting some differences in the waterways mentioned in these documents. He also said that there might be some discussion of what constituted an international waterway. He noted that only European waterways were to be discussed and that temporary rather than permanent arrangements were being considered.

A counter proposal was presented which he asked the Council to take as the basis of discussion in place of the American draft. (Annex VI).35 This proposal he said was designed to cover only the occupation period and was submitted with a view to facilitating action.

An examination of the Soviet proposal revealed that it would bring about no change in the present situation on the rivers as it would leave each of them subject to the control of the local military command. The sole change which the Soviet proposal would make in the present [Page 1376] situation would be to place the Kiel Canal under the Berlin Control Council instead of the British military rule. The right to navigate would be limited to the four powers and the riparian states. Other non-riparian states would have no right of navigation. Thus, Belgian vessels might be excluded from the Rhine and Greek vessels which have been active on the Danube from participation in the traffic of that waterway.

Discussion of the Soviet proposal was adjourned pending study.

c. French Memorandum. A memorandum commenting on the U.S. proposal was laid before the Council by the French delegation on September 19. (Annex VII).36 This urged that existing river organizations be utilized wherever possible. Special reference was made to the Rhine Commission in which the French wished to have the presidency.

The French memorandum did not figure in the discussions during me Council meetings.

7. Final discussion of Waterways question, September 24, 1945.

a. Soviet Position—Need for Military Control. Mr. Molotov stressed that, during the occupation period, the needs of the occupying forces must be kept clearly in mind. Lines of communications must be secured and there must be no competing authorities. In as much as the military commanders would know best what was required in their zones, sole control of the rivers should be left in their hands. International commissions could only lead to conflicts of jurisdiction. This was the fault of the United States proposal which made it unacceptable.

The Soviet Foreign Minister insisted that the Soviet stand was no different from that which would be assumed by any nation in the same position as it is and faced with the same responsibilities. The Soviet attitude he believed corresponded with that of all Allied nations concerned with the improvement of navigation and he insisted that his draft be taken as the basis for discussion.

b. United States Statement Regarding Soviet Proposals. Mr. Byrnes emphasized that under the Soviet proposal different sets of regulations would prevail on different parts of the same river; that one body of rules would apply at one place and another at another. Navigation might be interrupted, delayed or submitted to various regulations by any military officer acting in the name of the Commander-in-Chief on the excuse that military considerations called for it. Under such circumstances, navigators would never know what requirements they would be required to meet. This would discourage and hamper shipping as had already been the case in some places.

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The Secretary stated that the United States believed that the fairest manner of dealing with these waterways of international concern was by means of international commissions in which all interested parties might be represented. The United States was sincere in its belief that this would provide the most effective means of improving conditions and it had no selfish interest in connection with these waterways.

The United States had no objection to fixing a time limit for the provisional commissions and it believed that, under the terms of Articles Two and Eight of the draft agreement, adequate provision would be made for military representation on the commissions and close relations with the occupying authorities so that no contest of jurisdiction would occur.

c. Soviet Rejoinder. Mr. Molotov said that the United States proposal did not provide an acceptable basis of discussion. He asserted that no complaints had been received from any of the riparian states about the present situation and that there was no need of changing the present arrangement during the occupation period. He insisted that the American plan would lead to dual authority and that this could not be tolerated.

d. British Conference Suggestion. Mr. Bevin said the British wished to maintain the principle of international collaboration on these waterways. To this end, he inquired whether the Council could agree upon calling a Conference of all interested states to draw up agreements for a series of provisional commissions with the United States draft as a basis for discussion.

Mr. Byrnes was ready to accept this if a report might be made at the next Council meeting and if nothing better could be agreed upon.

Mr. Molotov failed to see how a conference could agree if the Council of Foreign Ministers could not do so. Any conference proceeding upon the American proposal would only come out with a scheme which would have the same flaw—dual authorities on the rivers. The Soviets could not accept that. It was suggested that the whole matter be postponed until all the Ministers agreed there should be a Conference.

e. Final United States Statement. Mr. Byrnes stated that the United States delegation keenly regretted that no action could be taken by the Council when starvation and famine conditions were approaching in many parts of Europe. He emphasized that the waterways of Europe are not entities in themselves nor the concern of the riparian states alone. They are part of a whole vital network and essential to the livelihood of the Continent. Distressed people could not wait for months of leisurely debate among statesmen. They must have food, fuel, clothing, medicine at once.

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The Secretary affirmed that some arrangement could be found whereby the military commanders and the commissions could cooperate so that military security would not be undermined while at the same time relief could be brought to the distressed areas.

This completed the discussion of waterways at the Council. It was not referred to the deputies for further consideration.

8. Further treatment of subject.

a. Possibility of agreement on emergency regime. It is clear that the Soviet Government is not prepared to agree upon international commissions involving non-riparian states for the Danube, Elbe and Oder Rivers during the occupation period. Until the Soviet Government feels secure in Central and Eastern Europe and has related the economy of this region more closely to its own, there appears little likelihood that it will release its present controls in the direction of anything resembling the prewar commissions.

