740.00119 Council/2–1148

Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President

top secret

Subject: Security Against Germany

I am attaching a paper which states our position regarding security against Germany. This subject is on the agenda for the three power conversations on Germany to be held in London on February 19.

In view of the importance of this matter I believe that you may wish to read the entire paper. In brief our position is that the four-power disarmament and demilitarization treaty previously proposed by us is unworkable in the absence of four-power agreement and does not provide a basis for tri-partite discussion. Although we maintain an active interest in this subject we do not contemplate further specific proposals at this time.

Please let me know whether you approve this position.1

G. C. Marshall
[Page 61]

Department of State Policy Paper2

top secret

Security Against Germany


On April 29, 1946 Mr. Byrnes submitted to the CFM in Paris the draft of a four-power treaty for the disarmament and demilitarization of Germany.3 This draft was again submitted to the CFM in Moscow on April 14, 1947 at which time the British and French Delegations expressed substantial approval.4 The Soviet Delegation proposed a redraft which would have so broadened the scope of the treaty as to represent a virtual rejection of the proposal in as much as their redraft introduced a variety of other subjects on which there had been continued disagreement and which were more fitting for incorporation into the general terms of the peace settlement. In brief these were a special regime for the Ruhr, denazification, democratization, land reform, liquidation of industrial war potential, and fulfillment by Germany of its obligations to the Allies. No discussion of the proposed treaty or of the security question took place during the last meeting of the CFM in London.

On January 22, 1948 the British Foreign Secretary announced in the House of Commons that the British Government was looking toward the closer consolidation and economic development of Europe and of the Western states in particular, in which Germany must have its place.5 He indicated at that time that as a first step toward the realization of this project Great Britain and France should invite the Benelux countries to join with them in a pact along the lines of the Treaty of Dunkirk, signed March 4, 1947,6 which provided for defense against a revival of German aggression. Mr. Bevin further indicated that once this important nucleus in Western Europe was established consideration would have to be given to the question of associating other European states including the “New Italy” in this [Page 62] conception. It is understood that the Benelux countries are now considering the Anglo-French offer made in pursuance of Mr. Bavin’s announcement.

At the same time the British Government has made a secret approach to us suggesting that the US might consider entering with Great Britain into a general commitment to go to war with an aggressor, thereby reinforcing the defense proposals envisaged for Western Europe.7

We have stated in reply that European initiative in this matter is of the first importance and the injection of the US before agreement under Mr. Bevin’s proposal has been further developed would seem premature.


It is clear that the original US proposals for the disarmament and demilitarization of Germany no longer correspond to the realities of the present situation. This concept was based upon the assumption of an agreement of the four powers occupying Germany and contains restrictive proposals which must embrace the four zones of Germany. There have been indications that the French are thinking of redrafting the Byrnes proposals as a three-power agreement, but, in our opinion, it would be futile to accept these restrictions and bind only one part of Germany leaving the Eastern zone free to develop its military establishment and war potential without any restriction except those imposed unilaterally by the Soviets as the occupying power. It is clear that other means must be found to provide security against any possible revival of German aggression. In seeking these the US should be prepared to play its part and to accept the same general responsibility in this respect in any new arrangement as it had previously agreed to in the four-power proposal. At the same time if the peoples of Europe are prepared to develop a concept of spiritual and material unity and to make this work, there will be no real question as the long-term relationship of the US to it and to any defense arrangements included therein whether directed against aggression from Germany or other sources. In the elaboration of this concept if it should be felt in Western Europe that the direct participation of the US in a defense arrangement established in full harmony with the Charter of the United Nations would be necessary to its success this country should be prepared very carefully and sympathetically to consider this question, but the initiative must be taken by the European countries. As this concept is developed and as there is evidence of unity with a firm determination on the part of the European nations to act in concert [Page 63] to defend themselves, consideration of the role to be played by the U.S. will be facilitated.

The Dunkirk model which might serve as the framework of a pact against Germany is however illusory unless intended as a screen for further defense measures. Any adequate regional defense system for Western Europe should undoubtedly envisage defense measures to be taken in the event of aggression or attack from any source. As Mr. Bevin’s concept of a Western Union eventually envisages the participation of Germany, there is no doubt that general adoption of a mutual assistance pact based solely on defense against that country would militate its eventual entry into the concept.


During any consideration in London of the question of providing security against Germany the US Delegation should take the position that the four-power disarmament and demilitarization treaty is unworkable in the absence of four-power agreement and therefore does not provide a real basis for tri-partite discussion. This does not indicate however the US is receding from its agreement to take part in defense measures against Germany but will continue its efforts to seek, in association with the UK and the French Governments, appropriate means to this end. No specific proposal however is being made at this stage since further study and development of the Western Union concept will be required in this connection.

  1. The President’s response to this memorandum, if any, has not been found.
  2. This paper was drafted by Samuel Reber, Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs, and was approved by John Hickerson, the Director of that office. The source text bears the Secretary of State’s handwritten notation: “OK G.C.M.”
  3. For the text of the draft treaty under reference here, see document CFM (46) 21, April 30, 1946, Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. ii, p. 190.
  4. For documentation on the discussion at the Fourth Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow, March 10–April 24, 1947, regarding a treaty for the disarmament and demilitarization of Germany, see index entry in Foreign Relations, 1947, volume ii .
  5. Regarding the speech under reference here, see footnote 1 to the Secretary of State’s note of January 13 to Inverchapel, p. 24.
  6. For the text of the Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance between the United Kingdom and France, signed at Dunkirk, March 4, 1947, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. ii, pp. 194197.
  7. For additional documentation regarding the British approach under reference here, see volume iii .