Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of United Kingdom and Ireland Affairs (Jackson)

top secret

Participants: The Secretary
The Under Secretary
Mr. Rusk
Mr. Perkins
Mr. Byroade1
Mr. Nitze2
Ambassador Douglas
Commissioner McCloy
Mr. Jackson

The above group met in the Secretary’s office at 2:15. The Secretary said that he and Ambassador Douglas were dining with Sir Oliver Franks that evening and that it was understood that the meeting would be on a personal basis and that Sir Oliver would not report to London about the discussion. There was general agreement that if the discussion was held on that basis, Sir Oliver would not report.3

Mr. Perkins said that he had been requested to suggest what line the conversation at dinner might take. The basic question was whether there should be a general review of US–UK relations and should specific matters be brought up.

Ambassador Douglas suggested that it was important to establish whether or not there was a basic understanding and agreement to act in collaboration. There were a number of specific points at issue with the British, among which he mentioned B–29 airfields in England, additional military production under MDAP, other military facilities, Japanese and German accession to the Wheat Agreement, Japanese position in international relations, the European payments union, the trade agreement with Germany, petroleum and sterling balances. The sum total of all these matters of controversy added up to a generally strained position between the two countries. While he felt that it was desirable to explore the question of whether there was a basic understanding between our two countries, he felt that this could best be tested in relation to specific cases. It would be undesirable and probably fruitless, if there were a meeting between the Secretary and Mr. Bevin later in the spring, if the various points at issue were taken [Page 1629] up by the Foreign Ministers without adequate advance discussion. He thought that it would be useful at the dinner if the Secretary should give a general round-up of his evaluation of the world situation and then refer to some of the specific matters. It might be desirable to suggest that if there were not a basis of assurance of a common policy and objectives between our two countries, we would have to reexamine our whole foreign policy.

Mr. Rusk raised the question of whether it might not be too drastic even to suggest that we might reexamine our whole policy toward Europe.

The Secretary said that he had thought of taking the following line: If we look back two years to 1947, it could be seen that there were a number of dynamic steps which had been initiated, including Secretary Marshall’s speech and the birth of ERP, the development of the NAT, the establishment of the West German Government. These had all represented forward steps and considerable progress had been made in advancing the Western cause through these steps. They seem now to have lost their momentum and we seem to have slowed down to a point where we are on the defensive while the Soviets are apparently showing more self confidence. We could not hold our position defensively, we would slip backward. It was, therefore, necessary to find some new idea or new step which would regain the initiative. The economic incentives which were the basic of ERP seem to have lost their vitality and we were engaged in discussions of such things as the payments union. While this was no doubt of some importance, the successful working out of a payments union would have no popular appeal, there would be no holidays or torch-light parades in celebration of a payments union. In Germany the West German Government was offset by an East German Government and there was a complete deadlock on the Austrian Treaty. What was needed was some new approach which would recapture the initiative. The Secretary said that he had thought about making such a review to Franks and asking the latter what he thought we could do to get started.

Mr. McCloy expressed the view that the important thing was to move in the political field and it was his personal view that what was needed was a drastic step toward political unity such as the establishing of articles of confederation for Europe.

The Secretary said that he had thought about the possibility of stepping up the activities and tempo of existing organizations such as NATO, the Council of Europe, OEEC, in particular the NATO might be used as a vehicle since we were members. Perhaps a secretary-general with a secretariat could be established and a close relationship with the Council of Europe and OEEC since there was a wide coincidence [Page 1630] of membership in these various organizations. A variety of problems could be thrown into these organizations and a considerable amount of activity stimulated. It might be possible to get a number of domestic problems, such as fiscal policies, thrown into these organizations. They were now being handled on a strictly national basis.

Mr. Rusk pointed out that in other bodies, particularly the UN, the experience had been that the establishment of a secretariat increased the activity of a body since there was a group of people who had a vested interest in the vitality of the organization.

Ambassador Douglas expressed serious doubts that the idea of confederation in Europe was a practicable proposal.

Mr. Nitze recalled that Spaak had said that Europe was not ready for political federation. This applied to the Continental countries as well as the UK. He had expressed the opinion, however, that some sort of organization of existing bodies into a coordinate whole might work.

The Secretary suggested that in NATO, discussion need not be limited to specific problems of the Atlantic area but might cover such things as Southeast Asia and the Far East as they bore upon the situation of the member countries. He suggested that you might throw into the NATO Council the question of what should be done about a German treaty.

