Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, National Security Affairs; Foreign Economic Policy, Volume I
Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs ( Yost ) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs ( Thompson )
Attached is a paper I have drawn up outlining the approach I believe we should take in dealing publicly with the demand that we negotiate a general settlement with the Soviets. The paper is not intended for use in its present form but to serve as a basis for a speech by the Secretary or in other public presentations of the Department’s point of view.
We are continuing to revise and bring up to date the list of Soviet treaty violations and this will be coming to you soon. I am inclined to think, however, that that is too negative a line to serve as the main theme of our policy on this question. I would prefer to see spelled out, as I have in the attached paper, the manifest impossibility of reconciling by negotiation the position we must assume on the main issues in protection of our vital interests with the position the Soviets have assumed and will continue to assume until obliged by the facts of life to lower their sights.
Paper Prepared by the Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs (Yost)
Basic Negotiations With the Soviet Union
In order to determine whether it is worth while to enter into negotiations with the Soviet Union with a view to a general settlement, it would be useful, first, to list the chief issues outstanding between East and West which would necessarily be dealt with in such a settlement, second, to indicate the position of the two parties on each of these issues and, finally, to estimate whether or not there is a reasonable likelihood of these positions being reconciled. If it appears that such [Page 154] a reasonable likelihood exists in the case of most of the principal issues, the prompt commencement of negotiations for a general settlement would clearly be called for; but if it should appear that, given the essential interests of the West and the fixed dogmas of the East, there is little likelihood of accommodation on the great issues, it would seem preferable to continue the present practice of negotiating each issue separately in the appropriate forum, in the UN or in conjunction with our Allies, for to commence a negotiation for a general settlement and to fail might easily be worse than not to negotiate at all.
There are discussed briefly below the principal issues which divide East and West at this time. It should be emphasized that any settlement, in order to be successful in ending, or substantially moderating, the cold war, would have to resolve at least a majority of these issues, and those the most important.
Cooperation with the UN
. In a sense this constitutes the most basic
issue of all since sincere cooperation with the UN on the part of the Soviet Union would
either in itself resolve most of the outstanding issues or would
make them relatively unimportant as far as world peace is concerned.
It would hardly be possible, however, to negotiate fruitfully so
vague a proposition as “sincere cooperation with the UN”. Each side would claim that it is
already cooperating sincerely and that the other is not. This issue
would therefore, in any negotiation, have to be broken down into a
number of concrete questions on which we consider that the Soviet
Union is not cooperating with the UN. The most important of these are the
- Control of Atomic Energy.1 This is the topic on which there is the most widespread demand that negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union be undertaken. In order to avoid creating a fear that we are deserting our Allies and attempting a bilateral settlement contrary to their interests, we should have to insist on continuing negotiations within the UN. This would not create a serious stumbling block if a real will to agree existed. In essence the position of the two parties seems, however, hopelessly far apart. The West insists that effective control of atomic energy is essential to atomic disarmament and that control to be effective must follow all quantities of uranium and plutonium and their products through all stages of processing. The West further contends that this latter safeguard can only be effective if the materials in question are not only observed by, but also managed and owned by, an international institution throughout all these processes. Whether or not this last contention is correct, it seems inconceivable that the Soviet leaders, in view of their psychosis on the subject of security and their determination [Page 155] to cut their people off from representatives of the West, would permit agents of an international institution to move freely throughout the Soviet Union and to examine any mine, factory or laboratory they wish in order to determine whether or not atomic materials are present there. Yet such absolute freedom of movement and inspection would obviously be the minimum which the West could consider to be effective control of atomic energy. Agreement on this matter would therefore seem to be impossible until the Soviet leaders come to consider, which they obviously do not at present, that their security would be more seriously jeopardized by an absence of control of atomic energy than by the sort of effective control described above.
- Disarmament of Conventional Weapons. Discussion of this subject has made no progress whatsoever in the UN. Soviet proposals have been of a nature which, while reducing existing armaments across the board, would leave their substantial superiority in most branches intact. It seems foolish to think that either they will agree to abandon this superiority or we will agree to sanction it unless and until a substantial measure of mutual confidence between East and West can be created. History has made abundantly clear that such confidence must precede disarmament.
- UN Security Forces. Really effective UN security forces would have to be strong enough and well enough equipped to cope with any potential aggressor, including the most powerful. They would therefore have, under present circumstances, to be equipped with atomic weapons and the Great Powers would be obliged to disarm substantially so that they would not be overwhelmingly superior to the UN forces. This statement makes it clear that there can be no real progress on the creation of effective UN forces until there has been progress on the control of atomic energy and on disarmament.
