396.1 LO/5–950: Telegram

The United States Delegation at the Tripartite Foreign Ministers Meeting to the Acting Secretary of State


Secto 209. First session US–UK Ministerial conversations held this morning.1 US side: Secretary, Douglas, Jessup, Cooper,2 Harriman, Perkins, Bohlen, Labouisse. UK side: Bevin, Younger, Strang, Davies, Jebb, Wright, Makins, Shuckburgh, Hadow.3

Following summary of meeting, exclusive of preliminary private conversations with Bevin:4

1. Bevin opened by extending welcome and expressing hope talks would be successful and would bring us closer together “even though pretty close now”. Said must be careful in US–UK talks to avoid arousing suspicions other countries, which were usually over-sensitive to such meetings.

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2. Agreed best not issue communiqué on bipartite talks but would decide each day whether desirable say something press.

3. At Bevin’s request, Secretary spoke first on Item 1 of agenda.5 Secretary said would prefer use own words rather than follow paper prepared by officials.6 Took following line: much thinking and worrying in Washington about developing situation; next three or four years most critical ones; west falling behind; Soviets putting great deal into military preparedness, more relatively and in absolute terms than west; these preparations plus atomic developments mean considerable danger from mid-1952 through 1954. Question is what needs to be done?

Following considerations important:

Defense. Good start made in defense planning, but report Defense Committee shows effort this field will require greater effort than economies of Western Europe can stand.7 Must take steps to strengthen west and must not say is “too much of an effort.”
Germany. Must build into west. If Germany not with west situation dangerous; if Germany with east problem insoluble.
Southeast Asia. Cannot afford to lose to Soviets but question how to strengthen. Is vital, though secondary, theatre as compared to Europe but must see what can be done.
Japan. Involves question peace treaty.
Propaganda. Must study information programs in order determine how make more effective and how coordinate.
Organization. Must determine if any new organizational steps necessary but first thing is to find out what needs be done and then see if existing organizations adequate or if new ones needed. Secretary referred then to NAT saying should be strengthened. Vigorous forward motion and drive lacking and cannot be furnished under existing set-up; work falling between committees; need set-up which will enable identification things to be done and then permit needling of persons who should act; question as to whether have permanent commission or something else will be discussed later; clear that need more than mere secretary, and that should be one person of stature in organization who can talk on equal terms with council members although subject to council authority.
On economic side Secretary said might consider some participation by US and Canada in OEEC; main point was to consider how any act or failure to act affected strengthening of west.

4. Bevin replied along following lines:

UK in similar position to US although is not so far from Europe and is under its shadow and feels importance military power on continent. Was disturbed at thought Soviets might develop two big civil wars, one starting from Eastern Germany and one in SEA; Soviets can start civil wars and not participate, saying this Stalin’s method; cited Greece as example, saying if US had taken different action Stalin [Page 1020] may not have failed; must consider immediate possibilities these civil wars, citing quick Soviet recognition Ho Chi Minh and developments Eastern Germany.

Bevin thinks issue between Soviet philosophy and western civilization must come to head in few years but did not know if three or four years right guess. Agreed that must strengthen NAT and build military defense but must be based on economies that will carry weight without jeopardizing standard of living. Believes this can be done if coordinated action of the Atlantic community. Assets and potential of Atlantic community greater than Soviets and would have no fear if we take proper action. However, if look only at Europe and UK would take long time to get people to think they had sufficient strength, citing low French morale.

Bevin then made his “first submission” citing need blending other parts Atlantic community and saying UK has dual approach, each one helping other: (a) organize Europe as efficiently as possible and (b) keep under umbrella of Atlantic “organism”. In order for UK to carry load must maintain sterling area arrangements and Commonwealth, also must eliminate misunderstandings as to their meaning and purpose. These can make contribution to solution SEA problem.

As to Germany, hopes Adenauer follows lines of policy agreed last conference.8 First step of which would be join Council of Europe which though not much in itself, means Germany has “joined club”. Would go long way to facilitate reuniting of Europe. Our responses would be gesture of reciprocal confidence in realm foreign relations. Soviets would regard Germany joining Council as one of its greatest setbacks.

As to NAT , anxious get effective “organism”, creating closer association which would appeal to public. Said OEEC runs to 1952 but NAT many years. However, must consider what role OEEC will play after 1952 as it is instrument we can use to weld France and Germany together. Questioned necessity creating other organization. Summarizing, Bevin said Soviet determined establish Communism over world; will bide their time; will use any possible means. Only answer is build strength and determination of west both military and standard of living.

