Memorandum by Martin J. Hillenbrand of the Office of German Political Affairs to the Director of the Office of German Political Affairs (Laukhuff)


Subject: Some Thoughts on Contractual Agreements

I have been watching the rapidly moving developments of the past few weeks with a certain vague sense of disquietude, and this memorandum represents mainly, I suppose, an attempt to Spell out somewhat more clearly the reasons for my uneasiness. The recent telegrams reporting the initial German Government reaction to the tripartite proposals on contractual relations have indicated that we are in for a rough period of negotiations. On the other hand, the development of initial rigidities in our position, as seems to have taken place in Mr. McCloy’s own thinking, means that we are entering this period with far from the most favorable attitude for the achievement of mutual agreement. Once again, it would appear, we are smothering our policy in the mantle of self-imputed righteousness which we insist in wrapping around ourselves in dealing with the Germans.

Perhaps I have misunderstood our approach to contractual agreements, but I had thought that the present HICOM discussions with the Germans were to be in the nature of negotiations rather than merely the presentation to them of fixed positions which they could either accept or reject but from which we would not deviate in any essential respect. It seems quite clear that, if such was not the intention, we need to adjust ourselves quickly to the fact that such must be the reality if we are to make any progress at all.

In the development of an apparently rigid approach, HICOG seems to be losing sight of the hierarchy in our various policy objectives. The basic question is: How badly do we want German participation in Western defense? If we decide, as I think we already have, that we want it very badly, then it is not enough simply to talk of adhering to our principles whether Germany contributes or not. This is particularly the case when our principles seem to become confused with dogmatic positions on such questions as deconcentration and restitution. Obviously, we can go no faster than we can persuade the French and the British to move along with us, but at the present time the rigidities seem to be developing within our own thinking.

What HICOG overlooks is the need to keep the whole picture in mind when we make decisions in any specific area of activity. For example, the FDP is on record as being unwilling to agree to ratification of the Schuman Plan unless all economic controls over the iron and steel industry are lifted. We all recognize that without FDP support Adenauer cannot achieve Bundestag ratification of the Schuman [Page 1539] Plan. We are all aware of the far reaching and disastrous repercussions which such a failure would have on our entire European policy. In such a context a completely inflexible approach can only court disaster.

It seems apparent that HICOG is failing to assess properly the strength, determination and ingenuity of the forces opposing settlement with the Western powers which find their focus in the SPD.1 Adenauer’s position internally is not a strong one, and to depend on his admitted skill at maneuver to push through a settlement, which from the German point of view is unsatisfactory (apart from the obvious unfavorable comparison with the Japanese Peace Treaty), is to overestimate the role of cleverness in the dynamics of political power. Either we give Adenauer an agreement which can elicit popular response in Western Germany or we undermine the bases on which his coalition rests. On the other hand, while the Chancellor’s position is weak vis-à-vis the SPD, we need to remember that, partly as a result of this and partly as a result of the general implications of our German and European policy, he is bargaining with us from what is essentially a position of strength. It is delusive to think that the Western Powers can gain their objectives merely by remaining firm all along the line.

On the subject of informational tactics, it is, of course, shocking that the suspicion should even arise that someone is leaking information to Schumacher, although I find it somewhat difficult to understand how this could be happening in Washington, given the physical problems involved. However, indiscretions seem the order of the day. Drew Middleton’s despatch from Frankfurt in the “New York Times” of Sunday gave a fairly good summary of the line which McCloy, in a recent telegram, indicated he would use with Adenauer today. If the leak was calculated, it can scarcely have been wise since it would almost certainly get the Chancellor’s dander up.

It is not apparent why, on the basis of the Foreign Ministers’ communiqué, the German press should have broken into a spate of comment on the alleged intention of the Western powers to maintain a reserve power to guarantee democracy. Regardless of the intention behind the drafting of the instructions of the Foreign Ministers to the three High Commissioners and of the draft Agreement which accompanied them, the interpretation which will now inevitably be put upon Article VII of the Agreement is that it, in effect, includes a direct right of intervention to preserve democracy. Even Mr. Grotewohl in a recent speech commenting on the Washington Conference took this for granted. Perhaps, the situation would not be beyond rescue if our Public Affairs people could be authorized to clarify the tripartite position.

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Although this observation is somewhat apart from the foregoing it is not irrelevant to note that, even if it can be achieved, the contractual, relationship embodied in the instructions of the Foreign Ministers must be an impermanent arrangement. It was, I believe, the original intention that the contractual settlement would achieve a condition of political equilibrium until those prerequisites were attained which would make a final peace settlement possible. It seems questionable that the present type of settlement can last very long, or can even be made to operate within its own terms. Just as every exercise of reserve power under the revised Occupation Statute has involved essentially a political decision, so the submission of every case to the Arbitral Tribunal, and particularly the enforcement of the Tribunal’s decisions, will involve a political decision. There is no magic in the term “arbitration,” and the whole concept of a standing mixed tribunal in this context seems reminiscent of the pre-World-War I fallacy regarding the, justiciability of political issues. I do not think it will work.

  1. Next to this sentence in the source text Laukhuff had written “Hicog has consistently underestimated the German reaction and then made our task harder.”