663.001/2–250: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

511. Eyes only from Bohlen for Perkins.2 In view of our discussion in Washington on this subject I am giving you our personal impression of our talk with Gruber. His attitude and statements are extremely difficult to explain and had I not personally seen the evidence supporting the authenticity of the reports of the Soviet approach, it would have been very hard not to have accepted at face value his emphatic and categorical denials. What was extraordinary in Gruber’s remarks was less his flat denial, for which there might be a number of explanations and which had been somewhat anticipated, but more the extent and detail to which he went to buttress up his denials by setting forth [Page 447] at length many of the consequences which we had intended to impress on him of any such course of action on the part of the Austrian Govt. For example, he not only spelled out the suicidal consequences for Austrian independence which would result from any attempt to play a lone game with the Soviet Union including the certainty that he personally probably would be liquidated at the end of any such road, but he also stated without any prompting from us the inevitable consequences on Austria’s relations with the Western Powers and particularly the US in the sense of cessation of assistance and protection. He made as convincing a case against entering into any side talk with the Russians as we did in our discussions in the Dept on this subject.

The only weak points in his presentation were his insistence that it was highly unlikely in the light of past Soviet practices that any such offer would be made and also his statement that all the rumors and reports had originated from a left-wing journalist in Vienna. The conversation throughout was extremely amicable in character and Gruber displayed no evidence of confusion or embarrassment. He will undoubtedly, however, think over very carefully this conversation since he could not have avoided the impression that we were not speaking merely from gossip and newspaper rumors although at no time did we give any indication of source or of knowledge of the nature of the Russian approach.

The most optimistic explanation of Gruber’s attitude which is of course purely speculation is that following his talk with Erhardt and further thought re the consequences he has decided not to pursue the matter with the Soviet Govt any further. He may therefore attempt to bury and forget the entire incident while maintaining for the record his official denial that it ever occurred. He may of course intend the opposite course of continuing to explore this approach with the Soviet Govt while keeping it secret from the west, but after our conversation of yesterday the risk of this becoming known and the consequences which he seemed to understand so clearly, would appear to render such a course suicidal indeed.

As we have already cabled, we intend to take no further action here in Paris with British and French but I believe, if evidence comes to hand that Gruber is in fact attempting to pursue the Soviet approach, we will at some point have to inform them of this fact and concert our three policies in the light of any such development.3 [Bohlen.]

  1. Secretary Acheson left a copy of this telegram with President Truman during the afternoon of February 2. Memorandum of conversation with President Truman, February 2, not printed (663.001/2–250).
  2. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  3. In telegram 207, February 7, from Vienna, not printed, Erhardt reported a conversation with Gruber in which the Austrian Foreign Minister reiterated “his denial that any Soviet offer had been made.” Erhardt stated that no further information had become available to confirm or deny the reports. (663.001/2–750)