Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 185

United States Delegation Minutes1

Plenary Minutes 1

After the other members of delegations had joined the Chiefs of Governments, the President then proposed that the subject of the [Page 1755] Soviet position be discussed. He suggested that the French Delegation be invited first to contribute to the discussion.

M. Bidault then thanked the President for asking the French delegate to speak. It was an honor which he assumed with the authorization of the Prime Minister to discuss this most fundamental question. Ever since Stalin had disappeared, they had discussed in conversations between the Foreign Ministers the mysteries, changes and continuities of Soviet policy throughout the world. Up to now they had been in agreement that the changes were more in manner, atmosphere and attitude towards foreigners rather than fundamental policy changes. Two events had occurred which had ended the new policy of relaxation. These were the events of the 17th of June in Berlin2 and the somewhat inexplicable disappearance of Beria. He used the word inexplicable because this man who had been one of the most redoubtable of the Soviet leaders had been for many years a symbol of inflexibility. This had an influence which was by no means negligible on the peoples of the world and public opinion. If we were to take an overall view of the real international situation and the foreign policy of the Soviets, we would find that there were certain facts which would not be contested.

M. Bidault went on to say that for the first time since the death of Stalin certain clear figures had been given us that were not proportional figures given in percentages. He had painful memories of the use of such proportional figures in France before the last war when it was said that production of aircraft had gone up 100 percent. This might have meant that in one year one aircraft was built and in the second year two. Figures concerning the Soviet Union had been largely unknown up to now. Economists and politicians had been reduced to a state bordering on ignorance, Khruschev and Mikoyan had spoken out relatively clearly and despite what was being repeated everywhere in the Soviet Union, it was clear that a basic improvement in the material situation of the Soviet people was not something foreseeable in the near future. This is confirmed by the figures we find in the five-year plan. We learned that there are less cattle in the Soviet Union now than under the Czar, while there are 50 million more people to feed, and we are told that in 1955 in this largely land locked country where the sea is not everywhere at hand, that twice as much fish as meat will be made available for the population and twice as much sugar as meat. It is not tomorrow that the internal situation of the Soviet masses will permit the iron curtain to rise and free travel across the iron curtain will not yet be at hand. This compels the Soviets to press their foreign policy in order to maintain their power and present goals. Therefore, it is evident that the men in the Kremlin are facing great internal difficulties and we should not lose sight of this. M. Bidault [Page 1756] went on that he could talk at great length on this subject. From announced figures it appeared that 1.1 meters of textiles would be produced per year per person. At this rate a Soviet woman would be able to get a dress every 13 years. There had been other signs such as the diminishing of the compulsory loan, the recognition of the failure of the agricultural program, the attempt to transform industry to serve both city and country consumers. The situation was of such dimensions that it could not be changed rapidly. An additional indication was the fact that 70 percent of the manpower working in industry was devoted to heavy industry. Foreign policy and its appearances, as well as our answer thereto, constituted the principal force of maneuver available to the Soviets.

There were certain obscure points in foreign policy and M. Bidault wanted to refer to the major questions regarding the relations between the U.S.S.R. and the Chinese Communist Government, the degree of satisfaction of the satellites and the meaning of the sudden and inexplicable changes in diplomatic personnel, of which the most recent example was the removal of the U.S.S.R. Ambassador to the Chinese Communist Government.3 But if the overall situation were stated in simplified terms the French would see it somewhat as follows—one of the principal points of concern to the Soviets would be their relations with the Chinese Peoples Republic. Without having any certainty in this field, it may be that these relations are not as smooth as generally believed. The prestige of a dictator who would maintain himself in power for thirty-five years could not immediately be replaced by one or more men who did not have the same qualification and prestige and did not inspire the same degree of fear. In the economic field, the U.S.S.R. was simply not in a position to supply these hundreds of millions of people with the goods which even a government devoted to austerity must demand. This seemed to the French to be a first element to understanding the problem. If others had additional information it would be helpful. An additional factor which was not purely mysterious or fundamental was a tendency towards an improvement of previously bad relations between the U.S.S.R. and some of its neighbors. Turkey, for example, had been the object of a friendly gesture which was unexpected even by the Turks.4 A similar situation had developed with regard to Greece but here through a third party, i.e., Bulgaria.5 The Bulgarians had evidenced dispositions which were certainly not Bulgarian in inspiration. In Finland, we had seen a peculiar climate where the Finnish Communists had voted in Parliament for [Page 1757] the Social Democrats and Conservatives. This peculiarity was not without precedent but nevertheless did arouse our interest. These moves, however, had not had any consequences of an essential nature and that was perhaps why the Soviet Union had gone on to another maneuver.

