740.00119 Control (Germany)/8–2148: Telegram

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of the Department of State ( Bohlen )

top secret

The French Ambassador1 called this morning at his request. He said he had come on instructions from his Government to ascertain what steps the United States Government had in mind in taking in the event of a breakdown in the Moscow conversations, with particular reference to (1) the procedures which we would suggest following in referring the matter to the United Nations, and (2) the course of action to be followed in the event of a veto or other deadlock in the United Nations. He said his Government realized that we were urging recourse to the United Nations in the event of a breakdown but they would like to know under what body and in what manner, in our view, it should be presented.

I told the Ambassador that we felt that the only possible next step, in the event of a breakdown of the Moscow conversations, was to take the matter to the United Nations; that we felt it was absolutely essential for U.S. and world public opinion, to have recourse to the United Nations before the Berlin situation became even more critical. I added that, in our view, recourse to the United Nations as soon as possible might tend to quiet public opinion at home and abroad and might operate as a certain inhibition on Soviet actions in Berlin and thus reduce the hazard of an armed clash there. I said, of course, in submitting the matter to the United Nations, as had been indicated in the agreed statement to be made to Stalin, the three Western Powers would reserve full rights to take such measures as may be necessary to maintain their position in Berlin. As to the specific steps, in the event of a [Page 1059] breakdown, we felt, first of all, the release of an account of these discussions to the press would be essential in order to inform world public opinion as to the reasons for the breakdown and then the dispatch of the note to the Soviet Government making formal refutation of the charges contained in their note of July 14 and prompt reference to the United Nations at a time to be agreed upon between the three Western Powers. I told the Ambassador that our thinking here on the subject favored direct reference of the Soviet actions in Berlin to the Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter; that our experts on UN had carefully considered this matter and had decided that Chapter VII was preferable to Chapter VI since to refer the Berlin matter as a “situation” under Chapter VI to the Security Council would automatically bar from voting the four participants to the dispute leaving only seven members entitled to vote, and since the voting rules of the Security Council required seven votes for any decision or resolution you would know in advance that the Security Council could take no such action since the Ukraine as one of the seven would undoubtedly vote against any proposed resolution. Under Chapter VII, however, parties to a dispute were not barred from voting and although the Soviets might veto, there was a good chance of obtaining a nine to two vote in our favor. For these reasons and because of the extreme seriousness of the Soviet action in maintaining the blockade, our experts felt that reference under Chapter VII was preferable.

The Ambassador then reverted to the second part of his instructions, namely, what would be our intentions in the event of a veto or inaction in the United Nations. I told the Ambassador that this Government had made no determination on that point since obviously the situation would have to be examined as it was at the end of the UN action. At the present time we were concentrating on the step in the United Nations. What the three powers should do in the event of a UN failure, which of course we have to anticipate, would depend upon consultation among them. I emphasized to the Ambassador that this Government had taken no decision on this point and would certainly consult with the British and French Governments as to any course of action before making any such determination in the future. I said, in addition, we would of course, as we had in the past, continue to be in the closest kind of consultation in the preparations for the UN and during the debate in that body. The Ambassador expressed appreciation for this and said he would report to Paris.

I added that the airlift into Berlin, while not providing a solution, nevertheless, gave us a certain assurance as to time in which we could consider very carefully the proper course to be followed in regard to the situation in Berlin, probably even after failure in the UN. I [Page 1060] said that our air people were confident that with normal weather we could continue to supply Berlin with the basic necessities of life for the population almost indefinitely. I repeated that while not a solution it was in effect a safeguard against being forced by events to take sudden decisions. I added, however, that naturally Soviet action in Berlin was a vital factor and that we had no guarantees at any time that some Soviet action might not precipitate an even more serious situation. The Ambassador said he understood this fully.

The Ambassador then raised the question of the ultimate solution of the Berlin matter, pointing out that if Germany remained divided our position in Berlin would continue to be very difficult and in some respects at the mercy of the Soviets. I said we recognized the great difficulties of finding some solution for the Berlin situation even if the blockade was lifted, but that one thing was clear—and I believed the three Governments were in complete accord on that—and that was that we could not be forced out under Soviet pressure. The Ambassador said that his Government was in complete agreement on this point but that he was thinking of the ultimate solution in the event that the blockade was lifted. I told the Ambassador that we were of course aware of the dangers and difficulties of the Berlin situation on a long-term basis but had not yet found any satisfactory solution. I said to get out of Berlin and turn over to the Soviets the over two million Germans who had stood up courageously under our protection would have very profound and adverse repercussions not only in the Western Zones of Germany but probably throughout Europe. I said we were of course thinking over all aspects of the German problem, including Berlin, but that at the present time we were concentrating on the Soviet blockade.

I gathered the impression that the chief concern of the French Government, as has been indicated before, was that we might be contemplating some unilateral action in respect of Berlin as a result of which they would be dragged into war. The Ambassador several times mentioned how difficult it would be in France to present Berlin with all its past association to the French as a sufficient cause for war. He seemed to be somewhat reassured by my statement that we had not determined on our course of action in the event of UN failure and our intention of consulting closely with the French Government on this and other aspects of the Berlin situation.

Charles E. Bohlen
  1. Henri Bonnet.