PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Germany”

No. 154
The Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Ferguson) to the Director of the Staff (Nitze)1

top secret

Dear Paul: In this letter I will give you my notes on the discussion we have had with respect to Germany2 and then I have a few comments that John3 made to me in Bonn.

The item on the agenda relating to Germany raised the problem of its growing strength and vitality. As you remember, Bonn’s telegram a couple of weeks ago asked the question what would we do if the French failed to ratify the EDC. This latest question has not been addressed at all here, except that Donnelly referred to Leon Fuller’s memorandum to you4 (this memorandum has been included in the briefing books).

Mr. Donnelly began the discussion by pointing out Western Germany had an area smaller than France, had less than one million unemployed, had absorbed ten million people from the East and was still absorbing five hundred to six hundred a day. They have accomplished this, apart from the financial aid from the U.S., by [Page 362] their own initiative and manpower. They have made an agreement to compensate Israel, they have assumed responsibility for servicing prewar debts, they have developed a general ability to undertake staggering financial obligations and have developed foreign trade to approximate prewar level. They are determined to further improve their position in Europe, and the question is what are we going to do about it. It is impossible to hold back their progress. If they are not brought into the Western European picture it is only a matter of time before the Europeans will be driven out of the export markets. America is already experiencing German competition in Latin America.

Adenaeur will stand or fall on his policy of western integration. He stands a very good chance of re-election. Mr. Donnelly said he was not trying to push the German case but to give understanding to other missions of the situation. If Germany is too restricted there is always the danger that certain elements will turn East to the Satellites or Russia for trade. Germany must export to live. He added that except for Berlin and psychological purposes Germany has no present need for economic aid. He said that our principal interest was for counterpart funds to use in Berlin.

It is his belief that France will not be able to control Germany nearly as well in the EDC as in NATO. The problem of German membership in NATO is not now urgent but it will arise after ratification of the contractuals and EDC.

With respect to the annual review Mr. Donnelly said Germany was quite far along on the questionnaire which had been given to them. He mentioned some of the questions had been omitted from the document given Germany and the Germans know this and are saying that they are coming to equality and are asking what this differentiation means.

George Kennan said that if Germany were admitted to NATO he could see no peaceful solution to things in Europe. The Soviets would not be able to get out of the Eastern Zone without yielding to the Western Coalition, headed by U.S., and we would have only a Soviet collapse to hope for. Germany will get the bit in its teeth and when they are back with their strength they aren’t going to refrain from attempts at unification. He said it had always been his hope that we would not bind ourselves to take part in a German civil war which is bound to come. He felt that if Germany comes into NATO we would not need an Ambassador to Moscow. George said he had wondered what he would say if he were asked to talk privately to the Soviets. He felt that he could only ask for unconditional surrender because we did not seem to be ready to pay any price. George remarked we have already had the bitter experience of learning that when you fight in a big coalition the only [Page 363] tems you can agree on are unconditional surrender. He felt you could apply the same analogy to peace time. All of this worries him very much in his capacity “out there.” He said that if the last shreds of hope go out the window for the Soviets he worries about them.

Mr. Draper asked if George felt the same way about Germany coming into EDC and George said he did not since we were not members of it. He still thought it was a very dangerous point, and we were saying we did not want war but that the Soviets must fold up their tents and leave Europe in what for them would be a political debacle. We will have nothing in between if we let these people into NATO. he said he could not assure anyone that if we held open the opportunity to talk we could get agreement with the Russians on Europe. He has always felt that we could have had an agreement on Japan on a basis of a disarmed Japan, but he does not know whether we could get anything on Germany. The question is whether a settlement on Germany would still be better than a war. He says he is afraid the Soviets would chose to fight a war rather than give up in Germany. He said these views really lead you to the whole great question of whether you ought to go in and subvert them. He said he had doubts about it but not on moral grounds. He said his doubts arose from the fact that Soviet leaders had been masters of the Russian people for 35 years. He said there is a good deal of fear of them but also great intimacy between the people and their leaders. The attitude of the people is not wholly negative. Let a foreigner come in and do anything to the system and you will have confusion. George feels that once a totalitarian rule is accepted as a fact, then you cannot do favors for the people or injure the regime. If you try to help the people, as Hoover tried to after the first war, the regime will claim credit and if you try to injure the regime it will step aside and let your efforts hurt the people.

George feels that today we are in a poorer position than Germany was in having an alternative available to the present Kremlin leadership. He is afraid that if we get into this thing we won’t be able to drive them from power or really do anything to them. He said it might be possible to distinguish between the Satellites and USSR. We might ruffle up the Satellites, but he does not think this course is consistent with diplomatic relations. If we are going to undertake it, we ought to stop play acting and get out where we can fight them. He said all he really asked was that we take a good long look before we take a last leap.

