Memorandum by the Counselor of the Department of State (Bohlen) to the Under secretary of State (Lovett)

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I have made a very brief account of our meeting at the War Department on Saturday,1 and I suggest that it be held in your safe. If you agree I might orally convey the substance of the meeting to Mr. Hickerson,2 Mr. Rusk,3 and Mr. Wood4 and of course to Mr. Armour,5 Mr. Kennan and Mr. Henderson6 when they return. I suggest no distribution of the memorandum in the Department in order to insure against any possibility of a leak.

Charles E. Bohlen
[Page 762]

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of the Department of State (Bohlen)

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Present: Acting Secretary of State
Mr. Saltzman7
Mr. Bohlen
Secretary of War8
Under Secretary of War9
General Eisenhower10
General Norstad11
Admiral Wooldridge12

The Acting Secretary of State said that he had suggested the meeting in order that the top officials of the War Department might be kept up to the minute on the thinking in the Department of State in regard to the foreign situation as a whole.

At the Acting Secretary’s request Mr. Bohlen then outlined certain basic aspects of the present critical world situation along the lines of the attached paper. The Acting Secretary then related the basic considerations of the specific case of Western Europe and the implementation of the Marshall Plan. He pointed out that, in view of the fact that the world is definitely split in two, we must consider Europe west of the iron curtain as a whole and that we should apply our economic assistance to those sections of Western European economy which offered the best prospect of immediate and effective revival in an attempt to break the economic bottlenecks which were retarding the recovery of Western Europe as a whole. We should endeavor to keep in mind the concept of Western Europe rather than the indidividual countries and likewise short-term revival as against long-term complete reconstruction. American assistance carried out with these two main considerations in view offered the best chance of keeping Western Europe from economic collapse und starting it on the road to healthy recovery. In the light of these concepts, the three Western zones of Germany should be regarded not as part of Germany but as [Page 763] part of Western Europe.13 It should be given proper weight as a factor in the economic recovery of Western Europe as a whole.

Mr. Lovett asked the Secretary of War and General Eisenhower to think over the views which had been expressed by the State Department representatives and to let him have any comments which they might have on the basic views advanced with a view to another meeting at which their specific application could be more fully discussed.

Both the Secretary of War and General Eisenhower expressed complete agreement with the general exposition of the situation confronting the U.S. and the necessity of orienting the thinking of this Government in conformity with that situation.

On leaving General Norstad expressed to Mr. Bohlen full satisfaction with the nature of the meeting and said he thought it had been most helpful. He suggested that another meeting of a similar nature to deal with more concrete matters should be set up not later than Thursday or Friday of the coming week.14


Memorandum by the Consular of the Department of State (Bohlen)

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The United States is confronted with a condition in the world which is at direct variance with the assumptions upon which, during and directly after the war, major United States policies were predicated. Instead of unity among the great powers on the major issues of world reconstruction—both political and economic—after the war, there is complete disunity between the Soviet Union and the satellites on one side and the rest of the world on the other. There are, in short, two worlds instead of one. Faced with this disagreeable fact, however much we may deplore it, the United States in the interest of its own well-being and security and those of the free non-Soviet world must re-examine its major policy objectives in the light of this fact. Failure to do so would mean that we would be pursuing policies based on the assumptions which no longer exist and would expose us to the serious danger of falling between two stools. In furtherance of the policy based on the non-existent thesis of one world, the United States might neglect to take such measures as would make the non-Soviet world possible of existence. The full consequences of the existing split in [Page 764] the post-war world have obviously not been fully assimilated by all parts of this Government involved in foreign affairs nor by all persons even in the State Department or abroad directly involved in formulation of foreign policy. In the Soviet world, which means those areas under direct Soviet control or domination in Europe and the Far East, the Soviet Government is proceeding on the exact opposite of the one world principle and is rapidly and, for the present at least, effectively engaged in consolidating and strengthening those areas under its control. The logic of the situation is that the non-Soviet world through such measures as are open to it would draw closer together politically, economically, financially, and, in the last analysis, militarily in order to be in a position to deal effectively with the consolidated Soviet area. Only in this way can a free and non-Soviet world hope to survive in the face of the centralized and ruthless direction of the Soviet world.

