CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 152: File—SFM Meeting Minutes

United States Minutes, Private Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, New York, September 12, 19501

top secret


Mr. Bevin Mr. Schuman Mr. Acheson
Mr. Barclay Mr. Bourbon-Busset Mr. Battle
US Interpreter

Mr. Acheson opened the meeting by saying the United States had been working very hard since last August on the French memorandum and messages from Mr. Bevin on the same subjects.2 He said we had been trying to get coordinated US Governmental views on the questions raised by the French and the British. He said we had come to decisions on the principal points except for the financial ones.

Mr. Acheson said that the President had agreed to an increase in forces in being on the continent of Europe. He said this had been carefully considered and was based on the assumption we could work out an effective plan for defense of the European continent. He said the Korean war might have some effect on the dates that further US troops would be available, but that we expected to move as rapidly as possible.

The Secretary said we had considered how we draw the western forces together and had concluded that we should create an international staff and eventually appoint a Supreme Commander when the staff had begun to function effectively and there was in being something for a Supreme Commander to command. He said that we hoped the staff would serve under a chief of staff and would have some delegated authority and would not be confined to mere planning functions. He said the Supreme Commander would be an outgrowth of this and its powers would have to be worked out. He said that the chief of staff would not necessarily become the Supreme Commander, in our opinion, but this might be a development if the powers were satisfied with the functioning of the Chief of Staff.

The Secretary said we had also considered the supply and production problems and that we thought the French memorandum was right [Page 1199] in suggesting that there be more central direction of the supply effort. He said that we proposed that the military production and supply board become a full time body with executive functions and would coordinate production in Europe.

In the field of finance, the Secretary said that we had not progressed this far. He said that as we saw it, there are three general stages: First, we should get the high priority production program going with as much speed as possible. Second, we should consider the long range problem of eventual arrangements for dealing with financial matters. We do not want study of this problem to delay us on our consideration of the immediate problem. Thirdly, the more immediate problem is to get together the representatives of the US, UK and France and see what problems we will face for the next two or three years and particularly in 1951. After we had gone into this, US officials could then get together for such help and authority as was needed. The Secretary said we had asked Mr. Mtze to meet with the designated representatives of the French and British and that he hoped we would know by tomorrow a little more about how we proceed. He then said that we would get the necessary people from Washington to come here to discuss the problem.

The Secretary said that in trying to determine what was necessary for the defense of Western Europe we come to the troublesome problem of Germany. If Germany were not defended, the USSR would gain a tremendous advantage. If it were defended, we wondered if it could be done without German help. The Secretary said that it seemed unreasonable to us to defend all of Germany without getting assistance from Germany. He said that our preference was for German units to serve in a European defense force rather than to create a German police force. He said that consideration of this problem was necessary.

Mr. Acheson said that we had US Government agreement on the broad programs he had discussed and had wide public support for them.

Mr. Schuman expressed pleasure at the US agreement on most points of the French memorandum and particularly in regard to the increase of US forces and the creation of the collective authority command staff, combined command, etc. He said that he was in favor of reorganizing bodies of the NATO and particularly the military production and supply board. Mr. Schuman said that two points must be carefully considered: The high priority production program [Page 1200] must be begun as soon as possible, but we must not wait too long to discuss a final system for the financial arrangements. He said that both were extremely urgent. Mr. Schuman then pointed to the French proposal contained in the French memorandum for what he called an early solution to the point of a long range solution. He said he realized there would be alternate proposals and he would be glad to discuss any others. Regarding the participation of Germany in the defense effort, Mr. Schuman said it would seem illogical for us to defend Western Europe, including Germany, without contributions from Germany. He said that there was a serious psychological problem in France, however, and that it would create serious difficulties if we force the French to take a position too early. He said that the French felt that there were limited resources available for common defense. In their opinion, these resources must be distributed between the NAT countries. Only when a minimum level is reached in these countries would it be easy for the French to take a definite position on the matter. When the combined staff and the Supreme Commander has been created the difficulty will be much lessened for the French and the Government might be in a position to consider the German matter on a different basis.

Mr. Schuman urged that the other Foreign Ministers be patient on this matter.

Mr. Bevin said that he thought care should be used in the phraseology of some of our proposals. He said that he did not like the use of the word “European” in regard to our defense force plan. He pointed out that the United States and Canada would be participating. He said that what we are trying to do is defend the free world in Europe rather than merely defending Europe. He suggested a broad concept and as comprehensive terminology as possible.

Regarding the combined command, Mr. Bevin said he was ready to discuss any plan the Combined Chiefs put up. He said that he was anxious to develop organization at the top. He also said he thought we should move toward the organization as soon as possible.

Mr. Bevin said the main concern of the UK was production and that the UK was somewhat uneasy at the way this problem was moving. He said the financial side must be settled or we would check the momentum of the production effort. He pointed out that troops could not be trained without equipment.

In regard to the financial problems, he said that many of the problems could be solved by bilateral discussion. He then indicated general concurrence with Secretary Acheson’s proposal for getting UK, [Page 1201] French and US representatives to go to work on the general outline of the problem.

Mr. Acheson related to the other Foreign Ministers that all we could do would be to work out a program which satisfied the Executive Branch and then go to the Congress with it. We could not, of course, assure what Congress would do.

Regarding the German problem, Mr. Bevin said that the UK took the view that we must be careful not to put the Germans in a bargaining position, which would make the situation very difficult. He said that he thought we should get the High Commissioners to give us their estimates of the reactions of the Germans if we should approach them and ask for German units for a defense force. He said that he doubted: that the Germans would go along, and thought a refusal on their part would make the Western powers look foolish. He said he had great doubt as to the response the proposal would get in Germany and said the UK favored a more cautious course of supporting the German police.3 He said the UK thought it preferable to give the Germans what they asked for rather than ask them for something. Mr. Bevin said further that he believed we should approach the problem with regard to the broader problem of Germany rather than looking at it from a strictly military standpoint. He mentioned again the fear in the UK of a German resurgence to power. He said that the UK was willing to examine the matter with the best people available to determine how best to proceed to decide how Germany should be brought in. He said that he did not think we should let it interfere with our own defense effort. Mr. Bevin mentioned that internal disorders would be a serious factor militarily and that this supported the UK position in favor of increasing the police force. He suggested also that we must remember that we want to work out an arrangement for Germany to become permanently associated with the community of nations and not simply approach the problem from the standpoint of the present emergency. He also asked if it would not be well to take the Benelux countries into confidence on what was decided on the problem. He mentioned their great concern as close neighbors of Germany.4

  1. This private meeting was held during an adjournment in the first meeting of the Foreign Ministers on September 12; for the minutes of that meeting, see supra. The minutes printed here were prepared by Special Assistant Battle.
  2. For the text of the French memorandum of August 17 and the Bevin messages under reference here, see pp. 220 ff.
  3. Documentation on proposals for a German Federal police force is scheduled for publication in volume iv.
  4. Secretary Acheson had met individually with Schuman and Bevin, accompanied by Franks, at 10:45 a. m. and 12:15 p. m., respectively, before the first meeting. In addition to discussing NATO with each of them along the lines, indicated in this tripartite meeting, Secretary Acheson had briefly examined Indochina with Schuman and the United Kingdom’s financial position with Bevin. For memoranda of these conversations, see pp. 293 and 285, respectively.