CFM Flies: Lot M–88: Box 140: JessupMalik Conversations

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1

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Participants: The Secretary
Sir Oliver Franks, British Ambassador
Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary

Sir Oliver Franks came in to deliver to me a personal message from Mr. Bevin. The message is contained in the attached memorandum. Sir Oliver stated his understanding that this message simply reflected Mr. Bevin’s present way of thinking about the matter and that Mr. Bevin would greatly appreciate knowing what I might be thinking.

After reading the attached paper, I told Sir Oliver that I shared many of the ideas contained in the paper. I stated that we did not consider that the USSR had changed its attitude toward us or had changed the basic objectives of its foreign policy and that we must therefore be alert in connection with forthcoming negotiations. I indicated that there had been some earlier concern lest undue optimism might be created, particularly in Congress, but that we had been reassured in our recent talks with members of the Congress. We believe that Congress looks upon the blockade as the first fruits of a policy of firmness and not as a reason for relaxing our effort and vigilance. I also told Sir Oliver that these present negotiations might lead to little more than a lifting of the blockade. In a Council of Foreign Ministers we may have little real chance for agreement but we would have a serious propaganda problem with which to deal. This propaganda would primarily concern German opinion. We must therefore be bold in our approach in order to deal adequately with propaganda aspects but in doing so make proposals which we think would in fact be the basis for a reasonable settlement. By undue timidity we might be pushed back to the defensive and seriously damage our propaganda position.

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I then indicated the desirability of careful three-power preparation for a CFM and stated that we would be in touch with the British and French informally in Washington before our proposed three-power talks open up in Paris. I emphasized that the three of us must work closely together and that we should make a special effort to keep Mr. Schuman fully in the picture at all stages.

D[ean] A[cheson]

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Bevin) to the Secretary of State

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I have been watching very carefully the development of the conversations between Dr. Jessup and M. Malik and considering in the light of the situation in Berlin and in Western Germany the course upon which we are now set. I want to make it clear at the outset that I have agreed to this course and that you can depend upon me to do my utmost to see that it is carried through to a successful conclusion. If we can get the blockade lifted and secure a reasonable settlement with the Russians on Germany as a whole we shall have removed one of the most difficult and dangerous problems confronting us and done much to ensure peace.

Nevertheless I want to tell you frankly that I am disquieted and uneasy at some aspects of the way things are going. It is quite possible that the Russians would like to raise the blockade in order to extricate themselves from their present political and economic embarrassments; it is also possible that they would like to reach some accommodation with us about Germany. I am sure, however, that there is much more that they want and are aiming to get. The Russians cannot afford at present if they can possibly avoid it to allow us to establish the sort of political and economic system at which we are aiming in Western Germany and then to extend that system over the whole of Germany, including Western Europe [sic]. At bottom they remain bitterly hostile to all our plans for Germany, and I am sure that there are many difficulties and dangers for us behind their present readiness to lift the blockade and begin negotiations.

In fact it is when negotiations begin on a Four-Power basis that our difficulties really arise. It is going to be no easy, and certainly no short, matter for the Western Powers to reach agreement on satisfactory terms for Germany with the Russians. Their ideas and objects are exactly opposed to ours. I do not want to go into all the details now, but the Russians are certainly thinking in terms of a heavily centralised [Page 750] totalitarian state, controlled by the Communists by direct or indirect methods, geared to the economy of the Eastern European States and the Soviet Union and bitterly hostile to Western Europe and America. I am not saying that they are likely to achieve this, but that is what they are aiming at and that is why I am convinced that the negotiations upon which we may shortly embark will not be plain-sailing or easy to bring to a successful conclusion quickly.

It is almost certainly also in the Russian intention that the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers will be used to try to foster opposition in the public mind, especially in France, to the ratification of the Atlantic Pact. My hope had been that the Pact would be safely in force before we opened up with the Russians again.

With these thoughts in mind I would ask you most earnestly to reflect carefully upon where we are going and to join with me in preventing the spread of an air of easy optimism about Russian intentions. I fear there is too much readiness in some quarters to believe that merely because the Russians have shown some readiness to raise the blockade the rest will be plain-sailing. On the contrary, in spite of the advantages which we at present hold, I think that if we are to avoid serious danger we shall have to exercise the greatest caution and foresight during the coming weeks.

I have spoken very frankly and I hope you will accept my message in that sense. In spite of the anxiety which I feel I assure you again that you can count upon my full support to bring the forthcoming negotiations to a successful conclusion.2

  1. The memorandum was prepared by Rusk.
  2. Also attached to the memorandum of conversation was a copy of an instruction to Franks to make it clear to Acheson that Bevin had expressed his “deepest thoughts entirely frankly to him and in accordance with the close understanding which was developed between us during the recent talks in Washington.”