Nothing will be gained by reviewing the American proposal until the overall political situation has been clarified. The problem of cooperation on the rivers must be resolved in harmony with larger issues. Nothing will be gained by recriminations against the Soviet State.

The United States must be careful not to appear desirous of endangering Soviet security in the Eastern Zone or of attempting to force institutions upon them undermining their authority or calling into question their good faith. With some patience and careful manipulation of this question in company with others, a reasonable solution may ultimately be possible.

b. Establishment of Provisional Agencies for Waterways in the Western Zone. Although it would be preferable to set up agencies for all of the waterways at the same time in order that the same principles may be applied to each of them, it would seem better to go ahead with arrangements for waterways in the Western Zone rather than leaving them subject to localized military control until agreement can be reached with the Soviet Government for the eastern waterways.

1. Rhine River. Conversations have taken place in London and in Berlin looking toward the early creation of a provisional Rhine agency including the riparian states together with Britain and the United States.

The re-creation of the prewar Rhine Commission would appear to be an acceptable solution for the regulation of the Rhine River. In this way, use can be made of existing treaties and accumulated experience. This also affords a way of bringing Switzerland into the arrangement without raising political questions relating to the war.

No particular fears need be entertained regarding the compatibility of the Commission and the military authorities. The Commission [Page 1379] can only recommend rules of navigation and engineering works. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing regulations and for engaging in blasting, dredging and bridge work.

If the Central Rhine Commission is re-established on a provisional basis, it is important the agreement be obtained for equality of representation and voting. Prior to 1939, France had five votes, Germany four, while Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain and Italy had two votes each. The French position with respect to shipping and traffic on the River never warranted this disparity in voting power. It is understood in London that the French are prepared to accept equality of representation and voting if they are allowed to retain presidency of the Commission. This might be accepted, although it would be more democratic if the presidency were to rotate among all parties.

It is imperative that adequate provision be made for representation of the Control Council on the Rhine Commission. Only in this way can correlation be achieved between the military authorities and the civilian commission and assurance be given that commission recommendations will be carried out throughout German territory. Likewise, only in this way can German interests be adequately represented.

The French Government is seeking to prevent the Control Council from being represented on the Commission. It favors a Commission composed of Britain, France, United States, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland plus liaison officers from the local zonal commanders along the river. It desires to see Germany divided into local units, economically and politically, and is fearful of any possibility of bringing Russia into Rhineland affairs. The French plan runs directly counter to the Potsdam Agreement. Section (B) (14)37 stipulates that action shall be taken by the powers in such a way as to preserve Germany as an economic unit. Moreover, the Agreement gives the Control Council supreme authority over transportation in Germany and an overruling voice over the actions of local commanders. The United States policy with respect to the Rhine Commission should be in accord with the Potsdam Agreement. The United States is in a position to insist upon this in as much as it has control of a great deal of tonnage and petroleum which the French would like to obtain.

In view of the facts that the bulk of Rhine traffic always moves in the German stretch of the River, that the German fleet has been the second largest and that the German portion of the River is the longest in point of mileage, it is only fair that German interests should be represented as such in the Rhine Commission and that throughout the occupation period this be through the Control Commission which is the conservator of German interests and the coordinator of local actions.

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The French Government is also requesting that the seat of the Commission remain at Strasbourg. There is no economic justification for such a location. Concession might be made, in this case, however, if this will assure cooperation on the part of the French.

The center of traffic on the Rhine is located in the Ruhr-Cologne area. Theoretically, the seat of the Commission should be located in this neighborhood.

It would be desirable from the theoretical point of view to extend the jurisdiction of the Rhine Commission over the Scheldt River up to the port of Antwerp. For many years Belgium has been trying to develop this port as a Rhine port. It has had considerable success in this as is evidenced by the fact that Antwerp ranked after Rotterdam and the Ruhr ports in total Rhine traffic. It must be recognized, however, that Belgium would accede to international regulation of the Scheldt only under duress. It is questionable whether at the present moment the end will justify the means that have to be employed.

2. Kiel Canal. The Kiel Canal at the present time is being operated by German personnel under British occupation forces. Merchant vessels of all nations are apparently free to use the Canal and so far as can be learned the regular navigation rules are applied.

If other waterways are placed under provisional commissions, it would appear right and proper that the Kiel Canal should be treated in a similar manner. From conversations held in London, it appears that the British are willing to consider this. If the Danube, Elbe and Oder are not placed under commissions, there would appear to be no need of pressing the British for such a concession on the Kiel Canal at the present time. The question can be reserved until permanent arrangements are being discussed unless some other factors make reconsideration desirable.

9. Permanent regimes.

Attitude of Western Powers. Informal conversations held in London with representatives of Britain and France indicated that these states will be ready to discuss permanent arrangements for the European waterways at any time. Both governments are particularly anxious to have a part in the Danube regime. They are less concerned with the Elbe and the Oder and would perhaps be ready to waive participation in commissions for those rivers.

