Minutes of Secretary’s Daily Meetings: Lot 58 D 609

Summary of the Daily Meeting With the Secretary 1

eyes only

Participants: The Secretary
The Under Secretary
Mr. Rusk
Mr. Bohlen
Mr. Jessup
Mr. Murphy
Mr. Humelsine

Item 1. MalikJessup Exchange

[Action: Mr. Humelsine]2

The 9:30 meeting centered principally on the question of the recent MalikJessup exchange. As an introduction to the conversation Mr. Webb read telegram no. 701 from Kohler in Moscow.3 Following that the discussion centered on the March 21 conversation between Mr. Malik and Mr. Jessup in which Mr. Malik indicated that, if an affirmative agreement could be reached for a meeting of the CFM, there could be a reciprocal lifting of the restrictions on transportation and trade in Berlin. Mr. Malik indicated further that if a CFM meeting was decided on, the blockade measures could be lifted prior to the actual holding of the meeting.

Mr. Bohlen, in commenting on telegram 701 from Moscow, said that in his opinion it was “a bit souped up”. It was his view that the Russians would continue to trade on a propaganda basis rather than on a real war scare. He said that there was little indication of a war scare except in the case of Finland, where the Russians have stepped things up somewhat.4 Mr. Bohlen went on to say that the Russians are in somewhat the same position with us as they were with the Germans in 1941 and that he thought they were going to try seriously to feel us out. He said that in his judgment the peace offensive will be kept up but that it did not warrant the spectacular treatment of a speech by the Secretary, the President or by Mr. Bevin as indicated in telegram 701. In this connection he said that he thought the world, and the U.S., is wise to peace offers complete with hooks rather than olive leaves.

Mr. Murphy said that he agreed with Mr. Bohlen’s opinion that the Russians were not going to build up a real war scare at this time. He said he based his judgment on the fact that there was not enough Russian [Page 706] military strength in the Soviet Zone in Germany to warrant the view that they were going to take any offensive action. He indicated that the Russians had followed a fairly steady policy of maintaining a strength roughly equivalent to that of the other three nations in the Western Zones. He said this was approximately 260,000 troops.

Mr. Webb stressed the offensive position of the United States in world affairs at the present time, and he went on to say that what the Russians want is impossible for us to agree to. He said that in his judgment we have to try to maintain our position of advantage and at the same time get ready for a change-over from dollar diplomacy to one in which greater reliance is placed on security arrangements, etc.

Mr. Jessup said that we have to be careful that the Russians do not convince the American public that the Atlantic Pact is a war-like measure by the Soviets making a peace offer which we reject. He said that it was essential that we should keep our position of leading from strength.

At this point Mr. Acheson posed the question, “If the blockade is lifted and a successful meeting of the CFM not achieved, what is the chance of the Soviets reimposing the blockade?” Mr. Murphy and Mr. Bohlen agreed that the chances of such a step would be remote and that if by some far chance this was attempted, we would be in a much better position to take rapid action in the way of counter moves than we were in the past.

Mr. Jessup said that in his conversation he had been careful to dodge one question which Mr. Malik attempted to put to him. This was, “Would the lifting of the blockade lead to a full resumption of trade between the Zones?” The ensuing conversation brought out the fact that Mr. Jessup and Mr. Murphy agreed that we could agree to a return to the status quo ante existing at the time of the imposition of the blockade.

Mr. Bohlen then stressed the fact that we should have an absolutely iron-clad agreement with the British and the French that if at the end of a reasonable period of explorations in the CFM no results were achieved we would immediately proceed with the formation of a Western Government.5 Mr. Bohlen said that he did not think that we should allow this question to delay beyond July 1 or August 1. Mr. Bohlen went on to say in his judgment we were going to find that the French would not be so keen about the lifting of the blockade as we might suppose. He made the point that the French would probably have grave doubts about a meeting of the CFM on Germany because they were afraid that the outcome would be a united Germany.

