740.00119 Council/7–2949

Mr. Coburn B. Kidd of the Division of Austrian Affairs1 to the Acting Chief of the Division of Austrian Affairs (Williamson)

personal and secret

Dear Francis : As a form of mental exercise while the Deputies debate I have occasionally asked myself whether the sum of all the things that have been said at this session permits the equation of a Treaty by September. It is perhaps too speculative to influence anybody’s intentions. On the first day Mr. Mallet, the British Deputy, said that he felt we must all be optimistic this time, and I suppose he continues to be optimistic, like Job, with gritted teeth. If you ask me, however, I should say that you need have no hope, anticipation, or apprehension that you will awaken one morning to find the Treaty on your doorstep. I am aware that any such judgment is colored by temperament, and that for aught I know the Russians may be nine months along and ready to give birth to an agreement. There are certain signs. But I am a sceptical midwife and should like to discuss these signs.

There is no doubt that from time to time, when discussion has just about reached beyond all patience, Zarubin intervenes with a helpful suggestion. He disarmingly proposes that we drop the brackets in such and such an article, or announces Soviet agreement, or acknowledges that the respective positions are not far apart and he would like to study the Western delegation’s counter-proposal or offer a modified text himself. In addition, I think that he is generally self-controlled, courteous and friendly, in a way respectful, at least toward Sam—he doesn’t seem to pay much attention to Berthelot, and is inclined to be a trifle sharp with Mallet. What conclusions may be drawn from this? First, I should say, Zarubin definitely does not want the game to stop. There must be positive Soviet instructions that the negotiations be kept going toward a certain end.

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The second question is: Where does the Soviet Delegation give and where does it stick? So far as I recall, each instance in which they have yielded has been in reference to something comparatively insignificant; on anything important and much that was pure form they have stuck, obstinately, meticulously and with self-confidence. One exception is their modifications of paragraph 5 of Art. 16,2 which I should interpret as a definite thrust to keep the game open. In my opinion, from all the evidence to date, there is no reason to expect that they will yield, even compromise, on anything of importance in Article 35, and they are quite capable of accepting deadlock on Articles 16, 27, 36, and 42. I think this becomes intelligible by reference—not to anything in Austria, which they must regard completely cynically—but to the larger and more important objective of keeping a foot in the door of any Western European diplomatic settlements. It is probably of the highest importance to them to keep the CFM mechanism going, and the Austrian settlement can be quite useful in this respect, especially so long as the German situation is deadlocked or uncertain. I should thus be extremely surprised if they permitted the Austrian Treaty to be wound up. No doubt it would be possible, by our accepting their terms right down the line; but I do not for one moment believe that they expect this.

It may be objected that these conclusions are not necessarily so. I should hasten to agree, since few things are. Or one could make a Central European objection that since the Russians will know that we would reason as above, they will do the opposite in order to surprise us. Or again, that Communist strategy will dictate using Austria as a base for agitation, which can best be accomplished after the withdrawal of Western troops. Or finally, that the economic pinch behind the Iron Curtain makes it desirable to establish a trading door to the West, for which Austria would serve after conditions were normalized by a Treaty. These arguments are not convincing to me. They presuppose that the Russians permit Communist strategy to override nationalist strategy, or economic ends to override political ends, neither of which I believe to be so.

I am thus left with the conclusion of no Treaty this time, either. I suppose we can all live through it again, at least until the Ministers have another try, but it seems to me a fantastic situation in itself and completely demoralizing for the Austrians. I could not blame them for whatever form the reaction takes. Any Austrian national character [Page 1112] we had hopes of building up, and had even succeeded in up to a certain point, may slip through our fingers from the mere prolongation of this state of affairs composed of impotency, fictions, military domination, and debasing dependency on others.

With such reflections I find myself asking once again what is to our advantage from the broadest point of view. It occurs to me that there are three questions which are not exactly equivalent, but for which we often use the answer of one as an answer for the other. The first is whether there is a single present issue with the Russians in Austria or about the Treaty, which could not be dealt with better with the Russians out of the country? In other words, whether, so long as the Treaty is still pending, we are not approaching every problem under the most disavantageous conditions? In yet another form it is, as John Foster Dulles put it, whether the Russians have not now got a 100% and any fraction we come out with after the Treaty will be more for us and less for them than anyone has now? If this is so, the inference is that even the price the Russians demand is cheaper than what we are paying now, and should be met.

I know the familiar objection that concessions made to the Soviets now can only make it more onerous, if not perilous, for Austria in the future. This is correct and the proper instinct after the experience of Yalta, Potsdam, and the Satellite treaties. Yet I am not sure that it is decisive or really meets the preceding argument. It is the rule for doing nothing. This is all right so long as one is not in the situation where something has to be done, or where anything is better than doing nothing. I think the argument rests on the assumption that an actual present evil of a given magnitude is to be preferred to a probable future evil of a possibly greater magnitude. It is the principle of insurance, but is not intrinsically conclusive. In the first place, Austria has a gambler’s 50–50 chance that the future won’t bring the anticipated misfortune, or if it does, that it won’t be of a greater magnitude. And in the second place, it all depends on the general political drift anyway. It would be as foolish to be guided by the principle when things are on the up-swing, when Western Europe is becoming strategically stronger and Soviet Europe weaker, as it was for Neville Chamberlain to ignore it when things were on the down-swing.

My conclusion is, if I may put it on a purely abstract basis divorced from all thoughts of Congress and other hard realities, that the Western Ministers should buy the Treaty and take other measures, political and economic, to prevent Austria from succumbing later.

Our Deputy, with whom at the tail end of a sultry afternoon I have been discussing the foregoing, protests that he will never send [Page 1113] me alone to a session with the Russians again. (I was at a lunatic one last night from 8 PM to 2 AM in which our Soviet colleagues sought to instruct us on the correct French and English for rendering the Russian text of 35.) He is afraid that I have picked up the worst habits of Soviet dialectics and feels no reassurance at my explanation that it is the Hegelian dialectic, which has always been held in high esteem in CE and GA. He says that he has sometimes had reason to be suspicious of that too. All send their best wishes.


  1. Kidd was in London as a member of the United States delegation for Austria at the Council of Foreign Ministers.
  2. At the 189th meeting of the Deputies, July 26, the Soviet representative had offered to delete certain sections of Article 16 and modify others. The text of these changes is in telegram 2931 (Delau 189), July 26, from London, not printed (740.00119 Council/7–2649). For the unagreed text of Article 16, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ii, p. 1515.