Mr. Donnelly mentioned that there was one school of thought in Bonn that worries about the ulterior motives of Germany going into EDC. He added there was no suspicion of Adenauer’s motives, [Page 364] but some people ask whether they want to go in in order to dragoon the allies to help them take Eastern Germany. George added he would also like to know the answer to that question. He said you have probably reached the high peak of influence of Catholic center parties in Europe. He feels that in a year or two there will be strong national governments. He said he was all for integration of Germany with Western Europe but he thought we ought to explore the possibility of ending the split in Germany. He said he realized we could not do it now with the ratification of EDC pending.

In continuing the talks on Germany, George Kennan said he would like to suggest it might be better for us to announce unilaterally our determination not to let the Soviet Union take Western Germany or Berlin than to involve ourselves in multilateral commitments. This would avoid an obligation to Germany that could implicate us in a German civil war. George Perkins said that he was unable to distinguish between the EDC and NATO since the European Defense Force would be a part of the NATO army. He pointed out that we have already given a commitment to aid the EDC countries if they are attacked, but we have given no commitment to assist them if they attack.

Mr. Bruce added that while we were committed to regard an attack as an attack upon ourselves, we are not committed to any particular actions. Kennan showed some confusion about the EDC and NATO commitments and seemed to have been unaware of what was involved, particularly in the EDC. He remarked to me in the evening that he had never taken the EDC seriously, but he had regarded it as one of Ted Achilles’ ideas.

In continuing the discussion, George said that since the Germans had an interest in the problem of East Germany and the Eastern borders, they are not a fit partner for an alliance. He said that perhaps he had been ill informed and the step to make them one had already been taken in the EDC.

He thinks the only way you can hold the Russians in the area is by developing German strength and leadership. He has always hoped that we would have German leadership in Central Europe. He said he had seen German and Soviet leadership at their nastiest and the Soviet kind was the more dangerous. On the other hand, he does not think you can treat the Germans as a Charlie McCarthy. We need German leadership as a buffer against Russia. He thinks they are the only people who can provide the military strength for the defense of Western Europe, but if they do so in an alliance with us, there is then a great danger of war.

George also discussed the Intelligence estimates of Russian strength and said that he had the feeling we tended to exaggerate this strength; at least we did so in 1946 and 1947. He remarked [Page 365] that except for jet fighters, we never know what proportions of the whole what we see is, since we have no visual confirmation of many of the estimates we read. He says that there is no evidence in Moscow to suggest a large number of armored divisons and he thinks it unlikely. He pointed out that the Germans had had a fairly accurate analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Russia and if Hitler had listened to these reports, he would have known what he was running into. The Germans had not painted any such picture as we do. Our estimates show nothing but strength. The Germans knew there were also weaknesses. George is sure the Russians have improved, but he thinks that some of the estimates are exaggerated when he realizes that the whole structure of estimates is superimposed on a backward country that does not produce as much steel as France and Germany together. They have no adequate highway system and they have made no appreciable repairs to their railroads.

He remarked that he thought that it was possible that the Russians would agree to a demilitarized and united Germany and the mention of this caused a good ideal of surprise at the table.

At our meeting yesterday afternoon, David raised the question of NSC 1355 and asked me to speak briefly about it and then asked George what comments he had. George did not address his remarks to the paper directly except to say that he was more worried about what was left out than what was put in. He mentioned that he had not wanted to participate in the drafting of NSC 686 because he thought it was a mistake to tie such a paper into the budget process and probably it would be impossible to write any of these things down.

In his further discussion, he said that what worried him most was that our original purpose in seeking to build strength was with the idea we would create it to use for negotiations. It was to have a dialectical use. Today we are really enmeshed in the dynamics and logic of the armaments program. He stated it worried him all the more because he had seen slight indications in Moscow that the Russians can be moved if (1) the West shows firmness and decisiveness and (2) the Soviets feel they have alternatives. To the extent that they can be made to feel that we hold open the possibility of talking it weakens their defiance. He then spoke briefly about their attitude toward him and his immediate predecessors. He said they regarded Bedell and Kirk as espionage agents,7 but that they [Page 366] could not regard him that way and he thinks that some of the intelligencia possibly began to ask, when he went to Moscow, whether the leaders could be sure there was no possibility of talking to the West.

