396.1/10–2154: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Bohlen) to the Department of State 1


582. Soviet press treatment of London agreements and subsequent developments continues to be relatively restrained in standard opposition to any form of German rearmament.2 As previously indicated (Embtel 520 [550], October 15 and 551, October 163), there has been tendency to present certain parts of Molotov’s Berlin speech as constituting official “proposals” of Soviet Government. This impression is strengthened by following paragraph in Ratiani article published in Pravda today:

“There are proposals of Soviet Government to governments of US, England and France, to reach agreement concerning withdrawal of occupation forces in territory of East and West Germany and to decide this question right now without any delay. Acceptance of this proposal would create favorable conditions for rapprochement between West and East Germany and thereby for unification of Germany. There is also the possibility for the achievement of agreement between the powers on question of free all-German elections if the premise is accepted that chief task is the unification of Germany on peace-loving and democratic bases. Soviet Government has expressed its readiness to examine not only proposals made earlier by the participation of the Berlin Conference of the four powers but also any proposals on the question of free all-German elections.”

Since Soviet Government can hardly believe that statements in Molotov’s speech could be accepted as formal official proposals either [Page 1460] by Western Governments or non-Commie public opinion, the reasons for this presentation must be sought elsewhere. Soviet Government might prefer to await developments on London agreements before committing itself to a definite set of positions as would inevitably be involved in formal reply to September 10 note.4 By treating Molotov’s speech, without so stating, as at least interim reply and attempting to create impression that ball is now in Western court, Soviet Government may hope to gloss over awkward fact that it has not replied to Western note. In addition to element of timing, hesitancy in this respect may result from realization by Soviet Government that given limits of its policy towards Germany it has nothing new or tempting to offer and that mere reiteration of old Berlin proposals would be detrimental to Soviet efforts to bloc implementation of London agreements. In circumstances it may have been concluded hence that the holding out of vague hopes, as represented by Molotov’s speech, is the best posture for the Soviet Government to adopt at this particular juncture.

While in dictatorships of this character radical changes of policy can never be completely dismissed, substantive Soviet policy towards Germany still appears to be rooted in a determination to safeguard to all costs control over Eastern Germany. Their diplomacy and even propaganda are still operating within limits imposed by this dominant consideration. Judging from press reports the East German elections of October 17 were a standard Commie-type fraud with no element of choice whatsoever given to population which is hardly preparation for any substantive change in direction of free elections for all Germany.

It is difficult of course to judge from here to what extent pressures for 4-power conference generated by Commie and front organizations abroad have or will become a factor in eventual ratification of London agreements. But if this becomes a real difficulty, rigidity and lack of maneuver in basic Soviet policy towards Germany might be turned to advantage in offsetting any such trend. Soviet attempt to depict Molotov speech as official proposals could afford opportunity for three Western powers to issue statement pointing out that no reply had been received to September 10 note and calling on Soviet Government to state clearly in official form its so-called proposals on Germany. This might force Soviets to show their true position on Germany and deprive [Page 1461] them of present advantage of hiding behind vague hints of possible future concessions. If no reply is received, that in itself is good propaganda material.5

  1. Repeated to London, Paris, and Bonn.
  2. In telegram 1688 from Paris, Oct. 21, the Embassy gave a similar description of the “half-hearted manner” in which the Communist press was attacking the London Accords (Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 386).
  3. Neither printed; both telegrams 550 and 551 concerned Molotov’s speech in Berlin on Oct. 6 and suggested that it contained counterproposals to the tripartite Western note of Sept. 10 (see footnote 4 below) concerning Germany (396.1/10–1554 and 396.1/10–1654, respectively).
  4. Under reference here is the tripartite Western note of Sept. 10, which accepted the Soviet invitation to a Four-Power Foreign Ministers meeting on Germany and European security provided the Soviets signed the Austrian Treaty on the basis of the previously agreed text and agreed to free elections in Germany. For the text of this note and the Soviet proposals to which it was a response, see Department of State Bulletin, Sept. 20, 1954, pp. 397–402.
  5. In telegram 1762 from Paris, Oct. 22, the Embassy agreed with the analysis in the source text but recommended that the United States “refrain from needling Soviets over their failure thus far to reply to September 10 note” (Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 386).