CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 150: Documents MIN/TRI/P

Report of the Tripartite Preliminary Meetings on Item 1

top secret


Item 1. Review and Agreement on Common World-wide Objectives in the Light of Assessment of the Current World-wide Situation

The preparatory discussions between officials of the three governments result in the following analysis of the current world-wide situation:

a. general situation

1. The balance of military power in the last twelve months has shifted in favour of the Soviet Union, and the present situation is one of increasing danger. Their possession of the atomic bomb is of cardinal importance, but will not of itself become a direct military factor until the Russians acquire a stockpile. The Soviets are trying out weak spots in the Western position throughout the world, and having got possession of the atomic weapon and strengthened armaments generally, they may feel inclined to take greater risks than hitherto.

2. But the strength of the Soviet position should not be overestimated. It suffers from certain fundamental weaknesses, namely the relationship of suspicion and fear between ruler and ruled, the similar relationship with Satellite Governments and peoples, the problem of Stalin’s succession, and the fact that the system depends on “dynamic advance” and is liable to be endangered by any major check.

3. Among the factors which can be counted to the credit of the West over the past year are: (a) economic recovery in Western Europe: (b) the defection of Tito: (c) the success in Berlin: (d) the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty: (e) the holding of the position in Western Germany: (f) the fact that there has been no economic slump. Finally it should be remembered that the Russians usually move with great caution in foreign affairs.

4. The defection of Tito may, in the general balance sheet, in the American view, largely offset the Soviet victory in China. This view is not shared by the French and United Kingdom representatives.

[Page 1076]

5. It is not thought likely that, apart from a miscalculation, the Soviets will launch a war for the next few years. The really dangerous point would come when they feel they are strong enough to deliver a decisive aerial attack.

6. Since the industrial potential of the Soviet Union is considerably less than that of the West, it is unlikely that they will court a major war, but since they are becoming more confident of protecting the Soviet Union from attack, they may, even in the immediate future, adopt increasingly aggressive policies at key peripheral points such as Iran which the West would be obliged to accept or to counter with force, and they may be inclined now generally to take greater risks than hitherto in areas where they think the West may be likely to acquiesce in a Soviet advance.

7. Germany is the central point of the struggle between East and West and is so regarded by the Soviets. If the Soviets lose the struggle for Germany they may lose the initiative generally, and the principle of “dynamic advance” may come into play against them. Equally, the peaceful association of Western Germany with the Western powers is essential to the latter, and to any effective build-up of Western Europe which is of urgent importance.

8. South East Asia including Burma, Indo-China and Malaya is a weak spot in the Western position. So also is Iran. Potentially dangerous situations in varying degree exist also in the Philippines Korea, and the Indian subcontinent. In Greece the situation is greatly improved but the strategic position of Greece is such that it must be kept under constant watch and it is vital that our control should be maintained.

9. The situation requires a determined effort by the Western countries to regain and maintain the initiative and to build up a position of strength through the maximum deployment of their joint resources to the end that peace may be preserved.

b. particular situations

10. Germany. The holding of the situation in Berlin and the establishment of the German Federal Republic constituted important gains for the West in a vital area of the struggle. The Soviet Government have however also made great efforts in recent months to consolidate the Communist position in Eastern Germany and to keep up the pressure on the Western Powers, particularly in Berlin. To retain the initiative in Germany the Western Powers must continue to pursue energetically the policy agreed upon in Paris in November 1949 of promoting the closer association of the German Federal Republic with the West and of developing the prestige and authority of the Federal [Page 1077] Government as the only representative Government in Germany. It is our aim to work for the integration of Germany in the European community.

11. Meanwhile, it would be a mistake to consider the German problem simply as a factor in the relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers. The German problem must also be considered on its own merits against a European background and account must be taken of the relations to be established between Germany and other European powers.

12. South East Asia. Since the end of the war the dominant theme in the greater part of South East Asia has been nationalism and desire for freedom from colonial tutelage. The Communists have been to some extent successful in turning this to their advantage, for example, by assuming leadership of the nationalist movement in Indo-China. Measures already taken and still in process of institution to satisfy the aspirations of the peoples of South East Asia for political freedom have, however, had varying, but on the whole encouraging degrees of success in allaying but not in averting the danger that the area might make common cause with the communists against the western world .There thus remains the danger that the area, which is of great importance to the nations of the free world strategically, politically and economically, may yet be lost as a result of internal revolts by supporters of international communism, within the borders of the various countries. The fact that China is at present under communist control encourages these local communists, tends to maintain the masses in a neutral or vacillating attitude, and makes the retention of a free South East Asia more difficult but even more necessary.

c. broad objectives

13. In the light of the above assessment it appeared to the representatives of the three Governments in the preparatory discussions that the following should be the broad common world-wide objectives:

The Western powers must do their utmost to prevent further Soviet advances in the world, by armed aggression, indirect aggression, or subversion, which would strengthen the Soviet position in contrast to the West.
Continuing economic progress and development is essential to the holding of the Western position.
The West must create a framework in which the maximum industrial and military strength can be deployed. This can only be done by the combined resources of the North Atlantic Treaty powers acting so far as possible in cooperation with all other free nations.
This involves the building of economic strength necessary to support the requisite increased defense effort and at the same time to permit improvement in standards of living, which in turn means, among needed steps, increased productivity, better use of available manpower, and where possible the development of freer trade and convertibility of currencies.
The North Atlantic Treaty must therefore be strengthened through the development of common planning for defense, coordination of policies, and concerted action for the implementation of those policies.
The United States, United Kingdom and France, in working for their common purpose should exercise their influence in such a manner as to take into account the aspirations of all the peoples of the free world whose best interests lie in close association with them and with each other.
The West should regain and retain the psychological initiative, which means building faith in freedom into a dynamic force rather than something which is taken for granted, and increasing public understanding of the nature, methods, and danger of the forces by which it is threatened.
The efforts of the Western Nations should be directed toward reducing the risks of war and establishing the conditions of a lasting peaceful settlement. This requires the development of adequate strength and consequently the combination of their efforts for building up that strength.

  1. The first draft of this paper, TRI/P/12, not printed, had been submitted by Shuckburgh on May 3 and revised at a U.S.–U.K. bilateral meeting on May 4. The resulting draft was transmitted to the Department of State in Secto 138, May 4, p. 961. The revised draft was considered at tripartite plenaries on May 5 and 6 and further revised before being submitted to the Foreign Ministers as MIN/TRI/P/1. The Foreign Ministers discussed it at their first meeting on May 11 and agreed “that the contents of document MIN/TRI/P/1 should be accepted as guiding principles,” that the contents “would not be made public, nor would it be regarded in any way as an agreement binding the Governments.” (MIN/TRI/DEC/1, not printed, Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: OF 21) For a report on the Foreign Ministers meeting, see Secto 230, May 11, p. 1033; regarding the tripartite plenary meetings, see editorial note, p. 1000.