No. 485

CFM files, lot M–88, box 72, bound volume—Austria, 1951

Memorandum of Conversation, by the United States High Commissioner for Austria ( Donnelly)1

top secret

Participants: General Eisenhower
Ambassador Donnelly
General Gruenther
Mr. Douglas MacArthur

Subject: Austrian Situation and NATO Plans

General Eisenhower inquired at the outset about our relations with the Soviets in Austria.

I explained how we operated and the type of relationship this gave rise to, at different levels, quadripartite, political, and security. I stated my impression that the Soviets followed their own interests with singular persistency, which did not, however, exclude a deliberate change of attitude from time to time. When such changes would take place, how long they would last, and what the Soviets hoped to accomplish by them, were generally unpredictable. At present, for example, there coincided fairly congenial relations at the quadripartite level and even some picking up of social contacts, [Page 1032] with a rash of kidnapping and an increasingly oppressive attitude toward the Austrian administration, especially the police. I explained the origin of our relations; the ineradicable marks left by the six months of Soviet occupation from April to September 1945 before the Western Powers were admitted to Vienna; but how, in my view, their initial advantages had turned out to be disadvantages, from the familiarity, hatred, and contempt that had been inspired in the Austrians. The evidence of this was convincingly supplied by the elections in 1945 and 1949, and would be confirmed again in the presidential elections next month.

I explained the present situation with regard to the police; the Ministry of Interior’s efforts to take one further step in cleaning out Communist employers dating back to the Soviet period; and the Soviet pressure brought to protect the individuals concerned by intimidation and ignoring the directives of the Austrian authorities.

In reply to further questions about the Soviets, I stated my belief that there was no additional positive evidence of Soviet preparations for war, or of partition, for that matter. It was reported that spring training had begun a little earlier than usual, and on a slightly larger scale, but nothing yet exceeding what had occurred in the past.

On the internal Austrian situation, I stressed the importance of the coalition government, which was unequivocally pro-Western and prepared to cooperate in resistance efforts, the planning and preparation for which had been covertly undertaken. I reviewed the principal points of our quadripartite policy, and the good understanding which existed among the three Western elements in regard to occupation matters, maintaining Austrian unity, and the treaty. I stated my opinion that, apart from the discussions taking place in Paris on the CFM agenda,2 we did not seem to be any closer to a treaty today than we were in 1947.

General Gruenther asked why Foreign Minister Gruber was going to London and whether he was still so anxious to obtain a treaty that he would make concessions to the Soviets.

I replied that no special importance should be attached to Gruber’s trip; he was going in order to make the acquaintance of the new British Foreign Minister, and would probably discuss such matters as Austrian debts, and doubtless general tactics about the treaty and dealing with the Soviets. Officially he was making the visit in order to deliver a speech before the British Institute for International Affairs, and he would also visit the naval base at Portsmouth. I stated my opinion that Gruber was now rather firmer than he used to be about the treaty, and could be relied [Page 1033] upon not to make concessions to the Soviets for the purpose of obtaining agreement. My own view indeed was that probably too many concessions had already been made, and I should be inclined, if the Soviets tried to open up a single one of the agreed articles, to state that we would open up the whole treaty and go back over all the articles.

General Eisenhower and General Gruenther appeared to share this view.

I stated that in the light of this background, it was perhaps apparent why Austria could not come directly under the NATO organization or undertake armament production. The Austrian Government was, however, covertly proceeding with plans for the creation of resistance forces and eventually an army of 56,000 if this should be made possible by the conclusion of a treaty. I described the steps that had already been taken; planning committees were functioning in Vienna and Salzburg, in as much secrecy as possible, with nothing committed to paper. A force of 5,000 gendarmes was being recruited as a cadre for the Austrian forces. I described the progress with Jaeger groups in the British Zone and the Alpine groups in the French Zone, which could be employed for resistance purposes. I said that the British High Commissioner had told me that some 7,000 men would be available in the British Zone on D-Day, but that the total manpower, within the proper age-groups, which could be drawn upon in the British Zone was as high as 180,000, to which should be added corresponding figures for our Zone and the French Zone. These figures were of course merely a potential, whose utilization would depend upon supplying them with arms and equipment and carrying out resistance within Austria. But Foreign Minister Gruber stressed the fact that there was a maximum potential of 20 divisions from this source. General Eisenhower expressed his surprise and gratification at this news.

