Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 51

Memorandum of Conversation, Prepared in the Department of State 1

top secret

Participants: The Secretary
Mr. Harriman
Mr. Bruce
Mr. Perkins
Mr. Bonbright
Mr. O’Shaughnessy
Mr. Schuman
Mr. Daridan
Mr. de Juniac
Sir Oliver Franks

After greeting Mr. Schuman, the Secretary inquired whether it would be agreeable to take up first the latest Soviet proposal tabled yesterday in Paris by Gromyko.2 Mr. Schuman agreed and asked the Secretary if he would give his impressions.

The Secretary said that the views which he was about to express were tentative and he wished to advance them solely for the purpose of discussion. Frankly he thought that the Gromyko proposal was not very satisfactory and did not represent a great concession. It was true that the question of German demilitarization was now included in Item I of the agenda but it thereby came under the heading of “Causes of Tension” and was also placed as the first specific subject to be discussed under the Item. He asked whether there was any need for [Page 1113] hurry. If not, we should seek some method of improving our tactical position since if we take the Gromyko proposal as a basis for discussion and they refuse to make changes in it, we may be stuck with it. He thought this was bad bargaining tactics. He said that all of us were anxious to have an agenda which would not prejudice the outcome of a meeting of the four Ministers where our task will be difficult enough. (Mr. Schuman agreed.) Therefore, we were thinking of how best to negotiate an agenda in such a way as not to help the Soviets and not to limit action by the Western powers before the conference takes place. We must also avoid giving the Russians a propaganda advantage which they can exploit before the meeting of the Ministers.

The Secretary said that we thought the way to do this might be to put in a counter-proposal now. This would give us time to bargain back and forth. In our view the best counter proposal would be along the lines of the “Parodi formula”.3 The Secretary thought that it would be very hard for the Soviets to break on the Parodi proposal because this formula permits each side to present its view and it gives us a chance to be flexible. If we suggest changes in the Gromyko proposal and the latter does not accept them, he can go home and we would be in a bad position. This would not appear to be the case with the Parodi formula. Consequently, we felt that it would be disastrous to accept the Gromyko proposal as a basis for discussion.

Mr. Schuman said that when he first read the text of the Gromyko proposal last evening and again this morning his impression was that it was “not too bad”. He thought it showed very considerable progress on the part of the Soviets because it accepted our proposition that all details would be discussed under our general heading “Causes of Tension”. He thought the Gromyko proposals left freedom of action for both sides to advance their views and it did seem like an effort on the part of the Russians to move in our direction. Mr. Schuman said that Mr. Parodi had informed him that this was also his personal impression.

Mr. Schuman went on to say that he did not by any means rule out Mr. Acheson’s proposal. He thought that if the Soviets did agree to the Parodi formula, it was probably the best way to write the agenda. He thought that the formula would also be helpful if we ran into trouble on the questions of Austria and Trieste which we could then handle in the same way. In fact, he had no trouble personally in accepting the idea. However, he said that Mr. Parodi did not believe the Soviets would accept it.

Mr. Schuman said that it was an important fact that the opening statement of the Gromyko proposal was the same as what we had [Page 1114] tabled. He also thought that the question of German demilitarization need not necessarily be discussed first under the general heading. The order in which questions were listed under Item I did not in his opinion affect the order in which they might be discussed.

The Secretary interjected that in his opinion the Soviets would insist on discussing questions in the order that they appear on the agenda.

The Secretary referred again to the harmful propaganda to which we would be subjected if the Soviets were in a position to say that all four governments agree that German demilitarization was a cause of tension. They would also claim that the Ministers were to meet to decide how the demilitarization of Germany can go forward. This would be very discouraging to Germany and would adversely affect the present conference in Paris on the formation of the European army. The Soviets would probably say that this conference should stop. Unless we can keep our momentum, we will run into harmful delays and the chances for achieving a European army, which next to the Schuman Plan holds out the greatest hope for European unity, will be lost.

