Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Frederick T. Merrill of the Division of Southern European Affairs

Participants: Mr. Hickerson, EUR
Mr. Thompson, EUR
Mr. Raynor, EUR
Mr. Barbour, SE
Mr. Stevens, EE
Mr. Vedeler, CE
Mr. Merrill, SE

A meeting was held in Mr. Hickerson’s office1 on March 19, 1948 to discuss the EUR position regarding US attitude toward a conference for a Danube convention as envisaged in the CFM resolution of December 1946. Mr. Barbour2 explained that the Soviet Embassy had answered the Department’s note suggesting a postponement until the end of 1948 of the deadline for calling a conference with a proposal to call a conference in Belgrade not later than April or May. As a re-suit of a previous meeting with other interested divisions of the Department there had arisen three rather general approaches to the problem. (1) A preliminary exchange of views or a meeting might take place in Washington of diplomatic representatives of the Four Powers to reach an understanding of the agenda and general principles under which a conference would be held. We would reserve our decision to join in calling a conference until such an exchange had occurred; (2) to agree to participate in the conference, while recognizing the futility of holding any advance discussions on agenda and principles; and (3) to insist on further postponement and/or refuse now to participate in the conference on the grounds Austria would not now be a member and the Danube itself was a line of communication of the Red Army.

The British have taken the line they will participate in a conference only if their rights under the old Danube regime are reserved and that [Page 596] the results of the conference are referred back to the CFM members for final approval. Although it seemed doubtful that the Soviets would agree to the latter, a review by the four CFM powers, for which the Paris Peace Conference3 Procedure had provided a precedent, was an essential safeguard and at least worth trying.

Mr. Hickerson pointed out that both the President and Senator Vandenberg4 had in the past expressed a lively interest in the Danube, and although the former had cooled considerably, we would have to check with them before any final decision as to the US attitude can be made.

Mr. Hickerson then summarized what would be EUR’s preliminary position: (a) We should first ascertain the British and French views. (b) We would probably have to go to a conference, but we should make further efforts to have Austria participate and also explore the idea of inviting the Germans, (c) The Department should consult the President and Senator Vandenberg when the Department’s policy had crystalized. (d) We should propose a reply to the Soviet note, accepting in principle participation in a conference and suggesting a meeting of the four diplomatic representatives to exchange views on arrangements. We should then support the British proposal to have decisions referred back to CFM and attempt to obtain an “understanding” on procedure and principles, (e) July or August seems to us a more appropriate time for the conference. We have no objection to having it held in Belgrade.

  1. John D. Hickerson, Director of the Office of European Affairs.
  2. Walworth Barbour, Chief of the Division of Southern European Affairs.
  3. For documentation on the Paris Peace Conference, July 29–October 15, 1946, see Foreign Relations, 1946, volumes iii and iv .
  4. Arthur H. Vandenberg, Senator from Michigan.