The Director of the Office of German Political Affairs (Laukhuff) to the Director of the Bureau of German Affairs (Byroade)

Letter No. 7

Dear Hank: One thing stands out more and more clearly from the talks. The Russians are hammering over and over again on their point that the two really important things which “the peoples of the world” want the Ministers to discuss are “fulfillment of the Potsdam Agreement providing for the demilitarization of Germany and the prohibition of the remilitarization of Germany” and “immediate reduction of the armed forces of the four powers”. These points are repeated over and over and over. My own impression is that the Russians want a Conference—if it is held on those two items. If not, they are indifferent to a Conference but will conduct a world-wide propaganda campaign on the basis of those two propositions, and accusing us of being against them.

To counter this Soviet line, we are able to produce nothing except generalities both in our agenda text and in our arguments. It is easy to have hindsight but I think we made our usual mistake of starting with a reasonable, moderate, “neutral” position which allows of no compromise and which does not really illustrate our case against the Russians. What we should have done was to put up an agenda which stated our views on the real causes of tension. The way it is we have neither a good propaganda position nor a good base for maneuver.

What really is disturbing is the attitude of the French and British, especially the latter. We had a long tripartite session last night which was a repetition of the one described in Letter No. 6.1 It was, if anything, worse. Davies went so far as to say he really couldn’t see why we couldn’t eventually accept that part of the Russian wording dealing with the prevention of German remilitarization, too, providing it was in a “harmless” context. This may have been only his personal feeling since Mallet, in a meeting with Chip2 and me this morning, insisted that the British instructions reject the phrase “fulfillment of the Potsdam Agreement”, the phrase “prevention of the remilitarization of Germany” and also reject the idea of discussing German demilitarization in any connection save that of the existing level of armaments.

What is clear, however, is that the British have a different evaluation of Soviet motives than we do. They believe the Soviet Government [Page 1095] wants a conference, wants to stop our plans for German defense by some agreement with us and consequently is willing to pay a stiff price for our agreement. We also think the Soviets want to stop our plans but we see no signs that they want to do it by an agreement costly to them. Rather they seek a basis, for inhibiting and confusing western action and playing upon western fears of Germany. For this purpose, a conference is immaterial, unless held strictly on their terms.

I do believe the British think of themselves as quite firmly committed to the Brussels decision and as intending to push right on with attempts to work out German participation, regardless of any agenda item. (Though Harrison did say, “would delay really matter, since it would only be a question of a month or six weeks”?) But they do not seem fully to appreciate the scope for maneuver which adoption of some or all of the Soviet wording would give to the Soviet Union, and the inhibiting pressures which would easily be build [built] up against us. Besides, it seems to me public opinion would jump to the conclusion that we had all agreed to review the Brussels decisions with the Russians.

Our feeling is that the British attitude (the French attitude has been less expressly put) has revealed a very slippery path leading down in front of us.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Letter No. 6, not printed; for a report on the tripartite meeting tinder reference, see telegram 5291, supra. The U.S. Delegation had reported on the tripartite meeting of March 12, along lines similar to Laukhuff’s, in telegram 5350 from Paris, March 13, not printed. (396.1–PA/3–1351)
  2. Charles B. Bohlen.