The Secretary also stressed that there are other objections to the Gromyko proposal. Among these he referred to the Soviet desire to limit the “reduction of armed forces” to the forces of the four powers. This would leave the satellites out. The Secretary found the next phrase of the Soviet proposal very obscure and thought that under it the Soviets would again bring out their proposal for a one-third reduction in the armed forces of the four powers.

With regard to the last point made by the Secretary, Mr. Schuman indicated that this would be unacceptable. He referred to the fact that we had already refused it at Lake Success and would continue to do so. However, he found some “extenuation” in the Gromyko draft. He pointed out that the first Soviet text spoke of the demilitarization of Germany and specifically referred to the Potsdam Agreement.4 Their latest proposal dropped the reference to Potsdam and inserted the word “question” before the reference to the demilitarization of Germany. He thought this was an improvement and said that in discussing: the subject he did feel very free to talk as he pleased on the German question. In other words, he would not be a prisoner of the Russian wording. However, Mr. Schuman agreed that Mr. Acheson’s point regarding the propaganda dangers prior to a conference of the four Ministers was well taken.

Mr. Perkins remarked that by putting the German question under the causes of tension and listing it first, Europeans would wonder if we have changed our minds about the Brussels’ decisions.

Mr. Harriman interjected that this would cause confusion in this country too.

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Mr. Perkins also referred to the other difficulties connected with the Russian wording and thought that if we took the German subheading we would no longer have a major issue on which to stand firm and which the public would understand.

In reply to a question from Ambassador Bruce, Mr. Schuman admitted that under the Gromyko draft the question of German demilitarization is a cause of tension. He certainly did not think that we could deny that it was a cause of anxiety. However we have already accepted on a tripartite basis the idea of talking about it under Item I and we could not go back on this without great difficulty.

The Secretary then said that what faces us is the decision of what we do tactically at this time. He repeated that he saw no harm in putting forth the Parodi formula.

Mr. Schuman again agreed that the Parodi formula was a, good one but he was still fearful of anything which might cause the negotiations to be broken off. In reply to a question from the Secretary as to whether he thought the Soviets really would break off, Mr. Schuman said that he did not have sufficient information. He agreed, however, that for them to break on the Parodi formula would not be reasonable.

Mr. Harriman observed that if the Soviets did break, it would at least show the world that a conference of the four Ministers would have had no chance of success.

Mr. Schuman said that the Parodi proposal had originally been suggested to Mr. Davies and Mr. Jessup with his (Mr. Schuman’s) personal approval. He also again expressed anxiety about the Trieste question. He then asked how the discussion in the Ministers’ meeting would proceed after they had got beyond the general causes of tension. He thought the fact that the Soviet proposals and our proposals were different and in a different order would create an extremely confused situation and the Russians would certainly point this out. It was admitted that this problem would create difficulties.

Ambassador Bruce observed that if we believe that the Soviets would break on the Parodi formula, we must conclude that we have no alternative to accepting the Soviet text.

The Secretary then outlined the points which he suggested might be embodied in a message from him and Mr. Schuman to Messrs. Jessup and Parodi. Mr. Schuman agreed with the Secretary’s outline as a result of which the following message was approved:

“We have discussed the latest Soviet proposal and are agreed that while it represents an advance on the part of the Soviet Government, the text is not yet satisfactory. We have been considering what the best tactic would be to obtain an improvement in the Soviet draft. We fear that if we accept Gromyko’s latest proposal as a basis for discussion and Gromyko subsequently refuses to agree to such further changes as we all feel will be necessary, we will be trapped. We would, therefore, [Page 1116] like the Deputies to consider the wisdom of introducing the ‘Parodi’ formula as a tactical move. Our hope would be that in order to avoid the ‘Parodi’ formula Gromyko may agree to improve his present draft.”

