740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–1549

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State 1

top secret
Participants: The Secretary of State Others Present:
Mr. Bevin Mr. Couve de Murville
Mr. Schuman Mr. Bérard
The British Ambassador Mr. Barclay
The French Ambassador Mr. Beam
Mr. Murphy
Dr. Jessup

I recapitulated what I had told the Foreign Ministers separately about Dr. Jessup’s talks with Malik.2

Mr. Bevin said the Prime Minister’s first reaction was one of great caution. He felt that the proposed step might imperil many things. We are not ready with Western Germany; the Pact has not been ratified; the European Council has not been set up. The Soviets might drive a wedge between the countries of Western Europe. They may put up counter-proposals frustrating further action. They might upset ERP, Ruhr control and the other arrangements. Recently we have gone a long way in Western Europe. It was not clear that Malik had acted officially.

[Page 710]

I said, suppose the Soviets publicize the JessupMalik exchange and take the position they have stated their terms, which were rejected? We could tell Malik that his statement reflected the same basis we have always entertained and ask him about dates for lifting of the blockade and a CFM. If Moscow replies, then the question could be taken up officially. We would, of course, go forward with the Western German government even while the CFM is sitting; we would neither increase nor decrease the tempo.

Mr. Bevin expressed concern regarding the effect on the Germans. Since we are not yet fully agreed on Germany, four-power negotiations could split the Western front. The Soviets previously vetoed the very thing we are now proposing.

I mentioned we seemed to be close to agreeing about Germany. It was desirable a reply be made to Malik in the next few days because of Evatt’s3 possible intervention and because the Soviets might exploit the approach in the General Assembly and claim we had made no reply.

Dr. Jessup explained the last step in his talks with Malik. In brief, Vishinsky had said that if we lifted the counter-blockade the Soviets would lift the blockade, provided there was a firm understanding on a CFM, but the dates for these measures need not be identical. Dr. Jessup had given no undertaking regarding the Western German government but had simply said it did not now exist. The Soviets indicated they wanted a CFM to begin before the government was established. No written exchange had taken place.

Mr. Bevin said that because of our previous experiences with the Soviets we should have written elucidation. We should ascertain what the Soviets mean and the dates they have in mind; we should consider what we should answer, and then fix dates.

Mr. Schuman said we must not fall into a trap. If the Soviets had agreed to the Malik conversations merely for propaganda purposes, they would be glad if we rejected any purported offer. If they are sincere, there should be no objection to an answer being given to Malik and we might get back to the pre-blockade situation. We need not slow up other steps in Western Germany. Mr. Schuman was therefore sympathetic to the proposal but said it rendered three-power agreement all the more urgent.

Sir Oliver Franks said he understood it was not suggested that Dr. Jessup place a proposal before Malik but should present a record of what he believed was the Soviet understanding. If this corresponded with their intent, the way would be open for more formal approach. We did not want to seem to make a proposal, because otherwise we might expose ourselves to Soviet propaganda and a swindle.

[Page 711]

Dr. Jessup distributed a draft of a paper he might be authorized to present to Malik in the name of the three Western governments.4

Mr. Bevin objected to the text, saying it put forward a proposal. He also complained of the reference to the fact that a Western German government would not be set up for some months, since he had hoped for early action. The Soviets would interpret this reference as meaning we would not go ahead with a Western German government. We should make a declaration of our intention to proceed, stating that a CFM could be held in the meantime without prejudicing the preparations. He was worried that in negotiations with the Soviets we might; have to accept a strong German government in Berlin, and what then? Are we willing to return to quadripartite administration?

Mr. Murphy suggested we could state that plans for a Western German government are proceeding but are not yet completed.

Mr. Schuman questioned the effects on the Germans at the Bonn Constituent Assembly.5 While the Western governments can remain masters of the situation, the Germans would use a CFM as a pretext to stop their work and we would risk losing our present objectives. The Germans would not wish to give the impression that they are splitting Germany while the four powers are discussing unification. It might be explained to the Germans that their work at Bonn might have to be adapted to a four-power solution, but since there was a possibility of a breakdown of a CFM they should proceed with their work since it could be used in the event that four-power negotiations failed.

Mr. Murphy said we must realize that a lifting of the blockade would be regarded as a Western victory.

Mr. Bevin objected to the reference in the paper to currency problems, which might cause German uneasiness with respect to a new currency change. He said it was always open to the Soviets to ask for a CFM. They are in the chair and at London the CFM simply adjourned. He didn’t want to go so far at present and wished to make no promises. While he might agree to a meeting, it was too early. Possibly Dr. Jessup might point out to Malik that the three Foreign Ministers are here, and inquire whether the Soviet Government has anything to communicate.

Dr. Jessup said he might be able to tell Malik that the US, UK and French Governments had been informed about his statements and ask him if he wished to formalize them. If they were meant seriously, they corresponded to what we had suggested in the past, namely, if the [Page 712] Soviets lifted the blockade on one date then a CFM could be held on another date.

Mr. Bevin said this was what we did in the SC meetings in Paris.

I said Dr. Jessup might tell Malik he had reported to the three governments and that they were interested to note that Malik’s statements correspond to our own views and that we assume there should be no difficulty regarding a lifting of all blockade measures. Adopting Mr. Schuman’s suggestion, we could further declare that since a Western German government does not exist, it is not a factor, but the necessities of the situation require we continue with preparations for its establishment.

Although Mr. Bevin suggested we tell Evatt to keep his hands off, I thought this would have the contrary effect. In the meantime this matter must be kept most secret. I hope we would have something to say by Tuesday, April 5, to Malik so that it would not look as if we had rejected the offer.

I suggested it might be useful for us to put down in a written minute our agreement that CFM proceedings would not hold up the Western German government preparations or interrupt the establishment of a Western German government at any time we consider this desirable.

A discussion ensued concerning Dr. Jessup’s draft reply to Malik and a drafting committee was appointed to revise the text.6

Mr. Bevin said he would examine the revised text without commitment as soon as ready. He would have to refer the question to the Cabinet which meets Monday, April 4. He hoped to have a reply by Monday noon.

  1. The memorandum was prepared by Beam.
  2. Secretary Acheson had discussed the Malik conversations with Bevin on March 31 and with Schuman on April 1, before the tripartite meeting. Memoranda of these conversations are in CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 140: JessupMalik Conversations.
  3. Dr. Herbert V. Evatt, President of the United Nations General Assembly.
  4. Not printed; this draft of the statement to be handed to Malik was prepared by Jessup on March 24, following the second conversation with the Soviet representative. A copy of the draft is in CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 140: JessupMalik Conversations.
  5. For documentation relating to the Bonn Constituent Assembly, see pp. 187 ff.
  6. The drafting committee, composed of Franks, Jessup, and Couve de Murville, met on April 3 and 4 at the British Embassy to redraft Jessup’s version of the statement to be read to Malik. Memoranda of these drafting sessions are in the CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 140. For the text of tripartite draft, agreed during these meetings, see the Statement by the United States Ambassador at Large, April 5, p. 716.