396.1/11–2753: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Aldrich) to the Secretary of State 1

secret

2311. Bermuda Meeting—USSR and high-level talks. We have been able obtain no clear picture of Churchill’s probable line on USSR. Although officials have undoubtedly prepared position papers they have been unwilling discuss them as they are well aware that British position on question of where we go from here will depend almost entirely on Prime Minister.

Foreign Office official told Embassy officer in confidence that they had not been directed to prepare paper on subject of high-level talks. It is not known how strongly Churchill persists in idea of meeting Soviet head of state, either by himself or in company US and French heads. Wishful hope that this great British statesman can find bridge over horrifying chasm between East and West remains alive in this country, and Churchill might be impelled by this to seek meeting. On other hand, he apparently is not in same state of mind as in June when he definitely viewed Bermuda as opportunity to lay groundwork for four-power top-level meeting; his remarks in Commons November 32 seemed to show tempering of his optimism expressed in May, although not abandonment of dream. (As for any special hint from Soviets to British, Foreign Office has told us categorically there has been none. Hayter has not yet seen Malenkov and his call on Malenkov was formal). We consider chances better than even that Churchill will not press specific suggestion for any chiefs of state meeting. It must always be borne in mind, however, that he is imaginative, unpredictable, firm in belief in his own genius, and apparently determined to attempt one last crowning act on world stage.

Foreign Office officials and most of government, including Foreign Minister, do not favor meeting. They have never been convinced it could succeed and, in their view, Soviet intentions have been made clearer in past few months, i.e., meeting now less needed to consolidate opinion. As for official estimates of Soviet capabilities or ultimate objectives, they see no basic change. Soviet regime had been credited with tentatively attempting policies of greater flexibility and ostensible moderation for brief time following Stalin’s death. This probably was to gain breathing spell in which to secure their position. This purpose has now been at least partially accomplished: Evidence seems to be that new regime, dominated by Malenkov, is now better established and has retained firm control over Soviet (and satellite) structure. [Page 1722]In internal administration they seem to be tackling some of their economic and social problems in more realistic manner. In external policy, at least with respect to Europe, they have now returned to one of rigidly holding present gains, both because they feel sure of being able to do so and because they have not devised any better alternative. Although Soviet note of November 26,3 of course, requires fresh appraisal, Eden had arrived at conclusion that for present Soviets were not prepared to make any change in policy or tactics, in particular with respect to Germany, and there was now no prospect of any negotiations on European problems.

Aldrich
  1. Repeated to Moscow and Paris.
  2. For the text of the Queen’s speech and subsequent remarks by Prime Minister Churchill on Nov. 3, see H. C. Debs., 5th series, vol. 520, cols. 3 ff.
  3. Documentation on the Soviet note, Nov. 26, accepting participation in a four-power conference, is presented In volume vii .