Policy Planning Files: Lot 64D563: Box 20037: Chron File

Memorandum by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Kennan) to the Secretary of State


Mr. Secretary: I thought I would give you some last minute thoughts on the German problem, as it appears to me in the light of the events of the past week.

The wide area of agreement reached among ourselves here in Washington and with the British and the French in Paris has been achieved by the steady and progressive discarding of all possibilities which might really have led to something like a unification of Germany under allied blessing, at the present time. The final abandonment of the idea of re-grouping of forces means, of course, that we must expect Russian forces to remain in full occupation of the entire Soviet zone, extending to within a hundred miles of the Rhine, for a further indefinite period. In these circumstances, I fail to see how any attempted [Page 889] German unification could take a healthy course or could lead to anything further than progressive embitterment of the German public and German political life against the entire occupational regime.

On further reflection I do not think that the Austrian precedent is applicable to Germany. As long as Soviet troops remain in full occupation of the Eastern zone, I think it idle to expect that Communist concentration camps will be dismantled or that the Soviet industrial holdings would be turned over in good faith to a German authority or that the Russians would get out of their direct exploitation of uranium resources, with all that that involves.

To my mind, therefore, the trend of our thinking with regard to re-grouping of forces means, aside from other considerations, that we do not really want to see Germany unified at this time, and that there are no conditions on which we would really find such a solution! satisfactory. This seems to me to conflict with paragraph one of the principles which you drafted,1 where it was stated that “If we can integrate a greater part of Germany than we now control under conditions which help and do not retard what we are now doing, we favor that …” It also seems to me to conflict with our desire to have Soviet troops “withdraw as far as possible” and with our analysis that “a possible re-grouping of troops which would have the effect of removing Russian troops eastward … is essential to any further unification of Germany and of Germany with the West.”

At the same time, the results of the election in the Eastern Zone of Germany2 led me to think that, in the absence of any allied agreement about German unification, we may be faced with some violent manifestation of German feeling by which the Germans would really unify themselves, as a political force, underneath the framework of allied occupation and in a sort of defiance of all the allied powers. The spirit of such a manifestation would be that of “a plague on both your houses” and it would be accompanied by insistent demands for evacuation of Germany by all the allied powers.

In this way, I feel that public opinion in Western Germany, which is today relatively favorable to ourselves, may turn in other directions and we may eventually find ourselves grouped with the other Western powers as those who oppose evacuation of German territory and the emergence of a real German Government for all of Germany.

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I would like to reiterate that I think that all of us, but the French and the British more than ourselves, have a dangerous tendency to think of this German problem in static rather than dynamic terms; we expect too much that the problems of tomorrow will be like the problems of yesterday. In this way we run a real danger of placing ourselves squarely in opposition to the inevitable. I still feel that some day we may pay bitterly for our present unconcern with the possibility of getting the Russians out of the Eastern Zone and our unwillingness to modify the dispositions of our forces in Western Germany and to give some German authority somewhere the feeling that it can really rule the territory assigned to its administration.

In these circumstances, I must confess that I am not clear in my own mind as to how we should go into this meeting, tactically, and what sort of an opening statement we should make. In trying to think this thing out, I come back to the fact that we spent eight weeks last fall working out what we felt would be a logical program for advance toward the unification of Germany.3 Piece by piece, in our own deliberations here and in the concessions we have made to French and British feelings in Paris, the essentials of this program have been discarded, and the logic broken up. Some modification was necessary; but the program emerging from the Paris talks now bears no logical connection with the original concept.

In these circumstances, I really feel that the British and the French must be asked to bear the main burden of presentation and defense of the Western position in the CFM; and we might have to let it be known that we have deferred extensively to their views in these matters.

George F. Kennan
  1. Under reference here is “An Approach to the CFM”, transmitted in telegram 1605, May 11, to London, p. 872.
  2. Elections to the third German People’s Congress were held May 15–16, and 66 percent of the eligible voters were reported to have voted for the list of candidates proposed by the German People’s Council. For further documentation relating to the election and the subsequent activity of the Congress, see pp. 505 ff.
  3. Under reference here is the Program for Germany called “Program A” which was prepared by the Policy Planning Staff in the fall of 1948 and sent to Secretary Marshall November 12. The text of this paper is printed in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ii, pp. 13251338.