396.1–PA/5–1151: Telegram

The Minister in France (Bohlen) to the Secretary of State


6859. For Matthews from Bohlen. It might be helpful if I give you my personal views on status of conference following Sov move yesterday1 since from last night’s telecon2 there appears to be some confusion.

The Sov move of yesterday represents another break from a consistently held Sov position: namely, the impossibility of sending any unagreed items to Ministers. There is a temporary fluidity in Sov position on which we shld capitalize and shld, therefore, make up our mind and move quickly. If we were playing the hand alone the preferred position wld obviously be to stand pat on alternate B as presented in triple play but we have real doubts whether we cld hold British and French to that position. My fear is that we will stand pat now on alternate B as presented in triple play and then after several meetings probably because of tripartite difficulties end by yielding on one of the outstanding points.

I assume you realize in Washington that longer meetings go on following triple play our public position which is now excellent will inevitably worsen and not get better. Our inquiry yesterday was to find out which of the two points of difference Dept regarded has greater importance—namely, position of demilitarization as agreed item or [Page 1138] inclusion of NAT as unagreed point. We had assumed from previous instructions that Dept was firm against yielding German demilitarization position as agreed item but that inclusion of NAT as unagreed item was a last ditch possibility. My personal view is very definitely along those lilies since an agreed item is a definite and unjustified concession to Sovs and I do not think we shld pay any price to get them to accept a split agenda. On other hand, an unagreed item is not in my view a concession to Sovs by its very nature since as unagreed item it contains evidence of Western refusal to accept it. Proper publicity cld make this entirely clear in interval before meeting of the Ministers. At Ministers’ mtg itself it wld seem to me very easy for three Western Ministers merely to continue to refuse to accept NAT as appropriate item on agenda and it is inconceivable that Vyshinsky wld walk out of conference on that basis. We will, of course, get a full-dress propaganda statement when point comes up, but as previously pointed out in our telegrams, Soviet Minister can do that anyway.

Main point I wish to emphasize is that we must make up our mind quickly and not let meetings drag on to detriment of our public position ending by an acceptance next week of something we refused to do now. I hope, therefore, you can speed up Dept’s decision so we can act before weekend recess.

[ Bohlen ]
  1. At the 48th session of the Representatives on May 10, after a “long propaganda harangue,” Gromyko had offered to accept Alternative B of the “triple play” (see p. 1133) if the Western Representatives would accept German demilitarization as subitem 1 of item 1 and if they would accept the Soviet proposal on NATO and American bases as an unagreed item. The U.S. Delegation reported these events in telegram 6856 from Paris, May 11 (396.1–PA/5–1151).
  2. A transcript of the telecon between Washington and Paris on May 10 is in file 396.1–PA/5–1051.