- North Atlantic Treaty and Military Aid Program. It is obvious that one of the first Soviet demands in negotiations for a general settlement would be for the dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty and the abandonment of the Military Aid Program, which they claim to be directed against them. It is obvious that we could not agree to any such demand until there should have been a settlement of most of the other points at issue between East and West, leading us to the conclusion that the Soviet Union had abandoned her aggressive objectives and capabilities.
- European Recovery Program. The Soviet Union would also presumably demand the abandonment of ERP, which she refused to join and which she has always claimed is an instrument of American imperialism. We clearly could not consent to abandon ERP until we believed it had accomplished its objective of making Western Europe economically capable of resisting Communist expansion and infiltration.
- Cominform .2 Perhaps the most basic demand which we would feel must be made if international confidence and trust are to be restored is that the Soviet effort to create disorder and revolution throughout the world, through the medium of centrally-directed Communist parties, be completely given up. It is difficult to see how peace between East and West can ever be durable as long as the East is perpetually engaged in vigorous efforts to overthrow the governments of the West. Yet the abandonment of this program would clearly be contrary to all the tenets of Marxist-Leninist theology and would certainly not be seriously contemplated by the Kremlin unless it were in a far weaker position than it is today.
- Iron Curtain. Furthermore, we would probably feel that we could have no security unless the people of the Soviet Union and the satellites were given an opportunity to learn the truth about world events and hence to be able to act in some degree as a check upon their rulers; in other words, unless the iron curtain were breached. Yet it seems certain that the Kremlin would consider this a dangerously subversive measure which would undermine their entire political position, and would therefore reject any important change in their present policy.
- The Satellites. A related demand on our part might be that the campaign of persecution and harassment of Western interests, nationals and officials in the Soviet satellites in Europe and Asia be brought to an end. However, since the purpose of this campaign is to cut off the satellite people and governments from contact with the West and cement Soviet control, it hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the Soviet leaders would make more than minor and ineffective concessions on this score.
- Germany. The problem of Germany was discussed thoroughly at the CFM in Paris last May and June.3 The essence of the Soviet proposal at that time was a return to the rigid Four-Power control of all Germany, which would give them the veto over our action in Western Germany. The essence of the Western position was adherence by the Eastern German Laender to the Bonn Constitution after supervised, free and secret elections in those Laender. It is possible that both parties might move somewhat from these positions, but it seems impossible to imagine either that the West would consent to a treaty or an arrangement which would enable the Soviets to block the democratic constitutional developments now taking place in West Germany and the closer association of West Germany with the rest of Western Europe, or that the Soviets would agree to a treaty or an arrangement which would effectively remove Eastern Germany from [Page 157] their control. There can be little doubt that the Soviet leaders consider control of Germany to be the key to the control of Europe and that they will not voluntarily renounce their ambition find efforts to control all Germany. The chances of agreement on a German settlement would therefore appear to be nil unless and until the Soviets are obliged to desist from intervention in Europe.
- Japan. The present impasse on the Japanese treaty was created by the refusal of the Soviets to participate in treaty-making procedure which would not assure them the veto on treaty provisions and by the refusal of the US and other Western Powers to institute procedures which would provide for such a veto. This is a difficulty which could be overcome if issues of substance could be eliminated. The real problem, however, is that the US could not, in the present state of the world, leave a disarmed Japan undefended, that is, fail to retain certain armed forces in Japan after the conclusion of the treaty, until other means of checking international aggression had been established. The Soviets, on the other hand, could not be expected to agree to a treaty which provided for or permitted the indefinite maintenance of US forces in Japan.
- Austria. Though the Soviets have again and again prevented the conclusion of an Austrian treaty, it had been hoped recently that the outstanding issues had been narrowed down to such a degree that a treaty might be possible. It now appears, however, that the Soviets are merely using the remaining issues as pretexts for delay and that they have decided that their evacuation of Eastern Austria would not be to their interest at this time, no matter what concessions the West might choose to make short of consigning Austria to the status of a Soviet satellite. The Austrian treaty is certainly a test case of the willingness of the Soviets to negotiate a peaceful settlement based on the will of the peoples concerned, for here was a case in which the Soviets refused to evacuate a country the overwhelming majority of whose population clearly desired to unite with the West.
- Independence of Peripheral States. Finally, there is the question of freedom from fear of Soviet aggression by states bordering on the Soviet sphere. Those most recently and seriously threatened include Indo-China and the other states of South East Asia, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Others threatened in the past and apt to be subject to new pressures at any time include Finland, Turkey and Iran. There can obviously be no bargaining over this issue and no concessions which the West can offer. It is ridiculous to imagine that the Soviet Union or Soviet interests are threatened by the nations in question. This issue can be solved only by a demonstration by the Soviet Union that it intends to live up to its obligations under the UN Charter, to refrain from the threat or use of force against these nations, and to cease interference in their international affairs.