It was then decided to call in the British Ambassador and get his views on the preceding discussions. The Secretary explained to Sir Oliver what had transpired before his arrival and acquainted him with the text of the telecon message which he and Mr. Schuman had agreed to send to the Deputies in Paris.5

Sir Oliver said that when the British Government was corresponding with the Russians and exchanging notes with them they believed that the two points on which the Russians would insist would be: 1) that the Potsdam Agreements must be used as a basis for discussion; and 2) that the demilitarization of Germany must be the main topic of the CFM. Therefore, he supposed that the first thought in London was that a substantial advance had been made by not having Potsdam as a basis and having the demilitarization of Germany in the wider context of causes of tension. He said that he believed that the judgment in London on the broad issue would be that the Russian move was to bring the CFM nearer, and that the Government would, therefore, approve the use of the “Parodi” formula in terms of tactical discussion within the broad framework. So far as the precise suggestion went, he believed that London would be quite willing to put it up to the Paris Deputies but would probably tend to estimate the degree of advance more highly than the U.S. and French did. He said that so far as the tactics were concerned, he could see no reason not to try to see what more could be gotten from the Russians. He added that this might get rid of one or two of the difficulties of the last weeks but not all of them.

The Secretary said that we were concerned about the considerable period which would elapse before the CFM, perhaps as much as 60 days. In the meantime we must live with the agenda set up and consider its effect on Germany, its effect on the Paris negotiations for a European Army, and its effect here on the Congress in terms of its decisions on foreign assistance and the sending of troops to Europe. The reaction of public opinion would be very important and if public opinion felt that we had accepted the demilitarization of Germany, it would have a very bad effect.

Mr. Harriman said that many people here would think that we had conceded the demilitarization of Germany and gone back on the Brussels Agreement.

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The Secretary added that if we had the wrong agenda, the people in this country would think that we are considering the demilitarization of Germany and, therefore, Congress will tend to wait for the question of demilitarization to be settled before taking any action. Mr. Schuman said that no such interpretation would arise in France, and that we must have an agreed tactical position.

Mr. Schuman then asked how many weeks we thought would be necessary to prepare for a CFM after the Deputies’ work was over. He said it was very important to present a strong common front on the question of Germany, Austria, Trieste and the level of armaments. He believed that it would take at least two months as we were now quite insufficiently prepared and our Deputies in Paris were not even prepared to think about it.

Mr. Schuman mentioned one other difficulty, namely, the date of the CFM. The French Government, he said, desires to hold elections on June 10, and that it will be necessary to have several weeks for the campaign and, therefore, it would be difficult for the French Government to participate in an international conference after the 20th of May. (Mr. Schuman subsequently said that he personally did not consider it likely that elections would be held before the fall.)

In answer to Ambassador Bruce’s question as to the likelihood of elections being held in June Mr. Schuman replied that Premier Queuille had called President Auriol and will propose next week that the date be fixed for June 10. It is not possible, he said, to hold elections after June 10 because of the Feast of Ramadan which lasts for four weeks during which it is impossible to hold elections in the Mohammedan areas. Moreover, Vishinsky must not be given the impression that the conference must be finished in three or four weeks as this would be distinctly to his advantage. Mr. Schuman said that he had to be home for the election period. The suggestion was made that it might be possible to recess the conference during the election period. Mr. Schuman made the suggestion that the conference might be held after June 15 if Washington was not too hot. Mr. Harriman cautioned against holding a CFM without ample time. He asked Mr. Schuman what effect the holding of a conference would have on French elections and Mr. Schuman replied that it would have very little if any.

  1. This meeting, which took place from 3:15 to 4:45, was the first of three between Schuman and Acheson held during the visit of President Auriol to Washington. For further documentation on Auriol’s visit and the other conversations between Schuman and Acheson, see volume iv .
  2. For the text of this proposal, see footnote 1, supra.
  3. Under the “Parodi Formula” a split agenda would have been agreed with those items which had obtained quadripartite agreement placed first, followed by the unagreed items which each side wanted to submit.
  4. For the text of the first Soviet draft agenda, see telegram 5182, March 5, p. 1087.
  5. At 3 p. m. the Department of State had begun a teletype conference with the U.S. Delegation, during the course of which the agreed message was transmitted as well as the substance of Ambassador Frank’s remarks. A transcript of the telecon is in file 396.1–PA/3–2951).