396.1/1–251: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Secretary of State 1


3688. Deptel 3185 December 28, repeated Paris 3469, Moscow 439, Frankfort 4587.2 Foreign Office has only just started to prepare position papers for proposed Four-Power meeting and as consequence its thinking with respect to German issues which may come up has not yet crystallized at working level much less at official level. Therefore, while our following estimates believed to reflect fairly closely current Foreign Office views, they are subject to modification and possible revision as further study is given to matter and in light of discussion on governmental level. It should also be borne in mind that Foreign Office from Bevin on down is not sanguine as to results of CFM. Accordingly, British tend to concentrate on developing ways and means to checkmate Soviet propaganda moves rather than to formulation positive proposals for settlement German problem.

Unification of Germany and all-German elections. Foreign Office continues to feel that program set forth May 25 letter to Chuikov 3 provides satisfactory basis for reunification and would be willing to proceed along such lines should Soviet indicate willingness to accept these proposals. Thinking in Foreign Office is that West should not agree to standstill on German rearmament while program was being implemented. To do so in its view would seriously jeopardize attainment goal adequate defense of Western Europe without sufficient compensatory advantages to Western Powers. Similarly, Foreign Office officials would probably favor rejection any suggestion for “permanent neutralization” of Germany, for they feel that demilitarized Germany would sooner or later fall under Soviet domination. They might, however, be willing to take this risk if Soviet should show willingness to settle other outstanding differences between East and West.
Preparation and terms of peace settlement. Foreign Office does not believe Soviet seriously desirous peace settlement with Germany at this time on terms which would be acceptable to West. However, as matter of tactics British would probably agree in principle to initiate further negotiations looking towards a settlement if Germany were reunified and all-German Government formed on basis program envisaged letter to Chuikov. Indeed they do not see how it would be possible from standpoint public opinion in West to reject such an offer if phrased in such manner as to give impression of sincerity. Foreign Office has given little thought to terms of German peace settlement in past several years, and we doubt whether it is devoting much attention to subject at present. UK objectives with respect to Germany have, however, changed in past year. Where British once considered their interests would best be served by creation relatively weak, demilitarized Germany, they now desire formation strong anti-Communist German state which would serve to bulwark Western defense. Change in attitude has been primarily occasioned by realization that Western, Europe, including UK could not adequately defend itself against Soviet without German manpower and, secondarily, because of Continuing concern re French will to fight, a view which is strengthened by what they regard as French tendency to inaction. As stated in previous message (Embtel 3417 December 12, 1950, repeated Frankfort. 6l7, Paris 11504), however, British are not at this time thinking in terms of Anglo-US-German axis.
Withdrawal occupation troops. British consider withdrawal occupation forces in Germany in advance peace settlement would be disastrous. But would, they feel, make far more difficult maintenance substantial US forces in Europe which they consider vital European defense. Moreover, British believe Western Powers have convincing argument from standpoint public opinion to counter any Soviet proposal for withdrawal occupation forces; namely, that such step could not be taken as regards former enemy until after peace settlement, and as mentioned above, latter development in their opinion is quite remote.
Demilitarization of Germany. As stated paragraph (5) above, Foreign Office opposed to demilitarization of Germany. Now that NAT powers have agreed for good and sufficient reasons to German rearmament it feels that it would be calamitous to take retrograde step. This view is not as widely shared by British public whose memories of German aggression are still fresh. Nevertheless, we believe government could swing public opinion to this way of thinking depending of course, on final outcome CFM.
Quadripartite investigation of German remilitarization. Foreign Office, and it is felt Cabinet, would strenuously object to any proposal for Four-Power investigation remilitarization activities in Germany. They consider Soviet would seize upon existence industrial police corps in UK and US Zones to becloud Bereitschaften issue and, further, that any assurance which Soviet might give to dissolve that body in return for corresponding action with respect to industrial police groups by US and UK would not be honored. Foreign Office, therefore, concerned that Eden and other Conservatives have suggested [Page 1057]Four-Power investigation and is doing its best to make him aware of pitfalls involved in such proposal before it strikes public imagination.
Divisive tactics. Foreign Office keenly aware divisive aspirations of Soviet and fully appreciative opportunities which CFM would furnish in this regard. They are particularly concerned about French whom they feel tend to rise to Soviet bait.

To sum up, British objectives with respect to Germany have undergone material change in past year as result developments in international scene. These changes will, we believe, be reflected in position they take in tripartite talks. British positions will not, however, be rigid and inflexible. On contrary, they would be prepared to modify their views to ensure common front by three Western Powers, situation which they consider indispensable prerequisite any talks with Soviet on Germany.

Foregoing drafted before receipt Soviet reply (Moscow’s 1274 January 1 to Department5). We are seeking Foreign Office reaction to latter later today.6

  1. Repeated to Paris, Moscow, and Frankfurt.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Transmitted in telegram 121 from Bonn, May 25, 1950; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iv, p. 641.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed. For the text of the Soviet reply, see p. 1051.
  6. Regarding the British reaction, see footnote 4, supra.