The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Inverchapel)

top secret

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: I have considered the main conclusions regarding Germany approved by the Cabinet in London on January which you communicated to in of January 8 at Mr. Bevin’s request.1

[Page 25]

I am in substantial agreement with the broad purpose of the recommendations, some of which I discussed with Mr. Bevin in London. I have observations to make on certain points, with respect to the rest I am in general concurrence.

I assume that the proposals discussed with the German political leaders in Frankfurt on January 7 and 8 meet the objective set forth in Section B.3 of your Aide-Mémoire. With respect to Section B.4, we are in accord that the trend should be in the direction of setting up a western German administration which would be responsive to popular will and which would perform clearly defined and limited governmental functions, although it should not be constituted as a government for western Germany. We feel there should be an evolutionary development in this regard, dependent to some extent on which action is taken in the Soviet zone, and we would prefer not committing ourselves to a point in time. I do not doubt that when the occasion arises we will be able to reach agreement.

As to Section B.5, I assume that the basis of action would be the political principles which our respective governments presented at Moscow and which differ in few essentials. In general, we feel that within the requirements of security and of extending the bizonal area to include the French, emphasis should be given to the need of affording the Germans greater initiative and freedom of action commensurate with the extent of the responsibility which they are to assume, particularly in connection with food production, collection and distribution.

Insofar as the immediate aim stated in Section B.7 applies to the scale of rations which the population is at present receiving, I agree that every effort should be made to meet the authorized ration. With respect to Sections B.7 and B.8, it might be mentioned specifically that a major objective of our policy is to bring about a more active and mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services between western Germany and the other countries participating in the European Recovery Program. This objective is not inconsistent, of course, with the preservation and development of important trade ties between eastern and western Europe, as envisaged in Section B.8 of the Aide-Mémoire.

I regret that I am still not in a position to agree to the proposal in Section B.9. As I informed Mr. Bevin in London, this is a matter which on our side awaits consideration by the Cabinet and must be determined also in consultation with leaders in Congress. I would suggest in the meantime this lack of agreement between us not be publicized.

With regard to the further negotiations mentioned in Section C, I would appreciate receiving from Mr. Bevin a statement of his understanding of the procedures we have agreed upon with the [Page 26] French. Discussions on the urgent technical problems of interest to the French are now in progress in Berlin. In a note2 summarizing our conversations in London, Mr. Bidault mentions that at the same time as the technical problems are being studied, long-term political questions which arise concerning the German settlement, particularly the future status of the Ruhr, must be considered. Mr. Bidault is agreeable to having these conversations open in London in the second half of January. In view of our commitments to the French, I should like to be clear whether in Mr. Bevin’s opinion negotiation of these matters should be initiated on any other than a tripartite basis, without prior consultation between ourselves.

I have no objection to the communication to Mr. Bidault, through your new Ambassador in Paris, of the British Government’s views as set forth in your Aide-Mémoire, particularly as an early approach might serve to allay French concern respecting recent developments in the bizonal area.

Faithfully yours,

G. C. Marshall
  1. At the request of British Foreign Secretary Bevin, Ambassador Inverchapel on January 8 sent to Secretary of State Marshall a paper, not printed, setting forth the main recommendations concerning Germany approved by the British Cabinet that same day. According to those recommendations, the basic objects of British policy towards Germany were to proceed as rapidly as possible with the establishment of a stable, peaceful, and democratic Germany and to avoid the creation of a situation which could eventuate in the emergence of a Communist-controlled Germany. In the absence of a four-power agreement on Germany, Britain Would cooperate with other Western powers in undertaking a number of long-delayed practical economic and political measures. In his personal, top secret letter to Secretary Marshall transmitting the Cabinet recommendations on Germany, Inverchapel indicated that an early American reply would permit Sir Oliver Harvey, the newly appointed British Ambassador to France, to explain British policy to Foreign Minister Bidault during an inaugural audience on January 14 and would assist Bevin in preparing his forthcoming foreign policy statement to the House of Commons (862.00/1–848). For the text of Bevin’s; statement to Commons on January 22, which included an elucidation of British policy towards Germany, see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 446, cols. 383–409 passim, or Documents on International Affairs 1947–1948, selected and edited by Margaret Carlyle and issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1952), pp. 201–221.
  2. The reference here is presumably to Ambassador Bonnet’s communication of December 22, 1947 to Secretary of State Marshall ( Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. ii, p. 829) summarizing Foreign Minister Bidault’s understanding of his conversation with Marshall in London on December 17, 1947 ( ibid., p. 813).