M. Bidault said that this maneuver was aimed at the Western European powers. He would not discuss a purely British problem, namely, the attitude of the U.S.S.R. to the U.K. but as for the French, they had been approached both openly and in a veiled manner and France’s allies had been informed thereof. In July for the first time the French had been able to make a commercial agreement with the Soviets which was incidentally compatible with French commitments. The Soviets had even agreed to deliver certain materials of a strategic nature such as chromium, whereas the French did not furnish them with any strategic materials. Molotov had made an unexpected gesture of calling on the French the 14th of July. Malenkov, in his speech of August 8, had referred to the Franco-Soviet Pact and Soviet notes regularly mentioned Southeast Asian problems as being suitable for peaceful negotiations. Likewise, as the French had informed their allies, the Soviet leaders had often attempted to exchange views on the German problems and other subjects of common interest, both in Paris and in Moscow. The purpose of this was very clear. They were attempting to use the resentment against Hitler’s Germany which still lingered in France and above all use all possible circumstances to create division and opposition in the great alliance for freedom. This was one of the Soviet’s principal objectives and a trump they would not throw away. On the other hand, they maintained a violent campaign against the U.S. and even in their last answer, it was clear that the Soviets were not addressing the Western nations as a whole but rather separately, attempting to place one against the other. Such bilateral moves were an element of all dictatorial policy. They were used by Mussolini and Hitler and the changes in events have been less than they appear. Their purpose is simple to forecast in the present circumstances and atmosphere to work continuously to demolish the Western defensive organization. M. Bidault called attention to Malenkov’s speech of 8 August, in which after blasting imperialists who do not want peace because of the gun merchants, he added the following phrase: “Aggressive circles realize that if under the present conditions of international tension, the North Atlantic Pact was torn by internal struggles and contradictions it might collapse entirely in case of a détente”. M. Bidault concluded that it was extremely clear that in the face of such an equally clear policy the West must take a definite stand and it was the French delegate’s view that the West should reassume the initiative so as to overcome those illusions which [Page 1758] had been created in the body of Western public opinion by the tactics of our adversaries.

President Eisenhower then expressed his thanks in the name of his associates to M. Bidault and said that he would always agree with the positive policy. He felt that Prime Minister Churchill might then either present a paper, make a presentation or supplement the discussion by any method which he desired.

Sir Winston Churchill said that he would like to read over again the very interesting and broad minded statement which M. Bidault had made. He would like to think it over without attempting to deal with its detailed aspects. All he would venture was to state that in his view the great question, the supreme question, which must underlie our judgment in a dozen spheres was “is there a new look, is there a new Soviet look?” Had there been a deep change in the mighty entity we call the Soviet Union? Had there been such a change since the death of Stalin? Several things M. Bidault had said gave reason for belief that this was so. Other considerations set forth by M. Bidault indicated that there had been no change of heart but an ingenious variation of tactics. It must of course have come as a great shock to the Kremlin when at the end of the war they thought they had the future at their feet but then found that, owing to the initiative and gigantic strength of the United States, the thing for which they had been hoping and even have been planning was no longer possible, confronted as they were by the immense process in which the conferees were taking part today. The free world rearming and facing their extensive movements and ambitions. This must have come as a great shock to them. It was easy to see that at the end of 1945 or at the beginning of 1946 they might have thought that they had only to press forward to carry Communism and behind it Soviet imperialism to the shores of the Atlantic and far and wide across the Pacific world. Then they had found that this was not so. It was profoundly difficult to judge what they had felt but at any rate, when the Stalin regime passed away, they must have thought that an opportunity had come for reconsidering the situation. It was quite clear that they would face a struggle if they continued on a course of aggression, infiltration and undermining.

Sir Winston Churchill did not think it extraordinary that, if in reviewing new circumstances, the Kremlin had come to the conclusion that the thoughts; they might have had after Potsdam might require profound reconsideration. This was a first reason why he might be inclined to answer the question as to whether there was a new look in the affirmative. A second reason lay in the economic conditions of the Russian people with their vast increase in population. The hopes of a Communist utopia which had been dangled before the eyes of millions [Page 1759] had not been borne out. At the disposal of the Soviet leaders at any moment were enormous opportunities for improving the material situation of their population. He found it reasonable to believe that these two facts (1) opposition from the United States and (2) the need for economic hope may well have brought about a definite change in Russian policy and outlook which may govern their actions for many years to come. Therefore, on the question of a new look he would answer “let us make sure that we do not too lightly dismiss this possibility.” Confrontation by the Western world abroad and economic and other internal troubles at home might well have led to a definite change. We should, however, be very careful of two dangers, first to be thrown off our guard, and second, to exclude altogether the possibility that there may have been a real change. If there had been a change it was due, if not entirely at least mainly, to the strength and unity of the Western allies. If they had gathered to consider whether they should weaken that or to allow themselves to be divided, they would have indeed come to a dangerous pass. The only hope for a better state of affairs lay in the maintenance of Western strength and unity and a clear resolute determination to defend the cause of freedom by all means at hand. If this gathering were being held to find ways to reduce our defenses, that would be an extreme of criminal folly but if we were resolved to continue our preparation with the utmost vigor and perseverance—if we are, then this second question whether there was any reality in a Russian change was one that could be examined within limits and it should find its part in a general survey of the scene, once we had convinced them that there was no hope of dividing the allies. We should not repulse every move for the better. There should not be a question of finding a reason full of suspicion for giving evil meaning to every move of the Soviets. That might be so if we were considering lessening our perseverance but we might afford to look shrewdly and delicately at the new scene which the Russians presented.

