800.515/8–2847: Telegram

The Minister in Austria (Erhardt) to the Secretary of State


793. From Erhardt and Ginsburg.

(a) Substance Deptel 658, Aug 26 [22]34 regarding Sov-Austrian bilateral negotiation German assets problem conveyed to Gruber by Erhardt in conference Aug 26. (b) Believe both questions last paragraph Deptel 658 should be answered in negative.
Before Aug 26 meeting Gruber had spoken separately with Dodge, Ginsburg and Erhardt in favor bilateral negotiations using following points as background: [Page 614]
Some measure Sov-Austrian negotiation certain to be required under any form of treaty. Desirable, therefore, that Sov positions be tested now before conclusion of treaty.
Easier for Sovs to make concessions to Austria than to US, UK and Fr.
Austrians conducting studies now regarding extent German ownership results of which will shortly be available. Thus Gruber claims Austrians will have adequate technical background for such negotiation. In addition to technical judgment, Austrians could contribute flexibility to the negotiations which Four Powers not in position to provide. If Austrian information and maneuverability not used before London CFM meeting in all likelihood will not be used at all.
Gruber’s position as Foreign Minister requires he publicly exhaust every possible means for facilitating settlement. The Communist opposition, especially Fischer, allege in Parliament and in other public forums that should Gruber deal with Soviets he would have a treaty and his failure to do so is prima facie evidence he is under Western domination. He regards it as necessary, therefore, that he demonstrate he has taken positive action to solve problem. Furthermore, Gruber believes that when CFM meets in November Soviets may continue to say that question of German assets Eastern Austria should be settled bilaterally. This demand will be easy to answer, he asserts, if Austrian Government has already attempted negotiations and failed.
Gruber feels political unity Austria gradually weakening as opportunities for political stability lost. During recent visit to French and US zones Austria Gruber noted sharp rise in separatist tendencies less emphasis on Austrian unity more emphasis on possible future association with Bavaria and Liechtenstein. In his judgment, if occupation prolonged, this trend will be accentuated.
We find partial merit in Gruber’s argument but on balance conclude proposed bilateral negotiations premature and perhaps harmful for these reasons:
ATC having completed study concrete facts begins negotiations Arts 35 and 42 Friday, Aug. 29. Quadripartite agreement not expected but will certainly be sought. Confusion certain if Austrians undertook negotiations before completion ATC discussions.
Highly doubtful whether Sov Del ATC or Kiselev authorized in Vienna negotiations to compromise Sov positions major issues stated in Moscow. If Gruber did not succeed in reaching agreement US would be forced to rely in whole or in part on concessions and compromises which Sovs had rejected in bilateral negotiation.
Gruber’s eagerness to obtain treaty and failure adequately to appreciate full extent Sov demands suggest danger of fait accompli forcing US to accept unsatisfactory settlement. Extremely difficult for US reject settlement announced as acceptable to Austria and USSR after bilateral negotiations sanctioned by US.
Two groups negotiating simultaneously bound give Sovs opportunity play one against other.
Necessity for prior Austrian cabinet approval any bilateral negotiations recognized here. Gruber may have difficulty securing Socialist consent to such approach. UK according to Mack opposed any Austrian-Soviet negotiation before CFM meeting.
Kleinwaechter stated he conferred with Gruber Tuesday morning 26 Aug, met with Erhardt and Ginsburg during afternoon. He reviewed Gruber’s argument but indicated confidentially full appreciation dangers outlined para 3 above. Immediately after that meeting Erhardt met with Gruber pursuant to Deptel 658. Gruber cooperative and extremely anxious avoid any overlapping with quadripartite negotiations. Stated that basis of his position was need to focus issues before CFM meeting. Gruber in part suggested and readily agreed following program:
Before making any approach to Sovs concrete proposal would be formulated, reviewed by Legation and USDel in Vienna, then transmitted for prior approval by Dept through Austrian Legation Washington. Erhardt further suggested without objection by Gruber that in order protect US position in CFM Austrian proposal should probably not go so far as USDel now prepared recommend.
Austrian proposal would not in any way deal with UN property or Aryanized property. This is in accord with previous Erhardt-Gruber understanding which Gruber again confirmed.
If details such proposal formulated and approved, timing of approach to Sovs will be jointly decided after completion ATC discussions.
Decision on major issue whether bilateral negotiations appropriate would be postponed until conclusion ATC meetings and would depend in part on outcome of ATC and Soviet attitude as revealed during course of closing sessions.
  1. Supra.