These governments are thinking in terms of international agencies for the rivers modeled after the prewar commissions with riparian and non-riparian members. Both fear that if the commissions are restricted to riparian states discriminatory practices may arise against the vessels and nationals of non-riparian states.

Attitude of Soviet Union. At the Council of Foreign Ministers, Mr. Molotov drew a clear distinction between temporary arrangements [Page 1381] for the occupation period and permanent regimes to apply thereafter. In this way he implied that the Soviet Government might have something different in mind than it proposed for the occupation period. He said, “We can talk about the permanent regimes at a later time.”

This statement might be taken to mean that the Soviet Government is not wholly averse to an international regime, or to discussion of the arrangements in company with the United States, Britain and France. It is, however, so indefinite no commitment other than that of discussion can be predicated upon it.

Private conversations with a member of the Soviet Delegation at the London Council (Mr. S. A. Golunsky)38 after the close of the meetings elicited one notable comment. With respect to the prewar regime of the Danube he remarked: “Of course you recognize that those arrangements were made when Russia was a defeated Power. In 1856 we were a defeated state. In 1919 we were not asked to be present when the Danube was being discussed. Now we are a victorious Power. It may be that matters should be arranged somewhat differently now. To us the Danube is very important.”

The implication of this remark is that new treaties should be concluded and that the Soviet Union must occupy a different position than it has in the past. It could be understood as inferring that the whole conception of international regulation be altered. In this connection, it may be noted that in the Council meeting Mr. Molotov made no reply to a plea by Mr. Bevin that the mistakes of 1919 (exclusion of Russia from the Danube) and of 1940 (exclusion of Britain and France) should be righted. It is conceivable that the Soviet position is to ignore the Western Powers in establishing a new regime.

10. Recommendations.

Declaration of principles. There is a danger that the Soviet Government may conclude conventions with the states bordering on the Elbe, Oder and Danube without consulting the United States, Britain and France, and omitting provision for free navigation by the vessels of all nations and for participation by non-riparian states in new commissions.

It is recommended therefore that some occasion be found at an early date on which the United States may appropriately announce the basic principles which it believes should be applied to the European waterways. These principles are at hand in the Draft Declaration of Principles Applicable to European Waterways of International Concern which were prepared with a view to use at the Council of Foreign Ministers.

The time to set forth these principles is before the Russians take any irrevocable step rather than afterward. In this way, we may [Page 1382] stand some chance of gaining acceptance of our views. We would stand virtually none afterward. And a protest after the fact would only add a further measure of irritation between the two governments.

It is worthwhile making an effort to secure adoption of these principles for their acceptance would be helpful in promoting general economic improvement in Europe and equality of opportunity for all. There is a chance the Soviet Government may be willing to accept them as the general political atmosphere improves. If not, nothing has been lost, and one more effort will have been made to avoid the organization of Eastern Europe into an exclusive bloc. If we must retire to acceptance of such an organization in the end we may do so, but it should not be done until every effort has been made in a friendly fashion to avert it.

US Participation in Negotiations. The United States should participate in any negotiations which are held for the establishment of permanent regimes for, any or all of the European waterways. Only in this way can our influence and the principles for which we stand be brought to bear to the fullest advantage.

Serious consideration should be given to any invitation to become a member of any of the permanent regimes. Although the United States will not have vessels moving on these waterways, with the exception of the Kiel Canal, its presence would be a token of interest in the economic development of Europe. It might be able to exercise a helpful role as mediator and counselor. Participation would also have the advantage of affording an additional means of gaining information on significant economic and political trends there in the years to come.

A careful watch should be kept on the temper of political relations with a view to raising the question of permanent regimes when the climate may seem propitious. This might be done through the Council of Foreign Ministers, ECITO, or some other channel.

Conference or Special Mission. It is possible that the British Government may raise again the proposal it made at the Council of Foreign Ministers that a special Waterways Conference be called. Such a conference might serve a useful purpose in bringing together all interested parties. It would not stand much chance of success at the present moment until the overall political relations of the Four Powers have been improved on larger issues in Europe. When that has occurred the United States might lend its support to such a proposal.

If no tangible progress has been made on waterways matters within a few months, it is recommended that a special mission be sent to Europe to discuss the problem in detail with experts there with a view to promoting further action.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), vol. ii, pp. 304 and 656.
  3. For text of Draft Agreement Establishing Emergency Regime, see p. 132.
  4. Neither printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  7. See Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1910–1923 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1923), vol. iii, Peace Treaty with Germany, Article 349, p. 3493; Peace Treaty with Austria, Article 304, p. 3271; Peace Treaty with Hungary, Article 288, p. 3669; British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxii, Peace Treaty with Bulgaria, Article 232, p. 873.
  8. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  9. For text, see p. 324.
  10. Ante, p. 261.
  11. Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), vol. ii, p. 1452.
  12. Sergey Alexandrovieh Golunsky, Expert Consultant, People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.