As to SEA , Bevin said UK took desperate step in getting out of India; weakened position in SEA. But with US and Commonwealth help, hopeful of settlement between India and Pakistan. If can hold these can hold all SEA, but if India goes extremely difficult. Said Stalin plays weak points and mentioned problem Indo-China. Ended by saying UK cannot do much this area economically but can help in cooperative efforts with Commonwealth and others.

5. Secretary then added comments along following lines:

Defense. Important to make start. Secretary Defense examining defense plan as to adequacy and we hope to move along in US. Secretary also expects satisfactory action MDAP.

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Economic. Necessary to have broader economic base in order support increased defense effort, including increased forces. Clear to US that our interest in Europe does not stop in 1952. Referred to President appointment Gordon Gray to see what steps must take, such as opening markets in US and other Western Hemisphere countries, examination investment programs which have dual effect of strengthening other areas and building new markets, Hopes will be some progress by mid-summer and definite and clear program by year end, including public information as to need of situation. Success depends on three things:

Defense program, joint efforts.
US action in economic field.
Reinvigoration European economies.

On latter point stressed importance Europe taking action to strengthen own economic system. Agreed generally with Bevin on Germany saying two essential factors: security, and ability to earn living. Increased strength of west would have great effect on Germany, which responds to strength. Not talking of rearming. Germany could make contribution; might change concept of occupation to indicate German outpost of west, and consider occupation costs as her contribution to forces protecting her. Secretary said economy of Germany in bad shape. Debtor position forces German trade to east. If we open markets in west, give opportunity for Germany to participate in development of underdeveloped areas and give opportunity for people to move about, will help much.

As to SEA have much trouble. Mentioned Philippines saying problem there not primarily economic. Said would do all we could help France in Indo-China but necessary for “fence sitters” to support Bao Dai. Reported on agreement with Schuman that major effort is France and all we can do is add to, not substitute for, what France doing. Main question in Indonesia is whether Dutch really putting backs into trying make things work. Said UK carrying ball in Malaya and Burma, but we would do whatever we could to help. Ended by expressing hope Dominions would go through with Colombo resolution.9

6. Bevin then said necessary to get down to practical steps. As to defense, said UK in dilemma but did not lack determination. Bevin mentioned increase of 100 million pounds in military budget following WU meeting, bringing total defense budget to 780 million pounds. This increase in order strengthen west and could not have been done except in this context. Said biggest handicap to UK in battle vs Communism was its balance of payments. Makes no difference what party in power, result same. People prepared make sacrifices but cannot do the impossible. After mentioning that amount involved in balance of payments disequilibrium was not great, said “just as it is wrong to delay on military end, is wrong to delay on economic side”. Hopes some understanding can be reached this matter during discussions.

Turning to colonial question, Bevin said was worried. Hoped US [Page 1022] would take new look in light of developments in UK colonial policy. Would be fatal to our defenses if we lost colonial areas.

Meeting then adjourned for lunch.

7. Only significant parts of Bevin’s remarks were emphasis (a) on need for cooperative effort “under the Atlantic community umbrella” as distinguished from European cooperative efforts, and (b) on limits which UK economic and financial situation places on UK’s ability to build her defenses and contribute to the solution of the SEA problems.

Subsequent telegram will report afternoon session.10

Sent Department Secto 209, repeated Paris 805.

  1. The meeting was held at 11:15 a. m. at the Foreign Office. A set of the records of decisions for this and the three subsequent U.S.–U.K. ministerial meetings, designated MIN/UKUS/DEC/1 ff., is in the Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: CF 26.
  2. The Honorable John Sherman Cooper, Special Adviser to the Secretary of State.
  3. Kenneth G. Younger, Minister of State; Sir William Strang, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Ernest Davies, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Sir H. M. Gladwyn Jebb, Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Political) for Foreign Affairs; Michael R. Wright, Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Sir Roger Makins, Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Economic) for Foreign Affairs; Charles A. E. Shuckburgh, Secretary General for the conference; and Robert H. Hadow, British Delegation secretary.
  4. No record of Secretary Acheson’s private conversation with Bevin has been found in Department of State files.
  5. Review and agreement on common worldwide objectives in light of assessment of our current position in cold war.
  6. Presumably Secretary Acheson was referring to MIN/TRI/P/1, p. 1075.
  7. For documentation on the work of the NATO Defense Committee, see pp. 1 ff.
  8. For documentation on the discussion of Germany at the Foreign Ministers meeting in Paris, November 9–11, 1949, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. iii, pp. 305 ff.
  9. For documentation relating to the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers conference at Colombo, Ceylon, January 9–14, 1950, see vol. vi, pp. 1 ff.
  10. Secto 208, infra.