Sir Winston then went on that it was not merely those around the table who must be convinced but also our peoples that no bona fide movement towards a “détente” or effort for improvement had been rebuffed and cast aside without consideration. The fact that we should consider was that we should be on the lookout for any sign of improvement coupled with a firm resolution not to slacken our efforts. Thus could we guard our people and hope for a real improvement in the situation. The note we should be right to strike was that we should have a two-fold policy of strength and readiness to look for any hope of an improved state of mind, even if it were necessary to run a slight mental risk. This would give us great strength. Sir Winston felt sure that the British Parliament and people were willing to make every [Page 1760] exertion to maintain the unity and strength of the North Atlantic Treaty alliance. Nothing could make it easier to rally and sustain our peoples than the fact that we have not brushed aside anything which would give us assurance or hope of a better state of affairs. Therefore, he was anxious that contacts be considered. The Soviets were more afraid of infiltration now than we were—infiltration behind the iron curtain if he might use the word. This was feared by what was bad in the Kremlin. If infiltration takes place, it could do us no harm. Trade was a vehicle of infiltration and the best way in which ordinary people and countries could earn their livelihood. We had nothing to fear from that and he would like to see such contacts improved and trade increased and the process of infiltration developed. He would not be in too much of a hurry to believe that nothing but evil emanates from this mighty branch of the human family or that nothing but danger and peril could come out of this vast ocean of land in a single circle so little known and understood.

Sir Winston said that he had but one more thing to say. Contacts, infiltration, trade leading to greater prosperity, reassurance that they would not have another dose of Hitler—and they had a right to this— and at the same time make it clear that we do not regard the position of the satellites nor admit that such a position could be permanent or tolerable but saying that we do not intend to use world war efforts to alter this. Time and patience must play their part. Such are the ideas I would venture. While hope springs eternal in the human heart, there is never an occasion where hope should be so modest and restrained. We are not attempting to heal the world or banish danger for that would be far beyond our powers.

“Encourage, encourage”, Sir Winston repeated, “the world by stimulating prosperity and getting people in a more agreeable state of mind. This might well carry us through a period of years to a time when a much better scene will come. I would finish where I had begun.” This would only be possible if combined as he had depicted, we continued in a strong and resolute manner to perfect our defenses and organization so that we would not risk throwing away all that had been gained so far and did not undo the great work already achieved. If mitigation of our work were contemplated, he would not ask for consideration of the other thought.

Standing together indivisible and growing stronger, we might be entitled to cherish the hope that we could come to the end of our difficulties having preserved the peace of the world.

President Eisenhower then said that this subject was of such a nature that it was certain to recur again and again not only implicitly but explicitly. He doubted that at the risk of embarrassing their host [Page 1761] they should prolong the meeting but he would like it understood that at a later meeting anyone sitting at the table might volunteer his thoughts. He asked particularly for indulgence of our Secretary of State in this respect. The President said he would like to make one or two short observations. Personally, he had been enlightened by both of the presentations. He had particularly liked the note of confidence in the French statement. He had been intrigued by the approach of “new look”. If he understood clearly what Sir Winston had said, he had no quarrel with it. He believed that Sir Winston meant that we should examine to see if the dress were a new one or merely an old patched one. If we understood that under this dress was the same old girl, if we understood that despite bath, perfume or lace, it was still the same old girl, on that basis then we might explore all that Sir Winston had said if we might apply the positive methods of which M. Bidault had spoken. Perhaps we could pull the old girl off the main street and put her on a back alley. He did not want to approach this problem on the basis that there had been any change in the Soviet policy of destroying the Capitalist free world by all means, by force, by deceit or by lies. This was their long-term purpose. From their writings it was clear there had been no change since Lenin. If he had misinterpreted the Prime Minister, he would be happy if Sir Winston would correct him.

President Eisenhower then adjourned the conference.

  1. The U.S. Delegation transmitted to Washington a summary of the plenary part of the first meeting in Secto 5, from Bermuda, Dec. 5. (396.1/12–553) This telegram was repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, and Moscow and states that President Eisenhower assumed the chair for the meeting at the request of Prime Minister Churchill. A photograph of the three Heads of Government before this meeting is printed on p. 567.
  2. Documentation on the uprising in the eastern sector of Berlin on June 17, 1953 is presented in volume vii .
  3. On Dec. 2, it was announced that Soviet Ambassador Kuznetsov would be replaced by P. A. Yudin.
  4. On May 30, the Soviet Union informed Turkey that the Armenian and Georgian Republics renounced their territorial claims against Turkey and stated that its security could be assured on conditions acceptable to the Turks.
  5. Presumably Bidault is referring to the Bulgarian offer on Sept. 9 to settle all disputes with Greece, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.