In these circumstances, all American policies should be related to this central fact. It does not mean that as an eventual objective that the United States should discard forever a one world objective but rather bring its policies more into relation with reality as long as the condition described above continues to exist. Nor does it mean that the United States should endeavor to hermetically seal one world from the other. On the contrary, mutually profitable exchange of goods, in an endeavor to do good, can be carried on between the two worlds. But this could be done on a basis of equality and profit only if the non-Soviet world is able to face as a whole the areas dominated by the Soviet Union rather than as individual weak and disjointed units. The drawing together and consolidation of the non-Soviet world is obviously a process that cannot be achieved overnight and should not be attempted by precipitous action but should be regarded rather as a trend logically flowing out of the present state of the world. The chief aspects of United States policy which require re-examination in the light of these considerations are those relating to economic policy (leaving aside for the moment the entire question of the United Nations which is a separately related problem). Such objectives as those embodied in the ITO, the lowering of customs barriers on a world-wide scale and general freeing of world commerce from restriction must either be indefinitely postponed until the assumption upon which they rested comes into being or consciously and definitely be restricted to apply to those areas of the world not under Soviet domination. While the thinking of this Government should be guided by the above considerations, in application of course the United States must carefully avoid assuming any responsibility for the division of the world and should therefore always keep the door open for participation by the Soviet Union or its satellites in any such measure.

[Page 765]

In the present state of economic emergency in Europe which has been highlighted by the continuing British crisis, it is inadvisable for this Government to continue to press for long-range objectives, however desirable in themselves, which do not immediately and directly bear upon the solution of Western European problems. This is especially true when objectives such as a European Customs Union raise political complications which retard rather than facilitate the tiding over of the present crisis and tend to divert the attention and energies of the European countries concerned from the absolutely essential measures which must be taken to this end. Internal political factors and certainly the national sensibilities of the Western European countries must be taken more fully into consideration except where they have an immediate and deleterious effect upon measures to be taken in the present emergency in Western Europe.

On a short-term basis, all indications point towards a major political showdown crisis between the Soviet and non-Soviet world, which as a present correlation of forces means between the United States and the Soviet Union. There is virtually no chance of any of the problems existing between those worlds being settled until that crisis comes to a head and is met. Long-range plans of economic rehabilitation of even the non-Soviet world should not be allowed to obscure that almost inevitable fact. From present indications, this crisis will mature considerably earlier than has been expected. It is not a matter of several years in the future. It is more likely a question of months. No one can in confidence predict that this crisis, when it arises, will remain confined to the political field. It obviously will contain in it the very real danger of outbreak of hostilities. If it is to be solved short of war, it must result in a radical and basic change in Soviet policies. There is no sign as yet that any such change is to be anticipated or even if it is possible in view of the structure and character of the Soviet state. In anticipation of this global political crisis coming to a head in the not too distant future, the United States must do everything in its power to ensure the maximum degree of political support from the non-Soviet countries of the world. The array of potential strength which would be lined up against the Soviet Union and its satellites in any such showdown crisis will in the last analysis determine whether war will result or whether the Soviet or non-Soviet world will be able to find a modus vivendi which will permit some stabilization of the world situation for at least some period of years.

In relation to the present economic emergency in Europe, the logical consequence of the present state of the world is that measures of assistance envisaged by this Government should be consciously limited to Western Europe, based on the concept of the economic unity of Europe west of the Stettin-Trieste line.

  1. August 30.
  2. John D. Hickerson, Director of the Office of European Affairs.
  3. Dean Rusk, Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs.
  4. Presumably C. Tyler Wood, Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
  5. Norman Armour, Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
  6. Loy W. Henderson, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  7. Charles E. Saltzman, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State; Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas from September 2, 1947.
  8. Kenneth C. Royall.
  9. Howard C. Petersen.
  10. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief of Staff, United States Army.
  11. Maj. Gen. Lauris Norstad, Director of Plans and Operations, War Department General Staff.
  12. Rear Adm. Edmund T. Wooldridge, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Political-Military Affairs.
  13. For documentation on United States policy with respect to the occupation and control of Germany, see Vol. ii, pp. 831 ff.
  14. No record of such a meeting has been found in the files of the Department of State.