840.50/3–2145: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

832. From London’s telegrams on ECO and EEC I note that deadlocks have been reached in each of these sets of discussions due to instructions received by the Soviet representative which are not acceptable to us and from which he is not at liberty to depart. As I understand it the Russians do not wish the EEC to be set up at all, and will not agree to establishment of the ECO unless the principle is embodied in its statutes that the body must not take up question of German coal supplies before an agreement has been reached on reparations, and that thereafter distribution of German coal shall be determined in the first place by reparation policy. These views, as I understand, are unacceptable to the other delegations. I note that in the case of each of these deadlocks, the suggestion has been advanced that an effort should be made to settle the matter by direct representations to the Soviet Government, presumably through this Mission and the British Embassy in Moscow, with a view to getting instructions of Soviet representative altered (Winant’s 2714, March 15, 11 p.m. and 2802, March 17, 8 p.m. to Department).

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I question advisability of any direct representations to the Soviet Government in these matters. My reasons follow:

Past experience has shown that if we now take initiative in trying to break this deadlock by direct representations in Moscow, the first conclusion which will be drawn here is that we are much more anxious to get on with these matters than is the Soviet Government, and that the latter is, therefore, in a good bargaining position to hold out for higher political objectives which it wishes to achieve and which, as was pointed out in paragraph 6 of London’s 2802, March 17, 8 p.m., to the Department, have little legitimate connection with these specialized discussions. In other words the Soviets will regard our direct appeal to them as a sign of weakness on our part, if anything it will stiffen their position.
One of our greatest difficulties in dealing with Soviet Government is its reluctance to give any scope of action to its representatives in international discussions. When we go over heads of its representatives and appeal directly to the Government in Moscow we are playing precisely the Soviet game and are encouraging Soviet leaders to continue this very practice which causes us so much difficulty. This has already been done so much that they are now coming to regard their representatives in discussions abroad as mere vehicles for sounding out the position of others, and have no hesitation in giving them unreasonable and categoric instructions, being confident that any resulting deadlock will always be appealed directly to Moscow for solution. I can assure the Department that if the Soviet Government can ever be induced to show more elasticity in international dealings and to give more leeway to those who represent it, it will only be if it is demonstrated by experience that to tie the hands of such representatives by too narrow instructions can have results detrimental to Soviet interests.
It should be borne in mind that all we can do here in Moscow is to place in writing before the Soviet Government the views of our Governments on the points at issue. Even the officials with whom we deal are not ones who have authority to settle these matters and it is wasted time to attempt to persuade them by oral representations of the merits of our views. Since they will receive this written presentation in no different form than if it is given to their representation on the spot, nothing tangible is achieved thereby other than to confirm the Soviet Government in its impression that it has superior bargaining position and can afford to insist on its own wishes.

In the case at hand, Borishenko has been duly appointed by the Soviet Government to represent it in discussions concerning EEC and ECO. I recommend that whatever views our Government has on these subjects be stated frankly and clearly to Borishenko. If he [Page 1440] is then unable to obtain from his Government instructions which enable him to reach agreement with us, I recommend that we regard the deadlock as final and proceed with whatever further measures we find it in our interest to take. These measures should, in my opinion, include whatever joint action, independent of the Russians, may be found necessary on the part of the other powers represented in the discussions. If the Soviet representative expresses concern over a breakdown of the negotiations, it might be suggested to him this time as a matter of tactics that possibly his Government would wish to take the matter up with the British and American Governments.

I am mindful of the urgent importance of obtaining prompt and effective Soviet collaboration on questions involved. But, I am satisfied that the overall interests of such collaboration will not be served if we continue to place ourselves regularly in the position of supplicants to the Soviet Government for action which, although in possession of all relevant data, it has not otherwise been prepared to take. I am sure that a firmer tone and a greater show of independence on our part on the spot will produce better results than any number of empty handed approaches here in Moscow.

Sent Department as 832, repeated to London as 127.