Vienna Legation Files: 1947:710 Treaty

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser to the United States Delegation to the Austrian Treaty Commission (Williamson)


Dr. Gruber asked me to call at his home today to discuss the entire situation arising out of the failure of the Moscow Conference to obtain a treaty for Austria. In an extensive review of the Austrian situation since the beginning of the negotiations for the treaty, Dr. Gruber expressed great disappointment that a final solution had not been reached in order that the occupation forces might be withdrawn from Austria. The presence of these forces in Austria is, according to the Minister, the key problem in the local situation and until the forces are withdrawn no reconstruction can be inaugurated.

Dr. Gruber stated that it was vitally necessary for agreement to be reached on the disputed articles by the Commission in order that the final treaty could be brought to the attention of the Council of Foreign [Page 581] Ministers in September. An announcement to the effect that the troops would be withdrawn was considered by him, as well as by the entire Government, to be necessary in the maintenance of law and order within Austria. The recent demonstrations against the Government indicated that widespread disorder might be expected if the Austrian population believed that the occupation forces would remain for another winter. Unless agreement is reached on the treaty, Dr. Gruber maintained that public opinion would drive the Austrian Government to make a direct Settlement with the Russians and that the Government would be incapable of withstanding such pressure.

Dr. Gruber believed that it would be possible to reach agreement on the remaining disputed articles. He hoped that no change would be made in the United States position on frontiers but recommended that the United States position on German assets be relaxed to the extent necessary to obtain Soviet approval. He recommended that the Commission should study and examine the facts on various disputed cases and that any property which was determined to be German should be turned over to the Soviets in accordance with international agreement. Secondly, he considered that the Commission should deal only with the major cases, such as oil, D.D.S.G., the major industrial plants, and financial institutions. The Commission should not only establish the facts concerning these cases in order to arrive at a decision but should also determine the total amount of the Soviet claim. Thirdly, on all other aspects of the assets problem, he recommended that the Austrians negotiate a direct settlement with the Soviets, as well as with other occupying powers, on the entire question of the status and disposition of former German property. The four agreements so negotiated could then be attached to the treaty as annexes. In this way, he felt, all powers would have a chance to ratify any settlement made between the Austrians and the Soviets.

Dr. Gruber pointed out in definite terms that he had worked this plan out with Minister Krauland and that it had not been approved by the Government.

Dr. Gruber was convinced that the Soviets wanted to conclude an Austrian treaty since Austria was, in his estimation, the only place in the world where agreement could be reached between the Soviets and the Western States. The Soviets, however, must preserve face and not give in too rapidly or too far to the Western position. Therefore, it would be necessary for the Western States to relax their positions on the assets questions in order to obtain Soviet approval.

In response to a direct question concerning Soviet objectives in Austria, Dr. Gruber stated that he was convinced that the Soviets did not desire to control the Austrian economy. They wished to establish [Page 582] an economic foothold to serve as a basis for the political operations of the Austrian Communist party. He emphasized that in Molotov’s statements and the various Soviet proposals the Soviets always agreed that any plants owned or controlled by them in Austria would be subject to Austrian law. He stated that the Austrian Government anticipated no trouble in controlling Soviet activity inasmuch as the Government controlled the police, the workers, and such essential services as electricity and waterpower. He was convinced that the Soviets would always act in accordance with the Austrian law and judicial decision and that it would not be necessary to apply any Governmental pressure or sanctions. In the event that the Soviets did utilize their economic resources in Austria to coerce the Government, Dr. Gruber believed that “the international community” would come to Austria’s rescue.

Dr. Gruber stated that he stuck by the points made in his recent speech before Parliament and was critical of the methods and tactics used by the U.S. Delegation at Moscow in the Conference. He was particularly critical of General Clark’s statement that the occupation forces would remain in Austria until the Soviets agreed with our position.4 He pointed out that such a policy might be good for the security interests of the Western States but was one which was ruinous to the Austrian economy and to Austrian political stability.

Dr. Gruber expressed the hope that he and Minister Krauland would be able to present their views to the United States member of the Commission.

Francis T. Williamson
  1. Regarding the statements made by General Clark in early May, 1947 on the eve of his relinquishing his post of High Commissioner for Austria and departing for the United States, see telegram P–7189, May 12, 1947, from Vienna, p. 1172.