[Page 707]

At this point the conversation reverted to Mr. Webb’s statement to the effect that what the Russians want, it is impossible for the United States to agree to. It was agreed that this was generally true but Mr. Bohlen excepted the question of the evacuation of troops from Germany. He said that the differences in opinion in the Department between the operational offices and the planning staff on this question indicated what a very real problem it was.

Mr. Webb raised the question of why the Russians are willing to raise the blockade now. Mr. Murphy said that in his view the counter-blockade measures that the Western group had taken affecting Eastern Germany was causing the Russians more than considerable trouble. He stressed that the lack of exchange of products between the Eastern and Western Zones was making it impossible for the Russians to get the delivery of reparations out of current production that they had planned on. He talked briefly about the great number of plants that had been Sovietized and that these were now seriously restricted by the lack of economic interchange. Mr. Bohlen in commenting further on Mr. Webb’s question said that there were definite indications that the Soviet Union was over-extending and that this may be one of the signs that the Russians are starting to face up to this problem and are adjusting accordingly.

There followed a considerable discussion as to the steps that should be taken in regard to following up the MalikJessup conversation. Finally, Mr. Acheson summarized what he wanted done in this regard. He asked Mr. Bohlen, Mr. Jessup and Mr. Murphy to work as a task force to develop a possible program and to follow developments and make recommendations for future steps in regard to the conversations. In connection with this, Mr. Acheson said that he wanted:

The British and French informed of this exchange through our Ambassadors in London and Paris.6 The general line that we should take in informing them was that we thought that this was a very interesting development, that we were thinking about it, and that we were planning to discuss this further with Mr. Bevin and Mr. Schuman at the time of the Atlantic Pact signing in Washington.7
He said that we should inform them that if we develop any further ideas, or if they have any thoughts, we will allow one another to know about them preliminary to the Washington meeting.
He wanted the group to consider particularly whether we should advise General Clay and the Department of the Army of these developments.
He particularly stressed the public relations side of this problem and wanted to make certain that the task force go into this question [Page 708] in a careful way. He suggested that Mr. Allen 8 be brought into this at an appropriate moment. He said that he wanted to be ready in case a leak developed regarding these conversations so that the Department could make a statement immediately and get as much propaganda benefit out of such an eventuality as possible.

Mr. Acheson then talked about the question of proper security restrictions on this subject. He said that he did not want it to go beyond the immediate group present in the room with the exception of Mr. Thompson of EUR. He asked Mr. Rusk to inform Mr. Hickerson of the general subject and to request Mr. Thompson to be assigned to the working group. No one else in EUR was to be notified of this. At this point Mr. Bohlen asked if it would be proper to bring General Smith 9 into the conversations, and Mr. Acheson agreed that that would be perfectly agreeable.

[In the four other items in the source text Murphy was instructed to discuss a preliminary agenda with British and French representatives in Washington for the forthcoming conversations on Germany; Secretary Acheson reported on a discussion he had had with Secretary Snyder on the Point Four Program; it was agreed that Acheson should see an analysis on Germany prepared by a former Czech diplomat in Moscow; and Acheson expressed his desire to have Kennan, who was in Germany, return to Washington in time for the talks with Bevin and Schuman.]

  1. The summary was prepared by Carlisle H. Humelsine, Director of the Executive Secretariat.
  2. Brackets in the source text.
  3. Not printed; in it Kohler expressed the opinion that the Soviet Union was developing a mammoth “war scare/peace offensive,” which the United States in cooperation with its allies should make every preparation to meet. (711.61/3–1949)
  4. Documentation relating to the United States interest in Soviet pressure on Finland is in volume v .
  5. For documentation relating to the establishment of the Western German Government, see pp. 187 ff.
  6. A copy of the telegram to Douglas, March 22, not printed, which outlined briefly the course of the talks with Malik, is in CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 140: Malik Conversations, 1949.
  7. Documentation relating to the signing of the Atlantic Pact, April 4, 1949, is in volume iv .
  8. George V. Allen, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
  9. Walter Bedell Smith, former Ambassador to the Soviet Union.