740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–3048: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State

top secret   us urgent

2907. For the Secretary and Lovett (Eyes Only) from Douglas. Reference telecon conversation June 30,1 saw Bevin and Attlee late this afternoon. There emerged from the discussion with them the following:

1. Instructions are being sent to Robertson not to shoot down balloons on his own initiative, but only after receiving specific authorization;

2. Bevin and Attlee agree that before shooting balloons is authorized, joint US–UK governmental decision must be taken. Moreover, they agree that neither US nor UK should, if it is avoidable, commit any act without prior governmental approval which would involve the other in a war;

3. Bevin and Attlee agree, in principle, that a note should be sent, and will support the principle with the French. They are studying the terms of the proposed draft2 which I have submitted to them. They tentatively, however, have two reservations:

They suggest that instead of sending the note within 24 hours as suggested in the telecon conversation, another 24 hours should elapse, that is to say, a total of 48 hours in order that we, that is US–UK, may have an opportunity to assess Soviet reaction to the Secretary’s statement issued this afternoon in Washington, and to Bevin’s and Eden’s speeches made before the House of Commons. Moreover, they think this additional time should be taken in order that we may know further about the developments that may follow upon Sokolovsky’s letter to Robertson of yesterday.
At first blush, they question the wisdom of the last two paragraphs of the proposed note draft in which the proposal is made, [that] the negotiations shall be held in the Council of Foreign Ministers, et cetera, or if the Soviet prefer, that the situation should be submitted to the UN for decision, et cetera. Their doubts as to these two portions of the draft note stem from the following considerations: [Page 937]
They think it preferable not to bypass the military governors, but on the contrary, to give them every support and to reinforce their position.
They believe that the quadripartite machine for the government of Berlin should, if possible, be reassembled and clothed with the authority which it was agreed by the Soviet, ourselves, and the UK it should possess.
They believe that we should not initiate the possibility of a CFM meeting or a UN disposition of the Berlin question, because Sokolovsky’s letter to Robertson implies that the Berlin controversy may be disposed of through the quadripartite machine: We should not, accordingly, suggest any other channel for consultation or discussion until it is clear that this has been closed.

4. My own comments, such as they are, on the same paragraphs of the proposed draft are as follows:

I appreciate that there probably may be at home among our own people a prevailing wonderment as to why the Berlin situation is not being submitted to the UN, and therefore from a purely internal political point of view, it may be desirable on this account to suggest the UN as a suitable forum for the settlement of the issue. On the other hand, it seems to me that after having proposed to the Soviet that we are prepared to negotiate with them on any matter relating to the quadripartite administration of Berlin, on the condition that they restore and maintain our access to the city, we should let the Soviet make the next move in suggesting how and where the negotiation should be held.

Moreover, were we to take the initiative in suggesting a CFM meeting for this particular purpose, we can be reasonably certain that the Soviet will construe it as a sign of weakness, will therefore snap at it, and will extend the area of discussions far beyond the domain of the controversy in Berlin. Any evidence of softness on our part may at this particular juncture when there is evidence of Soviet irresolution, react to our serious disadvantage.

It may be that the Soviet will suggest a CFM meeting in response to a naked proposal that negotiations be held. We can then deal with their suggestions as to the forum for negotiations.

If, on the other hand, we initially suggest a CFM, it is reasonably certain that we will not be able to confine the area of negotiations to the Berlin issue, and that we will not be able to avoid discussion of broader German question. At this particular moment, when we are meeting with the Ministers President and trying to put into effect the program in Western Germany, if a CFM meeting is held in which much, if not all, of the whole German question would be under discussion, the Soviet would use it as a platform for propaganda which might adversely affect German response to our program in western [Page 938] Germany. This might impair our influence in western Germany, if not possibly defeat our objectives.

I realize that a person sitting in one part of the world without possession of all of the considerations cannot give a wholly objective judgement derived from a comprehensive understanding of all the considerations and factors bearing upon the issue. With this caveat in mind and the knowledge that my knowledge is limited, I doubt the wisdom of going beyond Paragraph One of the proposal, for in negotiating with a power whose purposes are at best obscure, whose aims are at worst unfriendly even hostile, it is not, I believe, wise to propose more than may be necessary. To suggest a CFM meeting at this juncture, I believe is going further than the situation requires.

5. The British are studying the draft text and will make suggestions, if they have any, of changes in language tomorrow morning.

6. My preliminary examination of the text indicates that in several instances the language should be modified so that it is applicable to the position of the three western powers instead of to the US alone. It may be that you have in mind a note from each of the three western powers instead of a joint note from the three powers collectively.

7.I suggest that if the draft text of the note has been sent to Paris, through Caffery, that he be instructed to withhold the Paragraphs Two and Three of its concluding part, until the British and ourselves resolve the doubts which the British entertain. Otherwise, even though the British and ourselves might agree to delete we may have trouble in persuading the French, thus delaying unduly the dispatch of the note.

Have been urging you for urgent replies. Here is another one.

  1. The reference here is to a telecon between Washington and London, June 30, the transcript of which is not printed.
  2. The reference here is to the draft note transmitted to Embassy Paris in telegram 2384, supra.