396.1/1–151: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Barbour) to the Secretary of State 1

secret
priority

1277. Embtel 1275, January 12 Soviet note on CFM 3 obviously designed leave general impression it constitutes agreement on exploratory talks as suggested by Western Powers leading to actual calling CFM. Wording seems deliberately ambiguous and calculated less toward immediate propaganda gain, as far as argumentation concerned, than toward maintaining flexibility for propaganda successes during course of talks themselves.

Note on whole contains no indication any change in Soviet position that question of demilitarization of Germany is most important for CFM discussion and that it considers Prague declaration as proper basis for discussion German problems in general. Note worded as to suggest demilitarization already accepted as first agenda item, regardless of others.

Intimations that scope of discussions might be broadened obscurely reflected in second sentence section one concerning competence of CFM. Implication here that problems having world-wide and perhaps particularly Asiatic significance can only be appropriately considered if fifth world power, China, is included in composition of CFM. Another indication of willingness to broaden field of discussion at proposed session, perhaps to include Austrian question and others of European significance, is statement in section four that remilitarization of Western Germany creates serious difficulties for those questions CFM should consider, leaving presumption that price for settlement these questions would be discontinuance such remilitarization.

Proposal that talks be held Europe instead of New York can be interpreted as attempt to remove them from under aura UN, where USSR outweighed in votes and sentiment and where also Communist China not so attractive, eastward to area in which World Peace Council has more influence.

Although Soviet Government makes plain it takes for granted that exploratory talks will be procedural dealing only with fixing agenda, it cannot be ruled out that this reservation may only be intended to [Page 1055]disarm Western Powers of careful advance preparation of substantive and propaganda positions in order obtain advantage from outset.4

Barbour
  1. Repeated to London, Paris, and Frankfurt.
  2. Not printed; it transmitted a preliminary translation of the Russian note of December 30, 1950 (396.1/1–151).
  3. Supra.
  4. On January 2 Embassy London reported that the initial British Foreign Office reaction to the Soviet note corresponded “in general” with these views, while Embassy Paris reported on the same day that the initial French reaction was that the note “was mild in tone and … appeared to insist upon narrow base of discussions proposed in original Soviet note of November 3.” (Telegrams 3700 from London and 3752 from Paris, neither printed (396.1/1–251))