740.5/12–1754: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Bohlen) to the Embassy in France 1


146. Limited distribution. For the Secretary. Since my return I have carefully examined all material affecting present Soviet attitude,2 initiated by Soviet note of November 13,3 concerning the question of Paris and London agreements. Everything I have read and heard since I have been back has more than confirmed view I expressed to you in Washington that Soviet Government takes the entry into force of these agreements with great seriousness and their present attitude and warnings should not be dismissed as propaganda only. While obviously the intensive campaign of pressure directed primarily at France is to large extent based on Soviet hope of defeating ratification, I am inclined to believe that Soviet Government itself regards this hope as somewhat forlorn and campaign is at least equally if not primarily motivated by desire to prepare ground and justify Soviet “counter measures” in event that these agreements are ratified. Soviet Government has committed its prestige so deeply in this respect that it could not without great loss of face, and particularly with Satellites, merely do nothing when and if ratification occurs. In effect, Soviet Government is now face to face with dilemma which has been inherent in its German policy since the end of the war. Having been unwilling for reasons which have been frequently reported from here to make the necessary concessions in regard to East Germany which might have, by permitting unification through free elections, frustrated West German rearmament and military association with West, Soviet Government has in past month embarked on policy of threat and intimidation in regard to consequences of final adoption London and Paris agreements.

There is no sign that we can detect here that they are contemplating direct military action in event of ratification Paris and London agreements and key question of full extent of measures they may take in military preparation field is not yet clear. Soviet Government, however, [Page 1511] appears committed rather definitely to following minimum measures in reaction to ratification London and Paris agreements:

Consolidation of Eastern European military system with open creation of some form of centralized staff and command, probably along lines NATO organization. In addition, inside general framework this system, probably an inner group composed of Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany, which would involve creation of East German Army. If Soviet measures are confined to purely organizational matters, involving consolidation of Soviet military bloc, only possibly serious feature would be creation of East German Army with its possible effect on position Western sectors Berlin. To this should be added abrogation of Franco-Soviet treaty threatened in yesterday’s note and probably for sake consistency similar action re Anglo-Soviet treaty at later date.4
Soviets appear committed to some increase in bloc military expenditures but extent of such increase will be decisive factor. They have stated definitely both publicly and privately that entry into force of Paris and London agreements will accelerate “arms race” and they are virtually committed to some measures in this field. It is by no means clear, however, whether or not this increase would be pro forma and in the shape of a gesture primarily related to organization measures indicated above or to a serious increase in existing military programs and expenditures. Any real increase in this field in Soviet Union and Satellites would inevitably affect and possibly reverse economic trends inaugurated since Stalin’s death. If these are to be abandoned or radically modified, this could affect entire political situation including principle of collective leadership in Soviet Union. As I have previously indicated, time to look for substantive disagreement or split in top leadership would be when confronted with issues, either foreign or domestic, of such dimensions as to bring about genuine and deep-seated difference of opinion. I have already reported my belief (Embtels 7405 and 9126) that the German rearmament question might be just such an issue. While entire leadership is undoubtedly united in their desire to defeat these agreements, differences and even division might well develop around degree of increased military build-up which should be undertaken when these agreements are formally adopted. This is a question which only the future can answer and I merely indicate it here as a possibility and a factor which must be present in minds of present Soviet leadership.

[Page 1512]

It should be emphasized here that theme of danger of German militarism is one which strikes responsive chord with Soviet people who remember World War II experiences and we have been impressed by degree to which Soviet Government has been stressing this danger as inevitable consequence of entry into force Paris and London agreements throughout Soviet central and provincial press. There are other signs which appear to reflect a certain degree of domestic mobilization in anticipation of measures which Soviet Government may undertake following ratification including particularly involvement of orthodox church in support of Soviet position on Paris and London agreements and consequences which might flow therefrom expressed in declaration by Patriarch and three other leading orthodox clerics followed by reception Patriarch by Malenkov. To this factor might be related Khrushchev statement published November 11, calling on party workers to abstain from anti-religious excesses against believers. It is not characteristic of Soviet regime to play up to church unless its services are needed in order to help persuade population to certain sacrifices. Real danger of present Soviet attitude if translated into action, as observed from here, is not that Soviet Government will undertake any immediate military or even risky actions in foreign field but that in order to justify military build-up to which it is at least on paper committed it will be forced in order to obtain popular support to adopt and stress the theme of imminent war danger as a domestic political necessity with consequent increase international tension.

While understandable as a public position to reassure Western European opinion, I do not believe that we should seriously count on any prospect of Soviets accepting four-power negotiations for some time following ratification of agreements. While Soviet Government never fully closes door to negotiation, nevertheless at present juncture they have committed themselves so definitely to thesis that negotiations on Germany and Austria following ratification would be “pointless” that for reasons of prestige alone they would probably reject any such proposal as that outlined by Mendes-France at UN conference next spring. In face of Soviet pressures and threats it is more than ever necessary to go through as expeditiously as possible with ratification of London and Paris agreements, but I think we should recognize that we will probably be entering phase of greater international tension with real possibility of reversals of many trends both foreign and domestic, which have been inaugurated and pursued by Stalin’s successors.

It may be sometime after ratification before full significance of Soviet counter measures and their corresponding relationship to our [Page 1513] policies and purposes can be fully assessed. We will of course follow developments with closest attention here. Department repeat if desired.

  1. Repeated to the Department of State in telegram 936, which is the source text. In telegram Dulte 7, Dec. 17, the Secretary instructed the Acting Secretary of State to hold the source text closely and to restrict distribution “as leakage might be distorted into alarm in France” (Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 422).
  2. For background concerning the drafting of this telegram, see Bohlen, Witness to History, p. 366.
  3. For the text of the Soviet note of Nov. 13, which invited 23 European nations and the United States to a conference on Nov. 29 to discuss the creation of a system of collective security in Europe, see Department of State Bulletin, Dec. 13, 1954, p. 905.
  4. The Soviet Union on numerous occasions issued warnings to the West about the rearmament of the Federal Republic of Germany, including threats to annul the Franco-Russian and Anglo-Russian treaties of 1944 and 1942 respectively if the Paris Agreements were ratified. Documentation concerning the policies of the Soviet Union to counter German rearmament is presented in volume viii .
  5. Not printed; it informed the Department of State about a meeting between French Ambassador Joxe and Soviet leaders in Moscow on Dec. 13 during which the Soviets emphasized the seriousness with which they viewed the entry into force of the Paris Agreements (651.61/12–1354).
  6. Not printed; in it Bohlen informed the Department of State about a meeting between French Ambassador Joxe and Khrushchev on Nov. 9 during which Khrushchev told Joxe that “the Soviet government would not take lying down the entry into force of Paris agreements but would ‘react vigorously’” (651.61/11–1054).