740.00119 Council/5–2149

Memorandum by Mr. Charles W. Yost, of the United States Delegation at the Council of Foreign Ministers, to the United States Alternate Member at the Council (Jessup)


There emerged in the preliminary tripartite conversations an attitude toward the German problem on the part of the French, and to a lesser extent the British, which might be described as primarily defensive. It seems likely that the French would be satisfied with a German [Page 891] split for an indefinite period with the three Allies in substantial control of the West and the Soviets in substantial control of the East. Their attitude is of course complicated by their preoccupation not only with security against Russia but also with security against a resurgent Germany. The British show in principle more interest in securing German unfication but in practice manifest great reluctance to take risks in reaching this objective. In other words, they seem more concerned with preventing Soviet incursions into the West than in maneuvering the Soviets out of the East.

This disposition is brought out by their attitude on a number of points. They attach more importance to prolonging the scattering of their and our troops throughout Western Germany than in securing the retreat of the Soviets to restricted areas of Eastern Germany. By their insistence on holding to a minimum negotiations and contacts between East and West Germans, even on purely economic matters, they seem to consider free Germans more liable to Communist contamination than stooge Germans to the attraction of democratic institutions. By their attitude toward Soviet participation on the Military Security Board, they show themselves so fearful of the slightest Soviet interference in the West that they are ready to leave them in exclusive control of this important instrument of pressure in the East.

These hypercautious attitudes seem somewhat unreal in the light of our present strength and somewhat dangerous in the light of our long-term objectives. Taking the broad view, there seems good reason to believe that the Soviets would profit more than we from a stalemate in Europe which would permit them during the next three or four years to consolidate their position behind the Iron Curtain and knit their satellites, including Eastern Germany, into a firm political and economic complex. This is particularly true when they are making such gains in the Far East. It would seem that our policy should be, while by no means neglecting to consolidate our improved position in Western Europe, still not to rest on our laurels but to exert unremitting pressure to reduce Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. To follow such a policy involves risks but not to follow it would seem to raise the greater risk of acquiescing in a breathing spell which the Soviets may need but we do not.

If this line of reasoning is correct, Germany and Austria certainly offer the most favorable fields in which to press forward now. Positive action on our part in the satellites, except Yugoslavia, is extremely difficult but we still have a reasonable opportunity gradually to weaken the Soviet position in Eastern Germany and to eliminate them from Eastern Austria. The successful carrying out of these operations might [Page 892] alter the balance in Europe in our favor even more substantially than have the events of the past year and would certainly have a profoundly unsettling effect on Soviet control of the satellites. These ends are so substantial that they seem well worth risks which in any event, if we are really confident of the solidity of our work in Western Europe, do not appear too serious.

If the general attitudes suggested above reflect the United States position, it would seem that on the whole complex of problems before the CFM we might wish to urge upon the French and British a policy of greater boldness and imagination and to emphasize our belief that the Soviets and their stooges have far more to fear from the partial opening up of Eastern Germany to Western influences than we have from a slightly increased exposure of free Germany to Communist associations. There would be advantage in bringing out the point that the continued presence of the Red Army in the Eastern Zone may well be the strongest element supporting Communist infiltration and influence in Western Germany. Most important of all is the necessity of inducing the British and French to regard the German problem as merely a part of the problem of Europe and its solution as primarily a means not only of consolidating but also of extending eastwards the free, stable and united Europe which is our aim.