I regretted that Sir Harold Caccia, the British High Commissioner, was not present to describe the developments in his Zone in detail.3 I informed General Eisenhower that Sir Harold had accompanied me to Paris, and had expressed his regret that he was unable to be present for this conference, but he had received instructions from his Government which precluded a visit at the present time. General Eisenhower said that he perfectly understood this.

[Page 1034]

I touched upon the military arrangements being undertaken with Italy, which General Irwin was handling, and the general economic situation in Austria. I mentioned the coal problem, and that of East-West trade, and stated my own opinion that Austria could never attain relative economic self-sufficiency as long as the barriers toward the East prevented the resumption of this commerce.

General Eisenhower and General Gruenther inquired about the relationships which obtained between the civilian High Commissioners and the military. I stressed the very close cooperation which existed in our own case, and in the British, as I believed. I stated that we took very great interest in the work of General Irwin and General West, which we maintained by frequent personal contact, Sir Harold by trips to the Zone, and I by associating General Irwin with me in the Allied Council work and meetings. General Eisenhower expressed his high regard for General Irwin’s and General West’s abilities.

General Gruenther had received certain reports of difficulties between the French High Commissioner and French military element. I stated that they did not appear to be as close, or to have ironed out the civilian takeover problems as much as we and the British. I did not, however, regard it with especial concern, since it appeared to me entirely a family affair of the French, which was not permitted to materially affect their relations with us and the British. Certain problems occasionally arose, for example, that of the Soviet Repatriation Missions. We were very anxious to get these missions out of our Zone and the Tirol, a view shared by Sir Harold, by Ambassador Payart and General Bertrand. In the case of the British, however, instructions had been received from London to do nothing about this—“to drop no pebble in the pond”—pending the CFM discussions. In the case of the French, it appeared that M. Schuman was reluctant to raise this issue with the Soviets at the present time. I explained how these Soviet missions operated and their apparent freedom in the French Zone, and our plan to authorize them, after the CFM, only on an individual-trip basis, provided reciprocity was granted for our Graves Registration Mission. General Eisenhower concurred in the desirability of getting rid of these Soviet missions.

In closing, I again referred to the impossibility of Austria’s coming directly under NATO, but of our active efforts to see that developments there were along the lines General Eisenhower would wish, which was, as I recalled, the sense of the Department’s telegram No. 8808 [2199] of April 20th.4 General Gruenther said [Page 1035] that they had seen a copy of the telegram, and were in entire agreement. General Eisenhower said that it was less important that he should have the forces in Austria under NATO now, in view of the special situation that obtained there, than that he should have them and when and if he needed them.

I asked whether I was at liberty to report our conversation to the British High Commissioner, who had accompanied me to Paris. General Eisenhower replied that I should feel entirely free to do so.

  1. A copy of this memorandum was transmitted to the Department as an enclosure to a letter from Donnelly to Perkins, April 24.
  2. See Document 534.
  3. In telegram 2415 from Vienna, April 21, Donnelly informed the Department that the British Foreign Office had instructed Sir Caccia not to participate in talks with General Eisenhower for fear that this might be misinterpreted by the Soviets. (740.5/4–2151)
  4. Telegram 2199 informed the Legation in Austria of the Department’s position that it was not desirable at the present time to place occupation troops in Austria under NATO command. Such a move could possibly provide an opening for the Soviets to charge a violation of the Control Agreement and encourage them to disrupt the existing Four-Power machinery which it was U.S. policy to support. (740.5/4–2051)