Mr. McCloy referred to the question of the inclusion of Germany in the NAT framework. He said this would have, in his opinion, a very stirring effect in Germany since he felt that a good deal of faith had been lost in the potentiality of OEEC and the Council of Europe as instruments to bring about the unification of Europe.

The Secretary asked whether there were any views on the strength and vitality of France. Were they merely existing under the protective tent which ERP had erected over them?

Mr. McCloy said that he had been pleasantly surprised by the apparent rebirth of self confidence in French military circles, particularly among the younger officers.

Mr. Rusk suggested that the ability of the French to carry on in the midst of their own political shambles was an evidence of their inherent vitality.

Mr. Byroade, in referring to the problem of relations with the British, suggested that perhaps the most important aspect was to get the British to recognize that they had lost their old position of power and would have to face-up to a changed status in the world. Unless such a reorientation occurred, was it possible ever to establish sound relations with the British? He referred to the question of German unity and expressed the feeling that one way or another that problem would [Page 1631] come up in the relatively near future and that we would have to face what our position was.

Mr. McCloy, in commenting on the last point, referred to evidences of increasing Soviet self confidence in Germany. The Soviets were contrasting the economic unity in Eastern Europe with what they termed the disintegration of the West. The Soviets did not stress political unity in the East. Mr. McCloy felt that Western political unity was one thing which the Soviets were most anxious to discourage. He did not foresee any possibility of a unified Germany in the foreseeable future except unification under the Soviets which would mean that the 15 million East Germans prevailed over the 47 million West Germans. He did not see unification as an immediate problem. He did feel, however, that the West Germans were nervous, hysterical and uncertain and had no great confidence in the coherence of Western Europe. He did not feel that Adenauer4 would speak so critically of Western moves if he felt that the West was united and strong.

Mr. Rusk suggested that in talking to Franks there were three additional points which might be covered. The first was that, in relation to the British, discussion of any specific problem always seems to lead to discussion of a wide variety of problems and the solution of any one seems to be always linked to the solution of many others. He suggested that the Secretary might ask Franks how he thought the circle could be broken. As the second point he suggested that Franks might be asked whether, in his opinion, the Europeans expect more leadership from the US and more detailed blueprints of what we want, pointing out that when we do get specific we are met with a charge that we are interfering. The third point which might be made was that the limits of foreign policy action by the British seem to be determined by what could pass through a fine treasury screen and that pennypinching seemed to be characteristic.

The Secretary asked Ambassador Douglas whether there were any British who could work at overall matters imaginatively. He suggested that Bevin had distinct limitations along this line. Ambassador Douglas agreed with regard to Bevin but said that while Strang5 was also rather limited, he felt that there were some officers in the Foreign Office who had a capacity for imagination. He also felt that there were some among the Conservatives and mentioned in particular the close personal relations between Bevin and Eden. He observed, however, that it was a very ticklish matter to talk to the opposition and his opinion as to whether it was possible would have to depend upon his [Page 1632] conclusions when he reached London. It was suggested that Franks himself was capable of an imaginative approach and that the Secretary might discuss with him what was the best technique for eliciting new ideas or a response to new ideas in the UK.

There was some discussion of the matter of the European payments union and the UK-German trade talks.6 Mr. McCloy made a point of the fact that the British had not consulted us in advance. In answer to a question from the Secretary he said that US personnel had not urged the Germans to oppose the British (as the British had alleged). The Germans had reacted against British proposals and had come to the Americans on their own initiative. Mr. McCloy also generalized that there were many difficulties in achieving common policies with the British in Germany due to a lack of close and flexible consultation. The same was true with regard to the French who, for example, did not keep us informed in the matter of the Saar.

There was also some general discussion of the problem of Japanese accession to the Wheat Agreement. Mr. Rusk suggested that the Secretary take this matter up on the record with Franks, which the Secretary agreed to do.

The questions relating to airfields in the UK, the relation of the UK-German trade talks to the payments union and the matter of Japanese accession to the Wheat Agreement had all been covered previously in a memorandum which had been prepared for the Secretary.7

  1. Henry A. Byroade, Director of the Bureau of German Affairs.
  2. Paul H. Nitze, Director of the Policy Planning Staff.
  3. No record has been found in the Department of State files concerning Ambassador Franks’ dinner with Secretary Acheson and Ambassador Douglas.
  4. Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  5. Sir William Strang, British Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  6. Documentation on the United Kingdom-German trade talks is scheduled for publication in volume iv.
  7. Under reference here is a memorandum from Rusk to Secretary Acheson, dated March 7, not printed (611.41/3–750).