740.00119 Control (Germany)/7–3148: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State

top secret   us urgent

1488. This afternoon I was called by the Foreign Office and told to see Molotov at the Kremlin at 7 p. m. I learned later that appointments had been made for the British representative at 8 p. m. and for the French Ambassador at 10 p. m. and had time for short talk [Page 997] with Roberts and French councillor before my appointment.1 Molotov began the conversation by stating that he had taken note of the aide-mémoire presented by me to Mr. Zorin yesterday2 and asked whether I had anything to add. I replied that I had nothing to add at this time and would be glad to have Molotov’s reaction. Molotov said that the aide-mémoire was not wholly clear and that he wondered what kind of discussion and negotiation we had in mind, at present and for the future.

I said that the aide-mémoire was intentionally brief and lacking in detail since it was the purpose of the proposed conversations to develop such details. Turning to the Russian translation of the text of the aide-mémoire, Molotov read the final paragraph and asked what “wider questions” we had in view. He then cited the Russian note of July 143 to the effect that conversations regarding Berlin were not possible except within the framework of conversations regarding all of Germany and inquired whether that represented also the view of the American Government.

I replied that my government considered it possible that such a line of approach might emerge from the conversations.

Molotov then explained that unlike the Soviet note of July 14 the US reply (that is, the aide-mémoire of July 30) does not refer to Germany as a whole and that he had simply asked in order to clarify this question. I repeated that the aide-mémoire was intentionally both brief and not detailed, as the details would be developed in the discussions. Molotov continued to probe for something definite by saying that maybe this preliminary conversation with him today was useless, but that he had hoped to report on this matter to his government tonight and wanted to be able to present to them a clear picture. I said on the contrary I welcomed this opportunity to talk over our proposal. We regarded the proposed conversations with Stalin and himself as preliminary discussions which we hoped might lead to a reasonable formula for composing our differences. The formal position of the two governments had been made clear in the two notes which had been exchanged, but the formal written word was very rigid and much more could be accomplished by informal exploration.

[Page 998]

Molotov then said that he would report to his government on the US, British, and French approaches; that he hoped Stalin would agree to meet the representatives of the three governments; and that his purpose in this talk was simply to clarify our proposals.

After some further exchange along the same lines, Molotov remarked that he would “inform me as soon as possible of Stalin’s reply and as to when the meeting might be possible”.

Molotov then went on to refer specifically to the statements in the aide-mémoire regarding Soviet measures to disrupt communications with Berlin and said bluntly he hoped I would understand that these measures were necessitated by the actions of the US, Britain, and France in the Western zones of Germany following the London Conference with respect to currency and the decisions of that conference. Disregarding this statement, I said that I was grateful for the opportunity to talk further about our proposal; that as Molotov knew I was always optimistic with regard to informal exchanges of views as opposed to formal diplomatic notes. He replied that he also liked the informal approach and thought it was better, but reiterated that “if it had not been for the London decisions there would have been no reasons for creating and continuing the difficulties of recent times in the relations of the partners in Germany”. I said I was encouraged by Molotov’s use of the word partners and I felt that as long as that basic fact was kept in mind there was always reasonable expectation of resolving our present difficulties by frank and informal discussion.

It will be obvious from the above that the purpose of the interviews today is to maneuver one or the other of the representatives here into stating definitely the position of the Western governments. I was able to confer with my British and French colleagues immediately after my talk, and believe we will avoid this successfully. My present estimate is chances of discussion with Stalin favorable and reply probably soon. We are having a rehearsal tomorrow.4

Sent Department 1488; repeated London 108, Berlin 268, Paris 223.

  1. Telegram 1489, August 1, from Moscow, not printed, reported that the British and French representatives saw Foreign Minister Molotov as scheduled. Their interviews proceeded almost exactly along the lines of Ambassador Smith’s (740.00119 Control (Germany)/8–148). In his telegram 3992, August 2, from Paris, not printed, Ambassador Caffery reported that Ambassador Chataigneau’s reports to Paris on his interview corresponded closely with Smith’s (740.00119 Control (Germany)/8–248).
  2. See telegram 1474, July 30, from Moscow, supra.
  3. Ante, p. 960.
  4. In telegram 1489, August 1, from Moscow, not printed, Smith reported that he had met with his British and French colleagues on the morning of August 1, to plan their approach should an interview with Stalin be granted. Immediately after this meeting, the Soviet Foreign Ministry informed Smith that an interview on the evening of August 2 had been arranged (740.00119 Control (Germany)/8–148). For a further account of the interview with Molotov, see Smith, Moscow Mission, pp. 231–233.