740.00119 control (Germany)/6–649

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Charles E. Bohlen of the United States Delegation at the Council of Foreign Ministers

top secret

Participants: Ambassador Murphy
Mr. Charles E. Bohlen
Mr. Smirnov, USSR Delegation
Mr. Semenov, USSR Delegation

After the meeting yesterday1 Ambassador Murphy and I had about three quarters of an hour conversation with Smirnov and Semenov out of which the following points emerged:

The Soviet Delegation does not expect any agreement in regard to the unification of Germany as a whole. Semenov was very frank in stating that as “realistic” people the Soviet Delegation recognized that the differences between the Soviet Union and the Western powers on the problem of German unification were so great as to render very slight any possibility of reaching an agreement on that subject at this session of the CFM.
The Soviet Government is not prepared to give up in Berlin either its veto power in the Kommandatura or increase materially the liberty given to the German city administration. On this point both Smirnov and Semenov were very definite in stating that the Soviet Government could not give up its right of veto in the operation of the Kommandatura and that they would insist upon a degree of control equivalent to that which had existed before the breakdown of the Kommandatura. Smirnov particularly was very definite in stating that the Soviet Government needed the power of veto in order to prevent what he said was actually hostility to the Soviet Union on the part of the Berlin authorities. He said he thought that all the occupying powers would wish to have this power, but that in the case of the Soviet Union it was particularly necessary because Berlin was in the middle of the Soviet zone and what occurred there had direct and immediate effect throughout the Soviet zone. These statements were made in connection with the justification by Smirnov and Semenov of the Soviet veto of Reuter who had been elected Mayor of Berlin in 1946. They said the Soviet Government could hardly be expected to admit the appointment of so openly an anti-Soviet individual as Reuter to be Mayor of a city in whose occupation they participated.

Both Ambassador Murphy and I pointed out the incompatibility of an attitude of this kind with the principle of free elections; and that [Page 961] the United States and the two other Western powers were prepared to risk the outcome of free elections which otherwise became meaningless.

While insisting upon the absolute necessity of retaining the veto etc., both Smirnov and Semenov were quite serious about the importance of reaching some arrangement here in Paris which would permit the “normalization” of the present situation in Berlin, of a split city, two police forces, etc.

The apparent modifications in the Soviet proposals of yesterday are apparent and not real. In reply to my question both Smirnov and Semenov stated that the powers apparently transferred to the Berlin city government under paragraph 9 of the Soviet proposals of June 62 would require approval of the Kommandatura before any city government action in those fields could go into effect. They were very clear and definite on the point that without such approval, which Semenov said could either take the form of positive approval or merely no objection on the part of the Kommandatura, the city government could not act in those fields.

When asked why, therefore, it was necessary to group these powers under a new paragraph, Smirnov rather vaguely said that these were arrangements in which the Kommandatura and the city government would exercise a dual authority.

Smirnov and Semenov had no suggestions for any more fruitful procedure in the CFM, but unanimously stated that reference to the Deputies of questions involving principles was useless as the Deputies could never make any progress if the Ministers were in disagreement.

In developing the Soviet proposition for the return to the previous system of Kommandatura control both Smirnov and Semenov insisted that in the past the system had worked very smoothly and it was only when large political questions affecting Germany as a whole had entered into the operation of the Kommandatura that real difficulties arose. They asserted that the proposal submitted yesterday confined the Kommandatura to matters of a practical municipal character which they maintained should cause very little dispute between the four occupying powers and had carefully excluded from the competence of the Kommandatura the larger political issues.

We pointed out to them that it was difficult, if not impossible, to keep political questions apart from those of city administration citing in this instance the case of the veto of Reuter.

The general impression created by this conversation was that the Soviet Government is anxious to find some arrangement for the city of Berlin since the present situation is obviously not to their liking but is not prepared to make much if any concession on the central [Page 962] question of the veto and the degree of control to be exercised over the German city government.3

  1. The reference here is to the 13th (3rd restricted) meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, June 6. Apparently Bohlen prepared the memorandum on June 7, but dated it the previous day when the conversation had occurred.
  2. A reference to CFM/P/49/20, p. 1048.
  3. Delsec 1851, June 6, from Paris, not printed, summarized this conversation for President Truman and Webb (740.00119 Council/6–649).