George regards the principle issues between us and the Russians to be Germany, Austria, and Japan. He thinks we must reach an agreement on these if we are to have hope of avoiding a war. He does not think it possible to stand still indefinitely with no war, no peace, and he worries that our position may mean that things cannot get better. He believes that Austria stands or falls with the German problem and remarked that we embarrassed the Russians in a most delightful way with our last note, but that they would probably wiggle out of it.8

He said he wished the Secretary were here at the meeting: he had noticed that Dean had said we are mobilizing in order to talk on equal terms, but George did not see that that was the way our policy was working out. If the Russians came to him today and asked how we could work out something, he would have to say he could not see anything.

He said that his feelings were possibly differences of emphasis and that perhaps they were premature. His worries center around Germany and he would not be surprised to see the Soviets come back and accept the electoral commission idea and that might postpone things in Germany for a long time. He fears the ratification of the EDC because he does not think he will have anything left to talk about. He said that he saw the dilemma so clearly that he could not speak in terms of blame, but only of worry. He also thought that we ought to attack the problem of defense costs because we have almost priced ourselves out of an adequate defense. If we want to compete with the Russians, we will have to make it cheaper.

George also said that he remembered there was a large Russian army in the 30’s and we were not scared of it. The Russians were scared and with cause. He said he would like to get Russian forces to the Pripet Marshes where they were before, but he added that of course we must negotiate with strength and not sell out the people of Western Europe. He added that we must regard deadly rivalry as established in the minds of the Soviet leaders and that was something we could not shake. They think that the great struggle is now going on and they think they are better and have history on their side.

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Mr. Bruce asked if the Russians would withdraw from Germany if we did not, and George said, “No, they would not.” He added that if German unification would come, it would come with a lurch. He realizes that a great deal of our structure would fall to pieces, but there would be a vigorous Germany. He is not so worried about the lack of German orientation to the West in such circumstances because he is confident that the Kremlin is very difficult to deal with and so are the Germans. He thinks the Germans will be very cautious. He also said he thought the Russian position in the satellite area is very strained today and that Titoism is not very far below the surface. He would not want anyone to confuse this with our ability to go in and exploit it, but if the Soviets were out of Germany, he thinks that Germany would very soon form a counter attraction. He does not think the Soviets would want to invade and administer other parts of Europe, but he does think they want to get us out. He thinks we should realize there is no complete security in this world and that we should try to clarify the air by talking about Germany with the Soviets.

Mr. Draper said that this opened a range of problems which we should all think about very seriously and it is my understanding that the ambassadors will recommend that these questions be studied further in Washington, where George Perkins and I explained a good deal of attention had already been given. It was quite clear that except for Draper, none of the others present wished to discuss these subjects here.

When I was in Bonn, John had some rather definite ideas about Germany. He felt it was a mistake to integrate Germany with the rest of Western Europe, not so much because of Soviet reaction, but because the Germans were sure to dominate Western Europe. He felt the Franco-German problem would remain so intense that we might find it necessary, with the UK and Canada, to work separately with the Germans for the creation of German forces, maintaining our position elsewhere in Western Europe by guarantees to the French and the others that we would come to their defense. John is still also concerned about the problem of timing, and has the feeling that we should develop strength in the Mediterranean area, before doing too much in Germany and France.

You will see from this rather long account, that many of the problems that we have worried about trouble George and John a great deal, but have received very little attention from the others whose focus is on the EDC and the current problems it creates.9

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I am going back to Paris tonight to meet Peggy and then on to Spain on Monday.


  1. The source text was transmitted in two parts. Between the two parts was a memorandum from Fuller to Nitze, Oct. 1, which stated that Kennan’s thoughts did not seem to “add up to anything very definite or satisfactory with respect to our German policy”, but were “extremely helpful” in suggesting paths or possibilities that should be explored further.
  2. Ferguson was in London to attend the meeting of Western European Chiefs of Mission, held at London, Sept. 24–26.
  3. John Davies, Director of the Office Political Affairs, HICOG.
  4. Supra.
  5. For documentation on NSC 135, “Status of United States Programs for National Security as of June 30 [1952]”, see vol. ii, Part 1, pp. 56 ff.
  6. For NSC 68, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, p. 234.
  7. Walter Bedell Smith and Alan G. Kirk, U.S. Ambassadors to the Soviet Union, Mar. 22, 1946–Dec. 25, 1948, and May 21, 1949–Oct. 6, 1951, respectively.
  8. Regarding the U.S. note to the Soviet Union, dated Sept. 5, concerning the Austrian State Treaty, see Document 814.
  9. At this point in the source text the following paragraph has been marked out:

    “I am enclosing a paper that George Kennan circulated today, summing up his worries. I do not think it adds very much, but you may wish to have it.”