The inescapable conclusion of the above catalogue would appear to be that, on most of the principal issues involved, the Soviets would not at present make those concessions which would be required to create a feeling of trust and confidence on our part. On the other hand, we could not go far toward meeting the Soviet position on these issues without abandoning either our vital interests or those of our Allies and friends. There would be no assurance, moreover, that such abandonment would in fact strengthen peace rather than merely whetting the Soviet appetite for further concessions.
The question nevertheless arises whether, as urged by a number of public figures here and in Western Europe, we should make one further effort to arrive at an over-all settlement with the Soviets before reconciling ourselves to the long and arduous strain of a cold war ever threatening to become hot. The principal argument for making this further attempt is not that it would make any real impression on the Soviets but that it might help to convince waverers in the West that we have exhausted every possible means of reaching a peaceful solution. As indicated in the opening paragraphs of this memorandum, however, a general negotiation which failed to produce a real settlement might well be more dangerous than no negotiation at all.
If the negotiation broke down, it would accentuate the fear of early war; if the negotiation produced a partial or superficial agreement which actually failed to settle the chief issues, the effect might be merely to lull the West into a sense of false security of which the Soviets could take advantage. If this sense of security should cause the US to relax its present efforts, the nations of Western Europe might well feel obliged in their turn to compromise with the Communists. Thus the Soviets, who have more effective means than we of controlling their allies, could have achieved their objective of isolating the US.
The fact is that many of the major issues between East and West are being discussed, or can easily be discussed, in existing forums in the UN or elsewhere. The wisest strategy would appear to be to make it completely and repeatedly clear that we are ready and willing to discuss any and all of these issues in the appropriate forums, that we have presented for the solution of most of these issues workable plans which have won wide international support, and that it is now up to the Soviet Union, if it does not feel able to accept these plans, to present workable alternatives which will also receive general international support. If, however, it should be deemed necessary to make some additional gestures to satisfy public opinion, it would be possible to reintroduce into the appropriate forums our plans modified in such [Page 159] non-essential particulars as seemed appropriate. Such a presentation at this unpropitious time might, however, harden rather than soften the respective positions.
Aside from the question of making clear to Western public opinion our readiness to negotiate, the more important problem of adopting a posture in international affairs, which will produce a Soviet willingness to negotiate, might be stated succinctly in six propositions, of the validity of which it would be the objective of our policy to convince the Kremlin. These six propositions would be as follows:
- That the limits of peaceful Communist expansion have teen reached, at least for some time to come. This would mean holding firmly the line around the present peripheries of the Soviet sphere and providing the necessary military, political and economic aid so that the numerous “soft spots” on our side of the periphery are not absorbed by Communist infiltration and subversion. The most critical of these spots at this time is South East Asia.
- That expansion by force of arms would be too dangerous to risk. This involves both the rearmament and, at least to a sufficient degree, unification of the West.
- That the West does not intend to launch a war against the Soviet Union. In view of the Marxist-Leninist dogma that the capitalist powers are sooner or later bound to launch an attack on the Socialist fatherland, it is particularly important to avoid unduly provocative gestures which might confirm any predisposition to believe that this attack is about to take place.
- That there will be at least in the near future NO capitalist economic crisis of major proportions. If is of vital importance that we demonstrate domestically, in Western Europe and in the Western world generally, that a free economy is able to produce and distribute generously and continuously. A serious economic depression would obviously be an enormous boon to the Soviets.
- That internal political and economic stability within the Soviet sphere is not assured. The more the Soviets can be preoccupied with political and economic difficulties at home, as they were during the period between the two World Wars, the less likely it is that they will be able to give vent to their aggressive inclinations. In this connection it behooves us to do whatever may be possible to encourage Titoism among the satellites and to hinder the military-economic consolidation and development of the Soviet sphere.
- That we are at all times ready to negotiate earnestly and, honestly on any and all of the outstanding issues between East and West and will welcome sincere Soviet proposals for the settlement of these issues.
These are, of course, the policies which we are now pursuing. It is desirable, however, that they be firmly and frequently restated as the positive aspect of our relation to the Soviets and to the problems created by Soviet ambitions and delusions.
- For documentation on efforts to achieve the international control of atomic energy, see pp. 1 ff.↩
- Documentation on the attitude and response of the United States to the Soviet “peace offensive” and the use of international organizations as instruments of Soviet foreign policy is scheduled for publication in volume iv.↩
- For documentation on the Sixth Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Paris, May 23–June 20, 1949, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. iii, pp. 856 ff.↩