CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 153: Secto & Tosec Telegrams

The Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of State

top secret

Secto 13. Personal for the President from Acheson. After two days of conferences1 which had persistently failed in coming to grips with the central problem of the defense of Europe, I asked for and obtained a private conference attended only by me, Bevin, Schuman and our three High Commissioners for Germany.2 The purpose of this talk was to get away from minor difficulties of language and really reach the essence of the problem. This purpose was achieved; and, while the results were immediately discouraging, I think that we may be getting somewhere.

I pointed out that you had been able to bring about a complete revolution in American foreign policy, based upon the realities of the international situation. We were prepared to take steps which were absolutely unprecedented in our history, to place substantial forces in Europe, to put these forces into an integrated force for the defense of Europe, to agree to a command structure, to agree to a supreme commander, to join in a program for integrating European production, to take far reaching steps in the financial field, but all based upon the expectation that others would do their part, and that the entire scheme would result in the creation of such power that chances of peace would be immeasurably improved; and, if contrary to our hopes and belief, war should come, we had a first class chance to win it. I went on to say that this involved a defense in Europe as far to the East as possible and that such a defense was not possible without facing squarely and deciding wisely the question of German participation. I pointed out that in our discussions the British and French had been prepared to accept what we offered, had been reticent about their contributions; and had flatly refused to face in any way the question of German participation. I, therefore, wanted to talk about this question with the gloves off and see exactly where we stood.

The ensuing discussion brought out very clearly two fundamental facts. The first was that Bevin, who really agreed with me, had been put under wraps by his Govt and was not permitted to say anything. This grows out of the current debate in the House of Commons on this very subject, in which the Labor Govt has a pathological fear [Page 1230] of Churchill and does not dare say anything for fear that it will leak to the American press and be used by Churchill, in the debate. I hope that this situation is not permanent and may clear up in the near future.

On the part of Schuman the difficulty was deeper. His attitude was that he was not able or willing, as the spokesman of his Govt, to take any decision even on principle in regard to German participation until the forces of the Allies had been so strengthened in Europe that the French Govt could face the psychological reaction to the creation of German armed force.

When it became clear that neither man had any discretion and that therefore argument could not result in any immediate change of position, I suggested that we examine the positions taken by each of them solely for the purpose of clarifying our minds so that when they had some flexibility returned to them, we would understand how each of us thought about the various points.

I think it fair to say that this discussion was useful. It completely blew out of the water the practicality of leaving the beginning of the formation of German military units until the Allied forces were completely supplied with equipment. I think it destroyed any logical basis to their fear that the bringing of Germans into the creation of allied strength in the West increased the possibility of preventive war by the Russians as against the mere creation of allied strength. I think we showed that it was quite possible to deal with the German Govt on the issue, not as suppliants, but merely as agreeing to proposals already made by Adenauer to contribute units to European forces and to force him to accept conditions to our acceptance of his proposals.

All this was useful, but the discussion ended with one situation quite clear: that they were prepared to accept what we offered but they were not prepared to accept what we asked. In this situation I am taking the attitude, not that we are imposing specific conditions, but that we are unable to proceed with the discussion until their attitude is made more clear. The result is the same but the words are different. The result is that no agreed papers on the matters on which they are ready to agree will issue from our delegation. We have ended the first part of our tripartite meeting with a communiqué3 which cannot announce decisions and, therefore, says merely that we are continuing our discussions in the Council and will resume them next week.4

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In the Council meetings I intend to argue the issues all over again and have already been assured of vigorous support from the smaller European countries. It seems highly unlikely that we can reach satisfactory conclusions by Saturday night, but I feel sure that the British and French will become increasingly uncomfortable on their seats. It may be that we shall have to have further meetings. It may be that I shall have to come back to you for further instructions before the matter goes too far. For the present there is no need for you to worry, although I think you must face the strong possibility of leaks to the press and stories that all is not going well. I feel reasonably sure that we can work this out; that it may be a question of whose nerve lasts longer, but that it just must come out in the right way.

I am dictating this wire to you myself so that you may know my mind fully and instruct me at any point where you think I may be wrong or give me any guidance which you want me to have. I shall keep you fully and intimately informed.

Dean Acheson
  1. In Secto 8, September 14, from New York, personal for the President, not printed, Secretary Acheson had reviewed in more detail the discussions of the first two days (CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 153: Secto & Tosec telegrams).
  2. The meeting was held at 10:30 a. m. on September 14, presumably in the Waldorf Astoria.
  3. For text of the Foreign Ministers Interim Communiqué, see the New York Times, September 15, 1950, p. 14. A copy is also in CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 152: Communiqué.
  4. A copy of the minutes of this meeting, taken by Battle, September 14, not printed, is ibid., Box 252: Tri Does.